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Every week I tell myself that things will probably flesh out in such a way that we can finally have a clear look at the playoff picture. And then I realize that despite being 4-10, both the 100 Thieves and Echo Fox are only two games out from a playoff bid. All I’m saying is if the Starks can watch the heads of their house fall and still mount a comeback, then these teams too can come back from the brink of death. Theoretically, anyway. I think after this week we’ll have it narrowed down to eight teams at most, though! Please! Here’s 10 thoughts going into Week 8!
1. TEAM LIQUID [13-1] — Squad
I’m running out of different ways to explain to you why Liquid is good (they are — quote me on this — good), and I’ve spent enough time trying to caution us against the wind when it comes to how this team might do at, say, MSI (they should be — quote me on this — good). So instead I want to use this space to give a shoutout to this nice episode of Squad released by Team Liquid that places a nice focus on fandom. Doublelift in particular provides a lot of insight into how fans have kept him motivated throughout the years. It’s really cool to see him realize how he’s become a role model and a pillar of support for many peoples’ lives. Anyway, Liquid can clinch the #1 overall seed with another 2-0 week, and despite all their claims of scrims being a bit tougher lately, I think they’ll do just that.
2. CLOUD9 [11-3] — The dying undying
If you only look at the scoreboard from the C9 vs. TL game, then you might be fooled into thinking Svenskeren died 7 times. The truth is it was more like 11 or 12 times because of Aatrox’s passive. It was what you might call an unlucky game for the C9 jungler as the team struggled to play catch up for pretty much the entire game after a failed level 2 gank (a very unlucky gank). Comebacks often require the other team to make missteps, and unfortunately for them, TL is one of the teams least prone to making a mistake when they’ve secured an edge. The only reliable way to beat them is to force an advantage early in the game — generally through the jungle — and then snowball from there. So in that aspect, I at least respect that C9 was proactive and tried to make things happen. TL was just too good at denying those advances. Even TL was saying that C9 has been beating them in scrims, though, so I think there’s still reason to be optimistic for an LCS Championship for C9 fans — even based on this game it’s not unreasonable to think they could bounce back in an extended set. It’s like the old saying goes: kill Svenskeren once and shame on you, kill him twelve times and shame on… you can’t get killed again!
3. TSM [9-5] — Team Scrappy Mid
You can make a good case for TSM being environmentally friendly because none of their fans breathe during their games. This new approach to oxygen conservation is the kind of innovation that NA has long asked from them, and I for one would be happy to see them represent us again internationally. Anyway, I think it’s kind of worrying that TSM can still have games like the one against 100 — there were good things to identify for sure, such as Bjergsen’s ability and willingness to make massive tide-swinging kind of picks for his team, but without a lucky Baron steal, they probably would have lost. There’s a lot of hype around this squad right now — they’re 7-1 in their last 8 games including a win over Team Liquid, and even if they’re not particularly clean, they’re still wins. There’s something really satisfying about watching TSM of all teams claw and fight their way towards ugly victories. They’ve also shown a willingness to make some super aggressive split-push type of calls, which means they’ve somehow become the annoying team to deal with. For years it was them who’d be on the back foot responding to unique macro decisions, but now I believe their scrims are just trying to find out who can play songs the fastest, which is more commonly known as bass racing.
4. FLYQUEST [7-7] — Rising again
If I say FlyQuest is bad, they look good, and if I say they are good, then they look bad. Therefore, I would like to posit that FlyQuest absolutely is incapable of curing even a single terminal disease this week (I triple dog dare you!!!). At 7-7, FLY looks like they should make the Playoffs, but they’ve got a few things going against them. First of all, they’re part of the jumbled molecule of teams that can’t seem to figure out their positives from their negatives, so even if they did look great last week (and they looked damn great), it might be an anomaly. Second, their remaining schedule is pretty brutal — after they play 100 on Saturday (which is a must win because of the rest of their schedule), they have TL, C9, and then GGS — they could play well against all three of those teams and still lose. The flip side is it’s unlikely that the 9-loss teams will win out at this point, so eight wins might be the magic number to at least guarantee a tiebreaker — this makes the game against the 100 Thieves on Saturday possibly their most important fight this season. Do or FLY.
5. GOLDEN GUARDIANS [6-8] — Too little too late?
Sometimes while I am watching a game I am overcome with a strong desire to spam the question mark ping. Like, if we could have an overlay that let Twitch chat spam ONE question mark ping per game somewhere on the map (let’s make it an opt-in experience), then I think the screen would have been inundated with said pings at the end of the GGS vs. CLG match. Anyway I’ll be pitching that to the engineers — we riot if they don’t implement! GGS continues their surge as a dark horse kind-of-pick, but they haven’t really demonstrated the kind of decision making you’d want to see from a top tier team when it comes to the mid and late game — it feels like they’re very susceptible to multi-pronged attacks and don’t really execute well when they have to do it. They just want to team fight. Like, they’d be a very good NAram team. I feel like I say this kind of thing about them every week, but it becomes more and more real. Their remaining games are all against teams that are similar to them in level — it’s the perfect chance to level up, but it also means they’re not out of the woodwork just yet. I just kind of have a feeling that 0-4 start will come back and bite them in the ass even if I think they’re one of the Top 6 teams in the League (and I do think that).
6. OPTIC GAMING [6-8] — Changing narratives
Can you imagine doing the one thing that negates Faker (picking hard-CC like Malzahar), accomplishing it, and then being blasted for it? When people talk about how the community should be allowed to criticize players, I agree. I just also think the bulk of the parroted criticism comes from people who don’t actually know how to analyze the game. Like, they’re often the very same people who blame their teammates for everything they do wrong. I just get so mad when I think about how Crown was !!flamed!! for doing the best thing for his team to win (which they did! against SKT!). Which is to say the 180 on the public perception of Crown has been very satisfying to watch, and his 9-0-0 Corki game (which is very much a skill champion) was a good reminder to us all that he was at one point considered the #2 mid laner in the world. I know the perception of Korean players who come to NA is that they phone it in, but it’s not any more or less true than literally anyone who’s been playing for a similar length of time. If players are “phoning it in” it’s because they’ve lost passion for the game. I don’t get why we make that claim about every Korean player that comes to NA. I for one am glad to see Crown finding a bit of a resurgence here. As a team, OPT is still like everyone else in this cluster in that their macro decisions in the mid and late game are underwhelming and inconsistent. I think they’d be an interesting playoff team, though. Being able to rotate through two top tier junglers in Meteos and Dardoch would make them a difficult team to prepare for — if they can get there.
7. CLUTCH GAMING [5-9] — Irelia main btw
Clutch is a really weird team in that they look really good when they win and really bad when they lose. Some of their defeats have been really baffling throws and some have been them feeding their asses off to start the game. I do think they’re stronger than their record, but that’s not going to mean anything in a couple of weeks. The remainder of their schedule is capital-B Brutal — they play TL, C9, TSM, and GGS, who are arguably the top four teams in the league. I just don’t really see them winning three of these matchups to get to the magic-ish number that is eight wins (and even if they did, it’s still not a lock for Playoffs). They’re just a little too antsy as a team this split, and while it’ll likely end in disappointment, I think there’s reason to believe this roster could pull it together and surprise some people in the summer. One fun stat is that Piglet is 3-0 on Irelia this split and 2-9 on everything else — I guess all of that mid lane experience finally paid off for him, but that leaves a lot to be desired from his play on marksman (or how the team plays around it) in particular. I guess you could say it’s been a bit of a Biglet-down…
8. COUNTER LOGIC GAMING [5-9] — Phases of the moon
I thought it was great to see CLG give Moon and Auto a shot last weekend, but unfortunately we’re still (literally!) in the waxing phase of the moon, and it’s been years since the Auto bailout… Alright I’m done with the puns. The general consensus around this team is they are not very good, and they have done very little to disprove that. But subbing in a couple of new players at least shows they’re tinkering with different lineups — I know most people will be calling for x or y’s head next (and x or y in this case are both Darshan), but it’s very rarely as easy as swapping out one person. They’ve got issues as a team and sorting that out is equally as important as identifying which individual players could serve as upgrades. Subbing in a new jungler is smart because it changes the rhythm and tempo that your team plays at in the early stages of the game, which then snowballs into the mid game approach. That might also allow them to compare and contrast their styles to see if there’s overlap in what improves and what doesn’t and what remains the same. PowerOfEvil also single-handedly stole the GGS game for them, so there are still some bright spots on this team. It’s definitely still not a good place to be and I’d be shocked if they made playoffs, but I’m generally a big proponent of teams actively utilizing their subs, which CLG has done more than anyone else this split.
9. 100 THIEVES [4-10] — 100 issues
The loss to TSM felt like the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back for this squad. The remainder of their schedule isn’t super hard or anything, so it’s feasible that they could win out and finish at 8-10 and slip into the Playoffs, but the general vibe I get from watching this team is that their spirit is just broken. Much of the chatter around this team has been around why they are broken — who should be replaced? I’ve alluded to my opinion on bashing players earlier, but it just feels a little misguided. One reason you see world-class players like Bang failing to find their footing in the league is because it’s very difficult in today’s League of Legends to have one person single-handedly win you the game. It’s not just that the skill gap between the players is smaller, but the actual game itself has mechanics in place to prevent individuals from 1v9ing like we might have seen in the past. The biggest issue is this team has no clue what to do as a unit, and you might point at shotcalling or coaching or leadership as each being more detrimental to their success now than any individual player.
Do I think Aphromoo has had a good split? No. Do I think he’s the primary reason they’re 4-10? Also no. There’s a difference between saying “Aphromoo is playing like shit” and “Aphromoo is a shitty player and teammate” and I think we should reflect a bit on that. Even if traditional sports fandom has a long history of lambasting its players, that doesn’t mean it needs to be part of our culture. It’s one thing to talk about his play — like the analyst desk did — and another to make baseless assumptions about how he doesn’t care (since when did the community become experts on reading this kind of thing?). And that’s not a strawman — that’s one of the most commonly parroted critiques of Aphromoo right now. Even blaming him for being the primary shotcaller (he has repeatedly reiterated his teams have more democratic approaches to shotcalling) or being a toxic teammate (there is no actual evidence of this) are unfair. These are strange narratives to be peddling when you can just simply say he’s playing bad. At the end of the day, nothing is stopping you from pounding away at your keyboard, just as nothing prevents people from being disappointed in you for doing so. Just maybe we could all use a little more practice in empathy.
10. ECHO FOX [4-10] — Not quite star fox
So, while I think we should be kinder to players, I feel like roasting how teams as a unit are playing is much fairer. And with 27- and 23-minute losses last weekend, FOX firmly dons the “oh-no-what-are-they-doing” mantle. Even after substituting Rush out, they’ve continued their slide all the way to the bottom of the standings. During this six-loss streak, they’ve definitely been the worst team in the league, which is a shame because they had some cogs turning at the beginning of the split. Usually the spring split is a time of growth for teams, and FOX has simply been unable to keep up with the growth of the other teams this split. Many of the things that plagued them earlier continue — like Solo getting punished for being left on an island or the team not collapsing quickly enough to support their jungler or skirmishes on the map. Panda was thrown into a super difficult situation, so it’s hard to blame him for struggling so far — I imagine the pressure of trying to find that “first win” is super immense. It’s like playing Draven all game and just hoping to proc the stack so you can worry about something else — for his sake, I hope FOX manages to rattle off even a single win before the offseason, otherwise this could dwell over them and grow to facilitate a culture of losing. It’s just so hard to win if you literally can’t envision what that looks like.