League of Legends Major Regions: A Post-Worlds 2019 Assessment
The World Championship is the most fascinating and important tournament of the year for a wide variety of reasons. All League of Legends major regions gather in one place and duke it out for a whole month to see who reigns supreme. These teams are the best and most talented rosters the world of competitive League has to offer, training and preparing throughout the year.
To them, Worlds is a do or die kind of moment. Coming into the tournament, no one’s quite sure what to think. Of course, we all know the biggest narratives. We’re aware of the biggest favorites, but things often pan out in exciting and unexpected ways.
Enough time has passed, which means we can fully and objectively assess how each region performed, and what we can expect from the League of Legends major regions going forward. 2020 will bring many surprises to the world of competitive League. We’re bound to be entertained beyond our wildest dreams. But will there be a change in the competitive status quo? Will we see a new challenger rise, or will things remain the same?
Let’s dive a bit deeper.
In a way, this is also a ranking of each significant region post-Worlds. While such a list might seem unnecessary seeing how the big picture resolved, there are still many nuances we can gather from the most recent championship. We knew what to expect coming into the tournament, and we’re also fully aware of the result.
While the two certainly overlap, there’s still a noticeable difference. So, with that in mind, let’s start our ranking of the League of Legends major regions from best to worst.
LPL — China
This one feels like a no-brainer. An LPL team won Worlds for the second year in a row. FunPlus Phoenix’s recent triumph let everyone know that China does reign supreme. But the fact that they won wasn’t such a huge surprise. What was, however, is the fashion in which it all happened.
FunPlus Phoenix, much like Invictus Gaming before them, dominated more than anyone could have anticipated. They looked incredible, in every sense of the word. Heck, the most recent final was a carbon copy of the one that came before it in 2018 — a seemingly unassailable Chinese titan fighting against a European super team. The odds were somewhat even, although still slightly skewed towards the LPL competitors.
But despite what anyone thought or expected, the LEC champions succumbed in record time. They couldn’t even hold a candle to the Chinese powerhouse. It was an absolute shellacking. Right now, as things stand, the LPL is, without a doubt, the best and most capable region in the world.
The frightening thing is the fact that it doesn’t feel like they’ll deteriorate in any way over the foreseeable future, barring any game-changing meta shift. If teamfighting and mechanical prowess are the names of the game, Chinese teams will be primed for success.
That’s not a bad thing overall, but it does make things somewhat less exciting. That said, the LPL champions deserve every bit of praise they can get. They do so many things right in-game and their mechanical prowess is second-to-none. It’s hard not to root for them, especially after seeing their level of play.
Just when we think the gap might be closing, we’re greeted by yet another one-sided beatdown. Speaking of the gap, it did close over the years, at least the one between Korea and the rest of the world. But while all of that was happening, China took over in a rather unexpected fashion.
So, in a way, we’re all back to square one. A different overlord, but an overlord, nonetheless.
LEC — Europe
Europe comes in at second place. Being second isn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination. What is bad, however, is the difference in play we’ve witnessed in the last two World Championship finals.
In the previous two years, Europe was always insanely competitive until it simply wasn’t. While European teams stepped up immensely over the last couple of years, they’re still nowhere near as strong as they need to be to beat China.
That is a frightening notion. The idea that a team like G2 Esports couldn’t even be somewhat competitive against FunPlus is mind-boggling, and yet it’s reality. Still, there’s no doubt on anyone’s mind that Europe stands strong as the second-best region in the world.
What needs to happen now is for all of Europe’s immense talent to consolidate and thus form three stellar, stylistically different challengers. Over the last couple of years, Europe always had this one immense giant. Another top-tier team that’s incredibly capable but also inherently flawed and another solid contender that always plays the role of a dark horse.
Finally, all three teams need to pose different challenges. Having three carbon copies simply won’t cut it. The best LEC teams also need to continue innovating. Whenever they defined the meta (regardless if it was in small or monumental ways), they found success and left a mark.
The outlook is bright for the European region. If it continues developing in such a positive direction, it might even overtake China in a couple of years.
LCK — Korea
2019 wasn’t any kinder to the LCK than 2018. They still failed to accomplish much, and other than a couple of standout moments, Korea fell into third place performance-wise.
For the most dominant region in the history of the game, that’s not exactly a stellar accomplishment. Not even close. To be fair, the LCK was incredibly competitive and had more than a couple of talented, highly capable challengers. But the way things ultimately pan out is the only thing that matters.
SKT T1 and DAMWON Gaming couldn’t solve the G2 Esports puzzle, whereas Griffin failed to clutch things out against Invictus Gaming. Even though all three teams reached the Knockout Stage, they were unable to accomplish much after that point.
But not everything is grim for the LCK. They’re still one of the most capable regions around. They have more than enough talent to get back to their dominant, winning ways. Fortunately, there wasn’t any huge LCK exodus this time around, so they’re bound to be competitive next year as well. How high they’ll eventually climb remains to be seen, but the odds are definitely in their favor.
What is for sure, however, is that the LCK dynasty won’t make a reappearance any time soon. China and Europe have overtaken them. They have a ton of work ahead of them if they want to stand a chance of attaining their former glory.
LCS — North America
Finally, we have North America. Now, it feels like there should be a couple of empty spots between the LCS and LCK. Maybe even more than just a couple.
To say that NA teams disappointed in 2019 would indeed be an understatement. Team Liquid did get that one historic upset over Invictus Gaming at the Mid-Season Invitational, but other than that, there’s not much to talk about.
Many problems are currently plaguing the North American region. They have a bad solo queue, a laid back mentality and approach to the game, unwillingness to develop native talent, overspending, the tendency to import foreign players without any apparent reason or benefit, and so on.
That’s quite a list of problems. Many problems existed throughout the history of the region. There’s no band-aid fix, unfortunately, and the road to success isn’t nearly as simple, especially not given NA’s starting position.
Regardless, it feels like these problems are fixable in a reasonable amount of time. Make no mistake: North American teams are by no means giving it their all when it comes to international competitiveness. The region itself isn’t doing much when it comes to that regard, either.
Most teams are content with where they are and have no intention of dominating the world of competitive League, nor do they have any illusions of grandeur. They’re treating this as a business first and foremost, which is a big problem.
Nearly half of the competing LEC players come Spring Split will be rookies. That’s truly mind-blowing. Meanwhile, the majority of LCS teams are still “recycling” the same veteran players year after year. As time went on, the biggest organizations “scooped” up the best and most capable players, which ultimately resulted in the LCS becoming a top-heavy region.
The playoff picture might slightly change time split after split. Still, there’s never any doubt when it comes to who’ll eventually hoist the trophy. That’s a luxury reserved for the likes of Team Liquid, Team SoloMid, Cloud9 and Counter Logic Gaming (historically speaking). If you visit the LCS Studio in Los Angeles, those are the only logos you’ll see if you look at the championship banners which are hanging from the ceiling.
Overall, there aren’t many reasons to get excited about the LCS going forward, at least not if you’re hoping for North America to challenge the likes of China, Korea and Europe. That doesn’t mean things can’t change, but rather that they won’t change in the foreseeable future.
League of Legends Major Regions: The Verdict
In a way, the state of all League of Legends major regions didn’t change much from 2018. Each region continued building on the foundation which they previously set. Those who were on an upward trajectory continued to find success. Others who struggled beforehand didn’t improve much, if at all.
The most recent preseason patch certainly changed many aspects of the game, which means the upcoming season will slightly even the playing field. Will this be enough to jumpstart a change in the overall status quo? We’ll have to wait to find out, but it’s within the realm of possibility.