NA vs. EU: How will the best Western teams fare at Worlds?
As another year of World Championship competition approaches, Western fans are more eager than ever for success in their regions and with Fnatic and Team Liquid looking so dominant, there’s a case to be made for 2018 possibly being a year of changes for the LCS regions. Respect has been hard to come by for underperforming regions at every World Championship, but the veteran prowess of Team Liquid and the adaptable framework of Fnatic bring new elements that can upset the status quo later this year.
This weekend, the qualified teams in the gauntlet have a lot to fight for as the third slot for a World Championship seed will be hard to come by. With the gauntlet set to begin, we will break down and predict our best bets for who will qualify for their respective region when it’s all said and done.
Learning from defeat
With all the respect given to both Fnatic and Team Liquid over the course of this year, winning both titles in Spring and Summer and holding a relatively firm grip on their region, it’s important to remember the level of success taking place outside of the region in order to really predict their success on the world stage.
In terms of rigour, the competitive level of teams in NA and EU were not up to par with typical Chinese and Korean teams over the course of the split, and many top players on Fnatic, TSM and Team Liquid have spoken out on this phenomena. Whether it be the slew of new teams forming that curved the learning pattern for each team or the loosely crafted training regimens that could be stunting their growth, there is no doubt that the ‘killer instinct’ for most Western teams hasn’t been there for a majority of the 2018 season.
Further down the line, these inabilities to perform in clutch situations that require a team to punish the other’s mistake can be fatal if facing the wrong opponent. Luckily, this year’s number one seeds for both NA and EU have shown they are capable of finishing a team when given the opportunity, and quickly at that.
Fnatic has always been a team synonymous with LCS success, and their World Championship record has been more impressive than most. Since their 2015 semifinals loss to KOO Tigers, Fnatic haven’t really reached those same illustrious heights, but their 2018 roster has the right components to succeed. Starting with Caps and sOAZ, both Fnatic’s solo laners have been cutthroat with their play, and sOAZ in particular has hit a peak evident in the EU LCS Finals.
With Rekkles and Bwipo constantly revolving and providing opposing threats, Fnatic has the DNA of a championship calibre roster that can finally flex their options against top tier opponents. If their resolve on the Worlds stage is anything like their performance at MSI, Fnatic will be in good hands come Group Stage.
A tale of two seeds
On the other side of the Atlantic, Team Liquid will look to shake off their international jitters early on this tournament and hopefully avoid the drama that led to their early exit at MSI this year. With the constant work on his mental and physical health since the Summer tournament, Olleh has become a revelation in the bot lane for Liquid and has provided a significant flair to an already established lineup.
The vision control between him and Xmithie during Finals was a thing of beauty, and not dropping a single game during that process adds to their dominance. Even though EU is no powerhouse when it comes to international praise, North America has proven even less with their disappointing turnouts for several teams that were supposed to breakout in Summer.
From Clutch Gaming to Echo Fox, FlyQuest and beyond, the region of North America has been synonymous with wasted potential and it felt at times that Team Liquid was the sole beneficiary of all the regions missteps. Regardless of regional strength, Team Liquid possess a high level of macro proficiency and they will do well to make that their main source of wins during Worlds later this year.
Going down the ladder, the prospects for success are much dimmer for NA’s second seed in 100 Thieves given their litany of roster issues this year. After losing Meteos, the Thieves haven’t fully recovered from the ‘bad org’ image they adopted after that whole ordeal, and their most recent scandal involving Cody Sun has not helped the fan base either.
At this point, 100 Thieves only have one true lane that can compete at the World Championship level, and their qualification via circuit points has called into question the legitimacy of their strength overall as many fans question their ability to make it out of Gauntlet if they had to be included. This same argument can be made for Team Vitality in EU as the question marks surrounding their bot lane has been a constant question that makes it difficult to brand them ‘Worlds ready’ with the EU regional qualifier right around the corner.
The possible miracle runs for World Championship greatness start once more for NA and Eu this weekend, and there are more than a few teams from each region capable of taking that coveted spot if given the opportunity.
Starting in North America, it’s hard to see a Round One of Regionals that doesn’t end with an Echo Fox victory. Regardless of the raw bot lane EFX possess, Dardoch and Huni are a lock in for best Top lane duo in the NA LCS, and if Huni decides to stay alive long enough, they can run rampant this series.
Assuming Echo Fox advances in Round One, the Team Solo Mid vs. Echo Fox series is a legitimate toss up after watching their Quarterfinals performance last month. In a tense five game series, it came down to a few key plays from Bjergsen and plenty of mistakes on the side of Huni and Dardoch that gave TSM the series. If Dardoch plays out of his mind and is given the keys to carry, don’t be surprised if the Foxes find a way to upset the favourites in Round Two, but logically there is a solid chance TSM make it out unscathed.
In the final round of Regionals, no matter which team makes it out of Round Two, there’s little chance they have the skills necessary to best a fully functioning seven man Cloud 9 roster. The ‘swole bros’ substitutions have paid dividends all year long for teams not named Team Liquid. It’s fair to say that Cloud 9 is far and away the second best team in NA, and they have a chance to snap up Worlds qualification once again with a good series on Sunday.
In Europe, the three way race for third between G2 Esports, Misfits Gaming and FC Schalke 04 will be incredibly enticing this weekend, and there’s a high chance either of the three teams can walk away with glory at the end of it all. Round One should go comfortably to Misfits Gaming as Hans Sama and Alphari have proven too much for Splyce on more than one occasion.
The head-to-head against G2 Esports gives a nice indicator of who can win the series in Round Two. In terms of total team strength, it’s easy to see Misfits running away with this series given their momentum, but Perkz continues to be the x-factor in mid lane that can turn the tides in his team’s favour if Misfits don’t prioritize him correctly.
Best of the West: World Championship Power Rankings
- Team Liquid
- Team Vitality
- 100 Thieves
- FC Schalke 04/ Misfits Gaming