Melany M. July 6, 2019
The LCK has seeded directly into the Rift Rivals 2019 finals.
Damwon Gaming, Griffin, Kingzone DragonX, and SK Telecom T1 combined for seven wins in the group stage. That tally puts the Korean teams in first place, followed by the LPL with five victories. The coalition of the LMS and VCS finished third with no wins.
Since its creation in 2017, Rift Rivals has been the Achilles’ heel for the LCK. The Korean teams are no strangers to international success but despite historically dominating prominent events like the Mid-Season Invitational and League World Championships, the region has consistently fallen short at Rift Rivals.
The LCK entered with a new approach
This year, the four representatives changed their approach to the event. Instead of competing like four individuals, the teams worked together by exchanging strategies and knowledge. The goal is to take the title in what might be the last edition of the flash tournament.
There’s a whole region’s pride on the line and the LCK is not taking it lightly. While Rift Rivals is a relatively casual event for North America and Europe, it is no trivial matter in Asia. The results may not have Worlds implications but the bragging rights are more than enough.
In a post-match press conference, Kingzone’s head coach Kang "Hirai" Dong-hoon talked about the cooperation among the teams. He admitted that it hasn’t been an easy process for any of the organizations, especially considering they still have six weeks of domestic competition ahead.
New LCK teams shining this summer
The LCK committee consists of two well-known teams in SKT and Kingzone, and two up-and-coming organizations.
Griffin took the LCK by storm in summer 2018. Just out of Challengers Korea, the rookie team made a lasting impression in the League of Legends scene. They are wild and willing to experiment, which has made Griffin trendsetters across all regions.
Damwon shares a similar story, getting promoted in spring 2019. Alongside Griffin and fellow recent promotion SANDBOX Gaming, the top of the LCK has taken on a very different look of late. The trio are standing atop the LCK at the moment and are committed to staying there.
Still, SKT and Kingzone have looked refreshed at Rift Rivals and have pulled their weight to this point.
Though Kingzone has slid down the standings, the team is still in the hunt in the summer split and has been pegged as one of the strongest candidates to take out G2 Esports if they meet at Worlds. Meanwhile, Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok has found his stride once again and is playing more aggressive than ever before. The unkillable god is leaving behind the passive style and is forcing everyone on SKT to get with the program.
Is Rift Rivals 2019 the last one?
According to several sources, Rift Rivals will not return in 2020. The tournament has no Worlds implications and its placement in the middle of the summer split makes it inconvenient for organizations and leagues. Meanwhile, the small prize pool and intercontinental travel requirements make it no more appealing for players.
Riot Games canceled the tournament for emerging regions and the major regions might be next. That means this is likely the last chance for the LCK to clean up that stain on their history.
The LPL will face off with the LMS and VCS team for the opportunity to face the LCK in the finals. The finals are set for July 7.