Evil Geniuses are initiating sweeping changes after a slew of poor results

valens: "We have to perform while we're in this tier one circuit; we can't just be learning"

The mastermind behind the Blueprint has spoken out to elaborate on Evil Geniuses' decision-making.

Months of poor showings from Evil Geniuses has finally resulted in a number of changes for the Blueprint project, with the main squad seeing a facelift while Evil Geniuses White has been scrapped entirely. In the first part of a lengthy two-part interview, Evil Geniuses Director of Athletics Soham "valens" Chowdhury spoke with Dust2.us' Ryan Friend in great detail regarding the team's poor performances, the goals for the organization regarding the Blueprint project, and the decision to not the services of the EG White squad any longer.

It's been tough looking at EG's results these past six months. We saw success at first, going 3-0 in the RMR and making the Major, but things have gone backward since. What's happening with the team, as it obviously doesn't all stem from the CeRq move?

To be honest, I think what's happening is that when you bring in a new in-game leader, taking us back to August of last year when neaLan and our new head coach came in, the team is resetting. I think what we realized is that also when we changed CeRq out for wiz that's also a little bit of a reset because it wasn't just that change that happened back in December. When we were deciding how to play out the new season, we also changed several roles for autimatic to put him in more playmaker roles; that also means that Brehze is changing some of his roles, and a little bit also for HexT.

If I look over the results objectively, without any skin in the game, I think some of the results obviously looked really bad, but in terms of having context and seeing the guys practice, and if we're actually improving over time, we weren't too far off, in my opinion, to close some of those games out. We weren't too far off from having pretty good first halves, which suddenly spiraled out of control. I'm thinking about not just the RMR qualifier just played, but going back to the BLAST games after the Heroic game, going to Katowice, and everything like that.

To me, this was a situation where we had a lot of changes going into the new season, and like you said it wasn't just a CeRq versus wiz thing; in fact I think that the playstyle wiz [offers] fits us a little bit better, especially on CT-sides where we can ask him to do more rotations that fit the team, and T-side he is naturally a more supportive AWPer. In fact, I think the team is in a better spot now than when we were, even when we qualified for Rio, in terms of team composition.

Internally things might be looking better, but how do you look at fans and the community, who see a squad with one of the greatest backroom staff teams ever assembled unable to produce results? How do you look at this and say that this is working?

You don't. You don't say this is working. The expectation is that in tier one Counter-Strike you need to be able to learn while performing, let's be honest. That's not specific to EG, that's how it is for every single organization participating in these tier-one events. When you can't do that, that's when you have to change things up for sure. There are two distinct pieces to this. One, are we improving over time? That answer to me was yes, but whether that translates into results, the answer is obviously no. When that happens, we have to look at [the fact] that we had two tier two players in HexT and wiz transitioning to tier one over the last six months. You could even argue neaLaN coming from the tier two CIS region, even though tier two in CIS is different from tier two in NA, so we really had three tier two to tier one transitions that we were working with over the last seven months or so.

There are very few examples where the first stint of that transition from tier two to tier one is very very successful; there's b1t, there's m0nesy, maybe Spinx. There are a few examples for sure, but the large majority of those examples work better the second or third time around; I'm thinking of people like Grim, and even EliGE way back then, nitr0. These players who are considered really insane in North America and across the world now really found success in their second, third, or fourth stints in tier one, and we're not there yet to be honest in terms of wiz and HexT, even in terms of neaLaN.

To me, it's a little a bit of a time issue, but that doesn't mean we aren't reflecting on the fact that we didn't perform too well under pressure when we really had to pull out a win or pull out a round victory, we definitely let ourselves down in some cases for sure. Those things are being addressed behind the scenes, and we're not ruling out roster changes as well for what we're calling EG Blue, the main team. We're not ruling that out, because we have to perform while we're in this tier one circuit; we can't just be learning.

The rest of tier one Counter-Strike is in a "win now" mode; there is no time for the development you're talking about. No other team has the time, patience, or capital to just wait for this development. Is Evil Geniuses okay with going to events like IEM Katowice and ESL Pro League and just hoping that it's going to work out?

No. That's the whole point of why we have the Blueprint program. If all of what Evil Geniuses was about figuring out if these tier two to tier one transitions would work and hoping for the best and learning, then we would just focus on Blueprint. But we have a tier one team, a tier two program, and a women's team; we have a lot of players under one organization for Counter-Strike.

There is an area we could have improved; maybe we promoted HexT or wiz a little bit too quickly, of course, we're thinking about this. What I see in practice, we have Vorborg, maLeK, myself, Shakezullah, madcow, all of these folks who have Counter-Strike experience from different angles. If they're here helping to make this transition easier for our players that are trying to make that transition from tier two, then it's really important for me to also give them some time to see if that transition can work.

The answer is, it may not work. For example, if we need to make a change and surround these players with more tier one experience when we make roster changes, we will, if that's the way to bolster our roster, but it should make sense. For example, you're gonna have a very hard time trying to find the next m0nesy, the next b1t, the next Spinx, and if you do you got lucky in a lot of ways. We're trying to give some of these North American talents a chance to improve, and it's not like it's random; they had been killing it in tier two in North America.

HexT and wiz both dominated in North America in tier two, you're not just choosing any random player that pops up. The problem is that when we see how the program has evolved, you would expect to see something come out there with it. Are you where you want to be with this program? Is the development up to your standards of success?

In the tier two scene, yes, for sure. I think this is where we can provide the most context to our fans and critics, is to say that if things are working well in tier two, and we're giving them resources to see which of those players could potentially translate to tier one, some of those transitions will not work too well, or some will work later on. Honestly, some transitions, which I would say are the minority, will just instantly work.

There are a lot of changes; think about what you have to deal with especially coming from tier two NA coming into the tier one circuit. There's a travel schedule no one is used to, there are longer practice schedules, you're having to play at the best events against the best teams, and those are all a given. Even though they're given, these are still human beings that are trying to make this transition and some of them will make that transition quicker and some of them will be a little bit slower, and some will instantly shine. How do we understand and figure that out unless we give these opportunities to those players? That's the part where I would say, that for EG, this isn't necessarily about this year or last year, this is about the next two, three, four, or five years when it comes to the overall program.

I'm not saying that we need to hope and wait for our tier one team to find success. We will definitely be making changes to bolster our roster whenever it makes sense. Whenever it makes sense is a little bit different for EG, compared to an international team or organization, because if we can find a reason to give a chance to one of the players on the Blueprint program, we definitely will. That isn't my decision, or just a Vorborg decision, that's a whole team decision.

A little while back it came out that mantuu was in contact with you guys, but you opted to look toward wiz instead. Hindsight is 20/20, but is that something you look at now and think that maybe you should have gone after mantuu?

Obviously, we had interviews with him, that's what he mentioned as well so I can speak on it. I'm not gonna speak about the details of the interview at all, but he was very intelligent and had a great explanation for why things the way they happened on OG, and where he wants to go from there. What I think fit our playstyle better is that we were doing these role changes with our riflers. When we're putting our riflers into more playmaking positions, our AWPers naturally need to take up a little bit less space. I'm not saying that's the perfect approach, but I'm just saying when you have a group of five and you have certain preferences and you know players are really good at those, then you kinda have to cater a little bit and make a decision at some point.

Honestly, going back I still think we would go with wiz, and that's not because of the results obviously. If there was tier one option that fit the playstyle we wanted to play better back then, we would have gone with it. It's not about mantuu or wiz specifically, it's just did we have a tier one option that we could bring in and play the type of Counter-Strike we wanted to play, and the answer is that what fit us best back then was wiz.

One of the biggest changes now is that Evil Geniuses White is now departing the organization. This has been a sticking point when examining the Blueprint object; many will say the demise of EG White is a categorical failure because they played so little and had very little impact. Looking back at the acquisition of Party Astronauts, do you feel at the time it was the right decision? What were the goals and hopes of that team specifically, and what has changed nine months later?

First, I do want to say that they are the team at EG in the last nine months that has won something categorically [Fragadephia 17]. If I look categorically at, [whether it] was a successful project in terms of making those players better versions of themselves and players and teammates, the answer is yes. We learned a lot in the last ten months; part of what we learned though is that in order to actually know which of the players in our Blueprint program can successfully transition, we need to give them more reps under pressure, which really just means matches.

When we had two teams in the tier two circuit that were kinda competing for those events, which, in NA there aren't many to begin with, like the Cash Cups, CCT events, and qualifiers here and there, what we found is that if you promote players to the main team they don't have as much experience with EG's resources at their disposal to see who actually is performing well in tier two in these high-pressure situations.

One of the main reasons that this consolidation is happening, to begin with, is not about EG White or EG Black, as much as to me it's about allocating our resources that we do have, like our great coaching staff, to less players so that we can then see. The goal is to promote teams and players to the tier one circuit, so how do we get a better indication of who can hang? We need to see them play these matches under pressure, where it's tier two, or these qualifiers where they're playing against some tier one teams domestically or not, and we're gonna do that. I think the best way to do that is that we have to downsize a little bit here to figure out, with the resources still spread across less amount of people and more events to participate in and more matches to play, who can actually shine.

It looks like with the full release of EG White there will be no consolidation of any of the players into the EG Black roster. There is some confusion there for me as well, as stanislaw was signed specifically for the EG Black roster, which never made sense to me if this was to be a developing team. The same goes for RUSH's demotion, and it's interesting to see him not get the call back up as the team struggles. Why are these older and more experienced players on this development team if you're not going to also give chances to EG White?

For the first part of that question, [EG White players] were definitely evaluated, they were definitely in discussions in terms of being part of the program. It wasn't just keeping one team or the other or anything like that. What to me made the most sense, and this was talking with Axed and Muenster and also our coaching staff Vorborg and maLeK, is that if you're going to keep a core from one team, which core should that be? I saw more success when it came to how we structured practice and how we reviewed together and just overall team dynamic on the EG Black core. That's the first thing, starting there.

So then when you select a core, to me, in-game leader, AWPer, coach, I would consider those folks as part of the core, maybe one star rifler. At that point, you have a decision to make; who do you fill out for the other two slots remaining on the roster? Those two slots for me could have been from EG White, it could have been from EG Black, or even external or from folks on EG Blue as well. I think as those decisions came up, you probably also saw that were are considering HexT to be one of the players to come to EG Black, so it's not that EG White could not have been part of the consolidated program, it's that they're also being interviewed and valued against other great players as well.

Generally, once you pick a core, and this is an insight into how my brain works when it comes to the GM side of things, if you pick a core, especially with the IGL and coach from one specific team, in this case EG Black, it makes more sense to give them players and resources that they're already comfortable with. HexT was a previous member for example, we're considering him for EG Black. He's been with RBG, Carpe Diem, those guys Walco and Axed for so many years. It's a consolidation for sure, and it does seem like we're keeping EG Black completely, but it's not because that was the plan from the start.

What was the concept or idea behind stanislaw joining EG Black, and what is that status concerning RUSH?

First, let me just say without stanislaw and RUSH on EG Black, I think our ramp-up in terms of growth would be way longer. They were critical in terms of our growth to Blueprint because it's not... even though they are both on EG Black, they weren't just helping EG Black, because we're taking learnings from one Blueprint team and applying it to another, seeing what works, they practice against each other quite a bit. The ten players, how they work with each other and how they help each other, how the coaches Axed and Muenster are working with each other and helping each other, it really didn't matter much as much that they were both on one team as much at that they were interacting a lot with each other.

The second thing is, why have both on one team? To be honest, the changes we were thinking of making at the time, first we had to find a replacement for CLASIA, taking it back to July or something like that. When that came up, we were just going to bring in RUSH, that was the replacement there. Then we thought about, let's see how HexT can do in tier one. This was the whole situation with looking at [whether] we should bring in misutaaa, or somebody else, or HexT, and obviously, we went with HexT. Then we have another person that we need to fill, and the timing, the way it worked out... stanislaw was looking, he was doing this thing in ECL with his friends at the time, and it was okay and he was doing pretty good but his team didn't do so well, and we had a good conversation and we tried a lot of different things.

They both came in, and initially, he was in-game leading, stanislaw, then after a few months that wasn't working. We tried a lot of different things and basically came to the conclusion that he can best help the team from being an edge player, helping Walco shine more in how to call and when he should make adjustments and things like that. In my opinion, this concept of developing teams and the Blueprint program, I don't think a team needs to be five developing players for it to make sense as a development team, because if you think about most teams that find success in tier two to tier one; this is the goal again, trying to have teams that are tier two that could eventually be tier one. Usually, you have four experienced players surrounded with one developing players, things like m0nesy to G2, examples of that in FaZe, NAVI, and my point is that is one approach. The other approach is that you have a core that has literally been around for two or three years in tier two and you give them a chance. Both RUSH and stanislaw helped in that approach, and honestly I don't think we get this far in EG Black without them.

Part two of this interview with Valens will be distributed on Thursday.

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#1(With 0 replies)
March 21, 2023 02:17PM
good interview, it makes sense why stanislaw and rush are huge factors into why EG blacks' development has accelerated so much, rush can be a good role model for his younger teammates
#2(With 0 replies)
March 22, 2023 03:26AM
said so much yet said so little
#3(With 1 replies)
March 25, 2023 08:32PM
where is part two???
#4(With 0 replies)
March 27, 2023 08:25AM
It's coming! We got delayed with the CS2 news and I got sick. It will be coming tomorrow at the latest. Sorry for the wait.
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