While the NA LCS failed to overcome the EU LCS at Rift Rivals, the NA faithful were still hopeful that their representatives would be able to draw upon those lessons and apply them moving forward. Alas, even though the popular picks had changed since then, the three competitors still failed to impress as each stumbled to a disappointing 1-1 week.
Rift Rivals competitors continue to struggle
Team Liquid started the week with a strong showing over the faltering Optic Gaming, but they were thoroughly outplayed the next day by a surging FlyQuest. The willingness to try new compositions was apparent, as Team Liquid employed a funnel strat for their first match (a rarity for the squad), and attempted to move Doublelift off of a marksman onto Vladimir in the second match. While the results may not have been what Liquid were aiming for, diversifying their playbook in this way could well pay dividends looking ahead to Worlds. Echo Fox were quick to adopt the strategies of their European counterparts as well, using a Heimerdinger/Fiddlesticks composition in the first match of the week against Counter Logic Gaming. Although CLG would ultimately prevail in the match, Echo Fox would rebound the next day to secure a victory in their match against Team SoloMid. As they have all season, Echo Fox continued to tinker with their roster, utilizing mid-laner Tanner "Damonte" Damonte in both of their matches this week. 100 Thieves launched a new roster at Rift Rivals, handing a debut to their much-anticipated new player, Vietnamese jungler Đỗ "Levi" Duy Khánh. His time as a starter was short-lived, however, as Levi was pulled from the starting roster in favour of former FlyQuest jungler Andy "AnDa" Hoang after a 1-3 record at Rift Rivals. While they were able to overcome TSM to begin the week, it was clear from the many mistakes in their loss to Golden Guardians that their current roster still needs time to grow and synergize.
Golden Guardian seize their first post-franchising 2-0
In the first split after franchising, Golden Guardians struggled like no other. Stuck at the bottom of the standings, Golden Guardians knew they would need to make changes if they hoped to compete in the Summer Split. The first move was the decision of mid-laner Hai “Hai” Du Lam to retire from professional League of Legends. A star in the NA LCS since Cloud 9’s first arrival, Hai was renowned for the leadership and shot-calling he brought to a team. While these skills have largely remained intact over the years, a slow decay in his mechanical skill had pushed him toward the bottom of the best mids in the League. Hai’s replacement is in many ways his opposite. Son "Mickey" Young-min was acquired from Team Liquid’s Academy team and immediately become the starter for Golden Guardians, Lauded for his mechanical skills, Mickey was still seen as a very raw talent, with inconsistencies in his play that gave many teams second thoughts about making him their starter on a weekly basis. Golden Guardians moved forward with Mickey, and despite a slow start has finally begun to find their groove. With victories over Clutch Gaming and 100 Thieves in week 4, Golden Guardians secured their first ever 2-0 week and brought their season record to 4-4. In easily his best week of the Split, Mickey was unlocked by the selections of Zoe and Talon in the mid lane. Placed in a role where he could translate his strong laning into advantages across the map, Mickey worked in tandem with strong play from jungler Juan "Contractz" Arturo Garcia to propel Golden Guardians to their undefeated week. Moving forward, Golden Guardians may have one of the highest ceilings among the current NA LCS rosters. Blending high potential players with young talent, Golden Guardians has proven they are no longer a team that can be overlooked.