The North America versus Europe rivalry rages on all the time online, but there are only a few times a year where we get to see the words turn into actions on the big stage.
The League of Legends World Championship is, indeed, one of those times – and with Worlds in full swing – on European soil, no less – we asked some of the players what they think of the teams on either side of the Atlantic.
The G2 powerhouse
Europe’s first seed G2 Esports have a lot of expectations on their shoulders going into Worlds 2019. They played extremely well against Griffin in their first match, and now they’ve got Cloud9 in what could turn out to be a tough group.
“Going up against G2 is gonna be a fun match,” says Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen. “No one's gonna want to lose. If they go up against a weaker opponent they might be too cocky, and we can use that to our advantage. They might underestimate us, and if they do we can take a game off them, maybe two.”
Rasmus “Caps” Winthers is confident, though. He says: “C9, looking at them I’m not really scared, but they also have their ‘Worlds buff’ – so they’ll probably make it out of groups.”
His team-mate Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski isn’t quite sure what to make of the American teams yet, however. “I don’t think NA is the strongest region, but I don’t disrespect them, I don’t think they’re bad. Team Liquid showed they can go toe to toe with the best EU teams, and C9 pretty much always make it out of the Group Stage.”
Team Liquid’s AD Carry Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng found out first hand just how good G2 are at this year’s Mid-Season Invitational: “I think G2 is really strong,” he says. “We were pretty on the back foot already in pick and ban. Some of those drafts were unplayable. In two of the games we had a losing jungle matchup, and possibly two or three losing lanes.”
The “Group of Death”
There’s no doubting that Clutch Gaming have been placed in one of the toughest ever Worlds groups, alongside SK Telecom T1, Fnatic, and Royal Never Give Up. The first taste of NA vs EU we had was on Sunday when Fnatic took on Clutch.
“Clutch is a decent team, but they’re in a hard group.” says G2’s Caps. “I don’t think they’re that bad, though.”
Meanwhile, Fnatic’s Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen wasn’t worried about his opponent: “I have a pretty good grasp of how Clutch play,” he says.
Gabriel “Bwipo” Rau, meanwhile, believes they pinpointed Clutch’s weakness and were able to exploit it. “I think their mid-jungle combo has got to be a worry. I think their bot lane is solid and Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon has been a top player for years. Huni doesn’t get that many resources, but he’s still trying to be a driving force in his team.”
“Fnatic is super strong,” says Cloud9’s Svenskeren, slightly worried for his fellow NA team. “We’ve scrimmed them a bit. They’ll probably do super well.”
Fnatic came out on top, but Clutch will be looking to get their revenge in the rematch later this week.
“NARAM” and contrasting play styles
Unlike their European counterparts, North American teams love to group mid, so much so that it’s now a meme: NARAM. Cloud9 top laner Eric “Licorice” Ritchie feels it’s viable – and lets us know where it comes from.
“I think ‘NARAM,’ is a lot of NA teams value mid priority, and I think that is correct, it’s a valid way to play the game,” he says. “A lot of teams are really slow at using it. They’ll group mid as five, push mid, but won’t do anything after. Then they just stay mid and don’t go side lanes because they don’t want to lose control. It’s just because they’re not executing the next step.
“Mid wave crashes first, so if you push mid first you can control one of the sides easily because you get to move first and the enemy team can’t be there. Mid is the most important lane for macro purposes.”
As we’ve seen at MSI, the two regions certainly have contrasting styles – and that was clearly evident as G2 overcame Team Liquid in an extremely fast final match.
“European teams play at a much faster pace than us,” says Team Liquid’s Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen. “They’re really good at setting up dives, using their pressure and tempo really well. In America we play a much slower style, scaling, it’s fine if we lose early because we can recover. When we played against EU teams we noticed the style doesn’t work against them. If you don’t play fast and pick strong early game champions you’re just gonna get rolled over.”
Team Liquid vs the rest of Europe
Team Liquid have avoided the LEC teams in their group, but if they make it through to the knockout stage, it’ll probably only be a matter of time before they come against one of their European rivals. Doublelift knows Europe should not be underestimated, even looking beyond G2.
“Fnatic were extremely close to beating G2 [in the LEC Summer Final],” he says. “I was surprised at how well their bot lane was able to play against G2. In scrims, G2 is so much better of a team. I dunno what caused Fnatic to play so well, or maybe Fnatic is sandbagging scrims. G2 is so head and shoulders above any European team.
“Splyce is pretty strong too,” he says. “They have a really bot focused team, they play similarly to us, but their macro is lacking. They are strong early and late, but their late game decisions aren’t that smart. When late game happens, it’s chaotic, and the better mechanical team often wins.”
“I was debating between EU and NA,” says Jensen, who once played in Europe before moving to America. “I thought they were on the same ground, but right now, European teams look super dominant. It’s super cool to be back here and I’m glad Europe is doing well.”
With the Group Stage underway, there’s all to play for as the representatives from both regions lock in and head to the Rift – Fnatic have drawn first blood, but as the games unfold we’ll soon see who will settle the age-old NA vs EU debate.