Rift Rivals 2018 LCK-LPL-LMS Recap: Is This The End of South Korean Dominance?

Over the weekend, different rivalling regions clashed at Rift Rivals 2018 LCK-LPL-LMS  to answer the following question: who is the strongest? Unlike other inter-regional competitions, Rift Rivals is never about the individual teams, but the regions, and the name of the game here is cooperation.

With Rift Rivals 2018 LCK-LPL-LMS now over, there are a couple of things worth discussing. While nothing much rests on Rift Rivals aside from bragging rights — it does not have any bearing towards Worlds, and the prize money isn’t exactly a huge sum of money — it serves as a good measure of where certain teams currently are. And, with patch 8.11 ushering in a more diverse metagame, each of the different regions showcased a different interpretation of the meta.

We’ll break down how each region played at Rift Rivals 2018 LCK-LPL-LMS and the types of identities they showcased.

Just How Strong is the LMS?

Rift Rivals 2018 LCK-LPL-LMS

The Flash Wolves are LMS’ strongest team, but how strong are the others compared to them? (via Flash Wolves twitter)

The League of Legends Master Series, or the LMS, is an enigmatic region. They’ve been so for quite some time now. It also doesn’t help that it doesn’t attract viewers from outside their region. However, if we were to sum up their reputation in two words, it would be “Korean Killers”.

The teams from this region, most notably the Flash Wolves, are known to take games off of Korean teams in international events.

In this season’s Mid-season invitational, a new iteration of the Flash Wolves shocked the world, and in Rift Rivals 2018 LCK-LPL-LMS, the Flash Wolves were the only team in the LMS to have taken a game away from the other regions. The LMS ended the group stage with a score of  2-6, with them only having netted wins against the Korean 1st seed, King-Zone DragonX, and the Chinese 1st seed, Royal Never Give Up.

With this, it’s only fair to wonder just how powerful LMS is as a region? Is Flash Wolves the only good team in the region?That’s certainly not fair, as even other teams such as ahq were able to perform well against teams such as SK Telecom T1 in other international events. But ahq was not in Rift Rivals— what came with the Flash Wolves were G-Rex, MAD Team, and Machi Esports.

If the region is to whip themselves into shape in time for the Worlds, they’ll want to learn as much as they can from Rift Rivals 2018 LCK-LPL-LMS.

Are SK Telcom T1 on the Rise?

Rift Rivals 2018 LCK-LPL-LMS

Is SKT finally regaining its old form? (via Kenzi twitter)

SKT came into this tournament as the 4th seed of the LCK in the spring. In the summer, SKT is currently sitting on 7th place. The expectations for this team were fairly low, but they have been performing leaps and bounds beyond what was expected of them.

Communication has been better overall for this team, as their plays seem to be the result of decisive shot-calling. Kang “Blank” Sun-gu, who has been receiving a huge amount of criticism from fans, has been returning to form, delivering a carry performance against the Flash Wolves, a match that was predicted to heavily favor the LMS region’s 1st seed.

The early game, which has historically always been a problem for SK Telecom T1, is a lot different now. They have been more active in getting objectives across the map, with more drakes and towers taken. The team does not play to lose the minimum anymore, and they do their best to stay even or get ahead in terms of gold.

The price, however, seems to be the later stages of the game. A habit seems to be slowly forming around the team. SKT always rushes to slay Baron Nashor at any point in time where it seems to be possible. A lot of times, they get caught out, lose a fight, and eventually lose the game.

If you’re an SKT fan, you should still be happy because SKT is improving. They even won against the Flash Wolves! At the same time, you should be a little worried, because there’s still a lot more that needs to be fixed.

The International Woes Continue for King-Zone DragonX

Rift Rivals 2018 LCK-LPL-LMS

King-Zone DragonX will still have to prove itself in future international tournaments. (via Kenzi twitter)

King-Zone DragonX, the back-to-back champions of the LCK, have not had a good track record in international events. The first instance is the World Championship Quarterfinal, where everyone was shocked as Samsung Galaxy (now Gen G), swept the team which was then called Longzhu Gaming 3-0.

The next instance was in the Mid-season Invitational. The team had a rather poor showing at the group stages, finishing 6-4. Following this, they brute-forced their way through the semifinals against the Flash Wolves, only to lose 3-1 against Royal Never Give Up in the Grand Finals.

At Rift Rivals 2018 LCK-LPL-LMS, King-Zone’s performance only supported dthe notion that they underperform against international competition. They lost both their games in the group stages, against Royal Never Give Up and Flash Wolves respectively. The only win they picked up was against Machi Esports in the semifinal. Come the finals, they lost to Rogue Warriors, the 4th-seed at the LPL, allowing the LPL to tie LCK 2-1.

What could be the reason for such a team with undeniable talent in it to not do so well on the international stage?

Well, for starters, the team doesn’t perform well under pressure. In high-stakes matches, King-Zone just seem to crumble and make uncharacteristic mistakes. This is also present in some of their matches in the LCK. They are usually heads and shoulders above the competition in the LCK, but in their match with Griffin earlier this split, they would miss most skill shots in teamfights. The team would also poorly execute a complicated strategy such as gold funneling.

King-Zone must improve their consistency or they would find themselves to lose more and more fans.

Koreans Rookie and Doinb Find Success in China

Rift Rivals 2018 LCK-LPL-LMS

Doinb has proven himself to be a capable carry for the Rogue Warriors. (via Kenzi twitter)

In 2015, upon the dissolution of sister teams in the South Korean League of Legends professional scene and the formation of the LCK, several Korean players left to play in other regions. One of these was Song “Rookie” Eui-jin. A player of undeniable talent, Rookie has been touted as one of the best mid laners of the LPL.

In Rift Rivals, Rookie showed up huge against Invictus Gaming’s opponents. With carry performances on Ryze and Galio in the group stages, Rookie has been able to net wins for his team and for the LPL. He is also one of the few players to hold a good record against Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok himself— he has won against Faker three times, and they have faced each other three times.

Another notable Korean mid laner in China is Kim “Doinb” Tae-sang. While having debuted in China, Doinb made a name for himself in Korean solo queue, earning the respect of professional players like Faker. What Doinb shows is a rather different kind of carrying; he usually leads his team to victory with eccentric picks like Poppy or Kled in the midlane. Despite their team being fourth in the LPL, Doinb and the Rogue Warriors were able to win against King-Zone DragonX, shattering everyone’s expectations.

What has been common for these two Koreans in China is their clutch element – they are able to turn fights around and surprise the enemy with how they weave into the fights that they pick. Their huge plays were responsible for he wins that both their teams have been able to get in the duration of the tournament.

Will a Chinese Team Finally Win Worlds?

Rift Rivals 2018 LCK-LPL-LMS

RNG only dropped a single game in Rift Rivals. Are they the strongest team in the world right now? (via Kenzi twitter)

The LPL has been winning a lot of international events lately. They won the first Rift Rivals in 2017, the 2017 All-Stars, the Mid-season Invitational, and this year’s Rift Rivals as well. This has led many to think if the Chinese teams are already much better than the Korean teams right now?

Of course, this isn’t exactly an easy question to answer. There are many things to consider such as the current state of the metagame, amount of preparation time and the current status of players, among others. But, the gap is definitely closing, and LCK needs to improve if they are to remain ahead. This does not mean that only the top teams should do their best, but rather the LCK teams must all collectively work together to produce better results for the region.

There is only Worlds left, and if the Chinese teams win it, there is no way around it.

What did you think of Rift Rivals 2018 LCK-LPL-LMS? Was it a sign of things to come? Will a Chinese team finally win Worlds? Be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments down below. 

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and Facebook for the latest on your favorite esports titles!