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10 Thoughts going into Week 5

TL and C9 are still clearly the cream of the crop -- who can challenge them?

We’re almost halfway through the season and the big question on everyone’s mind is can Team Liquid still go undefeated even though they’ve got one loss? I have checked with our stats team, and after a long night of crunching numbers, it turns out they cannot. A surging TSM and GGS are going to be difficult for anybody to deal with come playoffs, but TL and C9 are still clearly the cream of the crop. Here’s 10 thoughts going into Week 5, which is still (and always) not a power ranking!

1. TEAM LIQUID [7-1] — Putting the defeated in undefeated
Things are absolutely dire for Team Liquid as they now find themselves in the midst of their worst losing streak of the season. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say they might never win a game again… Alright, they lost pretty handily to TSM, which is not a shocking loss or anything. I actually think losses are healthy in that now they can further identify some weak spots in their style. One of the things I mentioned last week is that they’re often slow out of the gates, and against an aggressive early game team, that might bite them in the ass. Enter TSM — the aggressive early game team (yes, this is a thing now) who bit them in the ass. I don’t expect them to be hindered for too long, though — with crit marksmen back in the meta, Doublelift will be an even more fearsome opponent to deal with. I was a little worried as to what would happen when Liquid runs into more proficient bot lane mage or bruiser players (and whether or not Doublelift could pick those champions up if they become more favored by the meta), but that doesn’t seem like it’ll be the case. Liquid is still by far the most consistent team in the league, and they should have no trouble essentially locking up a playoff spot in the next week or two.

2. CLOUD9 [6-2] — Fountain dive? Fountain do, or fountain do not?
Not diving the fountain for the pentakill while your team sacrifices themselves for you is a scene straight out of a C9 sitcom. With Liquid’s loss, C9 is now the hottest team in the LCS and can once again vie for a first place finish. Nisqy has fit in seamlessly — he even said he was trying to steal Sneaky’s penta on the fountain dive, which is the surest marker of a good friendship. Zeyzal has mentioned in interviews that Nisqy is much less demanding than Jensen, which I think allows C9 to be more versatile with their strategy. They might, for example, be more free to funnel resources into Licorice or their bot lane — both of which seem like pretty good options right now. Sneaky is 2nd in the league in KDA and kills, behind only Doublelift. Licorice is also 2nd in both categories (behind Impact and Broken Blade respectively) — they’re a powerful one-two punch that seem to only be building on their success at Worlds. Licorice especially is starting to distance himself from the rest of the top lane pack in North America, and if C9 keeps rolling like this, buzz (I am part of that buzz!) for an MVP award going his way will only grow stronger. It’s an award a top laner has never won in NA, and I think he’s a prime candidate to be the first.  

3. FLYQUEST [5-3] — Riven one-trick btw
V1per: *locks riven*
FLY: dude wtf
V1per: sorry old habit. it’s just early season masters players tho lol
FLY: ??
V1per: wait shit is this LCS

FLY won both games last weekend and in doing so showed great discipline in how to play with an end-game Riven (which is to just let her push and draw pressure and mash buttons). We even saw him pull off a nice 1v2 against Bang and Aphromoo to highlight why so many low elo people complain about the champion (low elo Rivens also do not look this, though). It was pretty nice to see them willingly give their rookie a comfort pick like that on stage and then also adjust to what he needed. It’s also part of the “potential” I talked about with this team earlier in the season — a wildcard pick like this can be very difficult to deal with. It’s not just that V1per is on a comfort pick, it’s that everyone on the other team is simultaneously discomforted. At the pro level, where picking fights is often a split-second decision centered around whether or not you will kill the enemy champion or be killed, not being familiar with the damage output of off-meta picks like Riven can spell doom for you (the easy answer is that Riven will always kill you, little Ashes of the world). I’m excited to see if they’ll continue evolving their champions to play with Riven or if V1per has any other tricks up his sleeves.

4. COUNTER LOGIC GAMING [4-4] — All counter logic is the same
So, I can’t tell if this team is good or not, but I guess if I’m not able to tell, then that means they aren’t good, right? But the reverse of that also means they’re not bad. PowerOfEvil didn’t die at all last weekend, which is potentially a signal that he understands he needs to be a backline threat for this team. The top side of the map for CLG is still floundering in some of their matches so far — Darshan in particular was, at his peak, one of the most threatening presences in the league but is very inconsistent this season. He developed a big reputation for being a major split pusher in the past, and it was a win condition that lifted CLG time and again over the course of his career. Top lane requires a lot of synergy with your jungler, though, so it’s also on Wiggily to get on the same page with Darshan so that he isn’t falling into large early holes. Or he could just keep picking Sion so I can write a feature on him called “Even this feature calls him Sionspartan.”

5. ECHO FOX [4-4] — Two days, two teams
Sunday FOX remains one of three undefeated teams from major regions in the world — alongside the LPL’s FunPlus Phoenix and the LCK’s Griffin. It’s still a long ways off until we hit international play, but I think it’s pretty safe to say Sunday FOX is an early frontrunner to win MSI. Saturday FOX, however, is going to find a way to get relegated even though we don’t have relegation matches anymore. Rush said on Twitter that this makes 31 straight weeks of him not going 0-2, and I continue to love the fact that he knows this. A lot of times athletes and players pretend to not care about records and stuff like that. They’ll say, “We’re just focused on the next game,” and I always thought that was some boring-ass shit. So I love that he knows this, and I’m glad it serves as a kind of fuel for his team. The biggest problem for this team is that Sunday only happens once a week, so they really need to sort out what’s making them so inconsistent. Apollo and Hakuho, though, are looking more like they did in Spring last year, and a return to a crit marksmen meta will also be very beneficial to them. The two are rarely considered the best individual players at their position, but as a duo they garner a lot of respect from players across the league — maybe leaning into them even more will be how FOX can climb out of the middle of the pack.

6. TSM [4-4] — TSM! TSM! TSM!
After winning a big fight against Team Liquid, the crowd started chanting, “TSM! TSM! TSM!” which is not at all an uncommon thing, but for some reason it felt really nostalgic to me last week. It felt like the first time in a long time that the chant was actually genuine — done entirely out of pride for the team and not out of some weird latent desire to just make noise. I’m not about to feel sympathy per say for the fans considering it’s only been a year since they made Finals and even that “bad” year was them finishing 4th… but it probably felt good to win an important game for the first time in a while. Buzz around the league suggests that this isn’t a stopping point for TSM, either — there’s reason to believe they’ll continue to improve from this showing, and there are few teams more frightening to line up against than a confident TSM. Especially come playoffs. Both of the top two teams in the league right now — Cloud9 and Team Liquid — are full of players with a long history of futility against TSM. If they’ve truly began to figure out how to effectively be consistent with a proactive playstyle, then we might be seeing the gears turn on a new era of TSM. Or maybe they collapse this week and it really was just that Liquid should never pick Yorick again. They can answer any doubt with an emphatic 2-0 week over old rival CLG and an upstart FLY.  

7. 100 THIEVES [3-5] — Super struggle
This team reminds me a lot of Misfits in that both were super hyped before the season as being potential super teams and are both struggling mightily. They also share the same color scheme (don’t tell anyone I told you this, but they’re secretly the same team and League of Legends is part of a giant conspiracy to break your heart). And contrary to, say, TSM or even C9 when they were losing games, it’s not like 100 appears to be trying to do too much or anything — they’re a slower-paced team that’s just not really making very many proactive plays at all. I say this basically every time a new “super” team comes together, but pretty much all of the championship-caliber teams in history came out of the gate swinging. There aren’t really any tales of a singular group of five players suddenly having some magic switch that makes them good — always the catalyst is some sort of change. Could 100 go against history here? Sure. It’s truly perplexing to me how a team with this much talent can struggle so much — you kind of figure they should have the ability to at least win early based on the sheer talent that is here, but that’s not proving to be true either. Even their wins earlier in the split were long slugfests. This week they’ve got an easier matchup against OPT to close out the first round robin, but then they’ve got TL on Sunday — it’s at the point in the season where that might be a must-win for them if they’re to build any sort of momentum.

8. GOLDEN GUARDIANS [3-5] — When in doubt*, pick Anivia. *Also when not in doubt.
Every time Froggen locks in Anivia, I first feel younger because of nostalgia for my youth and how seven years ago, when I first started watching, Froggen’s Anivia was the most famous single champion pick in the world. Then I feel older because it’s been seven damn years of this and he’s still picking Anivia when no one else is. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s played more Anivia in the last couple of years than the rest of the competitive scene combined. They did, however, go on to lose that game against TL, but it was a pretty well-contested affair and one that they could have won if they executed a bit better. GGS is 3-1 in the last couple of weeks and clearly looking like a team on the upswing — Hauntzer in particular has looked really good to me, and I think the change in scenery has helped him regain some of the footing that had him in contention for MVP earlier in his career. GGS were also apparently very strong scrim opponents even when they opened 0-4, so maybe it was just some stage jitters that got in the way? Anyway, congratulations to anyone else who remembers S2 Froggen Anivia. May we be forever in the clutches of esports.

9. CLUTCH GAMING [2-6] — Big losing streak
CG’s losing streak is now at six games, which is very distinctly… bad. This was another one of those teams with a lot of question marks around them before the season began — people weren’t sure what you’d get. Their veteran names are players who’ve had poor to mediocre showings in the last year, and we weren’t sure what to make of the younger guys, but still I think many of use were hopeful the veterans would come together and return to form.. But so far Huni especially has been one of the biggest question marks of the split — even as recently as Spring Split of last year, plenty of people were still saying he was an MVP-caliber player. And while FOX’s 2018 Summer Split was marred with issues, Huni — for the most part — managed to keep the team together and help propel them into the playoffs. So his showing these first few weeks have been absolutely puzzling. He’s a player with such a decorated history that it’s hard for me to imagine he won’t bounce back into form at some point, and it’s not the first time he’s struggled for a stretch (think back to SKT’s 2017 Summer Split) either. In any case, they are quickly heading for a shuffle of sorts if they don’t start winning now — they can only afford to lose another couple of games. Now’s the time to play to their namesake and actually be clutch.

10. OPTIC GAMING [2-6] — A bright Meteos
The biggest bright spot for OPT last weekend was not Big but Meteos — he showed that on a personal level at least, he’s still got what it takes to match the pathing of other junglers in the league. Especially in the match against C9, he actually had a dominant start to the game, but OPT unfortunately got caught out once and then just died a few minutes later. It was one of those games where you pull up the old Scarra meme saying they were winning until they lost. It’s been a rough stretch for these five — since Arrow returned to the lineup, they’ve been unable to secure a single victory. Neither of their losses last week were particularly bad showings, but also every loss is kind of a bad showing at this point in the season. At 2-6, your goal posts start to shift a little bit, and while OPT might be improving as a team, that goal is just a lot smaller than they’d like. I think you might start to see some murmurs calling for them to swap up the roster a little bit, but I don’t really see any iteration of the OPT lineup challenging for the championship as they are right now. So maybe if you let this roster have some more time to gel, they can sort out their problems? In any case, it’s promising that Meteos is still performing well. It’s just unfortunate that their other best performer this split — Dardoch — happens to play the same role. Maybe it’s time to bust out some weird double jungler strategy.

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Mechanics: V1per’s Riven (2019 Spring Week 4)