It’s difficult to bet on G2 Esports at international events.
G2 are Europe’s best League of Legends team, and have been for three straight splits. Since their inaugural European League Championship Series in 2016 Spring, G2 have reigned over the region. Finishing first in every regular EU LCS season in which they’ve participated, G2 have also won every EU LCS Final in that same timespan. They are the kings of Europe.
And yet, it’s difficult to bet on G2 Esports on the global stage. Their international performances have been well below community expectations and their own standards. They have the reputation of a team that chokes internationally, complete with well-known fan memes that still permeate social media. So much so that, although it shouldn’t, their poor past performances creep into community analysis.
G2 support Alfonso “Mithy” Aguirre Rodríguez rejects this sentiment.
“I don’t think we’ve necessarily choked at international events,” he said in an interview with Yahoo Esports. “Maybe at Worlds there was some choking, but I think everyone has on and off games. It’s not really something you can say, ‘This guy, no matter what, is choking really hard.’”
That being said, this time, G2 aren’t taking any chances. They want to destroy their negative image. They want their region to be proud to have them as a representative.
G2 Esports arrived at the same time as the teams for the 2017 League of Legends Mid-Season Invitational Play-In stage, making the most of the weeks between the EU LCS Finals and the start of the main stage.
“We’re not part of the Play-Ins but we scrimmed against the teams, Flash Wolves, TSM, GAM, so we have been here for two weeks now,” Mithy said. “We’re just trying to get the most out of our scrims and learn as much as possible from other international teams and stay open-minded because European teams have a trend to play very weird and bad, in my opinion. We have always been trying to get away from that so we can perform internationally. Being away for a longer time, being able to avoid jet-lag and other issues and just prepare has been great.”
When speaking of G2’s international past, Mithy is quick to point out that they were a young team at the time of the 2016 World Championship. “We still are, in a way,” he said.
He attributes a lot of their struggles in the Worlds group stage to inexperience and inability to play from behind.
“For our Worlds experience, in our scrims and everything, we just won early game, broke through the game a little bit and ended up winning,” he said. “We’d make some mistakes, they’d make some mistakes, and we’d just win the game. If we fell behind, we just didn’t know what to do and instantly forfeited the game. Once we got on stage teams were playing much better than they were in scrims. They were taking less risks and their early games would be more consistent. We would find ourselves in a position where we didn’t really know what to do and on top of that, we didn’t win many early games in that group stage. If you’re not a team that prepares to come back and lose every early game, you just kind of fall.”
Now, with more experience together, a clearer goal in mind, and more dedicated practice, G2 are 1-1 after taking on two of the tougher teams at the tournament. Their first match was against tournament favorite SK Telecom T1. G2 got out to an early lead, but were unable to snowball it into a win, despite a Level 1 First Blood onto Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok and a potent Ashe/Zyra bottom lane combination that they prioritized in the draft.
“Lulu and Karma were banned so we just picked Ashe first,” Mithy said. “We knew they could play MF, and we also knew that they could play tanks, so we just played around early game pressure and picked Zyra to see what they picked. Even though I’m not really good at playing Lulu/Karma matchup or Lulu/Nami, all these ranged supports, I’m okay-ish at playing the Zyra/MF because that matchup I actually had some practice with in EU. EU players just play Camille, Thresh, and stupid stuff so it’s hard to get some of these matchups against good players. The Zyra/MF matchup in the split I lost the lane horribly against H2K. I [then] focused on learning how to play this matchup the best I could and I think it kind of showed up against SKT.”
Mithy and AD carry Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen accrued Summoner Spell advantages through aggressive trading in lane, particularly once Zven hit Level 6. This later led to a kill onto SKT support Lee “Wolf” Jae-wan.
“Against SKT we had the early game comp and sure, they out-scaled us a bit, but we had windows of opportunities to win,” Mithy said. He attributed mistakes in their mid game objective trading to the eventual loss.
The debate of which is stronger, early game focus or late game focus, has been at the forefront of G2’s development throughout this 2017 Spring split. On their first day of the 2017 MSI, G2 selected a composition with more early game pick focus against SKT, but defaulted to their more comfortable, mid-to-late game scaling style against the Flash Wolves.
“Playing early game has some risks and playing late game does too. I think that our last team comp [against Flash Wolves] wasn’t really well-balanced because we had three losing lanes,” he admitted. “We didn’t really have any window to breathe and we were getting choked out. I had a really hard time setting up wards because they had LeBlanc, Varus, Rengar ult.”
He admitted that part of this was his own impatience.
“I maybe got too frustrated and too risky. I could have been more passive and let us scale more because they weren’t really pressuring us hard enough for us to lose the game unless they got Baron, and they didn’t really have the best team comp to rush it or get it easily. But, I feel like we had too many losing lanes and they were too powerful in the mid game so it was really hard to play that game. Early or late game, you need to play a balance of both.”
Above all else, G2 now bring to the table something they haven’t had at previous international events: more flexibility. Not only did they ensure more practice prior to the event, but their players have further matured as a team and become more malleable. If G2 are to make it past the group stages, that flexibility will be their ticket out.
Emily Rand’s love of the 2013 KT Rolster Bullets will never die. You can follow her on Twitter.