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10 thoughts going into Week 2

My favorite hot take this week is that Echo Fox is now the second best team in the World by virtue of defeating the previous second best team in the World, Team Liquid. You might be thinking, “That’s not how this works,” and in normal circumstances, you’d be right, but this is esports discourse, so as far as I am concerned, Echo Fox is the new second best team in the world. And with one week of games finished, as is tradition, it’s time to overreact. As a reminder, teams are listed in alphanumerical order. This is not a power ranking! Here’s 10 thoughts going into Week 2!

CLOUD9 [2-0] — Five Guys
Licorice is very good. Svenskeren is very good. Nisqy is very good. Sneaky is very good. Zeyzal is very good. That’s my analysis for you this week — it took a lot of time to arrive at these conclusions, but I believe in my research. This entire split, I will be comparing C9 primarily to TL and TSM, who together form a trifecta that is heavily favored to represent NA at Worlds. And of the three, C9 still feels like the most balanced roster to me. It’s not that TL or TSM can’t play through any of their lanes — they definitely have the talent to do so — but when I think about them, TSM’s trump card is Bjergsen, and Team Liquid’s is Doublelift. It feels like when the going gets tough, that’s who they’d turn to. I don’t think C9 has that (for better or for worse). C9’s best player is Licorice, and he could eventually have the same “final boss” type of aura to him, but that’s not today and it won’t be tomorrow. They’re a super balanced roster, and I expect them to be the most difficult team to eliminate this split because they can compensate elsewhere if one lane begins to struggle. It also makes them very difficult to prepare for in the draft, and their versatility should enable them to continue implementing the heavy flex style that dominated MSI. This is, you might say, the team with the most flex appeal in the LCS.

GOLDEN GUARDIANS [2-0] — Consult the spirits
Froggen: who should i play today

Anivia might be a dead champion to everyone else in the world, but not for Froggen. Honestly the only time I even see Anivia in Solo Queue is when I tab out for too long during the ban phase and then panic when I tab back and there’s only two seconds left to ban something and all the A champions stare at me. GGS’ 2-0 start is decidedly better than their 0-4 start last split (ty math), but until they play one of the Big 3 teams, it’ll be hard to gauge their ceiling. Wiping the floor with FLY — the team that ousted them from the Playoffs in the Spring Split — was a good start, though. I just wonder if they’ll actually be able to wedge their way into the top or if they’ll merely serve as a gatekeeper for the teams below them. A golden guardian, if you will. This is still a team full of players that have been the best players in their respective roles at one point or another (outside of Deftly), so it’s kind of an interesting experiment in whether or not a “has-been” can bounce back.

OPTIC GAMING [2-0] — Happy Games
After Ning said IG likes to play “happy” games, Crown finally understood that all you have to do is play fiesta games to find happiness in League of Legends. It’s that easy! When he locked in Twisted Fate this weekend (TF’s first appearance in the LCS since 1998), I got super excited because I did in fact read the Reddit post about Trinity Force Twisted Fate (TFTF for short). And then he just went with a regular AP build (WTF for short), which was maybe the most disappointing thing that happened to me this weekend. What wasn’t disappointing was OPT’s 2-0 start, though the wins were against 100 and CG who both went winless (and were the 9th and 10th place teams last split). The games were sloppier than you’d like to see from a truly elite team, but the wins can serve as a stepping stone for this roster. Crown looked particularly good for OPT this weekend, which is the most promising sign for them — his peak was #1 or #2 in the world, and if he’s managed or can manage to find a new purpose for playing League of Legends again, then maybe he can push this team towards the top of the league. All accounts of their actual work environment have been very positive, so it’s good to see that translate into some wins.

COUNTER LOGIC GAMING [1-1] — Blasting off again
Unfortunately for CLG fans, they will have to continue adding tallies to their “days since we beat TSM” counter. The last time was April 17, 2016 — at the time Barack Obama was still president of the United States, Riot only had one game (wait…), and Despacito wasn’t even on YouTube yet. Stixxay is the only remaining CLG player from that roster, and Bjergsen is the only remaining TSM member from that time. You were three years younger. The world was three years younger. We were all so innocent. CLG did however manage to bust out the first Yuumi (cat!!) pick in the LCS in their dominant win over the 100 Thieves to kick off their season. And even in their second game against TSM, they opened with a fairly sizeable lead before succumbing to the Sona/Taric deathball. New top laner Ruin has looked promising so far — his English is quite good for those of you who might be wondering, so there shouldn’t be any major communication issues. It’s looking like it could be the smartest pickup of the offseason, and while not having Darshan in the top lane might be a weird sight to see for CLG, I think fans are willing to run with anything at this point to see CLG reclaim their former glory. And for those keeping tally — CLG gets another crack at TSM on July 7th. Lose there and it could be another six months until they get to try again.

ECHO FOX [1-1] — Little big fox
Echo Fox is actually 2-1 against Team Liquid this year, making them the only team in the LCS with a winning record against TL. This is like when an elephant is terrified of a mouse (or in this case, a fox). FOX also opened the Spring Split by losing all their Saturday games and then winning the Sunday matchups, which is probably just a coincidence given the tiny sample size, but it’s a fun stat to track. But for the FOX players, all they need is a little superstition to provide a confidence boost. I was particularly happy to see Solo get praised (people even highlighted his pro-view perspective on some key plays) for his Gangplank performance, as he’s been one of the most heavily criticized players in the League since he’s joined it. I wouldn’t read too much into this win, though — FOX fell into a pretty sizeable hole to open the game and managed to flip it into a victory off a single teamfight. It felt more like a game TL threw than one that FOX necessarily won, but it’s good for them to know that teams can’t get away with major mistakes against them. Their other new (but old) addition is the return of Lost to the starting ADC slot — this splits the Hakuho/Apollo lane for the first time in years and may be exactly the kind of energy boost they need to find a more consistent identity.

TEAM LIQUID [1-1] — Uh… jetlag
After MSI last year, Doublelift told me, “I went from playing against Uzi, Betty, and PraY, and now I’m playing against all the NA LCS bot lanes. They’re definitely… by definition professional players, but they’re on a completely different level.” I think this Summer Split is going to be a similar coming-down for him in terms of emotional investment. TL made it all the way to the Finals at MSI this go-around, and while it’s very much a first-world-problem kind of thing, I imagine it’s difficult to work yourself up for a regular season game again. It would take a colossal collapse for TL to miss Worlds, and based on how they dismantled TSM to open the split, I still feel like they’re the favorite to win an unprecedented 4th straight LCS title. The loss against FOX was a big question-mark-ping, but as I said earlier, that felt like a game they should have won. TL’s play may however remain a little lethargic for the beginning portion of this split. They’ve had essentially no time off since the year began, and the grind may be wearing on them as we push forward, but I do think it’s important for them to find a consistent competitive fire before Worlds. I don’t think it’s something that’s so easy to just turn on — a “wake-up” call may come a little too late in the year (like another Group Stage elimination, for example).

TSM [1-1] — Two junglers
Rock beats scissors. Talon beats Kassadin. TSM beats CLG. [30 for 30 voice] What if I told you some matches are over before they begin? The match TSM really wanted to win this weekend, though, was the one against Team Liquid — including the reverse sweep in the Spring Finals, that makes four consecutive losses against TL for TSM now. They also struggled out of the gate against CLG but were able to control the teamfights thanks to their Sona/Taric composition. Part of the early game struggles in Week 1 may be tied to using both Akaadian and Grig — perhaps it’s a sign TSM is still trying to figure out how each jungler fits into the team. And while some perceptions of Grig may still be poor, I think it’s a good thing to have some competition, and having a rotating pair of junglers can really help a team shift their playstyle from one game to the next. A change of pace could have been exactly the kind of thing that would have let TSM regain the momentum in the Spring Final. It wasn’t the cleanest opening week for them, but I’d expect to continue seeing variance until they settle more firmly on a primary jungler. This, I think, will be a good thing for the team in the long run this split.

100 THIEVES [0-2] — 10 Thieves
Have you ever failed (or done very poorly) on an exam and then said to yourself, “I’m going to turn it around on the next one!” And then the next one rolls around and you immediately don’t know the answer to the first two questions? You were also a straight-A student in high school, so the very idea of struggling is a foreign concept to you. That’s the 100 Thieves right now. After finishing in last place in the Spring Split, they replaced both jungler AnDa and mid laner Huhi with Amazing and Soligo respectively, and the first week was pretty disastrous for both of them and the team at large. One silver lining is that Amazing didn’t even arrive back to the US until a couple of hours before the game, and then he was held up at US Customs before arriving at the studio with maybe 30 minutes to spare. I’d imagine that frantic state made it difficult for him to perform his best in Week 1, and even going into Week 2 he might not be at full strength because of jet lag (and, well, still needing to fully adjust to the team). Bad jungle/mid synergy is a recipe for disaster — this was something even TL was criticized for at MSI. The week is an even tougher pill to swallow when you consider their losses came against OpTic and CLG — two teams that also missed playoffs last split. Their next match is against TL, which means an 0-3 start is staring them down unless they make major strides in the next couple of days. So if there is salvation early in the season for this team, it will likely mean the Sunday matchup against Clutch is, already at Week 2, a must-win for this roster.   

CLUTCH GAMING [0-2] — Free falling
If 100 is the student that’s struggling again in the exam, then Clutch is the friend that’s cheating off of them. The two teams finished at the bottom of the standings in the spring and unfortunately have carried that trend into the summer. I continue to remain baffled by both of these rosters since I feel like both should have enough talent to be better than 9th and 10th, but I guess it goes to show League of Legends is, in fact, a team game. Clutch replaced Piglet with Cody Sun to jostle things up a little bit, but it proved to be a rocky week nonetheless for them. Huni in particular has taken the brunt of the criticism — in part because he’s supposed to a superstar caliber player, so expectations are sky-high — but also because he just hasn’t played particularly well. CG blind picked Pyke top for him, which in the past would have fit what I’d come to expect from him, but now it just kind of felt like a shot in the dark. He got demolished by C9, who responded with a Camille pick that has no difficulty locking down the slippery Pyke. Last split I said this team was better than their record suggested, but perhaps it is reaching the point where they are exactly as good as their record suggests.

FLYQUEST [0-2] — Tough start
Rounding out the 0-2 teams is FlyQuest, who made it all the way to the Semifinals last split. Unlike 100 and CG, this roster had a very difficult opening week in having to face off against C9 and GGS. Losing to those two teams still isn’t a good thing for them, seeing as those are exactly the teams they’d need to beat if they hope to improve on their spring standing, but at least it’s not doom and gloom. Turtle might be mocked for accidentally Teleporting in the middle of a fight against GGS (actually, he question mark pinged himself when it happened), but that game was already lost by that point anyway. My early forecast on FLY is that this team hasn’t made enough strides to do much better than their spring split, which was seen as an overperformance from them to begin with. Their high-profile pickup in the offseason was signing Wadid, who made the Worlds Semifinals with G2 last year, but I don’t really expect them to move JayJ off the main roster. This team will need to improve together, but already I am wondering if the wall between 4th and 3rd will prove to be too high. There just aren’t very many examples in history of a team climbing to the top that didn’t demonstrate championship calibre or potential from the get-go (without making roster changes).

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