Last week Cloud 9 swept Fnatic at the Battle of the Atlantic to earn themselves their first victory against an international team, and a little bit of sweet revenge from the Season 3 World Championships. At the same time they clinched a victory for North America over Europe with a 5-4 score, even though Europe took three of the five matches.
onGamers spoke to Cloud 9's Daerek 'LemonNation' Hart and Zachary 'Sneaky' Scuderi, and Fnatic's Lauri 'Cyanide' Happonen and Enrique 'xPeke' Cedeño about the match, the rivalry between North America and Europe, and which teams look the strongest going into the 2014 LCS.
Welcome everyone. What were the key factors that determined the outcome of the match?
Daerek 'LemonNation' Hart: Fnatic is an extremely strong opponent, and we played very well vs them, so I am satisfied with that. I also believe we have adapted quite well to the large changes in the newest patch.
Zachary 'Sneaky' Scuderi: I'm really happy with our performance last weekend. We went into the match with basically all of North America relying on us and came out strong.
Enrique 'xPeke' Cedeño: At Worlds we were super prepared for the game in terms of practice and strategy. While they did prepare for it as another LCS game, they went there to play their game and found out they were facing something new to them. For BotA, we kinda did what they did at World's, we didn't do research, we didn't talk about picks bans or strategy until we were there.
Lauri 'Cyanide' Happonen: The meta changed and also Hai started to play different champions and perhaps played a bit better as well, and due to our poor communication at points that managed to snowball with Kassadin/Kha.
What were the biggest obstacles/changes you were looking out for in the new patch, both individually and as a new team?
Hart: Figuring out what to do at level 1 to ensure you get at least two buffs without significant risk if you have a weaker level 1 was our main objective, and figuring out how to exploit teams when you have a stronger level 1 took a lot of exploration. The early game was seemingly the main issue when playing Fnatic at worlds. Fnatic and other European teams seemed to favor starting Doran's shield and actual 0 wards at level 1 at BotA. This allowed us to have fine level 1's, even though we actually had weaker level 1 champions.
Scuderi: Deciding on which trinkets to use at what times was an important thing to solve, and when to upgrade these trinkets. At first I had thought having the ward clear from the Sweeper was decent, but ended up going with the Warding totem since it has a lot more uses early game. The biggest change to overall strategy happened during the level 1's, since the vast majority of teams are using between 0-2 wards at level 1 (before trinkets come into play at 1:30). Our level one strategy was overall better than what we used at worlds. It involved taking a lot less risk and allowing us to get an advantage in the case that they facechecked us. With the changes in the patch about kills giving less gold early, only Draven can actually buy anything to get an advantage off of a kill level one.
Cedeño: The main reason for the loss is probably lack of practice. When we faced them at worlds we had 3-4 months of intensive gaming every weekend and a competitive environment to practice, and during week we were playing everyday. After worlds we didn't practice for a month or two. Our level went down. Even though we managed to catch up in skill level for BotA, our teamplay was not the same. We were not as confident as before and that is what makes you play worse. When you feel confident in your game and your teammates is when you make the best moves.
Happonen: We need to adapt our gameplay a bit since Rekkles plays totally different than puszu. Also before Worlds we had tons of LCS and even more practice. Our communication was a bit off. No fault of Rekkles though, I think he played the best of us all in BotA. We never got any advantage from level 1's unlike in worlds which was a factor as well.
Besides the patch, what were the main concerns for Cloud 9 regarding Fnatic itself going into the match?
Hart: We were worried about them running an annoying kite comp with Sivir/Karma. We were obviously going to ban Kassadin on purple side, and we were surprised when they left it open. Has that Champion lost a game at high level play in the past 3 months? We had never seen the Renekton counter pick to Kassadin before, but it did not work out for them that game. I think it was misguided, but I could be wrong about that, we will see.
Scuderi: Ziggs was also a big concern for us. He has extremely high pressure early, insane waveclear mid-game, and just scales really well. After seeing XPeke play it at Cologne and the success the champion was having in all of the other games we decided to just ban it out.
Cloud 9 was considered a cut above the rest of North American teams in 2013, is that still the case?
Hart: TSM is better than us now. They have been looking very good in scrims. Bjergsen is an extremely strong player mechanically and decision making wise. TSM TSM TSM!
NA officially won the BotA by one point, but Europe had one more match win. Does one region have a clear advantage over the other?
Hart: There is no clear winner. I will say that I respect Gambit immensely and that they look extremely scary right now.
Scuderi: I think Xpecial said it best with "It's safe to say that EU has a higher quantity of top teams, but NA isn't far behind in quality." On any given day, top NA teams can take a set off the top EU teams and vice-versa.
Cedeño: I would still think if you count both regions Europe has more quantity of good teams that NA. The only teams I'm ever afraid to face are Cloud 9 and TSM (though I haven't faced TSM in a long time so i dont really know their actual level). While we have more teams that are really scary, I also think that if we faced someone else and maybe Gambit or Alliance faced Cloud 9, Europe would have won the BotA (our level for that tournament was not the seed 1 team level we had before).
Happonen: I think at the time of BotA we were not the strongest EU team and I think Gambit or perhaps even Alliance (not sure about them though) would have done better. Overall I'd say Europe has stronger teams but C9 is a force to be reckoned with.
Was the level of play seen by the other region as expected coming in?
Scuderi: I don't come into tournaments with expectations. Expectations one way or another will only hurt you when you are trying to play.
Cedeño: Ehm no. Only Cloud 9 played as I expected (which is really really good). The rest of the games I thought they would do better. Oh yea and TSM, they did good vs Lemondogs.
Who are the best teams in NA and EU right now heading into the 2014 season?
Hart: Having no experience vs Alliance or Alternate I cannot judge with 100% accuracy, but I would strongly think Gambit are the best team.
Scuderi: Alliance could be a serious contender for the #1 European team next split. Their roster looks really strong and they performed well against Dignitas. Although since Cologne, Gambit has definitely been the best team.
Happonen: Cloud 9 definitely improved, but other teams didn't really impress me. Hard to say about TSM as they played an inexperienced team but they might be strong with Bjergsen. EU teams I would say Gambit, Alliance, us, and maybe Alternate. The upcoming amateur teams might surprise me though. I think we are in a good place once we work out the issues that BotA revealed. NA teams I think TSM and Cloud 9 will be strong next season, but if other NA teams don't step up they will have a hard time performing at worlds if they just stomp through the NA LCS without having real competition.
The North America vs Europe showdown has been a staple of competition within the Western esports since it's inception with Quake and Counter-Strike. Do you feel there is a legitimate rivalry between NA vs EU in League of Legends?
Hart: Since we lost to Fnatic at worlds we certainly had some pride on the line. We also had a lot of fans putting pressure on us to win BotA FOR AMERICA. So I think these factors contributed to a rivalry.
Cedeño: During BotA I was more disappointed in the way we played than EU vs NA rivalry. Losing playing bad sucks a lot and all I think after the game is not EU or NA or anything, in my mind there is only one thought. Going back home and playing like crazy until I can play my best. I would like to face another NA team more often. Would be cool to have some tournament like this maybe with more games. I would like to see this format (I forgot the name of it) where first you send one team and that team keeps playing until it loses. Would be fun to see that. NA/EU Rivalry is something that people enjoy to see. Some people take it too far xD.
Happonen: Mostly for our fans yes, but personally I care much more about tournaments with more prize money and that hold a higher reward like Worlds or even Regionals. I of course cheer for EU and there is rivalry, but sometimes it's over-hyped.
Does Asia's dominance make any such rivalry a moot point as a competitor trying to win it all at Worlds?
Hart: And I don't think Asia's dominance moots any rivalry between NA and EU, I see no reason why it would.
Scuderi: Asia dominating the scene doesn't render rivalries useless in tournaments like S3 worlds. Having the best in NA and EU clash is always going to be an exciting point for fans and teams in any tournament. I hope in the near future NA can overcome all of them though!
Cedeño: It doesn't matter if there is a region that the worse team would beat all other teams. having small rivalries is always cool and fun
Happonen: Asian teams are beatable but they are definitely stronger at the moment. I think though at least EU teams have potential to surpass them by the time of next Worlds as there is a lot of promising teams and competition will be tough.
As the winning team, Cloud 9 gets the last Word.
Scuderi: Thanks to all of our fans! We officially won the tournament by one point. If the tournament had us losing before we even played our match, it would have been pretty sad and our victory would've meant a whole lot less. We pulled through. We got our revenge for North America and ourselves.
Image Credit: LoLesports.com