Rift Rivals has taught us an early lesson; the three best European mid laners all play in the North American League Championship Series. After a commanding start to the tournament, the tandem of Cloud9’s Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen and Team SoloMid’s Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg have asserted their status as the two best performing mid laners at the inaugural event.
Entering Rift Rivals, there was likely no position on the rift that appeared as stacked with talent as that of the mid lane. With three of both the EU and NA LCS’s best traveling to Berlin, fans would be given an opportunity to see how the best from each region would stack up when paired off against each other, with exciting and close match-ups in the mid lane expected in nearly every match.
As Rift Rivals made its debut on the tournament scene however, these match-ups appeared to be much more one-sided than initially anticipated, as the NA mid laners dominated the opening day of play.
The combined statistics paint a clear picture, not only of North America’s advantage in the mid lane, but also their impact on the game as a whole.
NA LCS Mids
Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen 12/2/13 (12.5 KDA)
Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg 10/3/20 (10 KDA)
Yoo “Ryu” Sang-ook 11/5/17 (5.6 KDA)
EU LCS Mids
Luka “PerkZ” Perković 7/8/8 (1.875 KDA)
Rasmus “Caps” Winther 6/9/7 (1.44 KDA)
Fabian “Exileh” Schubert 0/13/6 (0.46 KDA)
The most glaring of these statistics is the scoreline of Unicorns of Love mid laner Fabian “Exileh” Schubert, who failed to secure a kill in either of their two games. Already pointed to as a possible weak link, Exileh looked completely overwhelmed as both Phoenix1 and Team SoloMid plundered kill after kill.
Possibly worse for the future outlook of the EU LCS was the failure of the heralded mid laners of Fnatic and G2 eSports Rasmus “Caps” Winther and Luka “PerkZ” Perković to justify their claims as top tier mid laners.
PerkZ took a significant step back from his Mid-Season Invitational performance, whilst Caps seemed completely outmatched in his first taste of international play, though Fnatic’s drafts certainly did little to serve his cause. For a region that claims to be a factory for mid lane talent, the product failed to live up to the praise.
While defenders of the EU mid laners may be quick to point out that the NA squads focused heavily on securing advantages for their mid laners, it is hard to criticize a strategy that works.
The NA teams repeatedly found kills in the mid lane, and the EU squads were unable to either effectively counter gank the mid lane, play safe enough to prevent dying, nor find kills in the other lanes.
What the EU LCS was counting on to be a point of strength at Rift Rivals, initially appears to be a weakness. Moving forward, it would be wise of the EU squads to prioritize their mid lane early in drafts, and emphasize strategies that protect the lane through jungle presence and vision early in the game.
While Bjergsen and Jensen have proven they are top tier mid laners, there is an argument to be made that they are equaled by another European in the NA LCS not even present at Rift Rivals, Henrik “Froggen” Hansen.
Whether it is the organizational structure around them, differences in Meta, or possibly just stronger competition in NA, it appears the NA LCS is where the European boys have turned to become men of the mid lane.
CLICKON eSports’ NA vs EU Rift Rivals Predictions
CLICKON eSport’s Rift Rivals Predicitions
With Rift Rivals approaching, CLICKON makes our predictions for how the tournament will play out.
While Phoenix1 seem to be making strides after the addition of their new jungler MikeYeung, unfortunately it is not enough to be able to compete with three of Europe's best. Still, Phoenix1 enters Rift Rivals as the biggest wild card at the event, a dangerous team who could pull a timely upset, ultimately determining who advances and who does not for Europe. With one of the worst records in NA, a loss to Phoenix1 should be an embarrassment for any European team with title aspirations.
5th: Unicorns of Love
If Unicorns of Love's most recent series against the previously winless Ninjas in Pyjamas had been a best of one, they would have lost. This is a troubling sign for the team as they enter a double round robin first stage where each match will play out like a best of one. Still, Unicorns of Love can not be discounted, as they continue to display excellent team fighting and creative strategies. If mid laner Exileh is able to hold his own against a stacked field at the tournament, Unicorns could easily shoot up the standings.
Riding the back of a 2-1 series victory over TSM in the previous week, Cloud9 seems to have significantly improved upon many of the issues that plagued them in their sluggish start. Two key pieces to their rise has been the dominance of mid laner Jensen who appears to be in MVP form, and the growth of jungler Contractz as he develops greater consistency in his play. While they could easily be NA's best team at Rift Rivals, we predict Cloud9 will fall just short of claiming NA's place in the finals, finishing near the middle of the pack as a team.
3rd: G2 eSports
Following their second place finish at MSI, G2 have stumbled in the EU LCS Summer Split. With more losses than they have ever had in a split just halfway through it, many may consider G2 the weakest European team at Rift Rivals despite being the 'Kings of Europe' for so long. While G2 may not make the final best of five, their experience at international events and veteran roster gives them the edge over many of the other teams at Rift Rivals. They may no longer be the best European squad, but expect a strong showing from G2.
2nd: Team SoloMid
Team SoloMid enter Rift Rivals looking for redemption after their fifth place finish at MSI. While there have been some hiccups reconnecting with ADC Doublelift, TSM enter Rift Rivals with a 13-2 record in their last 15 games. If TSM can claim NA's top spot in the round robin and advance to the best of five, they have a legitimate chance of upsetting Fnatic in the Finals. Still, TSM may need to wait until Worlds to finally gain the redemption and international success they so deeply crave.
After earning their place at the top of the European standings, Fnatic deservedly enter Rift Rivals as the clear favorites. Led by a veteran ADC and team captain Rekkles, Fnatic have been able to properly develop their talented newcomers into a team that should be a force on the international stage. While they may drop a game or two, it is hard to foresee any NA team being able to conquer Fnatic in a best of five, making Rift Rivals Fnatic's tournament to lose.