Will G2 win the EU LCS again?
To start this post off, I know that this is going to be a very unpopular opinion, but so was my prediction of EU LCS’s G2 Esports finishing near the bottom of the pack in 2016’s League of Legends Mid Season Invitational. I don’t expect all the readers to agree with me, but after 2 days of debating whether or not to write up this piece I decided that I might as well. There will be little to no memeing in this post, just a quick look at what I feel is being skimmed over by nearly all analysts and fans of LoL: The EU LCS did not lose because of a lack of practice or because they sent the wrong team, EU performed poorly because as a region they currently do not play the match up against G2 effectively.
It is a bit harsh to say that the teams in the European LCS are unable to stand up to the rest of the major regions, but as we have all seen over the double round-robin group stage, it seems that the statement may be accurate. G2 is a team that blew through the EU LCS with only 3 losses to their name during their rookie split. I, personally, am of the opinion that the individual skills of several players on the team are not up to par with the rest of EU or the world, but in a team oriented game the TEAM output greatly outweighs individual skills. There is no kind way to say it, Kikis and Hybrid are both a bit of a liability to the team and an upgrade in both the top and support positions would greatly benefit the team, but G2 was able to push through sub-par performances because they all could play quickly and decisively as a unit.
The EU LCS teams have been known for a long time as playing a mid-centric style with early lane swapping and slow methodical game play. These strategies have been shown to be effective both within Europe and on the international stage (see Worlds 2015), but G2 plays a highly accelerated, mistake ridden, catch us if you can style which EU is not used to seeing and playing against on a regular basis. If we are going to be making broad statements, G2 is to EU what China is to the rest of the LoL world. This fast tempo and chaotic movement throughout the rift caught all of Europe off guard, and allowed G2 to steal an enormous amount of victories during the 2016 EU LCS Spring Split simply because the rest of the league could not adjust their play style for G2.
One dimensional play is what separates the good teams from the great. Korean teams have been dominant on the world stage for so long because they are versatile and are willing to play the best comps/strategies into their opponents. On the other hand, many regions’ teams (including NA and EU) will define a play style which they feel works and ram that same strategy head-on into every single enemy team they face. Like fitting a square peg into a round hole, if enough force is generated you can make it work, but it is always easier to just use the peg (or play style) with less resistance. That is exactly why G2 rolled over the EU LCS, why G2 was the best EU team in the split, and why G2 was able to win consistently and decidedly against the rest of Europe. G2 was the round peg waiting to fill the round hole made by every single EU LCS squad.
Now, onto the heavily debated issue of WHY G2 performed so poorly at MSI. I have some very strong opinions about what exactly happened to G2 and they are not the same opinions expressed by the general European fans or by the analysts at MSI. Caution: Triggering may occur.
I think that G2 taking a 2 week break from League to spend time relaxing and resting from the EU LCS split is not really an issue whatsoever. Sure, the team could have prepped new comps and looked ahead to particular match ups that they would have to face during group stages, but G2 never did that in the first place. G2 had played the same game throughout the entire EU Spring Split and it easily got them past every one of their opponents, why would they look to change up their play style when it had worked so well?
On the same note, taking a couple weeks away from something you do for a living and are extremely technically proficient in does not make you lose all ability to perform. I don’t see many accountants taking a vacation and coming back unable to do math, or surgeons coming home from the Bahamas unable to wield a scalpel. Anyone blaming the poor showing on a short vacation has got to be out of their mind.
“It’s Not the Same G2 We Saw in the EU LCS”:
Yes, it is. The difference between the play that we saw all split in EU and the play we saw during the group stage of MSI is not in G2, it’s in their opponents. The EU play style in general is pretty solidified and does not punish the small mistakes made by G2, hence, G2 can thrive among the EU LCS teams. MSI is a whole different beast.
China plays the same style as G2, but at a much higher level. They also have the luxury of playing against other Chinese teams who also play a chaotic, high speed style, so facing G2 is like facing a challenger team in the Chinese meta. Korean League is all about adaptability and punishing the mistakes of your enemy while making as few as possible yourself, so punishing the EU squad during their small mistakes may not happen in Europe, but for Korea playing G2 is like target practice. Not to mention that once a mistake or 2 are capitalized on, the G2 members start to break down and as I mentioned before, they are not well equipped for playing as individuals.
Where Does G2 Go From Here?:
Honestly, I don’t think G2 is in need of any changes and I truly believe they will finish top 2 again in the EU LCS this next split. If Europe does not want to continue sending G2 to international tournaments (which seems to be the general consensus) then the rest of the EU LCS needs to step up and figure out how to respond to their play style. It’s as simple as that. If EU teams can’t manage to defeat G2’s run-’em ragged strategy, then they are no better fit to play against the international competition (remember, China plays the same game but much better). European League players are clearly outraged by the G2 performance, but until the top pros from their region are able to adapt enough to overthrow the G2 crown, the rest of the world will be happy to keep taking the free wins.