Four teams have been locked into the playoff bracket, and at the forefront, as it has been for much of the season, are G2 Esports. The team showed a dominating performance in the initial half of the split, going completely undefeated in the first round robin. The latter half has not been as successful, but their dominance is not to be understated. They have been hit with only three losses: two to fellow top four contenders Origen and Splyce, and one hotly contested throw to SK Gaming.
Recently, a tweet from G2’s Head Coach Grabbz attempted to illuminate the current situation within the team: a lack of practice stemming from health concerns for G2 Mikyx’s hands. This statement came in light of their most recent loss to Splyce. The questions this brings with regards to any analytical assessment of the future of G2 are as follows: What strategic gaps has this lack of practice opened up, and what would potentially replacing Mikyx do to the situation?
The good news is that if the past week’s loss revealed a hole, that hole was not shaped like Mikyx. Though his match vs. Splyce cannot be said to have been his finest game – that honour goes to his previous performance on Pyke against the very same team – he does not bear the blame for the loss. The ongoing strength of G2 has been that they understand the game on a superior strategic level rather than that they have to consistently rely on carry performances despite their strong roster.
Enter Splyce, one of the two litmus tests of Europe along with Team Vitality. For different reasons, these teams present the greatest threat to teams that start to display their Achilles heel. Vitality will bore right through any such gap straight to your nexus. Splyce are a lot more focused. They come in typically with great plans and often play a far slower game. For example, in their match against SK Gaming, they came in with a TP Vayne matchup in the bottom lane with the idea of matching her against the opposing Yorick in the mid-game, nullifying an otherwise unstoppable sidelaning threat. It still took them a long time to actually set the map up properly, despite many opportunities. Were SK a more refined team in the mid-late game, they likely still would have won.
Against G2, the gaps presented early. Splyce’s plan consisted of a series of easy engage/collapse champions that nullified early grouping threats by G2 Esports. However, the big strategic mistake occurred in the midgame. Having already claimed one infernal off of the tempo they had through early collapses, Splyce were not actually in the best position to take a much needed second infernal. The reason they were able to secure it came down to G2’s timing. Wunder had the option of stacking his wave topside to keep a measure of safety for an additional wave. Instead, he fast pushed and grouped one wave too early.
After shoving mid and taking drake control, there was another wave’s worth of time until the drake respawned. Splyce engaged with their aforementioned composition when G2 contested the wave, with Renekton, having had the time to group due to the delay. Had the timing been better for G2, then even with Renekton’s delayed grouping, they would have found themselves facechecking in the river, with the drake already almost taken
This is a situation that another team that defeated them are able to pull off consistently. Right from the roster’s inception, Origen have long been considered one of the smartest teams in the League. A multitude of intelligent players who allegedly displayed strong leadership qualities on previous teams, and no real clashing personalities. This was always the team that would scale particularly well in a strategic regard. In this manner, this weekend’s match against SK Gaming was a tour de force. Every single drake was secured with the same smooth transition from topside by Alphari. Their opponents were never given the breathing room to group and engage favourably as Splyce were.
There are clearly strategic conversations occurring in Origen that we have not evidently seen occur in G2. They survived their most recent litmus test against Vitality very well. While subbing in the rookie mid laner Saken to replace an ailing Jiizuke would be presumed as a significant disadvantage against the experienced Nukeduck, Vitality had already defeated Misfits and their superstar mid laner Febiven the previous day. Evidently the mid lane matchup did not stop them tunnelling through teams that exposed cracks.
Origen did not win this game through mid. They didn’t even claim hard mid priority for much of the match. Most of the action happened in sidelanes, with Origen’s advanced understanding of tempo netting them an almost perfect victory in every facet. This matched up nicely with their draft: one that showed a significant understanding of Vitality’s very one-dimensional playstyle. With Vladimir, Orianna, and a Draven/Thresh lane, it was very difficult for Vitality to accelerate through their solo lanes and hard to contest them in a 3v3 on the bottom side.
G2 Esports haven’t had specific drafts and game plans. In this regard they are more similar to Vitality than any other team, prioritising heavy powerful matchups against their opponents rather than any sort of specificity in their composition. This kind of particular foresight and preparation is what helped Origen take the first game off of G2 Esports. Combined with their recent relative strategic form, they look like a formidable threat in a BO5. It has shown to be enough for the often criticised Splyce in similar situations, even taking a full series against their stylistic counters in Vitality.
We know why though. The question is if the absence of Mikyx will bring them down further, or if just being able to scrim with any sort of stable roster will bring G2 to the form they need to be in. In examining G2, not once has a bot lane specific discrepancy cropped up. The game will not be decided by Perkz, or by any support he plays with. The areas G2 need to refine are in broad-based strategy and specifically how their solo lanes work within their strategic framework. Any practice at all is going to give them that, regardless of changes in the bottom lane. A negative reaction to the proposed change is an over-reaction. It could be exactly what they need.