Which region managed to claim bragging rights for the biggest regional competition outside of worlds? EU or NA?
For European and North American pros, Rift Rivals may come as an unwanted distraction from their quest to qualify for Worlds. Travelling mid-split is not on the to-do list for most teams and a loss at such a tournament could affect any positive momentum that they had in their home league. However, for fans, it comes with priceless bragging rights and proof that their region really is superior (at the very least until Worlds rolls around later in the year).
Three days was all it took for Europe to once again assert their dominance over their neighbours across the pond, winning their second Rift Rivals in a row on North American soil.
The tournament kicked off with a group stage in which each LCS team (Cloud9, Team SoloMid and Team Liquid) played one match against each LEC team (Origen, Fnatic and G2 Esports). All European teams ended with a 2-1 record, while the NA representatives could only muster 3 wins between them (2 for TL and 1 for TSM). In total, the LEC beat out the LCS by 6 wins to 3. This earned them counterpicks for the final stage; the ‘Relay Race’.
The Relay Race was a best-of-5 series to decide the Rift Rivals champion, whereby each team must play at least 1 match. Winning the Group Stage meant that Europe were able to counterpick for the first 3 games. This resulted in 2 straight wins for Europe (FNC and OG beating C9 and TSM respectively) before TL earned a win back for NA against G2.
Following the first 3 matches, each region would then blind pick their team, with LCS needing a win to take it to game 5. Rather than choosing their strongest team (Team Liquid) to ensure it went to game 5, NA chose to field TSM in the hopes that they would prolong the series, meaning TL would have been able to play the final deciding match. However, Europe’s current in-form team Fnatic proved to be too strong for TSM as they secured the title for the LEC.
The first match of the first day of the tournament pitted the 1st seed from Europe, G2 Esports, against the 2nd seed from North America, Cloud9. G2 swatted the 2-time LCS winners aside with ease, somewhat setting a precedent for what was to come for the remainder of the tournament; EU’s top teams flexing their muscles over NA’s. Not only did G2 win in a swift, 23 minutes, but they did so with a ludicrous 27 kills (1.17 per minute). Not only did G2 earn 27 kills in 23 minutes, but they did so with a swap in roles between top-laner Wunder and ADC Perkz.
Cloud9 picked up the strong bot-lane duo Sona/Taric early in the draft, one that is perhaps the most prevalent around the world at this moment in time, and G2 did what G2 does best to counter it; the unexpected. Perkz picked up Yasuo with his support Mikyx taking Gragas, and the two were set to go up against C9’s Sneaky and Zeyzel. However, even to the surprise of the casters, Perkz and Wunder instead swapped positions, with the latter joining Mikyx in the bot lane duo.
This swap paid off within minutes as Mikyx secured first blood, taking down Sneaky for the first kill of a bloody, one-sided victory.
Of all players competing at Rift Rivals, Fnatic’s jungler Broxah had perhaps the most at stake. In Fnatic’s opening game in the tournament against Team Liquid, Dan (who was recently promoted to the main roster from UKLC sister team Fnatic Rising) was given the nod ahead of the Dane. Dan went on to help Fnatic to victory, though it came with a few nervy moments from the player who was competing on such a stage for the first time.
Broxah was subbed back in for their next game against Cloud9, helping top-laner Bwipo bully C9’s Licorice as the Belgian took over the game on Gangplank. Broxah would go on to be unbeaten in his remaining 2 matches, including an MVP performance on Elise in a ‘Relay Race’ win over Cloud9. As his jungle partner Dan finished the tournament with a 50% winrate (1W/1L), Broxah did everything necessary to cement his place as Fnatic’s starter as he won all of his matches (3W/0L); the only player at the tournament to do so.
Europe to win
Arguably an easy bet, but a successful one nonetheless, would’ve been for The League of Legends European Championship to take the Rift Rivals crown once again. With Europe’s premier league historically being stronger than that of North America, this tournament was expected to be no different (especially off of the back of a European MSI win).