Rift Rivals 2019: The Beasts in the East

The 2019 Rift Rivals season ends this weekend at the Jangchung Arena in Seoul, South Korea. The Eastern Clash or Rift Rivals Red features four regions (LCK, LPL, LMS, VCS) that cumulatively hold 7 of the 8 championship titles in competitive League of Legends.


© LoL Esports

All eyes will be pointed at reigning World Champion Invictus Gaming and 3 time champions SK Telekom this weekend. Europe might have hard clapped North America in the Western Clash last weekend to keep the aura of the “the best region in the world” post MSI, but let’s not kid ourselves. All eyes will be pointed East this weekend for the meta knowledge and tactics insight.

Tournament Format

Earlier this year it was announced that only the EU/NA and LCK/LMS/LPL Rift Rivals events will be featured in 2019 with VCS joining the latter. In order to accommodate the entry of the Vietnam Championship Series teams to the competition, the LMS/VCS combo is seeded as a single region with seedings based on MSI 2019. This leaves the 3-way clash of Rift Rivals Red unchanged.

Each region is bringing four representatives to the event based on the performance in the Spring split and MSI (in the case of LMS/VCS).

  • LCK: #1 SK Telecom T1, #2 Griffin, #3 Kingzone DragonX, #4 DAMWON Gaming
  • LPL: #1 Invictus Gaming, #2 JD Gaming, #3 FunPlus Phoenix, #4 Top Esports
  • LMS/VCS: #1 Flash Wolves, #2 Dashing Buffalo, #3 MAD Team, #4 EVOS Esports

Day 1 & 2 are reserved for the group stage where each team will play against the same seed from the opposing region in best-of-one matchups. After the 3-way combinations are exhausted, all three regions advance to the Bracket Stage. The Region with the most W-s advances to the finals while the other two regions will advance to the semifinal.

The bracket stage features the best-of-five “Blind Relay Races” system we saw last weekend at Rift Rivals.

The regional coaches will select the team for each game at the same time, no teams are able to play twice unless the series goes to Silver Scrapes. The winner of the clash between the 2nd and 3rd placed region will advance to the finals.

The Group Stage winner and the winner of Saturday’s Relay Race will meet in the Rift Rivals Final for a shot at the Rift Rivals trophy and the bragging right as “Best in the East”.

Match Breakdown & Fantasy Predictions

Based on the results of the ongoing Summer Split and the most recent MSI performance, the LPL is the clear favorite in the 2019 Rift Rivals. They are also the two time defending champions coming into the event.

First seed matchups

In the first seed matchups we have SK Telecom vs Invictus Gaming vs Flash Wolves. IG is the clear favorite of going 2W0L here as they are the top seed and the standing World Champions even though they are not having the best time in the domestic league. Coming into the event all 3 teams are standing in 7th place in their domestic leagues. The Flash Wolves are long past their Korean Slayer era as they have struggled to consistently pick up wins internationally for the last two years and are now last place in their domestic league. SKT and IG have also fallen off this split both heavily underperforming early in the split. Overall IG has a slight edge for at least keeping a win ratio of 54%.

Predictions: Invictus Gaming 2W0L, SK Telecom 1W1L, Flash Wolves 0W2L

Second seed matchups

The second seeds matchup is in my opinion the only place where the LMS/VCS combo can get a win at this event. The overall winner from the second seeds definitely goes to LCK’s Griffin with VCS’s Dashing Buffalo hopefully achieving a split score. I’m afraid JD Gaming has not shown enough in Summer to be considered superior to either of their opponents.

Predictions: Griffin 2W0L, Dashing Buffalo 1W1L, JD Gaming 0W2L

Third seed matchups

The third seed matchup is arguably the strongest matchup between all three regions. LPL’s FunPlus Phoenix is on a spree and a 100% Winrate, but we have to keep in mind all of their games so far did not feature matchups versus stronger contenders (EDG, IG or Top Esports). Kingzone DragonX is having a solid performance over on the LCK side dropping games only to stronger seeds in the league. Even MAD Team is not out of place in this batch, empowered by the stability of a more veteran roster they might even challenge someone less experience at an international event like FPX, especially if FPX gets up on the wrong foot.

Predictions: FunPlus Phoenix 2W0L, Kingzone DragonX 1W 1L, MAD Team 0W 2L

Final seed matchups

Similarly, to the third seed matchup, the final batch contains the current 2nd (Top esports) and 3rd (DAMWON Gaming) place team in the LPL and LCK respectively. These regions are hard to compare head to head as teams rarely get to go “abroad” even if they get to perform great in the regular season split. EVOS is the unlucky LMS/VCS representative that has to face two of the top performing teams in Korea and China currently.

In a head to head scenario, I would the edge to the LCK representative in all matches here putting the final prediction at: DAMWON Gaming 2W0L, Top esports 1W1L, EVOS Esports 0W2L

The final tally going into the bracket stage should be:

The LPL should still have the edge over the LCK in the final.

The Rift Rivals 2019 LCK-LPL-LMS-VCS kicks off tomorrow 4th of July at 9:00 CEST / 3:00 AM EST