Last week in Madrid, four teams walked into an arena to fight, knowing only two would emerge. G2 Esports faced off with the gods of League, SK Telecom T1 and their best player , Faker. On the other side, FunPlus Phoenix sparred with last year’s winners, the much more experienced Invictus Gaming.
When G2 got slotted in versus SKT, it felt like the end. A non-Korean team has never knocked the three time winners out of Worlds. But with G2, it felt as though perhaps something could be different; as if the sheer overwhelming force of this team had a chance. Perhaps it’s their Mid-Season Invitational victory over the Korean gods, perhaps it’s the sheer belief on their faces. When you look at G2, you can believe that they’ll win everything because it’s clear they believe it.
In their games against SKT, bot-laners Perkz and Mikyx shone. They beat SKT’s support, Effort, so badly he was swapped out after three games and Mata, a player considered well past his prime, was brought in instead. But the thing that Perkz did that will be remembered the most is her performance in Game four. It was probably his worst of the four games, struggling in what has become G2’s signature Yasuo and Gragas bot lane. He died early and often as Faker spent the first half of the game once again looking like the best player in the world.
But then, everything changed. Faker got caught out of position multiple times without getting kills, giving G2’s carries a chance to stabilize and rebound. But Perkz was still behind, failing to get into SKT’s backline on multiple occasions, leading to SKT walking down midlane towards the G2 base. But Perkz finally stood tall and he, alongside support Mikyx, dominated SKT in a final teamfight where they would kill four before teammate Caps would siege the base and send G2 to their first Worlds final.
By all counts, Invictus Gaming should have won their series against FunPlus Phoenix. They were the defending World Champions, with some of the best players in the world at every position. But they had also lost to FPX before, in China’s LPL finals, which meant that it still felt like the less experienced FPX had a shot. They struggled early in most of the games, losing players to IG’s ganks and ending up at a deficit. But then, every time, they came back, beating IG down with superior individual play and better teamwork than the best lineup China had ever had. If not for a miraculous Elder Drake steal by IG’s jungler Ning in game two, the series likely would have been the first in Worlds this year to not go three to one.
As it was at many points throughout the series, it appeared that IG was going to make it work and win. It wasn’t just the weight of expectations this time, it was what was happening before our eyes. IG looked better for the first minutes, the first fights. But then they crumpled, getting picked off repeatedly and losing team fights despite having positioning and item advantages over their counterparts.
Maybe it was due to their strange picks, like Nautilus in mid lane. Maybe it was IG’s lack of communication and teamwork. Maybe it was a massive overperformance by an FPX roster that didn’t know how to say die. Whatever it was, on Saturday, FPX were the heroes that IG were supposed to be. They were the ones who spat in the faces of setbacks and defeats and said no, we aren’t out of it until our base is gone. IG looked lost in the face of it, floundering as FPX confidently demolished their base three times and claimed their first Worlds Finals appearance.
Next Sunday, the two rosters will face off. FPX is fighting for a trophy at their first international event, to secure a second straight win for the LPL. G2, on the other hand, is fighting for something more; they’re fighting for the first trophy at a real worlds ever for the West. They’re fighting to say that no matter what history says, anyone can win a championship.
Ashton Stansel is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.