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10 thoughts going into Week 4

If the split ends with a six-way tie like this, half of the LCS teams would quit to prevent a giant headache from trying to sort out tiebreaker scenarios. My solution is much simpler, which is we have all six teams send a representative to play Teamfight Tactics (launching soon™), and the standings there will determine the seeds. This will be the last week before we take a brief hiatus for Rift Rivals, so either build momentum now or stew on your failures for an extra week. Here’s 10 thoughts going into Week 4!

1. CLOUD9 [4-2] — For better or for worse
Everyone has that cool cousin (or friend) that you rarely see, but every time you do, you have a super fun day and you think, “I should hang out with them more.” And then of course you don’t because you don’t reach out to people nearly as much as you should. You are C9, and that cousin is Blaber. He is the all-time leader in win percentage in the LCS with an approximately 80% win rate, which means that on average he would win 14 or 15 games a split. That’s good for 1st or 2nd almost every single time! However, the sample size is fairly small and I don’t think many people would clamor to say he’s a better jungler than Svenskeren. He’s certainly capable of performing at a high, LCS-quality level, though, and I think it’s only a matter of time before he finds a more permanent position — either on C9 or elsewhere. And while C9 ultimately lost to TSM on Sunday, it wasn’t a bad game by any means — they probably would have won if not for a game-saving triple kill from Bjergsen for TSM. But in that game, even though they were behind, C9 was often initiating fights with their Gragas/Yasuo combo. C9 is like a dog that starts jumping around every time it hears the word “walk.” They’re always ready to go, for better or for worse. But that makes them the team most likely to be able to control their destiny — again… for better or for worse.

2. COUNTER LOGIC GAMING [4-2] — Half full or Half CLG?

First of all, this comment made me spit out my water. It’s so damn accurate. Anyway, you thought we’d have a six-way tie in the LCS and CLG wouldn’t be a part of it? Think again. This is a team with some impressive wins on their resume, including against fellow first place rosters GGS and TL, so part of me wants to say they are a contender. They look pretty damn good with Ruin in the top lane. But part of me watched them stretch out a match against FOX to 43 minutes, so I can’t help but squint at them and be a little skeptical. This is not a team that passes the “eye test” so-to-speak, but I think a lot of that is tied to preconceptions I already have about them. To me, a good team can consistently win lane phase or force an even state when they somehow fall behind. They aren’t sloppy in the mid-game. They can play side lanes well. And, finally, they are proactively making plays. I would not say CLG excels at any of these things. In fact, CLG’s marquee wins this split came more from the opponents throwing leads, which speaks poorly to their actual strength. That said, the CLG of last year or last split wasn’t even capable of taking advantage of throws, so at least we have growth. And so the faith, too, grows. Hesitantly.

3. GOLDEN GUARDIANS [4-2] — What’s a king to a guard
The Guardians are the equivalent of that top laner that randomly gets a 1v2 double kill at level 2 and then somehow dies in a 1v1 to the enemy top laner a minute later, even though they’re up a level and have double buffs. Which is to say I still don’t actually know if they’re good or not, so I’ll just question mark ping them. They do, however, have matches lined up against both TL and TSM this week, so this should be a good chance for everyone, including them, to gauge how strong they are. Losing both matches, which is very possible, would lead to a pretty somber mid-season break as we crest the Rift Rivals hump. Olleh is starting to show pretty different levels of competency when he’s not on Tahm Kench, which is interesting to me because it’s not like Nautilus (for example) is much harder to play than Tahm Kench. It feels like it might just be a style thing, where Tahm Kench kind of forces him to sit back and act as a safety button for his carries instead of needing to look for plays. I feel like in general it might be wise to stick him on more supportive and back line champions instead of playmakers if that’s the case — especially given that Froggen and Deftly are more apt to play front-to-back in fights anyway. GGS’ early game, at least, continues to look quite good — thanks in large part to a continued resurgence from Contractz. If they can tidy up their decision making when it comes to picking fights, then they could really push into true contender status.  

4. OPTIC GAMING [4-2] — Immortal no more (or soon??)
After a 4-0 start, it turns out that OpTic is in fact not immortal (yet). The 0-2 week wasn’t unexpected given they played TL and C9, and things continue to be difficult with TSM on deck. It’s a brutal three-game stretch, but it’s one where I don’t really think they can afford to go 0-3 on if their hope is to go all the way to Worlds this year. If, however, you re-adjust expectations and just want them to be a competitive team, then definitely that benchmark has been achieved. Both of their games against C9 and TL had them in positions where they could have won (the TL game moreso) even if the game-states weren’t necessarily favorable for them. If nothing else, I’ve been rooting for Crown for a while now — especially after watching this DUOs episode on him (how’s this for a self-plug) — and even though it’s absolutely not true, part of me equates how well he’s playing with how happy he must be. Like, if he’s playing well, then surely that must mean he’s happy. Even if that very thing being not true is what led him to a bad place to begin with. But I only have one brain cell, so that is my theory. Watching this team’s growth has been pretty exciting. They’ve been on the cusp of making Playoffs the last couple of splits, and I really feel like this is finally the one where they can advance — and I think it’s in Best-of-5s that a player and team can really make significant strides to push beyond just being okay, so perhaps their future is bright.

5. TEAM LIQUID [4-2] — Breaking plates
I couldn’t help but laugh when watching Jensen get killed twice before level 6 against Pobelter after saying Pobelter struggles with snowballing his leads. Like, you could almost hear him pointing at his brain and telling his teammates to not worry. Is the LCS scripted? Absolutely. Jensen’s the kid in dodgeball that dares you to throw the ball at him, and then you [Pobelter] get pissed and do, and he catches it. Definitely feels bad for Pobelter. As for TL, I think so long as Lux is in meta, I don’t think you can afford to hand it over to Team Liquid right now. For the longest time, Xayah/Rakan have been one of the most lane dominant duos in the game, but with Caitlyn coming back to prominence, I just really feel like you can never give Cait/Lux to TL. This is maybe one of the most lane dominant combos possible. Doublelift and CoreJJ were already the best bot lane in NA, and I think a poking/push style that this combo offers is just too much space to cede on the map. You’re in a lot of trouble if you fall into a hole early against TL, and Cait/Lux is super good at pushing small leads across the entire map. They break plates faster than a rabid raccoon in a china cabinet. I hope TL continues to ramp up as we head towards Rift Rivals — even if it’s an exhibition, I’d hope they have enough competitive spirit to want some revenge for the MSI Final collapse against G2.

6. TSM [4-2] — Undefeated with Grig
Bjergsen’s game-saving triple kill against Cloud9 actually made me scream and jump out of my seat — after being forced into stasis early as Sylas, I thought he was dead for sure. But what happened next will shock you served as a good reminder that he is still the best mid laner in the league and likely the best overall player. It wasn’t super mechanically flashy or anything — it looked like a routine-game-saving play. It was spectacularly ordinary, even. TSM looked a lot better this week — with Grig starting (and winning) both games, that makes them 4-0 whenever he started this year, which potentially makes that starting roster the early favorite to grab the overall top seed in the regular season. They also busted out the Trinity Force Twisted Fate pick, which I expect we’ll see more and more of all over the world in the coming weeks — any time TF is in meta (well, it’s been a while), it feels like he becomes a permanent pick/ban type of champion because of how much utility he brings in late game situations. TF’s ultimate lets you split push, escape collapse, help on collapses, and even serves as a vision check when you don’t want to walk blindly towards major objectives. It’s a great pick for a guy who’s become accustomed to shouldering a heavy load for his teams. I’m also hoping TSM can continue this momentum, as this coming Rift Rivals will be the first time we see TSM at an international event since the Group Stage of Worlds 2017. It’s been almost two years!

7. CLUTCH GAMING [3-3] — So close, so far
They’re one game out of first place, which is really good, but they’re also not in the Playoffs, which is really bad. Analysis truly is this easy. This is very unlikely to stick at the end of the season, though, so I’d say things are looking rather manageable for Clutch considering they’ve also got a nice cushion against the trio of teams below them. Last week, they released Piglet from their roster, signaling that Cody Sun would retain the starting job for the remainder of the split. Say what you will about rumors around Cody, but he’s been very successful as a player over the course of his career. However, this is a team whose only good win is over GGS, and with some tough games still left on their radar, I feel like they’ll be struggling to bounce out of the 5-7 range in the standings. They’re already close to matching last split’s mark, but they haven’t done enough to prove they’ve evolved into a true contender yet. Even the wins over struggling teams like FLY and 100 have been much longer slugfests than they needed to be — you’ll note that across the world, the good teams win fast. Clutch, like their cowboy moniker, may just be a little outdated at the moment.

8. 100 THIEVES [1-5] — Thief turning a new leaf?
The Thieves finally managed to steal a game after a tense affair against an also-struggling FOX, and I think it’s fine to celebrate the small wins. When you’re on a giant losing streak in Solo Queue, a part of you assumes a fatalistic mentality and you just kind of assume you’ll lose no matter how well you do in lane phase. And eventually you do because you spend more time identifying the ways in which you might lose instead of focusing on what you have to do to win. For 100, getting their first win in months is going to offer a break from that cursed mentality. It is, however, very easy for them to slip back into that mindset if they don’t manage to string a couple of wins together. It was kind of a wild thing to see the likes of Bang be so happy after nabbing a win, though — the last couple years of his career have definitely been difficult, and where the 100 Thieves are right now isn’t what anybody expected when he was signed. Hell, if you’d asked me before Spring Split what their over/under would be on losses, I would have put five as the benchmark. So to be 1-5 already after their abysmal Spring Split is a shame. They tried to rotate in Fakegod and Ryu last weekend to shake things up, and perhaps that worked in a roundabout way even if it was ultimately their original summer roster with Soligo and Ssumday that pulled through. I’d tell you it’s all up from here for them, but that is patently false. There is still a lot of room for them to fall — whether they do or not depends on how well they can ride the momentum of their first win.

9. ECHO FOX [1-5] — Pikachu is S tier, FOX is not
FOX can’t win at SSBM anymore, and they also can’t seem to win in League of Legends right now. Truly a trying time for foxes all around the world when even the likes of Pikachu have passed them by. This might be a year in which the magical five-game win-streak (including the Quarterfinals) they went on in the Spring Split will stand out as their high point. It was such a strange anomaly in an otherwise expected year for this roster that part of me still isn’t sure it actually happened. FOX entered the year with extremely low expectations from fans, and even after posting that run in the spring, I’d be surprised if very many people pegged them as playoff contenders again this split. FOX has rotated Lost and Yusui out for Fenix and Apollo to no avail, and this is a roster full of players who’ve struggled to find success throughout the majority of their careers. It’s hard to fathom it all randomly clicking together after their 1-5 start. But you know what, I was similarly (if not more) pessimistic about them last split and they still made Playoffs and even took a game off of TSM, so maybe they’ll stick it to me and all the doubters again.

10. FLYQUEST [1-5] — Baby, bye bye fly?
If you keep going against super tough opponents and you keep losing, then there are two constants. First is that all of your opponents are tough, and the second is that you are not. At this point with FLY, it’s hard to really make any excuses for them — they finished 3rd/4th in the Spring but were swept in the Semifinals, which indicated a massive gap between them and the Top 3 teams. You’d hope, then, that the offseason could be spent figuring out how to bridge that difference, but it seems more like they’ve just been thrown back into (and perhaps below) the huddle of teams below them. You might identify any number of issues for them — lack of pressure from mid lane or JayJ struggling to replicate his Spring Split or V1per having some sophomore blues. They’re just not doing as well in lane as they did last split, and without similar early leads, their issues in the team play portion of the game are surfacing even earlier in games. If you’re looking for options, then they did sign Wadid in the offseason, and at this point I wouldn’t be surprised to see them pull him up just to change things up a bit. FLY is a victim of a brutal schedule, yes, but they are more a victim of their own shortcomings at this point.

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