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Dota 2

Team Spotlight: Evil Geniuses

Patrick Bonifacio

The name “Evil Geniuses” has been a household name in esports even before it was called esports to begin with. The industry was in its absolute infancy when the original Quake clan was formed in 1997, and it has since gone on to represent many, many professional players over the years.

Evil Geniuses

Evil Geniuses joined professional Dota shortly after TI1 and have since then established themselves as a staple of NA.

Dota 2 is no exception. Soon after Natus Vincere won the first ever International, the higher-ups at EG looked to form a squad that would carry the name into the new esports promised land. It took the organization a few years to find the right mix of talent to really make their mark on the NA scene and the world as a whole. The first three years were a particularly long struggle to get a championship caliber team playing for them. But as EG have persisted for over two decades now, so did they in Dota — and the division in question is now one of the most beloved in the competitive space.

Blue Beginnings

It didn’t take EG very long to announce their inaugural Dota 2 roster, having jumped on the opportunity to do so right after TI1 had concluded. The first squad was championed by Clinton “Fear” Loomis himself, who was one of the first professional Dota Allstars players to ever play with a sponsored team.

After his campaign at TI1 with Online Kingdom ended with a sixth place finish, Evil Geniuses contacted him in order to bring him onto their upcoming Dota 2 squad.  Fear’s impressive resume and familiarity with the organization made him an easy choice for their foray into Dota 2. Thus began a long and fruitful relationship — one that would last from 2011 to 2018.

Fear led Evil Geniuses into the new era, commanding several different iterations of their squad over the first several months. They were never able to find a solid footing, though, primarily because their lineups just didn’t work out as planned. It wasn’t until Sam “BuLba” Sosale and Saahil “Universe” Arora joined the squad that Evil Geniuses finally found some semblance of stability.

The First Taste

With BuLba and Universe in tow, EG’s roster for the 2011-2012 season included them, Fear, DeMoN, and former Meet Your Makers player Jacob “Maelk” Toft-Andersen. Despite not finding much footing and Maelk’s chronic absences supposedly due to other commitments, they were invited to TI2, which marked the second try at the world championship tournament for everyone but BuLba.

Evil Geniuses TI2

EG had four Americans in their squad at TI2, but couldn’t do NA proud. (Photo courtesy Valve)

Sadly, their campaign ended miserably as they exited the main event in 9th-12th place — which was a shame considering their respectable score of 8-6 coming out of the group stage. Just a month after, rumors of BuLba and Universe’s departure started swirling around, which proved to be true as the former joined Team Liquid while the latter went off to Quantic Gaming.

They were both replaced by Robert “Bdiz” Tinnes and Jiyo “Jeyo” Madayag going into the 2012-2013 season.

Missing Geniuses

The new lineup showed some promise from the get-go, as they placed second at the RaidCall Dota 2 League and at DreamHack Winter 2012. Their performances fell off pretty hard as the year turned, however, and they floundered in several premier events in the leadup to TI3. March 2013 in particular was a rough patch for them as they frequently bowed out of tournaments in the bottom half of the field. Maelk then decided to step away from active play and serve as the team’s coach in May that year, while Dutch player Alaan “SexyBamboe” Faraaj stepped in as the squad’s new mid laner.

The worst moment for this roster was their failure to qualify for TI3. They placed fourth in the Western Qualifier, losing to Russian squad RoX.KiS in the upper bracket and getting eliminated by eventual qualifier winners, mousesports, in the lower bracket. Evil Geniuses had missed the boat entirely — which undoubtedly hurt even more given how their sister team at the time, Alliance, went on to win the whole thing in spectacular fashion.

It was once again clear that things had to change. Fear stuck around, as he always did, but DeMoN elected to depart the organization after two years. SexyBamboe, meanwhile, tried his hand with Super Strong Dinosaurs and eventual Nexon Sponsorship League champions Team Zephyr. In between all this, Universe made a return to Evil Geniuses as their offlaner, while his teammate in Team Dignitas Ioannis “Fogged” Loucas joined as the hard support. Arif “MSS” Anwar likewise replaced SexyBamboe as the mid laner — thus completing the team’s late 2013 lineup.

This roster never really had any real success, though, and all three of their new members left in February 2014.

The S A D B O Y S Era

After the collapse of the lineup with Fogged, MSS, and Jeyo, rumors of an up-and-coming EG roster were stirring in the NA scene. Fear and Universe formed the S A D B O Y S alongside former Heroes of Newerth pros Ludwig “zai” Wåhlberg and Peter “ppd” Dager, as well as a very young but very talented Artour “Arteezy” Babaev.

Both Fear and Universe were actually still tied to Evil Geniuses at this point, which caused them to play with the S A D B O Y S using stand-in tags. While they did play under a different name, it was obvious to the Dota community that the roster with Arteezy, zai, and ppd was meant to be a test squad for the main lineup at Evil Geniuses. Nevertheless, with the squad’s 3-0 victory over Team Empire at the ESP Shock Therapy Cup in February 2014, their assimilation into the EG brand was practically guaranteed.

Fueled by Arteezy’s dazzling mechanical skill, ppd’s chess grandmaster-like drafting prowess, Universe’s stability in the offlane role, zai’s incredibly clutch play, and Fear’s solid carry skills, the former S A D B O Y S quickly became one of the most beloved lineups in all of Dota. They rampaged through the scene starting in March that year, taking first place at the Monster Energy Invitational. Unfortunately, Fear was sidelined right after by an arm injury that rendered him unable to play.

He committed himself to a six-week recovery period in order to make it to TI4, which forced EG to look for a replacement. They found one in Mason “mason” Venne, who played the hard carry role in Fear’s stead. Evil Geniuses didn’t miss a beat, though, winning the first edition of The Summit and the HyperX D2L Western challenge thereafter. They also placed second at ESL One Frankfurt — thus securing their invite to TI4, as if it wasn’t already assured by then.

The Third Place Woes Begin

Evil Geniuses strolled into TI4 as one of the heavy favorites to win the whole thing, which was natural given their excellent results over the course of the season. Expectations were high as they went into what was then the single most lucrative event in esports history, with a prize pool of nearly $11 million staring them right in the face.

They started off on a high note, going 11-4 in the round robin group stage to clinch an upper bracket berth in a hurry. Once the main event began, they steamrolled the star-studded Team DK, another squad that was favored to make it to the Grand Final match. All five members played out of their minds they crushed the popular Chinese squad, sending them to the lower bracket earlier than expected.

This result set them up for an appearance in the upper bracket final, given the format of the tournament which culled as many as six teams from the competition before they even entered KeyArena. Much to the dismay of the home crowd in Seattle, they were trounced by eventual champions Newbee, who had already figured out the deathball playstyle that the metagame encouraged at the time.

In the lower bracket, EG fared just slightly better against Vici Gaming, the team that eliminated them in a combined 32 minutes and 39 seconds of elapsed game time. The boys in blue put up a valiant effort in the second game to get the crowd going, but the Grand Final dream was not meant to be. VG simply employed a modified version of their draft in Game 1, and rolled the American team in the blink of an eye.

Though they did not succeed as planned at TI4, Evil Geniuses set a record for the highest result of a North American team at TI at the time. The potential for greater things was clearly there, and the community at large expected them to stay at the highest tiers of competitive play. True enough, they did just that, bolstered by Fear’s return to active play in mason’s place. EG continued to dominate tournaments at the start of the new season, notching several podium finishes in important events.

What came at the start of the new year, though, was a shocking development that shook the scene at large.

One Less Ego

On January 7th, 2015, both Arteezy and zai announced that they would be joining Clement “Puppey” Ivanov in Team Secret, to the astonishment of the entire Dota world. For Arteezy, the move was supposedly brought about by conflicts between himself and ppd — which came as no surprise given the visibly strong personalities of both parties involved. This meant that EG was left with two holes in their roster as they were preparing for the first ever Dota 2 Asia Championship to be held in China.

Even with the sudden setback, though, ppd was able to fill the roster as needed in time for DAC. Former Cloud9 player Kurtis “Aui_2000” Ling was brought on as the team’s soft support, while the wunderkind himself Syed Sumail “SumaiL” Hassan signed with them as their mid laner. SumaiL was just 15 years young at the time, and many wondered whether he could perform at a major event given how little time there was to prepare for it.

He silenced all his critics and doubters at the event itself. SumaiL had a massive breakout performance in Shanghai, particularly on his now-signature Storm Spirit with whom he showed his explosive and frenetic playstyle. Thanks to his efforts, EG swept Team Secret in the lower bracket finals, and ppd’s revenge on Arteezy was complete. They went on to win the entire tournament, destroying hometown favorites Vici Gaming three games to none in the Grand Finals.

With their momentum and morale at an all-time high, EG proceeded to place well in subsequent competitions. Team Secret did however taste sweet payback at The Summit 3 and ESL One Frankfurt, beating EG in both grand final appearances. A true rivalry had formed in the wake of the three events, with the last one being just two months before TI5.

One More Championship

With both EG and Secret touted as favorites to win the tournament, the Dota community was ablaze with excitement and wished for the two to meet in battle inside KeyArena. EG topped their group in the preliminary stage, going 10-4 in map wins and solidifying themselves as one of the teams to beat going into the main event. Secret missed first place in their group by just one map win, but it was crystal clear that they would not give an inch to their opponents and let EG show them up out of the gate.

Evil Geniuses Aui_2000

Aui_2000 was instrumental to their success at TI5. (Photo courtesy Valve)

Unfortunately, the fabled matchup never happened. Despite their great start in the group stage, Secret choked away their chances at the Aegis of Champions. Chinese team EHOME knocked them down to the lower bracket immediately, and Secret survived just one lower bracket round before finally getting eliminated by The greatest prize on Dota had eluded Arteezy’s grasp once again — with his former team still alive in the upper bracket.

EG then took care of business against EHOME in the second round, showing poise and confidence by winning the second and third maps. Aui_2000, in particular, brought Techies out in this series, and the hero was actually horrifyingly effective in his hands. They then faced the red-hot CDEC Gaming in the upper bracket finals, with the young upstarts proving to be the better team in that particular match. ppd expressed his admiration of CDEC’s captain and drafter Fu “Q” Bin after their loss, describing him as a genius.

Unfazed by their defeat in the upper bracket, EG crushed LGD Gaming in just two games to punch their ticket to the Grand Finals and set a heated rematch with CDEC. The North American squad struck first in the series, thanks to a fantastic performance not only by their cores but also Aui_2000 on the soft support Skywrath Mage. CDEC evened the score in the second game, with mid laner Sun “Agressif” Zheng putting on a show with Queen of Pain. The boys in blue captured the series and the title in the next two maps, however, with the fourth and final one giving birth to a now-classic moment in esports history: the six million dollar Echo Slam.

At long last, the Evil Geniuses had earned the right to hoist the Aegis of Champions. Fear, in particular, had to work long and hard to reach the highest point in Dota, but sweet success at the grandest stage in the game was finally his. Ppd, on the other hand, cemented himself in the annals of Dota history as one of the greatest captains to ever lead a TI-winning team. For Aui_2000 and Universe, it was the culmination of years of perseverance and grit — and for young SumaiL, the final stroke that shut his haters up once and for all. NA Dota had finally reached the promised land.

But as was tradition by that point, more drama and controversy would follow their championship run at TI5.

A Ruthless Decision

It had not even been two months since the conclusion of the TI5 Grand Finals when the team announced another completely unexpected move: Aui_2000 was being kicked from the roster. Yes, the same Aui_2000 that had an incredible impact on the squad’s success was summarily removed from the lineup, stirring even more controversy surrounding ppd and the way he led the team.

The roster change was done to make way for Arteezy, who returned to the organization after bowing out of TI5 with Secret. Fear switched to the soft support position in the wake of Aui_2000’s departure, thus completing their roster for the 2015-2016 season and the first year of Valve Dota Majors.

The new roster flopped in their first event, placing a lowly eighth at ESL One New York. It didn’t take them long at all to find their footing, however — as they notched second place at the MLG World Finals. Incidentally, it was Team Secret that knocked them out in the Grand Finals at MLG, adding more fuel to the fire that was their rivalry. This set them up with a good bit of momentum going into the Frankfurt Major, the first such event in the new Major system.

EG did very well in Frankfurt, placing first in their group and making it all the way to the upper bracket finals. The new roster was well-oiled and had obvious synergy, but again, it was Team Secret that stopped them in their tracks. Their rivals beat them in a full three-game series to secure a Grand Final slot, and they eventually fell out of contention after losing to eventual champions OG in the lower bracket.

They bounced back at The Summit 4, securing the title there against in a marathon five-game series. Podium finishes in subsequent events further solidified their strength, giving them a boost going into the second Major of the season in Shanghai. There, they placed third as a result of yet another clash with Team Secret in the upper bracket, in which the European team claimed victory over them once more. EG fought through the lower bracket to reach the penultimate round, but were bested by the new Team Liquid led by Kuro “KuroKy” Salehi Takhasomi.

Misery in Manila

Their campaign for a TI6 invite continued in Croatia with the fourth season of the Dota Pit League. The tournament consisting of eight squads was pretty auspicious for EG, particularly at the start when Na’Vi upset Team Secret in the first round to eliminate them early. With their bitter rivals out of the way, EG disposed of Na’Vi in the semifinals, but were manhandled by Korean team MVP Phoenix in a sweep of the Grand Finals.

Apparently this result was enough for Arteezy to go back to Puppey and the rest of Secret, as the fan favorite carry player announced that he was, once again, leaving the EG roster. This time, he even took Universe with him, who had been with EG for more than two years by then. Per the TI6 rules, this meant that they needed to complete their roster before the spring roster lock period was over. They did so by signing Aui_2000 once again, while BuLba filled the last remaining spot.

Nevertheless, they were invited to the next Major in Manila. The event wasn’t any kinder to them, as they played poorly in the group stage and in the lower bracket thereafter. Vici Gaming Reborn swiftly ended their run as soon as the main event rolled around. Funnily enough, Team Secret also bungled their campaign in Manila. Before the event was even finished, they traded Universe back to EG in exchange for BuLba, though they elected to keep Arteezy within their ranks.

Aui_2000 left the team a few days later, prompting Fear to go back to playing carry. zai also made his return at this time — but the changes to EG’s roster meant that their hopes of getting an invite to TI6 disappeared in a matter of days. Thus, they were forced to play through the open qualifiers instead.

Cursed to Third Place

EG breezed past their opponents in the open qualifier, and punched their ticket to Seattle through the regional qualifiers without breaking a sweat. Despite their easy run through the qualifiers, many were skeptical about the team’s ability to place well at TI6 given their struggles for the majority of the season.

After blitzing through the open qualifiers, EG performed beyond expectations at TI6.

After blitzing through the open qualifiers, EG performed beyond expectations at TI6. (Photo courtesy Valve)

They went into the event with no regard for what the community said about them. They finished the group stage in second, earning an upper bracket slot which they immediately made good on. They dismantled Newbee in the first round, doing the same to EHOME after an absolutely riveting first map between the two.

Their upper bracket run ended at the hands of eventual champions Wings Gaming, though, and the fairytale victory over them by Digital Chaos in the lower bracket dashed their hopes of defending the Aegis. Yet another campaign at The International ended in third place for them, but few could say that they weren’t at least somewhat happy with the result given the rough patches they hit that season.

Despite the respectable finish, however, Fear decided to take a step back from competition on September 14th, 2016, calling it a retirement at the time after five whole years with EG. He stepped back into a coaching role for them following the announcement, opting not to part with the organization he’d been with for so long. Ppd did much the same a day later by taking the mantle of CEO for EG, though he did join another team called WanteD with players like Kim “QO” Seon-yeop and Rasmus “Chessie” Blomdin thereafter.

Suffering in Seattle

Enter Danish support player Andreas Franck “Cr1t-” Nielsen, who would take over ppd’s role as the captain. The two-time Major champion immediately went to work, helping EG win their first LAN of the new season. With Arteezy back in the squad, they went on to place very well in a few tournaments thereafter, and secured an invite to the Boston Major.

Their run at the Major itself wasn’t that special, though, as they stumbled right out of the group stage looking nothing like their usual selves. Miraculously, they rallied in the main event to get within the top four slots, where they were taken out by Cr1t-’s former team, OG. Picking themselves right back up after their loss, they went on to win China Top 2016 and exacted revenge on OG in the Grand Finals of Dota Pit League Season 5.

They would get invited to the Kiev Major as a result of their efforts, though their campaign ended in much the same way as in Boston. Their poor showing in the group stage was followed by another great run at the main event, though once again their hopes of getting into the Grand Finals were erased by OG.

With TI7 just over the horizon at this point, EG took first place at the Manila Masters, and scored a silver medal at Epicenter 2017. Their strong season meant that they had ensured their invite to the world championship event once more, where they were considered yet again to be favorites for the title.

Not even the leadership of two-time Major winner Cr1t- saved them from an abysmal result at TI7.

Not even the leadership of two-time Major winner Cr1t- saved them from an abysmal result at TI7. Photo courtesy Valve)

What happened was the exact opposite. They looked quite lost in the main event, finishing in 9th-12th place after performing well in the groups. It was a very disappointing end to what was otherwise a fruitful season, but with Cr1t- opting to stick around it was clear that they put their trust in his captaincy going forward.

Toiling in the Pro Circuit

The 2017-2018 season brought about big changes to the competitive system as a whole. Gearing up for the new Dota Pro Circuit, Evil Geniuses set out once again to secure themselves an invite to TI8 — but they could barely scramble to get any significant achievements. They were unable to find their rhythm from the start, placing poorly in both Majors and Minors early on.

Given their poor results, they decided to let Universe go in favor of Evil Geniuses alumnus Rasmus “Misery” Filipsen in the hard support role. Interestingly, they placed SumaiL in the offlane role to fill the gap left by Universe, while Fear (having come out of retirement a few months prior) and Arteezy would swap between carry and mid as needed.

The experiment didn’t work out. Both Fear and Misery were sacked at ESL One Birmingham as they finished last in the UK. In what is now one of the most dramatic acquisitions in esports history, though, OG members Gustav “s4” Magnusson and Tal “Fly” Aizik signed with Evil Geniuses, as they had been struggling in a similar fashion throughout the season with their former squad. With s4 taking over in the offlane, SumaiL was then able to slide back into the mid lane spot.

The new roster went into the China Supermajor with barely any practice together, and proceeded to lose every single map in the group stage. Their only win at the main event helped them avoid the bottom four spots, but all in all it was not the start the new lineup was hoping for. They did qualify for TI8 while winning The Summit 9, but the community still had low expectations for them going into the final event of the season.

In amazing fashion, though, Evil Geniuses caught everyone watching by surprise. Not only did they finish the group stage in second place, but they also decimated Team Secret in the first round of the playoffs. An epic battle between them and the vengeful OG ensued in the next round which they could not win — but spirited performances against and defending International champions Team Liquid saw them within arm’s reach of the Grand Finals.

Star-studded as they may have been at TI8, EG fell just short of the grand finals.

Star-studded as they may have been at TI8, EG fell just short of the grand finals. (Photo courtesy Valve)

Unfortunately, their run was halted by PSG.LGD Gaming, who went on to take eventual champions OG to a grueling five-game series. Shots of EG’s members looking forlorn and broken were posted on social media, and for good reason. Still, they took the loss on the chin and stuck with their roster going into the next season.

Do It Again

Having flipped expectations around, the new and improved EG journeyed to redeem themselves from the bitter result at TI8. A third place finish (again) at the Kuala Lumpur Major rewarded them with a good haul of Pro Circuit points to start the season with. They would repeat this in the following Major in Chongqing, placing third yet again after countless bronze medals to the organization’s name.

Stuck with the same roster that they had at TI8, EG finished a bit below expectations at TI9.

Stuck with the same roster that they had at TI8, EG finished a bit below expectations at TI9. (Photo courtesy Valve)

The rest of the season went fairly smoothly for them, as they hung on to fourth place in the DPC standings. This guaranteed them an invite to TI9 as one of the stronger teams once again, and they would make good on their placement in the DPC leaderboards right out of the gates.

They finished third in their group to secure an upper bracket berth, where they disposed of Team Secret in three games to advance forward. There, they had a much-anticipated rematch with OG, though victory belonged to their rivals again this time around. They would eventually be eliminated in sixth place by Team Liquid, who went on to play against OG in the Grand Finals.

Dual Shuffle

With their hopes in the squad seemingly running out, both SumaiL and s4 opted to depart the organization to look for opportunities elsewhere. SumaiL landed in OG after Anathan “ana” Pham decided to take another one of his post-TI vacations. The same went with s4, who took an extended break after TI9 — eventually returning to his old team Alliance after several months of inactivity.

To replace the outgoing players, Evil Geniuses brought in rising Filipino star Abed “Abed” Yusop, and former carry Roman “RAMZES666” Kushnarev. The two have helped the squad get to fourth place at the MDL Chengdu Major as well as second place at the DreamLeague Leipzig Major so far, and have proven themselves capable and worthy of playing under the EG name.

With the global situation as it is, though, neither Abed nor RAMZES have been able to play online tournaments as members of the main roster thus far. It is unknown when they’ll be making a return to active play with EG — but given that they’ll be playing in the European division of the upcoming OMEGA League, there may be room for at least one of them to come back to the squad.

Regardless, the current EG roster undoubtedly has tons of talent to work with. Abed was the first player in the world to reach 11,000 MMR, and is quickly maturing in terms of his confidence. RAMZES on the other hand has tons of experience playing at the highest level thanks to his long stint with The Evil Geniuses are in good hands going forward as a result — and should they need to retool their lineup in the future, there will be an endless pool of talented players that would want to represent them in Dota.