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Hello and welcome back to another year of the artist formerly known as the NA LCS. It’s just LCS now because we finally exorcised the NA out of us by making it to Semifinals at Worlds! And also we imported a bunch of people again. As fans of a Worlds Semifinalist region, I am happy to say we should look on our region with great pride this year. Even if it looks like we are trolling, that’s just a facade because everything we do is Semifinalist-quality. As a quick reminder, this is not a power ranking — it is just the standings with teams listed alphanumerically. I do not hate your team. Here’s 10 thoughts going into Week 2!
1. Clutch Gaming [2-0] — Dark Horse Pig
Damonte put the “dam” in his name by being an absolute failsafe for Clutch Gaming this week. He also put the “o” as in “:o” onto TSM fans’ faces when they somehow lost after Huni went 0-3. And the “nt” as in nice try. And the e as in e-gamer. Damn, I nailed the delivery on that joke (welcome back to another year of these jokes and more!!). Even though all eyes were on the bottom and top side of the map for CG, it ended up being their new mid laner who led the way. This is probably one of the more interesting rosters in the league — most of us pegged them as being middle of the pack at the very least, but there were too many questions surrounding players like Lira and Piglet. Or even the volatile style of Huni. Still, I think their first week was promising, and you’ve got to peg them as the early dark horse candidate. They’ve got a big match against Team Liquid this week that should let us know which version we’ll see, though — can this be the Year of the Piglet?
2. FlyQuest [2-0] — Surprise start
FlyQuest is kind of like Hawkeye in The Avengers in that he’s surrounded by a bunch of a supernatural heroes. At one point Thor (let’s say this is Team Liquid) for example literally becomes a thunderbolt like he’s Kennen or something. And Hawkeye? He’s got a bow and some arrows that explode — he’s doing parkour while everyone else is flying. But it works somehow. He gets his shots in and stays alive. This team is probably the best example of the sum being greater that the parts — it’s not that the parts are necessarily bad, but none of them were likely All-Pro candidates going into this split. But the team returns three members from their surprise Playoff run last summer and then added Pobelter (who was actually a monster in NA last year) and a rookie Solo Queue star in V1per. That means stability and potential, and so far they look much better than people thought they’d be coming into this split.
3. Team Liquid [2-0] — Super start
I was going to crack some sort of joke about Jensen and Kevin Durant (I will always love KD jokes) but then I thought about it some more, and actually, Jensen went from a better team to a worse team. At the end of the day, Cloud9 made it to the Semifinals and Team Liquid couldn’t even get out of Groups — and even beyond that, C9 has been a staple in the Worlds knockout stage whereas TL only just made their first Worlds. All of this is true, and yet I just need to shake my head when I remember Jensen is on Team Liquid. This is the perfect case of addition via addition. It’s like when you have a seemingly perfect release on a bowling ball but then one pin is still standing at the end, and that one pin is Jensen now. And because it’s a Best-of-1, you only get one toss (is that the right term, bowlers?). We haven’t had a truly dominant regular reason by an NA team in a long time (probably TSM Spring 2017), and I think this Liquid squad should strive to hit 16+ wins to prove to themselves that the only thing they need to worry about is the international stage.
4. Cloud9 [1-1] — LSC, LEC, and Lick
Before Sunday’s win over 100, Zeyzal asked the LCS referee, “Hey ref — what do I do if a player steals my mouse and licks it? Hypothetically?” The clip cuts before the referee provides an answer, so I’d like to take this one. If you actually double-check our rule book, you’ll see that there’s actually no rule that explicitly prevents this from happening. It’s a deep oversight on our part, but for now, lick away summoners (this is one of the secret tips to climbing Solo Queue that Riot Games doesn’t want you to know). Fears of a weak C9 should be put to the curbside after their first week — even though they lost to Team Liquid, I think you can walk away from that match thinking that C9 could beat them in an extended set. Nisqy is a bit of a wild player on the Rift, but there’s clearly enough talent there to foster into something lethal. C9 also didn’t utilize their bench yet, so they’ll have options down the line if things start to look shaky. To me they looked like the second best team in the opening weekend — especially after dismantling the 100 Thieves. And, of course, let the record books show that they’re 1-0 since Sneaky licked Zeyzal’s mouse. As they say — we LEC it.
5. Echo Fox [1-1] — A special kind of boy
Rush: pick me karthus again
FOX: all you did yesterday was die on it tho
Rush: i was practicing his passive
FOX is a strange team in the sense that they have Rush. Sometimes people say things like, “I wonder what X streamer would look like as a pro,” and I feel like Rush is about as close as we’re going to get to that. As one of the most beloved players in the league, there’s a lot of eyeballs on him, but also lots of variance on expectations. The rest of the FOX lineup features players who, while reliable at times, have never really been the focal point of their teams. Before Rush was announced, this was a group of players who just kind of blended into one another — no one in particular stood out as the potential face of the franchise. But with Rush joining the roster, they’ve now got a superstar caliber player (well, this remains to be seen) and personality. For all of his streaming antics, it can be easy to forget that he’s a former MVP and that he played a bit for the LCK Summer Split Champions — KT Rolster — last year. On paper, this is still one of the weakest looking rosters in the LCS, but I think they’ll be able to keep their morale high all split thanks to Rush, and that might give them the edge they need to rally as a team.
6. OpTic Gaming [1-1] — Cram week
On the one hand, OPT won a game after subbing in four players from their 1-3 Academy roster at the very last second. On the other hand, OPT subbed in four players from their 1-3 Academy roster at the very last second. Did you barely pass the test after cramming in an hour of study time the night before? Sure. What does that say about you as a student, though? That’s where I’m at with OPT. I’m not sure I’d fault them for making that decision, but it does say they’re a bit disorganized at the moment. But I also believe pretty strongly that winning teams in League of Legends are pretty clearly built to win from the get-go. Teams generally don’t just suddenly become championship level through friendship and hard work or whatever. Hopefully when Arrow resolves his Visa issues, things will be a bit more stable, but for now I think it’s a good thing they’re trying to do whatever they can to keep the ship afloat until then.
7. TSM [1-1] — Growing pains
When TSM smashed 100 to kick off their split, fans were understandably hyped that their team might be back. Then Broken Blade destroyed Huni in lane and, probably, they wondered if this was a new era of TSM. And if you paused the week right there — after Huni’s third death — then the rest of this blurb about TSM would read very differently. I might talk about how Broken Blade is the most promising rookie in NA… ever? I might swoon over the aggression from Akaadian, or Zven finally being back to form. I might tell you Bjergsen is still the same sturdy rock he’s always been, and we all might be excited for the prospects of a TSM that finally isn’t a team that lives and dies based on their superstar mid laner’s performance. Instead, though, a facecheck from Akaadian followed by some mechanical gaffes gave Akali a kill and reversed the momentum of the game. They just kind of rolled over and died without ever utilizing the massive lead they acquired in top lane. I think it’s good to acknowledge the potential here, but there’s still clearly work to be done. Which is fine, but needing time isn’t really TSM’s brand — last year jolted the organization and its base out of their routine of always making it to Finals. I think that’s a good thing — I hope TSM will experiment a lot more this year and play to get better more than play to win. The wins come naturally if you get better.
8. 100 Thieves [0-2] — Early stumbles
I’m pretty excited for Bang’s debut in the LCS — we’ve been waiting all offseason to see him play, and while it’s unfortunate that he didn’t get a chance to do that in Week 1, I’m hoping that 100 will put him on the Rift next week… :( Honestly, I pegged 100 Thieves as the pre-season favorite to win the whole thing and I’m super shocked they looked so lifeless in the first week. This is like the opening scenes of the Ocean’s movies where everything is still coming together and Sandra Bullock doesn’t trust Rihanna yet. There’s a good chance 100 starts the season 0-3 after the Liquid matchup and let me just say the number of teams who still make playoffs after that kind of start is extremely low. I think it’s easy to point at Huhi in the middle of the map as being a weak point for the team, but Ssumday hasn’t exactly had a strong start either. And even given struggles in lane, they’re failing to look like a cohesive unit at all in the mid game. There’s way too much talent on this roster for this to last the entire split, but right now it’s gotta feel super bleak. Like opening up a new game (Kingdom Hearts 3) and realizing the plot doesn’t make sense (it doesn’t).
9. Counter Logic Gaming [0-2] — The Good Place
In the CLG fan’s version of The Good Place, their house would have a monitor that only plays CLG games. I don’t need to tell you how those games play out — you already know. After shaking up their roster and their coaching staff, CLG absolutely struggled out of the gate. Losing to an OPT Academy mishmash of a roster that likely had little to no practice says probably everything you need to know about this team for now. Professional players are expected to be able to communicate and play to their win conditions even if rosters are suddenly changed, but that doesn’t make it optimal. That CLG switched up their roster for Sunday, though, also tells me that they’ve probably been wrestling through a few different iterations in the offseason. So I imagine they were aware of their issues leading into the weekend — they’re just not entirely sure how to fix them. At times the point of being a CLG fan is that you secretly like to suffer — something about being let down keeps you on edge. Two-plus years of this, though, is probably starting to get stale. If there’s an upside, it’s that PowerOfEvil’s OpTic team last year also took some time to figure out their bearings — perhaps the same magic can worked here with CLG.
10. Golden Guardians [0-2] — The Revengers
Here is a team that is comprised mostly of players cast away from other teams — they even called themselves a revenge team of sorts. I’d pegged them as a pretty easy playoff pick because I still believed in the individual players. I still do. But in the opening week, they struggled both at the individual level and at playing as a team — it’s not like their schedule was super hard or anything, either. FLY and FOX should be two of the easier teams in the league and yet GGS still got stomped by both of them. Froggen looked rusty to say the least after taking a break for all of 2018, and the bot lane duo did not look like they were on the same page — shifting from Doublelift to Deftly is going to be a bit of an adjustment period for Olleh, but I think ultimately it should free him up to make more plays on the map. They just need to figure out how to do that. 2018 was a very difficult debut year for GGS, and this new roster was supposed to put that era squarely in the past, but so far it’s shaping up to be more of the same.