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North American League: Memes, Money and Martyrs

North American League of Legends has often been associated with memes. Whether teams are Paid by Steve or NA fails at Worlds, the only surefire fact in this world is that NA League-rs are memers. However, this “meme” storyline has caused the most surprising plot twists, memorable moments, and persevering underdogs of the international scene.

Courtesy of Riot Games
League North American: Memes, Money and Martyrs
Team Liquid at the 2019 World Championships. Photo Courtesy of Blog of Legends

TSM At Worlds – The Meme That Doesn’t Die

Team SoloMid is one of North America’s premiere organizations. Being in the LCS since inception, the organization is a storied hero of NA with six domestic titles, storied rosters, and memorable highlights. Players like Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg have led the team for six years and created highlight reel after highlight reel. But on the international stage, it is another story.

Internationally, TSM has struggled. From MSI to Worlds, the team was always dubbed a favorite and then outclassed by the best of the best. An example of this is in 2016. TSM had acquired Yilliang “Doublelift” Peng, the most storied AD Carry in all of North America. That summer, they went 17-1 and were heavy favorites to make it out of the Group Stage on home soil. They did not make it out losing in a head-to-head scenario with RNG. The following year, they came in third place again, losing to Misfits Gaming. In 2018 and 2019, they didn’t even qualify for the World Championship. While TSM succeeded on a domestic level, they faltered when World glory was on the line.

CLG: The Faithful Shall Be Rewarded

One of North America’s shining stars on the International Stage is that of Counter Logic Gaming. 2016 was CLG’s year. When longtime AD Carry Doublelift joined TSM, CLG brought in Trevor “Stixxay” Hayes to match. At Madison Square Garden, in front of the biggest crowd of his career, Stixxay pulled off the Rocket Jump of a lifetime, winning CLG their second LCS Title. That spring, they competed at the Mid-Season Invitational and shocked the world, going to the finals against SK Telecom T1. They even made it to the World Championships only to fail to make it out of Groups that year. But the faithful were rewarded: A team built on friendships made North America proud on the biggest stage.

This Segment Was Paid By Steve: A History of Team Liquid

There’s a lot to say about Team Liquid. In recent years, they have been North America’s crown prince, winning four of the last five domestic titles, making storied rosters, and spending major funds doing so. Bringing in players like Doublelift, World Champion Jo “CoreJJ” Yong-in and Worlds finalist Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen, Team Liquid has won four back-to-back LCS titles, been to both MSI and Worlds in 2018 and 2019, and dominated the competition into current day. Memes aside, the funds were well spent on acquiring talent, coaching staff and training facilities for the best for their players. 

Even if their international showings had been for the most part mediocre, they stunned the world taking down Invictus Gaming and placed themselves in the finals vs G2 Esports. Team Liquid’s meme of high-pay salaries paid off in long-term investments and North American betterment.

NA At Worlds… and then there’s Cloud9

I’ve mentioned multiple times through this series that there is always one hero on the Worlds stage per region. For North America, it’s the meme gods themselves, Cloud9. Cloud9, who has gone to the World Championships every year since their inception, has been NA’s most successful organization on an international level. While 2015 and 2019 were not the most ideal, Cloud9 made quarterfinals or better during 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2018. In fact, they were the first organization in North American history to make semifinals. 

This one takes a bit of heart for me. I remember watching the match from my hotel room in Prague and freaking out when Cloud9’s Eric “Licorice” Ritchie stole the Baron with Ornn and Cloud9 won the entire match. At that moment, they became martyrs to North America and across the world.

But to the point: what about Cloud9 makes them dominant on the Worlds stage? It’s really hard to say for certain. Some point to a unique style exemplified by long-time coach Bok “Reapered” Han-gyu. Others point to C9 playing like they have nothing to lose, best shown at the 2018 World Championships through play of champions such as Hecarim, Singed and Nocturne. Even with this, anytime C9 is in the picture, you simply cannot count out C9.

NA at Worlds: a meme? Or will curses be lifted? We will definitely have to see.

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