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Unicorns rate their chances at Rift Rivals

3 teams from NA and 3 from EU go head-to-head this week, and Unicorns of Love’s mid laner is convinced they’ll come out on top.
By Pieter van Hulst
5 min readPublished on
In every split, Riot plans a break week. Until recently, this week was usually filled by ESL with various Intel Extreme Masters tournaments around the globe. Last month though, ESL announced that they'll no longer host League of Legends at their IEM, and so Riot decided that they'd fill in the break week with their own tournament: Rift Rivals.
The idea behind the tournament is quite simple: the best three teams of two 'rival' regions play each other to determine the best region. Rift Rivals will be played at five different locations, Berlin being the location for NA versus EU. The tournament will not affect any seeding for Worlds, but the prize is a nice sum of cash for the winner and, perhaps most crucially, infinite bragging rights until Worlds starts later this year.
Looking to claim them will be EU upstarts Unicorns of Love. We had the chance to speak to the squad’s mid laner Fabian ‘Exileh’ Schubert about his thoughts on Rift Rivals and NA as a region. Exileh thinks the timing of Rift Rivals is fine: ”Since MSI is in between splits I don’t see any other time to do the tournament.”
UoL never declines invitations to tournaments in between splits. There have been some complaintsfrom the community that the NA teams have to travel all the way over to Europe which would mean little rest before the regular split starts again. The counter argument to this is that if the tournament is a success, the next version will probably be held in the States which would even it all out. The tournament seems reasonably stress free since teams don’t have to play a high amount of games.
Regardless, Exileh thinks EU has the edge in the tournament. “I am not watching every NA LCS game but from what I've seen I think that EU as a region is a lot stronger, especially in terms of macro execution in the mid game. I also think that the pick priority in North America is quite weird, we don’t fully understand it yet. I guess we’ll find out more about that when the tournament starts.”
The UoL mid-laner is excited to meet Jensen of Cloud9 and Ryu of Phoenix1 on the rift in particular. ”It has been so long since I’ve played against them. The problem is that I’m playing pretty poor right now, so I have to make sure that I overcome some of my mayor weaknesses. I think I should be able to do it though.” Exileh thinks that UoL is going to win the tournament because “our brains are superior and able to do more difficult calculations”. With a smile, he adds: “NA is trash”. Oh no he didn’t.
Exileh has made some big statements about the North American region, but in the head to head record over the last two years NA actually comes out ahead. Last year CLG managed to take G2 2-0 during MSI and TSM defeated Splyce twice. While TSM drew against G2 last MSI their chances might have increased this time around with the addition of super star ADC Doublelift. Phoenix1 are having a hard time right now, but underestimating Ryu and Arrow would be a big mistake. Their new addition in the jungle, MikeYeung, seems to be a great addition to their roster. And Cloud9’s Jensen is hungry for blood. He gets to perform in Europe and has the opportunity to show that his choice to move overseas to compete was the right one. Impact has a hard time with tanks not being as strong as they were last season, but Ray should be in his element with champions like Fiora dominating the rift.
Europe won’t make it easy though: G2’s Perkz has been outspoken on Twitter and the analyst desk that NA won’t be able to win a single game. While G2’s performance has been shaky at best in the EU LCS, their results at MSI speak for themselves. Some analysts even think that G2 are mostly preparing for the playoffs, using the regular season as extra practice for difficult picks (like Rekkles’ Kennen). Fnatic have been on an absolute rampage since the playoffs last split. They showed their new playstyle against H2k and have been perfecting it since, with Rekkles playing split-push ADCs. Fnatic seem to be inching closer and closer to G2’s level. This tournament could be a great way for their players to show off their power on an international playing field. Unicorns of Love are often named as the second-best team of Europe but with Fnatic breathing down their necks they’re looking for a breakaway performance.
Overall, Europe might have the better chance to take the crown this time around. But fear not North American fans, the format is best of one. This means anything can happen, upsets make a tournament more interesting and enjoyable.
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