The expected result in Group A of the 2020 League of Legends World Championship was that G2 Esports and Suning would be the two teams that escaped from Group A to qualify for the knockout stage at the 2020 League of Legends World Championship. While that result ended up ringing true, the path to the likely conclusion was far more treacherous than initially expected.
When all was said and done, Suning secured the 1st seed in a tiebreaker with G2 Esports after defeating the League of Legends European Championship winner in its second round robin meeting and repeating its triumph immediately following.
Team Liquid would have had a chance at a tiebreaker with Suning if G2 Esports had secured a 2-0 head to head record against the League of Legends Pro League first seed, but G2 failed to execute on a surprise last-round flex of Senna into the hands of support Mihael "Mikyx" Mehle. Instead, Suning won the match, and Team Liquid joined Machi Esports on the trip home after being eliminated from the group.
While flexing Senna into the support position is suboptimal in the Worlds 2020 meta, G2 Esports had plenty of reasons to consider this risk to be more than worth its potential reward. G2 Esports deserves to be criticized for its Senna support flex from a strategic standpoint, but when contextualizing it against the identity of the team and its previous meeting against Suning, there's a justifiable case for the pick that has been panned by the community as a troll pick.
In some cases, G2's flex of Senna has been evaluated as a voluntary saboteur to ensure Team Liquid's elimination from Worlds 2020. This simply isn't the case, and there are plenty of factors that support that argument.
The first meeting
It's a fact that no other matchup in the Worlds 2020 group stage thus far has been as competitive as G2 Esports vs. Suning, and right from the first match between the two teams, the seeds of that fact were sowed. G2 Esports' first match against Suning was arguably the most exciting match of Worlds 2020 thus far — a back and forth match that balanced on a knife's edge until G2 finally secured the win after nearly 43 minutes.
Suning played the game more aggressively and arguably cleaner than G2 Esports, but the superior scaling in G2's composition ended up being the primary difference-maker in the extremely late end to the match.
Crucially, Mikyx and AD carry Luka "Perkz" Perković were able to gain an advantage in the first 10 minutes of the bot lane matchup against Tang "huanfeng" Huan-Feng and Hu "SwordArt" Shuo-Chieh despite being on the losing side of the Ezreal/Bard vs Ashe/Nautilus matchup, which gave G2 more than enough resilience to last until its composition hit critical mass in the late game.
G2 Esports came into its second match against Suning in Group A having already qualified for the Worlds 2020 knockout stage and with a chance to lock in a 1st seed by repeating its victory over Suning. If G2 won this match, Suning and TL would have had to play a tiebreaker for the 2nd seed, but because G2 lost, Suning was able to force a tiebreaker for 1st seed while TL was indirectly eliminated.
While it was a shame for Team Liquid to be eliminated in such an anti-climactic fashion, especially after the team's improvements in the second round robin spearheaded by strong play from AD carry Edward "Tactical" Ra and support Jo "CoreJJ" Yong-in, it's understandable for G2 to have taken a risk by flexing Senna against Suning given the external context around the match and its results. Next, let's take a look at the strategic reasons that G2's Senna flex made sense against Suning.
Best in the West
G2's current roster established itself as the best Western team in League of Legends history in 2019, but it's important to consider how it got to that level. Following in the footsteps of legendary EU squad Moscow5, G2 challenged convention by signing Rasmus "Caps" Winther and moving its now second world class mid laner, Perkz, to the bot lane.
G2's challenge against convention paid off and extended to its compositional flexibility. G2 Esports was able to play more champions than any other team in the world last season, and while Perkz grew into a world class marksmen, his ability to pull out mages in the bot lane was a meta staple and a calling card for G2 throughout 2019.
It's important to remember G2 Esports became the best Western team of all time by simply being able to do what other teams could not. G2 has not been that 2019 team yet this year, but the roster and the elite level of play relative to global peers remains the same. Because of this, G2 deserves more leeway than the average team when drafting a wonky composition, and its Senna flex in its final scheduled Group A match against Suning falls into this category.
First, in G2's previous match against Suning, its scaling-focused composition was able to win in a very close late game because Perkz — with the help of Mikyx's Bard, of course — amassed a pre-10 minute advantage despite that anemic early game of Ezreal that kept the bot lane afloat and far less exploitable than Suning initially planned.
Despite the result ending in a win for G2, the game was extremely close and one could argue that the most convincing advantage G2 possessed throughout the game was the bot lane advantage of Perkz and Mikyx in the laning phase. Between this and G2's flair for the unconventional, the last pick of Kalista for Perkz and the flex of Senna into Mikyx's hands wasn't out of nowhere.
G2's first three picks of Renekton, Graves, and Ekko already prioritized towards individual lane advantages over compositional synergy, and given the state of the bot lane in the first game against Suning, G2 clearly attempted to throw the Chinese side a curveball and smash the bot lane matchup for a quick and dirty win.
The only problem with this plan was that G2 didn't win the early game — Suning gained an early lead and barely let up at all on its way to forcing a tiebreaker for Group A's 1st seed in convincing fashion.
G2 Esports drafted a far more conventional composition for its third match against Suning in the tiebreaker — somewhat ironically featuring Perkz on Senna — and while the game itself was closer, it ended in a cracked G2 nexus and a securing of a 1st seed for Suning heading into the knockout stage.
Senna support isn't exactly front of the meta currently, and while having a Kalista paired with the Redeemer can make for quite the oppressive laning phase, the duo's synergy essentially begins and ends with range. Kalista is an early game champion that wants to throw her Oathsworn support into a fight by utilizing her Fate's Call, and Senna is a late game scaling squishy marksman who wants to be as far away from a brawl as possible. Suning won the moment G2 Esports lost the laning phase.
With Suning securing the 1st seed in Group A, G2 Esports stands to face some fierce competition in its quarterfinals match. While no other group at Worlds 2020 has concluded at this time, League of Legends Champions Korea 1st seed DAMWON Gaming has dominated Group B and League of Legends Pro League 1st seed Top Esports has looked every bit the tournament favorite it was perceived to be leading up to the event.
Frankly, it served G2's best interests to experiment in a fashion that might lead to a quick, convincing win at the end of a group where the team already has protection from elimination and an opponent that proved extremely tough to defeat in the previous round robin.
Senna support will probably not be seen again, and rightfully so, but the methodology behind the pick was sound in context, and any questioning of G2's competitive integrity on the Worlds stage in favor of sabotaging Team Liquid is an immature conflation of the reasoning behind the result at best and a baseless accusation at worst.
Perkz was quick to mention both via Twitter and in a post-game interview following G2 Esports' tiebreaker loss to Suning that his team 'preferred 2nd seed anyway' but summed up why he wasn't concerned about facing tougher opponents than Suning in succinct, authentic fashion: "It doesn't really matter who we play. We should probably beat everyone anyways to win the tournament."
G2 Esports won't play again at Worlds 2020 until the knockout stage, but Group B, C, and D have yet to conclude. The 2020 League of Legends World Championship resumes Friday, October 9 in Shanghai at 4:00pm local time with the final matches of Group B between DAMWON Gaming, JD Gaming, Rogue and PSG Talon.
All images by: David Lee for Riot Games
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