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Howdy, dear readers. I’m Tyler “FionnOnFire” Erzberger. For a decade, I’ve been covering this wild and wacky world known as esports. While my coverage has changed throughout the years, spanning many games across numerous continents, one thing hasn’t changed. Wherever I ago, it almost always ends with me wincing as North America fails miserably on the international competitive gaming stage.

There were those early days in StarCraft II when North American heroes Greg “IdrA” Fields and Chris “HuK” Loranger fell to the South Korean giants. I was in Poland when possibly the strongest NA Counter-Strike: Global Offensive squad of all time, Team Liquid, was upset by the Finnish Cinderella story known as ENCE. I’ve been to Dota 2’s The International, the game’s world championship, only to watch NA’s best hop on a plane back home before the halfway point of the tournament.

But as someone who has covered North American esports for so long, no esport has brought me more frustration and anguish than League of Legends. I’ve covered the League Championship Series, North America’s premier LoL competition for half a decade, live from its home base in Los Angeles. And from there, I’ve traveled, visiting the highest mountains in Beijing to bustling streets of Berlin to be on hand as NA League of Legends has faltered as millions watched from home.

Cloud9 competing in the LCS
This could be the year that Cloud9 changes everything. | Photo by Oshin Tudayan. Provided by Riot Games

I’ve had international journalists apologize to me following one of their teams beating up NA at the world championship. I’ve had fans in Vietnam tell me that it’s “OK” I’m from North America and wished me luck like I was somehow part of the actual teams competing. I’ve watched as “T-S-M!” has been chanted at every single League of Legends event I’ve ever attended, including the ones they failed to make.

If you’re a North American fan reading this, know that I understand you. For almost every day of the year, if you try to say you’re a fan of North American League of Legends, you’re bullied into oblivion by people clad in anime avatars. Wait, you actually thought for a second North America could produce a team worthy of winning anything internationally? Reddit and social media will crush your foolish, optimistic soul faster than G2 Esports swept Team Liquid in the 2019 Mid-Season Invitational finals.

That’s why I’m here. MSI 2021 begins in a matter of days, and I’ve created a guide to help you, oblivious North American fan, on how to survive this three-week-long tournament. And for the non-NA fan, because I know you’re also reading this intersperse rewatching old G2 and Fnatic highlights, enjoy as well.

This is Fionn’s MSI North American Fan Survival Guide.

Tip #1 – It’s OK to believe

If there is a single thing I want you to take away from this guide, it’s this: There is no better feeling than the start of a large-scale international esports tournament. Sure, your ramblings on why Cloud9’s Philippe “Vulcan” Laflamme is a top-five support in the world have been mocked and belittled. Still, on the night before MSI begins, maybe you’re just more intelligent than those people bullying you on social media. Perhaps you’re the actual one with all the answers.

That’s the sweetest thing about day one of MSI, worlds, a Counter-Strike major or any other world championship. Everyone begins with a leveled playing field, and your imagination can run wild. Have fun. It’s OK to believe that your team — North American, Turkish, Brazilian, wherever — can succeed expectations and make a run for the trophy. Maybe C9 can beat reigning world champions DWG KIA in the tournament’s opening game and begin a run that changes the perception of North American League of Legends forever?

Probably not.

But maybe. Esports are supposed to be fun. And for at least a little while, it’s alright to leave logic and statistics at the door. MSI could be the event that turns everything around for ole North America.

Tip #2 – Make excuses, quickly

OK, so C9 didn’t beat DWG KIA to kickoff MSI. Alright, maybe things don’t start as rosy as your imagination led you to believe. That’s cool. We just need to pivot a little.

“C9 were never supposed to beat DWG, anyways. Who cares?”

“Didn’t you see that great team play at 10 minutes around Rift Herald, where they almost won? The bottom lane had a CS lead after 7 minutes.”

“They got the second Cloud dragon and almost got the third if it wasn’t for the Nexus exploding.”

This is also the perfect time to point out mistakes from other popular regions if they also falter. MAD Lions get upset by PSG Talon? Oh, hey, no one cares about C9 right now, let’s talk about the all-powerful European champions losing on opening day. That’s the real story!

Tip #3 – Deflect, deflect, deflect

In the worst-case scenario where the wheels truly fall off and it looks like C9 might bomb out of the tournament, your job is to deflect everything. Now is where you take all those things you heard on Reddit and social media and parrot back to the community. Who honestly believed North America could do well to begin with, right?

As an expert in this situation, don’t be afraid to bring up how the minor league system of North America is still miles behind the likes of Europe and China. It’s going to take time to find new, young talent to rise to take over the mantles left by the likes of Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng and Søren Bjerg. Legends don’t just grow overnight, friends.

Oh, and a personal favorite: Ping. How is North America supposed to compete against the best in the world when all pros living in L.A. play on a server that makes them feel like they’re moving in quicksand? Come on, Riot Games, we can do better here. How many North American servers does VALORANT have? 42?

Tip #4 – It’s all a giant meme. Everything is a joke. 

Hahaha, did anyone really think North America was a threat? Certainly not me.

We’re at the point of the tournament where C9 is on a plane back to North America, and it’s time to go back into hiding as a North American fan to fight another day. Open up that M.S. Paint or Photoshop and start laughing at your pain. Isn’t North American League of Legends so funny? It’s like going to a birthday party, but all the cakes are poisonous and have large shards of glass sticking out from them.

Tip #5 – We were never North American fans. We were always Faker fans. 

Everyone shed those C9 uniforms and jump on the Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok bandwagon. This tip is a classic that has worked for almost a decade for North American League of Legends fans. All of our teams are out? Well, look at that, friends. Faker and T1 are still in the tournament, going strong.

To be honest, I just like watching the highest-level of League of Legends and that’s what Faker brings to the table. I’m a connoisseur of peak gameplay, thank you very much.

…Wait, Faker didn’t make it to this tournament? They lost to Gen.G in the South Korean semifinals. Seriously? Alright, just be sure to keep this one handy for worlds.

Tip #6 – I love WESTERN League of Legends. I love the WEST!

In this particular case, in which MAD Lions do well parallel to C9’s failing, we survive by moving away from those old, tired words “North America” and replacing it with the shiny “West” seal of approval. No longer are you simply a discarded and down-trodden North American fan, but you root for the mighty West against the juggernauts known as South Korea and China.

Mad Lions win LEC championship
I’m sorry but North America has always been in the West. I’ve always been a West fan first. Look at these MAD Lads. | Provided by MAD Lions

This tactic is to try and bring down Europe to North America’s fertile level. While bringing up how powerful Asia is with all of their world championships, don’t be afraid to add that Europe, just like NA, has never lifted the Summoner’s Cup. And if anyone tries to bring up Fnatic winning in 2011, laugh at them and correct them that the Summoner’s Cup wasn’t presented until 2012 when the Taipei Assassins won it.

Tip #7 – Pretend excitement that you’re scouting for 2022 LCS talent

Everyone knows the real tournament for the LCS doesn’t begin until all of their teams are on a plane back home. We’re probably barreling towards an RNG vs. DWG KIA final, and guess what? Heo “Showmaker” Su is a free agent in only a few short months!

100 Thieves Showmaker? Evil Geniuses Chovy? TSM Canyon?

It’s OK to smile through the tears.

Tip #8 – This game is stupid, and anyone who likes it is stupid

Does anyone else think League of Legends is somewhat stale? When are we going to nerf Udyr and Hecarim? League of Legends is just Dota 2 with more accessible mechanics and colorful characters to draw in younger players if you think about it.

I didn’t even watch every single minute of MSI. I thought the tournament was pretty dull overall. It was a predictable result with a predictable winner.

Throw in that you might “check out” the world championship if you have time in your super busy schedule filled with fun activities with significant others and friends.

“Season 3 was so much better than this trash we’re playing nowadays.”

I don’t need League of Legends. League of Legends needs me.

Tip #9 – Hey, the world championship is only four months away

C9 will take the invaluable experience they learned in Iceland and take it back to North America to prepare the teams for the upcoming world championship. Team Liquid might have been the better of the two teams and didn’t even have their starting jungler Lucas “Santorin” Tao Kilmer Larsen for the spring final. 100 Thieves signed Felix “Abbedagge” Braun, and they’ll be better. TSM with another split of Bjergsen coaching can only mean good things.

Don’t tell anyone, but I’m kinda excited for North America’s chances at the world championship.

This could be the tournament that turns everything around, for real this time.