Starting a franchise from scratch is never an easy task. Getting the right pieces in the right places can be a task that could take months upon end, and even then, when opening day arrives, the roster than an organization has built over the course of a given offseason could be in disarray and completely unprepared for the upcoming season.
And with two new franchises entering the fold of the LCS next year, those challenges of building a new team will be on full display this offseason. Luckily for Evil Geniuses, it’s already conquered those obstacles – and still has plenty of room to improve.
Over the course of free agency, EG has emerged as not only one of the most productive teams in North America, but as a serious on-paper contender. The moves that the team has been able to make over the past few days have put the roster in a position to not only succeed in the short-term, but lay a foundation that the organization can find success upon for years to come.
It all starts with Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen. The summer split MVP provides a stable center to EG’s roster, as the team already has an All-Pro talent that they can build around right off the bat. And when you factor in the fact that Svenskeren is the only All-Pro player who won’t have the letters “TL” in front of his name this year, it becomes clear that Evil Geniuses got their hands on a really hot commodity – one that can carry the franchise to a potential World Championship berth.
From there, EG was able to mix in a few pieces of young talent in Colin “Kumo” Zhao and Tristan “Zeyzal” Stidam, effectively creating the foundations of a roster that could really be called “Cloud9 Lite”. And while both of these players are incredibly young and don’t have that same veteran flair that someone like Svenskeren would bring to the table, they’re still naturally talented enough to serve as pillars of the franchise for the next few years. Kumo and Zeyzal might have gotten their starts of C9, where they’ve meshed together in the past, but on EG, they’re truly going to develop before the eyes of the league.
And while EG might have gotten the tools to field starters at top, jungle, and support in that massive trade with Cloud9, the mid lane and bot lane positions were left unfilled. Sure, Evil Geniuses acquired a bottom laner from C9 in Matthew “Deflty” Chen, but the organization had its sights set on a more prominent talent as another veteran presence was a priority. Those claims were confirmed when the team acquired Bae “Bang” Jun-sik from 100 Thieves in yet another blockbuster trade. And while the two entities have reportedly discussed sending Deftly over to 100T, he remains a member of the Evil Geniuses roster, for now, providing a potential safety blanket in case Bang falls short.
As for Bang, there’s no doubting that he underperformed last season, and going into 2020, there’s a whole lot of question marks surrounding his future. The longtime veteran will be entering his 8th full season in 2020, and if he falters for a second straight year, one definitely must question if he’s truly past his prime. Sure, the acquisition is a roll of the dice on EG’s part, but if the two-time World Champion is able to produce even a shred of his former production, the team can be satisfied.
And with top, jungle, and both bottom lane positions securely filled, the only question mark that remains now for Evil Geniuses is the mid lane. And while there’s a plethora of foreign mids on the board that the team could secure via trade or free agency, there’s two North American players who truly stand out and could both fit the already-established style of roster development that EG is bringing to the table.
The names that stand out most prominently are Eugene “Pobelter” Park and Tanner “Damonte” Damonte. If EG decides to go down the domestic route for its mid lane starter, either player will provide value to the organization in its first full year as an LCS franchise.
If Pobelter signs to EG, the themes of veteran influence and proven capability will be on full display. If the organization chooses to pick up Damonte, however, they’ll be investing into one of the youngest pieces of developmental talents on the free agent market. Regardless of which player the team chooses, EG will most definitely be capping off its roster with a formidable centerpiece in the mid lane.
At this moment, Evil Geniuses is in a prime position to emerge from the offseason as the “winners” of North American free agency. With a combination of seasoned veterans, blossoming young stars, and unrivaled flexibility, the organization is poised to enter 2020 as a genuine contender. Don’t be shocked if EG will be headed to China to represent North America at next year’s World Championship. Even on paper alone, this roster has the necessary pieces and depth to travel far into the postseason.
Photo Credit: Riot Games, Lolesports