The LPL wins Rift Rivals for second year in a row
The tournament final started with a match between Invictus Gaming and KT Rolster. Kim "Deft" Hyuk-kyu surprised the audience when he picked Vel’Koz in the bottom lane, and Go "Score" Dong-bin surprised his Chinese opponents with an early first blood as the game got underway.
Both junglers focused the top lane in the early game, favoring KT Rolster. The Korean team took the first turret in the top lane at 12 minutes. This opened the map and allowed the Score to invade other lanes.
Thanks to Song "Rookie" Eui-jin, Invictus got back in the game with an ace after a team fight at 28 minutes. KT recovered to secure a baron and used the resulting buff to push through and end the game in the Korean team’s favor.
The second match brought some famous names to the rift. Royal Never Give Up and SK Telecom T1 are two of the most popular teams in League of Legends. SKT decided to try a funnel composition and as a result Jian "Uzi" Zi-Hao and Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok met in a dream match in the bottom lane.
Despite the epic nature of the bottom lane duel, the game was ultimately decided by the junglers. Liu "Mlxg" Shi-Yu was more aggressive and assertive, and it was his constant presence that led to a victory for RNG at only 22 minutes.
Afreeca Freecs and Edward Gaming then took the stage with the series tied 1-1. Afreeca Freecs managed the map’s objectives better, downing all of Edward Gaming's outer turrets by the 20-minute mark while the Chinese side was unable to take a single turret of their own.
Hu "iBoy" Xian-Zhao kept EDG in the game with an outstanding performance with Kai’Sa, but an earned Baron buff and a big team fight victory in the ensuing mayhem ended the game in Afreeca's favor.
King-Zone DragonX jumped into the rift to try and seal the deal for the LCK versus the underdog Rogue Warriors. The Chinese team decided to try a composition with strong pushing potential. This strategy gave them an advantage even after an early game that favored King-Zone.
The star of the game was mid-laner Kim "Doinb" Tae-sang with a surprising Kled pick in the mid lane. Even after losing the first turret in lane, Doinb found the requisite farm to enable him to outplay his King-Zone opponents. Doinb finished the game with four kills and five assists for an 87% kill participation. Rogue Warriors' upset victory gave the LPL another chance.
So it was that the entire tournament came down to a final game between Afreeca and RNG. The best of both sides went out once again to give it all for their respective regions.
Both teams had standard compositions, but the surprise was the lane switch between Liu "Zz1tai" Zhi-Hao and Li "Xiaohu" Yuan-Hao. Zz1tai returned to the mid lane and Xiaohu became a top laner for the day. This rotation seemed to throw off Afreeca, and combined with Mlxg's strong performance from the jungle, RNG took every advantage they could in the early game.
A mistake by Park "TusiN" Jong-ik would cost Afreeca the game. The support initiated a fight in a bad position and ended up dead alongside AD Carry Kim "Aiming" Ha-ram. RNG took the enemy nexus and the victory for the LPL for a second time in Rift Rival's history.
For years the numbers have been in Korea’s favor with five World Championships and two Mid-Season Invitational but when it comes to Rift Rivals, the story is different. These teams are likely to meet again at the World Championship that is taking place in South Korea. If RNG’s winning ways continue, we could see the first Chinese League of Legends World Champion in history.
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