American teams headed home following opening day of IEM Cologne

On Friday the Intel Extreme Masters (IEM) Cologne event kicked off an exciting slate of League of Legends featuring new star-studded lineups for many of the teams in the competitions

On Friday the Intel Extreme Masters (IEM) Cologne event kicked off an exciting slate of League of Legends featuring new star-studded lineups for many of the teams in the competitions. Dignitas battled China’s Qiao Gu Reapers in the opening row, with Cloud9 taking on the new H2k Gaming lineup shortly after.

But following two best-of-three series, both American teams are going home.

For Dignitas that isn’t a big surprise. They opened the day as heavy underdogs with a bout against the Qiao Gu Reapers, the team that placed second in the summer season of the League of Legends Pro League (LPL) in China. Featuring young Korean jungler Baek “Swift” Da-hoon, the Reapers seemed like an unstoppable foe for the Dignitas side. 

Still, Dignitas won the opening game and nearly took the second one after building an early lead, showing that their new lineup perhaps has the firepower to compete in the brutal North American League Championship Series (LCS). While teams like Cloud9, Immortals, Team SoloMid, and NRG were stocking up on superstar talents, Dignitas imported two little-known European players, German top laner Lennart “Smittyj” Warkus and Dutch jungler Thomas “Kirei” Yuen.

While Kirei’s counterpart Swift may be the established star, it was Kirei who truly impressed in Cologne today. He carried Dignitas to their initial victory and helped build a big lead in game two before the team fell to the Chinese opponents.

While many expected a more dominant performance, the Reapers pulled out a victory in their debut on an international stage, competing in a foreign nation across the entire world. Tomorrow they’ll face an even stiffer test against the new Fnatic.

The other series pit Cloud9, featuring the MVP of the NA LCS Summer season, Lee “Rush” Yoon-jae, and the new H2k Gaming team that now features a lineup that reads like a European all-star team.

The H2k Gaming lineup entered the series with a ready-made excuse, claiming they only had three days of practice together before the event. Apparently three days was all they needed.

While Cloud9 won the opening game of the series, like Dignitas, and built a solid lead in the second one, they eventually fell to the Europeans. The Americans’ pick and ban phase looked like it was made for a different metagame, and they seemed to place too much importance on banning out the enemy bottom lane, perhaps in part to hide some of the weakness of their shot caller Hai Lam transitioning to the support role. In game two, on what should have been a favorable duo lane matchup, Cloud9’s pair failed to build an advantage.

3 days of practice > c9

— VandeR (@VanderLCS) December 18, 2015

Still, there was some encouraging play from the Americans. Mid laner Nicolaj Jensen was impressive, as was new jungler Rush. H2k Gaming’s stars also showed up. While H2k Gaming’s jungler Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski admits Rush got the better of him in the first two games, he showed why people call him the first blood master and one of Europe’s most talented junglers by besting the LCS MVP Rush, scoring a solo kill on Rush to set the pace of that game.

“You can’t just rate him super high. He’s a normal player,” Jankowski said in his postgame interview. “You play as a team.”

And today, the American teams were lacking compared to their opponents from China and Europe. Tomorrow the Qiao Gu Reapers match up against Fnatic while H2k Gaming will challenge Korean cinderellas Ever.

Jankowski is looking forward to it, making a partially tongue-in-cheek comment to end his interview: “I think the real tournament starts tomorrow, since all the NA teams are out, so now it will be competitive.”

Screengrab via ESL_LoL/Twitch

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