You can't tell the story of competitive Call of Duty without talking about EnVyUs. The longest-standing active organisation in the game, the boys in blue were winning championships before most teams competing today even existed. They've participated in some of the most memorable matches of all time, and their rivalry with OpTic Gaming over the years has even earned it's own prestigious moniker – “eClasico”. Their teams have played in three out of four World Championship finals and been among the elite in every iteration of Call of Duty since the original Modern Warfare.
It seems fitting then that the organisation can finally boast a World Championship title. For all that Team EnVyUs are iconic in Call of Duty, however, their road to glory hasn't exactly been easy. In fact, since the game's explosion of growth in Black Ops 2, it could be argued that few organisations have found so little success relative to the wealth of talent in every roster under their banner.
For much of their history, EnVy's story has been one of near-misses and heartbreak, as they play second fiddle to the success of other teams. Always a bridesmaid and never a bride – that is, of course, until now.
The story of EnVyUs is one of struggle. The road has never been easy, and EnVyUs fans have never enjoyed the lengthy periods of success experienced by many of their rivals.
Yet for all that EnVy have often been eclipsed by the champions of the time, they've always found a way to maintain their status among the elite, and at their greatest have been part of some of the most memorable moments in Call of Duty history.
To tell of the trials of EnVyUs requires going back to their first shot at the crown, the very first Call of Duty Championship. By no means a favourite entering the tournament, the boys in blue were perhaps fortunate that the other three of the eventual top four teams were placed in the other half of the bracket.
It was in the winner bracket final that they would earn their placing however, knocking the formerly undefeated Fariko Impact into the loser bracket for the first time since the team's inception.
Impact would make their way back to the grand final for arguably the greatest series ever played. Though EnVy put up a heroic fight – even taking Hardpoint maps off a team that was famously exceptional in that game mode – the series would end in heartbreak for the boys in blue, following what is likely the most famous round of Search and Destroy in Call of Duty history.
Despite an inarguably great achievement, one that few teams will ever manage, you can only assume that second place at the Call of Duty Championship must have been a great disappointment for EnVyUs. Unfortunately, there would be many more to come.
From standing on the brink of a World Championship victory, EnVy would ultimately fail to win a major event for the entire season – their only title coming at UGC Niagara, at which they were the only elite team in attendance.
UMG St. Louis would see EnVy once again reach the final only to be beaten again by Impact, and yet when the World Champions did eventually fall at MLG Anaheim it was compLexity who stood victorious, while EnVy failed to even make the top eight. Gfinity 1 was a further embarrassment, with the team that once contended for a world championship only winning a single series.
The team's descent didn't stop there, and even the acquisition of Damon 'Karma' Barlow – a candidate for the best player in the world for much of Black Ops 2 – failed to net them another podium finish, though during his time wearing blue he did pull off what is likely the most memorable ninja defuse to date. Ultimately, their bid for the Call of Duty Championship would be the high water mark for EnVyUs in an otherwise unexceptional season.
EnVy's fortunes weren't looking much improved at the start of Ghosts. The first two events of the season were a familiar story, with Team Kaliber challenging for the title and compLexity ultimately taking it. Meanwhile EnVy, while not performing horribly, were never threatening to make a final – though it is interesting to note that, as would often be the case for EnVyUs, many of their defeats came at the hands of the best teams of the time, in this case compLexity, Team Kaliber, and Strictly Business.
Certainly nobody had EnVyUs tipped for a repeat performance when it came to the Call of Duty Championship – an expectation that seemed all but confirmed in the early stages of the tournament. When a loss to Immunity in the group stage resulted in a round one bracket match against Strictly Business and ultimately an early ticket to the loser bracket, it seemed that EnVyUs were in for another unexceptional event. Instead, what would follow was by most reckoning the greatest loser bracket run of all time.
It could well have been over before it really began. After OpTic Gaming showed up to send the formidable Team Kaliber to the loser bracket to face EnVyUs, the prospects of a deep run for the boys in blue looked thin. Hastro himself would join Puckett to preside over what could well have been EnVy's early elimination from the tournament.
In a series that went the distance it was ultimately EnVy's Search and Destroy prowess that saw them eliminate in 16th a Team Kaliber that had not placed outside of the top four since the team's inception in Black Ops 2. EnVy's next match would be against Epsilon, an even closer affair that would see the boys in blue on the very brink of elimination.
The series couldn't have started much worse, with EnVy going down zero to two after the first two maps. Just a single loss away from elimination, they managed to force a game five, Freight SND, where a huge performance from Anthony “Nameless” Wheeler – including one of the greatest and most critical clutches in Call of Duty history, a 1v3 in a crucial round – helped EnVy complete the reverse sweep, clinching the final map 6-5.
From there EnVyUs found their stride. They breezed past VexX Revenge and Trident T1 Dotters without dropping a map, before giving the same treatment to the Strictly Business that had knocked them into the losers bracket in the first place. The loser bracket final would be Call of Duty's most classic match-up, EnVy versus OpTic, and this time it would be the boys in blue that prevailed, taking three in a row after losing the first Domination.
Though they were unceremoniously annihilated by an untouchable compLexity in the Grand Final, EnVy's run to reach that final was perhaps even more spectacular than the previous year. Though they failed to grab a trophy, the boys in blue did add that incredible loser bracket run to their collection of historic Call of Duty moments.
Though they didn't fall quite so far following the Call of Duty Championship this time, EnVyUs nonetheless had to watch while other teams later took the glory that they'd come so close to. This time it would be OpTic Gaming who dethroned the reigning compLexity (now Evil Geniuses) to take a championship win, while EnVy had to content themselves with a collection of top four finishes.
It was with the acquisition of Matthew “Formal” Piper that everything finally fell into place. Alongside Joe “MerK” Deluca, Nameless, and Jordan “JKap” Kaplan, their first event together (Gfinity 3) would net them the organisation's first major championship title since Modern Warfare 2.
Though they fell short at the following two UMG events, this EnVy squad would also pick up the MLG CoD League Season 3 title, and going into the final event of the year, ESWC, were contenders for the best in the world during the final months of the Ghosts season.
Just when things were looking up for the boys in blue, disaster struck. While competing as the favourites at ESWC, rumours began to circle of roster changes. The news was that Jkap and Nameless were to be dropped in favour of star players Karma and Ian “Crimsix” Porter, with the intention of creating a super team going into Advanced Warfare. The change was reportedly driven by Formal.
The news that you're about to be dropped isn't particularly conducive to team chemistry, and in the midst of the drama EnVy ended up placing 8th at ESWC. As it turned out, such rumours had been premature, and with the decision to make the switch never finalised with EnVy ultimately stuck to their original team.
Denied the roster he wanted under EnVyUs, Formal left the line-up, and EnVy had to watch as the god squad they could have had formed instead under OpTic Gaming, and became one of the greatest teams of all time. Meanwhile, it would be almost two years before EnVyUs collected another major trophy.
Advanced Warfare was a rough year for both the teams and fans of EnVyUs. Replacing Formal with James “Clayster” Eubanks failed to replicate the success they'd found at the end of Ghosts. Following a top 12 placement at UMG Orlando, the team made a trade with Denial – Jkap and Clayster for Renato “Saints” Forza and Tommy “ZooMaa” Paparratto.
Though most at the time would have said the swap favoured EnVyUs, ultimately the opposite turned out to be the case. While EnVy continued to struggle, consistently placing outside of the top four, Denial became a top two team. Perhaps spurred on by yet another perceived rejection, Clayster became the best player in the world.
The new EnVyUs roster never did quite click, and their last appearance together at the Call of Duty Championship would be the first time the organisation had failed to make the final, ultimately finishing in the top 12. Meanwhile, Denial walked away with the trophy.
Post-Champs, an almost complete revamp of the EnVyUs roster did little to improve their placements. At the same time, they watched as yet another former player stepped up after leaving, as ZooMaa became one of the best SMG players in the world with his new team under FaZe.
It wasn't long before another change brought together the FaZe roster that would pick up three titles and end the season undefeated against the powerhouse of OpTic Gaming – Dillon “Attach” Price, Ian “Enable” Wyatt, Clayster, and ZooMaa – the latter two of whom were the stars of the team and had both played under EnVy during the Advanced Warfare season to little success.
You might not have known it by their placements, but EnVyUs eventually put together a team that was otherwise almost indisputably one of the top four in the world for the final months of Advanced Warfare. Though Jkap, Daniel “Loony” Loza, Ulysses “Aqua” Silva and Sam “Octane” Larew only managed 6th at their first event together, they could be forgiven for consecutive losses to FaZe and OpTic.
A top eight placement at Gfinity Summer Masters is similarly unremarkable, yet once again they were eliminated at the hands of FaZe – a match-up they only had to play so early in the bracket as a result of a loss to OpTic Gaming in the group stage. The new roster picked up their first top four finish at UMG DC, eliminated by eLevate this time, though having lost in the winners bracket to OpTic Gaming once again, this time after leading the series 2-0.
A top eight finish at the MLG Pro League Season finals came again at the hands of eLevate, narrowly losing 3-4 having been knocked to the loser bracket by FaZe. The final event of the season, the MLG World Finals, would see them bag another top four, this time falling to OpTic and Denial in the winner and loser brackets respectively.
EnVyUs ended the Advanced Warfare season with only a handful of fourth place finishes to speak of in major events, all the while watching players they could have had win championships for OpTic, and seeing players leave their team only to find their form and success under other organisations.
Black Ops 3 kicked off in much the same fashion as Advanced Warfare ended. With Jkap the only remaining member of the Advanced Warfare team, the addition of Tyler “TeePee” Polchow, Patrick “Aches” Price and Austin “SlasheR” Liddicoat did little to reinvigorate the team.
Though exhibiting a questionable tournament format, a top eight finish at the Totino's Invitational marked the first time neither TeePee nor Aches won the opening event of a season. Meanwhile, former EnVyUs players Octane and Loony picked up their first trophy together – under Rise Nation.
While Rise continued to shine EnVy continued to struggle, placing top eight again at UMG South Carolina, and faring no better at the NA CWL Stage One Finals. A lack of events and a punishing format meant that when EnVy made a change for MLG Anaheim half the season had already gone, and EnVy had placed no higher than 5th-8th.
The replacement of TeePee and Aches with Johnathon “John” Perez and Bryan “Apathy” Zhelyazkov did not immediately improve their fortunes – the boys in blue picked up yet another top eight finish. It had at this point been a rather long time since any iteration of EnVyUs had contended for a major title, and you'd be forgiven for thinking that perhaps they were losing some of their stature.
No matter the line-up, no matter how much individual talent they seemed to possess, it seemed that EnVy just couldn't make it work. As they slipped from the upper echelons of competition, teams like OpTic, Rise, FaZe, and eLevate continued to make their mark on the Call of Duty landscape. This was, from a competitive point of view, perhaps the lowest point in the organisation's Call of Duty history.
It is only fitting, therefore, that this is the point from which they began their greatest triumph to date. In less than three months, they went from never placing higher than top eight on Black Ops 3, to World Champions and the best team in the world.
It started with the CWL Stage 2 Finals. With a complacent OpTic out in the first round, the single elimination format gave EnVyUs a clear route to the trophy, and they capitalised. They swept H2k aside in the first round, defeated Rise Nation in the semis and took down Dream Team in the final to secure their first major championship win since the back end of Call of Duty: Ghosts.
A prestigious trophy is all very well and good, but EnVyUs had still yet to face many of their most dangerous opponents on LAN, with only their match against Rise standing out as a victory over a tier one team. So when Rise took their revenge against EnVy in the first round of bracket play at MLG Orlando, you couldn't help but wonder if perhaps it would be the same old story – a flash in the pan, before returning to the familiar heartbreak and disappointment.
What followed was a run reminiscent of their 2014 Call of Duty Championship. Team Kaliber were the first casualty. A narrow victory over Cloud9 lead them to a rematch with Rise Nation, and this time it was EnVy who'd get their revenge. Up next was a FaZe Clan that had never quite found the form of 2015, and they too were swept aside. The loser bracket final saw them face eLevate for the second time, and the only difference from the group stage result was that this time the boys in blue didn't even drop a map.
Unlike at the 2014 Call of Duty Championship EnVyUs even took the first series off of the kings of the day (OpTic Gaming) before their eventual defeat, but though they failed to take home the trophy the message was clear. The CWL Stage 2 Final victory was no fluke.
This year's Call of Duty Championship gave us EnVyUs like we've never seen. Despite a flawless group stage, results outside their control gave them a bracket that might once have struck fear into the hearts of their fans. OpTic Gaming round one. FaZe Clan round two.
For the first time since the 2014 Call of Duty Championship, nearly two and a half years previous, EnVyUs beat OpTic Gaming on LAN. They took down FaZe for the second time in as many events. After defeating FabE to make it to the winner bracket final, EnVyUs shut down eLevate.
In a single event, the boys in blue defeated the three teams that had proven most difficult, that they had most frequently been beaten by, that had eliminated them from tournaments on numerous occasions. For that, following their dismissal of Splyce in the grand final, their reward was a World Championship title, and eight hundred thousand dollars.
EnVyUs are the best team in the world right now. OpTic may have a larger trophy cabinet, but at this particular moment, the boys in blue are the team to beat. From watching while the team they could have had became superstars, EnVyUs have managed what the god-squad has yet to achieve – a World Championship victory. Not only that, but there was no fluke involved – they went through almost every conceivable challenger, and proved themselves better than any of them.
It's a hard time being an EnVyUs fan. There's always just enough talent, just enough potential to raise your hopes – and then often, they are crushed in the most cruel and heartbreaking fashion possible. Even in losses, EnVyUs will always show that glimmer of possibility to keep great things in your imagination. Stick it out long enough though, and EnVyUs will treat you to some of the most exciting moments Call of Duty has ever seen.
Heartbreaking perhaps, but EnVyUs could never be accused of being boring. Perhaps that's why their story is one of the most compelling, and why this World Championship win feels like a greater triumph than perhaps any before.