When they entered the LCS for the second time ahead of the 2020 Spring Split, Evil Geniuses set out to build a diverse roster of players. Bot laner Bae “Bang” Jun-sik and jungler Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen were the highlight signings, but one other acquisition caught the attention of LEC fans — that of mid laner Daniele “Jiizuke” di Mauro.
Known for his aggressive style, the Italian got his break-out as part of Team Vitality and even made it to Worlds in 2018, where he smashed Gen.G and even took a game off of tournament favorites Royal Never Give Up to make for a memorable, if ultimately fruitless run. Many counter Jiizuke as one of the mid lanes to watch in 2019 but come next season, Vitality had dropped from a top 3 team to a middle of the pack one, despite playing with mostly the same roster.
Why stay, when you won’t win?
In 2019, the LEC became the exclusive domain of G2 Esports and Fnatic, who were the only two organizations that could realistically contest a title. The scraps from their table were left to the likes of Origen, who finished second in Spring, and Splyce, who won the Gauntlet and went to Worlds that year. This dichotomy of the league is one of the reasons Jiizuke abandoned the region, the mid laner toldInvenGlobal.
“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.”
But switching regions wasn’t the first idea Jiizuke had. In fact, had he not found the suitable LEC team, he would actually go down a few steps, play on the regional level, and try again in 2021. But a call from North America changed his mind.
“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.”
It’s a justifiable move. Fnatic and G2 made minimal changes during the off-season and gave no indication that they will surrender the throne. If the last two splits are anything to go by, barring a miracle run from one of the third place contenders, LEC 2020 Spring will once again be a G2 versus Fnatic affair.
A cautious ambition
For the new Evil Geniuses team, the Cloud9 core of Svenskeren and Tristan “Zeyzal” Stidam — coupled with another Cloud9 player in Kumo — will provide the stable core of players who’ve gone together into the breach and have an established rapport between them. Zeyzal and Svenskeren were both part of Cloud9’s miracle semifinal run at Worlds 2018, with Svenskeren being one of the best shotcallers in North America and the winner of the LCS 2019 Summer MVP award. Add strong individual players to the mix, like Jiizuke and Bang, and you’re looking at a powerful line-up, at least on paper.
And while Evil Geniuses’ starting five are all hyped up for a new beginning under a storied organization, long-time coach Heo “Irean” Yeong-cheol who joined EG from Counter Logic Gaming and SuperMassive before that, knows this new team is rough around the edges. While ambition is a great thing to have, it has to be cautious, meticulous.
“I believe that all of our players have the mechanics, but they still have bad habits that transition from solo queue,” Irean said. “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.”
The good news for Evil Geniuses is that with the LCS restructuring and elimination of championship points, the Spring Split puts less pressure on new teams like this EG roster. Jiizuke and co. can look at these first months exclusively as gelling exercise, preparing the roster for the truly important Summer Split, which will determine LCS’ Worlds representatives.