The League of Legends offseason is a time when rosters buzz, but players themselves catch a break. The training schedule is more loose, and team members get to spend time with family. For G2 Esports' head coach, Fabian "GrabbZ" Lohmann, it was an opportunity to connect with the fans.
The captain of the LEC's most successful ship in 2019 took to G2's subreddit to answer fans' most burning questions. The topics ranged from G2's performance at the 2019 League of Legends World Championship and lessons he learned from coaching other teams in the past, to trivial questions about his team members. We've listed and grouped the most interesting questions and answers for you below!
About G2's performance in 2019
What kind of change do you think is needed to finally beat a top tier Chinese team in a Bo5?
It's many small things that add up, and FPX felt way more beatable compared to IG in 2018. No single change will make it more/less competetive. While it's disappointing to lose two finals vs China as a region, we established our top teams as contenders and winning will naturally follow. My biggest regret though is staying in Europe to bootcamp. A better pre-tournament preparation would have gone a long way.
Do you think there's something that you could've done better in order to win against FPX?
Of couse. A lot of things. It's natural to look back at things you would have done differently, win or loss. Losing finals just amplified this feelings. There is a multitude of things todays GrabbZ would do differently, but there also lies the beauty of my job. Every game is a chance to learn something new about yourself/your players/the game and be a better coach the next day.
What was the thought behind the Pyke pick in the first game against FPX, instead of say Kled for Wunder and Ryze in the mid lane? It seems to go against everything G2 had done all year in drafting: winning solo lanes and having pressure on the map.
We already had practiced Pyke in scrims, also in this specific matchup. Nautilus needs to impact the map early, and Pyke was able to match the roams by giving up some cs. In game 1 FPX was able to split the map early, which already made it impossible for Pyke to follow Nautilus as both teams knew where the respective junglers were. (In scrims we had normal starts and Kanos was able to enter with Pyke if sides needed help)
Naturally there are other picks that could have worked and in hindsight we would have prefered, but we were confident that Pyke could do the trick.
I think the early game has been G2 weakness this year, against specifically the Chinese teams, Fnatic and SKT. Nobody is denying that, come mid to late game, you guys have some of the, if not the cleanest map play globally. So, is your focus next year gonna be directed towards that part of the game, do you think I am completely wrong or is that not so much a point of focus coming in next year?
It is fair to criticize our early game this year. As a team we try to be as flexible as possible to not be bound by structure like Korean teams are. This means that we have to make a lot of decisions in the spur of the moment, and against good early game teams we struggled to keep up. We talked about this a lot but for this season we could not find a common ground in balancing our flexibility with pre-planning and more cautious early games.
In broader terms, junglers often dictate their path and their lanes play accordingly, trading when their jungler is around and getting pushed in if he paths away from them. (Playing around X-lane) My players despise the term of "playing around" someone, and by default every lane wants to play their lane to the limits. That is also why I was very vocal about Jankos being the MVP of our team: he basically has to change his future pathing, every camp, according to new information coming in.
I could have done a better job in planning out early games/showing the importance to my players, and it would have made our games more stable indeed. Marrying both ideas of our flexible mid game and more structured early games will be the biggest task I want to tackle in 2020.
Do you think you peaked this year because the meta around MSI was really strong for G2, or do you think that next year G2 will prove themselves to be even stronger?
I think Worlds G2 was far away from our peak form. I think we played our best during MSI. This is our first loss as a team and it's kind of surreal that you can lose only one Bo5 during the entire year and it still feels so disappointing. Most importantly, we will have to find the right balance between us staying cocky and confident while reminding ourselves that if we don't approach practice with highest focus we might end up falling short again.
About the G2 team dynamics
From an outside perspective it looks like the guys always have fun and never get too serious. How do you get them in the "zone" to be serious and, you know, tryhard? And if you learned 1 specific thing this year to bring to 2020 what would it be?
I honestly do not have to do much. We have an established pre-game routine, but all of my guys are professional enough that they don't need me to remind them to take games serious.
I think I could have a better job bonding with my players on a personal level. I always felt strongly that the coach should be somewhat removed from the team, but the longer I am in esports the more I think its important to also provide friendship for younger players. I say younger because Jankos is the same age as me and therefore exempt from the friendship rule.
Has keeping a close watch of animals at a zoo [G2 players] taken a toll on your health?
I would not be surprised if I have to start coloring my hair next years. It's a different kind of stress, but for some reason I still like the players. Maybe it's some sort of Stockholm Syndrome.
In the esports scene, you are probably one of the most memed coaches, with memes being made whether the team wins or loses. How does the massive influx of them, given the team's successes (and defeats) over the past year make you feel? Do you find them funny, or do you try to avoid them?
I have a pretty thick skin and I try to always see sports mainly as entertainment for passionate fans. All the positive and negative feedback ultimately comes from someone who in some capacity cares about League the same way I do. Also I absolutely would describe myself as shitposter, so I embrace all the memes that come my way.
The players seem to roast you a lot on mic check. What was the best roast up till now?
That's a good question! I don't quite know the single best roast right now, but I can say that Wunder has the best ones. He often leaves me (and others) speechless and unable to come back.
Who is the most handsome member of your team and why is it Perkz?
Miky is so handsome. Even Uma Jan has to admit.
Tell me something you like about each player in your team. And yes, including Jankos.
- Wunder: Surprisingly mature, even though he doesn't show it most of the time. Also he is very straightforward and doesnt sugarcoat things, which I really appreciate.
- Jankos: Plays Sejuani.
- Caps: Our job tends to be very stressful most of the time, but he was able to hang on to the childlike joy of playing games with people he likes. He truly loves the game and it is contageous.
- Perkz: Drive. I haven't met a single person in my life who is as focused as him when it comes to winning. Mamba Mentality.
- Miky: He is just overall a wholesome person to be around. And he helps me with my memes.
Do you regret getting rid of PromisQ instead of Mikyx?
It had to happen. I am an atheist and being around PromisQ for so long made me question my world view too much. He will be missed.
Rate the troll level of Caps from a scale of 1 to 10.
About the LEC
Do you think that the LEC bleeding several top talents to NA every season could turn out to be a problem somewhere down the line? Also when are we going to see you swap positions with Jankos so G2 can finally get good drafts ? :kappa:
I believe that top talent does not leave. The players that go to NA have made a (smart) financial decision to give up on winning, for more money. And these players would not add anything to LEC's competitiveness internationally. The way it looks we already filled up the LEC with 10+ more rookies who are hungry and will challenge the veterans, so I am not worried at all.
Swapping with Jankos would be interesting. We would get good drafts and we would have a jungler who can play more than Sejuani. :thinking:
[Follow-up] So you think that Kobbe and Broxah are not top talents for EU? Kobbe said on stream that he didn't receive any good offers from top teams who are able to win the LEC and international tournaments. Is it still a financial decision if you have a better chance somewhere else, because he has a better chance of winning with TSM than with some mediocre EU team.
I think both are replaceable by current EU talent, yes. It might take a season but neither of them will leave a noticeable gap. (Imagine DL leaving NA or Perkz/Caps leaving)
Excluding G2, who do you think is the biggest contender for both spring and summer splits?
I think Fnatic/Origen will be the strongest.
Build a team you think could defeat or at least match G2.
Alphari/Selfmade/Humanoid/Upset/Hyllisang (Humanoid is flippy compared to Nuke/Nemesis, but I can see him take a game over harder than the other two).
What do you think of the rookies coming up to LEC?
I've heard a lot of good things about the rookies, so I am very excited. It will also be interesting to see the players in their second year develop further!
Why were you so eager to downplay the entire LEC multiple times, saying only G2 and maybe Fnatic closed the gaps?
Because I have experienced the difference in skill from teams outside of the top 3. You might say the LPL has only 1 or 2 teams perfom on international stage, but we have scrimmed vs middle of the pack teams in KR/CN and they are objectively stronger than most of our league. We have a shared interest in making LEC as strong as possible, and patting everyones backs and saying how great we are is the worst way to achieve that.
About being a coach
What got you into coaching?
I always had interest in the technical aspects of sports, especially football and that interest transfered very easily into League. I started my career as analyst and I had high confidence in myself that I will be able to do a better job than most coaches that were around.
While Asian or Korean teams have a strict hierarchy between players and coaching staff, Duffman and you seem to have a pretty chill relation with the players. Why did you choose this way of coaching and do you still maintain some kind of authority? Or are you just on the same level as the players?
Over my time in ROCCAT I learned that a good coach doesn't force their players into his preferred system, but he takes a look at his players and creates an environment they can thrive in. Of couse I would prefer a more disciplined style, but it was very easy to see that this would not benefit the team. They are all experienced and at the top of their game, so they don't need someone "above" them trying to be right at all times.
While I try to be as relaxed as possible and give the players the room they need, so far they pick up when I actually get annoyed. As long as that is the case and I see a reaction when I tell them to calm down and behave human again I have no issue not being in a "traditional" authority position.
Do you think coaches get enough credit for what they do on teams? What is something that coaches do that the average viewer doesn't know about?
It is impossible to judge coaches from the outside. Even from within the scene you lack inside knowledge to make good judgment, and every opinion of others carries their own biases. Personally I think the less spotlight the coach has, the better. The players perform each week and they deserve to be celebrated.
As a coach, what are some of your favorite exercises to run with a team to improve cohesion and communication (specifically ones that might help new teams)? Are there any exercises you've come up with that you are specifically proud of? Also, in do you have any tips for a new coach in general?
It's a difficult question to answer. If there was a single exercise that always works every coach would do it and it would be known in the public domain. First of all, you have understand that every player has his own needs and preferences and you need to cater to them. Instead of doing certain exercises you need to make sure that everyone feels comfortable sharing their opinion on certain situations. Make sure everyone gets room to talk, especially players who are naturally more quiet.
The biggest "rule" I found, was that every player should have the chance to be the first one to point out their mistakes. A simple sorry can help to diffuse tensions and prevents dynamics where players feel scapegoated by the rest of the team. At the same time it saves time, as you can check if the person is actually aware of what would have been the right play instead.
You are coaching five very experienced players. Do you still feel like you have things to teach to them, or are your responsibilities of a completely different nature (focus only on draft, etc.)?
I still think I can teach them something, often by challenging their pre-existing views on the game. But ultimately my role in G2 is far removed from being a "teacher" and more akin to being a "mediator", making sure discussions are free flowing and we all reach a conclusion together at the end of it.
If you could redo the draft of any one match of your entire career, what draft would you change and what would you do differently? Do you think it would change the outcome of the match?
There are a lot of drafts that I would want to change, even sometimes immediately after leaving the stage. Drafting is always a work between coach and players, and every bad draft is a result of me not setting the "boundaries/rules" for that draft correctly. Other teams tend to draft for comps, having a single/strong win-condition and get praised when it works, but I think you need to be willing to take risks. And if it doesn't work you need to be ready to take the criticism and memes. Pyke mid is something I will never live down. :)
Do you follow the meta or do you create the meta?
I hope that every team creates their own meta. We use that word a lot, but in the end "meta" is just a set of self-imposed rules the teams play by. Even though League is a numbers game, players have their own preferences and see matchups differently. Look at FPX: Doinb is a very unconventional player but FPX creates their own meta around his strengths and weaknesses and they deservedly won Worlds.
EU, for the longest time, made the mistake of just copying whatever Korea is doing without understanding it and completely disregarding what their own playstyle is. Thankfully it feels like this period is over, and more and more teams/players take the risk of trying something new.
Note: Questions and answers have been minimally altered for readability and grammatical correctness.
Images via Riot Games