The Golden Guardians (GGS) are infamously known as the cellar dwellers of both splits in 2018, which unfortunately coincided with their premier two seasons in existence after the tournament’s shift to franchising at the beginning of last year. After ending 2018 Spring with a 4-14 record, GGS looked to improve in the Summer Split, starting respectably to end 5-5 after the fifth week of competition.
It all went downhill from there however; the Guardians slumped to loss after loss, eventually ending the 2018 Summer Split at 5-13, not winning a single match after their 5-5 start. The double split failure of 2018 brought about massive high-profile changes on the GGS roster, with several marquee players being brought in to attempt an unlikely playoff berth for the 2019 Spring Split.
With only jungler Juan “Contractz” Garcia and AD Carry Matthew “Deftly” Chen remaining from the initial 2018 roster, the Guardians brought in veteran TSM top laner Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell, along with former Echo Fox mid laner, Henrik “Froggen” Hansen and Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung, Team Liquid’s double 2018 Split winner. Their efforts were clearly focused towards making a playoff position in 2019, but with several high-profile changes during the off-season, the LCS looked to be a very even and hotly contested league, where no one was guaranteed any position.
Regardless, the Golden Guardians had renewed ambition coming into 2019, with large expectations being placed on the squad to break their drought and perform like a playoff contender. However, after tough competition from FlyQuest, Echo Fox, Cloud9 and 100 Thieves, all teams expected to fight for top seeds, the Golden Guardians continued their losing streak, which now sat at 12.
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Their last win came on the 22nd of July 2018. Fast forward to the 9th of February 2019, the Guardians finally had a genuine chance at redemption as they took on OpTic Gaming. OpTic were another team with inconsistencies since their inception, having made several roster swaps, including changes between their Academy and LCS team as recently as last week. Coming into week 3, OpTic made three changes, replacing Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett with veteran William “Meteos” Hartman in the jungle, while bringing in Noh “Arrow” Dong-hyeon and Terry “Big” Chuong to complement the bottom lane.
With relatively standard drafts coming in from both sides, neither team appeared to have any edge as the match began. OpTic Gaming managed to take an early dragon 6 minutes into the match, before successfully converting a strong 3v1 in mid lane to get first blood and a narrow lead 5 minutes later. A mistake by Niship “Dhokla” Doshi just over a minute after first blood cancelled OpTic’s lead, with Golden Guardian’s taking the Infernal Drake and regaining a slight positional advantage.
The lead was short lived as Meteos claimed the useful Rift Herald, followed by a pick on the Guardian’s support, Olleh and the first tower thereafter. Still, the gold lead remained slim as another Drake was picked up by Contractz. There was little interaction between the teams afterwards, but when the fourth infernal had spawned, Froggen found a pick onto Dhokla after a positioning error, gifting the Guardians their third dragon.
Several positioning errors around Baron eventually cost OpTic, with three members falling and allowing the Guardians to take the all-important objective. Afterwards, the remainder of the game became a formality; the strong damage draft, along with the empowered minions and dragon buffs ensured that the Guardians would finally break their 203-day winless streak.
Despite the much-needed victory, the Guardians still remain in last place on the LCS ladder, but at least, they have the hope that they’ll be able to mount an ascension towards a potential playoff berth now that the newly formed roster has their first win.