The greatest international League of Legends esports event of the year is finally upon us. Rift Rivals will see the reigning MSI champion’s region face off against the MSI runner-up’s region. Blood will be spilled, tears will be shed, and hearts will be broken. However, none of it matters when it comes to this event. The only thing that does matter is the final conclusion: is the EU truly better than NA, or does NA surpass EU? Without further ado, let’s take a look at how the participating teams rank before the competition.
As the undisputed MSI champions, G2 Esports came into the Summer split as heavy favorites. Starting off the split in dominating fashion, the Samurai finally stumbled upon the roadblock that was Fnatic last week. The Worlds finalists completely dismantled G2 and ended their winning streak. However, this might not be a bad thing, as it shows G2 they have to work on some things before Rift Rivals. They have already proven the haters wrong and have shown us that they can compete against the world’s best. I have full belief that G2 will work on improving their weaknesses, hence their placement in the A+ tier.
Fnatic’s Spring split was a disappointment for such a successful organization, to say the least. They failed to make the finals after losing to both G2 and Origen in the playoffs, but their third-place finish still guaranteed them a spot at Rift Rivals. Even though they are Europe’s third seed, saying that they are the third strongest team from EU is a big understatement. Fnatic’s Summer split — if we exclude the last game against Excel — looked lackluster, and their dismantlement of G2 Esports was a big shock to many, including myself. They are starting to look like their former selves again, even without Rasmus “Caps” Winther on the roster. Furthermore, Fnatic is, similarly to G2 Esports, an internationally proven team. If they keep up the level of play they have shown us against G2, EU has nothing to be afraid of.
In 2018, Team Liquid dived into franchising with a really simple plan. They were planning to build a team that not only dominated NA but could also compete internationally. Even though they dominated domestically, their heavy underperformance in all international tournaments left much to be desired.
But Steve “LiQuiD112” Arhancet wasn’t satisfied with just domestic dominance. Bringing over a star mid laner and a former world champion support, the even more super team had high expectations going into the season. This time, they haven’t let their fans down. After just barely qualifying for playoffs at MSI, they destroyed the Chinese Invictus Gaming in the semifinals, giving us the biggest competitive upset in recent years. However, in similar fashion to how they defeated iG, G2 completely dominated them in the finals. This shows that they still have quite a lot of work to do if they want to catch up to G2 and their buddies. They have had some flops domestically this split, losing to weaker teams, but they are still the strongest North American team heading into the tournament.
Cloud9 started off the split fairly well, but they once again had trouble against stronger teams. Their losses against GGS and TSM weren’t that surprising, as both teams performed exceptionally at the first split. However, their recent loss against 100 Thieves was a mild shock for both fans and impartial observers alike. That game put a big question mark on Cloud9 for me as I can’t judge, whether it was just an unlucky game or a reflection of their current state. Whichever it is, Cloud9 can go both ways at RR – they can be the second strongest or even the strongest NA team, or they could drag down their region altogether. That is why I am putting an asterisk after their ranking – it largely depends on which C9 we get at RR.
If someone told me a month ago Origen would be the team dragging Europe down at Rift Rivals, I would have vigorously laughed. Their performance in Spring was excellent, and even though they fell to G2 in the finals, that’s nothing to be ashamed of. However, looking at their recent weeks, they struggled heavily in their home region. Their victory against Schalke looked quite convincing, but their loss against Splyce revealed many flaws in their play. Origen’s current state could be compared to what I said about Cloud9 – we aren’t sure if it’s only a one-game thing or a contrast of their current form. Nonetheless, it feels like EU isn’t sending its three currently best teams to Rift Rivals. This team may or may not be the anchor that drags the region down in the end…
Last but not least, we have the Bay Life themselves – Team Solomid. No strangers to international competitions, TSM will most likely enter Rift Rivals as the second strongest North American team. However, with TSM at an international competition, there is always the question of choking. Their current form seems fine, but it won’t matter at all if they choke like they did in many previous international competitions. In choosing their tier, I ranked them presuming they perform to the level they are most capable of. Should they choke, they could very well be the weakest NA team, if not the weakest team overall.
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Vince Koyle is an esports writer, tech nerd and future CompSci student. He often likes to compare traditional sports to esports, showing his love for both kinds. Also tends to sometimes try too hard with explaining what esports is and how it isn’t any different than traditional sports. He mainly covers the League of Legends scene, with an emphasis on European and Asian leagues.