Analysis for this 2018 League of Legends World Championship has been, for most, an exercise in imperfection. Nobody could have predicted not one, not two, but three Western teams would make it to the Semifinals. Few considered the notion that China would be represented in the Semifinals by Invictus Gaming (iG) instead of the team that won every single tournament this year, Royal Never Give Up (RNG). And if you suggested the idea that not even a single Korean team would make it to the final four, you would be called a time traveler and taken away for research.
But, here we are. In a lot of ways, G2 Esports and Invictus Gaming are mirror images of each other. Flashy, lane dominant solo laners. Inconsistent junglers that either hard carry or make boneheaded plays. 1-3-1 compositions that want to skirmish and split push. Franchises looking for redemption for their failures at past World Championships. Teams who took out the favorites to get to this Semifinals match. Somebody has to do the job of evaluating these two teams and make the prediction on who’s going to win, even if that “prediction” ends up in the trash like the rest of its kind in this whirlwind of a tournament.
G2 Esports: The Perkz of Being A Wall Flower
Apparently G2 Esports (G2) didn’t get the memo that they weren’t supposed to make their most successful Worlds run ever the year after losing their superstar bot lane. Coming into this tournament, G2 had virtually no expectations of making a deep run, not even from European fans. Everything this year said that it just wasn’t going to happen. The roster change up, the shaky summer split after the removal of funneling from the meta, the lack of firepower coming from the bot lane in a tournament with Uzi and Deftm and the uninspiring performance in the Play-In stage. Nobody wanted to “dance” with this team, if you will.
So, it’s quite fitting that their brilliant mid laner, Perkz, is the only player left in the tournament to be featured in the music video to this year’s Worlds anthem, Rise. G2, along with their Play-In brethren, Cloud9, are by far the most improved teams at Worlds. G2 almost didn’t make it to Worlds in the first place, and for a team to go from that to defeating the favorites to win the whole tournament, RNG, in a best of 5 series is easily one of the most impressive Worlds runs of all time. Besides their overall improvement and continued practicing, there are two big factors as to why this was the perfect storm for G2.
- Their underdog status. Looking back at Game 1 of the Group Stage, the Afreeca Freecs decided to not ban Hjarnan’s legendary Heimderdinger because they were confident that they could play against it. Evidently, they couldn’t, as G2 won in a very convincing fashion. There has been a very distinct pattern in the narrative for how G2 was able to make their run to the semifinals, and that pattern is disrespect. Not only have Eastern teams given G2 power picks like Perkz on Leblanc or Wunder on Aatrox, in general Eastern teams this tournament have been opting in to early skirmishes despite the fact that their team composition is suited for scaling and G2’s team is the one who wants to fight early.
- The meta. Coming into the tournament, the perception was that this meta was going to be all about ADC’s. This was one of the biggest reasons why people were so low on G2 because they thought that G2’s bot lane isn’t as equipped to carry as it is to fulfill a utility role for the team. Fast forward to today, and it’s very clear that meta read was wrong. Because of the mid season ADC itemization rework and base stats changes, marksman have weaker two to three item power spikes than before even though they are better at killing tanks. Couple this with the nerfs to shields and heals, ADC’s are more vulnerable than ever to dying from fed solo laners. This meta is all about strong, high damage solo lanes, and G2 has been playing around their solo lanes this whole year.
Invictus Gaming: From Rookie, To Veteran
Invictus Gaming is the last relic of the East left standing at Worlds. It feels surreal to type that. Not only are they the only hope left for China at bringing home the Summoner’s Cup, the host country South Korea also has a stake in this. Everybody knows about the monstrous Korean solo laners that iG has. Rookie, arguably the best player in the world right now. TheShy, a man who has Riven combos named after him due to his gifted mechanics. G2’s Wunder and Perkz should be the best in their lane 9 times out of 10 in any given match. So it speaks volumes to iG’s solo laners that they are the exception. For a Worlds tournament that has seemed like a coming out party for the West, iG is worthy of being called the final bosses of this tournament. But it’s important to note that even a team with the best Mid Laner in the world started this Worlds in the shadow of others.
How is it even possible to have a team that goes 18-1 in back to back splits overshadowed? The question for this team has never been whether they have the talent or teamwork, rather it has been whether they can beat themselves. iG has time and time again been there own worst enemy. A large part of this is due to the fact that not only do they have a relatively new roster, they are filled with extremely young players like JackeyLove who only just became eligible to play this year. During this Worlds, the players outside of Duke, Rookie, and TheShy have had up and down performances. Despite the fact that they dominated domestically in the LPL, they were still bested by Royal Never Give Up in 5 games in the final for each split and that is something that has weighed on them.
The talk of the town right now is that IG’s performance in scrims has been dominant as of late and many pro players seem to think that this is the strongest team left in the tournament. But there are a lot of questions for iG. Is JackeyLove going to be able to handle the pressure of the big stage? Is Ning going to have his champion pool pinched too much for him to make an actual impact in these games? If they fall behind 2-0, will they have the mental fortitude to be able to reset and go for the reverse sweep? Rookie says that he hasn’t changed his name because he doesn’t think he has earned it yet, so will this be the second to last obstacle that he has to face to consider himself worthy of being a veteran?
This Semifinals matchup is extremely interesting because iG and G2 want to play the game in very similar ways. They are both teams that want to draft carry champions that have winning matchups for their solo lanes, draft stable, self sustaining bot lanes, and aggressive ganking junglers to get their lanes ahead early on. Throughout the year, they have both found their success from playing these 1-3-1 splitpush compositions and and that is not likely to suddenly change for either team unless iG subs in Duke. iG has the best laning solo laners in the whole tournament, but Wunder and Perkz are not far behind, and that strength from iG can be mitigated through G2 drafting winning lanes for themselves.
Both teams have strengths that make it hard to draft against them. iG will most likely have to pay the Heimerdinger ban tax unless they have something prepared specifically for it, which is doubtful since JackeyLove is a traditional marksman player only. But iG is the strongest Red Side drafting team in the world. Both teams have so many champions that they’re lethal with, all 5 of the solo laners can play Akali, Irelia and Aatrox to the the highest level. These guys have champion oceans – there are just not enough bans in the game to ensure that power picks don’t come through for both of the teams, though you can most likely count out Urgot and potentially Aatrox from escaping the ban phase.
Jungle has arguably been the most important position in the whole tournament, and iG’s weakest link so far has been Ning. He has a small champion pool that G2 should look to pinch every single game because winning the jungle matchup could mean all the difference in getting Perkz and Wunder ahead to tip the scales in their favor.
However, iG has a much stronger bot lane than G2. G2 managed to pull of the upset against RNG in large part due to the fact that they were able to gracefully lose in bot lane while Perkz and Wunder got ahead of RNG’s solo laners, but iG’s solo laners are the toughest challenge that they are going to face at this tournament. While JackeyLove and Baolan aren’t Uzi and Ming, they are still very aggressive in lane and should the game go to late game, iG certainly has the superior late game insurance policy in JackeyLove. Hjarnan has been great and has silenced a lot of his critics, but he isn’t that player known for being a late game hyper carry.
If G2 wins this series, it’s going to be off the back of a performance from Jankos. He has been to the semifinals with H2K before and if he wants to get the redemption victory, he has to put the pressure on these lanes. Because iG have the slight advantage in solo lane talent, more often than not these lanes aren’t going to win themselves. He is going to have to snowball them himself on Olaf and Gragas. If he is able to track Ning and counter-gank his typical level 2 to level 3 early ganks, that might be the snowball needed to blow a game out of the water.
If iG wins, it’s because Rookie and TheShy were set up in positions for them to exploit their oppressive laning. Wunder and TheShy are both the kind of top laners that are going to take your whole base while you are dancing around baron. Rookie and Perkz can each put their whole team on their back. These matchups are going to be extremely close, but G2’s Lane Kingdom may have finally met their match. If Viktor top is picked up by G2, could we potentially see a Riven counter pick with Unsealed Spellbook that works with the Ning on something aggressive to camp Viktor and make him chain feed? One could only dream, but a Jayce or Irelia seem more likely.
In a Worlds tournament where predictions have been largely wrong, it is likely that iG will win this series 3-1. iG’s supporting cast will step up and enable Rookie and TheShy to carry them to victory. Admittedly, betting against G2 when no one believes in them might be the most insane thing you could possibly do. They have proven time and time again this season that, when things look over for them, they find a way out of it. While it’s not enough to change the prediction, it may be very fitting that in a Worlds where the unthinkable has continually happened, the logical predictions may be wrong yet again. That may be one of the most refreshing things to happen to the game in a long time.
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