“When people were calling us one-dimensional, it was really annoying to hear because I feel like, out of all the LCS teams, we were the only one to play every single style and win games with every single style.”
—Coach Joey "YoungBuck" Steltenpool on criticisms of G2’s playstyle
Push out mid, invade the enemy jungle, build your carry jungler — one team in Europe has been playing this style all season, and when Patch 6.6 rolled out to make it the dominant mode of play, G2 became easy favorites to take the title. While many critics in the regular season pegged G2 as too aggressive or focused on team fights, more well-lauded teams like H2K and Team Vitality failed to adapt effectively to a more mid and jungle-centric style of play.
Meanwhile, G2 Esports shored up some of their weaknesses. EU LCS caster Martin “Deficio” Lynge said he believes “we probably sent the best option [to MSI],” and LPL caster Jake “Spawn” Tiberi referred to G2 as “the perfect storm of the EU LCS” for their ability to play aggressively and incorporate more strategic elements.
Youngbuck said G2’s playstyle “actually came really naturally to them from the first day they started practicing.” With MVP and rookie of the regular season, Kim “Trick” Gangyun and Luka "PerkZ" Perković, in the jungle and mid lane position, G2 fit the mold of many teams internationally making the trip to the MidSeason Invitational. It will be the slight variances in playstyle that give them an edge and determine how they’ll place in the war for second.
*Note: Super Massive data are derived only from the IWCI Tournament, so their overall averages are equal to their playoffs averages.
Despite G2 Esports’ reputation for aggression, they actually rank last among teams attending the MidSeason Invitational for percentage of times in which they’ve successfully acquired first blood. This is telling of G2’s preference for invades and laying out vision early, which could create more opportunities for the enemy team to catch them out and set them behind if they aren't prepared for a skirmish situation. It's also telling of their tendency to rely more on top lane TP to make early plays than jungle ganks, as Trick frequently prefers to farm out the early game.
G2 actually averaged a gold deficit at 10 minutes in the European League of Legends Championship Series Playoffs of -289 gold, despite only losing two games of eight played. Of all teams attending the MidSeason Invitational from major regions, G2 average the second lowest gold lead at 10 minutes behind SK Telecom T1, who are noted for more reserved play and a rockier first part of the season.
Playoffs saw an increase in neutral objective secure rates, but a drop relative to other MSI hopefuls, despite a similarly dominant run to other teams, only dropping two games of eight. G2 sits in the bottom half of MidSeason Invitational teams for percentage of games in which they acquired first blood, first dragon, the first turret and the first Baron. They’re also fifth in playoffs dragon control and in time at which the team takes their first dragon.
In playoffs, teams seemed to focus G2’s mid lane more often, which cut some of their mechanism for snowballing ahead, but their teamfight versatility allowed them to come back. They also made a few mistakes in lane swaps or in playing aggressively without vision in the early game. Typically, in the regular season, G2 had an easier time pushing out the mid lane to invade, which gave them improved objective control.
It’s worth noting that first dragon taken for G2 tends to be later than other teams attending MSI, and they take an earlier First Herald than all teams except Super Massive. This is down to regional differences, as Rift Herald is often prioritized earlier in Europe to complement lane swapping. The Rift Herald trend extends back to before IEM Katowice. Dragon timers tend to also be later in Europe than in some of the other leagues where dragon stacking is used as late game insurance, and the first dragons are taken earlier on.
Whatever disadvantages G2 yield in the early game comes through in jungle control. Of all teams attending except Royal Never Give Up, for which this data is unavailable, G2 average the highest jungle control rate, or ratio of total camps taken, at 54%. This reflects G2’s ability to invade, lay down vision, and counter-jungle aggressively. As a result, Trick will frequently come out ahead of enemy junglers for late game fights.
The lane swap
“At some point, because we were consistently shying away from the standard, I had to hammer it down that I really didn’t want to see any experimentations anymore for now, and we really needed to work on the basics and just copy other teams.”
—Coach Youngbuck on G2’s struggles to learn the lane swap
Early in the season, it wasn’t uncommon to criticize G2 for falling behind in the lane swap. Their top laner occasionally would find himself caught out, or the team would be slow to rotate to the second Tier 1 turret. Youngbuck confessed that the team did a lot of experimenting in scrims, and eventually he had to coach them to practice the more standard lane swap techniques.
As a result, G2’s lane swaps can sometimes appear very basic, but looking at their Playoffs series against Fnatic, in Game 1, G2 demonstrated a technique that’s very telling of the way they like to play. After trading the first tier turrets with Fnatic, G2 sent their duo lane to the top side, pushed out one wave, and then swapped back bottom on the cannon creep wave. This rotation forced Fnatic’s top laner, Noh "Gamsu" Yeongjin, to back twice to get the desired lane assignment and lose a wave of minions to Mateusz "Kikis" Szkudlarek.
Sending the duo lane back bottom after they had taken the turret also allowed the duo lane to push out the wave further and rotate to mid lane. G2 placed their trinkets in Fnatic’s blue side jungle, and their duo lane had extra time to damage the mid lane turret. Had G2 pressured this advantage better, their top laner could have snowballed ahead, and they could have used extra vision and mid pressure to invade. This is exactly how G2 like to play, so it’s clear why this style appeals to them.
In the same series, G2 still showed struggles with the lane swap as well. In Game 4, Kikis tried to all-in Martin “Rekkles” Larsson early on the top side of the map. He didn’t succeed and had to burn Teleport to get to the turret in the bottom lane fast enough. G2 also mistimed the turret kill and didn’t bounce the wave properly. As a result, they were behind in the swap, and Kikis got caught out trying to walk top lane.
G2’s lane swapping is difficult to predict because it can, at times, be both inventive and disastrous. Teams like Counter Logic Gaming may find openings if they stick to a more tried and true formula.
Jungle and Mid lane
A war for second place at the MidSeason Invitational will hinge very heavily on jungle and mid lane synergy. Other heavy skirmishing teams like Flash Wolves and Royal Never Give Up are also known for the synergy between their mid laners and junglers, and this matchup may become the focus of the event.
Jungle Item breakdown
|Jungle Item||Trick%||MSI AVG%||Enchant||Trick%||MSI AVG%|
G2’s emphasis on jungle control, sometimes at the expense of other advantages, demonstrates how important it is for them to get Trick ahead. In the first ten minutes of games in the final series, Trick spent nearly 10 percent more of his time farming and clearing the jungle than Origen’s Maurice "Amazing" Stückenschneider. Trick spent five percent fewer actions on warding and clearing wards, four percent less of his time on ganking or looking for ganks, and one percent less of his time going back for buys.
As a result, Amazing could get kill advantages and try to snowball his lanes. PerkZ actually fell behind in CS on average in playoffs, which is abnormal given his high CS at 10 rating during the regular season. Despite this, G2 were still able to maintain control of most of the jungle, which could be a struggle for them against teams like SK Telecom T1 who are even more vision oriented.
Trick's emphasis on vision is reflected in his average proportion of Tracker's Knife purchases. G2 rely on laying down deep wards to set up Teleports and allow future invades. Trick's higher proportion of Warrior Enchantment junglers reflects that EU have played less games on dominant Runic Echo patches, and Nidalee is a frequent ban. He has also spent less games playing Kindred than other MSI junglers, often preferring to farm with Graves to use him in AOE team fights. It's also worth noting he has only played one game on Elise.
PerkZ's comparative data for mid lane control
|Mid CS@10 Difference||3.9||2||-0.8||5|
PerkZ, despite being G2’s primary damage threat, sits in the bottom half overall for percentage of team damage dealt by mid laners at MSI. This is a result of Trick dealing an above average percentage of team damage for junglers (especially in playoffs, where Trick dealt 22.3 percent of damage to enemy champions). It’s also worth noting that values for mid lane percentage damage dealt are very close across the board, all hovering around 30 percent in total.
Preferred champion picks for PerkZ include a wide array of selections that make him difficult to plan for in draft. Though his Twisted Fate has left a lot to be desired, and G2 as a whole have not excelled with Lulu. EU mids have long favored Zed, and PerkZ shows a willingness to pick it into difficult matchups like Lissandra.
I distinguish his style as a mid laner willing to maximize the utility of his health. PerkZ will often take openings other mid laners won’t because of health disadvantages. His willingness to trade may surprise opponents and allow G2 to gain advantages easily. Opponents will have to guess at his engage. In fog of war situations, he can find very strong flanks with this mentality, which makes G2’s playstyle even better suited to the jungle.
As a result, I think G2's biggest edge is in comeback plays or playing from behind, which may be surprising to those who constantly associate G2 with proactive play. The team has a willingness to make mistakes early, but this has also taught them how to play smarter later and maximize any advantages or opportunities they find in the late game and react quickly.
MSI will be difficult for any team that cedes mid lane or jungle control. SK Telecom T1, G2, Flash Wolves and Royal Never Give Up all qualified for MSI by keeping mid lane control to push out the waves to allow their jungler freedom. This will create steep competition for G2 against teams that play a similar style. Teams like Flash Wolves that are more willing to gank mid will force G2 to play on the backfoot, but they may be the team, of those competing for second, most capable of playing from behind with PerkZ's style of play.
Because of this, I think the key to dismantling G2 isn't focusing PerkZ, as many have speculated, but targeting Trick in his jungle. This also requires a high level of mid lane control, but equally aggressive invades and Teleports could be the ideal method for dismantling G2. Regardless, I think their ability to come back will be their edge against more early-focused competition at MSI. For once, I'm looking more forward to G2's late game rather than their early aggression. This is the extra dimension G2 will have to bring in full-force to quiet their doubters.
Kelsey Moser is a staff writer for theScore esports. You can follow her on Twitter.