No one wants to be remembered as a disappointment. No one wants to shrug off a heavy headset and peer into the crowd to see fans crumple signs bearing their name. No one wants to look to their left and right and see the teammates they have spent the last five months eating, sleeping, and agonizing over mutual mistakes with duck their gaze — to peek over their shoulder and see their coach hiding his face and the bottoming feeling of failure.
At the very least, one wants to answer the anger on social media with the private conviction that their mistakes weren’t simple. One wants to wear the pride of their region’s league like a badge and to go home with the knowledge that, if they lost, it wasn’t easy for their enemies, that no one had started to want them to fail along the way.
No one wants to be G2 Esports.
Social media erupted with fans expressing not only disappointment, but embarrassment. Creative rhymes and curated clips of each players’ mistakes are easily searched. G2 stared only at the stage as they shuffled off it for the last time with just a single win against Albus NoX Luna to their name.
It seems even worse because G2 did almost everything right. After winning the 2016 EU LCS Summer final, G2 went to Korea to bootcamp. The players all spoke highly of their opponents on stream and commented on how they were eager to learn. They encountered impressive scrim partners and, as far as the public knows, strove to retain what they observed.
Unlike at the Mid-Season Invitational, G2 Esports didn’t take a vacation. Machinations to replace their bottom lane didn’t conspire behind the scenes. They just lost — brutally and completely in five of their six Group Stage games in the 2016 World Championship. There isn’t an immediately obvious reason why.
Somewhere between Week 1 and Week 2, Ki “Expect” Daehan went from being a glaring problem to perhaps the team's best performing player, as he transitioned successful ganks from Kim “Trick” Gangyun to mid lane roaming pressure and flanked well in G2’s game against ROX (albeit with misplays in lane or choke points). His performances flagged as Expect over-extended in lane in subsequent matches, either due to miscommunication when Trick pressured the bottom lane or an inability to judge the location of the enemy jungler.
That theme came through most strongly for G2 in the final day. During the regular season, one could observe a failure between Trick and support Alfonso “mithy” Aguirre Rodriguez to coordinate backs and roam together to perform actions as simple as warding. Trick preferred to hover near the top lane, clearing camps, while mithy and Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen guarded their own lane.
This problem extended between Trick and almost every lane on G2’s final day at Worlds. Both Trick and ROX’s Yoon "Peanut" Wangho decided on a complete top side jungle clear and a presumed gank top after G2 invaded and forced Song “Smeb” Kyungho’s flash. Nidalee’s faster clear allowed Trick to act first, but Smeb’s daring forward positioning in lane helped G2 more than it should have.
Following this one successful gank, Trick continued to try to force ganks in the mid and bottom lane with neutral to detrimental results. Eager for kills, he and Luka "PerkZ" Perković flashed between turrets, but rarely with a semblance of coordination, splitting their targets or hesitating on Expect’s dive mid.
Trick and G2 wanted something to happen. Usually picked for her ability to clear efficiently, Nidalee fell behind Peanut’s Lee Sin in farm thanks in part to Trick’s continued attempts to gank lanes. Having spent most of the summer with an emphasis on farming well with a 4.8 CS per minute in the EU LCS playoffs and the most camp or lane wave clears of any LPL, LMS, or EU LCS jungler that qualified for the event on the new patch, a need to make early ganks connect felt awkward. G2 weren’t used to it, especially not from a pick like Nidalee. It felt like they forgot that playing well with their jungler didn't only mean pressuring lanes.
It wasn’t just Trick’s disconnect with his laners that shone through. G2 demonstrated an awkward inability to understand how to execute plays in the river or jungle. In the EU LCS regular season, G2 won a lot of their games by laning well, but they exhibited several strange behaviors throughout the group stage when they tried to group with either mid lane or jungle.
Multiple instances where mithy was left with the impossible task of defending his turret with Braum took place during Worlds either because G2 misjudged the number of opponents participating in the siege or because the team's greed wouldn't let them give up the turret. Perkz and the rest of the team exhibited a misunderstanding of how to coordinate mid lane roams to the bottom lane.
The first of Perkz’s awkward roams came when he played Syndra in G2’s opening game against CLG. Perkz pushed out the mid lane wave and started to roam to the bottom lane through the river, but Counter Logic Gaming’s jungler and bottom lane had gathered in the blue side tri-bush. Perkz ended up sandwiched between the bottom lane and CLG mid laner Choi "Huhi" Jaehyun, and CLG reacted more quickly to force him into the tri-bush.
G2’s mithy and Trick didn’t rally well after Zven died to the bottom lane gank, and Perkz pathed deep into the blue side red buff jungle instead of cutting down to the turret to meet up with his teammates. Perhaps he was afraid of getting CC’d in the tri-bush, either through a combination of poor communication and poor judgment, but G2 were completely outmaneuvered by CLG.
Instances of G2 not connecting to group plagued them throughout their tournament run. From speaking to G2 support mithy about G2’s goals for the bootcamp, it was clear that the team understood the direction in which they were going in — the direction in which they needed to adapt to improve their team play.
“We’re playing a lot more towards pressure and our jungler and playing the game how it’s supposed to be played, and a lot less doing random stuff," mithy said. "Lanes are moving together now and making plays together.”
Echoes of this sentiment followed G2 at the World Championship, but it appeared the efforts G2 made during their boot camp were late ones. Without teams actively pioneering this kind of play in the EU LCS, G2 had few examples to learn from until they got to their bootcamp. They tried to apply these principles, but a rookie mid laner and a jungler somewhat used to dictating his own pace while his lanes won on their own made finalizing the execution difficult.
G2 actually tried. This wasn’t an instance where they felt overwhelmed by differences in how EU teams played and how international competitors played at the bootcamp and practiced inefficiently, something LPL teams like LGD expressed last year. G2 have a strong reputation for work ethic and eagerness to improve as well as intelligence and experience in mithy — it just wasn’t enough. It wasn't even enough to defeat Albus NoX Luna, a team denied scrims until the event proper, in their first match.
In many ways, doing things right, knowing what needed to happen makes this even worse. It would be easy for G2 to pack their mousepads and learn another lesson about taking international competition lightly. That’s not what happened this time, G2 simply weren’t good enough.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing G2 can take from this experience. They spent most of the summer trying to find synergy within their team, to get a semblance of a squad that worked well together. Perkz still has obvious champion pool issues and a lack of respect for positioning on champions without escapes. Maybe it’s something Perkz can’t fix. Maybe Expect will continue to struggle with his own laning and flanks despite the improvement he managed to demonstrate this tournament.
But next year, G2 won’t have the excuse of rebuilding a team, of teaching new players the game. Next year, they’ll at least understand the value of pressing innovation and strategy in team play even if the rest of Europe doesn’t seem to be doing so. They’ll start earlier, even if it means more mistakes.
This lesson tastes bitter after a year at the top of the EU LCS and months of practice and work. It seems inadequate with agitated fans taunting them. It’s almost painful with the vision of how they should have played clear and just out of reach. Unfortunately, as they pack their things, it's all G2 have to take with them until, wearied by even more European fan ire, they have a chance to qualify for another international event.
Mistimed ganks, your lack of synergy hurts, but G2 Esports — next year can’t be worse.
Kelsey Moser is a staff writer for theScore esports. You can follow her on Twitter.