Considering it wasn’t too long ago that Evil Geniuses was home to the best team in North America, its descent into becoming one of the biggest laughing stocks in Counter-Strike history has been rather sad to watch.
Burdened by their choice to continue representing a region with a weak talent pool, EG doubled down on that decision by implementing their ‘blueprint model’. They did this by signing two of the lesser NA rosters and growing their player numbers to 15. This was done with the idea that they could support the growth of young talent in the region and promote them to their main team when the time was right.
Unfortunately, as it becomes more clear with every roster move, it hasn’t quite panned out that way. Worse still, even when EG promotes one of the players from their White or Black rosters, those players aren’t fit to play in tier one CS:GO anyway.
The more recent of the pair, Jerric “wiz” Jiang, an AWPer making the leap from the EG Black team, has yet to provide any real impact on Counter-Strike’s most impactful weapon. In fact, when compared to Tsvetelin “CeRq” Dimitrov, a man who was previously the most heavily criticized AWPer in the world for being ‘past his best’, wiz is performing monstrously worse than him.
The first of the two to be promoted, Jadan “HexT” Postma, has also struggled massively. Unable to average a higher HLTV rating than 0.88 against opponents anywhere inside the top 50, the young Canadian will go down as one of the weakest players to ever be granted time in tier-one CS.
It seems, however, that this is a fact EG themselves are beginning to catch on to. Reports have now broken that the organization has reached a verbal agreement with former Heroic and Sprout player Ismail “refrezh” Ali.
A player also well known for his own mediocre performances, should the move go through, he will be the second player from overseas the team has turned to in their attempts to turn their fortunes around.
With fan reactions to the move clearly airing on the side of negativity, we think there are two factors worth looking at: what does this move actually bring, and what else could have been done?
refrezh-ing the lineup
With the poor performances of HexT and the experience that refrezh provides in mind, the move undoubtedly raises the floor of EG’s squad. Still, that matters for little when you factor in that EG’s ceiling is still lower than even the foundations of any team above them.
Raising the floor is one thing; it should prevent some of the laughably poor tournament exits and dismal qualifying runs that prevented the team from even attending the Americas RMR, but it won’t be enough to see the team actually beat anyone of value.
Raising the ceiling is the more pressing matter. Without doing that, EG will still reside in its realm of abject mediocrity. They are a squad incapable of beating any team better than them, and even often looking very shaky against those that they should beat too.
In truth, that isn’t something refrezh could have any impact on anyway. Never one to be a star on any of his previous teams, refrezh isn’t the profile of a player to help raise the peak performances of a team. At best a solid glue player or perhaps a below-average lurker, refrezh will fail to provide anything that this team is in need of.
While refrezh brings a second European mind and, with that, a better outlook on how to play the game, he doesn’t bring the firepower the team needs to be able to beat those in front of them.
When looking at the issue in this team and the game of Counter-Strike as a whole, that firepower deficit should be gained from the AWPer. In the case of EG, however, with wiz, that will never happen. And that brings us to the real issue with the signing of refrezh.
Wasting a slot
With EG needing to keep a core of NA players to hold on to a spot in the Americas RMR, bringing in players from overseas should be considered a valuable luxury. In the past, this was a luxury the organization understood, as they tried to bring in a star rifler caliber player in Valdemar “valde” Bjorn Vangsa. Later, after those talks broke down and the Jake “Stewie2K” Yip fiasco happened, they used their free EU slot to bring in Kazakhstani IGL Sanzhar “neaLaN” Iskhakov.
For as poor as EG’s performances since the arrival of neaLaN have been, it would still be unfair to him not to say that they are significantly better than before he arrived. Before him, the team was both mechanically aimless and appeared to go into every game without any sense of a gameplan; after his arrival, the basic fundamentals of Counter-Strike appeared to creep in once more.
The issue for EG at the time was that their second EU slot was taken up by CeRq, their one-time hero who was now at least two years into being off form. Any star player who could’ve come in to occupy that slot would first have to wait for CeRq to depart it.
Finally, at the turn of the year, CeRq did depart. With EG able to once again dive into the European talent pool to bring a new level to their team, it was perhaps a surprise when they looked inwards at their failing blueprint model to promote wiz, an AWPer who had barely even been setting the dregs of North America alight.
This move inevitably sealed the fate of HexT, who, not for lack of trying, is simply just not cut out for the upper echelons of CS:GO. The problem, however, is that a move for refrezh will not be a catalyst for any great EG revival. Where a move for an EU player could be used to provide real firepower for the roster in a star capable of taking over games, instead, it is being used on a player who has already once been knocked down to tier two with Sprout.
If you want to see an example of an NA team utilizing an EU star effectively, look at Complexity with Hakon “hallzerk” Fjaerli. Previously sandbagged by the performances of Paytyn “junior” Johnson, Complexity looked to Europe to fill the ever-important AWP role, and the difference was night and day. A team who was just as in the doldrums as EG, they’ve since gone on to break into HLTV’s top 10 as EG has dropped out of the top 30.
With Complexity’s success in mind, what else could have been done?
Trying to find gold in a coal mine
When you’re a team in as dismal form as EG is, it’s hard to convince a player of a decent standard that you’re any kind of attractive prospect. Even with partnerships guaranteeing their place at the year's biggest tournaments, no one wants to attend these events just to be embarrassed by their peers.
There’s also the fact that to maintain their NA core, and with all the top NA talent currently tied to Liquid or Complexity, EG will have to strike gold in order to find someone from the region capable of hanging with the world’s best.
When Cloud9 won the Major and subsequently watched their roster blow up, one of the effects of the subsequent fallout was the transition of Timothy “autimatic” Ta to the AWPer role. While he was never incredible, he was dependable, and it always felt like roster instability prevented him from performing at his best.
Certainly able to AWP to a higher standard than wiz, moving autimatic to the AWP once more could begin to claw back some of the firepower deficit caused by wiz’s ineptitude. autimatic is also one of the few players EG could look within to replace, as Jeorge “Jeorge” Endicott looks to be the biggest prospect within their current blueprint model.
With this move, you could even still bring refrezh into the team as a stable option for the fifth player; however, we’d still be more inclined to move again for his fellow Dane, valde. While valde’s star may not shine as brightly as it did before his long-term OG benching and lackluster time with ENCE, he’s still undoubtedly a better player than refrezh and could provide the firepower needed for the roster to begin to climb.
Another option for the team would be not to remove HexT at all, and instead bank on the fact that not having a competitive AWPer has been the main thing holding EG back. Instead of using the European slot on a rifler, it could be used for an AWPer like Iulian "regali" Harjău. While he may have recently been benched by Copenhagen Flames, that benching did come after repeated strong performances in tier two EU. A move to a team consistently playing in tier-one events seems inevitable for the Romanian.
We’re not saying either of these moves would fix EG, in fact, with how the NA talent pool has been depleted in the past few years, EG might be beyond saving. At least for now, anyway. Still, we maintain the idea that these suggested ideas would at least show ambition, something that the move for refrezh completely fails to do.