In the debate over Europe’s best team, G2 Esports have fallen from focus. Though they remain tied for first place and have recently defeated Team Vitality, G2 are seen as much less of a threat to the EU LCS than either Vitality or H2k-Gaming. They've been derided as the “teamfighting team” and criticized for their players' inexperience. Spectators expect a trip at the finish line.
No one really asks why G2 Esports’ teamfighting has been so consistently successful. But if their style is so one-dimensional, and they simply get lucky picking fights, there’s no way they could have overcome both H2K and Vitality in games this split. G2 seem capable of finding the right fight in almost every situation, and catching loose targets to transition into taking an objective.
Upon further investigation, G2’s “teamfighting style” is clever. Their ability to create the conditions that allow them to win fights makes them more than worthy of a spot among Europe’s top three teams.
In order for their style to work, G2 need to control the jungle and set up flanks for Teleports. G2 have the best jungle control in the EU LCS, at 54.8%. This may not seem significant, but being able to farm more than half the jungle creeps cleared every game speaks to how freely they can roam in their opponents’ jungle. Jungle control allows G2 to accelerate their games, and as a result they average the highest gold lead at 15 minutes of 1,697 gold. That's 400 gold more than the next team on the list, H2K.
A significant gold lead doesn’t come from grouping and teamfighting early. The designation of "teamfighting team" usually implies that every member has a high kill participation rate, since they group together to fight whenever possible. But G2’s players' participation rates sit between the middle and the bottom of the EU LCS rankings — indicating that their kills come more often from skirmishes than from frequent 5v5s.
Instead of grouping as five early, G2 secure a gold lead by managing lane swaps and funneling creeps into mid lane and jungle. Mid laner Luka "PerkZ" Perković is the corner stone of their strategy. He averages a CS lead of 5.4 at 10 minutes, making him second in the league for mid laners, just behind ROCCAT’s Felix "Betsy" Edling. When observing G2’s games, a lot of vision is invested on either side of PerkZ’s lane so he can shove out the minion wave aggressively. Lane swaps also help, since mid is usually isolated in the first ten minutes of the game, aside from the occasional jungler interference.
PerkZ doesn't necessarily net many kills as part of this strategy. He's only been involved in 25% of First Bloods in his games, and Kim "Trick" Gangyun has only been in 19%. However, pushing out the mid lane does create opportunities for Trick to invade and deep ward. Trick averages the most wards placed per minute among junglers who have played more than two games in the EU LCS, at 1.02. As the split has progressed, support Glenn "Hybrid" Doornenbal has started to roam more frequently and has taken up some of this responsibility.
Keeping consistent vision of the jungle in the early and midgame allows Trick to counterjungle and accumulate his own CS lead at ten minutes. Like PerkZ, Trick averages the second-highest CS lead at ten minutes in his role at 3.1 CS, also behind a ROCCAT player. CS leads on jungle and mid create opportunities for G2’s duo to find skirmish opportunities in the early game and snowball.
The synergy between PerkZ and Trick is incredible, given their primary mode of communication is allegedly through Google Translate. The give-and-take relationship between these two — often seen roaming the map together — is the main mechanism driving G2's early leads. PerkZ gets free lane pressure with Trick warding his lane and constantly threatening a counter-gank. Trick then counter-jungles with PerkZ in tow. Teams have struggled to beat this strategy, even though the solution should be simple: gank mid and shutdown PerkZ.
Countering enemy gank attempts is where Hybrid factors into G2’s early game strategy. By laning less with Kim "Emperor" Jinhyun, Hybrid is free to provide additional mid lane pressure, with wards and counterganks of his own. That helps guarantee PerkZ keeps lane control even while Trick invades.
The final prong of G2’s strategy is top laner Mateusz "Kikis" Szkudlarek. Most of Kikis’ individual statistics are unremarkable; he averages the worst CS disadvantage at 10 minutes for EU top laners, at -7.3, and low wards per minute for a top laner, at .49. Yet Kikis is instrumental to G2's success.
Rather than farming his way to an individual lead, Kikis focuses on effective Teleport usage and setting up early flanks and picks. Despite having the lowest share of team gold of all EU top laners, Kikis is tied with Lucas "Cabochard" Simon-Meslet and Andrei “Odoamne” Pascu for First Blood participation, at 38%. That puts him at tenth in the entire league. His First Blood participation is higher than Trick's, PerkZ's or Hybrid's. In other top three teams, junglers Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski and Ilyas “Shook” Hartsema are involved in more First Bloods than their teammates, but Kikis is much more likely to initiate early skirmishes for G2 than Trick.
So PerkZ controls the mid lane wave to ensure Trick will always have backup on his invades, Hybrid provides vision coverage and countergank threat for PerkZ and Trick to ensure a lead, and Kikis makes use of deep wards placed by the other three players to set up flanks and picks on opposing junglers. All four of these components have to come together seamlessly for G2's strategy to work.
In the LCS broadcast before the game between Vitality and G2, Riot played a recording of Trick saying he felt Vitality were the strongest team in the LCS, but that G2 saw Ilyas "Shook" Hartsema as a weakness they could exploit. “Shook is a really good player, but sometimes he over-extends. So if we can catch that moment we can have a good game," he says.
The quote doesn’t just speak to how G2 approached the match against Team Vitality, but to how G2 like to play League of Legends in general. Their style of setting deep wards and Teleporting inside the enemy jungle is ideal for taking down a less careful enemy jungler who doesn’t secure his vision with pink wards. Even if it doesn't result in First Blood, the strategy can force enemy junglers to spend more gold on a sweeping lens and pink wards earlier in the game.
Against Team Vitality, Kikis started a great deal of fights with wards placed deep in the enemy jungle. Vitality struggled to predict his angle of approach, and G2 took skirmishes on their terms. G2 get an additional boost from Rammus whenever the pick is open to them, thanks to his low skill-cap, high mobility and strength in the current meta.
The team's style of play is well-constructed and executed, but that doesn’t mean it’s flawless. PerkZ has yet to be completely shut down in an EU LCS game, but if any team can accomplish this, it’s hard to see G2 maintaining the jungle control on which they rely. G2 have safeguards in place to protect PerkZ, but no strategy is without its holes. Given how much the team invests in securing the mid lane path into the jungle, if a team could shut down PerkZ, they would have a shot at dismantling G2.
One name from G2 has been almost entirely absent from this analysis. Many AD carries find themselves relegated to turret push status in the current meta, so Emperor’s low kill participation and team involvement in the early game is unsurprising. Watching him play, however, it's apparent he hasn’t found a position within the team’s dynamic.
G2 rely on Emperor in late game team fights, but his positioning has been subpar, and as a result he averages the highest share of G2's team deaths at 22.5%. Mohammad "Safir" Karim Tokhi is the only AD carry who makes up a larger share of his team's deaths than Emperor, and Safir no longer plays on ROCCAT’s starting lineup for a reason. G2's first goal should be to better integrate Emperor so he gets caught out less.
It’s also worth noting that in recent weeks G2’s control has been slipping in the mid and late game. Their vision control deteriorated somewhat in the latter half of some of their recent losses — the map was much darker than usual in their puzzling throw to Fnatic, for example. Following that loss, they’ve slowly started to correct this problem, but their warding still doesn’t seem as strong as it was early in the season.
Overall, I don’t think it’s fair to say that G2 are lacking in strategy. They keep up well in lane swaps and are tied with H2K for first turret rate at 69%. They put play-making responsibility on members of the team who are most suited to it, and they don’t force as many early fights as some critics claim they do; they actually only have a 56% average First Blood rate.
Though they have exploitable weaknesses, and they don’t stall out games as methodically as Vitality or H2K, G2 close efficiently more often than not — averaging the shortest game time in the league at 32.3 minutes. Being a teamfighting team doesn’t make a squad strategically inept. Rather, with their unique approach, G2 will be a strong threat to both their top-tier opponents in the EU LCS playoffs.
Statistics taken from OraclesElixir.com.
Kelsey Moser is a staff writer for theScore Esports. You can follow her on Twitter.