League Of Legends: What G2’s Disastrous MSI Performance Actually Tells Us

Heading into the Mid-Season Invitational (MSI), most fans of the European League of Legends’ [official site] scene were pleased to see G2 eSports representing their region. The team had stormed the EU LCS in their rookie split, with a combination of individual skill and teamwork. They also had a cocksure aura around them – they weren’t just winning they were winning with a swagger. No surprise then that there was a sense of excitement about what this squad of newcomers could do on a bigger stage.

Faced with veteran opponents, would their upstart nature cause big upsets? Even if they didn’t there was little concern that they would put the European region to shame with their performance. After ten games, two wins and some crushing defeats though, ‘shame’ is very much on the agenda as fans, professional players and the community quickly turned on the G2 organisation.

The first murmurings of discontent came on the eve of the tournament when word began to spread that G2’s management had decided to allow the players two weeks holiday between victory in the LCS play-offs and their journey to Shanghai. Most teams use this time to practice and prepare for the opponents they’re to face, with VoD reviews or even by heading to Korea to scrim (practice) against the still-active teams there. Not so for G2, whose players were allowed to travel home to visit family members and take a break from the punishing esports lifestyle.

G2’s first game at MSI against Taiwanese side Flash Wolves ended in disappointing capitulation after they squandered a 6k gold lead. By the end of their fourth – a battering by Chinese team Royal Never Give Up – G2 looked broken. It didn’t take long for the knives to come out for the team.

Former Gambit Gaming and Roccat support Edward Abgaryan took to Twitter to share his disdain, stating “Eh… this is actually sad. Why would you go in to international tournament as best team from ur region without practice.”. He continued, “Rather see any other top 4 team from Europe,” and concluded with “actually fkcing disgusting to see. T I L T.“

By the evening of day one of MSI commentators had joined in the condemnation – here’s caster Christopher ‘MonteCristo’ Mykles weighing in:

After another debilitating defeat to North America’s Counter Logic Gaming first thing on day two, a statement was released by G2 eSports. In it, they lamented the quality of available practice opportunities back in Europe and cited the visa application process coupled with uncertainty over whether they would even be going in defence of not heading to Korea.

The organisation also discussed the mental state of their players – proposing the notion that sometimes giving people a rest and the opportunity to rejuvenate is better than enforcing further practice, particularly if that practice is of a low standard.

“Following a rigorous Spring Split with practice, scrims and official games for 10+ hours a day, 6 days a week for 3 months straight, it was important for the mental state of our players to be allowed to take some time away from the game, visit their families and reset for MSI and the following Summer Split.”

This is where I start to have some sympathy for G2. Professional LoL players have punishing practice schedules. G2’s spring season apparently consisted of practicing for “10+ hours a day, 6 days a week for 3 months straight.” Their youngest player Luka ‘Perkz’ Perkovic is just 17. When I was 17 I was probably spending 6 hours a day at school and much of my free-time in parks drinking cheap alcohol. While all elite sportspeople make sacrifices, ten hours of practice a day is around four hours more than an elite level phrical athlete might be expected to train (here’s a bit of 2012 Olympics-related research which puts the average at 6 hours per day, 6 days a week). While LoL is far less physically demanding, it’s not a stretch to say that an intense 60-hour working week might take a mental toll upon a person.

The other question is – when exactly are these players supposed to rest? By the time MSI ends on 15th May, there are only around three weeks until the Summer Split begins. Should G2 instead use that time for rest and risk going into the season woefully unprepared, or do we expect them to do more bootcamping and more training?

This is not the first time this topic has arisen in professional LoL, with players talking about ways to avoid burning out or losing their love for the game. In relation to the G2 discussion, Maurice ‘Amazing’ Stückenschneider, who plays for fellow European side Origen suggested on Twitter that his own team would likely have taken a similar approach.

“Realistically: OG would have practised dynamic queue in the homeland and would have done equally bad as G2 – same for any other EU team.” He followed this by admitting “Last but not least: If I were G2 I would rather sandbag MSI than to have no time off before summer split and risk not going to worlds.”

(Just in case it wasn’t clear, MSI has the power to impact regional seeding for Worlds but it doesn’t determine which specific teams from that region get to go.)

My feeling is that the schedule for winning teams is punishing and as a result G2 were put into a no-win situation. Either they practiced for both and risked ending up with an exhausted squad going into the summer season (and would potentially miss out on Worlds), they took a break after MSI and would be refreshed but unprepared for the summer season (and would potentially miss out on Worlds), or they prioritised the summer season and the chance at Worlds qualification and took a break before MSI (risking crashing out of MSI/embarrassing their region/securing less advantageous seeding for Europe).

Perhaps the organisation simply chose what they considered to be the best option in the long run – allowing their rookie players a break and ensuring that they remain fresh for upcoming challenges, with MSI the least of their concerns. The flip-side of that is that the organisation is going to have to deal with a lot of criticism for taking that decision, as well accusations of poor planning over the visa issues.

The LoL community was quick to condemn G2 over what happened going into MSI. They might be equally quick to laud the decision-making if G2 are able to perform for the rest of the year. But if G2 falter in the summer season the organisation will not only have damaged their team’s performance at a major tournament, but their reputation as an esports organisation.

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19 Comments

  1. montorsi says:

    It’s not a no-win situation. You either go to MSI and represent your region or tell Riot that your players don’t want to go and let them deal with it however they please. Going and embarrassing your organization and your region is a wtf move. Oh no, two more weeks of practice. Literally every other team in EU would have killed for the opportunity.

  2. Zankman says:

    It’s very simple – whoever was calling the shots made a horrific one, that is, decided that the team should not bootcamp.

    VISAs? Lower-tier teams to practice with? Burn-out?

    All excuses; As punishing as their schedules are – and this is a legitimate thing – all of the other teams were faced with this as well.

    Furthermore, there are murmurings of the team finding out that there are going to be roster changes; Who the hell does that before an event?!?

    So, really, plain and simple: They did not prepare for the Tournament and the management is to blame.

  3. Premium User Badge

    Grizzly says:

    Professional LoL players have punishing practice schedules. G2’s spring season apparently consisted of practicing for “10+ hours a day, 6 days a week for 3 months straight.”

    I do wonder why this is considered neccesary? I would imagine that there is a point where diminishing returns kick in. I remember that “Vo0” Kaasjager said he played 1 hour a day and he has won several Painkiller tournaments. Surely – Tthere is a point at which your brain (Which is a muscle that is prone to strain just like all your other bits are) simply does take up any more information.

    • Alice O'Connor says:

      MOBAs are team games with so many moving parts, and the shape of play can change massively as teams develop strategies develop and patches change balance… I don’t know what the ‘correct’ amount of time is, but there’s so much to both practise and revise.

      • KreissV says:

        This is what made me quit MOBAs and approach them all hesitantly. Played league for years and the problem is that once you “get good” It becomes a chore to practice and make sure you’re still good. I work a full time job, I dont need two. By then all the fun is gone ):

      • lglethal says:

        Alice, I’m not sure your reasoning works. Take a football team, to be a pro footballer, you need to work on personal fitness (being able to run for 90 minutes non-stop), your personal footballing skills (being able to dribble, kick, slide tackle, head the ball), and your team skills (positioning, passing between players, set plays, attack vs defence, etc.). And yet you don’t have football players doing 60 hour weeks. There’s no point, you don’t gain beyond a certain point. You also get injuries.

        All of these categories can be applied to esports – physical skills need to be able to be trained (maintaining concentrating is I would think in this context a physical skill), whilst training for individual and team skills are obviously needed. Now considering the billions spent by the top football teams on sport physicians, psychiatrists, and the rest and all the research they’ve done, that all say short sharp trainings are far better than long trainings, I would suggest they might be on to something that can be utilized in esports…

    • Twirrim says:

      There is are all sorts of studies that show that anything over 40 hours sees diminishing returns, 50+ becomes virtually no returns. You can crunch extra time on and off and get some benefit, but it certainly can’t be done as a sustained process and be effective.

      • Don Reba says:

        I imagine, different people have different levels of endurance, and those who go on to become pros are far above average.

    • Ksempac says:

      Well i’m guessing that the top Painkiller scene has never been as competitive as the multi-million dollars eSports scenes we have.

      However, whenever an eSport team tall about schedules, I’m always skeptical of these hours count. I’m guessing that even if they indeed play 10+/day,they are only training for a few hours, the rest being more casual play (if not exactly fun).

      I don’t know how many hours they play for fun (since it’s gonna be private) but I do know that many pros in all eSports for example stream themselves playing solos (so not pratice per se). Either because they are mandated to do so by their contracts (brand advertisment) or because they personally get income from it. In any case many of the top pro streaming do it because they actually enjoy it (the ones who don’t are easily recognizable by how little and how reluctantly thet do it).

      So yeah if you bunch all these hours together, you get insane play hours. But I’m not sure how much of that is actual work.

    • Leland Davis says:

      People will push themselves into self-destructive spirals of over-work and over-training for the dumbest of reasons, so it’s no surprise that in a situation where it might actually matter, people over-work and over-train themselves.

      Better contracts, a global union, and Riot stepping in to set limits to player schedules could, possibly, fix this. Short of that, it is what it is.

  4. Themadcow says:

    eSports basically killing the fun associated with gaming then? Makes me care even less about this kind of thing. When I think back to my days running with top WoW pvp teams 10-12 hours a day, one thing we always made sure is that fun came first and people could take breaks when needed. Money just messes things up.

  5. Baines says:

    It doesn’t sound that different from professional basketball.

    The Spurs took heat for years for resting its players so much. It took the Spurs continually winning for years, and seeing Tim Duncan remaining effective year after year after year, for people to acknowledge that what the Spurs were doing was common sense. And it took even more years for people to actually accept it.

    Managing your play time and players, and deciding how much effort to put into each match, is part of professional sports. And yes, sometimes it results in no-win situations or crushing disappointments with plenty of recrimination and blame being thrown about. But professional sports is a job, not a hobby.

  6. Razumen says:

    You’re right, fun definitely takes a backseat to money with esports. I mean I loved Counter-Strike 1.6 back in the day, but there’s no way I would have dedicated 40-60 hours a week playing it for money, Maybe some of these players can get around it, but for me it would’ve sucked the enjoyment right out of it.

    • pistachio says:

      If it’s anything like sports they don’t play for fun but to win. The feeling good part is derived from accomplishing goals. And getting a beautiful body.

      Oops! Sorry that last bit does not compare well.

  7. Elkasitu says:

    This is where I start to have some sympathy for G2. Professional LoL players have punishing practice schedules. G2’s spring season apparently consisted of practicing for “10+ hours a day, 6 days a week for 3 months straight.” Their youngest player Luka ‘Perkz’ Perkovic is just 17. When I was 17 I was probably spending 6 hours a day at school and much of my free-time in parks drinking cheap alcohol.

    Everyone agrees with this, BUT it’s not an excuse to not practice / perform poorly at MSI, many other teams had the same schedule or even worse. Let’s compare the Korean region for starters: They play Best of 3s, while NA/EU plays Best of 1s… SK Telecom T1 played close to 60 games during their Spring split, G2 played half of that, more games doesn’t necessarily mean more practice, but KR being a more competitive region than EU you’d think that this is the most likely case. Yet SKT T1 performed much better than G2 (albeit not as good as everyone expected them to perform). Without mentioning the fact that NA/EU play-offs end much sooner than KR play-offs.

    Now let’s compare NA and EU, which have the same schedule and format since they’re sister regions: CLG had the same kind of spring split run that G2 had, I’d even say that CLG had it a bit worse than G2… yet CLG didn’t take a ridiculous vacation, they practiced hard, went to MSI with high hopes and passion… and guess what? They made the best international group stage North America’s ever had… So really, G2 has 0 excuses.

  8. Premium User Badge

    Ericusson says:

    I can’t believe someone would play 60 hours a week, for work. Talk about ruining your physical and mental health. Inspires me that good read :
    link to theatlantic.com

    Yes yes, to be the best, it’s a competition thing (could never say sports about it) and working on an offshore oil rig is more than that for a few months. But it pays better.
    Feels like exploitation to me.

  9. Cinek says:

    There clearly were other teams ready to train and do what it takes. If G2 wanted to take a break – they should have taken it for the European tournament and just not participate, let others take it if you worry so much about a burnout of your team.

    Exhausting your team for one tournament and then being completely useless on the next one is a laughable mismanagement.

  10. Telos says:

    Raises an interesting question…

    What does Riot have to say about practice schedules? They just banned teams for apparent mistreatment of players.

    One thing about physical sport is that teams can easily practice any plays or skills or element of the game they feel they’re weak on at any time. You want to work on passing? You just pass, reset, pass again. Want to work on your free throws? Stand on the line with a dozen balls and shoot shoot shoot.

    With League, teams can only play full games. Want to work on your double teleport timing? You’re going to get maybe 10 attempts per scrim. Want to work on exploiting a power spike for a certain comp? You get one shot per scrim.

    If Riot wants to really elevate the professional scene, maybe they need to develop a trainer mode for professional players that allows teams to configure specific scenarios so that they can use their practice time more effectively.