CS:GO

Stuchiu: Evil Geniuses' volatility isn’t a bug, it’s a feature

by Stephen Chiu
ESL

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EG is one of the best teams in the world. Their lineup of Vincent “Brehze” Cayonte, Cvetelin “CeRq” Dimitrov, Ethan “Ethan” Arnold, Tarik “tarik” Celik, and peter “stanislaw” Jarguz have been making a run at the best team in the world, with big LAN victories at ESL New York and StarLadder i-League Season 8.

While EG are a consistent contender, their strengths as a squad also create a volatility in their identity that they are more liable relative to other elite squads. 

Notable Close Calls

EG have been the most active elite team since the end of the StarLadder Berlin Major. They’ve attended 7 different LANs (6 tournaments and the EPL group stage) across the span of about two months. During that time, there have been a few notable upsets or close calls.

At DreamHack Malmo, Grayhound beat them in a bo1 on Nuke in the upper-bracket. Then in the lower bracket, mousesports eliminated them 2-0. While Grayhound played well and Mouz is a quality squad, I considered the result a one-off for EG. They had just traveled from New York to Malmo in the span of 1-2 days. Travel fatigue, jet lag, and the emotional highs of winning New York over Astralis were all good reasons to believe that this was a fluke.

Valve / ESL
Valve / ESL

However, the pattern continued. At StarLadder i-League Season 8, NiP beat EG 2-1 in the upper-bracket. After that, EG limped through the tournament. While the upset was surprising, EG rallied back and ended up winning the tournament. Still, it was surprising that EG lost the first series to begin with, especially as they smashed NiP in the rematch 2-0 later on in the tournament.

EG then went to IEM Beijing where they lost to FaZe twice in the group stages. While FaZe looked a lot better in this tournament, EG were the favorites to make it out. Finally at CS:GO Asia Championships, EG were the big favorites to win the entire event. Instead, MIBR beat them 2-0 in the group stages. Mouz once again made the coup de grace as they eliminated EG in the playoffs.

Once is a fluke, twice could be a coincidence, but this many times? There was a clear pattern and there are three primary reasons: The dynamic between team-identity and player form, map veto, and stanislaw’s tactical style.

EG’s Team Identity

At its core base, EG is a loose individual team. They have three young stars: CeRq, Brehze, and Ethan. All three of them are mechanically at the top of their game. Tarik and stanislaw play hybrid roles. Tarik oscillates between playing the wing or taking map control, while stanislaw can be the first entry or a lurker. In general, the EG roles are fairly fluid as most of the players are versatile enough to change positions on the fly.

ESL
ESL
Brehze and CeRq with coach ImAPet

This fluidity is possible due to the large amount of individual freedom. Every player on the squad gets to push the envelope when it comes to taking individual duel s. EG hone in on their mechanical strength to get the opening duels or trades. This all comes together under stanislaw’s calling which is a mix of set plays, instinctive and great mid-round calls, and changes of pace. 

For EG to succeed then, their primary win condition is to have their stars in good form. The problem for EG is that player form can vary and it’s hard to play at top levels for protracted periods of time. Thus we come to the first factor of EG’s volatility: they are more vulnerable to dips in player form than either Liquid or Astralis. Astralis’ foundations are based on their tactics and teamplay, so even when they are having an off day, they can win by being smarter.

Liquid is a hybrid between a structured and individual style. In terms of structure, Liquid take a few less aggressive risks than EG do on the individual and macro level. This decreases the variability. Another factor to consider is the difference in player consistency.

When you look across and compare the EG and Liquid players, the Liquid players are far more consistent and higher skill ceilings. On their best days, Ethan, tarik, and stanislaw may have similar heights to Jake “Stewie2K” Yip, Keith “NAF” Markovic, and Nicholas “nitr0” Cannella, but the EG players have far more cold days compared to their Liquid counterparts.

As for the primary stars, both Jonathan “EliGE” Jablonowski and Russel “Twistzz” Van Dulken are consistent rocks for Liquid, particularly EliGE. When EG had their run, they relied on the consistent firepower of Brehze and CeRq. While CeRq continues to deliver (surprisingly considering how aggressive his AWPing style is), Brehze has started to slump. While I don’t read too much into stats, it’s worth looking at his to give a broader context of what’s happening to EG in their upsets.

StarLadder/Igor Bezborodov
StarLadder/Igor Bezborodov
Brehze's performance is indicative of EG's performance as a whole

Brehze has had a 1.17 rating on LAN in 2019. When EG won ESL New York, he had a 1.29 rating. In the games EG have lost, he’s been below a 1.00 rating for most of the losses, the only exceptions being the elimination bo3 against FaZe where he got 1.02.

For reference, here is a list of Brehze’s HLTV ratings in matches where underdogs upset EG. Outside of Grayhound, all of these were bo3s.

DreamHack Malmo

  • Brehze against Grayhound: 0.82
  • Brehze against Mouz: 0.99

StarLadder i-League Season 8

  • Brehze against NiP: 0.83

IEM Beijing

  • Brehze against FaZe (opening match): 0.64
  • Brehze against FaZe (group stage decider): 1.02

CS:GO Asia Championships

  • Brehze against MIBR: 0.9
  • Brehze against Mouz: 0.78

The correlation between Brehze’s off days and EG’s losses is strong. Without him, the other players cannot make up for the consistent frags and all-around game that he brings to the table. As their tactics flow from their skill, the other players must step up if they want to succeed.

Map Veto

The other thing to look at is EG’s map veto. When the lineup first broke out at the StarLadder Berlin Major, they were first picking Train and Dust2. They then tried experimenting with Nuke and Dust2 at ESL New York. Lately though, the team has started to first pick inferno and dust2 into every team. We’ve seen this at StarLadder i-League Season 8, IEM Beijing, and CS:GO Asia Championships (there are notable exceptions where EG first picked Nuke against Mouz at CAC and Nuke against NiP at ECS 8).

Inferno and Dust2 are tough maps for any team to conquer. The only team that managed to conquer Inferno was Astralis, who are the greatest line-up of all time. What’s more, they did it through a tactical-controlled style, the antithesis of how EG like to play. As for Dust2, it has always been a volatile map and one that can go either way. It’s hard to say why EG have decided to opt into these maps as I think their Nuke and Train are better.

It could be because they’ve been on the road for so long that they feel the most comfortable on standard maps rather than specialized maps that require more practice. However, it also closes the gap between underdog teams and elite teams. Heroic beat EG on inferno. NiP beat EG on Dust2. FaZe beat EG on both. The map veto is something that EG will have to consider as it is one possible way to lessen their volatility as a squad.

Stanislaw’s style

I consider stanislaw a loose tactical leader. He thrives in loose systems where a lot of individual skills are on display like his old OpTic lineup or the current EG lineup. Ronald “Rambo” Kim, former C9 coach, talked about this to VPEsports, “stanislaw likes more default, kind of everyone do your own thing and then play individually.”

At the same time, stanislaw likes to innovate clever tactics and include some complex set plays that are clearly pre-planned. So you will always see something particularly clever or unique from his squads whether that’s a set fake, execute, or pistol round. However, he isn’t someone who likes to have a structured approach where everyone has a role to play. He’s more jazz than classical, he’d rather look at bigger picture things than smaller details He even talked about this in his twitlonger when he talked about his conflict with Wilton “zews” Prado, “I brought up several times that we should stop focusing on every little thing and focus more on the big picture - innovating new things and perfecting our fundamentals.”

StarLadder
StarLadder
Stanislaw and tarik celebrate a victory

This focus on the bigger things and a more individual default base is at the core of EG’s identity as a team and a core aspect of their strength and volatility. It gives them the freedom and confidence that lets them take advantage of their mechanical prowess. It is also what makes them undisciplined in situations where they have a clear advantage, but can throw it away on multiple individual duels.

The most glaring example of this was their recent series against Liquid in the ECS Season 8 group stages. In that match, they threw away multiple round victories because of their lack of disciple. On Inferno, EG had secured the B-site and had a power-play situation, but stanislaw charged out for a duel and died. This gave Liquid enough space to retake the site and win the round. In the last round on Dust2, they challenged in a 4v2 and once again gave Liquid the chance of getting back into the round. 

EG’s Volatility

Now that we’ve examined EG’s volatility in-depth, is there anything they can do about it? The only potential changes are a change to their map veto and tournament scheduling. EG traveled to 7 LANs in two months. If they cut down on that amount, they are liable to make fewer mistakes as they should be better rested and more focused at each subsequent LAN. The downtime can also let them decide whether or not they want to continue down the path of being a primary Dust2/inferno team as they are good enough to go almost anywhere in the map pool.

ESL
ESL

Outside of that though, it will likely come down to player skill. If the players can reach their New York form, then everything is fine. If not, then I don’t think there is much else they can do. While it’s possible to force more structure or a change to Stanislaw’s style, it will likely hurt them more than help them. While stanislaw’s leadership may lead to more volatility, it has also elevated them to a higher level. His style has honed in on EG’s biggest strength: mechanical skills, and emphasized it as their primary win condition. To go away from it is to go away from their greatest strength. EG must ride and die with their skill and therefore volatility will always be a part of this team’s character.