Has the gap closed between the East and West after MSI?

The most competitive international tournament in League history ended with results no one expected.

Photo via Colin Young-Wolff for Riot Games

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The Mid-Season Invitational has come to a close for 2019, and a new champion, G2 Esports, has been crowned.

Yes, it wasn’t Invictus Gaming, the Chinese world champions, or SK Telecom T1, the Korean powerhous. Europe’s G2 Esports, who seemingly have a mid laner for an AD carry and a wacky instalocker in the top lane, beat Team Liquid today to win MSI 2019.

They slayed SKT three times on their way to the final and took Invictus Gaming to some very close matches during the group stage. But that wasn’t the biggest hurdle G2 had to leap—that was North America’s Team Liquid.

The world order in League power rankings seems a little topsy-turvy right now, given fans just witnessed a Europe vs. North America final in an international event. No Korean teams, no Chinese players, just a couple of Danish mid laners, a smattering of other European cultures, and a few Americans.

This brings up the age-old question: Has the gap finally closed? It’s a question that’s been long asked by League fans who’ve been waiting for a Western victory at an international event for so long. And now, off the back of years of Korean and Chinese dominance, Europe and North America have finally had their chance to shine.

The short answer to this is yes, the gap has closed. After all, three years ago, the thought of an all-Western final was nothing more than a passing dream. Now, two Western teams have met each other in an international final following a Worlds where three Western teams made the top four.

This debate is a lot more complicated than just one being better than the other, though. It’s hard to determine a region’s strength by just a small subsection of teams. What if Griffin, the masters of aggressive early games, were at MSI instead of SKT? Maybe Kim “Doinb” Tae-sang or Zhuo “Knight” Ding could’ve put up a better fight than Song “Rookie” Eui-jin for China.

The depth of the Eastern regions, especially China and Korea, is hard to downplay.

Across the board in the LPL, there are teams like TOP Esports, Royal Never Give Up, EDward Gaming, FunPlus Phoenix, and JD Gaming who could all sub in for Invictus Gaming on any given day and perform outstandingly.

The same goes for Korea. As a region that’s fostering in a new guard over the next six months or so, Damwon, Sandbox, or Griffin could quickly become world beaters. Any one of these teams could’ve taken down G2 and locked in a spot at the MSI final for Korea.

When you look across to North America or Europe, however, this depth is lacking at times.

What MSI has proven, though, is that the Western style of play can now compete with the East. A kill-heavy meta with a focus on micro decisions in teamfights offers a lot more for the West than the methodical nature of the vision meta in previous years. Korea still holds on to a bit of that meta in their gameplay, which let them down at MSI.

G2 came onto the stage with off-meta picks like Pyke top and stunned SKT. Liquid proved that you can win drawn-out affairs as long as you draft a heavy-scaling comp and don’t fall on your sword early. These small nuances have long been the forte of Eastern teams, but are now being exploited by Western teams.

So the long answer to “has the gap finally closed” is yes, but it’s complicated. Every region will always have its little meta that they believe is the best and will only be tested when an international event comes around. The depth of regions will always come under scrutiny, but now fans know their Western favorites can stand up to the Eastern kings.

One thing is for sure, though. There’s never been a more exciting time to be a League esports fan.