Europe did not have a great four days at Rift Rivals by any stretch of the imagination. With a grand total of six wins and twelve losses in the group stages, their representative, Unicorns of Love, held half of their wins, and looked to prove that they were just having a bad week of games, and that EU is the better region. Team Solo Mid (TSM), on the other hand, came into the finals with an impressive five and one record, absolutely trashing EU in the process and only losing one game to, of all people, Unicorns of Love (UOL). With everything looking in favor of TSM, North America had all the pieces necessary to completely shut out Europe and spread a bit of salt along the way. They did not disappoint for the Rift Rivals Finals 2017.
Replay clips are credit to Riot Esports and Twitch, click on them to play.
TSM vs UOL: Game 1 (Rift Rivals 2017 Finals)
Game 1 went directly down the gutter from the start for UOL. After drafting a fairly decent engage composition with Rakan, Gragas, and Ryze to start things off, UOL had everything they needed to start off the fights if they were allowed to group, with the additional shielding from Ivern and Xayah’s late-game damage to back them up. TSM countered by picking up the long-range safety of Ashe coupled with Braum for a solid bot-lane composition. They then drafted bully lanes with Gnar and Leblanc, giving Svenskeren the Kha’zix for a bit more threat in the jungle.
The early game went by fairly softly, with only a few kills here and there, and each team attempting to farm up. It wasn’t until 11:30 into the game that UOL attempted a top lane collapse on TSM’s duo lane. Bringing both Exileh and Xerxe up to help, it looked like the dive would have gone well, except that TSM still had all of their summoners, as well as Braum’s shield and the collapse of Svenskeren and Bjergsen teleporting in. With such an immobile composition having burned all of their abilities early on, there was nothing UOL could do but get swept in a clean 4-0.
An extra note to make is Biofrost’s contribution to keeping DoubleLift alive, as well as their positioning. Both of TSM’s players, prior to Svenskeren and Bjergsen arriving, is that they never allowed UOL to circle around them. This meant that Biofrost was able to cover close to the entire rest of the open area where UOL was attacking from, while having the outer wall of the map as their sixth man, making sure DoubleLift was completely safe from the initial damage.
From there, it turned into the standard TSM show. With an almost unrelenting pressure and robotic consistency, TSM stormed throughout the game, collecting objective after objective, leaving nothing for UOL to salvage. Even as their base was getting picked clean, UOL were helpless to contest, mistiming ultimate chains and not having key summoners to be able to engage. When they finally fought a proper fight, it was at their nexus towers, 20 minutes too late.
TSM vs UOL: Game 2 (Rift Rivals 2017 Finals)
Game 2 was a bit more lax by TSM. After drafting a good teamfight/skirmish composition against the more ranged pick composition from UOL, TSM looked to have a very clean game once again. With winning lanes for almost all of TSM’s carries, they came out to an early lead, forcing UOL to play defensively. This only granted TSM an early pressure advantage where, after burning both heal and exhaust from Samux and Hylissang, TSM pulled off a near-perfect dive for first blood and an extra kill.
After that dive, UOL started to fall apart. Losing out on multiple cs trades, the gold difference continued to stack, culminating in an almost 4,000 gold difference at just 10 minutes. Misjudged teleports by UOL and great catches by TSM continued to give TSM objective control as they felled tower after tower, and started to close UOL’s chances at a victory in this best of five.
It was around 21:00 that we notice TSM start to get a bit overconfident. After a beautiful 3-man shockwave found Hylissang’s death, TSM attempted to overextend, reaching for a bit more than they most likely should have, resulting in three deaths and TSM running for their base after an extended fight, with Exileh picking up the scraps.
But, just as their window of opportunity was opened, it was closed just as quickly by Svenskeren’s steal on the baron, along with shutting down Exileh with a solid sonic wave to the face.
And just like that, the game was over. With baron and an infernal drake on TSM, they pushed down the rest of the objectives, completely stomping all over UOL’s base, and always making sure that they were not giving UOL any chance to pull off an engage. After a shaky mid-game fight swinging things back and forth, TSM closed the doors on UOL’s hopes for a win, aiming for an easy 3-0.
TSM vs UOL: Game 3 (Rift Rivals 2017 Finals)
Game 3 was easily the most entertaining game, as well as the unicorns’ only game where they actually showed strengths during the early game. Drafting an almost identical composition to their games before, UOL looked to solidify their strengths, hoping that the third time is the charm. But, changing things up was the introduction of the Warwick pick for Xerxe, applying even more pressure to TSM’s composition picks. Instead of going for a complete early game domination comp, TSM opt for a more scaling comp, picking up the Kassadin for Bjergsen, cutting their early game pressure in half, and forcing TSM to focus on the late game.
With UOL having fairly decent early game pressure and damage, everyone was expecting them to push their advantages by shutting down cs differentials and pressing towers. What no one expected was Biofrost, on his signature Thresh, to overstep not once, but twice within the first 3 minutes of play, granting UOL first blood and summoner spell advantages.
From there, it was a hectic battle for kills, advantages, and breaths of air between fights. UOL kept up the constant pressure, utilizing Warwick’s mobility and TSM’s low mobility to their own advantage, consistently burning summoners from TSM, as well as forcing them to dance to UOL’s tune and flow. With the constant fighting working in UOL’s favor, TSM were thrown into slight disarray, giving up a kill onto DoubleLift, as well as rift herald shortly after.
UOL’s constant pressure and hunger for blood granted them what they wanted. Over-aggressive reactions from TSM continued giving them more kills and gold in UOL’s pockets, as well as making TSM be caught out between rotations, which constantly put TSM at a man disadvantage.
With everything swinging in favor of UOL, and TSM looking for anything to hold onto, the first teamfight of the game fully broke out. With the Ashe ECA negated by the mimic of Leblanc, UOL saw their window of opportunity and pounced, hoping to catch multiple people out and end the fight. What came instead was the best coordination you could ever ask for from a team out of TSM, as well as multiple mistakes by UOL to capitalize on.
UOL were given false hope by the arrow of DoubleLift going onto a mimic, and used almost all their ultimates for nothing in return, yet still attempting to fight it out. In comparison, TSM held their ultimates and summoner spells properly to ensure that not only was DoubleLift safe, but that their counter-engage completely destroyed UOL’s grouping, making it easy for the pick offs when the ultimates and engage from UOL was down.
With the gold and flow back to even, it was a battle of who could set up the next engage. With multiple skirmishes resulting in just a few deaths here and there, it came down to one more fight in the mid lane at 32:45. UOL attempted a hard flank onto TSM, with Mega Gnar sweeping in to land a 2-man stun onto Svenskeren and Hauntzer. What happened after was possibly the worst set of actions that could occur for UOL.
TSM played the teamfight perfectly. Knowing that UOL relied on the ultimate chain of Mega Gnar plus the engage of Rakan, TSM baited out an extended fight, making sure to position Ashe towards the back of the engage, and making sure that UOL stuck around even after the main abilities were burned. This meant that TSM could freely engage without the chance of getting chain cc’d, and allowed DoubleLift and Bjergsen to completely decimate UOL.
TSM took their advantage and ran with it. On the back of their teamfight win, TSM ran to baron, securing their last major objective on the map. This allowed them to completely push down the bottom side, opening up the map and forcing UOL to pick an inopportune fight, resulting in the game ending push.
With consistent calls and calm minds, as well as great individual skill from the members, TSM made the finals look easy. Sweeping UOL under the rugs and solidifying their dominance, they are finally able to come home proud, holding the plaque high into the air. Only time will tell if this means that TSM are finally worthy of contending on the big international stage, or if they will, again, falter at the starting line.