TI10 Evil Geniuses, the reinvented juggernaut
The International 10 is finally happening. After a hiatus of two years since TI9, the Dota 2 community is buzzing with excitement as we can once again celebrate the greatest teams in the competitive scene.
After having to be moved from Stockholm, Sweden, The International 10 will unfold this autumn, October 7-17 in Bucharest, Romania, at the National Arena, with $40,018,195 on the line. A total of 18 teams will enter the battle for the 10th Aegis of Champions, of which 12 of them claimed a spot at the biggest esports event via Dota Pro Circuit points, the rest of six teams joining as victors of TI10 regional qualifiers.
Evil Geniuses was the first team to bank enough DPC points to secure a spot at TI10. They did it by taking the first spot in the debut season of 2021 DPC Regional Leagues in North America and reaching the grand finals of Singapore Major and AniMajor.
End of an era and pandemic struggles
Although EG look now stronger than ever, the two years’ period between TI9 and TI10 wasn’t their greatest. The COVID-19 pandemic impacted even the wealthiest esports organizations in many ways and for Evil Geniuses it meant the impossibility of playing with their full roster.
In a way, TI9 marked the end of an era for the North American powerhouse team. After reaching top three at TI8, EG made no roster change, hoping that by solving the small issues they will once again play in the grand finals, but TI9 marked another downfall. They placed top six, which was a subpar performance for their pedigree, and immediately after the tournament was over, The King, Syed "SumaiL" Hassan ended his four-year stint with the team. Along with him, Gustav "s4" Magnusson was also released from the roster.
SumaiL was replaced with the Southeast Asian prodigy Abed Yusop, who soon after joining EG, became the first player to hit 11,000 MMR. He was recruited from Fnatic, and in many aspects, he fitted the EG playstyle and overall game direction. With Abed having a very similar play style with SumaiL, EG’s weren’t forced to make any important adjustments when they welcomed him to the team.
What EG seemed to have wanted to change and elevate in their game was the offlane. The initial plan was to have Roman "RAMZES666" Kushnarev, who would have brought a couple of other perks to the team. Apart from working on becoming a stable offlaner, Ramzes would have also meant that for the first time Evil Geniuses would have had the flex option in their drafts and in the lane set-up.
However, the pandemic hit only a few months after his signing and EG couldn’t play more than a few tournaments with him. In the few ones towards the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020, when EG could compete in the full formula, they reached the grand finals at ONE Esports World Pro Invitational Singapore, the DreamLeague, Leipzig Major and just ahead of the Los Angeles Major they got bested by Fnatic and OG.Seed at the Summit 12 LAN event to finish third.
Unfortunately for all parties involved, right after that Summit gathering, the pandemic took over the world and with four foreign players on their roster, EG had to take a short competitive break. They tried to work around all the problems to keep the roster together and even play in the online OMEGA League, which was held on European servers, but it became clear enough that playing with everyone stranded in different parts of the world wouldn’t bring any benefits. On the contrary, a bad result based on latency and impossible hours at which some of the players had to be awake and ready to compete could have jeopardized the team chemistry.
Time to reinvent
In the end, Ramzes was released from the roster, and while working on finding an offlane solution, three of the Evil Geniuses players reached 11K MMR, making the organization the only one to have such a stacked number of high MMR players. While many, if not all of those from the 11-12K club, will tell you that the MMR is not winning you official games, Abed, Andreas Franck "Cr1t-" Nielsen, who was the first support player to reach the 11K milestone, and Artour "Arteezy" Babaev are true testaments of how skilled the EG roster is.
Through the past six years, EG has always been a very solid team. Dota 2 fans had their memes about EG’s “eternal third place finish,” but jokes aside, being able to constantly place top three is just a clear indicator of how good and how constant this team has always been.
However, one of the issues was their predictability. EG is not the team to surprise their opponents in the drafting stage. Everyone knows what their comfort picks are and what heroes they excel at in various metas. They almost never surprise with the laning distribution either, and if there was something that they were known for, it was their preference to apply pressure on the enemy carry with an aggressive trilane. More often than not that translated in RTZ having to go to the jungle, spend an extended time to farm there and become the win condition for his team.
In most cases, anyone playing EG has targeted RTZ from drafting to in-game harassment, up to the point where the pattern had to be stopped.
The iceiceice factor
Ahead of the 2021 Dota Pro Circuit, Evil Geniuses have found the player that would change everything about their play style. Mid November 2020, Daryl Koh "iceiceice" Pei Xiang was announced to have taken the offlane role and with his arrival, Evil Geniuses were ready to torment their adversaries in new ways.
Evil Geniuses roster:
Through both seasons of Regional Leagues, only Quincy Crew were able to defeat Evil Geniuses. The NA juggernaut took over the region and once they arrived at the first Major of the year, which was held on iceiceice’s home turf, they were almost flawless.
They made a perfect upper bracket run to the grand finals, but it’s worth mentioning that they played only against Fnatic, icex3 and Abed’s former team, and against two Chinese teams, namely PSG.LGD and Invictus Gaming. The Singapore Major was the signal that China is definitely the strongest region, but even so, EG had an amazing run and showed what iceiceice is bringing to the table for them.
Controlled chaos, mind games and flex picks
With iceiceice in the offlane, Evil Geniuses had for the first time the option to cheese and flex pick their heroes. His extremely wide hero pool elevates EG’s drafts as he opens the option of flex picking heroes in all three core positions, besides being able to turn some of the heroes more suited for a support role into offlane dominators.
From Tidehunter and Timbersaw to Death Prophet, Lycan and Enigma, the latter two being almost never touched by other teams since the removal of Necronomicon from the game, overall, iceiceice played 8 different heroes in the 12 EG games at Singapore Major.
At the same time, Abed played just three, switching between Puck, Void Spirit and most prominently Storm Spirit, which was picked for him in all five games of the grand finals.
The controlled chaos icex3 can bring to EG games elevates their playstyle and gives the options of dominating the adversary carry without a trilane.
Iceiceice is a truly unique kind of player, who is never afraid to use a 200 seconds cooldown just to intimidate his opponents or to force an error. He is also one of the few who are still dropping an item in front of someone TP-ing out just to make them think twice about their action.
At AniMajor, iceiceice’s notorious Broodmother secured another grand final spot for Evil Geniuses. Along with the Brood, he played a total of 12 different heroes and EG were able to inflict drafting mind games torture on their opponents by bringing Nature’s Prophet, Razor and Viper as flex options. Another Chinese team bested them in the grand final in Kyiv, that time around in a dominant fashion. PSG.LGD took them down 3-0 with a carry Axe that was the highlight of the tournament. But, up to that point, EG eliminated five teams from four different regions to make a perfect lower bracket run into the grand finals.
EG’s claim at the Aegis
This year, Evil Geniuses are coming to The International not only as the best NA team, but also as the only team to have reached the grand finals of both DPC Majors. They have a very different team dynamic compared to all previous years and the Southeast Asia infusion in their playstyle makes them look better than ever. They have three extremely aggressive players in Cr1t, Abed and Iceiceice and that changes the way they approach the laning phase. Artour will always remain as one of the best carry players in the professional scene, but with Abed and iceiceice now on his side, the win condition doesn’t always have to be his super farmed Terrorblade, Phantom Lancer, Naga Siren or Arc Warden.
EG have already shown that they can play fast paced games with him on Nature’s Prophet, Leshrac, Viper, Razor or even Outworld Devourer. EG’s drafts have changed and are more dynamic for the first time in a very long period of time. If they take the three months until TI10 to develop drafting strategies that they didn’t really fathom in the past, they will have a huge shot at playing the grand finals on the National Arena in Bucharest this autumn and bring home the Aegis of Champions.