The past few years of League of Legends has been all about Korea vs China at international tournaments. These are the regions which produced the strongest teams, and they have been dominant in the past at both the Mid-Season Invitational and Worlds. However, Europe’s top teams are now butting their way into the conversation – and have showcased that they’re not to be taken lightly.
Will Worlds 2019 be a case of Europe vs Korea for the ultimate crown? With the Group Stage looking, Fnatic will be up against SK Telecom T1, while G2 Esports will face off against Griffin. LCK caster Max “Atlus” Anderson was on hand to preview these important matches.
Fnatic vs SK Telecom T1
“This is a really interesting one,” Atlus explains. “Martin “Rekkles” Larsson has been friends with a lot of the Korean AD Carries like Kim “Deft” Kyuk-kyu, but he isn’t here. Park “Teddy” Jin-seong is a different beast, he’s all business. This guy is all about taking names on Summoner’s Rift. Even when he was playing for Jin Air he was super impressive. I think the bottom lane is going to be really tough for Fnatic.
“Since MSI, SKT have dropped Cho “Mata” Se-hyeong. It’s now Lee “Effort” Sang-ho, who is one of the most level-headed young players I’ve ever seen,” he says. “He had this really upsetting performance, was interviewed immediately afterwards in the LCK and said ‘Look, I don’t think this was my best performance, but I'm gonna use this moment to look back on and motivate myself to be better next time. You guys just watch’. Then he came back next week and smashed.”
“The bottom lane is going to be tough, and the rest of the map is going to be tough too. All round it’s going to be difficult, and I think Fnatic are going to have to pull out all of their crazy strategies to make it work.”
G2 Esports vs Griffin
“I love this match up,” says Atlus. “I tweeted very enthusiastically when I saw they got drawn into a group together. I’m really excited because we all heard the rumours about the scrim results of Damwon and Griffin last year at Worlds, how they were smashing everyone and they weren’t even at Worlds. It was like ‘Korea doesn’t have the right teams, etcetera, etcetera…’ Now we get to see if Griffin can put their money where their mouth is.”
“Griffin have let us down so many times in best-of-fives. I can’t see a world in which putting money on Griffin is a safe idea. I think all of their players absolutely have the potential to sweep through the entire tournament, I just don’t think the mentality is there yet.
“G2 just have that confidence, the ability to break the meta.”
“If you look at the other side, G2 probably have the best winners’ mentality we’ve ever seen from a team, even in comparison to a lot of Korean teams. G2 just have that confidence, the ability to break the meta; change things for how they want to envision League of Legends.“
“They make everyone else play to the beat of their drum, which I think is going to be very important going against Griffin. You’ve got the kings of confidence against the kings of choking, and it’s not exactly a match up that suits Griffin. I’d put that handily in favour of G2.”
Setting the stage
Despite putting plenty of stock into G2, overall, Atlus believes the LCK have sent a stronger contingent of three teams to Worlds than the LEC – and that’s down to the entirety of the LCK being incredibly competitive.
“I know that’s hard to wrap your head around because G2 are the MSI champions, but I think Europe was more top heavy this year than Korea. G2 and Fnatic were smashing everyone, and then had a very close final in the end. But we probably had the most competitive LCK Summer that I’ve ever been a part of, and that I’ve seen, ever. The top seven teams – any of them could have qualified in the last two weeks. That was an unprecedented level of competition.”
“SKT came out of MSI losing in 2-3 fashion to G2, and went into the LCK looking like they’d been wounded,” he says. “They struggled at the start and moved up to dominance, but the final wasn’t even close. Griffin got put down. They’re the only question mark, but I think we’ve seen enough from Damwon to know they’re a strong team. Based on what happened after MSI, I think there are more signs that the LCK has improved than the LEC has improved.”
G2 and Fnatic will certainly have something to say about that as they head into the Group Stage, flying the European flag in the process. Splyce have also shown they can make a mark on the international scene with their Play-In victory. With the Group Stage nearly upon us, Europe will be looking to prove that finally, they can stand up to Korean League of Legends, and maybe even best it.