Last weekend, in an exciting day of games, the European representatives defeated those from North America in the Rift Rivals Finals. The European teams demonstrated why they deserved to win, but many North American fans felt let down by their region’s performance.
There appeared to be many problems that all three teams faced, as well as disappointing adaptations the region made (or failed to make) as a whole. If NA wants to find success on success at the World Championships, the next international stage, then they will need to address the issues they encountered during Rift Rivals. Luckily, many of these problems are visible and can be corrected.
NA’s Understanding of the Meta
Before diving in to each team, it’s important to identify weaknesses of the region as a whole. That amounts to their collective understanding of the current meta game. Though each team from both regions all had a very different style, the European teams displayed far more flexibility than North America’s teams. In addition, NA teams failed to implement a diverse array of strategies. And the strategies that they did implement appeared to be unpracticed and/or strategies that North American players weren’t comfortable with.
A crucial point that outraged NA fans was the 100 percent win rate both Aatrox and Heimerdinger had in the tournament. Usually, this would point to the champions being over-powered. In this instance, though, only EU teams played said champions. This means that NA had a critical inability to identify these champions as threats.
Both champions snowballed nearly every game they were in, and the NA teams could do nothing about it. Their inexperience playing against the champions showed. Similarly, no NA teams tried to play these champions, revealing that they weren’t comfortable playing them or merely didn’t find them worthwhile. The games were not decided with just these picks, of course, but the fact that NA teams refused to acknowledge their strength demonstrates their weak understanding of the current meta.
What many considered to be the second strongest team in the tournament fell short of expectations. Team Liquid (“TL”) ended Rift Rivals with a 50 percent win rate. While there were only four games, their two losses were devastating. These games finished before 30 minutes, and TL looked like a fish out of water in them. They were slaughtered in their match against G2 Esports (“G2”). This was at least somewhat acceptable, seeing as G2 was the favorite team coming in to the event. Their loss against Splyce (“SPY”) in the finals, however, was unacceptable. They seemed equally helpless, and while they managed to die less, it’s about the only thing positive to say about that game for them. SPY was the weakest team coming in to the tournament, and TL losing to them showed the severity of the problems the team faces.
TL is a great team in the region, but show an inability to adapt to the meta that other top teams don’t show to such an extent. They want to play standard and only standard. Even G2, with their immaculate funnel compositions, change up their drafts depending on the game. Standard drafts can work, but in this volatile meta, it is crucial to have other strategies on hand.
The persistence of playing around Doublelift can also be a weakness. He’s a remarkable player no doubt, but as we see in their game versus G2, the ADC role isn’t what it used to be. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how far ahead their marksman is if their towers are all gone. They choose to sacrifice pressure early for a strong carry late. This works against worse teams who don’t push their advantage as hard. Unfortunately for them, stronger teams who can push this advantage will end the game before the carry is effective. TL will likely stay on top of the standings at home, but will need major improvements to find international success.
Echo Fox (“FOX”) is the roller coaster team. They have highs, lows, and tons of twists. They are considered a strong team based on the first three weeks of NA LCS, but not top tier. It’s easy to see why. FOX had a 40 percent win rate (2W-3L) across the tournament, and the most exposure of any NA team.
The other NA teams even placed their trust in FOX to win the fourth game of the finals. Unfortunately, they misplaced their faith. FOX, as a team, have recently been wildly inconsistent. Some games they win in 23 minutes against the tournament favorites, and others they get obliterated. This has been a problem for them since the start of the split, and it doesn’t look any better.
The versatility of FOX’s drafts showed to be a weakness for the team this tournament, even when they received praise for it before. They had Damonte substitute for Fenix some games, and to his credit, he did look good in the bottom lane. Despite this, it appeared to throw off team synergy. Fenix had mediocre games on champions not in his wheelhouse. He performed quite bad in his top lane Renekton game, and his performance with Lulu in the fourth game of finals was just as bad, due to issues with flexibility. The team is struggling to excel at all these new champions and role swaps, and may need to tone it down.
The feast or famine of FOX ultimately comes down to Huni. Because the team puts so much faith in him, they need him to perform to the world-class level he is known for. This tournament surely let them down. None of his games were truly up to his standards. The FOX top laner had the most deaths of any other player in the tournament by far. Huni had a list of questionable plays and his performance was tragic for fans to watch. He will no doubt have to step up his game or FOX learn to play around a different player. Dardoch should receive praise for being able to play standard tank junglers, funnel junglers and new picks like Kindred and Pantheon. His performance was fantastic, and perhaps it is time for FOX to let him shine.
100 Thieves (“100T”) are the easiest to criticize, but for very different reasons. There is a sense that 100T’s management and coaching staff did not take the tournament as seriously as other teams. Instead, they used it as a sort of testing ground for a new roster. Levi and Brandini were added to the starting roster from Academy to see how they would perform on stage in a setting that wasn’t crucial for Worlds qualifications. This experiment was almost universally a failure. This, compounded with other problems, makes them look like a struggling team, not one tied for first in NA.
Brandini was the primary weak link for the team. In most of their games he was a liability. He had a decent Dr. Mundo game against SPY, but seeing as they were the weakest team in the tournament it doesn’t say much. He had big shoes to fill, replacing the upsurging Ssumday, and he didn’t seem capable of it. Levi, on the other hand, had some good and bad aspects to his play. He was funneled once, and though he wasn’t able to carry, he performed well. His matches against Fnatic, on the other hand, showed why he was formerly in Academy. He had poor games and was unable to make anything happen. With the Meteos trade, the jungle position for 100T may continue to struggle for some time. If these players stay, they will need to greatly improve.
100T exhibits some internal struggles in their play as well. They are trying new things like Pyke, Miss Fortune and the Graves funnel, but do not seem comfortable with any of them. Putting Cody Sun on funnel Alistar seems like a waste, considering his performance in the NA LCS thus far. Even in this tournament, he had the highest Kill Participation. Their drafting was displeasing, and perhaps their read on the European meta just wasn’t very good. 100T have a lot to improve on, individually and as a team, if they want to make it to the finals again this split.
For a recap of Day One, Day Two, the Finals, more analytical information on the North American and European representatives, power rankings for the tournament, and more on all things LoL, stay tuned here at The Game Haus!
Featured image via LoL Esports Flickr.
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