I’ve been following the League of Legends pro scene almost as long as I’ve been playing the game. I didn’t get in right when the game released though, my first game was played in 2011, and I didn’t start watching the pros play until 2012. Esports weren’t really a thing here in America yet; definitely not at the level of production that they are now. Being from the US myself, I’ve primarily kept up with the teams from the NALCS and have watched plenty of games throughout Spring and Summer splits that took place on our home turf. I do occassionally watch games from other regions as well, but my focus has always been on my region first, followed by international tournaments. Worlds has been something I’ve looked forward to for years, but always with baited breath. You see, there has only been one champion crowned in the west, and by west I mean NA and EU. Fnatic were the Season 1 champions, but Koreans weren’t even playing the game at that point (unless playing on western servers, with terrible ping). As such, the west has little credit when it comes to being “the best in the world.”
NA and EU have always had some standout performances at Worlds but outside of that first season they haven’t really gone too far. From my recollection, NA hasn’t made it past the group stage in all of the years I’ve been watching, and I don’t think EU has gone past the Quarterfinals — definitely not the Semis. Inevitably the top seed in NA would dominate their competition locally, but when they were at international tournaments they would fizzle out and simply look not good enough. Some EU teams looked a bit better but then still failed to come through. After season one, we’ve have Korean teams with five world championships, Taiwan came away with one, and now China has finally claimed their first crown.
But that’s not the whole story. What’s funny here is that there were Korean teams in the Quarterfinals. There were also two Chinese teams, two European and the lone North American representative in Cloud 9. The top seed from NA wasn’t even present, and many of us thought Team Liquid was the real deal after winning back-to-back splits at home. Admittedly I didn’t really watch the group stages. With the event being held in Asian countries, all of the matches occurred while I was asleep, but I managed to start catching up on the following day once we got to the playoffs. The first Korean team was knocked off by Invictus Gaming, while the European team G2 Esports took care of China’s RNG. Fnatic eliminated the other Chinese team, Edward Gaming. Most surprising was seeing Cloud 9 3-0 the last remaining Korean team, Afreeca Freecs. At this point, an NA team had gone further than any at Worlds, and there was a glimmer of hope that perhaps a western team might finally win a championship.
In the Semifinals, we had two matches that no one really saw coming. China’s Invictus Gaming vs. Europe’s G2 Esports, and Fnatic vs Cloud 9. Who would have thought? Seeing Invictus tear through G2 wasn’t much of a surprise to be honest, but I did not expect Cloud 9 to be 3-0’d by Fnatic — I was thinking it would have been a more competitive match up.
We came to the Finals this weekend. At 1 am this morning the tournament began to come to a close. Of course I was sleeping again, but I got caught up this morning and sadly, the western hopes were dashed once again. Invictus convincingly shut down Fnatic, just as they had done to G2 before them, and Fnatic had done to Cloud 9 before that. One the one hand, congrats to China for finally getting your World Championship! On the other hand, it was a bummer to see things end up the way they did. Had Cloud 9 made it to the finals I would have said they proved that NA isn’t a joke anymore, but they fell short. Had Fnatic taken it all, I would have been happier with the result, but less so than an NA crown. At the end of the day though, China takes it home and I’m still happier with this result than another Korean Champion. Time to let the other regions get some of the action.