For over two years, G2 Esports ran the EU LCS. After arriving as a hot new team in the spring of 2016, they won four splits in a row, all in dominating fashion. Within months after being founded, they established a dynasty and destroyed another one by taking Origen’s two best players.
But in 2018, everything fell apart. Nearly the entire team left in the offseason—now only mid laner Luka “Perkz” Perković is left, and the team’s performances have suffered. Old G2 was all about playoff dominance—and that’s where they have really failed this year. After losing 0-3 to Fnatic in the Spring Split finals, they didn’t even make top four in the Summer Split.
How did G2’s dynasty end, and is there any hope of seeing it again?
It starts at the top
For years, the strength of G2 didn’t actually start with the players—it began with the organization. Ask most analysts and coaches during their dominant run from 2016 to 2017 and they’ll tell you, of all the EU LCS teams, G2 were one of the best-coached and most fundamentally sound.
They were practicing concepts far above the level of most teams and getting the most out of their scrims. That showed on match day, where they could stall out games until their macro simply took over.
Last offseason, one of the most important yet unheralded moves was when G2’s longtime coach Joey “Youngbuck” Steltenpool left to become the Team Director for Fnatic. We wrote back in January how the move could affect both teams, and it’s borne out this season.
Fnatic has totally revamped the way they play and rebuilt around strong mid lane priority, focusing on Rasmus “Caps” Winther, their best player. That’s led to two straight titles. G2 have struggled with the same issue all year.
In some games, it doesn’t look obvious what G2 jungler Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski is doing at all. And that’s a problem because Jankos is supposed to be one of their star players.
A jungle problem
For years, Jankos has been known as one of the strongest junglers in the region. He was nicknamed the “First Blood King” a few seasons ago for his dominating performances on an H2k squad that made it to the semifinals at Worlds.
The one question that has always dogged Jankos is his performance in big moments. In the 2016 Spring Split playoffs, Jankos and H2k were the second seed but were upset in the quarterfinals by Origen. Over the next three splits, H2k would lose its first playoff match each time with Jankos manning the jungle.
Overall, Jankos’ teams are 6-12 in EU LCS playoff matches. Before this year, he’d never even been in a final. The issues were laid bare in G2’s playoff loss to Misfits a couple weeks ago, when Jankos was invisible.
Jankos is known to take creative paths in the jungle, but was oddly predictable against Misfits. After losing the top lane matchup in the first game, Jankos seemed to give up on his solo lanes, going to the bot lane repeatedly despite that being Misfits’ biggest point of strength.
The result was that G2 couldn’t snowball their solo lane leads and players like top laner Martin “Wunder” Hansen, who are used to getting resources, were starved out. It was a bizarre showing of a team that didn’t seem comfortable in their own skins.
There is hope
G2 now have to turn things around for the regional qualifier that takes place this weekend. To earn Europe’s last seed at Worlds, they’ll likely have to go back through the same Misfits squad that beat them so handily.
The good news is that Jankos has had a history of getting through to Worlds in the qualifier. And if G2 can make it, Europe’s lower seeds have a history of doing well. Last year, Fnatic beat Jankos-led H2k in the qualifier to make it to Worlds, where they progressed to the quarterfinals stage.
It will be tough for G2 to recreate that same scenario. Fnatic were operating in a meta that was uniquely suited to their playstyle. G2 don’t seem to know what their optimal playstyle is. If they can find it, there’s still hope for this season, but they better figure things out fast.