The Thorin Treatment: No FOX Given
Echo Fox are objectively one of the worst Counter-Strike: Global Offensive lineups ever assembled, dollar-for-dollar. While FaZe have rightfully been criticised for spending a massive amount of money to accomplish, at the time, only group stage eliminations, Echo Fox have invested into very respectable salaries for players who have performed far worse than would be expected of such a pay-roll and have barely even brought exposure via offline play.
Echo Fox are a team who have lost their last six offline maps without even reaching double digits in rounds on any of them. They have played in only two top tier events in the five months this lineup has been together and placed dead last in both. Even at the ESEA Season 22 Global Challenge, a competition which couldn't even reasonably be described as "tier 3", they failed to win or make the final. Thanks to fan favourites like seangares and fREAKAZOiD, Echo Fox are often labelled as a team still primed to rise. In reality, they are a failed experiment which repeatedly shows results, just not the kind anyone would want to see. They are a team who have failed to win even 50% of their games online or offline.
Give a man a reputation
The old saying goes "give a man a reputation as an early riser and he can sleep till noon". That seems ever so apt for the situation Echo Fox find themselves in and often even choose to frame as their circumstances. The world is told that they are a new team who like each other and are still working on their "synergy" and "communication". Echo Fox have officially had this exact five man lineup since the end of the 31st of May, over five months ago. Most known teams go through roster changes within nine months of play, making Echo Fox more than half-way into their life-span, according to that kind of average time-line.
Not only are they not a new team, but they are not one which is either inexperienced or has not had opportunities to compete offline. They have played at four offline events and every member of their lineup has experience which includes competing internationally and in most cases at majors.
Nothing to write home about
Echo Fox are a team with no meaningful results, relative to the amount of money laid out to assemble and maintain their team. They finished in last place of ELEAGUE Season 1. At the ESEA Season 22 Global Challenge, a competition which featured teams who have never sniffed played in a major, they were eliminated in the semi-final of the event by Crown, an unknown Swedish team, and failed to even finish with a positive win-rate for maps played at the tournament.
At Northern Arena Toronto, they managed to finish in fourth place, not a bad performance but at a competition which was essentially just teams from the Americas and Heroic, with no SK Gaming at that. Most recently, last week, sgares and company played in Group B of ELEAGUE and were eliminated in last place without a single map win and only 6 rounds won collectively over three maps of play. Their round difference for the group was -42.
Consider the context of their peers and Echo Fox's shame becomes even more obvious. Fellow North America teams like OpTic, C9, Team Liquid and TSM have all had more success with their NA rosters. OpTic qualified for ESL One Cologne and beat Astralis and G2 at ESL One New York. Cloud9 have placed in the top four of a number of international tournament and just won the first big international title for NA Counter-Strike since 2006. Team Liquid went to the semi-finals of both majors in 2016, making it as far as the final of the last one and slaying elite European teams Na`Vi and FNATIC in Bo3 series. TSM have had their own struggles, but finished top four at the ECS Season 1 Finals, a notable international tournament.
A putrid past and a paltry present
Echo Fox are a team who have shown an appalling record in qualifying for offline events at which to at least give their brand exposure by playing and meeting fans. Of the two big competitions they played in, both seasons of ELEAGUE, they were invited directly to the first and qualified for the second by beating Team Liquid. That latter result stands as a rare instance of roca and friends successfully qualifying for a notable offline competition.
A ninth place finish at the online portion of ECS S1 ensured they did not make the offline finals. Losing to bit and nak's Luminosity in an online Bo3 meant there was no chance to reach the offline portion of Starladder StarSeries Season 2. Defeat at the hands of TSM in an online Bo3 halted their run in the qualifier for ESL One New York. In the United States WESG qualifier sancz's Muffin Lightning bested them in a Bo3 series online to deny them progression in that circuit. Finally, ShahZam and the boys were not in Brazil for the EPL S4 Finals because they finished in eighth place online in EPL NA.
At this point, Rick Fox's best chance of getting exposure out of his crowd favourites at the major is buying them all tickets to attend as spectators and then organising a fan meet-up. That suggestion is only partially intended as a joke.
Numbers to cry for
When one digs down into the numbers of this Echo Fox lineup's performance it only gets uglier. They have played in a total of 92 official games, taking into account both online and offline play. Over the 29 maps that were played offline, EF has managed to win only 11 of them (37.93%). 17 of those 29 maps were played against European opposition, who they went 3:14 (17.64%) versus. In 14 of those 18 losses, fREAKAZOiD and the family failed to hit double digits in rounds won.
Moving into the realm of series play, Echo Fox has gone 3:5 in offline Bo3 series. The three wins came against OpTic, TSM and coL. OpTic were using their old lineup, having already brought tarik into the team but not taken him to Northern Arena; TSM had lost autimatic and were months removed from their ECS finish; and coL have never been considered a top NA team offline. coL were also using APE as a stand-in for witmer at the time, with him only joining officially later. In the team's four offline series against European competition they have failed to win on a single occasion.
The above results all took place over four different offline events, with their first game being played on the 21st of June and their last on the 5th of November. 138 days seems like a reasonable stretch of time for one to expect improvement to occur over, should it indeed be possible.
Beyond the raw numbers themselves, we find few signs of hope in the maps Echo Fox has secured their wins on. Of the seven in the competitive map pool, they can boast a winning record offline on only one: dust2. On nuke they are tied 4:4 and all five of the others they boast a losing record, with three of them (train, overpass and cbblestone) having never played stage to an Echo Fox victory offline.
Experience, beyond time, is often cited as a key factor in lineups learning to perform well offline. Echo Fox has played offline Bo3 series against Na`Vi, mouz, FlipSid3, Immortals, G2 and Heroic. How much more experience could one ask for before results are expected to follow showing some level of improvement?
Many North American teams call fall back on their numbers online to claim their status as quality sides, with Cloud9 dominating EPL NA prior to their first notable offline international results with this lineup. Echo Fox have not only routinely failed in online qualifiers, but their record online is only 31:32 (48.21%). That includes games against teams at the bottom of EPL and ECS as well as those semi-pros battling in the brackets of online qualifiers. Echo Fox has not even shown they are capable of dominating teams without salaries or with nowhere near the resources and name value sgares and company can boast.
Today's your lucky day
In light of the underwhelming nature of Echo Fox's time together, it perhaps will not come as such a shock to find out that facing them has practically been a cause for celebration for some opponents. WorldEdit is known as a good but not great European AWPer, but facing Echo Fox in ELEAGUE Season 1 he set multiple offline records, including the most kills ever recorded in a half of play. Practically no casual fan would know the name of Swedish amateur Jayzwalkingz, yet he managed a 58:18 (+40) performance in an offline Bo3 against Echo Fox at the ESEA Season 22 Global Challenge event.
What's in a name?
seangares is without a doubt one of the best in-game leaders in the history of North American CS:GO, with a semi-final finish at a major and a number of big international finals to show for it, but he has also long been known as an IGL without much individual fire-power, thus requiring either good execution or the fire-power load to be offset elsewhere on his teams. His star player in Echo Fox is ShahZam, which begins to unravel the problem immediately.
If ShahZam is your best player then you should expect a level of results not too dissimilar to those Echo Fox has accomplished. As a second or third star in a team, his AWPing would be a welcome addition and buoy up the fire-power load to make a team dangerous, known for his Maikelele-esque halves where he hits rapid highlight shots and secures rounds for his team. He is not a player known as a reliable offline star, with it saying a lot that many cite the best series of his career as being the online Bo3 against Team Liquid to qualify for the offline portion of ELEAGUE Season 2.
Beyond ShahZam, we arrive at the troublesome case of roca. If I ever had a case of buyer's remorse than it is best evidenced in my selection of roca as a member of a potential North American dream team. His strong play in online gather play created the illusion that he had not been given enough opportunities in solid offline teams. As it happens, he has been one of the worst performing members of Echo Fox, relative to his role and his peer group. ryx is a player who has had little expected of him over his career, had some decent enough results in Tempo Storm and is largely thought of as making up numbers in this team.
fREAKAZOiD was rightfully lauded for his unselfish and aggressive entry-fragging in Cloud9, as well as his dedication to enforcing the leadership and calls of sgares. There is little doubt this was a factor in C9's runs to three straight international finals last year. In Echo Fox, though, he has been beyond a liability. Blame his team-mates or the calls if you will, but his 1:17 performance on nuke against Virtus.pro was indicative of a player who has routinely struggled on an individual level. For the three maps at ELEAGUE, fREAK finished with an average of 0.28 KPR (Kills Per Round), a value you would struggle to find anything as low as for a player on a known team with at least three maps played offline.
The primary problem for Echo Fox is not their results, but the nature of their position. Had they accomplished similar levels of performance and placings playing for a small less well known organisation in North America they would not be mocked or derisively spoken about as also-rans. Then again, they would not be spoken about much at all. No, their status as players for Echo Fox, a team with a big name owner and who have clearly put forth the effort to assemble a squad and pay them well, is what calls attention to them and their woeful results.
Echo Fox are an organisation who say all the right things about wanting to succeed and build a championship squad and members of this lineup know how to answer questions in an up-beat and positive manner, but right now neither is delivering on their fine words. They might have been given good salaries, opportunities to compete and the resources from which to build a solid team, but when it comes to winning competitive Counter-Strike matches Echo Fox have learned the hard way that nothing is given.
Photo credit: ESL, ELEAGUE