The G2 Thunderdome has ended. The final gasps of the former G2 lineup consisting of: Alexandre “bodyy” Pianaro, Nathan “NBK-” Schmitt, Kenny “kennyS” Schrub, Dan “apEX” Madesclaire, and Oscar “mixwell” Canellas has met an abrupt end. They were unable to achieve the results that were needed and the G2 management has decided to go with Richard “shox” Papillon’s plan. The new lineup is: Shox, Edouard “SmithZz” Duboudeaux, Kevin “Ex6TenZ” Droolans, bodyy, and kennyS. This lineup is a blast from the past as it sees Ex6Tenz reunite with both Shox and kennyS. However the question remains, is this a rose-tinted dream or a French Resurrection?
The move in and of itself isn’t surprising and is often mirrored in real world. Whenever there is a moral crisis of identity, many of the great empires have gone to the past for inspiration. In the West we often see leaders, artists, and movements draw from the Roman Empire, the Greek Philosophers, or any myriad of ancient hallowed tradition. In the case of this roster move, it was a bit more literal as Ex6TenZ has been exiled from the top French CS teams for a long period of time and has finally found his way back.
The move was made by Shox. Consider for a moment Shox’s career since departing with Ex6TenZ in the last G2 lineup of 2016. At that time he was the in-game leader and through a loose style of calling was able to make G2 the best French team in the world and beat SK in that year. However it wasn’t enough to take the top spot so he and NBK formulated the French super team which consisted of him, kennyS, NBK-, apEX, and bodyy. On paper, the lineup looked to be pure perfection. A balance of roles and the best players from each of the roles. In reality they had an incredible ceiling, but rarely reached it.
The team eventually schismed as NBK- tried to take the reigns as in-game leader and Shox disagreed with the move. Soon after Shox started to pitch a new team to G2 management, the lineup of: Shox, kennyS, bodyy, Ex6TenZ, and SmithZz. This lineup had far less firepower than the previous, but it made up for it in two ways. In Ex6TenZ they had a dedicated in-game leader, one of the greatest in CS:GO history. In composition, they looked to have a more natural team play elements already coexisting in the lineup. Ex6TenZ, SmithZz, kennyS, and Shox have all worked well with each other, though no lineup before has had all four of them at once.
The idea at least was sound, but this isn’t a political or philosophical movement, this is a competition. The ideas of the past can give us inspiration and can be as relevant then as they are now, but in a competition you need to execute those ideas, to perform at a top level. Frankly speaking, the firepower of this team is still a bit lacking. Outside of Shox and kennyS, there is no third star they can go to. Ex6TenZ is the in-game leader, SmithZz is a pure support player who has just returned from being a coach to playing competitive CS, and bodyy wavers between good to average. There is no reliable third star and neither Shox nor kennyS are at superstar levels of performance right now. For this lineup to succeed both need to be on their game.
apEX was critical of the potential lineup as he says in an interview from flickshot,
“To be honest, I don’t want to live in the past and that’s what they do. It’s their choice. Shox and Ex6, it’s not their first time, maybe the fourth or fifth times…I like a lot Ex6 and SmithZz. I respect them and I would like them to perform but I’m not going to lie, I don’t think they will be that good. They won’t be bad but I don’t expect them to be in the top 5.”
From apEX’s point of view, he has seen this move too many times to count. Many of the players are years out of their primes. Ex6TenZ is no longer a star player. SmithZz was horrendous at the end of his career on G2 (though that was partially due to him having to be the main AWPer). Shox and kennyS are currently not superstar caliber players. From his perspective, it looks to be a rose-tinted dream. Another reunion to try to recreate past glories that can no longer be replicated.
There is another way to look at this however. When we consider competition, the best players are often the ones who learn and build from their mistakes. While it may seem like a nostalgic trip down memory lane, in reality all of the players within the line (outside of bodyy who is still relatively new to top French CS) have all changed. When Shox took up the in-game leadership role who gained a new found respect or admiration for what Ex6TenZ had done for years. He has come to realize that even though he may be the emotional leader or heart of the team, he cannot be the one that calls the shots. He must be the star player.
As for Ex6TenZ, he has not been twiddling his thumbs the entire time.When the French superstar team of 2017 assembled, Jaroslaw “pasha” Jarzabkowski tweeted this,
“No Ex6TenZ, no French superteam.”
Part of it could be out of respect for what he has done and the past accomplishments he made, but I can see the truth in it. Look at Ex6TenZ’s career after his tumultuous split from NBK. His first lineup was ruined because no one knew Hovik “KQLY” Tovmassian was a cheater. That lineup was instantly hobbled, but Ex6TenZ was still able to make it work and got that lineup far better results than it should have.
In the next French shuffle, he got Shox back from EnVyUs. The team was able to to be a consistent top 10 team that looked to be on the verge of breaking out. However he was soon kicked after a dismal showing at the MLG Columbus Major. In his most recent team, LDLC he was able to lead a team far surpassing expectations. He got the team into ESL Proleague. In Season 5 and Season 6 they were at the towards the bottom, but were still fairly competitive with a record of 11-15 both times. Each time they finished above three other teams. When he was removed for Season 7, the team bottomed out getting last place from ESL Proleague without him.
While leading that team didn’t give Ex6TenZ any great achievements, it was time he needed. In an interview, he said that he needed to be kicked from the previous G2 lineup to find his identity again as a leader and a player. In an interview with Duncan “Thorin” Shields, Mathieu “Maniac” Quiquerez mentions that he changed as a leader, that he came to understand that it could no longer be one man dictating all of the action, that he needed his players to think and make actions of their own accord.
When we look at Ex6TenZ’s career overall, he isn’t one of the best CS:GO players in the world, he never was. However as a leader he has consistently proven himself over and over again with different players, lineups, and talents. He only has two failings: The Majors and Adil “ScreaM” Benrlitom. Outside of the first Major, Ex6TenZ has never been able to perform well at the Majors and the pressure seems to get to him. In 2016, he was unable to unleash the potential firepower in ScreaM and ScreaM only ascended when Shox took over as in-game leader. However both points are now moot. No French team after Vincent “Happy” Cervoni’s Major victories have done well at the Majors. All of them have underwhelmed or underperformed in their respective runs. Secondly, ScreaM isn’t in this lineup so it hardly matters that Ex6TenZ couldn’t get the most out of him.
Finally, kennyS has also changed. He has played under Ex6TenZ, Happy, Shox, and NBK-. He has traveled through multiple lineups in different eras. Through all of that time, kennyS was never better than when he played with Ex6TenZ. In his reflections with Thorin he says that the happiest and best he ever played was when he was under Ex6TenZ.
“He basically taught me everything I know about the game. Every principle… everything I know about the game, it has been learned from Ex6TenZ.”
When you see a statement like that, when you consider kennyS’ history, you can see why he’d want to return playing under Ex6TenZ. His best times as an AWPer was when Ex6TenZ was leading the ship. However can anything remain the same as it once was? The Fnatic lineup from the end of 2015-2016 won six tournaments in a row. When they reunited again however, they never reached the same peak or consistency. Perhaps apEX is right, the rules of time state that you can only go forward and not back.
However when have rules ever applied to someone like Shox? This is a player who has consistently been able to get himself back to the top as one of the best players year after year after year. Regardless of what team he was in, what competition he was facing, or what role he played, Shox found himself as one of the best players in each year. Each time it was correlated to a great motivation, when he became the leader, when he wanted to win. When I watched his interview with Carlos “ocelote” Rodriguez Santiago, I saw him pull out two roses. One for his two loves, Ex6TenZ and SmithZz.
It was a funny moment, but it perfectly exemplifies his flamboyant nature as a player and a person. The rules don’t apply to him as they do to other CS:GO players. He has the talent to come back and rule the world at will so long as his heart is in it. When he pulled out the roses, that wasn’t just a declaration of love, it was a declaration of war.
And so now we watch to see how it all unfolds. The die have been cast and we will see if this was just a rose tinted dream. A callback to better times for the French, a whisper on the wind to when they once ruled the world. Or will this be the resurrection and rise of something greater. After all, no great team ever rose without pain, without grief, without loss. Each of these players has grown in the last few years, each has accumulated experience that has made them who they are. And perhaps that whisper on the wind becomes a hurricane. Perhaps those rose-tinted dreams clear, focus and become our reality. Perhaps the dream of a French CS team ruling the present will rise from the past.