Global Round Up
Six weeks in, across the globe, teams have stayed relatively within their expected places, with some teams pushing up the standings and some faltering, and with the IEM Tournament mostly going the way I expected it to; with the only upset to my predictions being Flash Wolves beating G2 Esports in the finals, we’re starting to see how the different regions are looking. Some analysts and writers talk about the gap closing, and it has, but not in the way that most would like it to have. The performance of the international teams has caught up to the likes of the LPL and LCS teams, rather than remaining the “easy” teams in group phases. However, Korea is still years ahead when it comes to understanding the competition. All regions play the Korean meta, making slight adaptations to fit their personal playstyles better, always emulating, almost never improving. This could be seen in the lowest standing Korean team, giving EU’s top teams a run for their playoffs spots at IEM. Mechanics aren’t getting better, understanding is.
With NA not participating in the latest international tournament, it is somewhat more difficult to rate them against the others. NA always has an influx of outside talent coming in, but their internal competition is somewhat in a state of flux. Teams win against others when they are rated much lower, games change on a whim, and players performance remains inconsistent from week to week. NA and EU are more alike than the fans from both regions would like to admit, their highest tier teams are equally matched. When watching games from both regions, teams fight against themselves in order not to throw a series and give their opponents easy wins against them. While EU definitely has the weakest competitive team from the major regions in Origen, NA has been making similar mistakes.
LPL has been rather toned down for me, with many of the Korean superstars leaving the region for this season, it is somewhat clear that the region has some growing pains. The same two teams are still dominating the region, as RNG is ahead of the pack in their bracket and EDG is ahead in theirs, both standing 5 wins and 1 loss. LPL showed strength last year at the Mid-Season Invitationals before falling short at the very end, but with the lack of an international presence at IEM, it is likely that the LPL is roughly around the same level as EU and NA. The main difference between the top teams and others, is consistency.
The LCK is still the strongest region, and only becoming stronger. The best indicator for this fact is to look at some players who have returned from other regions and join some of the higher profile Korean teams. “Huni” is a prime example of a player who was seen as a good player, but had very inconsistent play in both EU and NA, but now that he has gone to Korea, his KDA against the other top laners in the region places him at #1 within the role. The coaching staff on SKT T1 has managed to iron out all of the problems that he had in other regions and is now playing on his best level so far. Another example is “Deft” who joined KT Rolster in the off-season. He was someone who was described as the best AD Carry in the world, but now that he is in Korea, he has competition in the form of “Bang” and “Prey”. He still is one of the top players in the world, but seeing the way he is challenged in the region, is somewhat telling about the region he was in.
The other “minor” major region, the LMS, is also showing some signs of life this time around against the other regions. Flash Wolves beat G2 Esports cleanly and HKE gave the others a run for their money before being eliminated. The region has always been rather strange, as Flash Wolves consistently perform well at international events, beating Korean teams with ease at times. While the other teams in the region may not look as strong as they do, the Flash Wolves are a regular at many international events. The region looks somewhat stronger because of this, as during those events, the region performs exceptionally well against teams from other regions. They have beaten EU, EU generally goes even with NA, and the two have close series with China, but the LMS topples them over far too often for it to be just random chance.
Currently, it is safe to say that Korea is still the #1 region in the world, from their play and their tendency to set the meta, the region isn’t showing any signs of weakness. However, to make it somewhat official, here is how I see the regions in terms of ranking:
Yes, the gap has closed, the 3rd tier of regions have all come closer together in terms of their play, the coaching seems very similar in the regions and so do the players mechanical abilities. The LMS stands somewhat above them, mostly on the back of Flash Wolves. LCK however, stands above all of the others, with its tendency to bring out the most in its players, just through efficient coaching. The other regions barely influence the Korean playstyle, while the Korean playstyle influences the others. Other regions have their pocket-picks that sometimes surprise the LCK during international events, but always seem to be able to comfortably overcome them in the next series once their staff and players analyze the champions play patterns and weaknesses.
We are six weeks into the global competitive split, and it already looks like Korea is going to be victorious once again, will anything change in the upcoming months or is League’s scene going to stagnate into “Korea wins internationally” and that the LCK becomes the pinnacle of its competitive scene? I will certainly keep an eye on it to see if there is any potential for an unseen upset.