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Rift Rivals Winner

NA smashes EU at Rift Rivals.

Not since 1776 has Europe been defeated this badly by its North American counterpart. The NA LCS teams dominated the round robin and then capped it off with a clean 3-0 sweep from TSM over the Unicorns of Love.

Rift Rivals may have been just a “friendly” exhibition match, but North America showed up and cleaned house. In spite of jet lag. In spite of not sending the teams actually at the top of the NA LCS. In spite of everything — they left no doubt that the NA LCS is the stronger region at the moment. 

Starting with the round robin, all three of NA’s teams finished above the three EU squads. This includes a poor showing from the new Kings of Europe, G2, and the old kings, Fnatic. Though, lately, maybe Fnatic is the new old king and G2 is the old new king. Whatever the case, they did not meet expectations as both failed to reach the .500 mark. 

Banter (and TSM chants) aside, it’s probably not wise to place too much stake into these matches. Just because NA won here doesn’t mean they can beat Korea or China or Taiwan or any other number of regions. At the end of the day, Rift Rivals was more about pride than anything else. And with Worlds just a couple months away, maybe teams didn’t want to reveal too many strategies. The gulf between the regions isn’t so massive — all it takes is a good day or a bad day or a combination of both to flip the script.

What did happen on stage, however, was a clearly outlined blueprint for dealing with Fnatic’s Kennen compositions. Kennen’s biggest strength is his ability to split push — this essentially gives you three solo laners that can exert cross map pressure once the mid and late game arrive. However, that can be dealt with via double teleport compositions or strong engage champions like Ashe and Kled as ADC Kennen isn’t as strong in team fights.

We also saw the Unicorns fall to crisp macro play and better team fighting (what was allegedly UoL’s strength) from TSM. The one sided Best of 5 series to conclude the event showcased why so many people were excited for Doublelift to return to TSM this summer. They have laners across the Rift that have the ability to take over the game. Long gone are the days of Bjergsen and his four moving wards. This iteration of TSM would be their first to return to Worlds together and may be NA’s best chance ever at a deep Worlds run. 

Hype is scary. But it’s real. And not just for TSM. Phoenix1’s jungler Mike Yeung made his international debut just two short weeks after his professional debut. He’d garnered hype even in those weeks thanks to his play on Lee Sin and Nidalee in particular. The rookie jungler has dazzled on the rift — the mechanical plays were perhaps expected — but his presence around the map has been a welcome surprise for the otherwise struggling P1 squad.

Prior to the event, many pundits and fans joked about sending P1, the 9th place NA LCS team. Would they even win a game? But joke no more. This is, as they say, the dankest timeline. A 4-2 performance in the round robin should give them ample confidence as they return to the NA LCS to hopefully straighten the sails on their ship. 

As for the European teams? It’s certainly not good for morale, but it may prove folly to change their styles too much. Instead of adopting what the NA LCS teams brought over, it may be better to identify what exactly was exposed and then create countermeasures. A sample size of six games shouldn’t be enough to cause an identity crisis. 

For NA teams and fans, though, an overall 15-6 record is all that matters. Any sort of argument Europeans can come up with are now silenced by the Rift Rivals result. At least until Worlds starts. This embarrassment will serve as fuel for the fire. Come Worlds, expect this storied rivalry to elevate to an even higher level. 

Until then, let it be known that NA > EU. 

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