The European League of Legends Championship series subscribed to a truism for two years: G2 Esports wins the splits, no matter who it faces. Even when it looked vulnerable during the 2017 summer split, it eventually plowed through the competition in the playoffs on the way to its fourth split title.
As such, there was no need for alarm when the squad – with a revamped roster – stood at an awkward 1W-3L heading into Week Three and seemed helpless in its losses up until that point. Even Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski, the team’s starting jungler, steadied himself for the initial blows, when he used to wade into tilt territory back in the Team ROCCAT days, or would occasionally sit silent in the face of imminent losses in his H2K-Gaming stay.
Jankos fielded no excuses, not even his unfamiliarity with his teammates, or the move to a single-game format, rather than the best-of-three series that allowed adaptable and experienced teams to dominate the field. Leading up to week three, if he had to field one word to rate G2’s performance, it would have been a candid “bad” - give or take an extra adverb.
“I think, right now, we're starting to improve,” Jankos said. “We were really bad in the first two weeks, even though we won against Misfits. I think it's because, a lot of the times when we were playing, we didn't talk about the mistakes as much as we could, because we assumed that people actually know – but they didn't, and we didn't.”
So it was that the players had found the fine like between ‘trusting the process’ and blind trust. Apologizing for a mistake is one thing, but correcting it involves more than assuming the mistaken player knows the way, or that the solution the player envisions wouldn’t create more problems. With that realization alone, G2 took off on Week Three with a flawless 2W-0L showcase.
“We as a team did not know what do do, so then we started working together way more,” the jungler said. “It seemed like we were working together well, but it seems we're working way better when it comes to improvement. We are talking way more, and it's making way more sense than it was making before.”
And that showed on Day One, in the match-up against Splyce, where the team overcame a few early-game woes and took over in team fights, or on Day Two against H2K Gaming in a game that was so lopsided, independently of the caliber of its opponent, that one could have flashbacks to the old G2. The sole remnant of that era, Luka “PerkZ” Perkovic, was smiling after the two games while exchanging words with Jankos and others.
G2 provides PerkZ and Jankos the opportunity to play with one another – a matter PerkZ noted he had wanted before he met Kim “Trick” Gang-yun, and following the departure of the latter to South Korea. So far, they have been exchanging ideas on how situations and games should be played and developing as a result.
The two players do make mistakes, although PerkZ’s have gone unnoticed by the audience as of late – or have been overshadowed at least, as Jankos’s slightly-yet-significantly botched engages against Team ROCCAT showed. But such is the nature of the beast with the play styles of the jungle-mid duo – a double-edged sword.
“Sometimes, PerkZ will go for the big play,” the jungler explained. “Maybe it won't work out, but he will sometimes win the game because of it, and sometimes he'll lose summoner spells, and the game will be a bit harder. That's how he is as a player, and we're all fine with that, and we try to work with it together. Sometimes, when we know it's not the best, we can call him off.”
Against Splyce, PerkZ tread the needle on Zoe, a slippery yet vulnerable glass cannon. Against H2K, he marched into skirmishes and team fights, signaling his opponents’ undoing. In both cases, he asserted his presence on Summoner’s Rift and outside and Jankos is the biggest benefactor of his presence.
It’s funny how life goes, considering that the duo had trash-talked one another to oblivion in 2016, culminating in PerkZ blocking the latter on Twitter for a while, and in the annihilation of Jankos’s team – H2K-Gaming – in subsequent matchups. At the very least, banter between the two has evolved into much friendlier terms. “If you know each other and trash-talk on Twitter, or before the matches, it's pretty fun,” Jankos said. “It makes the game way more spicy for the viewers, and more spicy for you.”
“It's the same as: for example, you're watching a game, but it doesn't matter for you. Let's say I'm watching UoL vs. Vitality a matchup from Week Three. It kind of doesn't matter because I'm not playing – whoever wins will just win - but if I bet something on it...” he said, with a mischievous smirk that has been present since he had reached the LCS. “Let's say ‘hey, PerkZ! If Vitality wins, you have to play Veigar mid because I think it's good,’ but then he says ‘okay, but you have to play Nunu jungle and be my dog’ then it's way more fun to watch the game and be excited.”
Whether PerkZ has been training that pick or still insisted on holding a Nunu dog on a leash is yet to be seen. For the moment, the team has built momentum heading into Week Four, and its previous shortcomings have not dented the mood in the slightest. G2’s eyes are on the prize, and as much as the team’s record matters for playoff seeding, improvement takes precedence. There is no room for being swept by the moment, just a long-term view that requires effort to see to fruition.
“We are just working, and I'm happy,” stated Jankos. “We were in a honeymoon phase, and we are still kind of after it, but at the same time we are working well, and we are striving to improve. That's the most important thing. Every week we are getting stronger.”
“I think that it's good that we lost early on,” he added. “It's good that we are losing the second, third, fourth game than losing in the end of the season, because if we are losing, your eyes kind of open up. You see if you are playing wrong, or if you are playing badly. Sometimes, when you are a mediocre team and you win every game, you don't see as many mistakes, and opponents will catch up on you later. So I'm really happy that we lost our first games. We know that we are just not as good, and we can just work.”