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The more things change, the more 100 Thieves continue to lose — but hey, with TeamFight Tactics coming out, maybe this is the big brain play to guarantee a longer off-season to try it out? If you had your memory wiped and looked purely at results and standings so far, you would be led to believe that we have a lot of parity in the LCS at the moment. And, well, maybe it’s true? The only real constants these days are that 100 still can’t win a game and CLG can (and will) win or lose any game. Here’s 10 thoughts going into Week 3!
1. OPTIC GAMING [4-0] — Grass > Rock, Water
OPT’s run so far is kind of like picking Bulbasaur in Pokemon R/B/Y — it’s literally super effective against the first two gyms. I don’t mean for this to completely detract from their performance as their Week 2 wins were much more decisive than Week 1, and they finally notched a win against a Spring playoff team (FLY). That said, it’s still true that their strength of schedule has been pretty weak so far. The 4-0 start is exactly what you would expect from a good team, though, so it’s still entirely possible that OPT is in fact a good team this split, just as Bulbasaur eventually becomes what is arguably the strongest starter in Venusaur. And it’s been a good team effort so far! There are three players in the LCS who field a KDA above 10, and all three — Arrow, Crown, and Meteos — are on OPT. The three form a core that piqued a lot of interest when it was announced, and it seems they may finally be clicking now. Crown in particular has had some dominant performances so far this split, including on a unique Twisted Fate pick that no one else is even playing. TF is kind of a macro cheat to me because his ultimate lets you recover from bad rotations and poor wave management in addition to generating picks — and OPT struggled with translating their early game success into victories last split, so TF is perhaps serving as a kind of training wheel to help them out. This week they’ll play C9 and TL, which is the perfect chance to immediately establish themselves as contenders or to be exposed as pretenders.
2. CLOUD9 [3-1] — Do or die or do and die
Azir: play for late we got scaling
Team [dead]: …
Nexus [dying]: stfu azir
C9 had a chance to join OPT as the only undefeated teams in the league — an early two game lead over the likes of TL and TSM could have been invaluable down the stretch if you consider how close the standings were in the spring. C9 still suffers a bit from one of the issues that plagued them last split, which is that they are sometimes just too confident in their ability to win lost fights. There are some plays where I’d like to peer into their head just to see what their imagined win-scenario looked like, because sometimes I really just cannot even begin to fathom it. One example is at 6:50 in the loss against GGS when Nisqy’s brain seems to overload from greed by egging Anivia and then seeing a low health Varus and Tahm Kench — he just goes in! With no real abilities! Or any real support! Anyway, I would not hold the loss against GGS over their head for too long — even with the gaffes, it felt like C9 threw the game away more than anything. They lost fights on their own terms, which is good in the sense that they are taking the initiative and always on the look out for fights, but maybe a bit more patience can go a long way for this squad.
3. GOLDEN GUARDIANS [3-1] — Icy pace
The Warriors are on the brink of being defeated for the first time in three years, which means it may be up to GGS to bring a championship to the organization (which of course carries equal weight to an NBA championship). GGS seems to get baited into a slower pace when they pick a strong late game champion like Corki or Anivia in mid lane — I wonder if part of their play is less urgent because they think it’s fine to just scale. Week 2 didn’t go as ideally as they’d have hoped, but grabbing a win over C9 is no small feat, and I think it was the kind of game that should help them identify weaknesses. As is, this team feels like they’re on the cusp of being a great team in NA — there are a lot of good pieces, and I feel like they’re one of the most motivated teams in the LCS at the moment. Motivations are, however, reset come playoffs (Liquid, for example, will turn it up a gear), but as far as regular season standings go, I don’t see why this team can’t pull it together to challenge for a potential bye. They’ve been on-the-up ever since floundering out the gates to start the year, but it’s admittedly super rare for a team to make the leap from just “okay” or even “good” to championship-caliber. The summer split, though, is unique in that you only need to be the 3rd best team to advance to Worlds. Whether they’re able to truly break into that echelon is still to be seen, but with enough unique picks in their arsenal, I think they could be a difficult team to prepare for. And with easier matchups against 100 and CLG on deck, here’s a good chance for them to build some early cushion in the standings.
4. CLUTCH GAMING [2-2] — Welcome back, Dignitas!
Clutch [Saturday]: Yee
Clutch [Sunday:] Haw
A full yee was hawed this week in what was maybe Clutch’s best split of the entire year. How’s that for a toast towards the return of Dignitas? CG is the team equivalent of the guy I keep lending money to even though he has never paid me back, but there’s a small voice in my head that says he will. No matter what they do, I still think they’re better than what their results have indicated so far. This early in the season, all it takes is a single good week to completely reverse your fortunes — Clutch went from looking like they’d finish at the bottom of the table again to looking like a team that could battle for at least a middling finish. They followed up their domination over GGS with a rather strange victory over 100, which featured about 20 minutes of stomp and then 15 minutes of a valiant tower defense mini-game from the 100 side. We haven’t seen a siege that long since Ba Sing Se — thanks to Clutch’s impatience, 100 managed to pick off a member here and then there and again until CG were brought to the cusp of actually throwing an insurmountable three inhibitor lead. CG, however, did manage to persevere in the end. This is the kind of week that you can build a mental image around — instead of caving in to an inevitable defeat, they now know what winning looks like and feels like.
5. COUNTER LOGIC GAMING [2-2] — True to their name
To continue the Pokemon theme this week, I would like to say that CLG is now the equivalent of using Horn Drill in that it misses a lot but when it hits, it KOs the enemy. In this way, even a Nidoran could kill Mewtwo. This makes CLG games a must-watch for me because you really never know what the hell is going to happen, and it’s incredible that they’ve managed to maintain this identity through multiple different rosters, coaches, and even managing staff. Fate has no rules and what is CLG but fate. Their win over Team Liquid came off the back of a potent Caitlyn, Viktor, and Lux composition that offered a ton of zone control around objectives. Each champion has an ability that can stay on the field for X amount of time and serves as a sort of trap the other team actively does not want to step into, which makes it the perfect kind of comp for CLG, who are of course a trap game for teams (or for themselves). This is a team I expected to perform a lot better last split because I think PowerOfEvil is one of the best players in the league, and now with Ruin integrating well into the lineup, I think this team has the potential to surge into the Playoffs. But, as is always the case with them, they could suddenly go on a 10-game losing streak and none of us would be surprised.
6. TEAM LIQUID [2-2] — Still jet lagged or something
Every time TL loses, I can’t help but feel like the real loser is still IG. It’s like TL is losing to further rub it into IG’s face that they lost — you start to think anyone could beat IG (and seeing as IG just lost to V5, that is in fact an accurate sentiment). One thing I was wondering coming back to this split was how TL would readjust for the summer — everyone else had time to recollect themselves in the time off and then make proper preparations for summer. TL, however, was immediately thrown back into action after a brutal MSI run — you’re seeing even SKT and IG struggle out of the gates. The flip side, though, is that TL’s quality of practice and games at MSI completely dwarf anything LCS teams managed to secure in the offseason, so I don’t think it’s fair to say they’re at a complete disadvantage. Nothing prepares you for stage games quite like, well, stage games. Still, they lost only three games in the regular season in the spring and will match that mark with even one more loss. That said, we’re a long way off from hitting the panic button, and I’d attest most of this to lethargy from them with their approach to the regular season. It’s just kind of a shame to see them flop around right now — Jensen is sluggish, Xmithie is getting caught out, and Impact is a shadow of what he looked like at MSI. It’ll soon be a month since they’ve returned from MSI, and with a fairly tough slate against FLY and OPT this week, excuses for a slow start will start to be less and less relevant.
7. TSM [2-2] — Got horses on attack
I think TSM is trying to get Lil Nas X to sponsor them because they are playing a lot of Hecarim right now. This is in part because Hecarim is really freaking strong, and it is also in part because Hecarim is really, really freaking strong right now. But it also might be their way of leveling the playing field for their two junglers — Hecarim is a champion that has a lot of carry potential and it forces your jungler to make split second decisions on when to engage and when to weave in or out of a fight. Horse goes in, but when does horse go out? This is quite literally a horse race between Akaadian and Grig. After seeing their Sona/Taric comp get stomped against FLY, TSM pivoted into a really cool Zilean/Yuumi combo that let their Lucian zoom around the map like some sort of live montage video. I remember thinking during that game that it was the best performance I’ve seen from Zven since he moved to TSM, but that was definitely bolstered by recency bias and the fact that Zilean and Yuumi were buffing him. I’m still amazed that Yuumi even gets through the ban phase — I think the cat is super busted right now. Anyway, including the failed Pyke top pick, it at least seems like TSM is experimenting with a few different looks at the moment. That’s a good sign for this stage of the split — a 2-2 start isn’t ideal, but like Liquid, they’re not in any real danger.
8. ECHO FOX [1-3] — Equivalent exchange
“Humankind cannot gain anything without first giving something in return. To obtain, something of equal value must be lost.” — Edward Elric.
Rick Fox goes up, Echo Fox goes down. Such is the law of equivalent exchange. This week, not even Sunday could save FOX as they succumbed to what I believe is only Rush’s second 0-2 week of the year (and thus… ever). It was a tough week for the FOX jungler as he did not have particularly good games, but FOX was also up against TSM and C9, which is one of the hardest possible weeks any team could face in a single week. The bright side is that Yusui and Lost are gaining more and more experience — losing to a good team early in the season is a great boon if you are able to apply key learning points (or just demoralizing if you can’t). Solo has also been able to hold his own so far, though I wouldn’t go so far as to say he’s been shining necessarily. I think a lot of praise that’s being thrown his way is kind of born from surprise since he’s been consistently one of the weaker top laners in the LCS. This split, though, I think he’s demonstrating a promising level of play, and hopefully he is able to use this to continue fueling his confidence going forward. Being good enough is just the first step. It’s still early in the season, so things could change, but FOX is probably in the category of teams that are just trying to identify which players they want to build around going into next year. It’s hard for me to envision them pushing into the Top 3, but another playoff push could still be in the cards.
9. FLYQUEST [ 1-3] — Thunderdome Riven
Sometimes you lane against someone and you are convinced the champion is stronger than when you play it. Riven is a classic example of this — when you play it, the shield is a baby bubble around you, and when you play against it, it feels like Riven has a sort of thunderdome built into her kit. That Riven is V1per. We’re all playing League of Legends and he’s button mashing Street Fighter. FLY has had one of the hardest schedules to open the split and it’s not going to get much easier this week with TL and a surging Clutch on the horizon, which means they could feasibly open the split at 1-5 and have a record that is, to me, much worse than they actually are. Like, it’s definitely not good that they can’t beat good teams, but I don’t think that puts them in the gutter quite like the 100 Thieves (sorry, Thieves fans…). FLY was a team last split that did a lot better in lane than expected and a lot worse out of it than expected for me — the general impression was that they were full of older players who weren’t as mechanically gifted these days. That was supposed to be shored up by their veteran presence in the team fighting phase, but that proved to not be the reverse. To me, this usually means the players with engage are often not on the same page — top lane is often tasked with frontlining, but V1per has proven to be much more comfortable on carry-type champions. Having him be more decisive on finding proper engages (either through flanks or posturing) is something that can help push FLY back towards success. Just doing well in lane isn’t going to be enough.
10. 100 THIEVES [0-4] — No thieves were harmed in the making of this post
If I turned this blurb into a big video game review about Sea of Thieves instead, would anyone actually get mad? I will do it if they hit 10 losses without notching a single win (surely this won’t happen). Look, I don’t have anything intelligent to say about this roster and their struggles. They are losing and they are losing badly and it doesn’t look like there’s any coming salvation — their schedule hasn’t even been particularly hard. What they have going for them is cool merch and some cool content. What they don’t have going for them is basically anything else related to their League of Legends team. They looked their best this split when they were down 10k gold and three inhibitors against Clutch Gaming, which is to say they looked good playing Nexus Defense and not League of Legends. However, as I said earlier, when it’s this early in the split, all it takes is a single 2-0 week to reverse your fortune. When you’re at rock bottom for a long time, you eventually recover enough energy to start making the climb back up. It doesn’t have to be done in a single stride. It can be done in steps — this week, they’ve got a match against FOX on Sunday, which, at this point, is surely a must-win if they have any hope left for the summer.