After a disappointing Pro League season by their own admission, G2 Esports has decided to drop long-time player Joonas "jNSzki" Savolainen and sign Aleksi "UUNO" Työppönen from LeStream Esport as their newest member. It is still unknown, however, who will be replacing UUNO at LeStream.
2019 has been great for G2 Esports overall -- the mixed-European squad won the Six Invitational for the second year running, but for serial winners like them definitely felt the hurt in the Pro League. The team missed out on their first-ever Pro League Finals after having come together as a team more than two years ago, finishing in third-place -- a fairly distant eight points from LeStream Esport in second.
While Niclas “Pengu” Mouritzen did reiterate that the team’s underperformance in the first half of the season was “due to saving strats for the Invitational”, he admitted that they have “no excuse” for their play in the second-half of the season.
This G2 Esports team first came together in Season 4 of the Pro League in 2017, comprising Pengu, jNSkzi, Fabian “Fabian” Hallsten, Daniel "Goga" Mazorra Romero, and Niklas “KS” Massierer, with Vincent "Falko" Baucino as their sixth member. Soon after, Falko was dropped, and then KS was briefly replaced by Ville “Sha77e” Palola, before Juhani “Kantoraketti” Toivonen filled that then-transient fifth spot in May 2018.
Now, with the rest of the region catching up, and having missed out on the first Pro League Finals in Europe since Season 5, G2 Esports has made a change. While statistics don’t tell the full story, they are indicative enough to understand the reasoning behind G2 Esports’ change at a base level.
Overall in Season 9 of the Pro League, jNSkzi finished with a SiegeGG rating of 0.81 born from a -32 Kill-Death delta, a -7 Opening K-D delta, and a significantly disappointing KOST of 0.55 (indicating that he only had an impact on 55% of all the rounds played). These figures came after he largely played IQ on attack and Maestro on defence.
Looking at the Six Invitational, the picture is definitely prettier, but any issue is easier to overlook given G2 Esports’ success at the event. Across the two group stage matches against mantisFPS (now Cloud9) and Mock-it Esports (now Natus Vincere), jNSkzi was again bottom-ranked on his team with a 0.98 rating on predominantly Buck and Mute. In the playoffs, on the other hand, playing Jackal and Mute to finish with an overall rating of 0.92, a 0.63 KOST, and a -11 K-D delta.
His replacement, UUNO, on the other hand had an even worse rating at the Season 9 Finals, but it was only across a single game and with a team that has been consistently poor offline. Online, though, in the Pro League, he was given a 1.01 rating with a 0.63 KOST on mainly Ash and Pulse. At the Six Invitational too, his statistics were slightly worse than jNSkzi’s, but only marginally so and only across two games to G2 Esports’ five.
Casting the net back a year to UUNO’s debut season puts him in a better light, though. Then, he was the seventh-best player in all of Europe, although his team, ENCE eSports, was relegated despite his and Kantoraketti’s firepower. He stuck with the team in the Challenger League for Season 8, but eventually had enough and made the switch to LeStream Esport at the start of Season 9. Now, he joins the best team in the world, G2 Esports, and will be eager to slot right in and continue the team’s reign of terror across the world.
SiegeGG spoke to G2 Esports head coach Thomas "Shas[O]Udas" Lee (Shas for short) and UUNO about the move:
To Shas: The four-man core of G2 Esports stretches back to Season 4 -- what prompted the change now, and why Joonas?
Given that we wanted to make a change, we felt that now was the most opportune time to make one; anything later ran too close to the Major. No-one on the team enjoyed making this decision. It was an incredibly difficult one to reach for many reasons.
I will not go into the details of the decision, other than to say that Joonas’ philosophy of playing the game had grown distinctly different to that of the other 4 players and that this obviously weakens our cohesiveness as a team on the server (we play on). I’m confident that Joonas will flourish on another Pro League team that can support his approach to the game and I wish him the very best.
Of course, this is an incredibly contentious position for me to be in -- I’m sad to be parting ways with a long-standing player and friend that we have enjoyed much success with. Simultaneously, I’m extremely excited for the future with UUNO and what new heights we can achieve.
To Shas: How did you settle on UUNO as the ideal replacement?
As with most important decisions, we are rather democratic. Each player stated their perspective and voted after we had made the decision to continue without Joonas and informed him. Surprisingly, the entire team was unified with the desire to recruit UUNO. We felt he was the best suited candidate to fill the demands and meet the expectations of the team and his role.
With UUNO, we’re confident that we have achieved our goal of five flex players that are highly communicative. Additionally, Kevin "Sua" Stahnke (the G2 Esports analyst) has worked with UUNO back in ENCE and I have experienced working with UUNO (way back when he was starting his competitive career in PENTA Academy); we were both confident that he has the ability and work ethic required to win titles and continue our dominance.
To UUNO: How do you feel about joining G2 Esports?
I feel amazing! I started playing competitively in PENTA Academy when this line-up was under PENTA and ever since then, I’ve always wanted to play with this lineup as well as work with Shas and Sua. Also, now I get to play with Kanto again too!
To UUNO: When G2 came knocking, did you have any hesitation? Why or why not?
The only hesitation I had was leaving my teammates at LeStream Esport behind. It was an absolute pleasure playing with those guys. However, the only team I would have accepted an offer from was G2 Esports. So, although I’m sad to be saying goodbye, I’m confident this is the right decision and I wish my old team the best!
To UUNO: Filling jNSkzi's shoes is no small task -- how do you plan to handle this challenge?
As a legend in Siege, Joonas’ shoes are certainly big, but I’m confident I can fill them. I have been in a similar situation in the past. For example, when I joined ENCE, I had to fill Shatte’s shoes and that was as a “no-name”. I’ve proven how good I am in the server, which is why G2 wanted to me to join them. Overall, I intend to focus on the job at hand, put in the work and prove myself.
To Shas: Pengu mentioned some differences between online and offline play previously, do you think those were significant factors in not making it to Milan?
Though G2 is always more comfortable playing in a LAN setting as opposed to an online setting, I don’t think that this explains why we did not qualify for Milan. That I would put down to an increased competitiveness at the top-end of EU Pro League, pulling some of our punches due to “saving strats” for the Six Invitational, and fatigue on our side. All of this resulted in what I would say was a sub-par performance through Season 9.
To Shas: While you are obviously reaping the rewards of your dominance on Rainbow Six, if you could put yourself in the shoes of a partial observer, would you say this sort of dominance is healthy for the esport?
There are a number of perspectives I can take on this topic. As an observer, I would say it’s somewhere in the middle, since a hegemony can both keep viewers coming back for the high level of play, but can hurt viewership for other matches which don’t involve said team. For the competitive aspect, I attribute the formation of a hegemony to the fault of the competitors rather than the dominant team themselves. Competitive play is, as the name suggests, highly competitive and thus my main perspective is that “a rising tide lifts all boats”.
G2 Esports’ first game with this new roster will be in Season 10 of the Pro League, scheduled to start soon, as they seek to make amends for their sub-par Season 9.