Is it time for NA to win Worlds?

The Vainglory World Championship is coming in hot, with the best teams from all regions globally aiming to claim the title of world champions when they compete in Singapore from the 14th to the 17th of December. During 2017, the North American region has captured much of the spotlight from the Vainglory community, due to heated competition amongst many of its top teams along with a sizeable growth in its level of Vainglory play. At the 2016 World Championship, the three NA teams that competed all placed in the top 4, however were overwhelmed by the superior skill of Phoenix Armada (now ROX Armada) from East Asia, who claimed the inaugural title of world champions over Team SoloMid. This sparked a rivalry between the two regions, especially with Gankstars Sirius and Hammers Velocity placing third and fourth respectively. With the North American region performing much better internationally this year, and East Asia’s international form questioned for the first time, the three representatives of NA may well be the favourites to win the 2017 World Championship.

The Teams of North America

Cloud9

Cloud 9 has proven themselves the dominant team in the North American region at live events this year. With a roster consisting of Oldskool as the carry, iLoveJoseph as the jungler and gabevizzle as the captain, they have the ability to smash any opposition. Drawn into Group A, their competitors during the group stages are ELITE8 of Southeast Asia and paiN Gaming of South America.

Team SoloMid

Team SoloMid are one of the biggest powerhouses in both Vainglory and esports in general. Consistent top performers both domestically and internationally, their roster is unchanged from the 2016 Vainglory World Championship: FlashX as the captain, VONC as the jungler and BestChuckNa as the carry. TSM were placed in Group D, with their competition being East Asia’s ACE Gaming and China’s powerhouse, Hunters.

Tribe

Tribe, previously Immortals, have proven themselves a strong competitor in the Vainglory competitive scene. Due to their exceptional performances (which far exceeded expectations) at previous events, a “live buff” has become signature to the team. Tribe’s roster consists of MaxGreen as the captain, ttigers as the jungler and DNZio as the carry. They will face ROX Armada of East Asia and Southeast Asia’s Impunity, having been allocated into Group C.

International Tournaments in 2017

There were four major international events during this year at which North American competed. Let’s take a brief look at each tournament, beginning with the Spring Unified Live Championship.

Spring Unified Live Championship – May 19 to May 21
London’s O2 Arena

In the inaugural Unified Live Championship, the top 6 North American and European teams faced off against each other for a spot at Worlds. Unsurprisingly, North America easily outperformed Europe, with three of the top four teams being from NA. During the semifinals, Team SoloMid and Cloud9 were set to face each other, with BestChuckNa of TSM predicting that whoever won their clash would continue on to win in the finals.  After a tense four-game series, Cloud9 was victorious.

As foretold by TSM’s carry, Cloud9 went on to win convincingly in the finals, claiming the championship trophy over fellow North American team,Gankstars. The region’s dominance in the Spring Unified Live Championship was the first indicator of North America’s burgeoning international competitiveness in 2017.

Amazon Mobile Masters Invitational – June 23
New York’s Prudential Center

In Amazon’s first “Run the Gauntlet” event of 2017, the newly acquired ROX Armada was faced with the challenge of defeating five North American teams in a row: Tempo Storm, Tribe Gaming, GankStars, NRG and Cloud9. While ROX Armada defeated the first four teams with varying levels of difficulty, during the final match of the night Cloud9 showed the East Asian dynamos they were made of sterner stuff. In an incredibly dominant game, Cloud9 defeated Armada, signifying the turn of the North American tide against East Asia.

Summer Unified Live Championship – September 8 to September 10
Los Angeles’ Globe Theatre

In the second Unified Live Championship of the year, North America again took control of the championship, dismembering all the European teams and securing the top four places. Throughout the tournament, Tribe (then known as Immortals) performed on another level, pulling of a massive upset to defeat Team SoloMid in the semifinals. Meanwhile, Cloud9 came out on top after beating Nova eSports in their semifinal, setting up an intense showdown against Tribe in the grand final.

Cloud9 were the winners over Tribe after four tough games: Oldskool, gabevizzle and iLoveJoseph pulling off an Ace against their opponents in the final game to secure the trophy. With the team having already won the Spring Unified Live Championship, the spot at Worlds up for grabs at the Summer Unified Live Championship was converted to a wildcard to be given out at a later date. North America’s dominance over their international opponents in 2017 continued.

Amazon Mobile Masters Invitational – October 15
Las Vegas’ Millennial Esports Arena

In a follow-up to their previous event, Amazon held a “Champion of Champions – Run the Gauntlet” tournament, where Team SoloMid were challenged to defeat teams from North America, Europe and East Asia.

An intimidating lineup of Echo Fox, SK Gaming, Fnatic, NRG and ACE Gaming faced TSM in the first stage of the tournament, but TSM were up for the task. After defeating the EU and NA teams, they faced the toughest team in the Gauntlet stage – ACE Gaming of East Asia. In a very tight game, they secured the win after a lengthy and drawn out game.

Team SoloMid continued on to the Champion of Champions stage, where they were victorious against both Rogue and Cloud9 and thus secured the trophy along with a hefty prize pool. With an East Asian team falling once again to a North American team, North America appeared to be rising higher and higher in the global standings.

East Asia or North America?

Although ROX Armada were at another level at last year’s World Championship, the teams from North America have spent all of 2017 honing their gameplay. Mechanics appear to have equalised, with East Asian teams no longer having a clear advantage over their North American opponents. Additionally, North America’s meta and playstyle has shifted towards favouring aggression, while East Asia’ playstyle has developed in a more conservative direction.

Despite that, the rise of ACE Gaming and the undeniable ability of ROX Armada means that Team SoloMid, Cloud9 and Tribe cannot afford to rest on their laurels. ACE Gaming, while newcomers to the Vainglory scene in 2017, have consistently beaten ROX Armada with calculated rotations and careful positioning, along with teamfight outplays. Meanwhile, Armada remain a strong team, especially with an addition to the roster of the talented captain, pQq. Last year, Willy awed the Vainglory community, allowing Armada to win the inaugural world championship – is it pQq’s turn to shine this year?

The North American teams coming to Worlds have a strong foundation on which international success can be built. With everything on the line, will they be able to step up their game and play at another level to secure victory on the biggest stage of all?

The group stages begin in less than an hour in Singapore – watch online through YouTube, Twitch or Facebook. Along with the World Championship, the unveiling of Vainglory’s 5v5 gamemode will be showcased on the final day of the event, so stay tuned. We’re sure to witness amazing things at this championship; you won’t want to miss out!

Written by ming, Clarryparry and Holland
Editing by Holland and Clarryparry