Optic Gaming, Evil Geniuses, and EnvyUs are big names in the Call of Duty scene, but the champions of this weekend’s major competition featured none of the fan favorites. Instead, a team with two controversial figures nabbed a nail-biting win over young upstarts, shaking the well-established field of competitive Call of Duty.
Faze Clan took the crown by climbing from the loser’s side of the double elimination bracket to beat Denial Gaming. After losing earlier in the tournament, Faze needed to win two best-of-five series to take the title over Denial. With clutch contributions from Damon “Karma” Barlow and Bryan “Apathy” Zhelyazkov, the newly formed squad managed to take the thrilling 10-game deciding match and establish themselves as the next threat in a constantly changing competitive field.
Most notable about Faze, however, is the path their players took before arriving at the top of the UMG Nashville field. Chris “Parasite” Duarte has been a member of numerous squads, including Fariko Impact, the team that took the 2013 Call of Duty world championship. Since that time, however, his controversial demeanor and bullish tendencies have seen him picked up and subsequently released from various teams before he finally signed for Faze.
Barlow was also a member of that Impact squad with Duarte, but fared far better over the ensuing period. After Impact disbanded, Barlow joined with Patrick “Aches” Price, Tyler “TeePee” Polchow, and Ian “Crimsix” Porter. That squad quickly rose to the top of the scene playing for North American esports organization Complexity, winning the world championships in 2014. That team was picked up by Evil Geniuses earlier this year, under whose banner they’ve failed to replicate their previous success.
In August, however, a very public Twitter spat tore the team apart, after Barlow claimed the team was punishing him for attending the birth of his daughter. With no reconciliation in sight, Evil Geniuses reached an agreement to loan the two-time world champion to Faze Clan. The move was an exceptional one; Evil Geniuses’ purchase of the squad was one of the most expensive in the history of North American esports. Since few squads could match EG’s price, Barlow remains under contract with the team while playing for Faze.
The trade has worked out well for Faze. Evil Geniuses, on the other hand, landed outside of the top 12 in Tennessee.
With the title under their belts, one question is left unanswered: can they do it again? With Duarte’s lightning-rod personality and a history of team instability in the Call of Duty competitive community, repeating their accomplishment will be a feat all its own, and finding success past that point is a feat that only Barlow’s former teams have managed to accomplish. Faze will have to hope that reuniting the core of Fariko Impact doesn’t end the same way it did when the dominant, championship-hungry squad crumbled in spectacular fashion.