Blue Rift Rivals Day 2 Round-Up: Did NA teams match the competition?

Day 2 of 2017 Rift Rivals: NA vs EU Group Stage has been concluded. Each team had four matches so far in the tournament with results becoming too close to call. NA leads EU with a 7W-5L record, but anything’s possible in the last stretch before the knockout stage. Before heading into the final day of Group Stage, here’s how NA teams had done and what you can look forward tomorrow.

▣ TSM looking for a 5W-1L finish

What TSM has shown us in Rift Rivals was spectacular. As if to prove naysayers wrong about their blunders on international stages, TSM comfortably took a first victory, and narrowly lost to UOL for the first time in the event. Compared to the performance in the last MSI, their macro game has been mostly spot on.

One must point to Doublelift, who filled the spot for WildTurtle, for making such efficient macro plays possible. Since the addition of Doublelift, TSM was able to have more meaningful teamfights and came out on top for most of them. This isn’t to discredit WildTurtle’s mechanical skills, but he tended to show weak spots for map awareness and reading flow of the macro game, not to mention overextending to take himself out of the game before a teamfight begins.

As such, TSM’s jungler Svenskeren was able to have more balanced pathing due to Doublelift’s giving weight to the bottom lane. It allowed Hauntzer and Bjergsen, who were already outperforming the competition, to have an extra edge in laning phase. Additionally, TSM had experience facing Korean coaches and players on their home turf in Summer Split. In Rift Rivals, TSM rarely overextended and systematically accrued leads to easily suffocate the opponent in mid to late game. This type of macro play is typical of LCK teams. If the NA powerhouse could keep up the form, it’s not far-fetched to see them win both games on Day 3.

▣ C9 in need of finding their footing

It’s safe to say C9’s key players are mid laner Jensen and jungler Contractz. Ray tends to play more independently of the team to draw out the attention of the enemy, while the bottom duo, Sneaky and Smoothie, consistently do their jobs unless something is critically titled in the other team’s favor. Early to mid game dominance comes down to how Contractz can set up the stage for Jensen.

In fact, C9 won a landslide victory over Fnatic when Jensen was the center piece of the team. What’s worrying, though, is that C9 doesn’t seem to have quite perfected their mid lane-centric playstyle. In their first loss against G2, C9 was completely pushed off to the side when it came to objective control and ended up losing the game despite their valiant efforts to catch up. Their second loss against UOL is even more perplexing. C9 was clearly winning up to the midway point until they faltered in a Baron teamfight, which opened doors for UOL’s comeback. C9 then proceeded to lose two subsequent teamfights and gave up the game that they had almost made.

This type of play is a characteristic of teams that can’t close. These teams know how to play until the midway point but run out of gas in the late game macro plays. C9 needs to look back on their finishing touches because playing by ear can only take you so far, especially in an international event like Rift Rivals. If they want to take convincing wins, they need to make convincing plays.

▣ P1, the biggest surprise in the tournament

P1’s prominence has been one of the biggest surprise in the event. Understandably, most NA fans didn’t have high hopes for P1 since the team currently stands at 8th place with only TL below them. It should be noted, however, what signing of the rookie jungler MikeYeung did for the team. He joined P1 in Week 3 of NA LCS. Though P1 lost two games that week probably due to his adjusting to the pro scene, the team went on to Week 4 and 5 and came out with a 3W-1L record.

By the time MikeYeung joined the team, P1 was no longer an underdog. His addition shows how much impact one player have on a team. Among the rookies who have come up recently, he’s making a lasting impression for his game-changing plays. Zig and Ryu were able to pop off sooner thanks to MikeYeung’s prowess as well as Arrow to devastate the enemy in the late game.

Going to an international event in the middle of a split can have its downsides, but it was definitely an opportunity for P1. What they needed was time to sync MikeYeung with the rest of the team, and Rift Rivals provided the window to do so. One may point out that scrims can roughly do the same job without taking a toll on players, but nothing can substitute the confidence that comes from winning in high pressure environment such as an international tournament. It’s premature to tell if P1 will perform on Day 3 because they have been seen making questionable plays in the event. At any rate, they’re a team that can at least take an additional victory, which will put more pressure on the EU teams in facing their NA counterparts.

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