Red Hot French Players
It all began in February 2015. The organization decided to step into the game, not by signing an up and coming team that would climb their way up, but by signing a team who was already at the very top. So, they set their eyes on a squad that was flourishing under the LDLC tag at the time. The quintet led by Happy had secured the first Major victory for France at DreamHack Winter a few months earlier, and they were off a fresh victory at the MLG X Games Aspen in January. This signing was a very big step up for the players, who could then be accompanied by a level of support they had not experienced before. For the organization, this was the best signing they could have hoped for in their first foray into an established game. And so, alongside Happy, they welcomed some of France’s finest, as Édouard “Smithzz” Dubourdeaux, Richard “shox” Papillon, Fabien “kioShiMa” Fiey and Nathan “NBK” Schmitt became the Counter-Strike incarnation of the Boys In Blue.
The wait for results didn’t last very long after the organization switch. Just a month later, in March, Envy welcomed their first trophy. Alongside a top four at the first Major of the year, ESL One Katowice, the new squad brought home two titles from the Gfinity Spring Masters and the StarLadder StarSeries XII to establish themselves as one of the best teams in the game. During this period, they were a solid lock for the top four of nearly every tournament they entered. Continuing their momentum from the LDLC days, Envy were dispatching opponents left and right with their trademark aggressive style, served by a combination of skill rarely matched in the history of the game, and led by one of the most highly skilled in-game leaders. The loose system that he let his teammates thrive in both rewarded individual initiative, and it provided a source of improvement for players that knew how to develop their ability to maximize their effectiveness by factoring in the key elements of their in-game situation. The result was a unit that was very hard isolate and pick apart, as their unpredictability and firepower neutralized their opponent’s plans.
Their main threat that year took the form of Fnatic, a team that went down in history books as one of the most legendary teams to exist in the game. They were an extremely gifted squad in terms of skill, and their leader, Markus “pronax” Wallsten, was excellent at adapting in the middle of games, sometimes even individual rounds. That year went down as the next greatest episode in the France - Sweden rivalry, continuing what started with VeryGames and the Ninjas in Pyjamas a couple of years earlier. Early on, it looked as though Fnatic had the upper hand, as they handed Envy multiple disappointments. At the second Major of the year, ESL One Cologne, both teams reached the finals, and the Swedes managed to defeat the Frenchmen on the grandest stage, in a close finals that had fans of both teams clutching onto their seats. But as the year developed, Envy would return the favor, and most importantly when it mattered the most, in Cluj-Napoca at the DreamHack Major. Taking revenge for Cologne in the quarterfinals, Envy would go on and win their second Major title. And thus they cemented themselves as the best team in the world at the end of the year, for the second time in their existence, and within a year of joining Envy.
“When we entered the competitive CS:GO scene in 2015, we knew we were going to help our French lineup achieve amazing things. The players were dedicated and highly skilled and our organization worked around the clock to make sure we achieved something great. The result was double digit international championships including a Major win.”
Mike “Hastr0” Rufail, CEO of Envy Gaming
Pro Means Professional
As we know by now, 2015 would be their best period in their four and a half years run, as Envy faced multiple challenges from then on. 2016 was still a good year as they earned several top four placements, alongside two gold medals at medium sized events. It was at that time that it became visible how Envy would face the obstacles that came their way in a different manner than what the French scene had become accustomed to.
During their trophy-laden run in their first year, Envy were playing with their manager, Jordan “Next” Savelli, behind them during games. While transitioning from LDLC to Envy, they parted ways with their coach Emmanuel “MoMaN” Marquez in the process, and had been without a coach since then. As the first bumps appeared on the road, Envy’s first option was to recruit a new coach, in order to bring a new perspective to their game and someone able to provide more than just emotional and psychological support during matches. In addition to that, and as the issues leaned on the side of strategic opinions, vision differences, and chemistry, they decided to try out Mathieu “Maniac” Quiquerez, after his tenure on Titan ended. It was the perfect time, too, as he had just completed a master’s degree in institutional and organizational psychology. On paper, the combination of skills that Maniac could bring to Envy suited their situation at that time. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out, but the attempt was clearly the right direction, and looked exactly like the right thing to do to improve the squad, so it had to be tested.
Shortly after, Envy made another decision that was in stark contrast to the practices of the French scene. One criticism back then, that is still sometimes mentioned these days, was that French teams are built up out of the same ten to twelve players, trying to find combinations that worked within the same group of people. Early in 2016, Envy broke the cycle and decided to look elsewhere for a fifth after they parted with kioShiMa. His replacement would be Timothée “DEVIL” Demolon, picked from one of the two lineups that LDLC was fielding at the time. It was the first time in a long time that a rookie was given the opportunity to climb a step in the French hierarchy. More than just a promotion for DEVIL, this was a key change in the French approach to building teams where finding a fifth with the right skillset, even if it meant having to help him develop in the process, was seen as a better option than yet another shuffle with Titan, now known as G2 Esports. G2 themselves followed the same path just a month later, when they signed Alexandre “bodyy” Pianaro to replace Kevin “Ex6TenZ” Droolans.
It was also during that year that the scene began to witness top teams sign a second team, usually labelled “Academy”. Bigger teams picked up some of their country’s most promising players in order to help them develop their career and become valuable additions to the main team should they change their lineup. The concept had already been tested on a smaller scale for a year or two, but this was the year where marquee teams like Fnatic and North decided to invest heavily in Academy teams. Envy brought that concept to France early in 2017, when they launched EnVyUs Academy, with the goal of leveraging the talent pool in the lower tiers of French CS. The recruitment of DEVIL, although mature in its approach, didn’t bear the fruits Envy had hoped. The key lesson that was learned was that despite the best intentions and planning, the addition of a player may as well be alchemy, with the result, sometimes failure, only evident after the lineup has already played together for a while. Next and Hastr0 would realize that recruiting the right player could be a daunting task and that no matter how prepared, there was still some luck involved in finding a player who was the right fit for the team.
An Academy is one way to solve this challenge, by preparing the next generation of players, and by shaping them along the way so that they can be a direct fit in the main lineup. Players from the Academy team would already know the playstyle of their big brother team, they would be ready in the need for a stand-in, or should anyone decide to stop and retire.
Thus, early in 2017, Envy welcomed five new players under their Academy project, and started to help them develop their careers. The team would notably cement themselves as one of the best local teams, winning the ESL National Championship twice in France. That project bore fruits for the main team in 2018, as Envy decided to replace Christopher “SIXER” Xia, and promoted Ali “hAdji” Haïnouss from their Academy. This was an instantaneous step up in his career, and he proved that he could make the jump and land it with aplomb.
Although this benefited Envy directly, this also helped the scene prepare for the future as it created a precedent for the local scene to have a healthy infrastructure to help up and coming players. Envy helped encourage a scene that tried to be proactive in the way new players come in, instead of just waiting for the next polished diamond to emerge. It was a long term plan that bore fruit almost immediately.
“Being in Envy was a real step in professionalism. We entered a sort of new realm with the input they had at the time which was the most an org could offer in CS:GO.”
Nathan “NBK” Schmitt, ex-Team Envy player