Last season, North America made some impressive progress on the international stage at the League of Legends World Championship. Cloud9, in particular, made it all the way to the semi-final, ultimately losing to the EULCS powerhouse Fnatic. While it was a valiant showing, Cloud9’s efforts weren’t enough to get into the finals. But now that NA has shown we can be a true contender and we aren’t flukes like many regions have seen us over the year, what does NA need to do to get over the hump?
Historically, NA’s international showing has been somewhat lackluster. Teams either make it to group stages and get immediately knocked out, or we get the magical runs by teams like Cloud9 only to fall short. There’s one thing I, in particular, noticed throughout the entire season and during Worlds that can help catapult our region into stardom. The key things to watch out for this season include supports, top laners, and overall macro play. Since I’m already gushing about Cloud9, let’s focus on one of their breakout players this year starting with their rookie support Zeyzal.
Supports are the real carries
Playing support in League of Legends is a key role in which keeping your AD carry alive, setting up plays, and surveying the map is vital to success in the bottom lane. While a rookie, Zeyzal was a diamond in the rough among NA supports showing his aggressiveness in a lane. I was particularly impressed with his Braum and Tahm Kench play, setting up AD carry superstar Sneaky for success. He was a support who wouldn’t hesitate to flash Q or ult at any moment, something I rarely saw from other supports last year aside from 100 Thieves aphromoo. Typically you wait for your AD carry to farm up to be in a position to fight in the mid to late game, but Cloud9’s bottom lane took every opportunity to make early plays without even having to wait for roams or teleports from the rest of the team. If other NA teams can emulate Cloud9’s aggressiveness, bot lanes in our region would be more fearsome on the international stage.
Top Laners – find a balance between aggressive play and patience
Next, I want to look at another rookie on Cloud9. Top laner Licorice was a standout for me last year dominating opponents with a fairly wide champion pool, including Aatrox, Poppy, and Lissandra to name a few. Top lane is a tricky position to play properly. Generally, you have to look to make plays on your own, wait for your jungler, or look for a teleport play where your team needs help. I like to think of top laners as the centers of basketball, always looking to protect your team while looking for ways to elevate your team at the same exact time. Although he didn’t pull Poppy out too much this year, he had an impressive game during Worlds against Gambit Esports. Licorice ran a fine line between playing passively and knowing when to dive head first into the enemy Makoai and the rest of the opposing team. At around the 10-minute mark, Licorice was being dove by the Maokai and Nocturne which seemed like a lost fight. But he amazingly repositioned himself, ulted the Maokai out of the fight, and ended up taking Nocturne out with him under the tower. Plays like that take some ungodly amount of decision making that only players like Licorice can pull off. While most top laners would end up losing that fight or play too passively to even bring attention up there, Licorice had the patience and foresight to come out with a kill.
Learn from other regions – particularly Korea
Cloud9, in particular, was one of the first teams to really adopt the patient, yet assertive playstyle Korea has been known for since the beginning. They always looked for plays a few minutes ahead that could pull the team ahead by the mid to late game. Too many LCS teams are focused on the early game, but Cloud9 has almost perfected the style of patience yet assertiveness. If North America can really embrace this play style, I wouldn’t be surprised if we’d see multiple NA teams make it out of group stage and contend for the finals sport in the 2019 World Championship. I’m really expecting supports and top laners in NA to make significant improvements this year after watching Cloud9’s performance. Hopefully, we can finally claim the top spot after hiding in the shadows for so long.
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