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Evil Geniuses

A Good Idea But Not the Ideal Result: Evil Geniuses’ Mid-Season Approach to Make It to Worlds

Evil Geniuses’ coaching staff is widely considered one of the best in western League of Legends. Loaded with some of the best minds in the space, it’s created a mixed set of expectations. On one hand, fans expect some of the best minds in the space to create one of the best rosters. On the other hand, they’re not the ones playing the game.

It isn’t just the Peter Dun show. The foundation of the front office is compromised of three members of the Clutch Gaming squad that turned around the franchise just before the organization would exit the scene. Great job by the ownership group in understanding the value they actually had. Their current strategic coach, Connor “Artemis” Doyle, could have easily been a head coach this split. Dun has added two new assistant coaches with a wealth of experience. And Matt Elento and Kelsey Moser continue to impress in the minors.

But it isn’t all about having the smartest people in the room.

Evil Geniuses have had an active mid-season to improve their chances at participating at the 2021 World Championship. Every move feels to be a step in the right direction, it just a concern whether their intended direction is leading them to the right place.

The Initial Vision

When brought aboard, Peter Dun talked about his plans for the team. In interviews, he would bring up how the team would be built around Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen. The decision had merit — as Svenskeren had been one of the best performing junglers in the region. However, his style of play may not necessarily warrant being built around. It is also incredibly difficult to find four other members that would perform at a high level in the laning phase. Or, at least, it’s incredibly expensive to do so.

The pieces they brought in worked towards that initial vision.

Jeong “Impact” Eon-young continues to be one of the best top laners to grace the competitive stage — living up to his name by always providing an impact from the top lane. Daniele “Jiizuke” di Mauro, despite having questionable decision-making skills, continues to be a force in the laning phase. And then they round it out with a marksman that had a lot to prove paired with a support that could change games.

The team was structured to have a high floor and for the 2021 Spring Split, it put them in a very favorable position. A third or fourth-place finish in the Lock-In tournament while losing to the eventual tournament winners was the start the team was looking for. Especially with Peter Dun not being in the states just yet, watching the potential from Matthew “Deftly” Chen got people interested.

When the Vision Gets Blurred

The one thing Evil Geniuses didn’t account for in their initial vision was how important team fighting would become in 2021. The factor of team fighting brought Dignitas into the limelight as a contender in North America.

Evil Geniuses weren’t necessarily built to be a great team fighting roster. Despite having incredibly talented individuals, it presented the opportunity for volatile players to coin flip the wrong way. Deftly and Jizuke would be on the receiving end of criticism when a teamfight went wrong, likely as a result from their poor positioning.

Evil Geniuses were one of the few teams that still managed to secure early objectives in both wins and losses, proving that the investment into Svenskeren was still valuable. They would have the second-highest first turret rate (50%), highest first to secure three turrets rate (63%), third in first dragon rate (50%) and first in dragon control rate (44%) in losses.

The team just struggled to claw back into matches. In their regular-season losses, they would average a -1061 gold deficit at fifteen minutes, average a kill-to-death ratio of 0.5 and would see their combined kills per minute increase by 0.05.

Was the Right Person Blamed?

In hindsight, Deftly was always going to be the scapegoat for the team. He wasn’t the first option for the organization. He hasn’t necessarily been considered as one of the more promising prospects in the region. No matter the outcome of the season, a player that never really was able to quiet the haters was the perfect person for the community to focus in on.

But he also had the second-highest average damage per minute (525) with the fifth-highest percentage of his team’s economy and lowest percentage of his team’s deaths among marksmen.

His low kill participation rate (63.6%), low percentage of his team’s overall damage (25.8%) along with laning deficits weren’t helping. The fact that he would average a larger percentage of his team’s resources in losses than in wins could potentially build the narrative that he wasn’t a person that could carry.

It also didn’t help that Evil Geniuses had a quick exit from the 2021 Mid-Season Showdown. With Deftly underperforming, and potentially being labelled as a Kai’Sa one-trick, he was on the chopping block.

But they weren’t necessarily built to have one great player. The team was designed to have a high floor.

Pressure on a Rookie

Kyle “Danny” Sakamaki is really good. Not a great statistics guy, he’s a mechanical upgrade from Deftly. It is always the “sexy” move to bring in a young, mechanically gifted marksman to potentially reignite the flame for a team.

The question is, will he be able to do so?

Danny has shown great poise in the laning phase — being able to build a lead off of simply securing more creeps — but was also on the receiving end of a large portion of his team’s economy towards the later stages of the game. Evil Geniuses didn’t necessarily give the resources to their marksman but instead, put them towards Jizuke.

Then again, it shouldn’t be on Danny to take Evil Geniuses over the edge — it should be on Jizuke. That was the original expectation for the lineup. The ‘Italian Stallion’ would outrun his opponents. Danny should, in theory, improve the floor of Evil Geniuses by being a better mechanical player along with the potential for his ability to carry in team fights. But their ceiling is still going to depend on what Jizuke is able to accomplish. If Jizuke continues to have incredibly volatile performances, what is there for Danny to do?

The Decision to Clear the Mess

It is refreshing to see trust in a front office.

Peter Dun and company aren’t being considered for replacement and they shouldn’t be. They’ve continued to make decent drafting decisions and develop talent. Their initial vision of what the team could accomplish had merit. It all comes down to the five members on the rift and whether they can live up to their expectations.

And that’s kind of the concern at this moment in time for the organization. Replacing Deftly doesn’t necessarily curb the volatility with the line-up.

This roster move doesn’t feel like a decision that is meant to fix their problems. Instead, it’s the decision to help them understand what is going wrong with the roster. Is it really all Jizuke’s fault? Can a better marksman resolve their team fighting woes? Is IgNar not doing enough for the team?

It’s the coffee one drinks before they tackle an issue in front of them.

If this does fail, the question could be presented of how Evil Geniuses approaches their roster. But that’s the worst-case scenario. The front office has done an incredible job at making acceptable roster changes. Andy Barton, the team’s general manager, is making good signings.

But we could be reaching the point where general talent evaluation may need to be improved within the organization. Even if that happens, no one would even bat an eye in thinking something is wrong with EG.

That’s the beautiful thing about building a competent front office and something other organizations should take note of. You don’t necessarily have to have the perfect season, you just need a good idea to let people know you’re onto something.

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