It's been a long road for Renegades. The organisation announced the addition of ZachaREEE three weeks ago, following up recently by confirming PrimoDulce onto the team. The new flex DPS and tank joining Renegades finally completes a roster five months in the making, providing a foundation to work on in the future.
Throughout that time, Renegades’ various rosters have occasionally looked competitive against the top teams in North America. Instability has slowed their progress and caused them to miss out on tournament invitations, but Renegades now have an opportunity to show their potential with the new lineup in the May Rivalcade Rumble. To get an insight into what has gone into the building process for this team, I spoke to manager Cameron McAlees.
The process started when Renegades acquired the former Kingdom roster in early January. They had just blasted their way into the Winter Premiere, setting the bar for the competition by qualifying in first seed with their powerful - and new, at the time - quad tank strategy. By the time Renegades had signed the team, they were fielding Jer, Sherlockey, Juv3nile, manOFsnow, J3sus, and Mangachu.
According to Cameron, the organisation always planned to move manOFsnow to a streamer role within Renegades but couldn’t find a free agent to fit into his position. The team wasn’t looking for a direct replacement either - they were aiming to find a similar player who also had a fierce Genji.
Despite this plan, manOFsnow was by no means a terrible player so Renegades began competing in Winter Premiere with him, starting with successes. After a short time together though, the team became aware that Kyb was available as a potential new member, free from the contractual shackles of REUNITED, and felt compelled to try him out. The team was met with more mixed results as they faced tougher opponents; both parties decided to disengage in a mess, leaving Renegades firmly without a sixth player but with a less useful sixth place finish in the Winter Premiere.
The odd substitution of manOFsnow in and out of the team throughout that tournament puzzled onlookers and Renegades ended up flopping after looking strong in qualification. Their focus was not on immediate success, though, but on filling that extra slot with the right person.
"I don't think we really needed to cover more of the hero pool, because between Mangachu and J3sus we cover basically every single DPS hero,” said Cameron, describing what the team was aiming for with their sixth player, “I think really what we wanted was the right attitude and a Genji player. Those were the only two pieces of criteria."
Renegades also trialled Sypeh, Ube, and Iko for the position but never settled on a particular player. It was a mixture of Renegades struggling to find the right fit, Cameron said, or the free agent finding it wasn’t totally for them.
Almost five months on from signing their team with the intention of replacing the sixth, Renegades found their guy. Cameron credits Toronto Esports support Snow with the discovery; in the middle of conversation, he mentioned a ranked player who might work but didn’t have a big presence in the scene.
ZachaREEE fit in immediately. “I messaged Snow fifteen minutes into the trial thanking him,” Cameron said: "When Zachary came in - he loves to joke around, he's got a great attitude, he's super positive. He's the first person in scrims or practise to try and lift his teammates up. That was really the quality that we were looking for and as soon as we found it, it just clicked."
After almost half a year searching for the right sixth player, Renegades then decided to make another change. Within a week of picking up ZachaREEE, the team dropped Juv3nile.
Cameron’s aim has been to promote a fun but motivated attitude within the team, he explained, encouraging them to learn from each practice session and keep positive. Juv3 didn’t fit with the same mentality, bringing more of a competitive mindset laser-focused on winning, making a change beneficial for the overall team environment. Renegades were straight back to the build.
With the tank role now vacant, Cameron needed a Winston and Reinhardt player. With PrimoDulce, he claims he’s found a very consistent player with an extremely positive attitude. “It's very difficult to bring this team down now, when you have two new players like ZachaREEE and PrimoDulce who are constantly uplifting their team."
Though the new additions have played in Overwatch teams before, Renegades has invested in two relatively fresh faces in ZachaREEE and PrimoDulce. Their appearances previously have been on teams in tier three or lower in North America, those with potential but no strong results; with a pool of proven free agents to choose from, why take the risk?
Cameron sees it partly as the natural exploration of lesser-known talent. "You can see it with Selfless, with Dafran and Sinatraa,” he explained, “they are just two players who were rank 1 on the ladder and they're absolutely phenomenal players. For us, we've got Zachary and now PrimoDulce who are both solo-queue players in some regard, they really didn't come from this highly competitive, well known background. I think slowly but surely you're seeing lesser-known talent seep into the upper echelon of North America but it's not quite there yet."
With a number of organisations stepping back temporarily from the Overwatch scene and dropping their rosters, more and more free agents are being released into the North American scene. Cameron says that this process, as bad as it sounds, may be a good thing for North America.
"The other day I was going down [the rankings], you can count something like 40 teams between North America and Europe who are signed. If you consider the fact that there's realistically gonna be a cap of something like 16 Overwatch League spots, that means 24 of those at least aren't getting into OWL.” For those teams that don’t get in, it’s not known how many opportunities there will be to compete during the OWL season.
“There's gonna be star talent on all of those teams to some degree; that talent being released back into the pool, so that better teams can start to explore that and pick that up,” he continued, speculating on what would happen if all non-OWL orgs dropped their teams, “that’s a big deal. As orgs start to release teams you're gonna see a lot more of that mixing."
Though Renegades brand themselves as the “5 Hour Energy® Detroit Renegades”, the name is unrelated to the Overwatch League. No information about a Detroit city slot or potential OWL bids from the organisation have been reported, and their first confirmed outing with the new roster will be in the May Rivalcade Rumble.
Cameron is itching to show the team off but aware of their current competition. "I would hope we would get an invite into the upcoming OMM tournament, the last OMM, and we can really display what we've been working on. Where we're at right now,” he added, “I don't think we're going to quite be able to consistently beat in tournament play the likes of EnVyUs, Rogue, Selfless, or even Cloud9, but I definitely think we can compete with all of them. The more we play as a team, the more we grow as a roster, we'll start to compete or overtake those teams."
The new Renegades roster is:
- Christopher “J3sus” Pavloff (Flex DPS)
- Liam “Mangachu” Campbell (Flex DPS)
- Zachary “ZachaREEE” Lombardo (Flex DPS)
- Douglas “PrimoDulce” Perks (Tank)
- Jonathon “Sherlockey” Davis (Support)
- Jeremy “Jer” Santacruz (Support)