The reigning Call of Duty world champions won’t ever get a chance to defend that title—at least with any of the players that earned it.
This weekend, Denial revealed it released two players from its roster, opting to build around new team captain Clay “Clayster” Eubanks and Dillon “Attach” Price. But yesterday, those two players left the team to join FaZe, leaving the organization that won the biggest tournament of the year in Call of Duty, the $1 million Call of Duty Championship, without a single player from its winning roster.
Eubanks and Price join a talented pair of players on FaZe, Ian “Enable” Wyatt and Thomas “ZooMaa” Paparatto. The team removed its two young guns, Cuyler “Huke” Garland and Austin “SlasheR” Liddicoat, to add Denial’s former pair.
— FaZe Clan (@FaZeClan) June 16, 2015
The move is obviously a bid to challenge OpTic Gaming’s dominance. Since the Championship, no team has dented OpTic Gaming save FaZe, who won a best-of-five series against them at UMG California. Denial’s struggled to produce results on par with their results at and before Champs. And while FaZe looked good in California, they were a level below OpTic at the Major League Gaming (MLG) Season 2 finals at the X Games.
Eubanks explained his reasoning for leaving Denial in a video blog:
After struggling post-Champs, the team amicably parted ways with Chris “Replays” Chowder and Jordan “JKap” Kaplan. Eubanks and Price decided their best shot would be to team with a duo from FaZe, and contacted Garland and Liddicoat to see if the pair of young players were interested. The two considered a move, but eventually turned it down; FaZe teammates Paparatto and Wyatt, however, caught wind, and decided to drop them, making way for Eubanks and Price to join up.
Eubanks says Paparatto’s sub skills were the first thing that came to mind for him and Price when considering their best bets to challenge OpTic Gaming. But the player, who was a member of Denial earlier this year, didn’t want to return to the organization. So when they had two spots open in FaZe, it looked like a match was made.
Denial offered Price and Eubanks a “really good” salary after Champs, but when FaZe decided to match the offer, including offering Eubanks the captaincy, the pair decided that leaving was their best option.
“It was a very, very hard decision,” Eubanks said. “It took us many, many phone calls between Dillon and I to make this decision. In the end I feel like its the best possible option from the cards that we were dealt.”
The new FaZe lineup should provide a new look in the bid to challenge OpTic, though it’s debatable how much better the team will really be than the previous version. Garland and Liddicoat were both talented slayers near the level of Eubanks and Price, with Garland even a member of the only team outside of Denial to win a tournament over OpTic in Advanced Warfare.
Still, the new lineup has a shot. Eubanks and Price stack up well against OpTic Gaming’s formidable duo of Seth “Scump” Abner and Matt “FormaL” Piper on those two positions, and Wyatt and Paparatto have shown they can too—FaZe beat OpTic Gaming in a best-of-five series at UMG California last month, after all.
“In the end we just want to win,” Eubanks said. “I don’t want to be stuck on an organization and squandering my chances to win tournaments just because I have loyalty to an organization.”
He says he felt “terrible” about leaving Denial in the lurch, with no players left from their championship team, but that you need to make the best decision for your career in the Call of Duty world. Whether this move works out remains to be seen, but it’s certainly a blow for Denial. Winning an event like the Call of Duty Championship can provide the publicity needed to sign new sponsors and secure a future for an esports organization in a volatile industry. But Denial may now have lost that chance.
As for the future of Denial, there are still options out there. Talented players like Garland and Liddicoat remain free agents, and Denial’s position in the MLG Pro League makes it an attractive landing spot. But it certainly hurts to lose the Call of Duty Championship champs just months after winning it.