Ssumday and Raz talk EG’s draft gap and NA’s hopes at MSI 2022

Parkes Ousley

After Evil Geniuses won the 2022 League Championship Series Spring Finals, 100 Thieves top laner Kim ‘Ssumday’ Chan-ho and analyst Barento ‘Raz’ Mohammed spoke with Dexerto about the series and what makes EG different.

100 Thieves came into the Finals poised to defend their title from last summer, but then Evil Geniuses swept the whole weekend.

Six games was all it took for them to take down both Team Liquid and 100 Thieves, and in true G2 Esports fashion, they finished their lower bracket run 12-1. And as if that wasn’t impressive enough, their 3-0 victory over 100 Thieves was the fastest Finals in LCS history at 1 hour, 18 minutes and 27 seconds.

LCS Spring split champions Evil Geniuses
EG won the LCS Spring title after an amazing lower bracket run

This wasn’t necessarily the expectation going into the weekend, however. Evil Geniuses had a rough regular season that culminated in a 9-9 record. But they hit the playoffs with newfound intensity, nearly taking out Team Liquid in their opening series in an exciting five-game series. And with each match that followed, they improved much faster than anyone else could keep up with.

“I feel like during the [playoffs], EG was leveled up, and they made a bunch of strategies, especially draft-wise,” Ssumday said after his loss in the Finals. “We were kind of sticking to our same plans, and they caught us.”

Near the end of the regular season, Liquid and Cloud9 both seemed a cut above the rest of the competition, with 100 Thieves behind them. The perceived gap between them and fourth-seed Evil Geniuses was quite large. But while most teams were making slight tweaks to their play, EG was transforming into a seemingly unstoppable force, boasting a fast-paced playstyle with broad champ pools to give them flexibility in draft and in their games.

Pro teams often talk about how they operate in a way to find something that works well for them while simultaneously expanding their playstyles to prepare for best-of-five grudge matches. But unlike most teams, who overreach or fail to find anything that actually works, Evil Geniuses actually pulled it off.

“We always gave them credit as a team that was getting better and better throughout the regular season,” Raz said in an interview after the Finals. “Even though they were dropping games, they were doing it in a way where they were still learning a lot from it.”

Raz’s perception proved to be true; EG’s experimentation and spring split struggles were by design.

“The biggest difference from us to other teams is that we didn’t set a comfort zone,” Evil Geniuses coach Han “Rigby” Earl said in their post-game press conference. “That’s why we struggled during the regular split. But even when we lost with the picks that aren’t so popular in the league, we still went for them if we thought they were good. [Now in the playoffs], we were able to execute everything whenever it was necessary.”

Playing multiple styles

In their final three series against Cloud9, Team Liquid, and 100 Thieves, Evil Geniuses drafted a variety of different team comps that had different focuses and playstyles, and they won every single game they played. Their one big constant was funneling as much gold into Kyle ‘Danny’ Sakamaki as possible once they loaded onto the Rift, but they successfully funneled him in a variety of different ways, keeping opponents guessing and off-balance.

That’s noticeably different compared to the other strong teams in NA who are really only good at playing the game in one or two ways. “When we were against Team Liquid, we kind of had an answer to everything,” Ssumday said, referencing their reverse sweep against the first-seed to qualify to the Finals. “But today, we were kind of confused in the game. It wasn’t as clear against EG, so that’s why we lost.”

“Liquid has some strategy, but every strategy they have is kind of similar so it’s easy to react,” Ssumday continued. “But EG has a bunch of strategies, more than just one or two. We tried to counter that, but it didn’t work out.”

Thanks to Evil Geniuses’ unpredictable draft strategy, 100 Thieves struggled to get another reverse sweep in the Finals. 100 Thieves head coach Bok “Reapered” Han-gyu said he was “comfortable” after their 0-2 start against Liquid because in those losses, he had gained all the knowledge he needed to win the next three games. Replicating that against EG proved to be impossible.

“No other team can match us if they have something they don’t want to play,” Rigby said after their Finals victory. “The most popular champ is Ornn. They’d say, ‘We’re going to blind Ornn, we are going to have good teamfights.’ But we just let them pick Ornn, we don’t give a f***. We have Impact… It’s so easy for us, honestly.”

“[We have a] player gap for the draft,” he said. “They are just down for anything.”

Now, heading into the Mid-Season Invitational, Evil Geniuses now find themselves in much deeper waters. T1 didn’t lose a single series across the regular season or playoffs, ending with a 20-0 series record, with 42 wins and eight losses in total. RNG are back to defend their 2018 and 2021 victories. G2 are coming off their own 12-0 lower bracket run.

Raz has warned that anyone underestimating EG will do so at their peril

Last year, Cloud9 were unstoppable the entirety of Spring but then bombed at MSI. Evil Geniuses didn’t match C9’s 2021 level until the last week of the playoffs – raising questions about their ability to perform in the cut-throat competition that is MSI.

According to Raz, that may just be what gives them an edge. “EG took advantage of a lot of people selling them short,” he said of the LCS Finals. “I still think T1 is easily the best team right now and I want to give a lot of credit to RNG. But that being said, it feels like that fuels Evil Geniuses.”

EG went into the playoffs with a combined 0-6 record against Team Liquid, Cloud9, and 100 Thieves, but in their final three series, they went 9-0 against the trio. They could be hit with a reality check in their first international scrims, but they’ve proved before that they can defy the odds.

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