The fated battle is finally occurring to settle the score between North America and Europe. Rift Rivals for NA and EU starts this weekend, and it’s building up to be an exciting one. The top three teams from the Spring Split will represent their respective regions on Summoner’s Rift.
Last year, North America took home the trophy, and the European teams are eager to take it back. Not only are they fighting for regional pride, but all the teams are seeking international success, hoping to prove themselves globally. The six teams attending the tournament have clear strengths and weakness, and it is sure to provide us with some of the highest level of play we have seen this split.
#1: G2 Esports
The gap between them and Team Liquid may be relatively close, but G2 Esports (“G2”) are poised as the favorites for the tournament. With a dominating six wins and zero losses, it is hard to argue otherwise. All of their members have shown significant improvement since spring, while their funnel compositions have found great success. The team has successfully adapted to the meta and focused on their strengths. Their use of the funnel strategy has been unlike any other and is why they are unbeatable in the EU LCS.
Because G2 has primarily played the funnel composition, the spotlight inevitably falls on Luka “Perkz” Perković and Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski. Individually, they are two of the most skilled players in their roles. As a funnel duo, they break out of the mindset of the funnel must farm to one-versus-five mid game. Instead, they will sacrifice a camp or two to influence their side lanes, specifically Martin “Wunder” Hansen in the top lane. This makes their side laners not so exploitable, which is usually the weakness of funnel compositions.
Wunder has shown that he can dominate his lanes as Aatrox and play the supportive role with tanks like Ornn. He leaves a large impact in team fights, whether it be with damage or crowd control. Petter “Hjarnan” Freyschuss has stepped up for his team, adapting to the meta and showcasing his large champion pool with picks like Heimerdinger and Karma. He has shown considerable improvement since last split, being less exploitable and showing overall improvement. Lastly, Bae-In “Wadid” Kim continues to impress on play-making supports like Alistar and Rakan. His roaming power is great and is always able to impact the map, two things crucial to the current meta game.
Speculation can be placed on whether or not G2 will be able to play different styles to the same success as their funnel composition. While this concern is valid, it is very likely G2 will succeed in implementing different styles of play on the big stage due to the caliber of the team and players. The NA teams have been showing they can dismantle the funnel strategy, and if they can do so against G2, they could be in a tight spot.
#2: Team Liquid
Team Liquid (“TL”) are a definite second in the power rankings. They are far more consistent than the other teams tied for first in NA. Though they have two blemishes on their record, the team has taken steps to fix their problems. They haven’t found success on the volatile meta picks and strategies, and opt for a standard style instead.
Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng is the super star of this team, and it’s easy to see why. He has some of the highest damage and kill participation (“KP”) numbers, while maintaining a high CS count. He consistently performs at a high level. After his atrocious Vladimir game, he has gone back to the standard AD Carries, something he and the team benefit from. Eugene “Pobelter” Park has been having a good split so far, especially on Irelia. He has shown different styles of play, and should be able to hold his own in the mid lane.
Jeong “Impact” Eon-Young is similar, and has been changing up his picks nearly every game. He has had great performances on carries, even in games they lost, and his tank play is great as always. Jake “Xmithie” Puchero and Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung are the two that set up their team for success. Their willingness to make plays and engage fights has been crucial to TL’s success.
TL will have to ensure teams like G2 and Fnatic cannot harass Pobelter. While a good player, the skill of Perkz and Caps cannot be overstated. The team’s style may also be called into question, as it isn’t necessarily meta, and more comfortable. Comfort is important, but in such an unpredictable meta, teams that are slow to adapt may find themselves lost.
#3: Echo Fox
The fight for third between Echo Fox (“FOX”) and Fnatic will be close, but FOX appears to be the one to edge the other out. Both actually play similarly to the meta, valuing the bruiser/mage bot lanes over standard ADC’s. The main difference here is that Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon has shown a level of flexibility no one else has. FOX has pulled out more new picks, role swaps, and strategies than Fnatic have, and this is what gives them the edge.
Huni is the focal point of FOX’s strategy. His ability to play mechanically intensive champions and adapt to different roles has been integral to FOX’s success. His carry potential is so high that the team rallies around him, and it works well most of the time. Wang “Feng” Xiao-Feng, though new to the LCS stage, has been playing adequately and exhibiting a wide champion pool. Kim “Fenix” Jae Hoon has shown great carry performances and adaptability to play different roles and styles, a valuable trait in the current meta.
Johnny “Altec” Ru and Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett are no slouches either. They have played the funnel composition lately, and it shows promise. In their match against Cloud9, Altec was able to carry the game and even received a Pentakill. Dardoch, though known for his jungling prowess, is able to play the support funnel role excellently.
The strength of FOX’s unpredictability is also their downfall. They have a habit of either winning dominantly or getting crushed in their losses. Their drafts, while surprising thus far, may not be repeatable. Many are role swaps you wouldn’t have expected, but now that teams know what to look for, FOX may not have that edge. If they can fix their individual mistakes and perform more consistently, they have a definite shot at first.
Fnatic (“FNC”) are right behind FOX in fourth. Their take on the meta is similar to FOX’s, but lacks in certain areas. It is almost guaranteed that the FNC bot lane will contain a mage or bruiser. Though this gives them an early advantage, it can leave them susceptible to late game scaling teams like TL. Their use of the funnel strategy has been shaky, and only found success against the struggling FC Schalke 04. They do have a good read on the meta, and are certainly contenders in this tournament.
When talking about FNC, it is impossible not to talk about Rasmus “Caps” Winther. One of the best mid laners in the West, Caps has great skill and a high carry potential. His impact on the game is massive with picks like Yasuo and Zoe, and he can carry his team to great heights. Gabriël “Bwipo” Rau is the other carry to keep an eye on. His value largely comes from his versatility and good read on the meta. He plays mages and bruisers, and is nearly always able to have great impact on the game.
Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen has a unique champion pool, favoring aggressive junglers like Camille, Nocturne and Kindred. His impact on the middle and bottom lanes is great for enabling his primary carries. Zdravets “Hylissang” Galabov is dominating on roaming aggressive picks like Alistar and Pyke. Paul “sOAZ” Boyer has flown under the radar. Put on tank duty, he hasn’t received many resources, but is able to absorb pressure for the rest of his lanes, important for enabling his carries.
FNC are one of the most aggressive teams attending Rift Rivals, and it makes them a serious threat. They have shown drafting problems and a pretty clear strategy that they favor. Some of their mid and late game decision making is questionable. If the team can improve in these areas and show more versatility, they have a good chance at doing well.
#5: 100 Thieves
100 Thieves (“100T”) are tied with FOX and TL for first place in NA, but show significantly more weaknesses coming into Rift Rivals. The main reason for this is the roster changes they’re implementing for the tournament. Brandon “Brandini” Chen will start in the top lane and Đỗ “Levi” Duy Khánh will start in the jungle. Their performances have been unsatisfactory in the Academy League, and are the main reasons for their low rating.
Starting with the good, Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black is having a good split so far. The meta suits him and he is the core of 100T’s play making and shot calling. Cody Sun is visibly improving as well, and he is putting up impressive damage, KP and KDA numbers. The team is putting more resources in to him, and it is working out well.
Yoo “Ryu” Sang-wook is struggling this split. His statistics across the board are very low, and he is failing to have an impact on most of his games. He isn’t necessarily being abused, but could be against the EU mid lane talent. Brandini is a downgrade from Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho, who performed exceptionally well in Week Three. Levi is a wild card. He is a menace in Solo Queue, but has failed to bring that same performance to his Academy Games. If he doesn’t play like he did on the Gigabyte Marines, the team is in trouble.
Overall, its difficult to see this team instantly coming together and smashing the competition. Their substitutes have too many question marks, and some of the games they won in Week Three were longer and closer than they should’ve been. They’ll need to prove the critics wrong in order to make a statement at Rift Rivals.
Splyce (“SPY”) is at the bottom of this list, and with good reason. A true fall from grace, they finished third in the Spring Split but now sit in the bottom half of the standings. They have struggled to find footing in their home region, and it is hard to imagine them finding it here. They seem to be struggling individually, stylistically, and as a team. SPY have picked up two wins currently in the EU LCS, but their win against Roccat was far from clean. The team has a plethora of problems they need to fix to show up at Rift Rivals.
Many of the players show inconsistent play and struggles. Andrei “Xerxe” Dragomir shows this the most. He is the enabler for his team, but due to inconsistent performances and bad decision making, he is not fulfilling his role. Raymond “kaSing” Tsang looked good on play making champions, but favors lane dominant supports despite the failure it has brought them. Kasper “Kobbe” Kobberup has been lackluster so far. Though he has shown he can acclimate to the new meta, he has had low impact on games unless he is set up by his team to a great degree.
The solo laners have some potenital for SPY. Andrei “Odoamne” Pascu is favoring the Aatrox recently, and is showing promise. He is capable of carrying some games if he is unlocked by his team. Yasin “Nisqy” Dinçer has shown some improvement this split. He has the potential to play well if given the resources to do so. The game against Unicorns of Love has shown, however, that he is still a relatively weak force in the middle lane.
The team has a lot to work on before Rift Rivals. Aside from some upset games, they are not expected to perform very well and will need to step it up to prove that they deserve to participate at this tournament.
The NA v EU bragging rights tournament is sure to be exciting. All the teams have shown different strengths and weaknesses due to the volatility of this meta. The North American teams in general seem to have been slow to adapt to the meta game, but the Europeans have been the opposite. While this is positive for them in some ways, the comfort of standard team compositions is valuable in it’s own right.
There are tons of question marks surrounding many of the teams, and it will be exciting to watch how they respond. The tournament, while it has no implications on regional standings or Worlds qualification, will be a great tool to see how teams and styles stack up against each other. And, of course, Rift Rivals is all important for putting to rest the NA v EU rivalry for the year and giving bragging rights to the victor.
EU v NA Rift Rivals 2018 starts Thursday, July 5th at 12:00 PDT. To watch the tournament, visit www.twitch.tv/riotgames. For more information on the split, teams, standings, and players, visit www.lolesports.com/.
Featured image via LoL Esports and Riot Games.
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