Welcome to the first installment of Rivalries on the Rift, a series of articles that will focus on the best of the best of League of Legend rivalries every week. All across the major regions of the NA LCS, EU LCS, LCK, and LPL, we’ll be discussing the history of the rivalries as teams throwdown, and also look in what ways these matchups will affect things in the present. Sometimes rivalries are formed from a history of conflicts between two teams, or maybe some trash talk or scandalous player transfer. Others are formed through circumstance: who’s going to find themselves at the top of the pack, who’s being left behind, and who’s relevant going into the playoff race (or even Worlds.) Regardless of whether there the storied histories or a matter of standings, rivalries add the spice to any set of games. So, whether you can watch the games live or have to catch the VODs after, these are the best of the best to fill that need for a good ol’ rivalry matchup from all across the globe.
While it’s hard to call a rivalry a rivalry when one team has only been around for… a single split and a bit now, and the other has often struggled to remain relevant before their current Super Team Exodia, this matchup is still shaping up to be a budding rivalry. 100 Thieves blasted into the scene in their first split and managed to steal away second place overall, which is by no means a bad start to any teams NA LCS career. Team Liquid, on the other hand, have been around the NA LCS for quite some time, since January 2015. They’ve struggled to find any real grip in the NA LCS, and often have been a disappointing team split after split. A full rehaul and acquiring super stars in almost every position, Liquid have managed to go from zero to hero and claimed first place in Spring Split against none other than 100 Thieves.
It’s always exciting when the previous splits finalists clash again in the regular split. There’s a lot on the line for these games outside of just another W in the win column for the teams: it’s a testament for how these finalists’ teams’ strengths match up with the present. A convincing win for Liquid over 100 Thieves at the Spring Finals can be erased by a strong showing from 100 Thieves on the day. Or, Liquid can remind the NA LCS and their fans that they are still the top dogs in the region, even after a shaky showing at MSI. With the Summer Split playoffs right around the corner, too, both teams are looking to flex their muscles before the end of the split, particularly given some lackluster international performances by both squads, and maintain their position as the elite of NA.
Of course, on top of that, both teams are tied for first place in the NA LCS. That means, after their games, one will be the “true” first place team in the region and the other will drop to second place (of course, if the winner from this match up loses their second game, and the loser wins their second game, they’ll be tied again.) With playoff placements on everyone’s minds, the difference between first and second place are often not the most important in determining likelihood of getting to the finals. Both would secure a bye directly into the semi-finals. However, given the relative parity of the NA LCS, every win and loss matters in the run up to the playoffs. Both teams will be playing their best League of Legends this weekend with the stakes as high as they are, and it should be a great match up in the small, but heated, history between the two organizations.
While fans will point to the longevity of certain rivalries in esports, like that of TSM vs. CLG or SKT vs. KT, there’s none quite as fiery and lively as the European duel between the Old and New Kings of Europe, namely, between Fnatic and G2 Esports. The two teams have been a spiraling, constantly dueling pair of dragons throughout the time that G2 have been a part of the EU LCS. Fnatic, before the Origen and G2 eras, were the de facto Kings of Europe, with their utter dominance all but assured split after split. They were one of the few teams in League esports history to ever go undefeated, after all. G2, on the other hand, have been the dominant organization between the two in recent years though. G2 claimed title after title in the EU LCS, looking tyrannical in their grip on the EU LCS and their wins. Although they often disappointed at international affairs, the organization is still one of Europe’s best, particularly domestically.
All of this history and constant struggle makes this throw down extra interesting. The two have constantly been jostling for supremacy over the EU LCS, but Fnatic have, in recent times, had a difficult time reasserting themselves domestically over their rivals, let alone as the second best in Europe. This Spring split, however, the discussion shifted, with Fnatic finally reclaiming the throne in Europe once again. Caps has finally grown into the player that Fnatic always saw in him, and the EU LCS titles finally fell to Old Kings again. A strong showing at Rift Rivals reasserted the EU LCS as the stronger region over NA LCS. With that, Fnatic is back to the forefront of the EU LCS, and currently sitting second overall on the standings, and one win ahead of rivals G2.
G2 on the other hand have come back from Rift Rivals reinvigorated. The team has been on a tear since returning, with some great performances out of their star solo laners in Martin "Wunder" Hansen and Luka "Perkz" Perković. They may sit third in the standings but they’re right on the tails of Fnatic, and a win over Fnatic in this game will at least tie the two for second. The G2 that was at Spring Split finals looked pale in comparison to the G2 of the Summer and Rift Rivals, and they’ll look to give a possible prequel to another fiery finals between these two European titans. Fnatic, on the other hand, are hoping to avenge a loss against G2 earlier on in the split and carry that momentum into another finals appearance.
Rogue Warriors are the, to put it frankly, Rejected Players Association of the LPL. Top laner Chen "Mouse" Yu-Hao, in particular, will have some beef this week facing up against his old organization who dropped him in favour of Jeon "Ray" Ji-won. Kim "Doinb" Tae-sang was never able to find much success on his previous team, JD Gaming, and found himself on the newly formed Rogue Warriors. The never smiling Han "Smlz" Jin too left his organization OMG to join the team. Even without any “star player” status on their team, they’ve cobbled together one of the best teams in the LPL in that short amount of time as an organization, and maintain themselves as a strong contender in the Summer.
EDward Gaming, on the other hand, are a household name in the LPL. They claim probably one of the biggest, most loyal fanbases in esports, and have always matched that with star talent. However, they’re not the dominant force that EDG fans may have expected, particularly given they are in the Western conference, which is the weaker of the two (the Eastern conference carrying heavyweights like RNG and IG, alongside a surging JD Gaming and Suning Gaming.) Sitting second place, behind Rogue Warriors, EDG are hungering for the win to draw themselves further away from Snake Esports, and closer to their slowly forming in-conference rivals in Rogue Warriors.
The matchup is particularly spicy if we look at some of the major players for each team. In Top lane, we have Ray staring across the Rift at the player he replaced. For Ray, it’s proving he was the right choice still. For Mouse, it’s saying, “Uhh, actually, no.” In the mid lane, the Korean clash between the High-Low Scout and the supportive Donib will be a clash of styles. In the bot lane, the two heralded next generation of Chinese ADC talent, iBoy and Smlz, face off. Both having been brought up on the dream of ultimately replacing Uzi as the de facto best ADC in China, and possibly the World. Neither would miss out on the chance to show their strengths here. Neither team can rest on their laurels either, with the playoff hunt heating up in every region, both teams still have a ways to go to maintain their playoff spot (although, Rogue Warriors shouldn’t sweat too much.)
If you told me a year ago that SKT would be facing off against a red hot LCK team that only just qualified through CK (Challengers Korea) and the question marks would be hanging over the heads not of the newly qualified team but… SKT, I’d call you a fool. But, that’s the timeline we’re in, folks. SKT have one of the most prestigious history and pedigree of any esports organization, but have struggled since Summer 2017 (even though they made it to Worlds finals.) Griffin, on the other hand, entered the LCK with a reserved amount of hype around them. They went undefeated in CK, blazed through the qualifiers tournament, and, well, their split’s been nothing short of historical. A ragtag team of rookies taking the LCK by storm is… unprecedented to say the least. There’s truly something magical about this Griffin’s roster it seems.
Griffin’s blitzkrieg of a start to their time in the LCK has, however, slowed down considerably, from going all but undefeated in the first round of the LCK, to a much more modest showing in the second half. In particular, some recent struggles against fellow top contenders team KT Rolster, who were their first loss, and recently resurgent Gen.G may not spell disaster for Griffin, but they could be causes for concern come playoffs. For Griffin, a win against SKT not only is a showing of strength against the old guard of the LCK, but can deny another troublesome team entering the playoff picture (SKT, like TSM in a lot of ways, practically have a playoffs buff.)
On the other side of the rift sit SKT, multi-Worlds Champion winners and last year’s runner up for Worlds. However, as is quite the written about issue, they’ve looked a shadow of their former selves, and their once tyrannical grip on the LCK has weakened entirely. They’re now fighting and struggling just to make it into the playoffs for a shot at another Worlds appearance. Certainly not what many fans expected from the organization that’s won the most of, well, basically anything League related ever. Their faceoff against the new blood isn’t just for show of strength going into the postseason: it’s very much vital to even appearing in the postseason for SKT. Griffin have a real chance to deny SKT from even showing up to the playoffs, while SKT can reclaim their destiny and squeak into the finals if they manage a win. The matchup should be nothing short of intense.