According to reports, G2 Esports has been the busiest team of the off-season. And they should be. After all, what better time to make changes than after missing Worlds for the first time in your organization’s six-year history?
Two years ago, G2 established themselves as the best Western team of all time, winning the 2019 Mid-Season Invitational and going all the way to the Worlds finals. The sky-high expectations, however, were not met this year and if G2 wants to regain its elite status, keeping the same core roster it’s hard for half a decade is simply not an option.
Understanding why G2 Esports is changing rosters is easy. Understanding what needs to change, however, is incredibly complex.
Why G2 failed in 2021
G2 at their best — namely the 2019 season and partially 2020, too — was a team built entirely on intuition. Many of their players have gone on record, saying that the way the team functioned and communicated was unique, which was reflected in their play and roster logistics.
Luka “Perkz” Perković’s roleswap to bot lane paying off in dividends, as well as the near-unparalleled flexibility shown by G2’s roster as a whole (seriously, five-way Pyke flex?), made G2 not just a strong, but also unpredictable threat. 2019-2020 G2 had five players at the peaks of their individual careers and their intuitiveness to play off one another built them into an unmatched force not just in the West, but also internationally.
But in 2021, other teams caught up to G2’s individual and team play. What G2 could only accomplish through their unique, bizarre synergy in 2019 became standard for top LEC teams. In an interview with Inven Global, jungler Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski explained that this was a trend that had happened gradually over the past two seasons:
“It feels like all of the teams kind of found their way of getting better,” Jankos admitted. “It feels like we are maybe not as ahead of the players on other teams as we were before on an individual level and we are not as ahead in macro as we used to be compared to 2019.
I think in 2020, you could already see that teams were challenging us more. We couldn't cleanly swipe either of that seasons' Playoffs — we lost to MAD Lions in spring and Fnatic in summer. In the end, we did secure the championship, but it was not as one-sided as it was in 2019. It made sense that if we didn't step up enough in 2021 that we could struggle in the post-season, and that's what happened.”
G2 Esports only missed Worlds 2021 by a single game, losing 2-3 to Fnatic for the #3 LEC seed, so why would such extreme changes need to be made?
It’s not just about missing Worlds: G2’s roster changes explained
Putting aside the fact that G2 massively underperformed against expectations by missing Worlds, there are structural and stylistic issues that the team needs to solve to ensure they don’t have an even worse season next year. Teamplay built entirely on intuition is not something that you can adjust or improve upon. That’s part of what made G2 Esports’ peak in 2019 so special: it didn’t make any sense.
After missing MSI 2021, G2 brought in Nelson Sng to their coaching staff with the goal to develop a more conventional approach to teamplay. In an interview with Hotspawn’s Tom Matthiesen, Sng stated that G2 Esports had stopped playing as a team well before he joined the squad. “Even in 2020, with Perkz, they were not playing as a team, which is why they could not beat the very best teams and why they were not consistent enough,” Sng explained.
“I wouldn’t say that they didn’t know, but they didn’t think about how the top lane might affect the bottom side jungle, or how the top lane affects the bot lane. It’s just that every member of the team has to be on the same page, but most of them weren’t on the same page for the entirety of 2020 and in Spring 2021."
The importance of teamplay was reiterated by Jankos himself, too. “I also think that the game is currently more about the team than anything. If you are on the same page as a team and you play well as a team, that will kind of cover individual flaws. Five players playing well as a team will win over five players who are slightly better individually.”
G2 Esports are not altering an already existing structure. They are having to build one for the first time in three seasons. This isn’t a one-player issue.
Hypotheticals: G2 roster changes for 2022
Reports point towards G2 having placed the contracts of top laner Martin “Wunder” Hansen, support Mihael “Mikyx” Mehle, and head coach Fabian “GrabbZ” Lohmann up for buyout and are in talks with multiple teams. Other reports single out mid laner Rasmus “Caps” Winther as the only untouchable part of G2’s current roster.
While Jankos, Wunder, and Mikyx weren’t as individually sharp as previous years, saying they had bad seasons would be an exaggeration. Still, Caps and AD carry Martin “Rekkles” Larsson were far and away the best players on the team. Wunder’s versatility has always been his greatest asset, but it looks as if the days of Pyke and Neeko top may be behind him. In addition, Mikyx and Rekkles never quite built the synergy needed to compete with the best bot lanes in the LEC on a regular basis.
GrabbZ’s reported buyout is far lower than that of Mikyx and Wunder, and that points further towards G2’s strengths being player-driven and primarily intuitive. GrabbZ has accomplished things in his career that no other western coach has, but if G2 are ready to part ways with him, it further points towards a change in guard and a completely revamped approach to competition.
Another report mentions G2 Esports’ potential interest in MAD Lions AD carry Matyáš "Carzzy" Orság and MAD Lions Madrid AD carry Victor "Flakked" Lirola. Rekkles had a phenomenal individual season on G2 in 2021, but it’s entirely possible that after missing Worlds with the organization he joined to finally win an international title, the Swede could be looking for a change of scenery of his own.
Should Rekkles be out of the picture for G2 in 2022, the likelihood of Jankos staying increases. His strengths are not those that fall off with age and a re-tooled roster with Jankos funneling pressure and resources into Caps could give the squad an established core and a gameplan to structurally rebuild around.
Rekkles staying would mean the team would be almost certainly looking for a weak-side, low-econ top laner like, for example Rogue’s Andrei “Odoamne” Pascu, to allow bot lane to be the primary focus. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, G2 could be looking for something different going forward.
At the end of the day, G2 Esports’ fall from grace has been heavily overblown and comes from the sheer height of the expectations the fans have been used to. It’s possible that a single change could be all it takes to restore G2 to a top 3 team, but if League of Legends continues to favor structured teamplay over intuitive flow, the sweeping changes reportedly coming from G2 are the only viable solution.
All images by: Michal Konkol/Riot Games