A bulletproof support–Who is pho?
While Evil Geniuses’ duelists garner most of the praise of their VALORANT roster, support players like Mike “pho” Panza cannot be overlooked. With an unexplored tenure across multiple different titles, VALORANT has become his brightest success yet and alongside EG there is no slowing down now. With 2021’s VALORANT Champions Tour nearing completion, pho and Evil Geniuses look to the horizon–but journey adds the context that shapes every story. And for pho, that fact is no different.
Starting in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) in 2015 and continuing through 2017 with sporadic attendance, pho played alongside teams like Astral Authority, WinOut.net, and Five Alive in North America’s tier two ecosystem. Pho also had a minor stint in Overwatch. Playing alongside No Fast Guns in 2016, pho attempted to make a name for himself in the budding North American Overwatch space but would ultimately exit the space after little success.
Riding the tidal wave of talent excited to try VALORANT in 2020, pho made his competitive debut alongside Code7. Notable showings throughout numerous North American qualifiers granted pho and Code7 an invite to Immortal First Light. There they performed admirably but ultimately fell to Immortals, 0-2. Perennial contenders throughout the North American ecosystem, Code7 and pho found it difficult to land past the qualifier stage.
While Evil Geniuses know pho as primarily a support element to their strategies, he was one of Code7’s most explosive duelists near the start of the competitive VALORANT cycle in 2020. Take for example his individual performance against T1 during the T1 x Nerd Street Gamers Showdown. Being able to drop 250 ACS, over 60 kills with 9 first kills is stellar. However, it’s the context that makes these stats shine. Not only did Code7 go on to lose this group stage game and ultimately fail to advance, but this individual showcase was across two different heroes–while also competing statistically with some of the best talents at the time! That kind of promise did not go without notice, and in July Code7 was signed by Built By Gamers.
There, pho and Built By Gamers continued to build their gatekeeper moniker; good enough to compete at a high level but had difficulties finding consistent success. During Nerd Street Gamers x Complexity Invitation, Built By Gamers would advance as the second seed in the group, only losing to XSET, and would eventually upset NRG and Equinox Esports to secure a strong second-place finish. It would be with Built By Gamers that pho would move to a more dedicated support position, primarily playing agents like Omen, Skye, and Sage.
However, pho would make his departure from that roster after minimal success during 2021’s inaugural VALORANT Champions Tour (VCT) and after minor stints with Foxy and eUnited, pho would bring his talents to one of North America’s most veteran esports franchises; Evil Geniuses.
Together with Evil Geniuses, pho has once again showcased his depth adding Sova to his agent ocean. As a team, EG has not only firmly planted their flags as North American contenders, but have notably wins over Andbox, Built By Gamers, and Immortals. And as Evil Geniuses continue to pen their story within VALORANT, pho will grow alongside them as a premier support player.
Across a myriad of esports, working alongside teams both big and small, pho has not only shown himself to be a consummate professional but someone who can both maintain the glare of the spotlight and work extremely well as a more supportive stagehand.
With 351 rounds to pull from within the last 60 days, vlr.gg shows us what kind of potency pho brings to the table. Averaging 196.2 ACS and 137.5 ADR on Sova with comparable statistics on Sage–220.3 ACS with 137.5 ADR for those who were wondering–pho is a consistent pillar that Evil Geniuses call upon time and time again is a large part in their success. So while EG’s duelists top the scoreboards, just keep in mind where those Recon Bolts and Healing Orbs are hailing from. Pho is a bulletproof support piece and Evil Geniuses are going to thrive with as they head into the 2022 season.
Images via Riot Games