Evil Geniuses is now ranked world number one in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive after three solid months of performances. They leapfrogged both Team Liquid and Astralis to take the top spot after their wins at ESL One New York and StarSeries & i-League Season 8.
Starting with the StarLadder Berlin Major, EG has improved exponentially in each tournament. The need for comebacks has dwindled while close wins have become blowouts. The team’s members have become comfortable with one another and their strategic game plans.
EG’s turning point came at at ESL One New York when they defeated Astralis 3-1 in a best-of-five series. They then won their ECS Season 8 group without dropping a map, before dominating a surging Fnatic 2-0 at StarSeries & i-League Season 8.
Few could have predicted Evil Geniuses’ meteoric trajectory over the past three months. Team Liquid won the Intel Grand Slam and its $1M USD prize in a record-breaking 63 days. Astralis had bounced back from its summer slump. No one considered EG the number one team in the world just a month ago.
Regardless, Evil Geniuses moved from number three in the rankings to number one. They are now the best CSGO team in the world. What goes unrecognized is that EG’s transformation into the team they are today started ten months ago as NRG’s CSGO division.
Early 2019 was a turbulent time for CSGO esports. Team Liquid developed extreme dominance after bringing in Jacky “Stewie2k” Yip and coach Eric “adreN” Hoag to replace Epitácio “TACO” de Melo and former coach Wilton “zews” Prado. The attention was squarely on how Liquid had finally bested Astralis. It wasn’t focused on NRG Esports.
As TL crushed everyone in their way on the way to the Intel Grand Slam, NRG was quietly placing in the top five of every tournament they attended. In fact, out of the 14 tournaments NRG played before EG acquired the roster in August, NRG failed to make the top five only twice.
NRG did lose matches during that time, but they lost to the right teams. They fell to superior opponents like FaZe Clan at BLAST Pro Series: Los Angeles, or Team Liquid at cs_summit IV. Rarely did NRG fail to defeat a team they were meant to defeat. Beating teams that you’re supposed to but losing to teams that are better is a sign of a solid team. In early 2019, NRG just wasn’t a great team yet. Due to TL’s rapid rise, NRG’s potential was recognized by few analysts and fewer fans.
In the early summer the team was captained by Damian “daps” Steele, a long-time CSGO veteran who had in-game led for years. Despite what on paper looked like a great lineup, NRG still wasn’t bringing home trophies. Tarik “tarik” Celek’s addition to NRG after his MIBR experiment had failed to bring the change needed to take NRG to the next level. Even as the statistically better player with a Major title under his belt, tarik was playing second fiddle to a team captain and IGL with a resume much shorter than his.
While the team was still achieving decent results, they weren’t winning trophies. To the organization, the lack of hardware in NRG’s trophy case indicated the need for a change to the roster.
In late June, the organization announced that daps would be replaced by Peter “stanislaw” Jarguz as IGL. Some critics panned the move and dismissed stanislaw as a poor choice in light of his unsuccessful attempts at shotcalling for Team Liquid, OpTic Gaming, and Complexity in the past.
But the organization realized that reuniting former OpTic teammates tarik and stanislaw was a great move. NRG had a system that mirrored what OpTic Gaming’s stanislaw and tarik used to help the Green Wall take home an ELEAGUE trophy. They had two proven veterans, three breakout young talents, and a freeform system where the more experienced players co-led the team. The young players watched and learned. That’s how NRG would succeed.
The move was a stroke of genius, but that didn’t come to light until the Americas Minor Championship. This tournament served as the qualifier for Valve’s second CSGO Major of the year, and teams always bring their best form. NRG would get their chance in the spotlight.
Stanislaw’s first event with the team was the initial Americas Minor closed qualifier in early June. NRG breezed through their bracket while taking down Mythic and Team Singularity. They easily secured a berth at the Americas Minor Championship.
It became apparent that players inside NRG were buying into the idea that they could be better than middling.
“To be honest, for the next matchups, I don’t really care who we play because I know we are going to win the Major no matter what,” tarik told HLTV in an interview.
NRG still sometimes struggled. Despite finishing third at the ESL Pro League Season 9 Finals, they would lose several matches against established teams. The team lost four matches in a row over two events. The caveat is that two occured at ESL One Cologne against Team Liquid and a rolling Team Vitality roster.
NRG would then lose against FaZe Clan and TL at BLAST LA. Since BLAST’s format is exclusively best-of-ones, those losses can be somewhat excused.
NRG brutalized every team at the Americas Minor Championship after that BLAST LA. They didn’t drop a single map.
The August player break began almost immediately after NRG took the Minor Championship. Talk turned back to whether TL could bring home a Major trophy. People stopped paying attention to NRG.
There was little buzz about NRG when the New Challengers stage started. Talk centered around teams that hadn’t yet played. People wondered whether TL would keep their form or if Astralis would bounce back. And after NRG’s opening match of the New Challengers stage, absolutely no one was paying attention to them.
NRG took a horrific overtime loss in their opener against DreamEaters. People tuned the NA organization out even more. Losses like that can devastate a team. It served as a wakeup call for NRG. It wasn’t until they saw NRG play again that the conversation turned.
NRG beat Tyloo in their second Challenger stage match. Then won their second in a row against Syman Gaming. For the hat trick, NRG took out AVANGAR 2-0. NRG’s fourth win in a row was a tense affair against Renegades, but CerQ pulled them through.
With four dominant wins under their belt, people were now paying attention again.
Analysts began to whisper about NRG as a dark horse candidate. During halftime breaks, they seemed impressed by NRG’s apples and oranges combination of tactical approaches and aggressive pace changes.
Things changed for NRG when they faced Team Liquid in the New Legends stage. NRG dismantled the IEM Grand Slam Team Liquid to win their fifth match in a row. People were amazed. They debated whether NRG had shown up Liquid or whether Liquid had dropped the ball.
Stanislaw and Tarik’s veteran leadership allowed NRG’s young talent a measure of freedom to flourish on their own. Alongside this freedom, the vets provided just enough structure to allow these less experienced players enough routine to calm their nerves. Through this, Cerq, Vincent “Brehze” Cayonte and Ethan “Ethan” Arnold made good mental calls alongside their fantastic physical displays of talent.
Cerq, just like his teammates Brehze and Ethan, followed the leaders in front of them. There’s no doubt that the reverse happened as well. Both tarik and stanislaw likely learned some things from their young guns as well.
NRG would win two more in a row. They put down both Natus Vincere and the mighty Astralis 2-0. While Astralis would get their revenge against NRG in the semifinals, NRG had already shown the world what they were capable of.
Just days before ESL One New York, rumors surfaced that Evil Geniuses, one of the original organizations involved in Counter-Strike esports, was actively pursuing buying the NRG CSGO roster outright.
The deal was made official when tarik, stanislaw, Brehze, Ethan, and Cerq took the stage at ESL One New York in EG jerseys, marking the first return of the EG brand to CS since 2012.
The tournament fittingly turned out to be all about EG. Tarik and his teammtes. finished first in a group that also contained Astralis and FaZe Clan. They went on to defeat Astralis 3-1 in a best-of-five where EG looked clearly superior. EG took home the first-place trophy on home soil.
While EG stumbled at DreamHack Malmӧ, they followed it up with an easy group win at ESL Pro League Season 10. That win locked them into the ESL Pro League Finals in Odense. They next took the number one spot in their ECS series, which will ultimately lead them to Arlington, Texas for the ECS Finals.
Most recently, EG won StarSeries i-League Season 10 at the end of October, defeating Fnatic and providing their final push to HLTV’s number one ranking spot.
Evil Geniuses’ rise hasn’t been a fluke or a run of luck. It’s been a masterclass of psychology, team building, and attitude. It’s allowed them to overtake Team Liquid and Astralis, two of the more impressive teams CSGO has ever seen.
While no one knows how long EG’s reign at the top of the CS ladder will last, the signs were there from the beginning. It’s just that no one was paying much attention as the team grew in the shadows of CSGO’s previous giants.