The History of North America
Every other region has made it to the World Championship Final at least once, with Korea showing up twice. North America, on the other hand, not only has never made it to the xpeke finals, but it hasn’t even made it past the quarterfinals since the 2010 Season World Championship at Dreamhack.
At that time, League of Legends was in its infancy, with little in the way of an established meta, let alone a thriving competitive scene. Six of the eight qualifying xpeke kassadin s4 teams were from either North America or Europe, with two Asian teams from what we’d now call the GPL. The North American scene had the majority of the well-known League of Legends players, including current NA pros Dyrus, Doublelift, Westrice, and Xpecial.
At first, it looked like NA’s all-star lineups would lead them to dominance within the tournament, as Epik Gamer, Team SoloMid, and Counter Logic Gaming went a combined 7-2 in the Group phase. However, once the playoffs started, they found themselves unable to compete with European teams, who had a secret weapon. That weapon? The modern laning meta. European teams ran an AD Carry and support as their duo lane, and on the back of that strategy, the region took both slots in the finals. In fact, NA teams were a combined 2-8 against the eventual finalists, aAa and Fnatic.
By the time Season 2’s World Championship xpeke kassadin rolled around, North America had lost even the most basic foothold on the international scene. TSM had a bye into the playoffs, while two other North American teams, Dignitas and CLG, qualified for the Group phase. Neither made it out. Likewise, TSM fell 0-2 to Azubu Frost in the first round of the playoffs.
It wasn’t that their players were untalented. In fact, Doublelift was renowned worldwide as one of the best ADCs. But once again, the region could not keep pace with the constantly evolving meta. Time after time, North American teams simply lost the objective war, falling behind in dragon and baron gold even in those games that they remained even in kills and CS. Even the renowned TSM fell behind Azubu Frost on dragon and tower gold alone.
xpeke kassadin season 4 talent. They smashed half of the scene, with a dominant 14-2 record against the bottom four teams, and 2-2 records against CLG, TSM, and - most notably - Cloud9.
Unfortunately, in the Group stage of the World Championship, Team Vulcun lived up to their Throwbargains nickname, taking down eventual group winner Fnatic in their xpeke kassadin play first game, then losing game after game to careless errors. Ultimately, Vulcun and TSM took 4th place in their respective Group stages - only beating out the International Wildcard teams, and failing to advance to the quarterfinals.
Cloud9 stood as North America’s last and best hope. What made Cloud9 so special? First of all, they stood head and shoulders above all other North American teams. In their LCS debut split, they posted a commanding 25-3 season, only dropping games to Vulcun and CLG and going on to sweep the playoffs. But most interestingly, they seemed to be the change that the North American scene needed. Before Cloud9, the mindset for North American teams xpeke kassadin highlights was all wrong. The original NA players had all been solo queue streamers, and it showed in their mindset. They wanted to be the best, but they also didn’t know how to learn from others, or admit their weaknesses.
What really separated Cloud9 from other North American teams - and resembled Korean play - was an extreme focus on the theory of the game.
First, Cloud9 had a heavy focus on turning any advantage - especially kills - into mid-game objectives: dragon and towers. Cloud9 took 253 towers, 39 more than their closest competitor, and 68 dragons, 8 more than the next-highest team. They also took the second-most barons, 24, which was only two behind Vulcun’s 26.
Second, Cloud9 had an analyst, supplemented by LemonNation’s iconic draft-phase notebook. Both of these tools gave Cloud9 a heightened sense of objectivity and humility, which led to both extremely selfless playstyles and an almost obsessive fixation on improvement from every player on the team. Ultimately, this is what Cloud9 brought in from Korea, the idea that other teams and regions had something to teach you because “players that xpeke kassadin 2014 believe they are the best refuse to look outwards to improve themselves, and play badly because of that,” as LemonNation put it.
And then, amidst a veritable storm of hype, Cloud9 fell in a disappointing 1-2 to Fnatic in the quarterfinal of the 2013 World Championship. Yet another North American team to get a bye into the quarterfinals only to be eliminated immediately.
So what happened? Cloud9 hadn’t ever needed to alter their champion pool much and weren’t “given that much trouble in the LCS for it,” according to Meteos. In other words, without any challenge, Cloud9 had no need or means to improve or innovate, and it showed when they faced their first challenge, Fnatic.
Since then, Cloud9 has defined the North American scene internationally, taking down Taiwan’s Taipei Assassins and China’s World Elite at IEM Katowice, as well as xpeke kassadin s4 Fnatic, Taipei Assassins, and even OMG during the group stages at All-Stars. (Cloud9 eventually lost to OMG in the All-Stars playoffs.)
So what makes the 2014 World Championship so important for North America? They are still waiting for a chance to prove themselves on the international scene, and get even a single World Championship series match win against a Chinese or Korean team. According to Meteos, “all the other [NA] teams this split are a lot better,” as they have learned what it takes from Cloud9, and this increased competition has led to the most competitive NA scene ever. This year just might be the year NA is strong enough to make a splash in the international pond.