Rift Rivals EU: EU > NA confirmed
Love it or hate it, Rift Rivals is one of the funnest tournament ideas from Riot, who have often be criticized for lacking in international showdowns (with only MSI, a recent addition, and Worlds.) This year’s tournament went off much better than last years as far as it’s reception goes, and the showings were interesting in their implications for the regions involved. For Europe, the NA-EU Rift Rivals could not have gone worse last year. This year, the European side (even with a sandbagging Splyce) were able to hoist the trophy, and bragging rights, for their region. At least until Worlds, EU > NA is alive and well without much contention.
With the first week back of EU and NA LCS, let’s check into the narratives surrounding each regions representative teams, starting with EU LCS’ G2, Fnatic, and Splyce. G2 is our first team to discuss, with a dominant performance at Rift Rivals (a good sign for an organization that has failed to perform sometimes internationally,) over NA’s best, all signs seemed pointed to the roster to claim the top seed in the EU LCS with games against MIsfits (also undefeated) and Giants (winless.) However, reality was far from the script, and G2 went 0-2. What now?
G2-8 Memes Lay Dead and Sleeping
If this was last year, I could open this up with a witty “haha G2-8” or “G2 vacation” meme. But not anymore. The European side, historically tyrannical in their grip on the EU LCS since joining it, have had a score of laughable international performances, which constantly shocked casters and pundits alike. A team that could look so good domestically but couldn’t show up internationally, particularly in a good region like EU, seemed… strange. (Now, to be fair, we can officially point to KingZone Dragon-X as having that question hang over their heads. That, and their awful name.)
That’s definitely not the story coming out of Rift Rivals for the Samurais though. They looked absolutely dominant at Rift Rivals, going undefeated in the Group Stage to give EU the edge over NA going into the final day. A loss to Echo Fox in the beginning stages of the relay felt uncharacteristic, with G2 struggling to get their funnel comp… well, funneling, really. Echo Fox had the better read on the day, ultimately managing to go even, and then ahead, against G2. With that, G2 couldn’t come back, but they didn’t need to overall. EU’s other teams stepped up when G2 needed them, and the EU > NA memes can live on.
With G2’s massive showing at Rift Rivals, mostly in the group stage as they lost their game in the relay, fans of the EU LCS were ecstatic for the EU LCS to begin again. G2 sat at the top of the standings, looking across the way from last year's cinderella story MIsfits. The Samurais vs. the… Rabbits, doesn’t sound as exciting of a match up, but the game that was played was nothing short of back and forth drama. Both teams were undefeated until this point. Both teams weren’t exactly expected to go undefeated. G2 lost against their rivals in Fnatic (albeit, for the first time in a long time) in the finals. Misfits weren’t even at the playoff stage in Spring. Going into the Summer, both teams had some questions around them (G2 not nearly as much as Misfits though.)
But both teams have been on a tear as of late (obviously.) Going undefeated in as competitive a region as the EU LCS is saying something, and isn’t often something teams can pull off, even for half a split. One of the two teams were destined to carry that honour going into the second half of the split. The other would have to be satisfied with second place.
With Rift Rivals in everyone’s heads, you wouldn’t be wrong to have predicted it’d be G2. They’re a tyrannical team domestically (and more and more becoming so abroad) that gains leads early and carries forward with them. That’s complemented by some of the best solo laners in the West, with Top laner Martin "Wunder" Hansen and Mid laner Luka "Perkz" Perković. Both were coming home from a stellar performance against North America’s best, with Wunder in particular drawing a lot of attention in his matchups. For many, G2 should’ve slaughtered their way through this week: Misfits were good, but G2 looked so good at RR. Giants… were winless this whole split. Almost everyone assumed that was a done deal. Fans were hopeful for a 2-0 week and for G2 to roar back into the regular split.
G0-2: The Return of the Samurais
It wasn’t to be though. G2 were caught out early by a great heads up play by Misfits, setting them back a bit in the kill department. However, they went even still 13 minutes in, with better farm on both Perkz and Wunder than their lane opponents (even though Wunder died once and Perkz was pressured in after a counter gank.) Back and forth with pressure, with Misfits winning out on the dragon control and G2 on the tower pressure, the game was on a knives’ edge. Misfits consistent, decisive team fighting was the tipping point that eventually gave them the win. Off of one of many stellar engages, dodging G2’s own attempt to start the fight, Mihael "Mikyx" Mehle’s Rakan did what he was doing the whole game: starting with the Quickness and setting up his team capitalize off of it. With that, Misfits found themselves the better team on the day, and were undefeated at the end of the week.
Against Giants, G2 fans believed they could at least pull off a 1-1 week. Not the desired goal for the triumphant squad to come home to, but at least they wouldn’t go winless this week… right? It was a duel of the two fed players on each team, Perkz for G2 and Charly "Djoko" Guillard for Giants. Both were on champs (Perkz on Aatrox and Djoko on Nocturne) that can carry their teams and initiate fights (not with any hard CC though,) but Djoko and the Giants’ side managed to pull it off. It was the weekend of Supports causing trouble for G2’s best laid plans. Some questionable Alistar plays by Risto "SirNukesAlot" Luuri were all but forgotten as Djoko picked off Perkz earlier, leading to the Baron dance that ultimately was won by SirNukesAlot’s Alistar plays (to start the fight and keep Marcin "Jankos" Jankowski off the Baron.) Another team fight later, with the decisiveness of Giants overtaking G2’s defenses, and the game was ended. G2 was winless after a stellar showing at Rift Rivals.
So What Now?
The 0-2 weekend, with rising competitors like Fnatic and Vitality, does put some pressure on the G2 side to make sure not to repeat their past weeks mistakes. That being said, G2 have the chance to make that divide deeper by taking down Vitality in their second face off against them. Roccat are not the contenders that Vitality are, but given G2’s slip ups against Giants, they’ll need to make sure to tighten up those loose ends before meeting them too. It’s a doable week, it’s not like they’ll be facing Misfits again for quite some time nor Fnatic this week, but that’s coming off a weekend that should’ve been at least a 1-1 into an 0-2 week.
G2 will need to shake off the jetlag maybe from Rift Rivals and shore up their late game performances. Maybe all the time laying the smackdown on NA rusted up their ability to play from behind, or to play decisively when they need to, but they’ll have to refocus to retain their top two position. The second half of the split is where teams truly find their placements locked in, and if G2 want to avenge their Spring loss and reclaim the top spot in Europe going into Worlds, they’ll have to show that they’re at that level again.