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When Thomas “GRVTY” Malin learned he had caught his big break in the Call of Duty League, his new team wasn’t the one that came to mind. His teammate, Paul “PaulEhx” Avila, had to break the news that he’d been signed by the Paris Legion to him.

“One day I just woke up and heard my team was breaking up,” GRVTY said of his Challengers squad. “Paul broke me the news and said ‘you’re getting picked up, have fun in the league.'”

Despite the surprise, his new role has been a long time coming for GRVTY, who’s been grinding his way through Challengers, most recently with Team War, since leaving his role as a substitute for the Atlanta FaZe. He’s always believed he’d make it back to the biggest stage in Call of Duty and said it feels almost exactly like he imagined it would.

“It honestly felt exactly how’d I envisioned it,” he said. “It’s something I was doing before.”

GRVTY is a longtime Call of Duty competitor, seen here with Atlanta’s Chris “Simp” Lehr and McArthur “Cellium” Jovel, Los Angeles’s Obaid “Asim” Asim and Timothy “Phantomz” Landi when they were part of FC Black. | Provided by Major League Gaming

Paris Legion get the GRVTY boost at Major I

The Paris Legion had a rough go for the first stretch of the 2022 season, not winning a single match in the lead up to the season’s first LAN. The squad, led by head coach Dylan “Theory” McGee, is currently made up of former Dallas Empire substitute Tyler “FeLo” Johnson and former LA Thieves players Johnathan “John” Perez and Donovan “Temp” Laroda. GRVTY replaced former New York Subliner Jacob “Decemate” Cato.

“I think you noticed in the first day with Tom. I’m sure we only won a couple maps, but you could tell all the other maps were close. The feel was just instant,” Theory said of the online practice they had before the Major. “Everybody also had chemistry with Tom.”

GRVTY had been on Theory’s radar since before he put the team together for Black Ops Cold War. Theory finally brought the New York-based player on because of his structured AR play and leadership qualities, two elements the Legion desperately needed. GRVTY had won in Challengers with John and FeLo in 2021, so almost everyone on the team had experience with him. The team had about a week of practice, with some sessions coming in the practice rooms at the Esports Arena in Arlington days before the Major.

The Legion’s first match put them up against the Seattle Surge, a team that had a hot start to the season but began to fall off before the LAN tournament. Seattle began the series by absolutely walloping GRVTY and the Paris Legion in Hardpoint on Tuscan.

“After the first map, we just realized we needed to stop playing like little, baby cowards and actually start challing these kids,” GRVTY said. “After that, it went pretty smoothly outside clutching out that 6-5. Thank god we did, because that’s the series right there.”

Securing the Legion’s first win of 2022

The Surge looked to be in control for a big part of the series, although some cracks began to show.  The next map, Search and Destroy on Desert Siege, came down to a Round 11.

Paris was on the defensive side as both teams inched closer to one another. Temp went down first before John took out Amer “Pred” Zulbeari. All remaining Legion players made the move to A bomb where Seattle was pushing before FeLo made the call to abandon the site altogether.

“I was already on the way [to B],” GRVTY said. “We just figured they were gonna wrap it and then John got a free one.”

GRVTY was right as Seattle moved to the B Site and John picked off Makenzie “Mack” Kelley and Lamar “Accuracy” Abedi while they were rotating. Daunte “Sib” Gray was caught in a 1v3 and fell soon after. GRVTY said clutch was the reason they went on to win 3-2, even though they lost the following map of Control.

The Paris Legion and GRVTY eventually fell to Anthony “Methodz” Zinni and the Boston Breach in a close 3-2 series that could have gone in the Legion’s direction if a couple rounds of Search and Destroy went their way, according to GRVTY.

“If we don’t choke a couple of those rounds then we probably win that series 3-0,” he said. The win against Seattle is hopefully just the beginning for the Legion, who open Stage 2 with a match against the LA Guerrillas on March 12. GRVTY’s goal has always been bigger than a single win at a LAN event.

“I don’t care how badly this Paris team started this year,” he said. “Now that I’m here and I have the opportunity to compete, I want to make deep runs at tournaments.”

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