Potter will try to overcome the odds with Evil Geniuses, again

by Brian Bencomo

It’s been a trying offseason for Evil Geniuses head coach Christine “potter” Chi. She has had to pick up the pieces in the wake of her championship roster dissolving due to Evil Geniuses’ financial issues. Speaking to her in a media day interview ahead of the start of the VCT Americas 2024 season, potter admitted she only had about two weeks to bask in the glory of winning VALORANT Champions before things fell apart.

Picking up the pieces

“I couldn't actually start looking for replacements or doing the trial process until really late because EG needed to figure out their whole contract situation,” she said. “But yeah, it was shambles to be honest with you.”

Ultimately, four players managed to free themselves from EG’s “contract jail.” In-game leader Kelden "Boostio" Pupello left for 100 Thieves, veteran Ethan "Ethan" Arnold and young star Max "Demon1" Mazanov went to NRG, and the clutch master Corbin "C0M" Lee ended up with Leviatán.

The exits didn’t happen all at once though, leaving potter feeling “hopeless” at times throughout the offseason about what she had and what she needed.

“There was even moments where I wanted to pivot completely and try something completely different. But after trials and after taking a look at all these overlooked players, it was clear that we could build something really special again,” she said.

Photo credit: Colin Young-Wolff / Riot Games

In fact, she feels very confident about what she has built. The roster includes returning world champion Alexander "jawgemo" Mor and four new additions in Vincent "Apotheon" Le (who was on EG’s practice roster last year), Derrek "Derrek" Ha, Nicholas "NaturE" Garrison and Phat "supamen" Le.

“The start of this year with the roster that we have, we're far ahead, way better than the start of where we were at the start of last year,” she said. “And we ended up winning Champs last year. So I will say that if we don't win Champs, or if we don't make it this year, it will not be because of lack of talent, lack of firepower or because of the players that we picked up.”

Read more: VCT Americas debut finally near for G2, former Guard players

Potter is particularly excited about Derrek "Derrek" Ha. His addition to the team was one of those very late offseason pivots she had to make when C0M went to Leviatan.

“Having Derrek be so readily available -- which I didn't even consider Derrek hard prior to because of having C0M still -- But having Derrek readily available and having the personalities be so easily meshed with my existing core, it worked out again almost perfectly,” potter said. “Derrek is very similar playstyle-wise to Corbin, and Derrek also has some -- a lot to prove for himself, you know. He didn't have a successful year last year, he struggled individually, and he struggled with his team. So I think that's something that we can use again -- that's familiar territory for me and for my squad.”

The underdog mentality is something potter is hoping to tap into again this year. Last year, EG weren’t considered one of the top teams in VCT Americas. They didn’t appear to have any “star” players, and a slow start had most people doubting them even when they started to get hot and qualified for Masters and Champions.

Photo credit: Colin Young-Wolff / Riot Games

“We've been the team that has had the rejects or the players that have had something to prove and that everyone overlooks and things like that, so it just again works out perfectly for Derrek -- and he's damn good,” she said.

Potter is eager to showcase her new roster, and is particularly excited to face 100 Thieves. With Derrek facing his former team 100 Thieves, and Boostio and head coach Tony “Zikz” Gray facing their former team Evil Geniuses, this will be a must-see matchup.

“We gotta destroy Boostio. He's been talking s--- on stream,” potter said with a smile. “It's gonna be a lot of fun.”

But that matchup might not happen until much later this season. For now, EG will kick off their season by facing the winner of KRÜ vs. G2 Esports on Feb. 24.

Read more: VCT Americas Kickoff 2024: Schedule, format, teams and storylines

Offseason highlights

The offseason wasn’t all shambles for potter though. Leading Evil Geniuses to win Champions gave her some well-deserved recognition beyond the VALORANT community. She won the Coach of the Year awards at both the Game Awards and Esports Awards.

“I'm very thankful,” she said. “You know, that's not something that was ever a goal. … It is cool to see now that I'm getting older. It is nice to have those accolades for history for 20 years from now or for 10 years from now. … So for me to be able to be a part of that and have won it, it is really an honor.

Read more: Christine “Potter” Chi is blazing a trail for women in the VALORANT Champions Tour

At 37 years old, potter is undoubtedly a legend in esports. She was one of the best women to compete in Counter-Strike, and she was a pioneer in switching to VALORANT and initially being part of a mixed-gender roster with Evil Geniuses. And now she’s a world championship coach and the only woman coaching one of the VALORANT teams playing in the VCT, the top tier of VALORANT esports.

Photo credit: Bruno Alvarez / Riot Games

This offseason she also got to cast the final of the VCT Game Changers World Championship featuring some of the best women and marginalized gender teams in the world. She was quick to give a shoutout to her casting partner Alex "Vansili" Nguyen, a veteran caster whom she claimed "carried" her.

Potter casted the Game Changers championship in 2022 too, but this was her first time casting the grand final, or any grand final for that matter. She was honored to have that opportunity and also humbled by the amount of love she received from the Brazilian fans who have taken to calling her “mãe,” which translates to “mother” in English.

“Every time I walked down the hallway to get from the green room to the stage to cast there was just so many fans just so passionate about just VALORANT and just being there and just cheering for everyone, cheering for me, and it was insane. It was insane,” she said.

Moving forward with pride

Potter’s stock has never been higher, and she revealed that she did receive opportunities in the offseason. However, the EG head coach said she never seriously entertained any of them.

“I still have a full year left on my contract, and I also am very proud of what we built at EG,” she said.

Photo credit: Colin Young-Wolff / Riot Games

She carries that pride despite the criticism that EG has garnered across social media for their treatment of the championship roster among other organizational faults in recent years. You would think the negativity toward EG might affect potter and her players, but she admitted she doesn’t pay much attention to what’s being said online and conveys that same message to her players.

“We're so busy already as it is that I guess for me, my mentality is that if it's affecting us that much that we're not busy enough -- we're focusing on the wrong things,” she said. “So for me, it doesn't bother me that much. And that's kind of how I want the culture to be at EG.”

She knows the team won’t receive much love from the fans because of what the organization has done. But she still thinks there are good reasons for fans to root for EG this year, and of course, it’s because of the players.

“To me, when I look at EG VALORANT, that is our story -- there is no buying our way to the top. This is purely hard work paid off. I think, yeah, I think that's what you can get behind, is that, you know, at least for us, that's been our brand. We've had to work hard to get what we need, what we wanted,” she said. “So hopefully that's something that people can resonate with. And yeah, I think all of us realize that EG is not going to get us the stardom. We will have to get it ourselves.”

Lead photo credit: Colin Young-Wolff / Riot Games

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