Rift Rivals between North America and Europe is upon us, and ESPN is covering the battle for supremacy this weekend between the two finalist regions at the recent Mid-Season Invitational. We had two of our esports writers do a fantasy draft to assemble their best teams from the eligible pool of players from Team Liquid, Team SoloMid, Cloud9, G2 Esports, Fnatic and Origen competing at the LCS Arena starting Thursday.
Snake draft format. After the first pick, each writer gets two picks until both teams are filled.
They're building six-person rosters with five starters and one substitute, per international tournament rules.
Both regions must be represented equally, so each writer will pick three NA players and three EU players.
Without further ado, here are the results of the draft:
1. Rasmus "Caps" Winther, mid laner, G2 Esports
Who else was it going to be? If I'm building a team for the present or future, I need a crown jewel, and there is no better fit for my team than the recently awarded MVP of MSI and back-to-back international finalist Caps. He is arguably the best player in the world at this very moment and is one of the few players in the world whom teams have to strategize around in the mid lane. Honestly, after this pick, I feel like I've already won. The French soccer team has Kylian Mbappé, and my team has Caps. Give me the Summoner's Cup already.
2. Mads "Broxah" Brock-Pedersen, jungler, Fnatic
No one who knows me, even vaguely through written content, will be surprised by my decision to take a jungler first, though they might be surprised (or incensed) that I decided to take Broxah first. It also shouldn't come as a shock that I tried to pick a team as a unit instead of assembling a team based on some sort of nebulous fantasy points system. Also, since I am less familiar in terms of analysis with Europe than the other major regions, I should preface this entire thought experiment with that.
As Broxah has matured as a jungler, he has done so on a team that has typically hyperfocused on one side of the map over the other. You can insert the Fnatic bot lane resource jokes here, but this also has more recently occurred with Broxah pathing top (or mid depending on if Fnatic do an early-game flex) for Gabriël "Bwipo" Rau. Fnatic's mid games have issues, but they have some of the more interesting early looks (second to Origen), and with the rest of this odd fantasy European team, I wanted Broxah for this particular focus.
3. Martin "Wunder" Hansen, top laner, G2 Esports
Wunder is the crown jewel of this hypothetical team. He has enough talent to single-handedly carry games all on his own. He can play a variety of different champions and styles. If I had drafted first overall I would have picked Wunder as my first pick, even over G2 teammate Caps, because I don't think there is any other player who can do what he does so well in the top lane.
League of Legends global power rankings through June 25
G2 Esports fall out of the No. 1 slot as they lose to unbeaten Fnatic, while the rest of the top five hold steady in our League of Legends global power rankings.
4. Jo "CoreJJ" Yong-in, support, Team Liquid
Give me the best North American player! I already have the European MVP, and the best person to pair with him is the MVP of the LCS. CoreJJ might not actually be from North America, but he learned under the tutelage of Alan "KiWiKiD" Nguyen on Dignitas and is now a two-time world championship finalist, winning one of them in 2017 on Samsung Galaxy. I have my crown jewel in Caps and now have my talisman in CoreJJ. I couldn't be any happier with my first two picks.
5. Luka "Perkz" Perković, bot laner, G2 Esports
This is where it gets a bit tough. When it comes to bottom laners at this tournament, I don't feel like there is one player who really trumps everyone else at the position. So that leaves me with two choices: I can either pick for synergy between CoreJJ and his Team Liquid partner Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng, or I can go for versatility with Perkz and Caps being able to play hot potato with their champion selections. I'm going to go with Perkz. Before the MSI finals, I would have been in the Doublelift camp, but even Doublelift himself admitted that Perkz got the best of him in Taipei at MSI. Let's lock in that Syndra bottom carry.
6. Nicolaj "Jensen" Jensen, mid laner, Team Liquid
To play the style that Broxah seems to favor during his time on Fnatic -- picking a side, sticking with it -- a stable mid laner who can create opportunities for the team is also key.
For whatever reason, it took a long time for Jensen to earn respect from a large portion of the North American audience, going back to his time on Cloud9 through this past spring split on Team Liquid. Jensen's strengths in lane make him the most optimal pick for this team and also the least volatile. He can play a variety of champions who would flex between top and mid in draft as well, which is important in the current meta.
Through the years, I've criticized Jensen for his lack of synergy with his jungler regarding warding patterns or playing to a certain side of the lane. With the style that this hypothetical team would have, this would not be an issue.
7. Jesper "Zven" Svenningsen, bot laner, Team SoloMid
Like the Broxah pick, I think a lot of people will take issue with my choice of Zven. My reasoning for this is because Zven does this very European League of Legends player thing (at least, I've been told by EU pros and staff that this is a very EU thing), in which he's completely willing to take a hard losing matchup for the good of the team. In fact, I think he sees it as a challenge and test of his skill. This typically applies to scaling compositions with a stronger mid-to-late-game AD carry but has similarly applied to playing Sona throughout her reign of terror.
8. Marcin "Jankos" Jankowski, jungler, G2 Esports
Everything is going according to plan. We have both league MVPs, the Uma Jan himself in the bottom lane, and now I get to throw in the first blood king himself in the jungle. After four selections, I secured most of the core of G2 and TL's best player. In terms of junglers, I rated Broxah highly and might have taken him over Jankos if the opportunity presented itself, but like all great strategists, I let my opponent make my choice for me and scooped up Poland's finest.
9. Eric "Licorice" Ritchie, top laner, Cloud9
Finally, someone born in North America is off the board. I think Licorice is the best prospect NA has developed in recent memory, and I don't feel like we're close to having seen his ceiling yet. He is dwarfed by Wunder when it comes to top laners at this event, but after G2's titan, I don't think Licorice is out of place alongside Europe's other two top laners. On this hypothetical team, the pressure would be off him to be the ace like he is nowadays on Cloud9, and his flexibility when it comes to playing tanks, utility or carries would be perfect for a core that already has so much fluidity.
10. Mihael "Mikyx" Mehle, support, G2 Esports
On G2, Mikyx helps dictate the pace of the lane for Perkz, who is still transitioning into the bot lane role. Rumor has it that G2 bulldozed through the Mid-Season Invitational recently with very little scrim time as a team. Regardless of whether this is true, or whether Mikyx simply didn't play in those scrims due to his injury, the fact that Mikyx was able to return seamlessly to the team and help lead it to the MSI title is impressive. Of the supports remaining, I chose Mikyx for his versatility.
11. Andy "Smoothie" Ta, support, Team SoloMid
Smoothie is the lone North American player on my roster who is actually from North America. That's right, due to the fact that we identified players solely by what region they play in currently, not where they actually hail from, I have emerged the proud owner of an all-European starting lineup. Smoothie is here due to the coordination that he has developed with Zven, and in case of a Mikyx injury flare-up.
12. Søren "Bjergsen" Bjerg, mid laner, Team SoloMid
Perfection. I have G2's core, the LCS MVP and North America's far-and-away best top laner. How can I make this team even better? I'm just going to add the four-time NA MVP with my last pick. If Licorice remembers he is from North America and starts underperforming, I always have the option of slinging in Bjergsen to give me the death lineup of Bjergsen, Caps and Perkz, where there are no rules and Syndra is on the table for everyone.