The French Counter-Strike shuffle is a long holy tradition wherein two French teams rise, have internal strife, crumble and swap players. During the most recent offseason, it wasn’t the French who had the dramatic shuffle, but the Swedish.
There was a clear reason for that. Contract buyouts are a ridiculous amount, so teams could be merely waiting for players’ contracts to end before the grand shuffle begins. There are specifically two rosters to look out when looking at the French scene: EnVyUs and G2.
Vincent “Happy” Cervoni
Nathan “NBK” Schmitt
Kenny “KennyS” Schrub
Dan “apEX” Madesclaire
Christophe “sixeR” Xia
Cédric “RpK” Guipouy
Richard “shox” Papillion
Edouard “SmithZz” Dubourdeaux
Adil “Scream” Benrlitom
Alexandre “boddy” Pianaro
Nearly every player on each team joined their organizations around the month of February. Based on those join dates and the fact that a majority of team contracts are around six months to a year, it seems players on both teams could have their contracts end soon, which would allow either team to do a roster shuffle without going through dreaded buyout negotiations.
The first question to ask is what the goals of the two teams are. EnVyUs was formed to be the best team in the world. Besides briefly reaching that peak early after being assembled, this team has never reached those fabled heights again and has only two victories this year (Gfinity and Global Esports Cup), both of which were less competitive LANs without top teams in attendance.
G2 is harder to say. They want to win, they like to win, they’d like to be the best team in the world, but at all costs? I’d argue there isn’t a reason to. They are a top four team and should play out this roster until the end. But they may not be satisfied with being a top four team, a feeling that could be exacerbated by this weekend’s struggles at ESL One New York.
So now that we’ve established they have the desire to want more, what can they do to be more? EnVyUs tried to rotate Timothée ‘DEVIL’ Démolon to every position before realizing he wasn’t ready for this level of competition and replaced him with sixeR. But is he the answer to their woes?
Likely not. The EnVyUs lineup is a puzzle. They have the personnel to be a great team. KennyS was one of all time great AWPers and can still reach that level sometimes. Happy was one of the great French players and a great lurker when his style works. NBK is the best all-around role player in the French scene who can enable his teammates or carry when he is in form. apEX is a great entry fragger that can sometimes take over an entire game by himself. The previous iteration before DEVIL had Fabien “kioShiMa” Fiey, who was the best player on the team prior to the shox/SmithZz and KennyS/apEX trade.
The problem was they could never get all five pieces to work. kioShiMa suffered and then was removed. Happy did change the meta, and then the meta changed again and the team never adapted. Happy’s style of lurking has become predictable and countered by a majority of the top teams. KennyS wasn’t the same beast as he was in the old Titan lineup. NBK is a good player, but not one of the main stars who is supposed to drive the team to victory. There are no easy answers for this team and they haven’t found the tough ones.
G2 is much easier to answer. After bombing out at DreamHack Malmo, it took second at ESL Pro League Season 3, won Esports Championship Series, bombed out of the Cologne Major, got eliminated from ELEAGUE in the wildcard playoffs, took second at Starladder and then finished last at ESL One New York.
It seems inconsistent as a whole, but the losses — barring New York — are all understandable. Malmo was their first event and they weren’t ready. They got stuck in the hardest group of death ever made at Cologne. They had a stand-in at ELEAGUE. The problem with G2 is they don’t have a system, and their primary conditions for victory is to have their players put in individual performances.
To an extent, that is what all teams do, but the difference is that other top teams have a system in place they can use when any one player isn’t doing well, or a way to grind out a few rounds when that’s all the difference between winning and losing. G2 doesn’t have that. Or rather it doesn’t have a traditional model, as shox is the caller, but everyone pitches in to create the answers. In an interview with HLTV, shox revealed G2 had a bunch of new tactics with answers, but couldn’t execute them as they didn’t have enough practice in a real time environment yet.
From what we’ve seen so far from G2’s games, I’d argue it’s more of they either blast a team across the map with firepower, calls and teamwork, but if not enough players are in shape, they lose. It’s a remarkably exciting style of CS:GO, but it doesn’t seem sustainable in the long run and not something you can consistently count on if you’re trying to become the best in the world.
If a roster swap was to happen, G2 would have all the power to instigate it. The obvious choice is to swap out SmithZz for KennyS. SmithZz’s AWP has only been good on certain sides and certain maps like Dust2 and Cobble. He also adds value to the team with his knowledge, nades and so on. The problem is he can’t be compared to KennyS.
Another thing to consider is that the French shuffle logic isn’t always based around logic. Other scenes try to make one ultimate team, but the French rather play around two alliances of players. There is Happy and NBK as one block and the other is shox and SmithZz. Both pairs don’t want to play without the other, as they see too much value as a unit, which complicates the entire thing. At the same time, this creates a situation where there is a possible wild card choice in the French shuffle either team could use.
Both teams have a weakness in their overall system and tactics. There is one famed tactician in the French scene. That is Kevin ‘Ex6TenZ’ Droolans. Prior to G2 hitting form with the trade for boddy, the team was a consistent team that had a fairly good system. Ex6Tenz has since recreated a new system with LDLC and has slowly been building success with them as well. There are two problems. Ex6TenZ may have the tactics and system both teams need, but both teams have already passed him by. Secondly, even if they changed their minds, Ex6Tenz himself must be wary by now of joining either team given the volatility of the relationships he’s had and he could find himself out again in any time and have to rebuild a new team again.
In the end, it will come down to the results from now until the end of the next major in 2017. This will be the trial where we see how far either of these French rosters goes.
Photos courtesy of HLTV.org