Some of the best League of Legends players in the world descended upon Cologne, Germany this weekend. In what's billed as the Battle of the Atlantic, teams from North America and Europe clashed to determine which region is king. The series is a fun showmatch to tide fans over during the preseason for the Championship Series, the game's professional league that runs weekly from January to October. This time around, North America is looking for some revenge after losses against Europe at the World Championships in October.
Here's how it works: The top five seeded teams compete over two weekends. Teams are evenly paired based on their standings, and points are given to the winning team based on those standings as well. For their efforts, winning teams get $5,000, and the region with the most points will split a cool $25,000—which divides out to another $5,000 per team.
In the tournament's first weekend, several big stories that began over the preseason found resolution. Take, for instance, the case of Alliance, a team that didn't even formally exist until less than a week ago, and whose ability to perform at the highest level was surrounded by question marks. Meanwhile, the North American Team SoloMid faced their first real competition since their owner—and player—decided to bench himself.
A New Alliance
Rumors from a few weeks ago turned into reality last week: The European team Evil Geniuses formally split, now competing as two separate teams in different regions—the European Alliance and the North American Evil Geniuses. The move has been heavily contested and directly violated the 2013 rules. Indeed, as a result of this shakeup, featuring one of the best teams in League, organizer Riot Games actually rewrote its rulebook for the Championship Series.
The Battle of the Atlantic provides the world's first glimpse at how these teams perform, giving a tantalizing hint of their future. First up? Alliance. Their opponent? Veteran North American side Dignitas.
Whatever nerves the newly formed team had, they shook them off easily. Alliance swept Team Dignitas in two short games, and ended with a 3:1 kill-death ratio. Markman Erik “Tabzz” van Helvert had a banner day despite playing with three new teammates, ending the day with an outstanding 22.0 KDA.
KDA is a common metric among LoL pros and is calculated by the kills and assists a player gets per deaths. Any value above 3.0 is considered a good performance, while van Helvert’s 22.0 is close to flawless.
With Alliance landing so well on their feet, attention now turns to the revamped Evil Geniuses, who play in Los Angeles next weekend against newcomers Determined Gaming. At stake? Their LCS slot. For now, it looks like Evil Geniuses huge gamble, splitting their team into two, will pay off well as Alliance gears up for 2014.
The best self-benching decision of the year
Team SoloMid's owner, Andy “Reginald” Dinh, has had a tumultuous few months. But as with Evil Geniuses and Alliance, it looks like he and his team might just come out on top.
At League World Championships in September, Dinh was criticized for his inconsistent play, and many fans viewed him a weak point on the team. When he played sloppy, ass he often did during the tournament, opponents could shift attention to SoloMid's star toplaner Marcus “Dyrus” Hill.
So for this tournament, Dinh benched himself, with European midlaner Søren"Bjergsen" Bjerg taking his place. That change led to one of their most dominating victories for SoloMid of the year. Bjerg’s performance at the Battle of the Atlantic against European team Lemondogs will do well to silence critics. With 13 kills and only 5 deaths, he has set a high standard for himself.
Dinh's decision to bench himself was surely difficult and a little embarrassing. But the pickup of Bjerg from European team Ninjas in Pajamas may have made it one of his best moves as an owner. After a few weeks of streaming and playing, and now with an excellent performance under his belt, the early results are in—Bjerg is well-liked and considered by many to be a deadly player.
Team SoloMid looks to be on the rise heading into the 2014 season, and has given North America into an early lead heading into the Battle of the Atlantic's second weekend.
Screengrab via LoL LCS Highlights/YouTube