SKT has a lot at stake, and even moreso for Huni and Peanut.
WE will get another chance to prove their international mettle.
FW was always thrived when nobody expect them to.
The very first Rift Rivals is about to begin, and the fans of League worldwide is eagerly waiting for their representatives to triumph over their neighboring regions. Rift Rivals LCK vs LMS vs LPL (colloquially known as Rift Rivals Red) will start from this Thursday, July 6th (KST).
Coincidentally, the ‘top’ teams that represent the respective regions - SKT, FW and WE - have all recently played against each other and all three teams went on to the semifinals. While SKT emerged victorious in the MSI 2017, the rivalry between the teams are still fresh just after a few months after the conclusion of MSI 2017.
In fact, the teams have walk a very different path after the tournament, and that difference might be enough to change the result of the matchup between the three compared to how it happened in the MSI. After the MSI, how did the teams perform domestically, and what do they have at stake going into the Rift Rivals?
SK Telecom T1
Current Split Record: 9-1 (1st, 9-match winning streak)
After their second crowning in the MSI 2017, the team is continuing their dominance in the scene as the team is currently on a 9-match winning streak. Although they had a small slip with a loss against Samsung Galaxy, there is no doubt that SKT seems to be the strongest team in the entire Rift Rivals. However, there is one factor that needs to be addressed before proclaiming with certainty that SKT will be emerge victorious yet again in the Rift Rivals, as the Rift Rivals roster for SKT has Huni and Peanut as their starting member.
Recently, Huni and Peanut has been benched more often than ever before in the summer split, and their performance isn’t not stellar either. Both Peanut and Huni’s game score in the summer split is a lackluster 5-5. In contrast, Untara and Blank have appeared in more games than Huni and Peanut, and did not drop a single game after playing in 13 games in the summer split. While Peanut managed to redeem himself in the recent match against MVP, the Huni-Peanut duo has not been faring well, and there was no chance to prove otherwise before MSI.
To top it off, each team will only be able to play a single game against the other team as the tournament will be played out as regional teams, and SKT’s result in the MSI group stage against their opponent was both 1-1. Of course, it will be a stretch to even suggest that SKT will do poorly in the MSI. However, the real question that needs to be answered is whether Peanut and Huni will be able to triumph against the teams that they have exchanged a win in the group stage of MSI. If they were to prove themselves again in the team, they will have to do well when they get the chance in the Rift Rivals.
Current Split Record: 5-2 (1st in Group A)
“We are just as strong as RNG and EDG.” Although WE Mystic modestly claimed that they are one of powerhouses of LPL, their results spoke stronger than words as the team went on to lock in second place in the group stage of MSI. While they fell to G2 in the semifinals, they continued their success after returning to LPL and is currently in first place of Group A.
Unfortunately for Team WE, they have often suffered unexpected losses throughout the year. Only a few expected Team WE to fall at the hands of G2 Esports in the semifinals of MSI, Not many expected WE to fall against IG 0-3 in the quarterfinals of 2017 Demacia Cup, and nobody expected WE to lose a match against Snake Esports whose only match win is still against WE. WE even dropped their last match before the Rift Rivals against Newbee, who seemed to be struggling before grabbing two wins from I MAY and Team WE in Week 4.
Yet, a few outliers shouldn’t be considered too heavily when predicting the future. Team WE managed to get two convincing wins against Flash Wolves in the MSI Group Stage, and Xiye solo killing Faker with Lucian was definitely one of the highlight of the tournament. With Flash Wolves recovering from their shaky start and SKT’s top lane and jungler being volatile, Team WE just need to have a solid draft and focus on playing to their fullest strength for a winning chance against the two.
Current Split Match Record: 5-2 (3rd, 5-match winning streak)
Things weren’t easy on Flash Wolves. While they went on to semifinals of MSI, their game record (4-6) does not compare to neither SKT (8-2) nor Team WE (7-3) and dropped both games against Team WE while making even against SKT. They’ve lost their head-to-head lead over SKT after the devastating 0-3 loss against SKT in the semifinals. Even after the MSI, the team started the summer split with two-consecutive losses and Karsa being ‘suspended’ by the team for “unsportsmanlike behavior”.
Like SKT, however, the Wolves soon started to recover after their two losses by winning 5 matches in a row even as Karsa returned to his position after a two-match suspension. Even then, the chance for Flash Wolves to do well in the Rift Rivals don’t seem very high, especially when Flash Wolves had to recover from a rocky start in a weaker region and is still in progress of experimenting with other laners to offset the ‘carry pressure’ from Karsa.
However, like Kelsey Moser once said, “When they aren’t supposed to win, they make it happen.” As stated above, each team in the Rift Rivals only get 1-game matches throughout the tournament. One unexpected yet decisive strategy has been often enough for Flash Wolves to perform a miracle in the international stage, and their experiment in the domestic league might have been a preparation for the Rift Rivals. They - and the entire LMS - might be an underdog in the Rift Rivals, but they will get you if you don’t give them their due respect.
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