Only once had a team from the League of Legends Championship Series (LCS) made the finals before, it was 2016’s talent-stacked Counter-Logic Gaming. The same goes for Europe’s G2 Esports in 2017. So when both regions qualified for finals at the same time, the world knew that one of these always-battling leagues would hoist their very first international trophy.
*technically EU’s Fnatic won the World Championship in Season 1, but that tournament was part of another event, and is often disregarded as an official League of Legends international tournament*
The West Was Weak
Never has it been a question as to where the western world sits on the charts of domination in the competitive League of Legends environment.
Every year, since the start of top-tier League of Legends, an Eastern team has dominated in international competition. The last six World Champions have been either from Korea -- SK Telecom T1 three times, Samsung Galaxy twice -- or from China -- last year’s World Championship was won by Invictus Gaming -- making the western conferences an obvious underdog.
North America and Europe both revelled in the idea that a team from the LEC in Fnatic made it to the World Championship finals, until they were completely embarrassed by Invictus Gaming, the new most-feared team in competitive League of Legends.
Maybe, that was just the boost the western half of the world needed.
At this year’s MSI, North America sent their greatest team ever. Inarguably, Team Liquid has had the strongest chance to win on the international stage, despite some perceived “curse” on their greatest player, Doublelift. So, when Team Liquid made it out of the play-in stage, folks didn’t bat an eye. Once they’d achieved the expected, Team Liquid went above and beyond to qualify for the knockout stage -- something Doublelift has never been able to do on any team in the past -- and everyone applauded them.
Just getting there was a “win” for North American League of Legends fans. The region so rarely makes it beyond that point that life in the knockout stage is completely foreign to them. That is why it was at this point in the tournament that the expectations for Team Liquid died. In the knockout stage, Team Liquid would face 2018 world champion (and undisputed best team in the world) Invictus Gaming in a best-of-five. For many, this meant NA fans would probably call it quits and chalk MSI 2019 up to an international tournament where strides were made, but not all that much gained.
That was, until they completely outclassed the “best team in the world” and beat them 3 games to 1 in order to advance to the Finals. The same goes for Europe’s G2 Esports, though they had far more of a shot against SK Telecom T1 in their Semi Finals matchup.
Making A Statement On The World Stage
Once the finals were set in Taipei, the conversations ran wild with speculation on how the last best-of-five would play out. The pairing of two western teams in the finals has never happened, under any circumstances before MSI 2019. Rightfully, this led to a whole lot of guessing. Both G2 Esports and Team Liquid were built-out for the sole purpose of competing internationally, and for both of them to have a shot in the very first tournament they participated in was beyond comprehension.
Ultimately, the west and the rest was won by G2 Esports in dramatically fast fashion. The LEC Champions destroyed the LCS Champ in what would break the record for fastest (71:00 total game-time) finals ever played at an international tournament.
“Words can’t describe what it feels like to be the best team in the World, and the first Western Team to win MSI," said team founder Carlos “Ocelote” Rodriguez in a public statement after the win.
Now, as the world of competitive League of Legends shifts into a version where the Western teams are formidable (or even respected), more eyes will be on both G2 Esports and Team Liquid to see whattheir historic MSI finals does for their future and their 2019 domestic Summer Splits.