It wasn’t LoL Esports’ game of the week, but it certainly should have been. The 8-1 H2k Gaming, an all-star lineup featuring some of Europe’s top talents in every position, took on the 7-2 LCS rookies G2 Esports in a huge League Championship Series (LCS) game with first place on the line.
The teams knew the importance of the game. During pre-game comms, head coach Neil “Pr0lly” Hammad told his H2k players to be confident— “we’ve never studied a team so much so far,” he said. But while H2k Gaming were prepared, it wasn’t enough to beat G2 Esports. Despite building an early lead, H2k couldn’t hold on as G2 mitigated their opponents’ ability to build on it, turning the match on a pivotal play at Baron.
The LCS newcomers G2 have taken the the league by storm with a lineup featuring two Korean imports and a jungler swapped to the top lane. While mid laner Luka “PerkZ” Perković may be the star on paper, it was those two imports and the role swapped player who won this game.
Jungler Kim “Trick” Gang-yun was a gamble when G2 added him in the offseason, a young player with little competitive experience. But he’s emerged as one of Europe’s top junglers, going toe-to-toe with the first blood master Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski and shutting him down—the H2k jungler only posted a 0/5/7 KDA on Lee Sin.
In the top lane, Mateusz “Kikis” Szkudlarek continued to show that he’s one of the few players who can make a role swap work. The former jungler may focus on tank champions, but it fits very well for G2. Today, Kikis used Malphite to counter Andrei “Odoamne” Pascu’s Quinn, putting up a ridiculous 9/1/9 on the top lane rock while dishing out nearly the same damage as Odoamne’s more damage-focused champion.
But even with those two performances, G2 may not have won the match without a big play from AD carry Kim “Emperor” Jin-hyun.
At the 30 minute mark, H2k held just under a 3k gold lead and looked to secure a relatively free Baron, one that could have potentially secured them the game. But Kim somehow managed to steal the Baron with his Mystic Shot, beating Jankos’ Smite to take the buff and then score a massive team fight win. G2 scored 6.5k gold in the first minute of their Baron buff, securing the mid lane inhibitor and even a nexus turret.
In some ways, H2k may have already lose the match before that point—their team composition featuring Quinn, Corki, and Caitlyn focused heavily on building an early game advantage through tower pushes, and they failed to capitalize on the 2k gold lead they held at the 12 minute mark.
In some ways the match—and especially the pivotal Baron play—shows just how rough many of the teams are playing in the Spring sSplit. These teams have entirely new lineups, working in new players, learning communication, chemistry, and tactics, and it sometimes creates hectic games. But it’s also exciting and shows off some of the skill and potential of the players. Koreans imports have a checkered history in the LCS, but G2 Esports seems to have found two good ones in the season. They’ve made a role swap work and are taking advantage of the talent of their other star local players.
We’re now just past the midway point of the season, and G2 is on top of the standings, ahead of the all-star lineups of H2k and Vitality Esports, ahead of the mighty Origen, semifinalists at last year’s World Championship.
“I think we are on the right track,” Kikis said in his post-game interview on stage. “We can try to become the best.”
If G2 Esports isn’t there yet, they’re certainly close—at least in Europe. Their record certainly says so.