G2 support Alfonso “Mithy” Aguirre Rodríguez walks into our interview room just as the Jeunesse Arena crowd roars in the waning moments of the final day of group stages at the 2017 League of Legends Mid-Season Invitational.
“Who’s winning this last game?” he asks.
I reply, “Lucian mid.”
“Ah, so WE.” He smiles and sits down.
His smile isn’t the beaming wide-mouthed look of Flash Wolves top laner Yu “MMD” Lihong, to come later in the day after Flash Wolves defeated Team SoloMid in their tiebreaker match. Instead, Mithy’s face and posture radiate relief.
Three times, G2 Esports have represented Europe at a major, Riot-run international event. This is the first time they’ve escaped the group stage.
“I feel relieved mostly,” he says. “I don’t really feel super happy. It’s quite embarrassing, the way we made it, but at least we made it, you know? Could be worse.”
Mithy quickly reiterates that his team deserved to advance. Any embarrassment comes from their own expectations and internal comparisons to the reality of their performances over the five group stage days.
“We did earn our way here. We won 2-0 against Flash Wolves, quite convincingly on the second game, so we proved that we are good to. It wasn’t too bad. It just feels like we could have done so much more.”
G2’s final day begins with a disappointing loss to SK Telecom T1 before the team rallies to defeat Team SoloMid. They then watch Flash Wolves demolish the GIGABYTE Marines. Their own inconsistencies necessitate the wait, but when Flash Wolves win, the G2 practice room still erupts in cheers.
The 2017 Mid-Season Invitational group stage is riddled with teams that looked strong in some moments and abysmal in others.
“It always depends from game to game,” Mithy says of the tournament’s inconsistent bottom four. “Sometimes it’s execution. Sometimes it’s draft. For example, a team will get a better late game team comp and the other team will not snowball their early game hard enough.”
He leans forward with a grin.
“It’s not really what happens with us, we really let them win, you know?” He immediately pulls back from the joke. “No, no, sometimes we give up everything and it’s really bad for us.”
“For example, SK Telecom T1 will fall behind a max of 4K gold but their towers will be fine, they’ll keep their inhibitors,” he says. “They are just able to stall until the game gets to the point where, sure, the other team has better map control but SKT can win a fight. At some point, they just have the stronger late-game draft and at that point, it doesn’t matter if their opponent is 4K ahead anymore. SKT just wins. If you wait for item spikes, even if the other team has a gold lead, in terms of actual items, maybe the value is actually a lot lower.”
I ask him if this is why he had said on broadcast that they would likely be going well into the late game against TSM. Mithy quickly shakes his head.
“When we play against other teams, we were really aiming to get some good early games,” he says. “We told ourselves, ‘Okay guys, we can’t have what happened against Flash Wolves happen again. Focus on getting a good draft early.’ When we played against TSM the first time, we had one of those drafts where it could go late game because once you have tank supports, it’s harder to make early plays bot lane. Then you have mage/mage mid where it’s hard to make plays against each other and then tanks top. You end up making a slow game no matter what. We felt that, even though we really boomed that game, TSM didn’t really have the preparation to end, play well with vision, or snowball properly. When we played today, we wanted to try to get another one of those games where both teams have to actually win very slowly. We felt that we were better at winning slowly.”
He laughs again.
“When we played again, the same thing happened. We f****d up super hard, TSM got too ahead. I think our draft was bad too, we gave them the wrong champions so we didn’t really get what we wanted. All we had was late-late game and we lost the early game super horribly so we couldn’t even get there in time. But somehow we managed to pull through. In reality . . .”
Mithy shakes his head. Outside the crowd roars again for Team WE, G2’s upcoming opponent in the bracket stage. Loud cheers are sometimes a rare sound for Mithy and G2, given their international track record. With this in mind, I ask if he thinks that some of the pressure from European fans has finally lifted.
“No way,” he says. He chuckles. “I don’t think so. Not this way at least. Not this way. If we win against World Elite, then maybe people will be okay with us.”
Emily Rand’s love of the 2013 KT Rolster Bullets will never die. You can follow her on Twitter.