The EU Conundrum: Will Rekkles Play?
Before Rift Rivals even starts, teams have to decide who they will bring and how they will play. The biggest question for the most popular team in EU focuses on the bottom lane. Bot laner extraordinaire Martin “Rekkles” Larsson hasn’t played for Fnatic since Week 1. In his place, Gabriel “Bwipo” Rau has performed quite well but fans are still clamoring for the return of the best European AD carry. Patch 8.13 brings slight buffs to ADCs, but Fnatic have already found a successful playstyle with utilising fighters across the Rift. If a more standard meta arises, though, Rekkles could come back to dominate.
Substitutes Galore for NA
The biggest substitute news, though, comes from the NA LCS second place Spring Split finishers 100 Thieves. The team has already reported that both Brandon “Brandini” Chen and Duy “Levi” Khanh Do will be playing at Rift Rivals. Brandini is a career sub, previously playing for Phoenix1, which makes his appearance on the LCS squad a bit less surprising.
The real news lies with the up-and-coming 100 Thieves jungler. The last time Levi played on stage, he was carrying Gigabyte Marines at Worlds in 2017. The team played some truly creative comps and Levi was at the center of the action every single time. Perhaps his most standout game was on Nocturne against Fnatic. Levi hit level six before almost everyone on Fnatic was level four and used Paranoia on their bot lane, wiping the floor. Levi is a standout player and certainly one to watch heading into the weekend.
The European Contenders
G2 Esports are playing the best by a wide margin heading into Rift Rivals. The team is undefeated, without a struggle in any game. The calling card for G2? The funnel comp. Fnatic have earned a perfect 4-0 score with this polarizing composition and have looked unstoppable in every game.
Every funnel, or “Butler comp” as PapaSmithy likes to say, is built around Luke “Perkz” Perkovic. He can play any style, showing his prowess on Lucian, Kai’Sa, and Xayah. With Perkz becoming the focal point of the team, AD carry player Peter “Hjarnan” Freyschuss has had to manage a lack of resources and jungle pressure. Hjarnan has brought out a couple of new picks this Split, his most creative being a pocket Heimerdinger, to compensate for the changes. Needing another support to protect Perkz, G2 often looks to the jungle. Their typically aggressive jungler, Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski, has surprised fans with his support play ever since the start of this role shakeup. Jankos’s strategic positioning has always been tremendous, even on Braum.
Even if the NA teams try to ban out the funnel comp, G2 can still play standard. The team looks like it has no holes at the moment, and it really doesn’t seem like any team in NA can stand up to the previous Kings of Europe.
Fnatic are arguably the second best team heading to Los Angeles. The team only struggled in Week 1, then again in Week 3 against G2, but so did everyone else in EU. Fnatic have found a style of play that works for the team, playing bruisers and constantly picking fights. Zdravets “Hylissang” Iliev Galabov has always looked fantastic on playmaking supports and the Summer Split has been much of the same story. Hylissang had probably the cleanest Pyke anyone has seen in Europe this year, and everyone knows how great he is with Morgana.
One of Fnatic’s more dependable players, Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pederson, has quietly become one of the best junglers in EU as well, standing out on Nocturne and Trundle. Over the past year, Broxah has developed a synergy between himself and his mid laner, Rasmus “Caps” Winther, always ready to countergank when opponents focus in on the mid lane.
As for Caps? Caps can play anything. Even with every player on Fnatic performing well, Caps still finds ways to stand out. His Yasuo is one of the best in EU, his Irelia is a force to be reckoned with, and every team should ban his Zoe. Fnatic will definitely be a team on the rise heading to California.
Splyce had a slow start to the Summer Split with an unimpressive 0-4 showing; however, the team finally got back to its winning ways in Week 3, finishing with a perfect 2-0.
Splyce have always played around their exceptional support, Raymond “kaSing” Tsang. kaSing is the main shotcaller for Splyce and is known for his ranged supports in the bottom lane. Meanwhile, Splyce’s jungler Andrei “Xerxe” Dragomir is the team’s most consistent performer. Xerxe paths quite well and is known to have highlight Baron steals late in the game. Splyce aren’t known to play fast but they react well to their opposition, always ready to backup a teammate in trouble, and Xerxe embodies this playstyle.
If the meta switches focus back toward ADCs with Patch 8.13, Splyce should perform well. All-in-all, Splyce has a recipe for success, they just need time to bring it all together.
The North American Competition
The NA LCS has gotten off to an incredibly interesting start. While North America is sending three teams that are tied for first place to Rift Rivals this year, every team has pretty big question marks surrounding their play heading into this event.
Team Liquid has the makings of the best team in NA, but had two questionable losses to Golden Guardians and Clutch Gaming. TL seem to focus on traditional comps which still perform well around the world, regardless of the patch. Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng is the carry for Team Liquid, always pumping out damage and rarely losing lane. The true rock for Team Liquid, though, is their top laner: Eon-Young “Impact” Jeong. Impact has always performed on tanks, but can pick up a split pusher as well.
If an EU team wants to defeat Team Liquid, they must gain an early lead. The main flaw for TL is their inability to come back from a deficit. It seems like the team still plays like they have a gold lead, even when they don’t. If any of the EU teams can get the jump on TL, they should be able to snowball the game to a victory.
100 Thieves are another interesting team, mainly due to their two subs: Levi and Brandini. 100 Thieves finished second in the NA LCS Spring Split by playing around their bottom lane duo of Liyu “Cody Sun” Sun and Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black. The team’s AD carry, Cody Sun, has continued to look pretty good this Split. Cody Sun’s biggest flaw, however, is his inability to play mages bot lane, putting the team in a pigeonhole during champ select. Aphromoo usually goes for playmaking supports (much like Fnatic’s Hylissang) and moves around the map, constantly engaging and obtaining vision for the squad.
100 Thieves seem like good candidates for the funnel comp, but it remains to be seen if Levi actually wants to play a support in the jungle. Maybe the most questionable part about the subs is sitting Chanho “Ssumday” Kim after such a great Week 3. Ssumday was a beast on both Jax and Gangplank, completely carrying 100 Thieves against Clutch Gaming and Optic Gaming. With Ssumday out, Levi and Brandini have a massive void to fill.
Echo Fox is the epitome of the NA Clown Fiesta. Seung-hoon “Huni” Heo and Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett are the team’s two main carries, but the rest of the squad haven’t figured out how to play around them. Huni has played three different positions and Dardoch has even played Rengar top. While Echo Fox had a funnel comp victory against Cloud9, it doesn’t seem like Dardoch should be playing Braum regularly.
Echo Fox have no defined playstyle right now. Jae Hoon “Fenix” Kim can only play a couple of champions, and Johnny “Altec” Ru, Xiao-Feng “Feng” Wang and Adrian “Adrian” Ma have all been lackluster playing the bottom lane. Something’s got to give if they want to best the European giants competing at Rift Rivals but, with such a small margin for error, it’s hard to see change coming in time. Echo Fox are seen as the weak link coming into Rift Rivals.
Which Meta is Best?
Rift Rivals comes down to a very easy, singular question to ask: who reads the meta the best between the two regions?
The positive for EU? Every European team attending has a very defined playstyle and proven success at playing that singular way. It seems that NA is trying out everything, never really focusing on one single composition type. While this is great for Best of 5’s, the more practiced teams should win out this event.
As the Dust Settles...
When everything is said and done, G2 should come out on top. They have looked the best across the two regions, can play any style, and everyone on the team is playing their role to perfection.