Evil Geniuses won ESL One New York, which cemented their place as a championship contender and a top three CSGO team in the world. During their run, they beat Astralis twice - once in the group stages and again in the finals.
Overall, Evil Geniuses went 5-1 against Astralis. The most intriguing map to me was Dust2. The strategic and tactical adjustments EG made minimized Nicolai “dev1ce” Reedtz's impact on the CT-side and were a good characterization of the best qualities of EG as a squad.
There were a few reasons why Dust2 stood out to me. It was one of the two maps that EG and Astralis played twice at New York along with Inferno. It has historically been one of the best maps for dev1ce. His mobile AWP has made him a terror on the CT-side and he proved that in the first run-in against EG in the group stages.
In addition, that meta of the map itself speaks volumes about the stylistic matchup of EG vs Astralis. Broadly speaking, Dust2 has been characterized as a skill-based pugger map. While it certainly lends itself to that style, in 2018 Astralis were able to tame the map with heavy map control through dev1ce’s CT-side AWP and utility usage.
Once those innovations disseminated through the scene, the map reverted back to a more individualistic flavor. While teams can add some small tweaks or stylistic flairs, for the most part everyone understands how to play the map.
This made it theoretically the perfect map for EG to pick into Astralis as the biggest differential between EG and Astralis is individual player skill. I suspect this is why we saw EG use Dust2 as their first pick in both map vetos instead of Train, which has been their best map overall.
From Dust to Dust
The first encounter on Dust2 was fairly standard. EG played their typical style. They like to play around the standard default, 4-1s, and changes of pace. While they have a good sense of tactics and team play, they like to play around their individual skill.
In a slower spread out default, they have a fairly well defined order of action. If Cvetelin “CeRq” Dimitrov wants to go for a pick, he gets first priority. If not, the team will have Tarik “tarik” Celik, Peter “stanislaw” Jarguz, and sometimes Ethan “Ethan” Arnold take the aggressive map control. On Dust2, Vincent “Brehze” Cayonte can go for an aggressive duel towards long, but largely plays a passive role until the team decides to go for a site hit.
When EG played this style into Astralis in the group stages, dev1ce had good impact on the CT-side. In the fifth round, dev1ce got to play his typical transitional defense as EG took control of short before hitting the A-site. While dev1ce didn’t get any multikills, the space he created let Astralis get into a 4v3 situation. EG eventually won the round anyway through brute force.
In the ninth round, EG went for a fast 4-1 with four players rushing short while stanislaw tried to pressure long. Dev1ce killed stanislaw and put Astralis at the advantage. In the 11th, dev1ce got the opening pick, but Astralis couldn’t convert the man advantage. The 15th round, dev1ce got the opening pick again and this time Astralis won the round.
The first game ended with a 8-7 half for EG, but if you consider that EG won the second round forcebuy and some of the tactical positions that EG found themselves in, Astralis played the better half tactically speaking.
In the rematch, EG got a 7-8 half, but I’d argue that it was strategically superior to the Dust2 map in the group stages. EG once again won the second round forcebuy after losing the pistol. Throughout this half, dev1ce’s AWP wasn’t a factor.
There were multiple reasons why. Dev1ce himself had a bad run of form throughout the playoffs and finals which needs to be taken into account. EG also made it much harder for him. EG started to use run boosts to clear the short position, and focused on the B-site hits.
When they did go towards the A-site, EG had changed their approach. Before they were taking control of short and then hitting the A-site from there. In the rematch, EG took control of long and then had stanislaw and ethan fake an A-hit from long before going B in the 6th round. The other time they hit the A-site, it was an exploitative mid-round call.
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In the eighth round, dev1ce had used a molly on short to create space. Stanislaw and tarik recognized that it was unlikely that dev1ce was holding the angle with an AWP with the flames down, so they did the run boost and forced him off the position, then rushed towards A. This was an ad-hoc adjustment as the bomb was way out of position to exploit this call and this eventually cost EG the round.
Overall, EG played a fairly standard in their first run-in against Astralis in the group stages. In the rematch though, they made a strategic changeup to their style of play. They stopped using the 4-1s and hitting the A-site from short. Instead they used different approaches which never let dev1ce fully get into the game. While these adjustments were important, they weren’t the biggest reason why EG won both matches. It was individual skill.
The EG players were on fire throughout the event. All five players had big plays and moments. In contrast to them, the Astralis stars were having a rough time of it. Dev1ce and Emil “Magisk” Rief didn’t play up to their usual standards and this created a gap of firepower that teamplay, tactics, and experience could not overcome.
The difference in skill individual skill translated into the server in two ways. First, the majority of the big moments went towards EG. Secondly, this allowed EG to wreck Astralis’ economy and deny them their control style.
In both instances of Dust2, EG won the second round after losing the pistol both times. They were then able to take control of the games, while Astralis often had to scrounge for cash. The economy gives Astralis the utility and AWP they need to forcefully control the rotations and movements of a team. This is especially important against a team like EG who like to use fast paced rushes to take map control early on. If Astralis do take control of the economy and have comparable form, they can shut down EG before they can get going.
We saw that exact scenario play out on Train at StarLadder Berlin Major. Dev1ce won an impossible 1v3 in the pistol. This let him buy the AWP in the second round, which he then used to crush EG’s (at the time NRG) forcebuy in the second. From there, Astralis built a wall of rounds through a double-AWP setup that EG only broke through at the end of the half.
In essence, the best way to stop dev1ce is to never let him have the AWP in the first place. That is why highly skilled teams should have a better matchup against Astralis as they have a higher percentage chance of winning pistols, forcebuys, and ecos. The more chaos is thrown into the economic game, the harder Astralis struggle.
EG’s Overall Strengths
When you look at EG’s two T-sides, you can see a lot of EG’s strengths as a squad. In terms of overall firepower, they are a top two team in the world (only Liquid currently compares). CeRq has been a powerhouse since stanislaw has come into the team. Stanislaw’s form has resurged back to the time when he was leading OpTic. Tarik is no longer a star, but still has impactful rounds. Ethan has a brilliant mechanical ceiling. Brehze is the crown jewel of the enterprise as his consistency and impact make him a top four player in the world.
As a team, EG oscillate between a loose individual style and complex set pieces. In one round, they will just do a rush full stop that makes you recall Tarik’s Cloud9 squad. In another, you see them do a complex tactic that has three or four different steps. They also do tactics that are somewhere in between the two. The most notable example of this was in the 10th round of Dust2 in the finals, when CeRq rushed the mid doors looking for a pick. EG then pulled back, let Astralis retake and put a man near mid doors. They then retook the area and executed a strong mid-to-B split.
At StarLadder Berlin Major, EG showed that they had the potential to be the best team in the world, if they could get over their pressure issues. They’ve proven that they can at ESL One New York and have put themselves in the race as a candidate for best team in the world.