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Blink once and suddenly a new season of competitive League of Legends has started. Blink twice and it’s already Week 6. Blink three times and you’re almost 30 years old and still want a reward for doing basic household chores. Luckily, though, this is not DotA so we don’t have such easy access to Blink. TSM joins C9 and TL in the “good” category of teams as we turn the corner and head down the second half of the season. This is 10 thoughts and I’m your host!
1. TEAM LIQUID [9-1] — Jesus Jesus
Both Js in CoreJJ stand for Jesus because you repeat it over and over when you’re watching him play. We often focus more on Tahm Kench as being a fail-safe for his carries because he can eat them out of CC (which CoreJJ also does very well), so the big ultimates are secondary. But that’s not as true for CoreJJ — he utilizes his ults to force plays better than anyone else right now, and combined with his already high game sense, that means Team Liquid’s mid game is absolutely devastating. They are very good at choking the enemy team to death. They don’t take risky plays because they don’t need to — their vision control and map presence means they can safely pinpoint high-success-rate plays over and over. When you combine it with the stability that Impact and Xmithie also offer, that means Jensen and Doublelift are free to focus on killing things, and the two of them are among the best (if not the best) in their respective positions at doing just that in the LCS. I’m still looking for them to close out the regular season successfully, though — despite winning both splits last year, neither of the regular seasons were particularly dominant. It’ll be nice for NA to have a super hyped team going into an international event again.
2. CLOUD9 [8-2] — C9’s win condition is grouping
At 15 minutes in Solo Queue games, you’re allowed to start a surrender vote. Cloud9 has a similar thing in their games on stage, except it’s a win vote — they collectively vote on whether or not they feel like winning yet. Eventually all five of them hit yes, and then they just win (this is in the LCS rulebook btw). That’s what it feels like to watch them play — the FLY game was a great example of them floundering around for a bit and then just straight up winning the game once they grouped (it also helped that Turtle gifted them a few classic my-team-Yasuo plays). When it comes to proactive map plays in the mid and late game, I think this is the most difficult team to handle in the league. They’re prone to early mistakes still (or overeager aggression), but it’s really impressive to see them collectively shift their ward line to circle around objectives. In an interview with Travis Gafford, Zeyzal says that based on scrims at least, C9 are the best team in NA. There are two things to do with scrim result rumors. The first is to disregard it entirely because “lul scrims,” and the second is to treat it as gospel to better aid your arguments with strangers on the internet. Take this fuel and run, friends. Spread the gospel.
3. TSM [6-4] — Actually spooky
If Liquid is the best team in the league, and Cloud9 is secretly the best team in the league (scrims), then I think TSM is probably the scariest team in the league. Much of this is predicated on their historical reputation — I lived through their run of 10 straight Finals appearances, and so in the back of my mind a part of me will always tell you that TSM is the best team in the league. It’s just that when it comes to a Best-of-5, I think every single fan base would be nervous to go against TSM. That’s their passive power (or PTSD). But also their active power right now is that they just look good — maybe for the first time since the end of the 2018 Spring Split Regular Season. One of the biggest catalysts for this swing has been Smoothie — after dying a thousand times (this is a verifiable stat) in the first three weeks of the season, he’s only died a combined five times since (three of them in one match against OPT). This includes a performance against CLG where he pretty much single-handedly won them the game by landing three massive hooks in lane against Stixxay’s Ezreal. The most reassuring part of this for TSM fans is that it’s not just Bjergsen hard-carrying them to this 4-game win streak, which is what always pulled them out of ruts in the past. And it feels like they can become even better.
4. FLYQUEST [5-5] — The FLY is the limit
I wonder if fourth place is forever cursed because of Team Liquid’s stranglehold over the spot all those years — it just feels like it is frequently a good dividing line for what “good” looks like. FlyQuest is now the team that beats everyone below them and loses to everyone above them. Well, maybe that is a little harsh — their main problems are probably fixable. They were in advantageous positions to start the game against both C9 and TSM last weekend but failed to capitalize on either game. In fact, once it transitioned clearly into the team-oriented phase of the game, they just seemed to be outclassed. It kind of felt like no one was doing anything so Turtle would try to do something and then he would die for it. So I think this team would benefit from more decisive shotcalling in that phase because they’re just wasting their early game prowess at the moment — for all the talk of this roster lacking in talent or whatever, that’s been by far their least concerning issue. Their players are by-and-large performing pretty well individually. They just need to figure out how to play together.
5. COUNTER LOGIC GAMING [4-6] — Just listen to these songs
Did CLG play last weekend? Technically yes. But there really isn’t much to take away from those games — they got absolutely smashed by two of the best teams in the league. There were no redeeming factors in the games, but at least getting stomped isn’t as bad for fans’ hearts as a 50-minute throw. Just chalk those games up as being unlucky and regroup for this week. Anyway here’s Darshan singing:
6. ECHO FOX [4-6] — Finally winless
The bad news for FOX fans is that they lost both games last weekend, thus ending Rush’s insane streak of never going 0-2 in a single weekend. The good news is that now you won’t have to listen to pundits like me crack stupid jokes about that being true (honestly I don’t know how many more I had in me). We actually have to talk about the team now — which falls into both the good news (yes there are things to talk about) category and simultaneously the bad news (the things we talk about are mostly bad) category. One thing that’s happening is you can almost see the moments in which Rush’s brain flashes a few seconds into the future — the image is framed like a YouTube montage video and he is the star. So he flags and drags his way right into that imagined glory. The rest, as they say, is history. There was a particularly weird play against GGS where he basically let Froggen kill him without even reacting — seemed like he was focusing somewhere else on the map, which I guess happens but is super unusual to see at this level of play. It was a symbolic little play that kind of highlighted how this team doesn’t really have a focus — I just never know who’s going step up for them. Which one of them is the one you turn to when you need someone to make a play to win the game for you? And which one will space out and just kind of be there? Right now, it feels like too many of them are in the latter camp.
7. GOLDEN GUARDIANS [4-6] — Teach an old frog new tricks
Every now and then I start to think that maybe Froggen is a little “washed up,” and then he pulls a game out that makes me wonder what year it is. I guess that’s the nature of being around for a long time, though. Froggen is absolutely a better player now than he was at his peak — it’s just that everyone else has caught up, so when we think of players being past their prime, I think often we are comparing them to how dominant they used to be. But you will find, for example, that very few players from 2012 are still around — Froggen is still significantly better than the vast majority of those players. They’re just not around anymore. So it’s nice to see him pop off every now and then still. This GGS roster is 4-2 in the last three weeks but the loss against Clutch raises a lot of questions — such as why and what? It’s hard to buy much stock into a team that loses against a team on a 6-game slide. And in the loss, Olleh died eight times, which is a pretty absurd number of deaths in professional play. Sometimes that’s because the team isn’t on the same page in terms of when they want to move around the map or make plays — the support is frequently tasked with face-checking bushes or corners for vision, which makes them look bad when the enemy team is waiting. But, still, it’s at least partially on Olleh, so they need to make adjustments to make more calculated risks as a team.
8. OPTIC GAMING [4-6] — Snowballing some wins
The prevailing narrative behind OPT’s junglers is that Meteos is a herbivore jungler (as in he just farms) and Dardoch is a carnivore jungler (as in he just ganks), but I don’t know if that’s really true anymore. Meteos has spearheaded some of the most successful early games for OPT — in large part thanks to his ganks. Dardoch has been good in his games, too, so it just feels like an outdated dichotomy. Like, yeah, there was a time that Meteos just farmed a lot, but that’s not really true anymore — that’s just not how jungle is really played (unless you pick Karthus). I think probably the biggest difference is the champion pool — Jayce doesn’t seem like something Meteos would really play. There was even a moment about 20 minutes into Dardoch’s game where he took the blue buff instead of giving it to Crown — you could literally see him wavering on whether to take it or not (I think him taking it was the correct decision). I thought that highlighted the biggest difference in mentality, which is that Meteos is more supportive and Dardoch is more likely to try to carry. Given how much success OPT has had in the early game this split, it makes sense that they finally rallied together a 2-0 week. Even if both games took over 40 minutes to close out. They’ll need to get better at snowballing their leads if they hope to make a run to playoffs.
9. 100 THIEVES [3-7] — The slide continues
Right now, this team is so full of holes that you might as well call them 100 Sieves. If at Worlds you’d told me that 100 would somehow be more disjointed in the Spring Split, I’d have laughed in your face. Like, that was a team that got absolutely roasted for how they managed their substitutions, and now they’re somehow on a 4-game losing streak. The silver lining is that 3-7 is still only one game out of the playoffs (which maybe says a lot more about the rest of the league), but it also means they’re tied for dead last in the LCS right now. That’s very definitively not a result anybody expected from this roster. A lot of the blame is being pointed at captain Aphromoo at the moment — both for his in-game misgivings and for the generally dysfunctional state of 100’s mid game decisions. We’re not even a year removed from him winning MVP, so it makes me wonder if he’s just having trouble adjusting to Bang’s playstyle (and vice versa). It is just particularly strange to me that this team is getting smacked around in the early game at times, too — you figure that’s the one spot they should be foolproof. Matches against CG and GGS this week are both winnable, and at this point we’re in must-win territory for this team if they hope to avoid being the latest in a long lineage of failed “super teams.”
10. CLUTCH GAMING [3-7] — Houston has liftoff or Houston we have a problem?
We’re in a weird universe where Huni’s best game of the season was on Cassiopeia — like, of all champs for him to have a deathless game on, it was somehow an immobile mage. His struggles so far have been well-documented, so it’s reassuring to see him pull out a vintage game. Their win snapped a 6-game losing streak and keeps their playoff hopes alive. Even their loss against OPT was a fairly winnable game, so it seems like they’ve got their bearings on a little straighter right now. They’ve said that scrims have been going well for the team but they just haven’t been able to translate those results onto the stage. All they needed to do was stick Piglet on Irelia I guess. Clutch is a lot like 100 in that, on paper, their roster looks like it should be doing better than it is right now. The two clash this week in a strangely important matchup — the loser will finish the week in, at best, a tie for dead last again.