This years Worlds Semi Finals are set to, at least for Western fans, be the best in all of League’s competitive history. There are a total of three Western teams (two EU, one NA) facing off against the solitary team from the East, Invictus Gaming. It’s in the first series that the lone Eastern team faces off against one of Europe’s brightest, G2 Esports. Both teams share a lot of similarities that are… eerie. They’re both the “second sons” of their regions this year, overshadowed by a team with orange or gold as their main colours. They both have come to the Semis after taking down tournament favourite teams. Their strengths are mirrored. And they both have come to Worlds with a chip on their shoulders and a grudge to settle against the World. For Invictus Gaming, it’s about telling the World that the LPL isn’t just RNG. They, too, have an impressive track record and some of the scariest talent the region has to offer. For G2 Esports, it’s about showing once again that Europe is a dual monarchy: The Old and the New Kings both stride with pride, and both swing with a heavy sword of talent.
Invcitus Gaming: China’s Second Sons No More
With the fall of their LPL brethren, Invictus Gaming stand alone as the sole Chinese team still standing at Worlds. Hell, they, in a wild twist of all normalcy, stand as the only team in the Semis that’s from the East. This is uncharted territory for Worlds in general, let alone for the iG team. They’ve always been on the outside looking in, even in their flagship year that was this year. Not once, but twice, denied undefeated splits by those pesky RNG players. Denied twice in the playoffs that LPL split victory by that same team. Even their popularity among fans would’ve done better if not for RNG. But now they alone stand to represent their region. With the best chance to cement themselves as the superiour team, will they rise to the occasion?
But that storyline is behind them. It was often the rookie (not to be confused with their star player, of course,) players on the team that cracked in those clutch moments that saw them lose the game. Not once, but both times, when RNG meet iG in a playoff scneario, it was Yu "JackeyLove" Wen-Bo’s over extension, or greed, or reluctance to flash, that cost them the final game. The mechanical god, heralded to be the new generation of Jian "Uzi" Zi-Hao, showed his relative youth and inexperience time and time again. But, that’s been erased with the absolutely bold, beautiful flash forward to secure the win in Game 5 against KT Rolster. It was the exact kind of decisiveness that iG have been needing more consistently from the young ADC. It could be the turning point in the narrative surrounding Jackeylove, or a flash in the pan. This series will settle that story.
Jackeylove was not the only rookie on the team that many pundits had their eyes set on to step up. Jackeylove’s lanemate, Wang "Baolan" Liu-Yi’s performance during iG’s Quarter Finals win against KT has redeemed much of his past blunders. His lackluster playmaking in the Group stage was replaced by a much more confident showing, particularly in Game 1 and Game 2 for iG. Alongside him, the resurgence of Gao "Ning" Zhen-Ning’s incredibly aggressive and well executed (most of the time) ganks have been a bright sport for the team. With Ning continuing with his ganking ways, his ability to find a way to get the kill and make it work, alongside a bouncing back Baolan, the kids for iG are alright finally. Whether they’ll maintain that against G2 will depend on the day, but it’s a bright spot for the iG team.
The rest of iG hardly need introduction, given their reputations and carry highlights already. In the Top lane, the rotation of World Champion Lee "Duke" Ho-seong and one of the scariest carry-oriented Top laners in the World, Kang "TheShy" Seung-lok, make iG well armed in the Top lane. Duke, often slotted in as the Tank player, has shown his mechanics aren’t too shabby either on some insane Irelia play. TheShy is well documented as one of the best, if not the best, Top laner in the World, particularly when it comes to carry champs. In a meta that’s been comfortable with both Tanks and carries, iG’s top lane duos have a lot of flexibility in their drafting capabilities. What they decide on will ultimately be whatever is best for the team.
The real catalyst for most of iG is their star Mid laner Song "Rookie" Eui-jin. The Korean player, who left in the Korean Exodus that saw much of the LCK’s top talent go to China in Season 4, is what’s often called a “Career Korean.” Unlike many of his fellow countrymen, Rookie not only fully embraced the LPL, he stayed and formed the team around himself. His successes on the team and integration overall have won him many fans, and additionally has shown in his play and comfortability with the team overall. Rookie’s performance this year at Worlds has made him easily one of, if not the best, Mid laners in the world. Whether he could tango with Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok will have to wait until at least next year, but he’s quickly made a name for himself for some insane plays.
For iG overall to come out on top, they’ll need to prove that they aren’t the team that chokes in those clutch situations, that their green behind the ears Worlds rookies won’t crumble at the face of adversity. They have it within themselves to do great. They almost went undefeated two splits in a row. They lost only to the miraculous Royal Never Give Up roster. They’re not so much an underdog in this matchup, but they are an underdog against themselves. If they can right those wrongs, step up to the plate, and play their best games on the day, they’ve already shown time and time again they can match any team. But if it’s the Jackeylove that dies farming wolves in the Jungle, or a Rookie that just can’t carry his team across the finish line, then they’ll find themselves left behind at their final chance to prove 2018 can be their year. Tempering themselves against themselves is what iG will have had to do to take down G2.
G2 Esports: The Tyrant New Kings
For all of Europe, 2018 has been a flagship year. They’ve returned again to the Semi Finals, having been vacant from that stage last year, but this time they’ve brought two teams for the ride. G2 Esports, the so-called New Kings of Europe, have roared onto a World's stage that’s always been their bane. They went from not making it out of Groups time and time again to storming a group that many still worried they wouldn’t get out of. They’ve done that and more, after proving the haters wrong they’ve gone and done what everyone thought was impossible: Take down the tournament favourites in Royal Never Give Up. G2 has exceeded any and all expectations that were laid at their feet by this point, and they’ll be looking to do it once again by proving to be the bane of China and taking down iG as well as G2.
Now the Samurai’s find themselves once against across the Rift from one of the Titans of the LPL, Invictus Gaming. G2, interestingly enough, match up almost identically in strengths to iG.
But so do their weaknesses. In the bot lane is the bromantic duo of ADC Petter "Hjarnan" Freyschuss and his faithful Support, Kim "Wadid" Bae-in. The two have been one of the weaker chains in the link that is G2’s overall dominance. While they held their own impressively against RNG’s Bot lane, it wasn’t really off the backs of their performance that G2 found themselves in the position they’re at. As with any game of League, your opponents can always play around your weakest lane. If G2 can cover up that soft spot, they’ll be fine, but it is a possible opening in their otherwise domineering armour.
If the Bot lane is the weaker link of G2’s armour, than it’s the rest of the roster that holds the team together so impressively. League of Legends is a game of economy too, with a finite resource like Gold needing to be allocated well. With this, it’s not always on the Bot lane to carry the game, but rather to be an efficient member of the team. In a match up that none favoured either, Marcin "Jankos" Jankowski showed his chops as one of the best Junglers in the World. Against the legendarily stable and pathing god Hung "Karsa" Hau-Hsuan, he showed up time and time again in the right place, at the right time, with the right gank or counter gank. He matched the Taiwanese Jungler tit for tat. Jankos has stepped up again for the G2 roster against RNG, but he won’t be able to rest against iG either. But given his showing in the Quarters, he looks to be up to the case for it.
The main thrust of G2’s absolute rise and dominance in this years Worlds has come off the back of their two tyrannical solo laners, Martin "Wunder" Hansen in the Top lane and franchise Mid laner Luka "Perkz" Perković. While G2 are one of the only teams remaining at Worlds who don’t utilize their sub for flexibility, they don’t need to: they’ve shown time and time again that Wunder and Perkz both share a deep champion pool that overlaps way more than it should. Lock in Akali? Is it Mid or Top? Aatrox? Urgot? Hell, even Ryze? G2’s flexibility and ability to play their style with their two solo laners has to be the shining moment for the roster overall. It’s truly terrifying to try and draft against, not knowing exactly who will be playing who.
The surprisingly strong Wunder has made an absolute mockery of some of his opponents, whether it be in the laning stage or in his all but signature split pushing style. He’s danced around players, gotten kills he had no right to, and has been one of the scariest opponents for any team that’s had the misfortune of running into him at Worlds. He’s a crucial punch in G2’s 1-2 combo of Solo laners, often being a key piece in tearing an opponent apart by the seam. His ability to exert pressure on the map, while dodging enemy movements, makes him an indomitable split pusher. No slouch in the team fights either, the aggressive meta of the Top lane suits his team fights tyle well: get in their, wreck havoc, and win the fight for his team. He’s shown up every game for the G2 roster and has single handedly won some of their games too. It’s a career year for the young Dane.
Gone are the support Mid lane picks of last years meta, this year’s Worlds has been alight with assassins and aggressive Mid lane picks, something the face of G2 that is Perkz is all too comfortable on. Featuring on the music video that Riot put out for RISE has seemed possibly prophetic, as so far he is the only remaining member from that video at Worlds. He even slayed his co-star, Uzi. But Perkz’s performance this year has been nothing short of spectacular. He’s stepped into the Mid lane game after game and made it his home, his domain. Complimenting his fellow Solo laner in Wunder’s tyrannical style, the duo have been at the very forefront of G2’s abrupt rise at Worlds. Whether he can lead his team over the last hurdle will be on him to decide.
The Samurai’s finally have a chance to step out of the shadow of their far older brother Fnatic and take their own destiny by the reins. They’ve already upset China’s top seed in a breathtaking Bo5. What’s another representative of the LPL to a King? G2’s on the track to correct so many international mishaps and make it into the Finals of Worlds, the first time an EU team will have done it since the “first” Worlds, which… didn’t include either of Korea or China. It’s history in the making, and the perfect way to continue their legacy of dominance over their region and, finally, over the World. But they first have to take down one of the scariest rosters ever produced by the LPL. Whether they can will depend on their own abilities.
The Match Up
The two teams match up quite well into each other, both in their strengths and weaknesses. Both teams revolve around their solo laners doing the heavy lifting. Both teams have a Bot lane that can sometimes cause them troubles. Junglers that can either pop off or look out of place. Hell, the flexibility of play in the Top lane is matched by iG’s duo of Duke and Theshy. Both teams are well known for their Lane Kingdom style, dominating their foes from the get go and not letting go of the pressure, til they either win or lose. They’re tyrannical when ahead, and never out when they’re behind. Their styles mirror each other in so many facets, which makes the matchup all the more tense and exciting.
It’s in the matchups where both teams come as equals that the true mettle of a player is defined. It’s in the forges of battle that legends and heroes are made. That’s what the iG and G2 game is set up to do for their regions. IG’s got the bright, young star in Theshy and the almost universally loved “Career Korean” Rookie. Both continue to define iG, the new and the old. Can Rookie stand and carry on what his LPL brothers could not do? Can he carry on the hopes of his old organization, which he slayed to get here, into the Finals? Theshy is slated to be one of the best Top laners, but he can cement that debate by dominating the upstart Danish Top laner that is Wunder.
Of course, G2 and Europe overall have already made quite a damn racket for themselves, particularly for those who still feel there’s a “gap” between the East and the West. What better way than to single handedly secure an all Western Finals with a victory over the East’s last team? Fnatic, their rival for the hearts of Europe, already proved to be a kryptonite for them. Can Perkz make the case for why he should’ve been listed in the Top 20 Players at Worlds by taking down the Worlds best Mid laner (with Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok absent)? Wunder, hyped up as one of the best Top laners in Europe if not the entire West, can also make the case for himself by taking down one of the most talked about Top laners at Worlds
Either way, it’ll be a battle of the solo laners for each team to push for victory. The main point of difference between the two is that iG do have a very competent and feared Bot lane, whereas G2… Not so much. If Jackeylove and Baolan can show up when iG need them to, and stay alive against the monstrous solo lanes of G2, I give iG the edge. But if the iG’s bot lane collapses, and the bromantic duo out of G2 can hold on like they did against Uzi and co., then G2 could very well steal away the series and make history.