A new format, a new tournament, and a brand new way for professional players to feel like their schedules are too tight: Rift Rivals has come to a close.
The event was a series of mini tournaments (the two highest profiled ones being China vs. Korea vs. Taiwan and Europe vs. North America) designed to be a grudge match between specific regions, and it came with some good moments, some bad moments, and some rather shocking ones. To get the most shocking out of the way, the Korean representatives lost to the Chinese. To put that in even more context, the Korean team had a three-time world champion, the runner up of last year’s worlds and one of the most stacked rosters in League Champions Korea among its four teams.
Korea’s 3-1 loss to China in the finals was met with resounding surprise, as the group stage told a much different story. Korea still seemed unstoppable and China was trying to catch up, and Korea was the only region that had undefeated teams in the group stages. Seeing SK Telecom T1 collapse against Team WE, the same team it defeated in the Mid-Season Invitational, was dumbfounding.
To be fair, Rift Rivals had no stakes in it. There was no large scale reward in winning the event, and many Korean players said that they would play more relaxed with most focus going to the LCK. A rather pointless tournament put in the middle of the season for the sake of competition didn’t seem to excite the Korean teams, and that’s fine. But that won’t stop the uproar or the memes. Definitely not the memes.
The only true unfortunate outcome was how the head coaches of the Korean teams joked about how they’d have to swim back to Korea if they didn’t win.
MVP garners worldwide praise
MVP has struggled during the summer LCK split and didn’t have a good start to Rift Rivals, either, but by the end of the finals the team garnered support from many League of Legends fans after a competitive loss to Royal Never Give Up.
One of the top voted comments on the Korean forum about the final result was praising MVP for its performance in spite of losing. Whenever a struggling team performs well, there seems to be an added layer of positive thoughts permeating form the community. MVP was the beneficiary this time and was seen as a sympathetic team amid Korean’s loss.
At the very least, they won’t have to swim back. A lot of the comments said the other three teams should, but not MVP, so that’s something.
TSM set up for worlds disappointment
There are three universal laws in competitive League of Legends: Korea is the best region, Europe does better than North America no matter what the circumstances, and Team SoloMid disappoints. Judging by the Rift Rivals results, all three maxims could fall this year, but I’m skeptical going forward.
Team SoloMid’s (and North America’s) win against Europe was seen as a high water mark for the competitive League of Legends season. TSM is an enigma because domestically it’s almost unstoppable. As the undisputed kings of NA no matter who you ask, TSM has a knack of looking super strong leading up to worlds and then collapsing on the big stage. That it didn’t happen at Rift Rivals was, at the very least, surprising.
G2 Esports didn’t even make it out of the bracket stages (so at least some memes still hold), which is kind of nuts. G2 is the defending champion from Europe but went 1-5 in the group stage and finished last. TSM then swept the Unicorns of Love in the finals.
The hype is a trap. EU has little to worry about because everything is going according to plan. NA gets hyped, fans say that they will wipe the Europeans out, and then we see an EU team make it further than NA. Just wait until September.
MikeYeung, Jesus or both?
So Michael “MikeYeung” Yeung is a meme now. He carried his already strong showing in North America to an international stage, garnering MVP honors from the group stage.
No one really expected Phoenix1 to show up at Rift Rivals, but it went 4-2 and finished one game away from having the right to play UOL in the finals. In fact, a lot of people wanted to see that happen because they just wanted to see more of MikeYeung, and why wouldn’t they? MikeYeung has proven so far that he can play ahead and behind, carrying the team’s lanes on his back.
Cover photo courtesy of Riot Games