The Call of Duty franchise has not only continued to evolve in terms of gameplay, graphics, and features since its inception in 2003—it has also seen a world of difference in the esports community.
Major League Gaming held its first major Call of Duty event beginning in 2009 for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, and then two years later when the release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 was imminent, Activision offered its first million-dollar eSports tournament.
A little less than two years after that, Activision held its first true World Championship for the Call of Duty franchise, which would soon develop into the Call of Duty World League that we know today. From its beginnings as an attraction at the first Call of Duty: XP, Call of Duty esports has developed from including heartbeat sensors and Team Deathmatch, to implementing intricate pick-and-ban systems as well as full map pools and specific competitive game modes.
Call of Duty eSports has been a mainstay over two generations of consoles, had its movement mechanics overhauled, and has grown to become a full-fledged Call of Duty World League, complete with its own Global Pro League, along with GameBattles, where thousands of players compete in the hopes of one day making it to the GPL.
Out of all those players, only three have stood the test of time and skill as being the most consistent Call of Duty competitors in the world. These three players competed in the original million-dollar tournament held at Call of Duty: XP, and will have been a part of every World Championship Tournament since then, including the upcoming 2017 Call of Duty World League Championship.
Here are the three players who are a part of an elite company of veterans who have played at every major million-dollar Call of Duty event.
If you want a history lesson in competitive Call of Duty, then study the career of Clayster, one of the longest competing and most vocal competitors today.
Clayster rose to prominence in Call of Duty eSports in 2010, where he became a regular of MLG online and live events. Competing with the Art of eXecution, Clayster teamed up with the likes of Patrick “ACHES” Price and Ryan “Crowster” Crowley, and took several top finishes on Pro Circuit Ladder Tournaments and the MLG National Championship in 2010. He would go on to leave those teammates behind by the time 2011 rolled around, and placed sixth at the Call of Duty XP 2011 tournament with Team Obey.
In the Call of Duty Championship era, Clayster was known for winning X Games Gold in 2014 with OpTic Gaming, a team that also placed third at the Call of Duty Championship 2014. One year later, Clayster was thrown to the wolves of Denial, and came back to lead them to a Call of Duty Championship while also earning the event’s MVP award.
The most recent CWL Championship saw Clayster team with FaZe Clan, where they finished out on top of Group E with a perfect 9-0 game record. They then swept Infused 3-0 in their opening Championship Bracket round, but were stopped cold by eventual champions Team EnVyUs in the second round. FaZe then finished top-eight after losing to Splyce, the team that would fall to EnVy in the Grand Finals.
At 25-years-old, Clayster is not planning on retiring any time soon, and leads a young organization in eUnited into the 2017 CWL Championship with the hope of attaining his second Championship Ring, and potentially his second Champs MVP nod.
While Splyce may be known for making European history in recent Call of Duty events, one of the men who put helped highlight the European region was Tommey, a member of some of the strongest early international teams in Call of Duty history.
In 2011, Tommey lead apeX eSports to a first place finish at a United Kingdom Qualifier ahead of Call of Duty: XP. Then at the event in Los Angeles, Tommey and company secured fifth place after losing in the quarterfinals.
Tommey then broke out a second time as a part of the all-star Epsilon roster that took Europe by storm in 2014. During that time, Epsilon were a force to be reckoned with at European events, and even placed second among the top North American teams at the GFinity 3 event.
The Epsilon dream team roster soon disbanded though, and on Tommey’s revival tour with the organization at the Call of Duty Championship 2015, he and teammates Joshua-Lee "Joshh" Shephard and Callum "Swanny" Swan could not make it out of the group stage.
After placing top-12 with Millenium at the Call of Duty World League Championship 2016, Tommey decided to form a team with younger stars in Gurdip "SunnyB" Bains, as well as the twins Matthew “Skrapz” and Bradley “wuskin” Marshall. Originally without an organization, the team wound up being picked up by Fnatic just before the CWL London Invitational, and have kept their entire roster together ahead of the CWL Championship 2017.
While Clayster and Tommey were featured prominently as a part of the 2017 CWL Global Pro League, the final member of the million-dollar tournament club is another British player who has had one of the most unique journeys in Call of Duty history.
In 2011, ShAnE competed as a member of Team Infused with another European legend in Swanny at Call of Duty: XP, and ousted Tommey’s apeX esports to secure top-four. Infused would then lose to eventual champions OpTic Gaming, who had current CWL Analyst Joey "MerK" Deluca on their roster, and then lose their third place match to IcoNs.
ShAne’s career then took an interesting turn after he left the Epsilon organization in late 2013, as he then founded Lightning Pandas. Known for having some of the most interesting jerseys and branding in Call of Duty history, ShAnE and his Lightning Pandas team failed to make it out of the group stage at the Call of Duty Championship 2014, losing out to Team Kaliber and WiLD Gaming.
After disbanding the organization in mid-2014, ShaNe became a member of TCM-Gaming, who were the first ever European team to move to the United States and play in North America full-time, which was a major step for the European region. But despite breaking ground in Call of Duty, ShAnE once again could not get out of the Group Stage at the 2015 Call of Duty Championship, falling to FaZe Black and Below Zero in Group G.
ShAnE recently was part of Team-LDLC, who for a third time could not escape the Group Stage, and is now a member of the revered French organization Team Vitality. Looking to finally break out of a Championship Group Stage for the first time in his career, ShAnE will play in Orlando alongside French veteran Wailers "Wailers" Locart to hopefully beat his best CWL Championship placement so far.
The 2013 Call of Duty Championship
Clayster, Tommey, and ShAnE saw their careers collide during the early days of Call of Duty eSports, and that point was at the Call of Duty Championship 2013. There, the three veterans came together to play for UNiTE Gaming, picking up a currently retired European legend in Tomas "GunShy" Jones as their fourth.
In that 2013 tournament, the dual-region team were placed in Group B alongside Quantic Gaming, who had current Evil Geniuses player Anthony "NAMELESS" Wheeler on their roster, three-quarters Italian team in inFerno eSports, and a South African squad known as XtaZ. Although UNiTE contained four players that would go on to have much future success, theu wound up getting swept by Quantic and inFerno, with their only win in the group coming against XtaZ.
These three seasoned competitors are set to compete in Orlando at the Call of Duty World League Championship 2017, where they will hope to continue their legacy as the esport’s most decorated veterans. The CWL Championship will be broadcast live over on mlg.tv/callofduty, on the official MLG Facebook page, on the official MLG Twitch Channel, and on the official MLG YouTube channel.