The 2019 off-season brought a few new teams to the League of Legends Championship Series, Evil Geniuses, Immortals, and (technically) Dignitas, who bought out Clutch Gaming last Summer, (but didn't officially join till after Worlds). While all are established orgs with previous history in the LCS, Evil Geniuses did not carry over any assets from the slot they purchased, hiring an entirely new staff and starting from scratch with their roster. IMT carried over the previous OpTic Gaming staff, and Dignitas carried over much of the Clutch Gaming staff, though both IMT and DIG reconstructed their rosters.
Evil Geniuses, returned to the LCS completely fresh, much like the new orgs who established themselves in the 2018 franchise. In fact, one of those new orgs, 100 Thieves, even placed second in their first split, with three-fifths of that original roster returning this season. However, that year was a reconstruction of the entire league - this Spring was not. Not to discount 100 Thieves' success in their first split, but Evil Geniuses being the only brand new team with zero assets competing against nine other orgs with more pre-established infrastructure, contracts, and culture is an incredible uphill battle.
After finalizing much of their staff, EG's first order of business was securing a strong roster, signing multiple former Cloud9 players to secure a strong core unit to help entice other members to join. And it worked, that's what eventually led Evil Geniuses AD Carry, Bae "Bang" Jun-sik, to join the team. And a little bit after, mid laner, Daniele "Jiizuke" di Mauro, followed with a hunger to turn around his rough 2019 season.
In my conversations with the team last fall, it was clear Evil Geniuses entered the LCS to win and that nothing else was acceptable. After a 9th-to-Worlds run with Clutch/Dignitas, Connor "Artemis" Doyle came to the team with big aspirations. "Winning an LCS title is at the top of my list right now... [The LCS] needs a new breed of team... I'm excited to create a culture of excellence and to bring a title to someone other than Team Liquid."
While bootcamping in Korea, EG Team Operations Manager, Sabrina, shared their positive mindset around building up from nothing. "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."
And EG's LCS Director, Greg Kim, had her back, stating, "From the support staff side of things, our goal is to provide everything possible for these guys to perform at their very best... I’ll do anything to achieve success in the LCS... 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."
And EG's efforts didn't go unnoticed. Just a few weeks into the season, Inven Global reporter, Parkes Ousley, spoke with the Academy bot lane duo, Matthew "Deftly" Chen and Matthew "Matt" Elento. They were incredibly thankful and gracious for the level of care Evil Geniuses had for their team. Matt specifically noted their commitment to the players' lives outside of the game, "On Academy, you're usually not the top tier level of accommodations, but I've been getting really nice accommodations, so I really appreciate EG."
And EG continued matching that level of service during the coronavirus lockdown as well. General Manager, Andrew Barton - former Dignitas GM who assisted in their 2019 9th-to-Worlds run - told us, "Though we're playing out of our apartments - which is rough - we're making sure we get the guys whatever they need to be able to perform at the highest level... EG has promised me the resources to make that happen, and they did. So when I make players a promise, I intend to keep it. That's a high standard I hold for myself and I expect all my staff to hold it as well."
After the Losers Bracket Finals which concluded EG's season with a 3-1 loss to FlyQuest, we spoke with Barton about their first season back in the LCS. At first he joked, "Ugh I wanted to lose BOTH our finals to Cloud9, not get third!" (Evil Geniuses Academy lost to Cloud9 Academy in the Finals just the day before.) But on further reflection, he acknowledged the success the team had, despite building and entirely fresh operation and needing to overcome a rough 1-4 start to the season.
"We definitely succeeded. 100%. Like you said, we started with no assets, no staff, nothing. So I think to go all the way to third place in our first split is quite an accomplishment for sure. But we know we can do a lot better, so obviously it stings and it's disappointing because we were so close. We know we were successful, but we know we could do a lot better."
And his expectation is to prove that this Summer. "I think there's a whole lot we can execute better on in the Summer Split. A lot of it has to do with operations, a lot has to do with preparation. The guys are all used to working together now... but we're continuing to learn how to work with each other better, and we're going to have more tools to build off what we already built in Spring."
Just ahead of the 2020 Summer Split, Evil Geniuses underwent a brand relaunch, honoring their roots with a modernized version of their orginal EG crest. Along with their updated logo, they announced a new partnership with LG UltraGear, and a commitment to greatness. “We look forward to seeing our players write the next chapter of EG championships while under a banner that’s truly symbolic of everything that we stand for.”
EG has done the work they believe will push them to higher heights, an LCS title and strong showing at Worlds. Their finish this Spring was impressive, but in his conclusion to our conversation, Barton reminded us of his and the org's ultimate goal and expectation moving forward. "But like I said, we're not happy with third place. We expected more. So we're going to bounce back this Summer and we'll see you all at the international stage."