After watching two of their elite players leave for Team Secret, Evil Geniuses have concluded their DOTA 2 roster reshuffle with something as ironic as it is inevitable: eight months after they fired him, they're bringing back Kurtis "Aui" Ling.
According to Evil Geniuses' DOTA 2 manager Phil Aram, the new lineup for Evil Geniuses is as follows (and remember that positions are somewhat fluid in DOTA 2 but roughly start from the "carry" positions and work down through supporting roles):
- Kurtis "Aui" Ling - Position 1
- Syed Sumail "Suma1L" Hassan - Position 2
- Kanishka "BuLba" Sosale - Position 3
- Clinton "Fear" Loomis - Position 4
- Peter "ppd" Dager - Position 5
Aui and BuLba are both being brought over from their team Digital Chaos to replace the departing Artour "Arteezy" Babaev and Saahil "UNiVeRsE" Arora. Aui was part of the International-winning lineup of 2015 (a team that BuLba also coached) but was replaced by Arteezy shortly after winning the tournament. In the wake of that move, Evil Geniuses captain Peter Dager also posted a fairly lengthy blog explaining his reasoning behind the switch. Shortly before calling Aui one of the "the most cancerous players" he'd ever seen, Dager wrote:
"The way Aui handles his communication and his play made every game feel like the hardest game we had ever played. That could be on the rest of us but I have a feeling it isn't. Either way something had to change because no amount of winning was worth the stress I was going through. I would spend hours in my head preparing strategy and going through drafts with Sam only to have Aui question our strategy as we sat down at the goddamn stage."
As brutal as this sounds, this is also just Dager's style. In the same post he called Arteezy "a clown" and admitted he was "an arrogant prick."
Regarding possible tension between Ling and Dager, manager Aram said, "I think it would be a lie to say that you don't have to have some conversation there. But they're both professionals, and one of the great talents they both have is that they are able to listen and improve when they take criticism. It was probably the easiest thing that happened on 'moving day' of the reshuffle."
"Any specific feelings they have, they can speak to. I'm not in their heads," he added.
The fashion in which this trade happened (and the players it involved) made it one of the most dramatic moves in DOTA 2 ever since EG originally kicked Aui. But Aram also stressed that the change wasn't as shocking as it appeared from the outside, based on the way players and teams engage with each other during events, when there's lots of informal conversation between colleagues.
"The ecosystem in Dota is one where these players are communicating all the time. And we're communicating with our own players, and with players on other teams often," he said. "We were well aware of efforts to recruit those players for quite a while. You know? They just decided… this was the time they decided that they felt like they needed to make that move."
This is a key difference between the competitive environment in DOTA 2 versus, say, League of Legends. While League has strict rules about who can approach esports talent and when they can do so, DOTA 2 is much less formal.
"In DOTA 2," Aram said, "the players pretty much act as the pseudo-managers to a team [when it comes to] roster changes; they handle more or less all of those things. And it's [via] their player-to-player communication, which I don't think is easily regulated in the first place. My job as manager is primarily to take the decisions of my players when it comes to roster shifts and do my best to make sure that the outcomes are fair and equitable and everyone can be successful."
It's remarkable that at the end of all these roster changes Evil Geniuses will still have their International-winning lineup mostly intact. Today's announcement from EG also hits "reset" on the squad's controversial decision to replace Aui with Arteezy in the first place. The last time Aui joined EG following Arteezy's departure, Evil Geniuses went on to win two of the biggest tournaments in DOTA 2. It remains to be seen whether they can repeat those achievements, after so many new twists in the love-triangle between EG, Arteezy, and Team Secret.
Top photo: From left, Suma1L, ppd, Aui, Fear, and UNiVeRsE at TI5 last year, by Valve Software. Source