The European League of Legends championship series had officially opened one week ago with a bang, with a repeat of the 2017 LCS Summer Playoff finals: Misfits Gaming vs. G2 Esports. The crowd was invested from the start; not only was it the first game of the season, it was an occasion for the two teams to gain momentum and test their mettle against one another.
In the end, an exhausted Luka “PerkZ” Perkovic stood victorious, as was the case the last time the two teams met. Exhausted, because he had spent the entirety of the game directing the flow as the leader of a squad he had helped assemble. That moment contrasted with one of his first victories in the LCS, in 2016 when, as a newcomer, he was relatively silent, smirking after he had dominated a game.
“When you're a rookie, you obviously say only the things that you know - information, what you can do,” PerkZ said upon recalling those times. “I was pretty communicative since the beginning, but I wasn't going to be knowledgeable if I don't have experience.”
Since then, the mid laner attended the Mid-Season Invitational and the World Championship two years in a row and, despite setbacks, gained valuable experience, confidence in his ability to make correct decisions, and resilience considering the backlash he had faced following losses on international stages.
The backlash mattered little; in fact, when reflecting on the past, he did not dwell upon that for a single second. Despite marked signs of exhaustion, as all he could see is growth. “The last few years have been, every single tournament there was, I just got experience and knowledge throughout that time,” he said. “I can see in-game what we have to do next, and what their plan is.”
“The leadership role, I had to grow into throughout last year because you just have to evolve more as a player, push your limits,” he added. “Last year was a big evolution from back in 2016. Every tournament, I would just talk more and more, and I would be more present in the game – especially Worlds when I was sure I knew the game.”
That was not the only change about PerkZ compared to the 2016 LCS days.
When the time for celebration came, following the victory against Misfits, there was no Ki “Expect” Dae-han, Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen, Alfonso “Mithy” Aguirre Rodriguez, nor Kim “Trick” Gang-yun, the player he had played with since he reached the professional echelon. With Zven and Mithy’s sights set on North America, and with Trick and Expect’s impending return to South Korea – well before the end of the 2017 World Championship – PerkZ was prepared for the day to come.
When free agency knocked on the door, it had brought ROCCAT’s former bottom lane duo, Petter “Hjärnan” Freyschuss and Kim “Wadid” Bae-in. There was no doubt, in PerkZ’s mind, that the duo was the best on the market in the absence of Zven and Mithy. The same applied to Splyce’s former top laner, Martin “Wunder” Hansen.
“I asked Zven and Mithy for an opinion, even though I was certain of it myself,” the mid laner recalled. “Zven told me they were the best choice anyway, and my opinion was solidified. Hjärnan is really underrated, and has a good mindset, good game knowledge. He was the first option that I was sure I told Carlos "Ocelote" Rodriguez Santiago I want to get this guy. As for Top, Wunder is very talented, and he is very smart about the game. He can learn a lot more still, but he was my number one priority.”
For the jungle position, he had set his mind on realizing something he had wanted to do before joining the LCS, before meeting and working with Trick for two years - “I got really lucky to play with Trick for so long.” Before the Korean jungler’s arrival in Europe, Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen and Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski were the two junglers he had wanted to play with.
The least one could say is that PerkZ has been looking forward to playing alongside Jankos, but he still appreciated Trick’s contributions to G2, and to him, despite the language barrier – a nonexistent barrier with his new teammate. “Trick and Jankos are a bit different in terms of their playstyle,” he said. “Jankos's playstyle is more rewarding, but also more inconsistent and riskier. I think Jankos has a lot to learn from Trick. But once he finds consistency and stability, we will be better together than Trick and I were. because his playstyle suits me more than Trick's.”
“It was natural to get these players because I thought of them as the best in their positions,” he added. “They also have high ambitions to win, since neither of them has ever won a split.”
Even then, winning they might have, it was not as refined as the players might have wanted. The return to the LCS has been a testy one for PerkZ, Wunder and Jankos, who had played with familiar faces in Splyce, H2K, and the old G2, neither of which are on the team.
Gone is the ability to anticipate a teammate’s move, or their way of thinking inside and outside of Summoners’ Rift. In come new challenges, such as the ability to elaborate a game plan on the spot, identifying a teammate’s play style and tendencies, and finding strengths out of the seemingly thin air. The sloppy victory against Misfits attested that there was still room to grow.
The mid laner took solace in the progress the team had made over two weeks of training as it sidestepped macro pitfalls it had fallen for before. More importantly, he saw hope in the manner the team communicated. Over the span of two minutes, PerkZ, Jankos, Hjärnan, and Wadid had exchanged information that was crucial to Wunder’s Teleport attempts, and to the team’s turret takedown forays. None of the information was lost in translation, as was often the case for PerkZ and Jankos in 2017.
“This G2 does not have a language barrier,” PerkZ stated with conviction. “The single most important thing in the game right now is communication, and it has been for quite a while already. Obviously, you could be individually better than others, but it is not going to be a large margin.”
“Say Faker in Season 3 when he was five times better than anyone else at the game,” he added. “Right now, every player is pretty similar. I don't want to say 'close to Faker' because of his achievements and how smart he is, but in terms of mechanics, everyone is around the same. It's all about game knowledge and team play.”
The future looks bright for G2, even despite a defeat against a vision-dominant Team ROCCAT that, if anything, served to highlight G2’s macro flaws in the short term. The league has always been a marathon, rather than a sprint, but support had been crucial in the past. And it will be.
“I would like to thank everyone for supporting me in the new adventure,” PerkZ said with emphasis, as the interview reached its end, taking the time to relay a message to G2’s fan base. “It is going to be really hard in the beginning to get used to the new teammates. I really hope that we will do well as before, if not better.”
(Photo Credit: lolesports Flickr)