Gen.G’s Uphill Battle at Worlds 2020
Gen.G is a strange case at the 2020 League of Legends World Championship. Perhaps one of the oldest teams to come into the competition from the LCK and with the absence of mainstays like T1, it’s maybe their best chance to have a breakout performance. However, they’ve got a long road ahead. Though they managed to avoid Play-Ins altogether, they have been sorted into Group C, where a hungry Team SoloMid fresh off a surprise LCS victory in the Summer Split and a Fnatic squad that may be the last tournament the roster sees is waiting for them. And that’s before mentioning that LGD Gaming is likely coming for all three of them.
Gen.G’s Long and Dirty Road to Worlds
Korea’s number three seed, Gen.G has not had an easy route to Worlds in 2020. Led by veteran and former World Champion AD Carry Park “Ruler” Jae-Hyuk, who has been on the team since its inception in May 2018, the team finished 3rd in the Summer Playoffs, and 2nd in the Spring Playoffs after topping the table in the regular season. They got 3-0 at the Mid Season Cup, where they were rudely reminded that the LCK is not the powerhouse region it once was, having long been surpassed by both their Chinese and European counterparts.
They’re still a major region and a threat on any given day – but it’s not the blowout results that many of these players became used to. It’s now requiring actual work. And they put in major work, shutting down T1 Esports and Faker, leaving Worlds without its star for another year.
“We snuck in there,” Arnold Hur, CEO of Gen.G said at the Worlds Media Preview Day. “Honestly we were the last team to even fly into the bubble. It was a really tough year for us, we had a couple of bad beats, both in the Spring Final where we got 3-0’d, as well as at MSC. One thing we’ve realized from that is that we have to change the game. We realized that the LPL is incredibly strong, we said how can we change our game to say how can we be ready at the World’s level? To the player’s credit, they all worked their butts off. I think the only reason we got in is because of all the changes and all the work that they put in and all the grind that they put in.”
In general, when game times get longer, it seems like LCK teams do better – and this could heavily benefit Gen.G in Shanghai. While the meta has indeed stepped up and teams, in general, have been closing games out quickly with high kills, Gen.G has gotten faster without losing their comfort barrier of 30 minutes. In the LCK, they were 4th fastest in the league at 31.4 min in the Summer and tied 5th in summer at 33.6 min.
This means that despite being known for playing a slow game, it’s not outside of their wheelhouse to try and keep up with teams from much faster regions like the LPL, but it’s going to be an uphill battle. It’s for that reason that Gen.G has actually been wanting to boot camp in Shanghai since the beginning of the year, but COVID-19 made that difficult.
Settling in Shanghai
“From the beginning, we wanted to be in Shanghai,” Hur continued. “Even before the season, we wanted to boot camp in Shanghai, because that’s the level we wanted to be at with this team. We knew we wanted to execute before the season even began. That was the purpose-driven objective – the biggest challenge has just been getting there. We went through a lot of ups and downs this season. Because we’re the last team in and we barely qualified, we’re basically going to be finishing our quarantine and then having group stages right after. The thing I’ve said to the team is to not complain about it and figure out what we’re going to do about it instead.”
So what does an esports team do when they’re short on time but need to stay at peak performance? Simple – they get buffed. Literally.
“A lot of our players work out as part of our wellness program,” Hur said, chuckling. “They got used to doing it, so what we did is sent our players home workout gear along with the stuff Riot provides. So we sent them these Theragun massage therapy guns so they won’t be sore after they workout, since we don’t know what form they’re going to use [with no physical trainers present in quarantine.]”
The Eerie Silence of a COVID-19 Worlds
All of the physical training and mental readiness in the world may end up helping Gen.G at Worlds 2020, especially without a crowd. It’s that eerie silence that’s going to be the killer – it’s hard for players to stay connected to matches on LAN without the roar of the crowd, and certainly may take away any edge that experienced players might get from being on stage against their younger counterparts. While Riot might be planning to have an audience for the Finals at Pudong Stadium, they won’t for the earlier part of the tournament, and surely not on the same level that players like Ruler are used to having.
The LCK teams are fortunate then that they’ve been dealing with a lack of crowd noise all year long, unlike some regions like the LCS and LEC that shifted in March.
“We’re lucky in that we have experience [playing crowdless] in the LCK,” Hur explained. “We’ve just been practicing as much as we can to get in a mental state to be ready. We do definitely miss the roar of the crowd. The last time he was in Shanghai, Ruler played in front of 60,000 people and won the whole thing in 2017. We definitely miss that buzz and energy, but we’re just super happy to even be here and have a chance to get this whole thing off the ground, on LAN, rather than something online. We try to look at the bright side of things.”
Ruler, who isn’t quite the ace he once was when he was a part of Samsung Galaxy in 2017, has had a decent, if nearly uneventful year. He was 3rd in the league for KDAs in ADCs in Summer, second in Spring. Not the auspicious carry that Gen.G was probably hoping for when they signed him in 2018, but a return to the Worlds stage nonetheless. His experience is going to prove vital to a Gen.G team that is going to have quite the mountain to climb – in Group C, they’ll be up against a struggling Fnatic, a hungry Team SoloMid, and likely LGD Gaming, unless a massive upset happens and they don’t get out of the Play-In Stage.
Gen.G won’t have to play their first match for Worlds 2020 for a few weeks yet – they’ll be waiting patiently to see who their third opponent is in Group C, which will kick off play on October 3. Coincidently, that team will also be their first opponent, which will take place at 5 AM Pacific Time.