The second half of the group stage round robin at the League of Legends World Championship is a strange time to start experimenting. Usually by this point, teams have figured out what they want to do and are focusing how to improve that, rather than reaching for new ideas altogether.
But Invictus Gaming are doing the opposite. The team announced that ahead of the last day of play in Group D, it’s bringing former jungle starter Gao “Ning” Zhen-ning.
Ning is best known for carrying the team to the World Championship last year on aggressive picks like Camille. But he has struggled with consistency for most of 2019, which has caused his team’s top side to fall behind. The team won the LPL Spring Split but then was stunned by Team Liquid in the MSI semifinals in one of the most shocking upsets of all time.
Midway through the year, Ning was replaced by Lu “Leyan” Jue, and the team’s fortunes turned around. They survived the LPL regional gauntlet with Leyan leading the way. Ning hasn’t played since Aug. 23.
So why is he back now? In the announcement on Twitter, the team only confirmed that Ning is back vs. ahq e-Sports Club. Ahq is considered by far the weakest team in the group, so it’s possible that IG are just looking to give Ning a warmup against weaker competition.
On the other hand, ahq did almost upset Liquid, who are tied with IG and DAMWON with identical 2-1 records. And Ning just further amplifies IG’s already-volatile playstyle, one that’s characterized by frequent risk taking and unpredictable games.
In a group so tight, just one loss will likely make the difference in terms of who survives. With Ning in the lineup, IG just made their first match vs. ahq much dicier.