Roughly an hour had passed since Evil Geniuses lost their lower bracket second-round series to Cloud9 in the LCS Championship and not a single word arrived from them accepting requests to conduct post-game interviews
Under the usual protocol, members of the losing team would speak to the media before the winning team did. After an hour, both teams would have already been done with their requirements. With COVID-19 preventive measures in place, both teams would have to finish their obligations quickly and leave the studio once they did. Curious if Evil Geniuses responded to the press’ inquiries without my knowledge, I asked a PR representative if C9 started doing interviews. They told me no, that C9 hasn’t started and is only waiting for EG, so I continued waiting.
Truth be told, I didn’t expect much of it. Losing teams during playoffs generally declined to speak with the media. I encountered similar instances in past international tournaments so I half-expected to meet the same fate this time around.
Considering EG’s disappointing showing against C9, in which they were swept in three games, it would have been difficult for its players to relive what led to their downfall. No to mention its subsequent outright elimination from appearing in the World Championship. To go from being regarded as an LCS contender to losing in an undignified manner, perhaps it was better for EG’s players to cope with the loss privately.
But then, I was informed that someone accepted my request. It was a person who worked as the chief architect for EG’s breakout split, one who orchestrated their rise seemingly overnight: head coach Peter Dun.
About C9 Series
His overall profile, though quiet, was composed and alert. As he waited for me to start the interview, I noticed his eyes were focused squarely on his computer screen. It was as if his consciousness erased my presence and gravitated back to the coach’s room during the heat of the series. Wanting to dive into that subject, I asked him what went wrong against C9. Without hesitation, he did just that by first highlighting the team’s frigid mentality as a key contributor.
“Obviously, it’s a very disappointing loss,” said Dun. “I’m not disappointed that we lost the series. I’m disappointed that we didn’t come out to play today. It felt like we didn’t really play our style.”
As Dun explained, the team’s regular strategy of split pushing and brisk tempo macro play was thoroughly thwarted. Although his team held some bright moments during the series such as their early gold advantage in each game, they ultimately conceded it due to their self-inflicted mistakes. When EG tried to change the series’ momentum in Game 2 by selecting a peculiar composition headed by Morgana holding the mid-lane, they couldn’t steer their initial lead to a win through an unfortunate team fight.
“It worked for a lot of the game until that fight just before Baron where, I think, Lee Sin survived on 100 HP and he died, Viego full resets through their entire team, but he managed to survive and C9 then ace’d us, took Baron and the game was over,” said Dun of Game 2.
The team’s trademark aggressiveness which blazed through various teams during the regular season paled in comparison to what they showed against C9. Nay, it was practically nonexistent. Thus, after approximately 108 minutes of total game time, Evil Geniuses was unceremoniously swept, a deflating ending to an otherwise mold-breaking year. To that end, Dun lamented his team’s defeat and wondered how that came to be.
“If we’re an organization that was supposed to have the Coaching Staff of the Split,” said Dun, “how can our team come out and play like this on stage in the final game of the season? We must’ve done something wrong over the past week, right?
“I don’t think it was C9 being too good for us. I don’t think C9 did anything special. We kind of just beat ourselves and the only thing I can do is go back into the offseason and see what we did wrong and what we need to fix for next year.”
Although the team received praise for their performance in the regular season, their elimination at the hands of C9 left a sour taste to savor since it signaled their elimination from Worlds. Dun prepared the team all year to snatch one of the three North American slots for the tournament but they couldn’t crack the Top 4 yet again. Nevertheless, despite the series loss, it would be remiss if he didn’t acknowledge the work made to reach the same point as last year but under different circumstances.
Rewinding Evil Geniuses’ 2021 Season
Dun signed with Evil Geniuses as its newest head coach in November 2020 after spending three years with Splyce and MAD Lions under the same position, leading the two organizations to as many Worlds appearances. Known for his exemplary coaching record and ingenuity of refining young talent, Dun took charge of a strained team that controversially subbed their starting top and mid-laners halfway through the 2020 summer split to rejuvenate their run for playoffs. Lest there be said, EG failed, losing to C9 by a clean sweep.
Wanting to avoid a similar occurrence for 2021, EG entrusted the League roster to Dun, giving him free rein in managing the team however he saw fit. In time, he did exactly that, revamping the academy team, forming an amateur team (EG Prodigies), and hiring a deep support staff tasked with constructing a fluid pipeline for developing future prospects.
Starting with an impressive semi-final finish in the Lock-In tournament, EG placed fifth-sixth in the Mid-Season Showdown after going 10-8 in the spring split. The team orchestrated some upsets in the regular season which fostered some hope for fans, but that didn’t convince Dun to stick with the same roster for summer. Changes were needed to bolster their performance.
A month before the start of the summer split, EG promoted 17-year-old Kyle “Danny” Sakamaki, to the LCS lineup as the newest starting ADC, replacing Deftly. Before joining EG, he played for EG Prodigies and Zenith Esports and compiled little experience under his belt, causing skepticism as to why EG opted for an unproven rookie in the LCS. But for the man who helped debut players like Nisqy, Humanoid, Crazy, and Kaiser, he assured there was no need to worry.
“We’ve been very impressed with Danny’s performances both internally and on stage (playing proving grounds on 70+ ping and low FPS). As well as his fast improvements and progress in scrims last split and this off-season,” said Peter Dun when the announcement revolving around his newest ADC was made.
“Bringing in any 17-year-old to LCS is always going to have some risk, but here at EG we believe strongly in his potential and ability to be a strong force for EG in Summer 2021 and into the future.”
Sure enough, Danny shone as one of the cornerstone pieces to Evil Geniuses’ ascension to the top of the LCS. Through his league-leading 111 kills and individual flashes of brilliance, Danny finished his debut split with extraordinary recognition, garnering an LCS All-Pro 2nd Team selection and the Rookie of the Year award, beating other viable players for both honors.
Of course, Danny wasn’t the only EG member to play exceptionally well. Following his departure from Team Liquid, top laner Impact was believed to be on his last legs entering the 2021 season, but he instead received an All-Pro 2nd Team selection with his skills intact. Contractz and Svenskeren managed the jungle on an interchangeable basis, but both dazzled in given moments to prove they still belonged in the LCS.
“From being somebody who people kind of put as a player on his final chance and should be retiring, I think he has turned into one of the top junglers in the league and a jungler that teams have to respect and which is something our academy team did as a result of the coaches and support staff,” said Dun.
Jiizuke, in light of his inharmonious relationship with the NA community regarding his playstyle, performed at such a high level that he received an All-Pro 1st Team selection. While IgNar didn’t receive as much recognition as his teammates, his guidance on Danny led many to attribute him as one of the LCS’ best support players.
With Dun’s renovated roster, EG sent shockwaves to the league by completing the summer split with an 18-9 record, nearly doubling their wins total from spring to seal a spot in the upper bracket of playoffs.
The team started on the right foot with a 3-1 victory over Dignitas, but due to a five-game loss to 100 Thieves, they dropped to the lower bracket for a date with C9. The task of unseating the defending league champions was intimidating, but Dun felt confident his team could unseat them. Unfortunately, EG’s worst showing of the split transpired in that series, the worst timing imaginable for a team of its stature.
“I couldn’t in my worst nightmares imagine that we would play to this level today,” said Dun. “I don’t think we, as an organization with the players and coaching staff involved, did ourselves justice. As head coach, I take full responsibility for that and we’ll go back and see what we could’ve done better.”
Subverting expectations in the regular season only to revert back to them in playoffs. Such is the story of Evil Geniuses for 2021. Even at their best, they just weren’t good enough.
Onto 2022 and Beyond
Rather than cower in disappointment, Dun is wasting little time to look ahead for next year. In fact, near the ending of the interview, he told me he was scheduled to attend a camp the very next day. where he teaches prospects how to properly play the game. Ever the professional, of which he was regaled with praise in a foreign land, he continues working to fulfill the same achievements he earned from his time back home.
“There’s no rest for the wicked in the offseason. Obviously, I’m extremely disappointed with how things went today, but my responsibility to EG isn’t just focusing on the LCS team,” said Dun. “I’ve been fully glad about the support I received from the org and the trust that they’ve had in developing through amateur and academy.”
Not to mention his crusade to reform NA’s infrastructure. Dun has been one of the biggest advocates in improving the NA amateur scene and his management of EG’s three squads (LCS, academy, and amateur) propels him as the gold standard. The man has a busy schedule ahead of him in the offseason, but he’s unfazed at the daunting task.
With a diligent head coach like Peter Dun at the helm for a promising team, Evil Geniuses certainly has a bright future ahead.