All Hope Is Not Lost For Evil Geniuses At VCT: Stage 1 Challengers
With the VALORANT Champions Tour (VCT) Stage 1 groups wrapping up this week, Evil Geniuses have two towering opponents left to face. Both The Guard and 100 Thieves look like difficult opponents all things considered. Is Evil Geniuses’ fate already sealed or can they strike a blow to form confidence as they set their sights on the future?
First on the docket are The Guard, a team that has surged to the top of the North American ladder overnight. With victories over XSET, 100 Thieves, and Luminosity Gaming, The Guard seems to be on the shortlist for Masters consideration. The one shining light is a surprising loss to Knights during the Nerd Street Gamers Winter Championships. While this can be washed aside as a fluke or an uncharacteristic underperformance, the map statistics do point towards some interesting things that Evil Geniuses could possibly leverage.
Pulling statistics from this year alone per vlr.gg, a possible map veto could follow this kind of path. With a 12-0 record, The Guard is not to be taken lightly on Haven which likely will be banned away by Evil Geniuses. This causes The Guard to change direction from their usual perma-bans of Icebox and Breeze. Opposite to them, The Guard probably strike Split from the table seeing the differential in map win rate as of late.
Evil Geniuses towers over their rivals here with a staggering 80% win rate over ten games. Perhaps Evil Geniuses pick Breeze after their strong showcase during their recent match against Cloud9, whereas The Guard takes Icebox off the back of their 86% win rate. Evil Geniuses then might ban Fracture per their ban history where The Guard removes Bind as it seems like their weakest map, given how little frequency it comes up. This leaves Ascent as the game’s three decider map.
The name of the game for Evil Geniuses here is to draw away the natural game script for The Guard and force them to play on some uncomfortable maps. Even then it might still be difficult but this is their best shot at toppling an early favorite to win Stage 1 Challengers. However, that is not their only match they have left to play.
Second and last on the docket are 100 Thieves, a team that at the start of the event were nearly shoe-ins to advance, but after some mid-event roster turmoil, those expectations seem much lofty than we first thought. The arrival of Adam “ec1s” Eccles from Team Liquid and Hunter “BabyJ” Schline from FaZe Clan was supposed to furth push 100 Thieves into Champions territory.
However, after their swift departure, the new-look roster featuring Sean “bang” Bezerra of TSM fame and former Immortals star Noah “jcStani” Smith is having to build the plane as they fly it this time around. This fact alone bodes extremely well for Evil Geniuses, but once we look at both teams last five outings we can start to see where each team sits in terms of power at the moment.
While their most recent matches are coated in red, Evil Geniuses have a lot going for them. Repeat losses to XSET, while also still remaining competitive, and dealing a large blow to Cloud9 by beating them on their own map pick speaks to their potential as a team. On the other hand, not only are 100 Thieves dealing with internal problems, their most recent games don’t leap off the page. Losses to TSM and Luminosity Gaming don’t lend confidence, and victories over Andbox TSM Academy and ex-Limit not only should be attributed to their former roster but they are expected results.
Just by virtue of recent progression from each team, this seems far more doable for Evil Geniuses than we once expected at the start of the event. Name recognition alone would mark this as an upset as we just really haven’t seen what this new 100 Thieves are capable of just yet. They are a team that is going to need to find their footing and might need to take this event as a mulligan to know where they stand. Evil Geniuses can make a statement here against some serious talent and cement themselves as a franchise to warrant attention.
Images per Riot Games