Nearly one year ago, Justin “Silly” Fargo-Palmer and his Evil Geniuses teammates completed one of the most improbable runs in Call of Duty World League Championship history by defeating Team Kaliber in the grand finals of the world title tournament.
But it’s been a long year for Silly. Despite his team being one of the only to keep their roster intact, and adding a supremely-talented player in Cuyler “Huke” Garland, the defending world champions struggled. After top 12 finishes at CWL Las Vegas and CWL Fort Worth, the team, who were acquired by Team Envy before the season, replaced Bryan “Apathy” Zhelyazkov and Adam “Assault” Garcia with Jacob “Decemate” Cato and Maurice “Fero” Henriquez. The change, which was their first in more than a year, was necessary, but it set the team back in terms of chemistry, according to Silly.
“The frequent roster changes don’t help anybody, in my opinion,” Silly told Dot Esports. “Even if my team is getting bodied, I’d rather stick with the same team because you kind of need to relearn how to play when you pick up new players. It’s just been tough all around.”
With their new additions, Envy broke out of the top 12 spot at CWL London, where they won four straight losers bracket matches to finish in fourth place. But a brief break from practicing, combined with a demoralizing Pro League split and personality clashes, resulted in the team’s worst event placing of the season at CWL Anaheim.
An embarrassing winless performance at Anaheim prompted the team to make another change, which saw Huke loaned to Splyce, while Peirce “Gunless” Hillman and Assault, the latter of which won CWL Champs with Silly last year, joined the team. The move, once again, hurt the team’s chemistry and pushed Silly into a role he hadn’t played the entire year.
“I think having [ACHES] playing main AR and having him switch to a role he hadn’t played all year, is just kind of detrimental,” Silly said. “And now, it’s just a personnel issue again. Instead of having a Saug player that’s ran Ruin all year, like aBeZy or [Huke], you have me trying to learn the Grapple spots for the last two tournaments of the game. I never ran a Saug this year either, so I’m learning to run a Saug and be the Ruin player.”
In their first event with their new lineup, Envy played three maps and were swiftly bounced from the CWL Pro League playoffs play-in tournament. Fortunately, last year’s championship-winning roster had a similarly difficult stretch toward the end of the season. In fact, Silly thought not being at playoffs last year actually benefited the team, since no one could prepare for the team’s expanded map pool.
But things are different this time around. Black Ops 4 is a highly random game, Silly said, which makes consistency more difficult than in WWII. Strategy is less important in this game as well, according to Silly, meaning the team’s coach, Embry “Bevils” Bevil, can’t create gameplans as effectively as he did in their title run last year.
That randomness or lack of strategy may play into Envy’s favor, though. Silly said that because of the somewhat non-competitive aspects of the game, anyone has a shot at winning this year’s $2 million event—even Envy.
“Being a realist, I think CoD is day-to-day and pretty much anyone can win Champs,” Silly said. “We just got to get that sweet spot and figure out what our map pool is. It happened at Champs last year. So if something like that happens, we’ll definitely have another Cinderella story going into Champs.”
It won’t be easy, certainly. Envy will have to best 31 other teams in the world to claim the $800,000 grand prize over five days. Champs is a grueling tournament, both because of the endurance required and the luck involved. But they did it last year, so why can’t they do it again?