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Are Hopes High After EG’s Performance Against XSET?

We’ve sung their praises, we’ve hailed them as a team to watch, and Evil Geniuses have delivered during Nerd Street Gamers Winter Championship Open 5. Their performance against XSET should inspire a lot of faith for fans of the tenured North American franchise, but what exactly about it leaps off the page? First things first, we have to look at their weapons and how they’ve developed over the course of these last few weeks. 

Brandon “BRANTED” Ballard really stepping into the role of Evil Geniuses secondary weapon. While the performance was slightly inconsistent, his showcase on Split has us raising our eyebrows. Dropping 270 average combat score (ACS), a respectable 22 kills which situated him in the top 3 for this map, 185.2 average damage done per round (ADR), and 32% headshot rating. Again, these performances are sporadic–normally BRANTED is more supportive–but if he can continue to find this kind of success then EG should be toppling these gatekeeper teams in North America. If this kind of explosiveness continues, then Evil Geniuses won’t need to rely on their star duelists. Speaking of, one of them is going through quite a bit of a role shift. 

We’ve highlighted EG’s macro adaptations and they have not stopped as more experimentation are currently happening with Evil Geniuses entry fragger, Daniel “roca” Gustaferri. After Rival 1, we were not sure where exactly EG felt about roca’s position specifically on Haven. Just a tournament prior, so roughly a few weeks from that point, roca was still streaming the Skye on Haven with mixed success. We now have two events to view how this team plays with Evil Geniuses rolling back some of their evolution. Evil Geniuses refining their entry flexibility on more maps, allowing Kelden “Boostio” Pupello more adaptability mid-map. 

While the more supportive elements for Evil Geniuses are strong, let’s not mince words; these two duelists are the focal point on the roster. If EG are going to continue to push forward in North America, roca is going to need more time on Skye but also the team as a whole needs his firepower to push deep into tournaments. Boostio dropping 312 ACS, 212.7 ADR, and 37% headshot rating is something Evil Geniuses can count on but he cannot be the only threat this team can rely on. That’s why it’s so interesting to see the dichotomy between his agent pool and these supporting actors stepping up in a big way.

We want to see roca widen out that pool, but at what cost? 

As Evil Geniuses continue to search for the answer to the question, they continue to play up to their opponents. Taking a map against XSET doesn’t scream assurance, but trading round-for-round on Split, being able to string together consecutive rounds together on Haven and nearly best them in overtime–it’s the context that should have you bullish on this team. Are they ready to shatter the paradigm just yet? Not at all, but again; the potential is there and it continues to consistently reveal itself as time goes on.

Now, consider the other quarter final opponents. Teams like Complexity, The Mafia–a team they played within the group stage and nearly beat–ex-Flickbaiters, and Project A all feel like great matchups for a young team that had an impressive showing against a contender in North America. If Evil Geniuses was situated lower in the way the bracket was formatted there is a good chance we’re talking about 3rd-4th place finish. In a sense, this tournament’s strength of schedule could have certainly played a role in Evil Geniuses’ placement here. 

These attributes should be signs that Evil Geniuses are not only growing into their own but they are inching ever closer to beating the teams just outside their domestic pantheon. While the end of the year crawls ever closer, if EG is able to consistently challenge and even beat some of these teams that sit on the cusp of VALORANT Champions, then North America is in for an upheaval. 

Images via Riot Games

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