I have often talked about whether certain skill discrepancies ‘matter’. The most recent example of this would be the case of Fnatic vs Invictus Gaming in the Grand Finals of the Season 8 World Championships. Who was better, I would be asked, Gabriël "Bwipo" Rau or Kang "TheShy" Seung-lok? It didn’t matter, I would reply, because it would not – particularly in the Worlds meta – turn a winning matchup into a losing matchup or not-winning-hard-enough. The champion matchups would matter across the board between these teams, and so the series (I imagined) would come down to red side.
The same is true of team matchups in general. The question of whether certain laners are better than their counterparts on other teams oftentimes becomes irrelevant once the game begins. This can be down to matchups. This can be down to strategy. But very often as League of Legends progresses it comes down to the way in which the map is played on a broader context. This comes down to two people in particular: Jungle/Support.
I would argue that it is within this difference, the way these two roles play, that the real dividing difference between Splyce and Vitality, Misfits and Schalke – and everybody in the LEC and G2.
G2 have reigned dominant, but not quite in the way you might think.
A tale of two roles
Let’s get a few things out of the way. Yes, for the majority of G2 Esports’ games they have had two lanes that for all extents and purposes have won – very often a combination of mid + a sidelane. There have even been instances where all three lanes have won. G2 are not necessarily alone in this. Schalke 04, the current perceived competitor to G2 Esports (though having already suffered a loss at their hands) has had a similar run for a similar reason.
Both Marcin "Jankos" Jankowski and Jonas "Memento" Elmarghichi are pathing appropriately to secure their lanes in the early game as well as play hard to tempo on their win conditions. In essence this means that should the botlane of Luka "Perkz" Perković and Mihael "Mikyx" Mehle be in a situation where their wave is pushing away from them no matter what, they can be sure that Jankos will find a way to keep them safe while they aggressively push to crash their wave into the enemy team’s tower. This creates a circumstance where they can then play for vision, recall, or simply play back as their minions bounce their way. As a result, they become gank immune.
The difference is that while Schalke 04 will often play Memento to escort his top side and look to make hard accelerating plays around bot side, Jankos has displayed that he can do the opposite as well as the same. The difference, I would argue, comes from how this map control can be coordinated with Mikyx. When playing around botside, Mikyx participates in maintaining bot-mid control as most supports in the League will do. When playing around topside though, Mikyx becomes a different beast entirely. Very often Perkz has managed to stay ahead and maintain advantages even in rare post-death circumstances because Mikyx will use every available window to control the wave and the immediate botside.
Power from everywhere
G2’s solo lanes have really come to the fore from this. However, it should also be noted that in the few instances where G2’s botside has been called upon to carry the game, a large amount of this has come from Mikyx himself in mid-late playmaking scenarios. While Perkz himself has shown himself to be mechanically proficient, the de-facto pressure he generates from being ahead allows Mikyx to make some very significant map plays. Everybody remembers his brilliant performance against Splyce. The advantages gained from his somewhat overlooked pickup in the off-season have been worthy of the limelight, as well as his consistent manipulation of the lane.
I highlight the jungle and support control because it is in this understanding of the game that G2 can also be defeated. Teams like Schalke have pulled off very similar systems in the early game, and the one time Schalke have been fallen outside of their match against G2 was against an Origen whose jungler Jonas "Kold" Andersen was matching them in this very manner. Kold in that series was performing as both Jankos and Memento have been consistently doing so: securing his laners on a push so they may be secure for waves after on their own.
I highlight the jungle and support control because it is in this understanding of the game that G2 can also be defeated.
If you play in these scenarios in this manner, the mechanical proficiency of your opponents theoretically ceases to matter. You are not forced to step up to contest a wave that will inevitably crash towards you, thus minimising the windows that opponents have to secure 1v1 or 2v2 kills. If the sheer mechanical prowess of G2 is to be nullified it will be through the jungle matchup, for which G2 already had one of the best – a large part of how their former roster with their former botlane could take on teams like RNG and come out victorious.
This is additionally why most accelerating plays in high level games come from dives, but G2 has shown that when that option is not open to them they can trade in smarter ways. Against Vitality for example they responded to Vitality’s acceleration of the game through their bottom lane by dumping their Rift Herald mid, forcing Vitality’s unlocked 2v2 to abandon their sidelane tempo and match in mid lane while the resulting 1-3-1 setup favoured G2’s sidelanes. Their opponents would not do the same in a similar situation.
Hail to the king
While I do believe Origen and Schalke’s present playstyles and direction stand the best chance of defeating G2, those are challenges for another time. G2 met a worse version of Origen already, and Schalke found themselves unable to match up in their early meeting. The first round robin will tie up shortly and G2 Esports will have found themselves dominant at every single step.
They are not the first team to appear so unstoppable this early on though, and they will not be the last. However, their dominance is not as simple as the win lane win game meta dependency of Summer 2018 Misfits, nor the level 2 cheesy antics of 2018 Spring Vitality. G2 Esports are not a team to be figured out, they are a team to be caught up to. To master G2 Esports is to master the fundamental aspects of early League of Legends, and in this they present a unique and very welcome challenge to an LEC that found itself one series away from Worlds dominance.