In 2019, Riot Games announced that 3 of their original 10 franchised organizations will be leaving the LCS. One of those teams was Echo Fox, and there was a 30-day evaluation process to choose EF's long-term replacement. According to Chris Greenley, the commissioner for the LCS, the focus of the evaluation process was on the 'ownership profile, brand strategy, business plan, and team operational plan.'
The organization that was selected to replace Echo Fox was Evil Geniuses. Alongside Immortals and Dignitas, whom respectively replaced Optic Gaming and Clutch Gaming, EG was chosen as the newest addition to one of the biggest esports leagues in the world, the LCS. Inven Global had a chance to speak to the newly built roster, as the team took some time off their hectic schedule in their bootcamp in Korea to talk about themselves and their 'evil' plan to take over the LCS.
(Everyone) Welcome to Korea! I’m pretty sure that almost all the readers at home know who you are, but for those that don’t, can you please introduce yourselves to the readers at home?
Zeyzal: My name is Tristan “Zeyzal” Stidam, and I’m the support player for Evil Geniuses.
Bang: My name is Bae “Bang” Jun-sik, and I’m the bot laner for Evil Geniuses.
Jiizuke: I’m Daniele “Jiizuke” di Mauro, and I’m the mid laner for EG.
Svenskeren: My name is Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen, and I’m the jungler for EG.
Kumo: I’m Colin “Kumo” Zhao, and I’m the newest top laner for EG.
Artemis: I’m Connor “Artemis” Doyle, and I’m the assistant coach for EG.
Irean: My name is Heo Yeong-cheol, the head coach for EG, and my Summoner name is "Irean".
SAB: I’m Sabrina, the team operations manager for EG.
Greg: And I’m Greg Kim, the LCS director for EG.
(Greg and SAB) What exactly are your roles within the team?
Greg: Evil Geniuses is based out of Seattle, and since LCS is such a big part of our operation, we wanted someone in Los Angeles running the whole thing. Therefore, I’m overseeing everything League of Legends and LCS related in LA.
SAB: I’m in charge of both the LCS and the academy team, and some of my responsibilities include scheduling for both rosters, and to be flexible in providing any support that the players and the staff need for success.
(Greg & SAB) As the LCS Director and Team Operations Manager, are there some specific things you hope to provide in order to create the most optimal environment for the team?
Greg: While other LCS teams have been in the league for a while, we’re a new team in the LCS, so it’s important for us to scale up quickly. Not only do we hope to quickly meet the LCS standards, we hope to be the forerunner of the standards in what we provide to the players, such as the facilities and the support staff providing everything that these players need. Whether it’s getting soft drinks and iced tea for the players every day, to providing the right gear for these players, I’ll do anything to achieve success in the LCS.
SAB: I think there’s a lot of opportunity because we’re starting fresh. EG’s in a very special spot because we get to build a new brand in the LCS, where we can offer the players everything they need for success not only in-game, but outside the game as well.
(Coaching/Support staff) How’s the bootcamp going so far? Not revealing anything too confidential, what’s your training schedule like?
Irean: This roster never played as a team, so we’re focusing on how to efficiently communicate in-game. The players didn't play since the last split ended, so it’s important that everyone studies and learns basic things like the current meta and certain matchups. Solo queue is a great way to learn those things, so we have a good mix of scrims and solo queue in our training schedule.
Greg: This is the beginning of a very long season, and from my perspective, it’s very fascinating to see how fast these guys came together as a team. Although we only had a couple of scrim days, for these guys to find their voices and gel together is really fun to watch.
Artemis: The process has been natural as well. From my experience, it takes a long time to start gelling and building that chemistry. However, for us, although day 1 was kind of subpar and didn’t meet our expectations, we quickly found our style and had day 2 and 3 go very well. It usually takes a lot longer to get to where we’re at right now, so we hope to continue this trend.
On top of the training, a big part of what we’re doing here is coming together as a team. Whenever you travel together, it’s a good opportunity to experience many new things, so we took a couple of days to explore Seoul, where we went to an escape room and eat out a few times as well.
(Kumo) Apart from the teammates that you were on C9 with, what were your first impressions of Jiizuke and Bang?
Kumo: Jiizuke likes to talk a lot, and is really funny. In-game, he’s a very aggressive player. Bang’s a super nice guy and is very considerate. He says a lot of important things inside the game, but sometimes, he's a little too quiet, and I feel that not everyone picks up the things he says.
So do you want him to speak up (laughter)?
Kumo: Yeah, or everyone else can listen better.
Bang: I only say the necessary things.
(Mid-jungle duo) What were your first impressions of each other?
Svenskeren: Again, Jiizuke likes to talk a lot and is very vocal about his opinions. I think it’s a good thing because we always know what’s on his mind, and we’ll know when something’s wrong.
Jiizuke: Before I joined the team, I watched a lot of the games that he played, so I already had a good opinion about him.
(The bot lane duo) What were your first impressions of each other?
Zeyzal: My initial impression of Bang was that he’s very reserved and quiet. He's the type of person that will point out your mistakes after you make them, so that the person can know what exactly went wrong and not make the same mistake again.
Bang: I was very impressed by his in-game knowledge. During scrims, he’s very vocal about certain macro decisions that the team should make.
We’re gonna play a fun little game to see if you’re telling the truth. We prepared a lie detector to see if you’re telling the truth or not. Ready?
(Kumo) Who’s the better wingman, Bang or Jiizuke?
(Svenskeren) Will you hand over blue buff to Jiizuke if he’s 0/6/0 by second blue?
Svenskeren: Nope. Definitely not.
(Jiizuke) EU or NA?
Jiizuke: For now, NA.
(Bang) Who would you rather have as your lane partner? Aphromoo vs. Zeyzal?
(Zeyzal) Sneaky vs. Bang?
Jiizuke: We have to get the coaches to do this as well!
(Irean) PowerofEvil vs. Jiizuke?
Jiizuke: Even I was nervous about this question!
(Artemis) Dignitas or EG?
(Kumo) This is your redemption round, Kumo. Who’s the better jungler, Svenskeren or Blaber?
(Everyone) I believe that in any type of work, the right balance between work and rest is necessary. Can you can share some fun adventure stories with us during your nights out?
Greg: When we went to the escape room, we split into two teams, where Nicole (CEO of EG) and I chose our teams. It was Jiizuke, Svenskeren, Artemis, Irean and I on one team, while Nicole and everyone else was on the other team. She’s going to hate the fact that this is going to be published, but my team won (laughter). Although the room we were in was an easier room, we got out 9 minutes faster.
Zeyzal: I was actually quite nervous because they took us upstairs blindfolded and our hands tied as well.
SAB: Also, the team that got out later got these ‘Pepemasks’.
Artemis: The losing team wore this and took photos for the team’s social media.
(Everyone) EG has been around back a few years ago, left the LCS, and rejoined for the 2020 season and on. With the FA market being so hectic this year, what are you most excited about in joining EG?
Zeyzal: When I was first contacted, the only player I knew that was joining this team was Svenskeren, and since I always liked playing with him, I was pretty excited. As far as I know, when I was talking with EG about joining their roster, it wasn’t confirmed that Bang was joining the team, so it was a nice little surprise when I found out, and I’m excited to work with him.
Bang: I’m excited that this is a new team and that I have a chance to start fresh.
Jiizuke: I felt like with this team, I can work hard to achieve success right away. For example, Team Vitality never reached Worlds before, until my first year with the team. We went to Worlds and did very well. I felt like with EG, I can achieve the same amount of success, if not more.
Svenskeren: Like Bang said, this is a fresh team, so there’s nowhere for us to go but up from where we are. The decision to join this team was easy for me, because since I already know half the team on the roster, I only needed to focus on getting to know Bang and Jiizuke better.
Kumo: For me, being on the starting roster for the LCS is the most exciting part of all this. I get to show what I’m capable of, and playing with Svenskeren and Zeyzal again is definitely a bonus. I was a terrible when I played with Zeyzal on the C9 academy roster, so at the time, he probably didn’t have the greatest impression of me.
Zeyzal: Definitely not at the time (laughter). To be fair, we did beat TL with him, and we did really well with Kumo in practice, so we’ve come a long way since then.
Artemis: All the teams I talked to say that they want to win, but I knew that the only team that would stand by those words with their actions was EG, so I’m very excited for the support that the staff and the players will receive. It’ll make our jobs a lot easier.
Also, I believe that we have a very great group of young men here. So far, I think that these 5 guys are great teammates, and all the reviews that we’re doing have been smooth, so heading into the season and beyond, we’ll be able to handle any conflict that comes our way very well. I’m incredibly excited to be working with these guys.
Irean: For me, when I first got in contact with EG, they seemed to be very excited to achieve success in the LCS, so they've shown me their passion for not just being in the LCS, but for League of Legends as a whole. Also, even though I was somewhat successful during my previous tenure with Counter Logic Gaming, I wanted to challenge myself to earn more. I could’ve stayed with CLG and got 2nd or 3rd place in the league again, but most importantly, I wanted to prove that I can achieve more, so I think that’s what excites me the most.
Artemis, can you share some examples of the ‘actions’ that you mentioned?
Artemis: The biggest example is putting this roster together. All 5 of these guys have a job to do this year, and I believe that they are the players that can do that job very well. We’re also building a new training facility, and it’ll be ready by the time that we head back to Santa Monica. It’ll provide everything these players need to succeed, so I’m very excited about it. Also, even the little things! Greg’s our LCS director, but he always ask the players, “Is there anything you need?” He’s always running down to the convenience store to get these players drinks, so to see someone so highly ranked within the company willing to run such errands for these players just goes to show the healthy culture that we’re building in this team.
(The former C9 trio) How’s EG’s atmosphere different from your former team, C9?
Svenskeren: This is a new roster, and because of how everyone got along so well in C9, it’ll be hard for the team atmosphere to be even better than that from the get go. However, as all new teams go, everyone is super motivated, and for everyone to give their 110% from the start is something that I really like.
Kumo: I was always on the academy roster on C9, but now that I’m on the starting LCS roster, I can tell that the effort put into work is vastly different with this team.
Zeyzal: I think that being on the same team for so long can cause players to get complacent not only during scrims, but practice in general, because everyone knows you so well. The culture created from not giving it your all in scrims can affect a player negatively in the long run. However, with EG, I don’t think everyone will get complacent, as everyone wants to achieve so much with this team.
(Bang) You were our special correspondent during Worlds. Having experienced that, you stated that you were itching to play on the Worlds stage next year, so what’s your mindset heading into 2020 with EG?
Bang: Obviously, I want to achieve better results than last year, and my expectation with this team is to win Worlds.
(JIizuke) What made you decide to move from EU to NA?
Jiizuke: I was close to winning the LEC title in Europe in my first year with Vitality, eventually made it to Worlds and did pretty well. However, last year, even if I did make it to playoffs, I didn’t achieve the results I wanted with Vitality. Right now, I feel like if you’re not G2, Fnatic, or Origen, it’s really hard to achieve success in the LEC, and if I stayed in EU this year, I would’ve joined an EU team that’s in the middle of the pack, probably would’ve made the playoffs in the LEC, but wouldn’t be a top contender.
If I didn’t find a nice team in EU for myself for 2020, I was actually going to play in the regional league and use that time to prepare for the following year, so I honestly didn’t consider NA until EG contacted me. I knew Svenskeren and Zeyzal joined the team, and found out about Bang later on. I knew that with this roster, I can come in fresh, highly motivated, and just seemed like a great opportunity to become a top contender.
Thoughts on the Worlds Draw meme?
Jiizuke: When I pulled that piece of paper out, I obviously didn’t know that it was upside down (laughter). At the time, I was just focused on not making any mistakes, so I spun the balls around a lot and picked it. However, when I checked out the reactions on the Internet, a lot of them said that I didn’t mix the balls around enough and so I doomed EU. However, I think that the EU teams should thank me! All the EU teams got out of groups because of me, didn't they (laughter)? Also, I technically put Doinb on the path to success as well (laughter)!
(Players) Season 10 is met with a lot of changes on the Rift, and such changes are met with champions as well. By role, which new champions do you think will see gameplay on stage in the LCS?
Kumo: Mordekaiser, Aatrox, and Lucian. However, I think that almost any champion can be used in the top lane, as long as the player’s really good with the champion.
How about in the jungle?
Svenskeren: Well, Riot nerfed the jungle again this year… (laughter).
Jiizuke: It’s still the most broken role in the game (laughter)!
Svenskeren: This year’s going to be very hard (laughter)... I might need some support… In terms of picks, I don’t think it’ll be too different from the Worlds meta.
Jiizuke: I feel that if you’re comfortable with certain champions, you can pick it blind in the mid lane. From me, you’re going to see many fun picks during the season.
How about in the bot lane?
Bang: There's the two new champions, Senna and Aphelios, so I feel that those two champions are will see lots of gameplay.
Zeyzal: Aphelios… It’s so broken (laughter). In the support role, champions like Senna and Janna are strong in solo queue, but are harder to use in competitive play because the enemy will just gank you non stop.
(Players/Coaches) On the piece of paper that I just gave you, can you rank the LCS teams for the upcoming split? (Please keep in mind that this prediction list is a very subjective and just-for-fun list.)
Zeyzal: I didn’t want to rank the last 4 teams, so I think this list will be the teams in playoffs.
(Svenskeren) Why did you decide to rank C9 so low on your list?
Svenskeren: Nothing personal (laughter)! I just think that without me on their roster, they won’t be as good anymore (laughter)!
Artemis: Irean and I just put Evil Geniuses as number 1 on the list, and that’s all we have. Honestly, we haven’t spent a lot of time trying to figure out how good the other teams are or bother ranking them. We’re just focused on ourselves, so the first time we’re going to think about these teams is when we’re preparing to play against them each week. Until then, it doesn’t really matter, and as long as we focus on ourselves, we’ll end up 1st place at the end of the season.
(Players) Which player would you like to specifically play against and why?
Zeyzal: Blaber. We were teammates, and a lot of the solo queue games that I played were with him. It’s going to be interesting to play against him, not just in scrims, but on stage.
Bang: Aphromoo (laughter). It’s obviously going to be really fun to play against my former lane partner that I really like.
Jiizuke: There are many legendary players in NA, so I want to play against all of them. Also, I want to play against Ruin from CLG because he was my former teammate.
Svenskeren: I want to play against Blaber, because we were both competing against one another for the starting spot back on C9, so I want to see who can achieve more this year. Nisqy as well, because we got along really well, and I know how he plays the game, so it’ll be fun to tilt him (laughter).
Kumo: I’m excited to play against Licorice, because I was competing for the starting spot on C9, and there were quite a few instances where it was me & Svenskeren vs. Licorice & Blaber, so it’ll be interesting to play against the duo on stage.
(Irean/Artemis) Apart from leading the squad to become LCS champions and into Worlds, what kind of a team do you hope to shape the team to be?
Artemis: I want us to be disciplined, not just during practice, but also in how we conduct ourselves during matches. I also want us to trust and care for one another, not just in relation to the game, but also in our personal lives as well. I want all of us to give their full support if we need it.
Most importantly, I want us to care about winning. Personally, winning is a really important part of what defines me, and whether it’s our first LCS match or our last match at Worlds, we should always have the same mindset of wanting to win.
Irean: I believe that all of our players have the mechanics, but they still have bad habits that transition from solo queue. For example, I want the team to know when exactly they should take or avoid skirmishes/teamfights. It’s my responsibility to help these players become smart enough to know that, and with practice, they’ll become a very smart team.
(Irean/Artemis) As the core members of the coaching staff on EG, how does the two of you function as a unit?
Artemis: I was really excited to work with Irean, as he has years of experience as a coach, and was also a pro player back in the day, so I feel like he’s someone I can definitely learn a lot from. Also, my most memorable loss in a BO5 was in Detroit against CLG. I feel that adaptation is one of my biggest strengths, but in that series, he adapted a lot better than I did. I think he’s really talented, and I’m excited to work with him.
I think that we both contribute a lot to our draft and during review. We both lead our players on a daily basis by setting up goals for them. So far, I think we have a great working relationship, and I’m excited to see where this will end up.
Irean: I first met him in Detroit when I was on CLG, and I was impressed by him as well, because at the time, Clutch Gaming, was pretty low in the LCS standings, but ever since he joined, CG found their team color, and that really impressed me a lot. Although I only worked with him on EG for a few days, he’s very knowledgeable about the game, so I couldn’t be happier to work with him.
(Everyone) We’ve reached the end of the interview, and I want to thank all of you for your valuable time in your busy schedules. Lastly, heading into the 2020 season, can you share your resolutions?
Zeyzal: I want to contribute to creating an environment where we feel comfortable giving each other feedback, helping each other inside and outside the game, and fully understand that we can often forget about certain things, so heading into the 2020 season, I just hope we can function really well as a team.
Bang: I think the most important thing for all of us is to put the game as our number 1 priority. If we do so, we’ll have a great team environment to do our job well.
Jiizuke: I don’t want to have any regrets this year. I’ll try my best to win, work 5 times harder than last year, and reach my first finals in the LCS, and eventually at Worlds as well. I’ll make sure that people forget the 2019 version of myself.
Svenskeren: My first goal in 2020 is to win the LCS. I only won the LCS title once with TSM, and I personally don’t think it’s a big achievement, as I don’t think I contributed much to winning the title back then.
Kumo: As this year’s my first year as a starting LCS top laner, I want to stay motivated and become the best top laner in NA.
Artemis: For me, I just want to help these guys achieve their goals. Although it hasn’t been long since we started practicing together as a team, I already care about them a lot. I’ll do everything I can so that we can all look back and be happy with what we’ll achieve.
Irean: Because we’re a new team, there's a chance that our team will go through a rough patch during the split. For instance, even if things don't go well in week 1 and/or 2, I want us to stick together as a team, be patient, and work through any sort of trials and tribulations as a unit.
SAB: We’re all in a spot where we can create something new, so I want to provide as much company culture as I can. I want to help everyone feel that when they come into work, they have everything they need to do their best, if not more. People might think that we’re a new team, so we might need time to perform, but we’re here to win, and I want to help the people in this room to be on the same page.
Greg: From the support staff side of things, our goal is to provide everything possible for these guys to perform at their very best. Whatever we can do to provide is our number one priority. Although we’re a new team in the LCS, Evil Geniuses is an esports organization with a legacy of major competitive victories, and we've just started to demonstrate how serious we are on a competitive level via the infrastructure we set up and the roster we put together. I'm not sure whether or not other teams operate at a high performance level, but I hope that by the end of the year, we make it crystal clear that we’re here to compete and that we're the top dogs.
A managing editor who can do more things than you think.
Striving for perfection to achieve excellence in esports