It’s no joke that North America hasn’t been the dominant region for years. Why? Because China and Korea have taken that position. That being said, the possible payout for a North American team winning Worlds would be huge. The earnings could be thousands—if not tens of thousands—for one win against a Chinese team or Korean team like Samsung Galaxy or Royal Never Give Up.
So, what does the North American region need to do in order to improve their game and come back next year stronger than ever? In this article, we’ll be examining every aspect of their game for what they need to improve to possibly win Worlds next year. What are we waiting for? Let’s get started!
The history of North America’s runs at Worlds are rich with history. Since 2014, the North American teams have been notorious for their mediocre to horrid performances in the Groups Stage. They’ve been known to dominate the Groups Stage in the first week and then throw it all away in the second week.
In 2014, Team SoloMid held a strong performance but were taken out by Samsung White, who would later go on to win the 2014 Worlds Championship. Cloud9 also made the Quarterfinals but were taken out by Samsung Blue, the brother of Samsung White.
Though both Team SoloMid and Cloud9 showed strong performances that year for the North American region, the same cannot be said for their 2015 season. 2015 was labeled as the year in which North America had faced its worst performance yet.
Though three teams from North America managed to make Worlds in 2015—Counter Logic Gaming, Team SoloMid, and Cloud9—none of them made it past the Groups Stage. Counter Logic Gaming went two and four. Cloud9 went three and four, and Team SoloMid went a horrid one and five.
The closest was Cloud9, who lost a tie-breaker to ahq e-Sports Club. Despite North America’s strong talents and substantial funding, its inability to make it past the Knockout Quarterfinals has portrayed North America as the “cursed” nation of League of Legends.
In 2016, the work ethic of the North American teams had significantly changed. Counter Logic Gaming managed to make the finals of the Mid-Seasonal Invitational, taking down Taiwan’s Flash Wolves to make their debut.
For the Summer Split, Team SoloMid, Cloud9, and Counter Logic Gaming managed to qualify for the International Stage. However, even with Counter Logic Gaming reaching new heights, and Team SoloMid’s re-vamped roster, only Cloud9 managed to make it through to the Groups Stage.
A large reason was because of the high amount of new, talented teams that had come into play. Counter Logic Gaming had to face against Albus NoX Luna and ROX Tigers. Team SoloMid had to face both Royal Never Give Up and Samsung Galaxy, while Cloud9 had to face South Korea Telecom and Flash Wolves.
Despite North America’s increased teamwork and stronger performances, they were unable to match the skill levels that the other teams had. Though they might’ve had a disappointing performance, it was evident that the North America scene had certainly improved.
This year, North America’s representatives were Team SoloMid, Cloud9, and Immortals. All three teams were certain hopefuls and they definitely showed it at the beginning of the Groups Stage. Starting out as the leading representatives, the trio of teams tried their hardest to represent their region.
Yet, despite their ambitious hopes, the “curse” of North America struck yet again.
Team SoloMid fell short to Team WE and Europe’s rookie team Misfits in a tiebreaker. Misfits also upset the entire stage by coming back from last place and securing themselves a spot in the Knockout Stage.
As for Immortals, their presence had certainly been felt in the first week. They dispatched Fnatic and GIGABYTE Marines, but despite their strong performance in the first week, they fell short in the second week to Longzhu Gaming and Fnatic, who, like Misfits, managed to come back from a 1-4 deficit.
The only North American team that managed to escape the Groups Stage was Cloud9, with a 3-3 record. They narrowly escaped a tiebreaker with ahq e-Sports Club that could’ve been their demise. Luckily for them, EDward Gaming managed to down the Taiwanese powerhouse.
If it’s not evident by now, their Groups Stage presence is not something that is considered highly commendable by usual standards. Throughout the history of the competitive scene, only one North American team has consistently made the Knockouts Stage—Cloud9.
What makes them tick? Why can Cloud9 consistently repeat the same performances every year, while their counterparts struggle to secure a spot into the Knockout Rounds? Today, we’ll be looking into that.
Escaping Groups Stage
It’s certainly no easy task to escape Groups Stage. The Groups are filled with the best teams from every region, and in order to make it past Groups, they need to be at the top of their game every week. Staying at this level requires heavy mental discipline and a calm mind throughout the entire period.
That’s what makes Cloud9 so successful. Their mental discipline is uncanny compared to most teams across the world. They’ve been known to reverse-sweep teams with their back against the wall and everything on the line. Because of this, they’ve managed to achieve accomplishments that many North American teams haven’t had a chance to even breeze over.
In the first week of the 2017 Groups Stage, it was evident that both Hauntzer and Doublelift from Team SoloMid were key aspects of their team’s strong performance. Haunzter was leading the team in their team fights and Doublelift was right behind him, carrying out consistent damage to follow up.
Despite their strong performance in week one, Haunzter failed to replicate this success in the second week, and when Doublelift was needed the most, he failed to show up, causing his team to lose a crucial team fight. The same can even for TSM’s mid laner, Bjergsen, during their tiebreaker against Misfits when he missed a crucial ultimate that could’ve secured them a Knockout Round spot.
The Immortals, in Group B, also showed up in the first week. Pobelter and Cody Sun were playing out of their minds. However, in week two, they threw away leads and blew crucial team fights that could have helped expedite their path towards victory.
Because of the NA teams’ inability to secure a strongly disciplined mind, they’ve been unable to show up consistently. They certainly have the mechanical and intellectual skills needed to perform against the Koreans. Now they just need the mental game.
It’s no surprise that Korea has the best training environment suited to competitive play. The environment which they possess requires every player to play at their best level, and those who don’t will have to face critical punishment from teammates.
Because of this, the Korean servers have managed to filter through some of the best players in the world. They have names that are known throughout the world, like Faker, Crown, and PawN, all of which are World Champions.
North American and European teams have gone to Korea specifically to scrimmage with the Korean teams, as well as put their individual talents to the test through the Korean Solo Queue ladder. However, despite North America’s dedication to having them play in Korea, this only happens before Worlds. Putting in a second trip to Korea’s Solo Queue Servers could be essential to North America’s well-being.
The regional teams certainly have the funds to do so. With Immortals being sponsored by various names—one of them being Hewlett-Packard—and Team SoloMid and Cloud9 having sponsorships with T-Mobile, Logitech, and HTC, money is certainly not a problem.
The intense training environment that Korea gives to their participants has shown clear results throughout the years and having the North American teams compete there will only expedite their skill growth.
Courage and Mechanical Game-Play
Sure, there’s no doubt that North American brand names like Team SoloMid and Cloud9 have the mechanical skill needed to compete against the Korean individuals. However, mechanical skills and mechanical game-play are two completely different things.
What do I mean? Mechanical skills are the ability to match an individual’s raw talent or performance, but their gameplay is how well they do in influencing the map with their pressure. Korea excels at this part of the game. It’s what helped South Korea Telecom win three World Championship titles.
Sure, you could be up by ten kills and have a 10k gold lead, but without any mechanical gameplay, your ability to utilize your advantage is utterly useless. With a strong mechanical gameplay, you can come back from any deficiency and create opportunities yourself, which is what Korea does so well and what North America needs to learn in order to work their way to a World Championship one day.
Don’t Stream! Practice!
While Korea has been notorious for their rigorous training environment, it’s largely their dedicated players that make this possible. Meanwhile, in both North America and Europe, the players are more leisure-oriented.
In North America and Europe, the pro players are more inclined towards using streaming platforms, like Twitch, for a large period of their time during off-season. This not only generates revenue for them, but it also has the potential to turn them into a large icon.
Meanwhile, in Korea, the pro players practice every single day like it’s a 9-5 job.
Sure, there are occasional streamers. South Korea Telecom’s players have been known to stream, but their consistency is not as high as those from the other regions.
In North America and Europe, players like Bjergsen, Doublelift, and Febiven have been known to be streaming icons. They may still be highly-skilled players that are respected around the world, but the ambition of becoming an icon by streaming to an audience can lower their skill-cap.
The players of Korea are more inclined to improve their skill, rather than streaming to an audience, and this is mainly because the esports industry is so large in their country that they’re already icons for their nation.
Meanwhile, in America, the icons of the nation are those in the NFL and NBA, obviously causing a higher popularity in the streaming platform, which gives gamers access to a larger audience. Despite this difference, the players of the other regions will need to adopt longer practice schedules in order to reach the level that matches the Koreans.
Overall 2017 Recap:
Many were shocked when Samsung Galaxy overthrew South Korea Telecom to win the 2017 Worlds Championship, but no one was surprised by North America’s mediocre performance. Though many fans were hopeful that it could possibly be North America’s big year, they weren’t surprised when two of the three teams fell in the Groups Stage.
Cloud9 may have been close, losing to Team WE in a tight five-setter. However, despite Cloud9’s close chance at making the Worlds Semifinals, they were still not successful, and North America went home empty-handed yet again.
It’s certainly possible for North America to win a World Championship. Counter Logic Gaming proved they weren’t a “cursed” region when they made the Mid-Seasonal Invitation Final and put up a fight against South Korea Telecom.
However, before North America can start plotting their path to Worlds, they’ll need to plan their game first, and there’s a lot that needs to be worked on. With more and more talents from North America showing their faces every day, there’s no doubt that the region is growing in strength day by day.
Plus, with the funding received from sponsorships from Geico, T-Mobile, HTC, Logitech, and many more big-name companies, money isn’t a problem. Many might see North America as a weaker region than most, with their inability to consistently qualify, but with the right mind-set, practice, and work ethic, they’ll be able to achieve anything.
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