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10 thoughts going into Week 7

"Liquid has died the fewest times this split. C9 leads the league in kills. Now they clash."

A famous philosopher once watched a weekend of the LCS and said, “Why is LCS?” To which we simply said… yes. The end of Week 6 means we are two-thirds of the way through the Spring Split, and as we approach the final leg, only one game separates fourth place from last. Seven teams will wrestle for three playoff spots and a chance to sow some redemption into an otherwise difficult spring. Liquid and C9 still appear to be a cut above TSM, but together the three are clearly the primary contenders this Spring. Here’s 10 thoughts going into Week 7!

1. TEAM LIQUID [11-1] — Aimbot
You can tell Doublelift is one of the main characters of the LCS anime because he never misses any of his skillshots. Liquid has already clinched a playoff berth, so all that’s left is to secure the #1 seed, which I think is pretty important since it’ll likely mean avoiding a matchup against TSM. That means the coming matchup against Cloud9 this weekend is going be one of the most important games of the young season — not just in NA but worldwide. There’s been a lot of talk (some by me) about the perceived weakness of NA as a region right now, but you know what — screw the haters!!! Liquid is dominating NA as hard as, say, G2 or Griffin. It’s just not as flashy. I think even if NA struggles at MSI, where we send our single best team, that’s still not a great portrayal of the region. And I feel like NA’s top three teams match up pretty well with the top three from any other region at the moment, so Worlds is where we’ll truly shine. I’m hoping the matchup against C9 this weekend turns out to be a high level contest. Liquid has died the fewest times this split — with both Jensen and Doublelift (10 total deaths each) dying about once a game. They face a C9 team that leads the league in kills — I’m pumped (ban Ezreal) to see how they’ll clash (ban Ezreal) and whether or not the TL carries can continue to avoid death (ban Ezreal).

I also wanted to share this cool chart on Team KDAs since I’ll be referencing it a bit through this week’s thoughts:

2. CLOUD9 [10-2] — Blaber debuts!
You can tell that C9 is also a main character in the LCS anime because they’re very good at pulling victories out of their ass. There is nothing the power of friendship can’t overcome (except Ezreal. Ban Ezreal). It definitely wasn’t the cleanest weekend for C9, but they still managed to come out of it with two victories, which is a real testament to how untiltable this team is — I think they might have the best mental in the league at the moment. We also saw Blaber’s debut this split, which is surprisingly a little late considering how much they rotated players last summer. I’m not exactly sure what the trigger is for putting him or Sven in, but Blaber said their play styles are very different. Generally that means a combination of different champion pools and early objective/lane priority — Blaber might, for example, prefer to play around a specific laner more than Svenskeren. If that lane happens to be the opposing team’s weak spot, then maybe you go with Blaber. This is the kind of flexibility that makes me a little more excited about C9’s potential ceiling than TL’s (who without a doubt have a higher floor). I expect them to play heavily around Licorice this weekend — a carry performance from him here can more-or-less secure the MVP for him.

3. TSM [7-5] — Ultimate economy
I’ve been watching a lot of Overwatch lately and one thing they talk about is “ult economy.” Basically it means managing your ultimate meters properly so you can sync them (and also trying to guess which enemy heroes have them). TSM’s loss against C9 reminded me a lot of that — in the final fight, C9 has five Flashes up compared to TSM’s two — tracking that summoner is basically the same principle as an “ult economy” in OW. TSM’s composition should win every single fight if their Flash is up because C9 can’t catch them without a flank, but they rushed their positioning at the end and a single misstep from Bjergsen (who otherwise played nearly flawlessly) cost them the game. Yeah, probably it was a bit of a throw, but it’s a pretty unforgiving team comp to run — C9 did a good job of holding out until they found their moment. I don’t think it should take away from how TSM looked otherwise, though — it’s pretty clear they’re competing at a high level at least, and Bjergsen and Zven are looking better by the week. Even in the fiesta-game against FOX, they played their win condition out very well to secure a nice come-from-behind win. I know it’s been a tough period of not-winning-everything for TSM fans, but I’d say things look pretty bright right now.

4. Counter Logic Gaming [5-7] — The dividing line
Let me caveat the next seven teams I’ll be talking about by saying we only have three teams with winning records in the LCS. That’s… as the kids like to say… nutty. Like, either it means we have no truly awful teams this year or it means we have seven awful teams this year. I’m leaning towards the former, since each team below has shown signs of life here or there, but the problem is none of them can look good consistently. CLG demonstrated that perfectly this weekend by playing an essentially flawless game against FLY only to then play one of the least proactive games from any team this split in their loss against TL. Like, I wonder what the cognitive dissonance was like in that review, where they had to watch themselves watching themselves lose. The bright side for CLG is that Darshan popped off on his signature Jax pick and actually solo killed Impact’s Jayce as Ornn, which… shouldn’t happen. His Ornn was otherwise uninspiring, though, so I wonder if it’d be to CLG’s benefit to continue sticking Darshan on carries. That worked for them in years past, and it seems there are signs that it may continue to work now. Many of the teams in this cluster haven’t shown that they can close out early leads, but CLG has, which I think is reason to be a little high on them.

5. FlyQuest [5-7] — Clipped wings
There’s a scene in Spider-Man (the original trilogy) where Toby Maguire (I refuse to accept that he was Peter Parker) jumps off a roof and for a brief second thinks he’s flying before suddenly crashing into a dumpster. That’s kind of a metaphor for FLY’s last couple of weeks — the 0-4 slide is tied with FOX for being the worst streak in the league. You can basically hear pre-season analysts screaming “I told you so!” The loss to CLG last weekend was particularly devastating — they got absolutely steamrolled by a team that has absolutely no business steamrolling anything. Good news is their two opponents this week are CG and FOX — two wins would put them in a comfortable position to make playoffs. The flip side is if they lose these games, then probably we have to write them off. I’m not sure what the formula for the turnaround is for this team — I don’t think any individual player is particularly to blame here. They’re just not holding up in the lane phase and early game like they were earlier in the season, so maybe we should see them looking to shore up their drafting phase by picking stronger early laners this week.  

6. Golden Guardians [5-7] — Meeting expectations
It’s kind of wild to remember this team started 0-4 — of all the teams in the lower end of the standings right now, this is probably the most promising one. You could make a pretty strong case for them being the 4th strongest team in the league at the moment, which is right around where most people had them to start the split. The biggest hurdle for them is that they’re not particularly good at snowballing their early leads — that was evident in the match against C9, where they had a bunch of great early game champions (and not really any scaling or end-game team-fighting capacity) and then proceeded to just get stalled around objectives. This could be the result of numerous things — poor vision control around Baron, poor wave management, or even just not being willing to pull the trigger because they’re too afraid of losing. I think it’s good that they tried a proactive early-game team composition, but I’m not sure they have enough buffer room to mess up on execution right now. Being more proactive and snowballing leads will be critical if they hope to challenge the three teams at the top of the standings — just waiting on the other team to screw up is only going to get you so far. Still, I’d be surprised if they didn’t make playoffs — they’ve got all the pieces and they’re one of the few teams actually trending upwards.

7. OpTic Gaming [5-7] — Happy Crown
Us: :(
Crown: :)
Us: :)

Last summer, OpTic barely missed the playoffs after a spirited run, and while the players on this team are very different, that energy seems to have carried over. They’ve become a sort of feel-good story to root for in large part because of Crown’s journey, but also because they’re largely an entertaining team to watch. There are definitely some marquee names on this roster, but they’re all kind of being chased by their own shadows — like when you’re racing against your own record-setting-ghost on Mario Kart. The thing is maybe they don’t want to be racing against that at all. Maybe they’re just trying to enjoy the track again. OPT still isn’t particularly good — their team KDA is a league low .71, and they’re just as far from 9th place as 9th place is to 3rd place. Stats of course don’t tell the whole story, but their wins are generally scrappy — they’ll need to convert a few clean wins if they want to secure a playoff spot. They’re also able to rotate Dardoch in, so I don’t think this team is in the gutters just yet — they’ve got the pieces to make a playoff run if they can figure out how to put them together.

8. 100 Thieves [4-8] — Still not at 100%
Even though they managed to go 1-1 last weekend, I think it still kind of felt like an 0-2 weekend considering their win was thanks to a massive throw from CG. So continues a trying season for the team, and with TSM and C9 on deck, things may only get more bleak. To say I’m surprised would be a pretty big understatement since I pegged them as the top team in the LCS before the split began — I expected they’d have a lot more synergy on the rift and would just snowball early advantages into win after win. That, however, has not been the case — they’re not even consistently winning lane phase right now. Last weekend, Ssumday played Riven in both games, which I thought was a smart decision. Even in the loss, he was 5-1 on the pick and was proving to be very difficult to handle, but the rest of his team floundered around the map and just gave up objective after objective. Like, at one point GGS went to take Elder Dragon and the only person who responded was… Ssumday. The only thing decisive about this team right now is that they’re wasting a lot of talented individual play. I just think even if they figure it out this week that TSM and C9 are very difficult games, so they’re staring at the possibility of being 4-10, which would firmly place them on the outside of the playoff picture.

9. Clutch Gaming [4-8] — Poor Piggy
Not since Lord of the Flies have I seen a little piggy be slaughtered so needlessly — a poor performance from Piglet was a major reason behind Clutch throwing their huge lead against 100. CG definitely should have gone 2-0, but that throw wasn’t completely surprising. This is definitely the team I have pegged as being most likely to throw a game because they have a lot of players who are maybe too hungry for individual outplays. I actually feel like this team is better than their record — on any given day, I think these guys can turn it up to another level and compete with the trifecta of teams at the top — they just don’t turn the dial that high very often. Huni’s been a lot more consistent in recent weeks and you’re seeing that reflect back onto the rest of the team — he’s the kind of player that you just naturally rally around and behind. The biggest thing going against CG right now, though, is they’ve still got the big three on their schedule to close out this split — you figure they need to win at least two of those matches to stay alive in the playoff hunt, and that’s not an easy order. That also means they absolutely can’t afford to lose to anyone else, and their Jekyll-and-Hyde nature means, probably, they’re going to stumble at some point.

10. Echo Fox [4-8] — Sad Panda
An old LCK player named “LongPanda” is who I think of whenever I see the word Panda — he infamously had an award named after him that was given to the top laner who lost lane the most. He also had a Panda Note (like a Death Note) that he carried onto stage with him. So if only because of nostalgia for the name, I really wanted Panda to have a good debut week in the LCS. And, well, it wasn’t an awful week even if they went 0-2. I feel like there was probably some added pressure because Rush is a pretty high profile player to sub for, but with the way FOX has been playing, it’s not like expectations were particularly high. The 50 minute loss against TSM was a pretty hilarious game to watch if your idea of good humor is closely related to crying. It was pretty clear that FOX didn’t have a strong voice on the Rift to help identify what their win condition was (as opposed to TSM who seemed to understand it very well), but that’s a thing that can be developed with a bit of time. I’d like to see them give Panda some more time the rest of the split (and maybe some other players as well) — even though they’re only one game back, the four-game slide kind of makes it feel like a bit of a lost split for them.

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Mechanics: Ssumday’s Riven (2019 Spring Week 6)