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.
NA LCS - TSM vs. Cloud 9
While many will point to the TSM vs. CLG rivalry as the El Classico showdown of the NA LCS region, as far as relevancy of both teams, it’s really a TSM vs. Cloud 9 rivalry that’s defined much of the NA LCS history. Cloud 9, one of the few teams to qualify from Challenger to make a real dent into the LCS, have always been a throne in the side of TSM. TSM, on the other hand, have claimed many a title from the upstart kids and have been their most consistent opponents in the NA LCS Finals.
TSM have probably the most vocal and rabid of fanbases in the NA LCS, and they’ve got the silverware to match that. They’ve gone blow for blow with wins, and the fan bases of each always look forward to another match up to prove who is the better team. With the NA LCS the way it is, it’s often a matter of sharing the role of dominator between TSM and Cloud 9, so any matchup between the two is guaranteed to have sparks.
This is a very, very, very different place for both teams though, historically speaking. Cloud 9, after some questionable roster changes (even sparking a ‘Comment activism’ of the #NotMyC9) find themselves in a position they haven’t been in a long while: last place, with their Worlds participation in question. If we’re being honest here, TSM have often struggled in the regular split, only to come up blazing in the playoff run. That’s not to say that their current shape is a great one, compared to the fiery new competition at the top like Echo Fox, Team Liquid, 100 Thieves and… FlyQuest… I guess? The showdown this week will be about relevancy. For Cloud 9, it’s showing their fans that they’re back, and make a real go at getting into playoff position. For TSM, it’s continue maintaining their playoff position and reasserting themselves over their rivals.
EU LCS - Splyce vs. Misfits
The rivalries this week are of a newer, fresher, and ultimately revolving around placement type. For the EU LCS, it’s the matchup between a surprising resurgent Splyce and a dominant Misfits that sets the stage as the rivalry to watch. With Splyce, it’s a surprising story of coming home from a surprising clutch win at Rift Rivals to… well, actually continue those wins domestically. Splyce went into Rift Rivals as one of the weakest teams EU could have sent, and fans wondered if even G2 and Fnatic could carry the deadweight across the finish line. Since then, Splyce have won three of their last four games, knocking out both Fnatic and Vitality. Against their Rift Rival comrades in Fnatic they looked fierce and completely in control too. Splyce is back in some way, it would seem.
Misfits, who were the darlings of the EU LCS (and the West, to be frank) at last years Worlds, returned to the EU LCS to a disappointing Spring split. They missed out (barely) on a playoff spot in the Spring, and all the Championship Points that come along with that. After taking it to SKT at Worlds, it’s a hard fall for fans to see their team struggle to even qualify for playoffs domestically. This means that for Misfits to return to Worlds and prove themselves again, they’ll have to maintain their current form and near undefeated track record.
The pressure is on for both teams, as Splyce hope to repeat qualifying for the playoffs and a chance to represent Europe at Worlds. Misfits, too, are competing not so much for their place in the playoffs (they’ve all but wrapped that one up,) but rather for their place at Worlds. The rising Snakes could cement themselves as a real threat again in front of the entire EU LCS by taking down Misfits. Misfits can also silence the Splyce Hype train by putting them in their place and shaking off their first loss of the split to Fnatic and reassure fans that they’re still in control of the EU LCS.
LCK - Gen.G vs. Griffin
“But Jared,” you may be saying to yourself, “How can a team that’s only just entered the LCK really be said to have a rivalry with anyone?” Well, dear reader, that’s because they’re just that damn good, that’s why. Griffin’s absolute scorching entrance into the LCK (and the world's) psyche is very much like another team's: Cloud 9, when they entered the NA LCs. They’ve completely shaken up an already wild LCK and asserted themselves not just as a team to beat, but the team to beat. That’s right, with KT Rolster, SKT, KingZone, and Afreeca, it’s the newcomers with a list of rookies that is making waves and sitting pretty on top of the standings.
Gen.G, on the other hand, are coming off an absolute atrocious Spring Split, only to make a slight roster tweak with Song "Fly" Yong-jun replacing struggling Worlds Champion Lee "Crown" Min-ho in the Mid lane. They are on a warpath to remind the LCK that they’re World Champions and, ultimately, relevant again. Coming back from a complete juxtaposition of “World Champions” to “In Question,” Gen.G have looked a different beast than even their old selves. But, most importantly, they’ve made the steady climb back to the top in a chaotic split. The top of the pack has never been fiercer, and against the newcomers, one of the oldest group of players (albeit, an also very new organization) are looking to assert themselves.
The showdown between these two means a lot for both organizations. For Griffin, it’s just another notch on their list of LCK heavyweights to knock down (again.) In a thrilling three game series, Griffin took another win on their way to stamping their logo at the very front of all discussion around the LCK. They’ve only had a losing record now to KT Rolster, but in the second round of competition the young team will need to assert themselves as legitimate threats and not peter off. For Gen.G, it’s putting the new kids in their place and reminding the world that they’re still World Champions. KT Rolster have asserted themselves as a strong team this split because they’ve beaten Griffin now twice. If Gen.G can join the small amount of teams that have won against Griffin, that’ll put their fans at ease.
LPL - Invictus Gaming vs. EDward Gaming
While not as storied and historical as the EDG vs. RNG or WE matchup, there’s plenty enough of rivalry to be had between these two organizations to make up for that. IG absolutely demolished the regular split last split, almost going undefeated, losing once to Royal Never Give Up. They were all but assured a place at MSI by many critics, even with last minute injury to star Top laner Kang "TheShy" Seung-lok. That story’s been told, and the team went down to the only roster that beat them in the regular split: RNG.
EDward Gaming aren’t used to losing in the LPL. They may not be the absolute dominantance in the regular split like iG were this Spring, but they’ve managed to walk away from many a finals appearance with the win (and the trophy.) The beef between the cross conference teams is more about iG stealing the show from an otherwise spectacular split by EDG themselves. Both share, too, in the tragic loss to RNG and finding themselves watching MSI from their home bases.
EDG vs. iG is most interesting because of their recent history. IG were complete tyrants in Spring, with some outstanding play from rookie player Yu "JackeyLove" Wen-Bo. EDG, similarly, had a good Spring once the hole was filled that was Jungler Ming "Clearlove" Kai stepping aside to practice and allow Chen "Haro" Wen-Lin. The focal point was also their ADC role, with Hu "iBoy" Xian-Zhao showing up immensely throughout a split and meta that was heavily ADC centric. While the ADC role is considerably weaker than it was in the Spring split, bearing that in mind this match is still enough of a rivalry to follow: both are the hungry youth chasing after the great Jian "Uzi" Zi-Hao. Both JackeyLove and iBoy are heralded as the next generation of Chinese ADC talent, which is saying a lot given the regions immense talent in that role. The two youngsters and their teams tussle then, not just for the wins and placement on the standings, but to assert themselves as the direct competitors to RNG who have shot to the very top of manys Power Rankings.