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My favorite movie last year was Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse — part of the premise of the movie is that a tear in the space-time continuum converges multiple Spider-Heroes together into a single universe. They’re different but the same, just like many of the LCS teams so far. A whole cluster of them look like they could win or lose or be Spider-Pig or Spider-Gwen or Detective Spider-Man on any given week. And then there’s Liquid who looks like they can win everything and GGS who look like they could lose everything. Reality as we know could fall apart if this keeps up. Here’s 10 thoughts going into Week 3!
1. Team Liquid [4-0] — Blue Smurfs
Do you ever search your opponents during the load screen and see all of them have 60%+ win rates while your Lee Sin has a 22% win rate? That’s what I imagine it’s like playing against this team. One moment you’re telling your teammates that anyone can win on any given day and the next you’re huddled under your turret wondering if it’s even worth it to sell your Doran’s Ring for a Pink Ward if it’s just going to get killed anyway. As long as we don’t see any sudden shifts in the meta, I don’t really see how this team is going to drop any games (in before they lose next week). None of their players are boom-or-bust as a playstyle and their drafts have been pretty conservative. Like, I’m sure they’re bound to lose a couple games this split, but right now I have a very difficult time seeing that or especially seeing anyone else represent NA at MSI. CoreJJ’s integration into TL has been seamless — him and Doublelift are crushing their opponents, and they’re only going to get better as the season wears on.
2. FlyQuest [3-1] — 200 FlyQ
Before the season began, Pobelter told me he wanted to return to a more carry-oriented and flashy play-style. And, well, I guess it was as easy as speaking it into existence. After a perplexingly long 49-minute loss against CLG (or rather not perplexing at all since it was against CLG), they bounced back with a nice victory over TSM. Pobelter currently sports the second highest KDA in the league (13.7) behind Tanner from High School (Damonte’s 15) while playing a different champion in every single game. What this means, of course, is that we now have irrefutable evidence that NA mid laners are the best. And it also means that Pobelter is demonstrating that he can still shine when the onus is placed on him to carry. When people think back to Liquid last year, it’s Doublelift who (deservedly) garners most of the praise, but I think a good start here is starting to remind people that Pobelter didn’t earn the 200 IQ meme just as a joke. And as the season goes on, rookie V1per will continue to mature — just how high he can go will determine this team’s ceiling.
3. Cloud9 [2-2] — Aggressive and Arrogant
Last week I said Cloud9 was the second best team in the LCS and then they went and lost to CLG, but in some ways, losing to CLG when you’re not supposed to is actually the expected outcome once you apply the counter logic… so maybe all is right? Honestly, I felt like C9 just played really arrogantly in that game — an early invade into the red buff was completely crushed as C9 filed in like a bunch of ants, each trying to be Ant-Man. I still think this is the second best team in the LCS, but it’s becoming maybe more and more clear they’re still at least a tier below TL. I do think, though, that because they’re willing to be so aggressive, that their ceiling might be higher even than TL. When I think of controlled superstar-laden teams, I’m reminded of TSM’s 16-17 tenure, and those rosters never managed to adapt well to a faster pace at international events. Liquid last year suffered a similar fate, and this year so far TL is like last year’s version except better. Is that enough? I don’t know. But C9 has kept the aggressive edge that propelled them into the Semifinals at Worlds, and I think that should keep fans hopeful that they’ll get it together eventually.
4. Clutch Gaming [2-2] — Tanner from High School
So you’re going by “LCS” now nerd? Haha whats up douchebag, it’s Tanner from Highschool. Remember me? Damonte continues to be the unexpected bright spot for his team this split, but it’s worth nothing his KDA is a little inflated relative to his damage percentage (20.7%, one of the lowest in the league). I think that makes sense given how aggressive the rest of his teammates are — Huni and Lira for example, sport fairly low KDAs in their respective roles. Clutch is a team that you’d expect to have pressure on the edges of the map, so what they’d want from a mid laner is something stable that won’t let extra pressure leak to top or bottom. Damonte is doing that well. However, that relies on those side lanes to then perform as expected, and right now Huni and Lira have continued last summer’s inconsistent trajectory. And after a certain point, being consistently inconsistent is just… consistent? Still, Huni is still one of the top players in the league when it comes to exerting pressure, so CG may be able to use that to their advantage as the split wears on, even if Huni continues to die a little more than he should.
5. Counter Logic Gaming [2-2] — Logical Progression
I talked shit about CLG last week on purpose so that the universe’s energy would then play into their favor. You can thank me later, CLG fans. Their 2-0 week was spearheaded by Sionspartan (I’m not sure if this was coined before this week, but I saw it in a Reddit thread so I guess y’all are sometimes okay), and honestly that’s got to be a super huge relief for CLG. There was a pretty strong case for them being the worst team in the league after Week 1, but with these bounceback wins (even if they weren’t super convincing), they’ve bought more real estate to have enough buffer room to get better before the Playoffs hit. Ultimately, every single team right now is still trying to fine tune themselves and figure out how to best play with each other (yes, even juggernauts like TL), and it’s more important to try to get a feel for a team’s potential than for how good they are. And I at least hold PowerOfEvil very highly — in a hypothetical fantasy draft world, I would strongly consider taking him with a Top 3 pick if not the #1 overall pick. If the team can learn to play with him and vice versa, then they could continue to make some major strides. And logic says they should only get better… which they will… right?
6. Echo Fox [2-2] — No Rush
One cool fact you may have heard (or missed) from the broadcast this past weekend is that Rush has never had an 0-2 week. One cooler fact, though, is that he knows. That felt like a very Rush thing to me, and it was something I also agreed would empower him. Even to this day, I fully expect to beat my siblings at everything we do because, as a kid, I just did. That’s obviously changed a lot as we’ve gotten older and I’ve become more benevolent and let them win more. But there really is something powerful about that kind of repetition — it is, I imagine, similar to how basketball players have routines before they shoot free throws. They are trying to trigger muscle memories that let them have a small out-of-body, out-of-time reenactment back to when they did make a shot. And for Rush, when he is 0-1, maybe a part of him begins to think it’s impossible for him to lose the second game. The longer that continues, the stronger he will feel each time — maybe it will result in a heightened focus or maybe he enters a trance where he sees everything better and responds to things more quickly. It’s basic science. The result is that FOX’s roster is sitting squarely in the pack with everyone else — it is still hard for me to say this is a team to watch out for, but maybe that’s exactly what it means to be a dark horse. People shouldn’t see you coming.
7. OpTic Gaming [2-2] — Blurry Optics
On a pregame segment last weekend, one of the questions raised was whether or not Crown was the single most valuable offseason pickup — was it the crowning achievement? To which I say… probably not. I think Crown has been really good for them, but I don’t think he’s a significant upgrade (or an upgrade at all) over PowerOfEvil. That said, this team is still super hard to judge because we don’t know how exactly Arrow will fit in once he returns — does that mean Meteos and Big will return to the lineup? And would that maybe disrupt their growth so far? Hard to say, but Dhokla will likely stay given his recent performances. I’m happy that he’s being given a chance to improve after a rather rough and forgettable (maybe that’s good now) introduction into the League. This will come down to whether or not Arrow can play at an MVP level again or at least close to it — this is a team that has a chance to really surprise people. It’s definitely a good sign that they’re hanging out despite being a mishmash of a roster at the moment. And Dardoch is proving his value on the Rift is still high. Eventually you figure a desperate LCS team has to bite on him.
8. TSM [2-2] — New year, new TSM
TSM played in a 43 kill game, which by itself is impressive considering you don’t really think of TSM as a team that’s willing to get dirty, but even more impressive is that Zven didn’t die at all in that game. Sure, he was Ezreal, but it still makes me think of scenes where a character runs around dodging all the explosions around them. Like some sort of anime where Broken Blade is Krillin who just keeps dying and then getting resurrected in an endless cycle. I don’t think this is necessarily good League of Legends but it’s the exact kind of game you need to play multiple times throughout the year to help build character and condition players to just force things. This is exactly what was missing from TSM’s last Worlds runs (which seems like forever now, huh?). And at least for right now, I think sloppiness is a welcome thing to see because it means you can still improve — you definitely don’t want a clean loss (and even clean wins make it hard to identify how to get better). TSM is moving away from their old legacy and brand that made final after final, but that’s exactly what people wanted — a complete departure from that same TSM that always faltered at Worlds. So of course it’s a little ugly right now.
9. 100 Thieves [1-3] — Waiting on a bang
The good news for the 100 Thieves is they’re out of murderer’s row now that they’ve played against TL, C9, and TSM (who I think are the three of the four best teams in the league). The bad news is they lost to all of them — it’s like making it to the seventh batter in the lineup but all the power hitters hit home runs on you. A lot of fingers have been pointed so far even though the sample size has been super small, but I was glad to see Huhi in particular have a bounceback game against GGS — he had a couple of gaffes but it was nice to see how much pressure he was able to exert. He’s also been a bit of a boom-or-bust player and that game really highlighted more of the boom. Relative to expectations, where 100 is at right now is definitely a disappointment, but sometimes it only takes one win to reverse the flow of your season. Plus, because 60% of the league makes the Playoffs, they’re still only a game out. There’s still hope here to be sure — the heist hasn’t been busted just yet. And I feel like we still haven’t really seen much of what Bang brings to the table.
10. Golden Guardians [0-4] — Time is running out
Now this would be an example of a team that is losing cleanly, which is exactly where you do not want to be. It’s also a roster full of veterans and at this point we’ve seen more or less what they’re capable of, so you don’t even have the whole youth thing to give you hope as the season wears on. So what are reasons to be optimistic for this team? Well, first off it’s only been four games — I personally think you can’t make a confident value judgment on a team until at least three weeks have been played (a third of the season). Another 0-2 week and this team should definitely be asking if changing up a few pieces would be a good idea, if only to alter the atmosphere. Losses like this really pile up and crush morale, which causes you to play even worse. Losing is a self-perpetuating culture, and it’s something that’s plagued this organization since they entered the league. As a sports fan from Michigan, I know all too well what it’s like to lose and lose and even when hell freezes over, you are still losing. I wish I had some sort of remedial advice for fans or for the team, but there really isn’t anything foolproof. You just kind of need to slog through it until the wins come. Theoretically, though, the wins will feel that much better when they finally come. Maybe Froggen is still stuck in his Solo Queue streamer mentality. Maybe Hauntzer got too used to TSM. Maybe Contractz is stressing over which of his laners needs the most help when they all seem to need help. Whatever the reason, GGS needs to figure it out this week or I think their season will be all but lost.