This year’s installment of Rift Rivals was most definitely not kind to North America, to say the least. The region combined for a dismal record of 5-8 against its EU counterpart, putting up a rather lackluster performance when all was said and done.
And while it’s certainly easy to pick apart NA’s shortcomings, it’s wiser to use the tournament as a learning experience going into the home stretch before the World Championship. And if there’s any one team that can take this disappointing performance and turn it into a positive turnaround, it’s Echo Fox.
Despite consistency and strength on the regional level, Echo Fox couldn’t figure themselves out at the organization’s first international tournament. With an ever-changing starting lineup and incredibly inconsistent team compositions, Echo Fox figured the international stage was the perfect time to start experimenting.
Back in regional play, the team focused on its best player, Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon, as the newly-formed pseudo-top laner and utility player molded himself to a brand new meta in League of Legends, quickly rising to the status of early candidate for NA LCS MVP. However, at Rift Rivals, Huni fell flat on his face, posting a miserable KDA of 1.4 throughout 5 games, along with a KP of just 64% and a GD@15 of -295. For reference, Huni ranks in the top 10 for all NA LCS players in those stats in regional games.
In addition to Huni’s struggles at Rift Rivals, Kim “Fenix” Jae-hun failed to find his footing throughout each game he played in. While Tanner “Damonte” Damonte was substituted in for Fenix in 2 of Echo Fox’s games, Fenix posted a tournament-worst KDA of 1.1 and an abysmal 4.7 deaths per game, backed by a monstrously disappointing 0/7/0 scoreline on Lulu to close out the tournament against Fnatic.
Although Echo Fox established an early dominating win over G2 Esports on Sunday, they were promptly embarrassed by Fnatic just a few hours later, further pushing the narrative that Echo Fox is one of, if not, the streakiest, most unpredictable team in all of North America.
The premise of “hot and cold” couldn’t be more evident for this team. Even solid, dependable players like Huni and Fenix showed their flaws and weaknesses at Rift Rivals, posing the question, “How well equipped is Echo Fox’s roster, really?”
Despite Echo Fox’s fairly miserable losses at the tournament, much of the Rift Rivals experience can be used as a propeller for the team going forward. If anything, it taught the organization that the team has a lot of work to do between now and the end of the year if Echo Fox is going to have any success at the World Championship, and at the very least, the potential to succeed is certainly there.
Echo Fox’s roster is incredibly technical from top to bottom, as the team undoubtedly has the potential to sit atop of the NA LCS standings for years to come. Additionally, the flexibility that Damonte brings to an already solid starting lineup is unmatched by any other LCS prospect. However, certain changes need to be made to the team’s approach if success is going to be found on the international level.
Firstly, Huni needs to be a rock for the squad. He is Echo Fox’s “X Factor”, and if he plays poorly, the entire roster derails. He is Echo Fox’s best player by a wide margin, in fact, he might just be the best player in all of NA when he lives up to his potential. Huni is that skilled, and if Echo Fox is going to do well come October, it’s going to be on his shoulders. League of Legends has evolved to a point where playing around your best player is a strategy that every team should adopt, and if Echo Fox is able to consistently play around Huni, the outlook for the remainder of 2018 should be bright.
Secondly, the team needs to play up to its full potential. In today’s game, if a roster isn’t playing at 100%, the chances of finding success are incredibly slim. Even a team like KT Rolster, whose roster includes legendary players like Song “Smeb” Kyung-ho, Go “Score” Dong-bin, and Kim “Deft” Hyuk-kyu, finds its spot in the World Championship up in the air. For a team like Echo Fox, every player needs to be running on all cylinders from now until the end of the year, especially with how open the NA LCS table is.
If Echo Fox can play up to its full potential, the roster is one of the strongest in all of North America. Headlined by Huni, and supported by a cast of solid and consistent players, this squad has the potential to perform not only on the regional level, but on the international stage as well.
However, they’ll have to do much better that their flat-footed Rift Rivals showing. While the team has certainly shown shades of greatness and dominance, if Echo Fox can’t stand up to G2 and Fnatic, how will they fare when staring in the face of Korean and Chinese monoliths?
Photo Credit: Riot Games, Lolesports, League of Legends