As the curtain falls on the last ever Call of Duty World Championship, with franchising on the horizon, here’s the top 10 professional players of all time.
As 18-year-old Chris ‘Simp’ Lehr hoisted the MVP trophy after winning the 2019 CWL Championship with eUnited in his rookie year, accompanied by his 19-year-old teammate Tyler ‘aBeZy’ Pharris, there was a palpable shift in CoD esports: out with the old, in with the new.
Black Ops 4 is the final year of the game as we’ve known and loved it, as we look forward to the city-based franchise league for 2020 and Modern Warfare. To sign off, here are my top 10 players from the past decade of competitive Call of Duty.
First off, an explanation of the criteria. The ranking on this list is based primarily on LAN (offline) tournament wins, with extra credit given for Champs victories (rings). Major tournaments like Playoffs are given more weight too, followed by CWL/MLG open events, as well as X Games medals. Note that prize money is counted for offline winnings only.
More subjectively, individual performances or traits like ‘gun skill’ and leadership qualities are also considered, but not weighted as highly as raw results.
10. Austin ‘SlasheR’ Liddicoat
7 LAN wins, 1 ring, $623,730 won
The tenth spot on the list was possibly the hardest to decide. Other Champs winners like Johnathon ‘John’ Perez and Dillon ‘Attach’ Price came to mind, as did legendary players who never quite managed a CoD champs ring. But it has to be SlasheR.
Although he has competed since Black Ops 2, Advanced Warfare was SlasheR’s breakout season, and since then he has consistently been one of the top three AR’s in the world, alongside Sam ‘Octane’ Larew and Matthew ‘FormaL’ Piper. He beats out the former to this top 10 thanks to his 2016 Champs victory, but there’s little between the pair - and when Nadeshot combined them on 100 Thieves, they were bound to do great things.
SlasheR was crucial in the 2016 Champs win, and almost dragged that Envy roster to back-to-back rings at the 2017 Champs too, but they ran into a formidable OpTic, and SlasheR’s greatest rival, FormaL, in the grand final. SlasheR’s career so far has been spent at the very top, and any team with him on the roster is always in contention to win an event.
9. Tyler ‘TeePee’ Polchow
16 LAN wins, 1 ring, $200,200 won
I pity newer Call of Duty esports fans, who never got to see TeePee at his dominant best. An integral part of the first great dynasty of CoL/EG, TeePee and his squad went into every event just knowing they would win - and win they did. His total prize money is lower than others on this list, but that’s only down to the lesser prize pools on offer when TeePee was in his prime.
Admittedly, TeePee’s time at the top didn’t last, and he found himself out of roster options after he and ACHES were replaced on Envy in Black Ops III, forcing him into an early retirement. But, although his career petered off, simultaneously with the addition of jet packs, it shouldn’t negate the dominance displayed particularly in Black Ops 2 and Ghosts. The CoL/EG dynasty won 12 out of 16 major events they attended, including of course the big one at CoD Champs 2014, and they only failed to reach the grand final on two occasions. TeePee was an incredibly smart player, who just seemed to know the correct play to make all of the time, and his record demands a place in the top 10.
8. Jordan ‘JKap’ Kaplan
10 LAN wins, 2 rings, $678,279 won
When I first started planning this list, I expected JKap to be higher than eighth. One of the true veterans of CoD, his individual performances in early titles like Modern Warfare 2, his astoundingly consistent LAN record, and of course his two Champs victories make him one of the most decorated players. But, when all things are considered, I think the players above him are justified.
JKap was one of the best individual players in the early days of competitive Call of Duty - those who watched MW2 competitive even contend he was the very best - and as his long career has progressed, his transition to a leadership and mentorship role has been smooth, while he still has the raw gun skill to compete at the top - at least most of the time.
At the biggest event of the year, any team with JKap has always been a contender, and he is the only player to have placed top 8 at every Champs (2nd, 6th, 1st, 1st, 2nd, 6th, 8th). He wasn’t topping leaderboards during many of these runs, but his teammates would no doubt testify that without him, it wouldn’t have been possible. Despite finishing 2nd at the 2017 Champs, the 0-10 comeback vs eUnited on Precinct Uplink is testament to JKap’s value. A listen-in with Envy captured the crucial moments where he led his team, with perfect callouts and strategy, to arguably the greatest single-map comeback ever.
So, why isn’t JKap higher? Unfortunately, poor individual performances at some events have often left him looking like the weak link on a roster, and although his experience and leadership qualities cannot be understated, there are simply players who have been more impactful in their biggest wins, like the man up next.
7. Bryan ‘Apathy’ Zhelyazkov
7 LAN wins, 2 rings, $574,275 won
On paper, it could be argued that JKap has Apathy beat - more wins, more prize money and 2 rings apiece. But, what these stats don’t show is the impact Apathy has had on his respective rosters.
Despite competing since Black Ops 1, his career didn’t really get into full-swing until Ghosts, as his Black Ops 2 season was distracted by college commitments. In Ghosts, he helped FaZe Clan to their first-ever tournament win and secured a silver medal at X Games with Team Kaliber, and it was clear Apathy was destined to be a top player.
Since then, he has competed at the very top level of professional Call of Duty consistently and was rewarded with his first ring at Black Ops III Champs in 2016, where he was able to outshine his rival SMG player, Seth ‘Scump’ Abner. He would return to yet another Champs grand final in 2017, and despite falling short here, was right back in another in 2018, and this time didn’t let it slip, securing the biggest underdog win at any Champs with EG. He and JKap are the only players to reach the grand final of Champs three years in a row, but Apathy’s performance in all three of these (two of which were with JKap) undoubtedly outshone his teammate.
Apathy also has a whopping eleven 2nd place finishes in his career - if he had converted a few of those, he might be even higher on this list.
6. Patrick ‘ACHES’ Price
17 LAN wins, 2 rings, $466,045 won
Like picking between Apathy and JKap, deciding between sixth and fifth was another tricky choice, but I believe ACHES is just edged out of the top five. Like TeePee, ACHES was probably the most integral part of the CoL/EG dynasty. Admittedly, the level of competition was perhaps reduced compared to the reign of OpTic’s dynasty, but the sheer dominance of the squad remains unrivaled, and ACHES was at its core.
Of course, his 17 wins and two rings speak for themselves, but ACHES is another player that is so much more than his stats. Although a top slayer in Black Ops 2 and even more so in Ghosts, ACHES, like JKap, is now considered more of a leader - a cool head in the big moments - than an out-and-out slayer. He also has a remarkable eye for talent, responsible for unearthing some of the greatest players in CoD history - some of which have usurped him on this very list.
Despite his decorated career, ACHES misses out on the top five due to his up-and-down results. After winning the first event of the Advanced Warfare season, it wouldn’t be until nearly four years later that he would win another, but it was the big one at the 2018 Champs. In that dry spell though, five top 20s, five top 16s and a litany of top 8s was the story for ACHES, and for a time it was doubtful that he would ever challenge at the top again. His gun skill has also been suspect at times, but on occasion, he will show that he’s still capable of putting up numbers.
Regardless of the low points in his career, ACHES’ early years, and his comeback to the very top to win his second ring in WWII, prove that he is more than worthy of being named among the very best in the annals of CoD esports.
5. James ‘Clayster’ Eubanks
15 LAN wins, 2 rings, $709,279 won
Clayster and ACHES was the closest call for this list, and if you were to argue that the latter deserved a spot in the top five more, it would be a fair assessment. However, Clayster has proven greater adaptability to the ever-changing Call of Duty games released each year; a top player in every game, regardless of boots-on-the-ground or jetpack chaos.
Clayster played his own part in the early days of the CoL/EG dynasty too, dominating much of Black Ops 2 alongside ACHES, TeePee, and Crimsix under compLexity. He became a household name in Ghosts as part of the X Games-winning OpTic roster, and then won his first Champs in Advanced Warfare, a season in which he was, in many fans’ estimation, the best assault rifle player throughout. Other top AR players like Huke and FormaL rivaled him, but Clayster was truly a top slayer in his role.
Like ACHES, Clayster experienced his own winless drought, a whopping 1400 days to be exact, but throughout this time, as a member of FaZe and eUnited, his teams always felt just one stroke of luck away from a championship. It finally came towards the tail end of Black Ops 4, with wins at the two biggest events of the year, CWL Finals and CWL Champs - and this is how Clayster just knocked ACHES out of the top five at the last possible moment, at the final CoD Champs.
4. Matthew ‘FormaL’ Piper
21 LAN wins, 1 ring, $582,295 won
He may have a ring less than Clayster and ACHES, but FormaL’s domination of the Call of Duty scene since his transition from Halo warrants his place above them on this list.
Transitioning from Halo during CoD: Ghosts, FormaL quickly established himself as the hottest prospect in CoD, and by the end of the season, some considered him the best overall player - and he was only getting started. His performance in Ghosts had made him an obvious choice to complete the all-star OpTic Gaming roster, and the rest is history. Their infamous 7th place at AW Champs was more than made up for with nine other wins that season, and when Black Ops III arrived, FormaL and his M8A7 were a scary sight for every opponent.
They famously fell short once again at 2016 Champs, at the hands of ACHES’ Cloud9, despite dominating for most of the year again. When Infinite Warfare came around, FormaL took his game up another level, if that was even possible. This time, they made no mistakes at Champs, winning two best-of-5 series to snatch victory and take the world championship crown from eClasico rivals Envy. FormaL’s 1.44 K/D ratio at the event still holds the record for the highest K/D by a player at Champs. Throughout four years of Call of Duty, FormaL was comfortably a top 3 AR, alongside SlasheR and Octane.
A disappointing Black Ops 4 season overall is perhaps the low-point of FormaL’s career so far, but he still won an event, CWL Fort Worth, and finished with the highest overall damage-per-minute at the 2019 Champs. He will be one of the most desired talents heading into franchising.
3. Seth ‘Scump’ Abner
27 LAN wins, 1 ring, $652,140 won
There is little that can be said about Scump that hasn’t been said a million times over. In addition to being the biggest name in Call of Duty esports, he’s also inarguably the greatest SMG player of all time. Even if you have never watched a second of Scump play, his 27 career wins speak for themselves, but you can only truly appreciate his skill by watching one of the many montages of his illustrious career, taking in the endless highlight moments he always produces.
Starting out alongside ACHES and TeePee on Quantic Leverage in Black Ops 1, Scump had the best mentors possible, and his gun skill alone was more than enough to instantly make him a superstar. He joined OpTic in Modern Warfare 3 and hasn’t looked back since, putting on MVP-worthy performances event after event. A dry spell for wins was a struggle in the Black Ops 2 and Ghosts seasons, although the time was well spent building up his personal brand, and earning an X Games gold medal to boot. By the time the all-star lineup had been assembled for Advanced Warfare, Scump was ready to headline the greatest dynasty in CoD esports history, entering almost every event as the favorites, and making good on that expectation a majority of the time.
Of course, there have been chokes, failures, and less-than-stellar events along the way (the WWII season in its entirety, for example), and these are always amplified for Scump given his profile, but there is no argument that he’s not the best SMG player to ever do it.
2. Damon ‘Karma’ Barlow
24 wins, 3 rings, $762,220 won
After JKap was eliminated at the 2019 CWL Championship in 8th, it was set in stone - Karma would be the only player to boast three world championship rings on his fingers. It’s a record for which many fans call him the GOAT, and although I may disagree on this list, it’s not an unreasonable opinion.
When Karma first rose to notoriety in Black Ops 2 on Fariko Impact, he was a very different player than the one we know today. Karma wasn’t unlike the young stars coming up now, like Simp, Dashy or Envoy. He was the star of the show, topping the leaderboard in kills, raining down streaks and making it look easy too (who can forget his 28 kill streak against Enigma on Yemen). Now, Karma is known for being a safe pair of hands rather than a flurry of killstreaks; a reliable force, who’s always there in the big moments when his superstar teammates need him most.
Scump and FormaL may have stolen the limelight for kills and flashy plays during the dynasty’s run, but without Karma, often going unnoticed with a quiet 0.9 K/D, the team would never have seen anywhere near the level of success it achieved. In the dark moments, where it looked like a map might slip away, Karma would be there with a game-changing three-piece, a tense 1v1 win, or an impossible objective play, right when it was needed most.
Scump and FormaL have both said that if Karma hadn’t won the 1v1 in game 5, round 11, vs FA5TBALLA of Pnda Gaming at CWL Atlanta 2017, the OpTic roster would have split after the event, and would never have gone on to win the 2017 Champs. Crimsix too said that they were “nothing” without him, after Karma returned to helped OpTic win the 2018 Las Vegas Open, following the turbulent WWII season that saw him dropped from the lineup.
If you ever need an example of why there is more to CoD than stats and high K/D ratios, then look no further than the undisputed three-time world champion, Karma.
1. Ian ‘Crimsix’ Porter
32 LAN wins, 2 rings, $735,045 won
Finally, over the past decade of CoD esports, from Call of Duty 4 to Black Ops 4, the greatest player of all time, is Crimsix. Although some will argue that Karma’s extra ring gives him the edge, it is, in my opinion, beaten by Crimsix’s superior tournament record. After a whopping 66 LAN events attended, Crimsix has won 32 (48%). In fact, out of those 66 events, he has placed top four or better in 49 of them. Crim himself counts his total wins at 33, including the online Frag Cup in 2012, considered a major at the time.
His tournament record alone would likely earn him this number one spot, but even without it, Crimsix’s consistency of individual performances after eight years of competing is also second-to-none. It’s very rare that the ‘Crimbot’ has a poor event (that’s not to say they don’t happen - the WWII and Black Ops 4 seasons have both served up numerous examples), but no matter the game, jetpacks, boots-on-the-ground, fast-paced or slow, Crimsix always manages to adapt and be capable of completely taking over a map single-handedly.
Scump may be the captain of OpTic, but Crimsix has been the de facto in-game leader for much of the core roster’s time together, always pushing for every bit of effort, dedication and focus from his teammates. He was just as much of a fragger as Karma and ACHES were during the CoL/EG dynasty, and, like Karma, was part of both this and the OpTic dynasty.
His top fragging days are not even behind him yet either. Although he has been relied on less as a ‘slayer’ in recent years, he is often there to pick up the slack when his teammates are having an off game, and will occasionally drop the odd 40 kill game, when he feels like it. He also still holds the record for most kills in a Search and Destroy match at a tournament with 20 - tied with Dashy.
All-in-all, Crimsix’s record is untouched by any of his fellow competitors, and he will enter the franchised era at the very top of the pile after a decade of competitive CoD, and rightfully so.
Do you agree with our list, or would you have a different top 10 Call of Duty players of all time? Let us know your picks by tweeting @DexertoIntel with your own top 10.