After losing to Misfits and Unicorns of Love in the last two weeks, G2 Esports closed a surprisingly difficult set against bottom tier team Mysterious Monkeys in Week 5 of the European League of Legends Championship Series (EU LCS). Following the set, AD carry Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen talked to Slingshot’s Kelsey Moser about G2’s difficult early weeks, the new Ashe priority, and the surprise punch Unicorns of Love and Fnatic can bring to Rift Rivals best-of-ones.
Kelsey Moser: The first question I wanted to ask you was about the second game. It’s kind of standard now for Rek’Sai to start with a couple camps and an experience quint into a gank. Was that something that you prepared for going into the match? And how did you set up to deal with it?
Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen: I think almost every Rek’Sai player in EU thinks that the only way you play Rek’Sai is to cheese gank at 2:40 minute with like raptors (only small ones) then red buff, then go top side, get blue buff or gank top. Or you can do stuff like raptors, red, bottom crab, and then you can go bot side.
This gank is really telegraphed, so they have Braum and Xayah, and they gave vision Level 1. So I told mithy that I want to leash blue buff for Trick so that he can go top side himself, and then we can just — mithy can drag the wave bot lane, so that it makes a freeze, which will make them lose minions on the wave. And while that happens, I will put a ward in river. When I come back to lane at like 1:50 after I give the blue buff leash, and then we have a freeze so we can’t get ganked. And then at 2:40 — something like that — before my ward expires, I see Rek’Sai level 3 bot lane, and I tell my jungler that he is here, and then he wastes time, and we get much more jungle efficiency in the early game.
It’s very common for Rek’Sai to gank either top lane at minute 2:40 or bottom 2:40 with XP quints. After bot lane gave a hard leash, he was either going top side or bot side at level three usually, so we had seen this one coming.
KM: Now that this (Rek’Sai start) has become kind of common, do you think it’s just not going to work anymore?
JS: The thing is when something becomes common like this — it’s kind of like with Renekton, right? You always gank top level 3 or 4. But then, if someone doesn’t do it, he will get ahead because our jungler thinks he will do it, so once it becomes standard, it will become a situation where you will prepare for it, but you will lose something for preparing for it.
(For example), we gave a good lane for us bot lane, but we don’t push it because we can’t because of Rek’Sai. Then maybe next game he will go top side, and we will give a freeze to bot lane, and then we won’t win our lane so hard, but some champions like Rek’Sai have this option. Same for Elise. They have pressure without being anywhere because they have fast clear speeds and different gank paths, so you have to play around it, and you can’t really do anything about it until you see him somewhere, so once you see him on bot side, you can start playing the game again. You can use Ashe E to spot him out or wards, and after that time’s over, you can play normal again.
But early game, Rek’Sai, Elise have this kind of pressure with their pathing and their clear speeds and their tunnels over walls and stuff, so this is how they work.
KM: This is the first time you had played Ashe this split. Was there a reason for this shift in priority?
JS: In the early weeks of LCS, we didn’t want to play Ashe/Varus much in scrims because we couldn’t really win if we played the right way to play the game. We were struggling with — Ashe is a champ where, if her team is behind, you lose because you can’t carry by yourself. You must have some sort of tank front line or engage, so if your team is falling behind you cannot use arrow to engage anyone. They have QSS or they have Cleanse or Banshee’s or something, but if your team is doing well in a normal game, then Ashe will always be a strong champion.
Your engage is strong, your vision is strong, your lane phase is very good, but in the first few weeks I didn’t want to play this champ or Varus (that’s an EU thing, though, EU prefers Varus over Ashe anyways). I didn’t like the Ashe/Varus duty because we feel like we couldn’t really win games that easily with this kind of style, so we just prefer to play Twitch or Caitlyn.
But now our style got back to the more controlled and reliable style. We’re all getting good now. We don’t get picked off as much, and we’re starting to be better at playing the macro correct. Ashe/Varus becomes better again. (Note: At the conclusion of the interview, Zven added that “Ashe pick is better because of Tahm Kench.”)
KM: I noticed you didn’t do the really common Statikk Shiv and RFC build. Do you have any additional thoughts on that in particular?
I was playing against Camille, so I thought that I would go for a PD because it reduces damage. So I went for Tabi’s and PD just making sure it can’t kill me ever. A lot of people prefer the Shiv/I Edge. I Edge first into Firecannon/Shiv. I think on Ashe against tanks like Camille and Rek’Sai and Braum, Blade is very good. Also laning phase is better. Build path is better as well. It depends on your bases, but I prefer to have Blade against champions with a lot of HP like Rek’Sai, for example. PD was more of a against Camille thing. Against assassins like Zed or Leblanc or Camille, it makes sense to me.
But I think the Firecannon/Shiv combo has kind of gotten a bit toxic because of champions like Caitlyn and somewhat Ashe, Tristana. Champions that have like 800 range with this Firecannon/Shiv combo, so it works sometimes if you need to siege if you need to have some sort of like poke, but I think against assassins or dive threats, PD is better.
KM: The casters were drawing parallels between last year’s Origen and current G2. In case of emergency, break hyper carry box. Is that sort of what was happening?
JS: Not really that, but just — it felt like we couldn’t really play macro and strategy that well, so we decided just to play faceroll for a bit. Lucian mid comp, no CC, lane phase pressure only, things like Twitch (hyper carries to fall back on), and then just play faceroll champions, not so much macro and team kind of comps.
KM: mithy after the game also mentioned that you were having some trouble in the meta still. G2 aren’t still maybe 100 percent sure on how to play the current meta. Is that true now, or do you have more clarification on that?
JS: We have some big issues so far this split. The first one was that we didn’t have a full roster in the first weeks, so we had no practice on the patch. Problem 2, we didn’t have anyone playing the champions. We didn’t have Galio mid played. We didn’t have Xayah/Rakan played bot lane together in scrims. Week 2 we had one day of scrims, so we had no practice on Xayah/Rakan. Zac we basically had one or two games of practice at max, and we couldn’t really get as much practice early, so we didn’t play any new champions on the patch.
Then, the same thing with Rift Herald. It was new to us. At MSI, there was no Herald, and we had no scrims, so we weren’t sure how good Herald was. So against Misfits, you would often find me and mithy — he was top and I was bot, or I was top and he was bot because we were playing for Herald, and he was playing for the drake. And normally, we would never be lost like this in a scenario, but back then you would find us playing for different things in the game because we couldn’t figure out what was worth more: Infernal Drake or Herald because we didn’t have this talk before, right?
So there were scenarios where we would get caught. The last problem was that our drafts were very bad, as in like sometimes we would have full AD against tanks or we would have AP jungle, mid, and top, and the enemy had last pick mid and picked Kassadin, like against Unicorns. We pick lanes that are zero CC against Unicorns as well. We had Caitlyn, Tahm, I think we had Nidalee jungle, Taliyah — no CC, no play-making, just laners that win, and we had two winning lanes, but if we made one mistake, the game was over. And you cannot pick comps that don’t forgive us for mistakes at all. We had this problem we picked full AD or no CC or no comeback mechanics at all or no way to close the game other than just run it down mid or hitting towers.
Now we are drafting more CC, more engage, more reliable play-making. We’re also trying to not draft fighting lanes as in like top lane carry champs, bot lane ranged support matchups, and mid lane pushing against something. So there are only two lanes that we play around: like top and mid or bot and mid. So we don’t have to have jungler everywhere all the time. Always have one tank kind of or someone with CC at least.
KM: You said there would be cases where mithy would be top and you would be bot or vice versa. Solo side lane AD carries are also a lot more common now. Is that something you guys struggled with balancing on the map at all?
JS: Not really. We always know how to play it with mage mid. That was very popular before as well. Side lane AD carries are really fine as a comp, but some people play with the AD carry alone in the side lane. They play things like Kennen or Tristana or Twitch or whatever you want to play. We are fine with playing side lane AD carries as in a full on comp with an Orianna mid or a Syndra mid, that is fine for us. We don’t struggle with this.
We struggle with what we were good at before. We get caught much more often now. We get caught in laning phase too where we just need to wait one minute before we see the jungler or their setup.
KM: The opening match of Rift Rivals is going to be TSM vs G2. Do you expect TSM’s matches to be more difficult or less difficult?
JS: I watched TSM vs C9 yesterday, and it wasn’t that good of a series. Actually, TSM was making a lot of like — how do you say it — uncommon mistakes. They were getting caught everywhere, they were not using flashes when they should use them, they were being greedy.
I think we’re going to be fine in best-of-ones against NA, but I think that EU teams, as in Unicorns and Fnatic, are pure best-of-one teams. They are much better in best-of-ones than best-of-fives in my opinion. I can easily see Fnatic going — I won’t say anything stupid, but I could see them winning a lot of their games, and Unicorns same because they play this style that, if you haven’t played against them before, they will catch you off guard.
Fnatic, their AD carry is playing Kennen and Tristana mainly, and they are always going bot lane. They dive you at level 1. They play very aggressive, fast-paced. You have to be slow and controlled to beat these kinds of teams like Unicorns and Fnatic. You have to not get dragged into them. Unicorns always group mid, and they just fight you there. You have to get mid tower and get some pressure, but against these teams it’s very easy to get sucked into them and play their style, but just play slow and controlled against those teams, and not get frustrated that you cannot farm as much as you can against other teams. I think there’s a good chance that Fnatic and Unicorns do well in best-of-ones against NA teams, but I am not sure.
KM: 0-20, 20-40, or 40-60?
JS: What, sorry? Our games against NA?
KM: Just which phase of the game do you prefer?
JS: Prefer? I don’t know what I prefer. I think my laning phase is really good. When I play lanes that I’m supposed to win, I always win them. When I play lanes I’m supposed to lose, I lose them a bit less than most people, but I think 20 minutes to 40 minutes is where — if you are ahead, you must be good to win. Even if you are ahead in 20-40 minutes, it doesn’t matter if you don’t know how to play it out. I don’t know, some people have their ideas like early game is most important, mid game is most important, but one doesn’t matter without the other one.
If you are good at early game, it doesn’t really matter how good you are at mid game if the other team is good at mid game. I don’t know, it doesn’t matter to me. I think both are important.
Cover photo courtesy of Riot Games