Bryan ''Apathy'' Zhelyazkov: One Of The All-Time Greats
Consistency in Call of Duty esports is extremely hard to find with the competitive scene having to adapt to a brand-new title at the beginning of every season but despite the changes, there are a handful of players that always manage to maintain their place at the highest level of competition. Bryan "Apathy" Zhelyazkov was one of those players, regularly featuring in the top half of results tables regardless of title and the players that were competing alongside him.
For over ten years, Apathy has held his own against seasoned veterans and a new generation of explosive slaying talent, often showcasing his true potential in the latter stages of a season, perfect timing for the biggest tournaments of the season.
On October 4, 2021, the North American veteran announced he would be hanging up the controller after receiving no offers for the 2022 season despite expressing a desire to continue playing in the Call of Duty League (CDL). With six major championship victories to his name, we take a look back at one of the most storied careers in competitive Call of Duty.
Breaking The Ceiling
Apathy made his debut all the way back in 2011 at MLG Columbus under the vVv banner and placed in the top 12 respectively. For MLG Raleigh, he joined Apex and finished second, winning $6,000 in prize money. After finishing fourth at the 2011 National Finals, Apathy experienced a season of mediocrity on Black Ops 2, the highlight being a top-eight finish at UMG Chicago in 2012. Even though the results weren’t the highest, Apathy headed into the 2014 season with Strictly Business alongside Doug "Censor" Martin, Damod "FEARS" Abney, and Aaron "TuQuick" Chang. Another top-eight placement looked to have laid the foundations for another below-average season but the addition of Renato "Saints" Forza in place of TuQuick for UMG Philadelphia saw Apathy finally break into the top four.
The 2014 Winter Invitational saw another top-four placing secured, with consistency finally beginning to show ahead of the North American Regional Finals for the 2014 world championship. While Strictly Business was considered to be one of the stronger North American teams, they weren’t in the same bracket as the likes of OpTic Gaming and a dominant Complexity roster that were hot off winning most tournaments in the latter half of Black Ops 2. The Regional Finals started well for Apathy and Strictly Business, sweeping aside FaZe Clan before dishing out yet another sweep to Complexity, much to the surprise of everyone.
The team then battled past Team Envy and two close encounters with Team Kaliber to cement their place in the finals for a showdown against Complexity. Strictly Business looked unbeatable, defeating Complexity 6-2 to win the Regional Finals and secure the top seed for the world championship. Throughout the tournament, Apathy shone as one of the submachine gunners, often scoring multiple kills in quick succession to open up specific sections of the map to secure a Domination flag or control of the Blitz portal and after three years, he had cemented his place amongst the very best players on the planet.
Strictly Business topped their group with three straightforward wins to qualify for the knockout stages. A 3-1 victory against Envy in the opening round saw them do battle with OpTic Gaming in a highly competitive series that went all the way down to a fifth and final map that went the way of the Green Wall, sending Apathy and the team into the loser’s bracket. Wins against Vitality Rises, Rise Nation, and FaZe Clan set up another clash with Team Envy but the boys in blue came out swinging, eliminating Strictly Business from the tournament in fourth place. While it was very close to Apathy’s first championship ring, fourth place at his second world championship was still an impressive achievement.
For a brief period after Champs, Apathy switched allegiances to Team Kaliber, managing to improve on the fourth place with a second-place at the X Games Invitational. Slowly edging towards the top step of the podium, Apathy quickly found himself off Team Kaliber and with the Red Militia of FaZe Clan, hoping to end the Ghosts season on a high. UMG Nashville would be the breakthrough for Apathy, securing his second championship victory of his career, the perfect way to build momentum ahead of a huge shift in how Call of Duty would be played.
A World-Class Slayer
Late 2014 saw Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare release, complete with new elements of verticality and all-new movement mechanics completely different to any Call of Duty title. The early online results certainly weren’t the best but as soon as the Call of Duty esports circus returned to LAN at MLG Columbus, Apathy and FaZe kicked off the season where they left off, taking yet another victory. Despite the success, Apathy moved to FaZe Black but the darker side of the Red Militia failed to yield the wins that were hoped for. The final nail in the coffin for Apathy and FaZe Black was a top-16 finish at the 2015 world championships, a significant drop in form compared to his fourth-place under Strictly Business just a year earlier.
Now as a household name in a game where aggressive slaying often made the difference during a match, Apathy joined Prophecy and immediately found an upturn in form with a second-place finish at the Gfinity Spring Masters. Afterwards, it looked like that result came thanks to the blissful honeymoon period and soon afterwards, Apathy joined Team Elevate, failing to find any kind of long-term stability. After brief tenures on Elevate, Rise Nation and Team Kaliber, the world-class slayer was unable to replicate the form that saw him skyrocket towards the very top of the Call of Duty mountain.
Black Ops 3 would be make or break for Apathy. Signing for Team Liquid was certainly a sign of intent, and after winning the open bracket at UMG South Carolina, the team failed to make it into the Pro Division of the North American Call of Duty World League (CWL). Without a Pro Division spot, Apathy made the decision to join Call of Duty titans Team Envy alongside Jordan "JKap" Kaplan, Austin "SlasheR" Liddicoat, and Johnathon "John" Perez. After a few months of bounding around the top eight once again, the breakthrough came at the Stage 2 Playoffs, where Envy defeated Dream Team in the finals to take home the lion’s share of over $200,000 in prize money. With the momentum finally in Apathy’s favour, another second-place followed at the MLG Orlando Open, the final event before the 2016 world championship.
Just like in 2014, Apathy headed into the world championship as a member of one of the teams tipped to win the title. Following on from a straightforward group stage, Envy was thrown straight into the deep end with an encounter against OpTic Gaming. Much to the surprise of the huge number of Green Wall fans in attendance, the boys in blue knocked down the Green Wall, sending them into the loser’s bracket while Apathy faced off against his former team of FaZe Clan. A 3-0 sweep of FaZe quickly followed by victories against fabE and Elevate booked his place in his first world championship finals. Despite the best efforts of Splyce, the first European team to make it to a world championship final, the supreme slaying and coordination from Apathy and Envy secured the win, his first world championship ring. After years of coming agonisingly close to the biggest prize in Call of Duty, Apathy had finally done it, cementing his place in the history books.
Cementing The Legacy
Apathy and Envy hovered around the top three for the vast majority of the Infinite Warfare season despite several internal issues within the team. Against all odds, Envy somehow managed to find themselves in their second consecutive world championship final. Standing in the way of a second ring in a row for Apathy was OpTic, the arch-rivals of the boys in blue. The Green Wall was intent on avenging their earlier loss to Envy and they did just that, showing unstoppable levels of skill and teamwork to win two best-of-fives to deny Apathy his second ring. While he may not have won the title for a second year running, making back-to-back finals is still a hugely impressive achievement. The two-year spell at Envy went to show that stability was the key to success but there were no chances of rebuilding the internal problems within the team, leading to Apathy departing Envy for a fresh start at Evil Geniuses for the World War 2 season.
The return to boots-on-the-ground was welcomed by most and from the outset, many were surprised by a lack of results coming from EG. CWL Dallas saw the team place in the top 20, a surprise considering the wealth of talent on the team and the fact Apathy has just appeared in another Champs final. Throughout 2017, Apathy rarely featured towards the top, with regular appearances in the top eight and plenty of struggles to find the high levels of consistency that were achieved with Envy. Form was regained at CWL Seattle, with Evil Geniuses finishing second behind Rise Nation and was a sign of things to come ahead of Champs.
After battling below the very best teams for the majority of the season, expectations weren’t the highest for Evil Geniuses but after managing to pull off an upset victory against OpTic Gaming in the group stage to book their place in the Nationwide Arena. Two convincing sweeps against Team Vitality and Lightning Pandas was the start of a huge upset. With momentum fully in favour of Apathy and Evil Geniuses, they dispatched Team Envy and Team Kaliber to book their place in the grand finale, Apathy’s third in a row. Team Kaliber emerged victorious in the first series, resetting the bracket but they were unable to keep the ball rolling, enabling EG to win the second series with a 3-0 sweep to win the world championship. Heading into the event with no expectations, Apathy’s second ring was certainly a shock but it was a testament to show that his incredible skill never went away. As one of nine players with two rings to their name, the legacy of Apathy was cemented.
Not Quite A Fairytale Ending
With two world titles under his belt, Apathy had a chance to score an unprecedented third ring having returned to Team Envy. That form from 2016 and 2017 rarely appeared but Apathy’s skill with the Saug stood out from the rest of the team. Despite this, Envy rarely featured in the top four throughout the season. Unable to replicate the championship glory, Apathy returned to Evil Geniuses for the latter half of the season in a bid to score the final world title before a switch to a franchised model. It wasn’t to be. A top-eight finish rounded off the CWL era for Apathy but a new opportunity arose in 2020.
For the first season of the CDL competition, Apathy joined the Seattle Surge alongside superstar assault rifle player Sam "Octane" Larew and three-time world champ Damon "Karma" Barlow. On paper, this roster looked like it could contend with the likes of the Dallas Empire and Chicago Huntsmen but the Surge never managed to turn the tide of an early run of poor form and quickly found themselves holding up the bottom of the regular-season table. A 3-0 sweep at the hands of the Paris Legion in the 2020 CDL Championship summed up a hugely disappointing season for a team filled with potential and experience.
In a bid to reverse the fortunes of 2020, Apathy joined the Los Angeles Guerrillas and after the opening stage, it finally looked like Apathy was on his way back up to the top with a solid top-six finish. The brief light of form that shone quickly disappeared in Stage Two, finishing at the bottom of the table. Despite the relatively strong start to the Black Ops Cold War season, the Guerrillas and Apathy struggled to move up the table, making it another disappointing season.
One Of The Best
Although the ending to Apathy’s career was nowhere near the dizzying heights of appearing in three consecutive Champs finals, he is still considered as one of the very best Call of Duty esports players in history. His often-unmatched slaying combined with incredible levels of awareness made him a menace for any team on the map and his departure from the scene as one of the most popular personalities will be one that is sorely missed.
Best of luck in retirement, Ap!