There has been no MSI this year to get an update on each region’s strength, and with the order we were used to being completely thrown out of the window in 2018 and not having settled since, all we could use to fuel our banter were educated guesses and history already long past being relevant.
Now that we finally have recent international matches to look at, and while we need to somehow fill the gap in our lives caused by the absence of matches, let’s look back at each region’s strength!
China and Korea are still up there
Yeah, to the surprise of absolutely no one, the Eastern teams overall are still performing best. It’s even the first time since 2014 that these two regions are sending a combined 6 teams in quarters. 2019 had three European teams, 2018 was the only time an LCK representative ever finished in groups, 2017 had three Western line-ups, and both years before had teams from other regions.
In groups, China and Korea respectively scored 13-5 and 11-1 against everyone else, which is a clear testament of their domination.
Europe isn’t a strong region – It has two strong teams
Last year, Europe made waves by having all three of its teams reach quarterfinals for the first time ever. But even then, Splyce advancing was considered an unlikely scenario (prior to Group draws, that is, since past that point, Fnatic’s chances also seemed highly compromised), and nobody was expecting them to win their BO5.
This year, it’s been even clearer. Obviously, we’re never entirely sure of what to expect from either G2 or Fnatic, but they advanced convincingly, and were even both close to finishing their respective groups in first.
On the other hand, Rogue was clearly outclassed by the Chinese and Koreans, and even lost to PSG (although we know they would have had better chances against TSM). And MAD Lions became the first team from a major region to get out in Play-ins, and to lose a BO5 to a Wildcard team.
Only counting their top 2, Europe is 8-4 in the scheduled BO1s, and goes toe to toe with Korea and China. Including the other seeds, it becomes “9-9 plus one team that didn’t even make it there”.
In comparison, all teams sent by Korea and China had a strong showing (albeit shakier for China’s fourth seed), and as it’s possible that Korea gets a fourth spot instead of Europe next year, that fourth spot will expectedly be far more threatening than Rogue and MAD have been.
North America is not back to life yet
For the most time, NA consistently sent one team in quarters – exactly one, and that team would then lose. But then, the region had one year of brilliance come Worlds 2018. One year during which they were the third best region, above Korea, finishing in semis at Worlds 2018 and in finals at MSI 2019, while the LCK representatives only reached quarters and semis at those two events, respectively.
This time was followed by North America’s worst showing since 2015, with no team making it out of Groups at Worlds 2019. And as fans were rightfully wondering what to expect out of them this year (… while admittedly having the lowest expectations), Worlds 2020 wound up one game away from being an exact repeat of 2019 for the LCS.
Liquid went out after being 3-3 like every single year they’ve gone to Worlds, TSM went 0-6 in a group C that unfolded exactly like last year’s, and FlyQuest were on the way to repeat last year’s 2-4 from Cloud9 but stepped up on the final day.
There have been some signs of life this year, hints that the region’s strength went up slightly. TL taking a game off of both G2 and Suning and FlyQuest winning against TOP Esports were impressive feats. The problem is that to join the higher tier, these occurrences need to be the norm, rather than “incredible upsets” – as for now, NA has ended this tournament with a record of 3-11 against major regions, and is once more out in groups.
Ever since competitive play became more organized come 2013, there has always been “the gap”, this massive level difference separating two sets of teams. For the most time, it has designated the difference between Korea and the rest, with any win against the LCK automatically being seen as an upset.
2018, Korea’s fall, was the first time we started wondering if that gap could really be gone. But when Korea fell, China wound up swiftly replacing them, alongside Fnatic and G2 – and even then, the LCK ended up recovering and joining them again.
“The gap” is still very much there, only what goes on each side has changed. No more “Korea is expected to win every game”; but it’s instead Korea, China’s top teams, and Fnatic/G2 that are immediately given as favorites against any other opponent. Obviously, teams aren’t evenly matched within that tier, and it’s also not clear either how many Chinese teams belong in it. But this is the new gap lies within each region’s strength.
Wildcards threaten teams on a slump, but no more
From 2016 on, Wildcards have shown that they could compete, only much more rarely than major regions. Their peak has also seemed far lower. This year, however, we’ve seen the new extent of their strength – as well as its limits.
LGD got into serious trouble against Wildcards, going 1-3 in the scheduled games of their Play-ins groups. MAD even got eliminated by a Wildcard team after following the same path in groups. And very notably, this year marked the first ever BO5 win for a Wildcard against a major region’s representative.
However, this is where the good news stop for them. With the exception of Supermassive’s win against MAD Lions, Wildcard teams haven’t achieved a single win against major regions after the first stage of Play-ins, going 0-12 from that point on (and 3-14 including the BO5 against MAD).
Wildcards now force teams to pick up the pace quickly in Play-ins, as they will be a threat to them elsewise. Other than that, they are still clearly outmatched.
Tune back in on the 15th when Playoffs will complete the talks on region’s strength by finally showing which one is the best this year, and follow us on Twitter and Instagram if you want to get all Worlds news until then straight to your feed!