RNG the diamond in LPL's Rift Rivals' crown
Can LPL take their winning streak all the way to Worlds 2018?
The League of Legends Pro League did not let down their home crowd in Dalian, China this weekend. It was a long, bloody fight going to Game 5 of Royal Never Give Up versus Afreeca Freecs. And in the end, RNG’s experience and decisive map pressure gave them the victory over AFS.
While RNG’s two wins kept LPL’s regional dominance, it was Rogue Warriors who showed up to defend their region’s pride and played an impressive Game 4 -- giving RNG their chance to make that last hit against LCK.
RW were up against KING-ZONE DragonX, South Korea’s number one seed. And while KZ had a disappointing performance during the Rift Rivals group stage, going 0-2, they’re still a strong team to be reckoned with.
RW brought the game with a Karthus Karma bot lane and Doinb’s Kled mid lane. When they locked in Karthus, casters went wild. This was going to be an oppressive bot lane done LPL style.
They did have some dicey moments early game, with a fail flash in the dragon pit. But RW turned the game around with a perfectly executed dive on KZ’s bot lane outer turret, and then quickly took down a turret and a Rift Herald.
The clear man of the match however was Doinb.
The 21-year-old mid laner played an impressive Kled, showing just how hard he can carry with the Cantankerous Cavalier. He got RW key map presence by charging down stray KZ members and picking them off, outplaying KZ on positioning. And finally RW cracked KZ by collapsing on them in the dragon pit, with Doinb 1v3 in the backline with his Kled, and taking the LPL to Game 5.
Later he laughed as he told LPL caster Clement Chu that he was really nervous right before the match, but checked Weibo and found a voice message from his girlfriend. After listening to that recording, he wasn’t nervous anymore. But he kept his lips sealed on what was said.
(Someone give Doinb’s girlfriend an honorary Rift Rivals medal!)
Regardless of what motivated Doinb to engage his super carry mode, RW’s job was done and they handed over the baton to RNG, who didn’t disappoint.
And it’s poetic that RNG is in charge of taking the crown for LPL. It’s been a good international winning streak for the team this year.
While AFS have some of the best players in the LCK, and is rising through the ranks in one of the most competitive regions the world, Rift Rivals is their first international tournament.
There’s a lot of regional pride riding on this game. As analysts put it... this decides who is the best, strongest league in the world.
But picking a standard lane set up seemed to doom AFS from the get go.
RNG set the tone for the game early on. Zz1Tai rotated to mid lane with his Aatrox, and punished Kuro’s painfully immobile Anivia early on. And up on top lane, Xiaohu scored a double kill the moment he hit level six.
Within 15 minutes, RNG took two turrets, two kills, a dragon and was 3000 gold ahead. And AFS was sitting on just one kill.
Still, AFS made RNG work for their win. The South Korean team managed to stall out the game for several minutes. The two sides danced around each other, with a few daring skirmishes in the mid lane, but RNG found AFS a very tough turtle to crack open.
It was through over 15 minutes of chipping away at AFS that RNG managed to finally find a good pick on Aiming and TusiN, and take Baron and a dragon.
But the killing blow for AFS was this baffling and horribly misplayed ult by TusiN.
With no friendly minions even close to their top lane inner turret, and their teammates preoccupied with the other lanes, TusiN’s Tahm Kench somehow decided to deliver Aiming’s Xayah right into the waiting arms of RNG.
It was a bloodbath.
The two were instantly taken down and the game was over, with RNG charging forward into the base in delight and ending the game to the defending roars of their fans in Dalian.
Rift Rivals 2018 was a defining moment for LPL and RNG. With two decisive victories against the best LCK has to offer this year, could RNG round up this year with the World Championship 2018 trophy?
The team has Uzi, who is at the peak of his career, and is arguably one of the top League of Legends players in the world right now. And the well-loved player is confident and delighted in his team’s performance this year.
“We kept a very good mental state throughout,” Uzi said in his post-match interview with Chu, “and so everything is going smoothly. I’m so happy, I never thought I could get to the finals of every tournament and actually come away with the gold for all of them.”
“This was important because this lets the world really see how strong the LPL is as a region.”
The LPL teams all showed a great sense of unity to secure their title during this weekend. But now it’s time to head back to the regular summer split and start fighting for the spot to go to Worlds 2018.