Their results, tactics, and general management has been some of the best we’ve seen of almost any CS:GO team.
In the last year and a half, G2 has proven that they have one of the best systems in CS:GO. After acquiring Damien “MaLeK” Marcel as their coach on Nov. 26th, 2018, the team has systematically improved over time. Their results, tactics, and general management has been some of the best we’ve seen of almost any CS:GO team.
The Shox Era
There are three major epochs in the G2 CS:GO franchise. The first period was in 2015 when G2 first entered the scene and created an international mix that eventually got sold to FaZe. The second period is the shox period which lasts from early 2016 (when G2 replaced Kevin “Ex6TenZ” Droolans for Alexandre “bodyy” Pianaro).
The reason I call this the Shox era is because he was the focal point of the team. He was the focal point of the team’s success whether as their superstar (in 2016), totemic figure-head, and had a large influence in how the roster was crafted and played. In 2016 he played a loose style where he and Adil “ScreaM” Benrlitom star duo became one of the most explosive in the world. Later on he helped fashion the French superteam with Nathan “NBK” Schmitt. Finally, he created the nostalgic reunion tour with Edouard “SmithZz” Dubourdeaux and ex6Tenz.
The shox era ends after G2 failed to get any relevant results with that final lineup. While G2 had put their complete faith in Shox in the past, they decided to put a new voice in the team. While Shox continued to be an integral part of the team as a caller and player, he was no longer it’s beating heart.
Instead, the leading voice of the team became MaLek. He joined on Nov. 26th, 2018 and G2 replaced both SmithZz and Ex6TenZ with Lucas “Lucky” Chastang and Audric “JaCkz” Jug. It is at this point that we enter the third epoch, the maLeK Period.
The maLeK Period
MaLeK was originally the coach of 3DMax and so when G2 were looking for potential replacements, he suggested both Lucky and JaCkz. Both players had a specific role that G2 needed to make things work. Lucky would help the structure of the team. MaLeK described it to HLTV, “Richard will be back to leading now and Lucas [Lucky] will help him. He's also very serene with his communication and will be good in addition to shox's creativity.”
MaLeK already understood that having Shox be the sole in-game leader wasn’t going to work for the team. Shox had already been open about realizing he wasn’t capable of doing it after the French superteam failed to become a consistent contender. As for JaCkz, he was a hard entry-fragger. This role was something that G2 needed badly as they never found a replacement after benching Dan “apEX” Madesclaire.
Both moves helped the team progress, but they needed more firepower. So on March 7th, 2019 G2 replaced bodyy with Francois “AmaNEk” Delaunay. AmaNEk had originally made his name playing as one of the star players in Misfits in 2017. That star power burst forth again as he became one of the better players on the team.
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More than that though, he became the strong right-hand man of maLeK. At this point G2 created a kind of diarchy system with Shox and AmaNEK at the heads. MaLeK talked about this calling style to HLTV, “AmaNEk who is my right hand, he's someone who pays a lot of attention to detail ...vetos, gameplans, the direction we're taking, the way we approach certain matches, our pace in the game, our strategies... All of that is now in AmaNEk's head. Shox is someone creative, and the second I try to force gameplans, analysis, and so on, it doesn't work. He loses his creativity, he loses his individual skill, so having AmaNEk helping with that is very good because it allows shox to keep his voice and his creativity”
With this system in place, the team slowly became better. They had some alright finishes with a top four at Charleroi Esports 2019, top four at DreamHack Open Tours, and top six at DreamHack Masters Dallas. Their best result came at ESL Proleague Season 9 Finals where they got to the finals of the tournament with their two biggest series wins coming against FaZe and NRG. However that EPL9 Finals was G2 at their absolute best. On G2’s average day, they were a playoff team at best. Their general range was somewhere closer to 6th-10th depending on the size and competition of the field. This is what we saw from them in their followup tournaments where they lost in the group stages of IEM Chicago and then an elimination at StarLadder Berlin Major.
That was the final straw. While the team had improved, it was clear that they were hitting a barrier. They had tried to do what they could, but it was time to move on from the French scene. It was time to move on from shox. On Sept. 26t, G2 parted with Shox and a few days later they also benched Lucky. In turn they recruited two international players: Nemanja “nexa’ Isakovic and Nemanja “huNter” Kovac.
Shifting to an International Lineup
An international lineup was always something that G2 must have considered in the back of their minds. In terms of raw available resources, it was always better than the French scene in terms of potential players you could recruit. So when the Shox roster ended, it made a lot of sense to make the transition over to an international squad.
As for why nexa and huNter specifically, they were diamonds in the rough. They had made names for themselves on lineups like CR4ZY and Valiance in the years leading up to this point. Nexa was an up-and-coming fragging in-game leader while huNter was a shockingly effective CT-side flanking player. Their biggest claims to fame was upsetting big name teams in the Major cycle. In 2019, they eliminated Mouz from the Katowice Minor. More relevant to this particular roster shuffle, they had just beaten Fnatic and North in the Minor. They then made it through the Challengers Stage and had a strong showing for themselves in the Legends Stage. They got wins against NiP and FaZe. They lost to Astralis and Na`Vi in the bo3s 1-2. The Astralis series in particular was a tightly contested series with Dust2 going into 5 overtimes and if CR4ZY would have won that, they would have won the series 2-0.
Once the negotiations were done, G2’s final lineup was: Kenny “kennyS” Schrub, JaCkz, AmaNEk, nexa, and huNter. In terms of raw skill they were competitive with all of the top teams. However in the first few months, skill was their only consistent selling point. Everything else about the team was extremely volatile. At their best, they pushed Astralis to their limits in a match at EPL 10 finals where they had an extremely close series where G2 won Dust2 16-13, lost Inferno 15-19, and barely lost Train 14-16. At their worst they lost to Mouz with two stand-ins, one of which happened to be Mouz’s coach.
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The cause of that volatility was a lack of fundamentals. They lacked focus at odd times as they didn’t make use of their position to close out power play scenarios or use their utility and get caught completely unawares or idling. By the end of 2019, G2 looked like a dangerous wildcard with a high chance to upset and be upset at the same time.
In 2020 that has changed. They have drilled their fundamentals down and are more consistent against all levels of opponents. They no longer lose focus like they once did. What’s more, their tactics and calling are far more cohesive and coherent. Their individual firepower has given them more options than before. Prior to nexa and huNter joining the team, initial CT-side aggression was almost all relegated to JaCkz. While he is still the primary entry-fragger for the team, everyone on the team is willing to make aggressive plays which increases the potential options of where G2 can play in any given situation.
Once G2 get into a small-man scenario, they always try to adhere to a trading principle and will link up their players together. Their increased individual skill has also given them a lot of flexibility with the lurker position as huNter, nexa, and amaNEk can all play the role well. Beyond that, kennyS has seemingly made another revival to his career as he put on one of the best performances of his career at IEM Katowice 2020 up until he reached the finals.
The Overarching System
As we’ve gone through the history and rise of G2 in the last year and a half, we’ve seen them grow consistently step by step. In terms of GMing, G2 consistently scouted out players and had solid reasons for recruiting each one in the context of the situation they were in. Beyond the GMing, maLeK showed his ability to make the best of whatever players he had and create a workable system for all involved. When he had Shox, he utilized a diarchy. While it’s a bit ambiguous as to what the current G2 system is, their results and gameplay show that whatever it is they are doing, it’s working. There were other things as well that I didn’t go too into such as G2’s tactics and map-pools. When you take all of that into consideration, G2 have proven that they have one of the best systems in the world.
Images via BLAST.