Villains to champions: Evil Geniuses complete meteoric VALORANT rise with VCT Champions win

Today marked the end of the inaugural Riot Games-sponsored season of the VALORANT Champions Tour, with hometown favorites Evil Geniuses defeating a team of stubborn Paper Rex players to claim victory.

EG surprised everyone by skyrocketing through the VCT Americas standings and changing their team’s own destiny one game at a time, ultimately resulting in a historic victory for North American esports as a whole.

In a hotly contested rematch full of chaos, incredible mechanical skill, and decisive teamwork, EG ended up on top, winning the final 3-1 and snatching the 2023 VCT Champions title, as well as the $1,000,000 USD prize with it.

“We’ve had a lot of fun this year, poking the fire and being villians,” said EG coach Christine “potter” Chi in the post-match press conference, citing above all that if anyone remembers anything about this run, it’s the hard work and dedication she and the team have put in.

Across the VCT season as a whole, EG faced adversity at every turn in 2023, with a continuously shuffling roster and rumors of unsatisfied players circulating during the early parts of the season. The team is one of the only franchised teams with a significant number of bench players—enough, in fact, that they have an entire reserve five-man roster.

This unorthodox approach to the team caused not only bad public reception for EG, but also sent them on a hefty loss streak as they continued to tweak their roster and playstyle during the main VCT season. With the addition of Max “Demon1” Mazanov, a star Jett player, things suddenly seemed to click into place just in time for EG’s season to not be lost completely.

After their Cinderella run at Masters Tokyo, EG was the decisive number one seed in the Americas and came into Champions with renewed vigor. From brash interviews to excited outbursts on stage, EG quickly earned the title of this year’s villain and embraced it.

Nevertheless, EG was at a disadvantage going into the grand final. As the lower seed, the team had just played a best-of-five match against Brazil’s LOUD the day before, and they also were at the mercy of Paper Rex’s map picks. Kelden “Boostio” Pupello was unfazed, however.

“I would rather play that best-of-five yesterday,” Boostio said when asked about coming off of the five-map series.”More impressions, more followers on Twitter, more playing the game in front of fans. It was really sick playing the game yesterday and it’s just been really fun.”

The final VCT series of 2023 began on Split, a map that was clearly chosen by Paper Rex to set them up early for a series advantage. However, this strategy backfired.

PRX normally excels with their signature aggressive strategy that puts star duelists Ilya “something” Petrov and Wang “Jinggg” Jing Jie onto Jett and Raze respectively—their signature agents. But on the other side, EG had two formidable forces of their own.

Throughout Split, Max “Demon1” Mazanov and Alexander “jawgemo” Mor continuously crushed their opponents. Demon1 finished the map with a whopping 41-percent headshot hit rate, and jawgemo even outplayed Jinggg, who has been dubbed the best Raze player in the world.

More surprising than these individual performances was the team coordination that ended up flipping the classic narrative of Split, a map long known for being the hardest map to attack in the game. Yet with these two teams, their defensive sides actually were the problem, and EG prevailed on attack to win 13-10.

PRX is known as a team that starts their matches slow, often coming back to reverse sweep their opponents like they did in the VCT Pacific League grand final. The match was anything but over, and EG stayed focused.

On Ascent, PRX pushed back against one of the stars that EG has relied on during the entire tournament: Corbin “C0M” Lee. C0M’s Sova performances have been a standout part of all of EG’s matches over the last few weeks, with some teams even pivoting their compositions around utilizing the Russian initiator.

PRX’s success on Ascent can be attributed to their incredibly unorthodox composition that featured a Reyna, Harbor, and Viper. Unlike on Split, things turned out better this time around, and PRX won Ascent with a close 13-11 scoreline.

Moving on to Bind, EG displayed a masterful performance against another unusual PRX composition that shifted something onto Breach and Jason “f0rsakeN” Susanto onto Yoru. The composition was clearly targeted at shutting down Boostio’s Chamber, though it never came to fruition. PRX’s coach Alex “alecks” Salle was visibly frustrated by his team’s lack of production, falling to a 13-5 scoreline.

Lotus brought EG one step closer to completing their full redemption arc, and the team’s in-game leader led his team to perfection while also capitalizing on his individual success. His team was coordinated, reading PRX’s strategies like a book and fighting back with clever rotates of their own. To top it all off, Boostio secured the 20th ace of the 2023 Champions tournament, breaking the record for the most aces at an international VALORANT event.

Despite heroics from something, EG remained composed and dominant until the end, winning Lotus 13-10 and the series 3-1 overall. Many people have doubted EG this year, but clearly, the team had a vision that resulted in them taking home their golden trophy.

As VALORANT’s off-season arrives, we’re likely to see major teams begin to shuffle players ahead of the next VCT season in January 2024.

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