It all happened so fast, it’s difficult to pinpoint the precise moment Conor “Diamondcon” Johst arrived as one of the best up-and-coming Call of Duty players in the world.
Maybe it was when he won the 2020 Challengers championship in August, or when he went viral for a 1v3 sniper run during a pro scouting series in December. Maybe it just happened a week ago when the New York Subliners upset OpTic Chicago in his first Call of Duty League Major.
Whenever it was, the rest of the league is on notice now. It’s safe to say NYSL won’t be sneaking up on anybody else, and Diamondcon is quickly lining up another accolade in his sights.
“I’m coming for rookie of the year,” Diamondcon told Nerd Street Gamers, putting an exclamation point on the end of our interview.
With Stage 1 of the Call of Duty League season in the books and Stage 2 kicking off Thursday, he’s the clear frontrunner.
Diamondcon currently ranks tied for ninth among all CDL players with a 1.05 kill-death ratio. He also sits among the league leaders in several other categories — notably third with 24.8 Hardpoint kills per minute, tied for 10th with a 1.06 Hardpoint K/D, tied for 11th with a 1.14 Search & Destroy K/D and 12th with 0.75 S&D kills per round.
Perhaps more impressive still though is Diamondcon’s role in transforming the Subliners into one of the top teams in the CDL thus far. One month into the season, New York is right behind the Atlanta FaZe, Dallas Empire and OpTic in the standings with a 6-4 match record and 80 CDL points. The highlight of their strong start is eliminating Chicago from the major.
Leading the way in that 3-0 sweep, naturally, was Diamondcon, posting a 1.31 K/D for the match, highlighted by a dominant showing in S&D with nine kills to one death.
“I think I kind of proved a point,” Diamondcon said. “I’m not just a random rookie that barely made his way.
“I think I’m here to stay for awhile.”
Star in the making
Johst, 20, started competing in CoD in 2013 at the age of 13. It was a different time, he observes, as this was obviously before there was an age restriction barring players who are under 18 from pro play, but also because esports were only starting to take off and not as widely understood.
“My parents were kind of weird at first because even my teammates were 18- and 20-year-olds, so they thought it was strange,” said Diamondcon of competing at his first tournament. “I just showed them it was a good group of guys, we’re all here to play and have fun.
“At the event, I was definitely one of the youngest players there, but my parents always supported it from start to finish.”
Once the ban on underage players came down in 2017, Diamondcon had to wait about a year before returning to the amateur scene, eventually catching on with CoD: Black Ops 4.
“I didn’t really make any too good placements, but I really started to shine, I’d say, during the [Modern Warfare] season,” Diamondcon said.
Last year, he won a Challengers Cup tournament with now-defunct Sixth Gear before taking home the North American championship and his share of $250,000 in prize money with Triumph.
But it was his performance at the Challengers Scouting Series — a showcase for free agents and amateur prospects looking to turn pro — that earned Diamondcon more attention. One standout play in particular where he survived a 3v1 scenario in S&D with a sequence of clean sniper kills wound up generating significant buzz.
“When I hit that clip, my adrenaline was pumping,” Diamondcon said. “I didn’t realize until after that it was a triple headshot, too.
“I didn’t think it was gonna go that viral. It was a crazy feeling.”
Diamondcon earned a spot on NYSL’s academy roster as a result of the event.
Not according to plan
The Subliners were one of many CDL teams to undergo a radical facelift during the offseason, signing James “Clayster” Eubanks from the defending-champion Empire and another rookie, Paco “HyDra” Rusiewiez. The new additions were expected to round out the roster with sophomore sensation Mackenzie “Mack” Kelley and decorated veteran Thomas “ZooMaa” Paparatto.
Diamondcon wasn’t even in the cards.
HyDra got stuck in France due to COVID travel restrictions, leading New York to bring on Obaid “Asim” Asim. When ZooMaa retired abruptly over a thumb injury in January, mere weeks before the season was set to begin, Diamondcon got the call.
“It was kind of a shock at first because I’m going from watching all these players when I was growing up to now playing against them,” Diamondcon said.
Despite a rough start — NYSL were swept by Dallas in a preseason clash, then blanked by the Los Angeles Thieves on opening weekend — Diamondcon started feeling more comfortable playing in front of large numbers of viewers.
Success followed. The Subliners went 3-1 during Super Week with an 11-4 map record. Then, after getting knocked from the winners bracket of the major by OpTic, the team marched all the way to the elimination bracket final and finished the major in third place, picking up some sweet revenge against Optic along the way.
Diamondcon acknowledged NYSL still have much to prove to cement their place among the top-four teams in the CDL, but he said the team’s rapid progress wasn’t a surprise based on how they had looked in scrimmages.
“At the end of the day, I know the players I’m playing with, I know my ability as a player, so I knew us as a team, we were gonna make some noise,” Diamondcon said.
And they have. When the Subliners are firing on all cylinders, they take out opponents with impressive haste.
Where New York need to improve is with respect to overall consistency, especially in closing out opponents. Case in point, the team had Dallas down 2-0 and on the ropes in Game 3 during Super Week, only to wind up losing 3-2.
This is an inexperienced group though who have been playing together for under two months. Diamondcon is in his first season, Mack is in his second and Asim is in his third, and all are being molded by the fiery veteran Clayster.
If this is the caliber of play we’re seeing from Diamondcon and his mates now, imagine the level they could be at come time for the CDL championship later this year.
“I know what I can do and what I bring to the table to a team,” Diamondcon said. “And I know if I do my job, we’re gonna succeed.”
Lead image credit: New York Subliners/Twitter