Dissecting the LCS’s worst performance in League of Legends Worlds history

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Oct 21

The results of the three teams representing the LCS through the group stage of Worlds 2022 were the worst in the history of North American LoL esports.

All three teams failed to escape their respective groups and ended their Worlds 2022 runs with 1-5 records for a cumulative group stage record of 3-15. Before 2022, NA’s worst group stage performance at Worlds was in 2015 with a record of 5-13, when the region as a whole went 5-4 in week 1 before going 0-10 in week 2 – Cloud9, who started Worlds 2015 3-0, lost all three week 2 matches and a tiebreaker.

North American fans are no stranger to disappointment on the international stage – this is the third time in four years that all three LCS representatives have failed to escape the group stage – but after a 2022 season with a lot of domestic parity, supporters of the LCS (perhaps wrongly) expected more collectively from Cloud9, 100 Thieves, and Evil Geniuses. What exactly went so wrong to lead to the worst international performance in the history of North American League of Legends esports?

More often than not, teams from South Korea and China – and Europe, a fair amount, too – boast more individual talent than North American teams, and while this was the case this year, a few other factors exacerbated this particular issue for LCS teams this year.

Evil Geniuses exited the Worlds 2022 Play-Ins in a clean sweep over MAD Lions. In the best-of-five, EG continued to build upon what they found had worked for them in the group stage of the Play-Ins, but against the superior skill level of the competition in Group B of the main stage, EG struggled to replicate that success.

Cloud9 and 100 Thieves, on the other hand, had the opposite problem. With no Play-Ins matches to play, C9 and 100 quickly found out that they weren’t going to be able to win games the same way they did domestically.

100 Thieves top laner Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho is the best Fiora in the LCS, but wasn’t able to find a win on the pick. C9 won their 2022 LCS Championship title off of superior laning phases and unparalleled champion pool depth, and those two strengths carry far less weight against superior international competition. All three NA wins in the Worlds 2022 group stage featured the top laner of each team on a low-econ, team-focused tank champion.

What could lead to such a misread on the meta? After Cloud9 lost their second game of Group A against EDward Gaming, support Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen sat down with Factor to discuss how their preparation for Worlds 2022 had left them without definitive answers.

After Cloud9’s third loss of Group A to T1, jungler Robert “Blaber” Huang echoed a similar sentiment, stating that the dynamic between Cloud9 and other teams in the LCS Championship had been flipped out of their favor against international competition. “We had the biggest champion pools because we could play all the matchups; we could win the lanes and play their counterpicks,” Blaber said in a post-match interview with Factor. “It doesn’t feel like that at Worlds. It feels like other teams were the ‘Cloud9’ of the group.”

A misread on the meta did affect LCS teams early on in the group stage of the Worlds 2022 main event, but the reason for the misread was due to a jump in opponent skill in comparison to each team’s last respective match before the main stage.

When it comes to a straight-up 1v1 or 2v2 matchup, there are examples of North American teams getting the better of opponents from objectively superior regions in a vacuum. However, contrary to what the moniker might lead one to believe, the laning phase is not all about just how the lane is going between the two – or four, in bot lane’s case – players competing against one another directly.

More often than not, the difference maker comes from a superior comprehension of the ideal wave state in a lane at any given moment as well as better execution in the coordination of other players on a team around a specific lane. Any small advantage gained in a 2v2 matchup bot lane, for example, can be completely washed away by a well-time-ganked or properly executed tower dive for the team with the ‘losing’ bot lane in the scenario. In an interview with Factor, DWG KIA top laner Jang “Nuguri” Ha-gwon highlighted this aspect of competitive League of Legends as a major flaw in teams from the west.

That snowball isn’t just in the form of kills, either – there have been a handful of games at Worlds 2022 where North American teams have managed to hold an even or superior kill count to a Chinese or Korean team for the better part of a match, but fail to keep up in gold because of superior wave management from their opponents. Nuguri believes that NA and EU have better team-wide strengths than many give them credit for, but that their team-wide flaws in big-picture early game execution often put them too far behind for them to make good in any 5v5 scenario.

At the same time, when they are grouped up, NA and EU are really good in teamfights, “Nuguri continued. “Also, they are really good at drafting a composition with a specific strength. In that aspect, their teamwork and teamfighting are really on point, but I think it’s mostly because of the fact that they are constantly slightly losing in lane.”

North America has plenty to work on as a region after such a disappointing performance at Worlds 2022, and while Nuguri may be correct about their teamwide strengths at points of the game. This isn’t to say that North American teams are superior at these aspects of competition when compared to other regions, but the LCS teams’ inability to remain competitive in the aforementioned areas of the game barred them from any chance at putting enough good things together for a win against a South Korean or Chinese squad – NA finished 0-12 against CN and KR at Worlds 2022.

There are plenty of things North America needs to fix before the next World Championship, but as far as things went for the LCS representatives at Worlds 2022, inferior skill and play around the map in the early game are what cost them any hopes of a top 8 (or higher) finish.

All images by: Colin Young-Wolff/Riot Games

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