G2’s victory at the Mid-Season Invitational was a touchstone moment for League of Legends, especially in Europe.
But the problem with a Western team winning a major League of Legends tournament is that it leaves us with more questions than answers.
Is G2 the best team in the world now? If not, who is? Would they have beaten IG if IG had made it past Team Liquid? Was Liquid’s win over IG a fluke? Does Pyke need nerfs? Would Jin Air have won the whole thing?
Hard no on that last one, by the way, but the first game of the final would have lasted longer than the entire G2-TL series.
When a Chinese or Korean team wins an event we just assume they were the best team because, historically, they have been. But with Korea failing to even put a team in the last two important international finals, even the most deluded LCK analyst fanboy surely has to accept that things have changed.
On the other hand, it’s difficult to say that G2 is the best team in the world after winning a single tournament.
Yes, they won the second biggest tournament the game has to offer and, yes, they beat the best team in Korea en route. Actually, even that is up for debate when you consider Griffin’s dismal showing in the LCK final against their dominant regular season.
Either way, across tournament G2 went 5-2 against the team that won the LCK. You might have been able to argue that the best-of-one games in groups were too small a sample size to say G2 is the better team, but winning an elongated best-of-seven puts that debate to bed in mind.
At least there can be no debate about G2’s superiority over Team Liquid. The fact that this was the fastest best-of-five in international history says it all.
G2 would have had the fastest single game in MSI history if not for IG-SKT earlier in the same tournament (more on that in a moment): in other words, the final was as one-sided as the result looked on paper.
Can we honestly claim that G2 is better than IG, though? They lost both times the teams met, and the first of those games wasn’t even very close. And yet, IG were summarily dismissed by Liquid in the semi-finals, who were then annihilated by G2 in the grand-final.
It’s difficult to say G2 is better than IG based on head-to-head results, but it’s equally difficult to say that they’re worse, based on the tournament as a whole. Is anyone else getting a headache yet?
I’ve seen people on reddit trying to explain this tournament and international competition in general as sort of rock-paper-scissors affair, but the truth is more complicated than that.
Human beings like to wrap things up in neat little narrative packages, but when the best teams in any League of Legends go head-to-head the room for error is microscopic.
Any slight misplay can cascade into crushing defeat a la IG’s record-breaking win over SKT. Similarly, a strong early start from Jankos against Team Liquid snowballed out of control in G2’s wins and quickly turned into an avalanche.
Simplistic explanations like Team A and Team B = Team A and Team C make sense, but they don’t really work.
There is another factor that I alluded to earlier which makes matters even less straightforward. The speed and one-sidedness of some of the games at MSI made it look like some teams were miles ahead of others.
Historically, in less action-packed metas, this would have been true. Pre-2018, it was typically much more difficult to make a small early advantage all the way to the enemy nexus. If you saw a 20-minute win in 2017 it was a pretty sure sign that the winning team were lightyears ahead of their opposition.
Nowadays, though, early leads are much easier to snowball. Rift Herald taking out tower plates is a powerful way to take advantage of a successful tower dive. Early tower dives and multiple teleports to bottom lane aren’t new, but the huge advantage they now grant is.
What does this mean for our ability to gauge teams against one another? It makes things much more difficult.
For example, IG destroyed SKT in the fastest international game of all time earlier in the tournament, but does anyone really think IG is that far ahead of Faker and co, generally speaking? SKT went on to win the return fixture in a more measured, less bloody affair.
In the end, there are two things I feel confident saying for sure: one is that G2 was the best team in the grand-final. I can’t even argue in good conscience that they were the best team at the event, since world champions IG faltered in the semi-finals.
The other point is that international competition is closer now than it has ever been. All of our pre-supposed hierarchies and rankings are, if not completely destroyed, at least destabilised.
I’ve never been a big fan of power rankings, but they have never been less relevant than they are now.