When the French superteam was revealed in 2017 the first thought in my head was Richard ‘shox’ Papillon and Kenny ‘kennyS’ Schrub were finally going to team up. The second was how will this team measure up against the shox version of the LDLC/EnVyUs lineup? It is a fitting comparison as that French lineup is the most successful we’ve seen in CS:GO history. That lineup was in one of the most competitive eras of CS:GO and during that time they accrued 6 tournament victories including the DreamHack Winter Major and numerous other top finishes. And in many ways the history of that lineup, it’s rise and eventual fall is what caused the painful 2016 for the French which in turn created the French superteam we know now.
That LDLC/EnVyUs lineup had: shox, Edouard ‘SmithZz’ Dubourdeaux, Nathan ‘NBK’ Schmitt, Vincent ‘Happy’ Cervoni and Fabien ‘kioShiMa’ Fiey. It was an incredibly strong lineup on paper. Shox was an all time great player that could do anything and was the key to the French finally beating NiP. SmithZz was a strong supportive team player and could bring some impact to the team. NBK was the most skilled support player in France and the most dedicated when it came to practice and to winning. Happy was the abandoned leader of the former LDLC lineup that found his way back onto the squad because the team wanted an AWPer. kioShiMa was a rising star player in the French scene that had shown a great amount of skill. After a trial period, Happy eventually took over the reigns as the in-game leader of the squad and that was when the team took off.
Happy broke the meta. He introduced the force buy meta which is still prevalent today. At the same time he changed up the roles of the team and forced all of the players to play to his concept of the game. He played the heavy lurk while he had shox entry frag and kioShiMa be the second man in. It was an incredibly effective strategy and it made them the second best team of the era.
The problem was the best team of the era was Fnatic and Fnatic ruined them. EnVyUs could beat anyone else in the world except Fnatic. This along with internal issues and frustrations with the roles eventually hit a boiling point and the EnVyUs lineup was once again met with a French civil war. Shox and SmithZz on one side and Happy and kioShiMa on the other. The swing vote in the situation was NBK and NBK played kingmaker as he decided to go with Happy and kioShiMa. They then recruited Dan ‘apEX’ Madesclaire and kennyS. Shox and SmithZz rejoined Kevin ‘Ex6TenZ’ Droolans’ Titan team.
The French Shuffle which is more well known in other parts of the world as musical chairs had played out once again. And once again shox and kennyS would not be part of the same team. When KennyS was part of the Very Games/Titan line-up with Ex6TenZ, shox was playing in the smaller mix teams. When shox eventually joined that line-up, KennyS exited it as he couldn’t fully exhibit his potential yet so he went on to play in smaller mixed teams. In that time, KennyS grew as a player and eventually became a player ready for that level, but by then the team had broken up through the strain of the team house. In the ensuing roster shuffle, both KennyS and shox ended up on different lineups, KennyS with Ex6TenZ and shox with Happy. And when another shuffle happened, we once again saw KennyS and shox miss playing each other again.
Soon after KennyS joined EnVyUs, the team spiked as they won multiple tournaments. While they were stopped at their first initial attempt at a Major victory at Cologne by Fnatic, they won the next one at Cluj-Napoca. On top of that they had won multiple tournaments including: IEM Gamescom, DreamHack London, Gfinity Champion of Champions. For one brief moment it looked like the French were finally going to get their chance to create an era.
It never happened. Happy’s approach as an in-game leader was too stale and the meta that he had pioneered had been cut apart, studied, analyzed and disseminated through the entire pro scene. The first shocking loss came to a loss to NRG in a bo3 at Counter Pit where EnVyUs lost to a tier 2 NA team with a standin, a team that went on to be incredibly mediocre the rest of the year. The loss should have sounded the alarms that something was wrong with the approach of the team. That something needed to be changed.
EnVyUs then went on replace different players in hopes of solving the problem. KioShiMa was kicked out and DEVIL took his place. After Timothee ‘DEVIL’ Demolon was unable to solve the problem, he was removed for Christophe ‘SIXER’ Xia. The entire time the leadership role bounced around from Happy to NBK to DEVIL back to Happy, but nothing seemed to change. It got to a point that the only hope spot for the team was kennyS carrying them to victories.
At the same time Shox had made a surprising comeback on G2. The team had been slowly building up under the leadership of Ex6Tenz and had stabilized as a top 10 team. They were unable to make it out of the groups of the Major so the team decided to kick out Ex6TenZ and Shox took over as in-game leader. In his place he recruited Alexandre ‘bodyy’ Pianaro and unlike the DEVIL deal, the team made sure that bodyy was a right fit for the roles they wanted him to play.
In many ways Shox’s leadership style was the opposite of Happy, almost as if it was informed by things he didn’t like when he was under Happy’s leadership. Instead of rigid roles where the team played to his concept, his concept was based around the team. It was a loose style that was predicated on enabling the star players of the team, in this case it was Adil ‘ScreaM’ Benrlitom and shox who carried the weight of the team. The team surpassed all expectations as they got second at ESL PL Season 3 Finals, won ECS Season 1 Finals and got another second place at Starladder i-League Season 2.
It was at Starladder i-League Season 2 where I believe the ideas of a superteam were formed. In the playoffs of that tournament G2 and EnVyUs played against each other in the quarterfinals of that tournament. On Cobblestone, both shox and kennyS played at the peak of their powers. Shox dropped 37 kills with 127.1 ADR in 29 rounds. It was an awe inspiring performance one that was matched by KennyS as he dropped 30 with. As the two players got up to shake hands after that match, you could not help but think that they were the future of the French CS scene. The two biggest stars French CS:GO has produced working together at last.
Soon after that pivotal match, G2’s form cooled off and they had hit their ceiling. By the time the ELeague Major had been announced, both sides came back to the one decision made by NBK, the time when he chose to go with Happy instead of Shox. This time the decision was much easier and he was going to bring KennyS and apEX with him. Shox and bodyy rounded out the lineup and SmithZz became the coach of the team.
The French superteam had formed. They themselves seemed reticent to acknowledge the fact as if afraid that saying they were the superteam would jinx them. As a team, the understood right away that things were going to be tough. While the roles were all already predetermined, getting the tactics, teamwork and emotional stability down looked to be a work in progress. But it was a work in progress as this French roster has stated that they made the team this way in the belief that they were in it for the long haul.
They have slowly grinded their way up and the initial idea of shox and kennyS being the superstar players only became half true. kennyS has reemerged as a superstar level player, one of the best in the world. Shox on the other hand is no longer a star and had never been while on this G2 roster. The incredible performances we saw from him in 2016 were no longer there. The other players on the team: apEX, NBK- and bodyy have all been strong in their roles, particularly apEX as the entry fragger, but it wasn’t enough for G2 to get over the line and become one of the best teams of the era.
In the first half of 2017, they won some events, notably DreamHack Tours and ESL Proleague Season 5 finals. But there were a few critical weaknesses of the team that they couldn’t get over. The first was that Shox as a leader couldn’t matchup to the likes of the other greats like Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo, Finn “Karrigan” Andersen, or Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander. That would be fine as Shox could bring large impact and star potential to the game that only FalleN could have matched in his prime. But that never came to fruition. The other flaw of the system was that G2 were addicted to forcebuys. They had carried over that line of strategy from Happy and it proved just as volatile for them as it did for Happy. This often meant that they screwed up their own money, especially on the Ct-side and got less AWPS as a result. This in turn made their best player, kennyS less effective in the matches and made G2 much less stable than the top teams in the world.
The problems came home to roost as they went to the Krakow Major and were eliminated in the Swiss system. At that point, I could no longer believe that G2 could get any further. They had gone as far as they could with this line-up and it seemed like a change should happen. Then there was this beautiful vision, this dream of what G2 could be, even without a Shox that was impactful.
Soon after the Krakow Major was DreamHack Malmo. In this tournament, G2 lost a multitude of pistol rounds. In response, the G2 squad played more responsibly with their economy, got to the rifle rounds and challenged their opponents in that fashion. It was consistent, it enabled kennyS, and it was the best tournament that G2 ever won.
It was the closest we ever got to seeing the dream of the superteam fulfilled. But as beautiful as it was, I still wanted more. I wanted to see that shox of 2016, the one that made SK hide away in the corners of inferno, too afraid to peek in a 4v1. I wanted to see that player teamed up with the KennyS we saw in 2017, the best AWPer in the world, the one that could be matched against anyone on any map and win. That vision of G2 which I had chased through my fantasies was nothing more than a waking dream, one that slipped through my fingers as water through a sieve. Yet I still believe there is hope. G2 has no reached the heights they wished to with this lineup and should they look internally, they will realize that this isn’t the superteam they were meant to form with only KennyS as the superstar, but rather to have both Shox and KennyS play at their best at the same time. That is the dream and among all of the top teams in CS:GO, they have had the longest break as they were unable to qualify for either the ESL Proleague or ECS Finals.
With that downtime we could see that DreamHack Malmo version of G2 rise again, and perhaps if we’re lucky we could see that promise fulfilled when this team first formed. Of that time when Shox and KennyS dueled each other on Cobblestone at Starladder i-League, of the two of them shaking hands in solidarity. An alliance of the two greatest French players to touch the game touch the game, two players that could light up the server and defeat anyone in their path. KennyS destroying his opponents with his AWP on either side of the map, shox following up with some of the world’s best mid-late game play we’ve ever seen anyone show in the game. I dreamt of a French super team and I dream of it still.