The Mid-Season Invitational has been the second most important international competition in League of Legends since 2015. So far, Eastern teams have dominated the tournament, with two Chinese teams taking the title and SKT T1 winning the other two for Korea. However, MSI 2019 might be the best chance yet for Western League of Legends to take the silverware, and G2 Esports is the most likely candidate to accomplish the feat.
The most eye-catching move of the 2019 LoL pre-season was the addition of Caps to the G2 roster. Ocelote’s team also moved Perkz to the bot lane and added Mikyx to fill the support role. With a renewed, star-spangled squad, G2 Esports took the new LEC by storm and towered over the opposition. The team finished with a record of 13 wins in 18 games, and had a streak of 9 wins to start the split. After beating Origen twice in the playoffs, the title was secured.
But it is not the fact that G2 Esports dominated Europe that makes them special. Actually, they did not even have the most dominant European campaign we have seen. It is how G2 dominated and played that makes them the best Western candidate yet to win MSI.
Macro in League of Legends has become increasingly impactful in recent years. Strategic prowess is now a necessary trait to top teams. This year, G2 Esports has shown that and also discipline which, if repeated in MSI 2019, can be a powerful tool.
A good example of how methodically Perkz and company can play through their compositions’ win conditions are some of first games of the split.
In game one of the season, against Origen, Grabbz drafted a siege/poke comp. Jayce and Zoe were the center of the composition. They also had Karthus to finish off kills, Urgot to play the side lanes and Rakan to add utility. With these champions and facing off against an all-in teamfight composition, the ideal was for G2 to play the fights slowly and focus on attempting to find pick-offs, avoiding direct 4v4 or 5v5 conflicts. The team executed these conditions consistently throughout the game, and the win came because of it.
In the second game, versus Schalke, G2 drafted a 1-3-1 comp. Akali and Aatrox were chosen to play the side lanes. For the 3 man unit, Kai’sa, Alistar and Karthus were the selections. The win conditions here were to get Karthus ahead so that the 1-3-1 could become almost a 2-3-2 because of his ultimate. It was also important to snowball the bot lane to give the trio autonomy. Again, G2 did exactly what they had to do and secured victory.
The fourth game of the season was the next example of the team’s discipline. Facing Rogue, Grabbz drafted a peel composition with a split-pusher. Ivern, Karma and Rakan were meant to protect Xayah, while Irelia was responsible for the side lanes. Getting Irelia and Xayah ahead were important win conditions, because it would allow G2 to execute the 0-4-1 and press. Again, exemplary understanding of what they had to do lead G2 to an easy win.
However, not always does G2 follow the game plan this thoroughly. The third game of the season, against Excel, was an example of that. But for when discipline and strategy fail, the best teams have…
It is no secret that to compete against the best teams in the world an organization needs capable players. Being one of the best teams requires a combination of skill and teamwork. SKT has it. Invictus has it. G2 has it.
Caps is one of the best mid laners in the world, and does as much as he does without costing a lot to the team’s economy. Amongst mid laners, there are five with higher team gold share than him, and he is dead last for CS share after 15 minutes. No one questions the mechanical skill the Danish superstar has either, and last year’s Worlds performance has most League of Legends fans eager to see what he can do in MSI 2019 in a new team. There’s too much to say about how good he is, so for now, let’s keep it straight: Caps is amazing.
Perkz has adapted to the bot lane seamlessly, and even transformed what it means to be a bot lane carry. Many people did not believe he would be one of the best in Europe in his new role in his first season at it, but he proved as many people wrong. Not only has he readjusted quickly, he has brought to the bot side his mid lane champion pool, which gives him versatility that very few players have in this role. Perkz is also who G2 usually allocates more of their gold to, and being the highest damage per minute dealer during the LEC regular season shows he is worth them doing so.
Wunder can hold his own against the best top laners. His champion pool is deep and allows his team to ask almost anything of him. He has played 14 champions throughout the 24 games G2 played in the LEC’s first split. Amongst those champions were split-pushing machines, team fight starters, late game carries and even supports. Wunder is good at whatever G2 needs him to do.
Jankos and Mikyx are among the best in the West in their roles and are essential gears that make the G2 machine work smoothly. Jankos does whatever his team needs him to, and does almost all of it well. Mikyx proved to be an ideal duo for Perkz’ role switch, and has enough map awareness and positioning knowledge to make life in the bot lane easy, aside from being very competent mechanically. Without them, G2 would be a lesser team.
Talent can sometimes win games single-handedly, and G2 has spare. With how well they play as a group, how much they enjoy playing together and how much everyone is willing to give up for the sake of the team, all this talent also seems to be on the same page. Thus, the staff and players took the liberty to explore different compositions and playstyles and found, through their discipline, talent and experimentation, perhaps their biggest weapon coming into MSI 2019…
Few teams can say they won the final of the 2019 first split playing a funnel composition. Maybe no other team can. But G2 Esports has done it, and how well they did it is a testament to their ability to play almost any style of League of Legends. Split-pushing, poking, team fighting, snowballing, funnelling, you name it. G2 has tried it and probably succeeded.
Versatility might be the most valuable weapon for G2 in MSI 2019 because of how much it impacts five games series. Being able to change your style of play during a best of five and keep playing well despite it means a versatile team can change the momentum of a series at any moment. Sudden and significant changes in style can also make the opposition’s knowledge of such team almost worthless. This means Perkz’ team is more difficult to read than others, and can use unpredictability as a tool.
With that said, the most difficult mission for G2 this tournament might not be the knockout stages, but the 10 games they have to play to get there. It was a lot like that in the LEC, and some things indicate it might be the same in MSI 2019. For even the best teams have…
In the LEC Spring Season, G2 lost 5 of the last 9 games. They did show their strength again in the LEC Spring Playoffs, where they beat Origen without dropping any games, twice. Still, those losses showed some problems and G2 should be trying to fix them for MSI 2019.
One of the problems was neutral objective control. Not that they were horrible at all of it, but for a team as dominant as G2, you would expect more than being third worst in the league for Baron percentage. The team was also not amongst the best teams in the LEC for Elemental Dragons nor Elder Dragons percentages. To make sure success is within their reach in MSI 2019, G2 has to make sure to improve this part of their game.
This problem, much as others, come mostly from the fact G2 focuses in playing one side of the map at a time. G2’s vision setting is usually concentrated in one quadrant of the jungle or one half of Summoner’s Rift, which opens up possibilities for cross-map responses to any play they decide to make. Against such experienced and talented teams as Invictus and SKT, and even Team Liquid, G2 will have to be more careful with how they handle the counter-play opportunities that their own plays open up.
But if Caps and company can fix or avoid their weaknesses and play their disciplined, talented and versatile League of Legends, there is no question they can make a case for a title run, and in this fifth edition of the tournament, bring to the West an MSI trophy.