The most accomplished Call of Duty player over the last six months became a free agent this weekend.
Finalists in three of the last four Call of Duty: Ghosts tournaments and winners of two of those heading into the Electronic Sports World Cup this weekend, EnVyUs were the odds on favorite to win the tournament. They took first place at Major League Gaming Columbus last week, winning $30,000 and the biggest event since MLG Anaheim in June.
Entering Paris, they were on top of the world. Leaving it, they are a team in turmoil, losing their superstar player.
It all went down during the tournament. Jordan “JKap” Kaplan and Anthony “NameLeSs” Wheeler learned that their teammates may have been planning to replace them after the event. When they confronted Matthew “FormaL” Piper, Joe “MerK” Deluca, and team owner Mike “Hastro” Rufail about it, the trio told them the truth.
Piper wanted to team with Evil Geniuses superstars Damon “Karma” Barlow and Ian “Crimsix” Porter heading into Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, whether on EnVyUs or elsewhere. Rufail and Deluca were heavily considering replacing Kaplan and Wheeler with those players, creating a superteam. Kaplan later said Piper was “literally scared” of playing against Porter and Barlow.
Kaplan and Wheeler naturally weren’t happy about this. They started to contact other squads to see what options they’d have. Rumors started percolating on Twitter, and then Kaplan decided to give his two cents in a scathing message. Kaplan released a statement railing against Rufail for letting the franchise player Piper hold the team hostage and breaking up a championship team.
“I think this is the part where I’m supposed to say good luck to nV and I wish them a lot of success in the future,” he said. “But I think I made it pretty clear that I don’t. I hope they, quite literally, shit the bed. If their god squad fails, you’ll find me cheesin’ somewhere for sure.”
The community banded against Rufail and Piper, railing at them for “sketching” and scheming to replace their teammates. Piper also released a statement of his own, pointing out he didn’t lie about the situation and just wanted to further his career with the players he believed would take him the furthest.
There was one catch. Those two players are still under contract with Evil Geniuses.
we’re not releasing our cod players. speculation over.
— alexander ὁ μέγας (@ottersareneat) November 1, 2014
Evil Geniuses owner Alexander Garfield made it clear they don’t plan to release their Call of Duty players, and certainly not on Piper, or EnVyUs’ terms. If Piper wants to play with Barlow and Porter, the only option may be with an Evil Geniuses tag.
Fast forward one day, and Piper is off of EnVyUs. After a discussion with Rufail, the superstar player and team owner decided it would be best for them to part ways. Rufail appealed to Kaplan and Wheeler to return to the lineup, leaving the EnVyUs Major League Gaming championship team intact minus one.
Rufail said on Twitter he couldn’t release Kaplan and Wheeler in that way. “I care about them too much and they wouldn’t deserve that. I legitimately love this team as brothers.” He also pleaded for fans to forgive Piper, who was simply trying to further his professional career in the way he best saw fit.
Piper was up front about it.
“Being a professional gamer is a very stressful thing. You think about so many what ifs, possibilities, and futures,” he said on Twitter. “The way I see it is at the end of the day we are all playing to either win money, play for the fame, or stay relevant. Whatever the situation may be, you always think about what’s best for yourself. That’s what I do. I’m a very selfish person when it comes to my future, because I’ve seen too many players completely fall off the face of the planet, mostly because of bad placings.”
In the past Piper has stated he wants to be an “FPS legend.” Playing with the two most accomplished Call of Duty players ever, Barlow and Porter, may get him there. But this wasn’t the way to do it.
If Piper really wants to play with them, Rufail needed to contact Garfield about acquiring their contracts, likely an expensive prospect considering how much Evil Geniuses paid to acquire them from Complexity. If that was a pipe dream, Rufail could potentially sell Piper to Evil Geniuses, or Piper could leave EnVyUs without all this drama.
Realistically it seems unlikely there was any way for EnVyUs to actually acquire Porter and Barlow from Evil Geniuses, something that Piper and Rufail seemingly did not seem to realize. The inevitable end to this situation was a messy one, with Piper off the team.
The end result is the end of the most successful era of EnVyUs’ history. Piper turned down an offer from Evil Geniuses during the season, choosing not to join Porter at that time. Piper stuck with EnVyUs, and it won him another championship. But apparently, things change quickly in the Call of Duty scene.
Even now, the rumors continue. Piper may join Optic Gaming. Patrick “ACHES” Price might take that last spot on EnVyUs. Kaplan may not stay on the team, and instead join up with Price and Tyler “Teepee” Polchow.
Hundreds of iterations of team swaps and roster switches and endless possibilities, and we’ll probably hear about all of them. Because apparently, professional Call of Duty players can’t keep their mouths shut, and don’t seem to realize a contract is more than just a piece of paper.