Twenty-four percent to 22.6 percent probably doesn’t seem like a significant amount of team gold. Depending on the game, it may amount to roughly 1,000 gold in total. This isn’t even a major item, but it is the difference between an above average percentage of team gold in 2016 EU LCS Spring and a below average percentage of team gold in 2016 EU LCS Summer for a mid laner in the league.
With the inclusion of star European bottom lane, Jesper "Zven" Svenningsen and Alfonso "mithy" Aguirre Rodriguez, G2 Esports mid laner Luka "PerkZ" Perković found himself in a position of adjustment. In 2016 EU LCS Spring, as a rookie, he was considered G2’s main carry, controlling games and backing up jungler Kim “Trick” Gangyun. He dominated most mid laners, and won the hearts of voters when it came to deciding the best mid laner in the EU LCS. Perkz overcame his veterans, stayed above the curve when selecting picks like Corki mid, and found ways to pressure the edge of a teamfight.
In 2016 EU LCS Summer, the focus of G2 Esports drastically drifted to the side lanes. Ki "Expect" Daehan replacing Mateusz "Kikis" Szkudlarek created a less consistent and stable top laner. Trick, especially in the 2016 EU LCS Summer semifinal, had to focus much more attention to the top lane. When lane swaps were popular, this strategy allowed G2 to bait opponents into over-extending in Expect’s lane, allowing Trick a free gank. Now, in the early game, Trick needs to compensate for Expect’s tendency to fall behind early.
The other factor involved is simply Zven and mithy’s power as a duo lane. Especially on blue side, when it’s easier to gank bottom given the position of the tri-bush on blue side, G2 can decide to invest most of their resources into the bottom side of the map. The percentage of team gold invested into the AD carry between spring and summer split also amounted to a full percentage of team gold, emphasizing the importance of bottom lane on the new roster.
Individuals like to echo the sentiment that playing the low economy role on a League of Legends team isn’t hard. To an extent, I see the validity of this line of logic. When the ninth hour strikes, the individual the team looks to carry the day feels the most pressure. He will be remembered by many as selfish or heroic depending upon the result of the game. That used to be PerkZ and Trick, but now it’s Zven and Trick.
Much of this also came about as a result of the introduction of mithy. mithy roams much more with Trick than Glenn "Hybrid" Doornenbal did, but many of Hybrid’s roams were focused on mid lane ganks. This was a mechanism for propelling Perkz ahead, while mithy’s roams are more vision focused. In 2016 Spring, if one asked me who the primary duo of G2 was, I would answer Trick and Perkz. Now, Trick and mithy feels like the more appropriate answer.
This made Perkz a much more self-reliant feature of the team. In the past, when Perkz shoved out mid lane, he did so after his support ganked mid lane, getting him ahead. At this point, the team relies on him much more to control mid lane on his own. This doesn’t always work when the European meta has been predisposed toward mid lane ganks. Perkz has to guard his own lane, at times giving up waves of minions for fear the jungler will catch him out if he over-extends.
Many shrug off the low economy role as easier, but when a player goes from the star of his team to more of a supporting member, it isn’t always simple. Perkz’s style often has him playing on the edge of a team fight. He abuses opponents by relying on understanding how much damage he can take and how much damage he can deal before he has to retreat. He gets more out of his health bar than many mid laners in the EU LCS, but many of these calculations have to change if Perkz doesn’t have a lead as frequently. He still plays like he’s the star, he just isn’t.
A gap in play has lead to heavy criticism of G2 Esports’ mid laner. Perkz has had to find ways to impact the map that don’t necessarily have to do with obtaining kills and winning his lane. He looks for other opportunities to impact the map and create openings.
Enter mid lane Ekko.
As Ekko, Perkz only had a 1.25 KDA in the two games in which he played the champion in the EU LCS final against Splyce. One game was a loss for G2. The Ekko strategy relies on a lot of strengths Ekko has as a top laner: the ability to flank well with Teleport, using his ultimate to abuse the border of a fight, and a hybrid of damage and durability. Riot has made small buffs to AP Ekko, making playing him as a mid laner increasingly attractive, especially against early pushing champions like Taliyah, as Ekko has a lot of early wave clear potential.
In the final against Splyce, G2 had an interesting Ekko-related strategy. Ekko pushed out mid lane, and the jungler or mid laner laid wards to allow Perkz to back, and then Teleport close to mid lane to try to flank and 1v1 his opponent.
Obviously, this strategy didn’t always work. I believe it could have benefited from deeper wards, but these are often only obtainable if mid lane is winning, creating a Catch 22 situation. Ultimately, however, this was a unique idea for Perkz to create pressure in the mid lane using the element of surprise. He may have ended with a low KDA and a loss, but Perkz was a focal point of the matches, drawing the enemy jungler and distracting him from the control his side lanes created.
The reality is that this is all Perkz has to do. Perkz wants to draw attention to himself to relieve jungle pressure from his side lanes. This often means he has to be more mindful of his position in lane. He plays like he expects the enemy jungler to be mid because he often is. If he constantly pressures forward, the enemy jungler will have to abandon his plans to gank Zven and mithy to gank mid. Even if Perkz dies, it’s about the amount of pressure Zven and mithy can gain in their lane knowing that the enemy jungler won’t come to gank them for the next minute.
Perkz has gone from the star of G2 to perhaps the class clown. As long as he causes the enemy jungler a raised eyebrow, he’s doing his job. This style of play creates opportunities for his jungler and bottom lane at his own expense.
That doesn’t mean Perkz’s new style is ideal. Part of the reason Perkz is regarded as a flaw of G2 this split is that constantly playing forward in lane or baiting the jungler may mean he dies a lot. Perkz has the highest percentage of team deaths in the LCS of any mid who has played more than one game for his team at 23.2 percent, but in return, despite being a major carry and focal point of G2, Zven has less than 20 percent of team deaths.
Perkz’s new job isn’t always glamorous, and he isn’t the best at it. There’s a reason his Vladimir games were far more positively viewed. Perkz can build Protobelt and equip Ghost and Flash, giving him even more tools to bait with, and if late game arrives, he still has the opportunity to be the star. An absurd 13-kill game still testifies to Perkz’s ability to carry matches for his team.
This summer has been difficult for Perkz. It’s possible that, with a fundamental change in how the team plays, he’s lost confidence. It’s also possible that, if he dies more than he does last split, he’ll bear attention from more than just the enemy jungler — fans will direct their discontent toward G2 Perkz’s new playstyle if it appears he’s feeding.
But as long as Perkz goes down, Zven and Trick don’t. In the 2016 EU LCS Summer split, this is the decision G2 have made, and it has given them their second consecutive championship.
If G2 want to surprise their international competition, Perkz’s versatility is a trump card. Until then, he’s an imperfect and abusable enabler. He treads a fine line between feeding and noble sacrifice like he used to tread the fine line of a team fight.
Contrary to popular opinion, it takes a truly impressive individual to pull off a change like that.
Kelsey Moser is a staff writer for theScore esports. You can follow her on Twitter.