After EU clinched the first Rift Rivals win of 2019 over North America, we now move across the globe to see the top Asian teams across 4 regions battle it out for supremacy
Each year during the Summer split, Riot’s major regions face off against their rival neighbours to see who can earn bragging rights as the stronger league. After EU clinched the first Rift Rivals win of 2019 over North America, we now move across the globe to see the top Asian teams across 4 regions battle it out for supremacy.
This installment includes teams from China (League of Legends Pro League - LPL), Korea (League of Legends Champions Korea - LCK), Taiwan (League Master Series - LMS) and Vietnam (Vietnam Championship Series - VCS). In previous years, Asian Rift Rivals would feature 4 teams from each of the LPL, LCK and LMS, however this year will instead see Tawian split their representation with Vietnam as the LMS and VCS enter 2 teams each.
Each region’s representing organisations were decided by the top teams from Spring. For China, these teams are Invictus Gaming, JD Gaming, FunPlus Phoenix, and Top Esports. Representing Korea is SK Telecom T1, Griffin, Kingzone DragonX, and DAMWON Gaming. Taiwan and Vietnam’s representatives are Flash Wolves + MAD Team, and Dashing Buffalo + EVOS Esports respectively.
The tournament begins with a Group Stage, in which each team will play a best-of-one against their equally seeded teams (i.e. LCK 1st seed SKT will play LPL and LMS/VCS 1st seeds). Once each team has played against both of the other teams of the same seed, each region’s wins/losses will be tallied up and the leagues will be ranked accordingly.
This is then followed by the bracket stage. The 2nd and 3rd placed regions from the Group Stage will play a best-of-five ‘Blind Relay Race’ series. The coaches from the region will select which team to participate during each series match, in which no team can play more than once unless the series reaches a game 5.
The victors will then progress to the final, whereby they will play another ‘Blind Relay Race’ best-of-five against the winning region from the Group Stage.
The action will take place in Seoul’s Jangchung Arena in South Korea in front of thousands of spectators, kicking off on Thursday 4th July and lasting 4 days until Sunday 7th July.
Coming into the tournament, China’s LPL will be looking for a repeat of 2018 and are almost certainly the favourites. 2018 was a perfect year for the LPL in which their teams won every international tournament that they competed in; MSI, Rift Rivals, Asia Games and the World Championship. The Mid-Season Invitation was already snatched away from them at the hands of Europe’s G2 Esports and so they will be out to bounce back in the perfect manner with the retention of Rift Rivals.
Korea, meanwhile, will be hopeful that they can prove the doubters wrong in showing that the LCK is still the region to beat, after dominating international events since the game’s inception up until 2018 where it all seemed to fall apart. LPL leapfrogged the LCK as the standout region as the game’s meta shifted away from vision control to a more bloody oriented style, significantly favouring the way in which Chinese teams prefer to play the game and testing Korean teams’ resolve at adapting to a new meta after all these years.
Even Korea’s top teams have so far failed to do so, with the game’s most decorated organisation, SK Telecom, unable to take home the MSI crown in May. The 3 time World champions have since slipped further down the Korean ladder, while current LCK leaders Griffin are expected to be the region’s top performers coming into Rift Rivals.
Taiwan’s LMS has generally been on the decline in recent years, and poor international performances have seen the league fall down the pecking order as far as regional strength is concerned. Though not considered one of the 5 major regions, Vietnam’s VCS has more or less eclipsed the LMS as the 5th strongest league, and has, as a result, earned a spot in the Asian Rift Rivals instalment as they will share the stage with Taiwan. Though they will be sharing the strength of both regions, few expect the 2 to make it to the Bracket Stage final and would be expected to lose a best-of-5 against either China or Korea.
When it comes to choosing the most likely winner of Rift Rivals, you would be hard pressed to find anyone betting against China. Though their LPL MSI representative Invictus Gaming failed to retain the title for the region, most will still regard China as the strongest worldwide league, and certainly the strongest within Asia as Korea’s biggest teams continue their rebuilding process.