North American League of Legends teams looked inexperienced and unprepared compared to their European counterparts, as Europe calmly took the 2018 Rift Rivals trophy from relative newcomers to the international scene. Of the three North American teams, only Team Liquid had seen prior international experience, which was earlier this year at the Mid-Season Invitational with a disappointing 4-7 showing.
Rift Rivals was dominated by strategies that got teams ahead as fast as possible. Teams taking the Rift Herald were 11-2, teams taking the first tower were also 11-2, and even First Blood had a more positive correlation than normal with teams achieving it going 8-5 (teams getting First Blood in Worlds 2017 won 52.5 percent of games). Europe came ready with champion picks assisting in these strategies that North America simply wasn't ready for. Teams playing Aatrox and Heimerdinger were 4-0 in the tournament, and North America had zero picks on either champion. In fact, the two champions' dominance led North America to have to waste bans on each of them seven times over the course of the tournament.
Even better for Europe was that its top two teams, and likely Worlds 2018 contenders G2 Esports and Fnatic, each lost only one game last weekend, increasing their game records at international events (Worlds, MSI, and Rift Rivals) in the past two years to 11-15 and 15-18 respectively.
North America takeaways
It wasn't necessarily all bad for North America, as it was able to find success picking Shen -- a champion typically considered outdated for the current meta -- five times, going 4-1 on the champion. North America also found some standout performers, gained international experience and was able to experiment with new picks and strategies that it can bring back to the NA LCS.
Echo Fox (2-3)
Echo Fox might come away from this tournament with more questions than answers. Its superstar, Heo "Huni" Seung-hoon, did not have a particularly good showing, amassing the third-worst KDA in the tournament (1.4) on Renekton, Vladimir, and Rumble -- champions that tend to be fairly decent team fighters. On the other hand, Echo Fox's academy mid laner Tanner "Damonte" Damonte played in three of its five games and had excellent showings in each with a tournament-low one death per game and an overall 8 KDA (kills/deaths/assists) ratio. Echo Fox already has been in positional upheaval for the past three weeks in the NA LCS, and these showings certainly will not help give it more direction.
Interestingly, Echo Fox also was the only team to pick Renekton in this tournament, and the results were not good. Echo Fox lost all three games in which the champion was picked, all while obtaining a .66 KDA -- worst among all champions with at least two games played. While Echo Fox is 1-0 with the champion in the NA LCS this split, Renekton is 5-11 overall in the five major regions this split and should not be considered a staple pick.
Team Liquid (2-2)
Team Liquid's tournament successes can be summed up with one word: Doublelift. Yilang "Doublelift" Peng managed to put up the best numbers of any player at the tournament despite his team going .500 on the weekend. His team kill share percentage (44.4 percent) and Creep Score per minute (10.6) were tournament highs, and his KDA (6.4) lead all bot-lane carries.
He will need more consistent support from his teammates to see team success going forward.
100 Thieves (1-3)
100 Thieves had the three longest games of Rift Rivals at 44:58, 41:54, and 38:28. The next longest was 34:07 (TL v FNC). This is not necessarily a bad thing, as it was the only team at the tournament that did not seem to completely crumble when giving up an early lead. With a new member to the team this weekend in Brandon "Brandini" Chen, 100 Thieves will need to address late-game shot calling and team cohesion.
Do "Levi" Duy Khanh was given all the resources in the first game of the weekend on Graves and put up a good showing with a 7/3/4 KDA game, along with a tournament-high 595 CS, yet he was unable to carry the team to victory. He was clearly willing to experiment, playing four different champions over four games, but he only found team success on the more supportive-style champion Skarner.
Meanwhile, top-lane substitute Brandini did not have a good showing. Despite being a part of a late-game, team fight-focused team, his 46.5 percent kill participation was lowest in the tournament. Additionally, his 1.25 tournament KDA was second lowest overall. Certainly look for Kim "Ssumday" Chan-ho to be back in the lineup when NA LCS resumes next weekend.