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10 thoughts going into Week 5

Did Rift Rivals happen? It’s possible. But who among us can prove that it actually happened? Who’s to say all of our memories aren’t fabricated by some alien nerd god who’s managing our entire existence as a simulation. And why live in this simulated reality where EU thrashed NA when we can simply deny it out of the mere possibility that none of this is real, and not a single thing we ever do will matter. Anyway, back to the LCS — here’s 10 thoughts going into Week 5!

1. TEAM LIQUID [6-2] — The Last Hope
After Rift Rivals, all I have to say is this: If Liquid has million numbers of fan i am one of them . if Liquid has ten fans i am one of them. if Liquid have only one fan and that is me . if Liquid has no fans, that means i am no more on the earth . if world against the Liquid, i am against the world.

Since their sluggish start to the split, Liquid continued to roll even at Rift Rivals, where they went 3-1 overall to save NA from being completely eviscerated by fans. Say what you will about the tournament mattering or not mattering, but if you’re going to play, then I figure winning is pretty much always going to be more fun than losing. Liquid was already looking like the clear favorite for the summer before Rift Rivals, and their performance there has only cemented that status for me. Saturday features a key matchup against Cloud9, who I think is the team with the best shot at usurping Liquid from their perch atop the LCS. Honestly, though, I think this team is just using the LCS as a tune-up for Worlds at this point. It’s a roster full of older players who aren’t likely to crumble to some weird vices (looking at you, TFT) at this point in their careers. I’m kind of hoping that they end up losing this split if only because that would mean we’d have two teams that could be expected to have strong Worlds showings.

2. CLOUD9 [5-3] — Fluboys
C9 was plagued by illness last week, which is awful timing for fans hoping to see their mettle against the best teams the LEC had to offer. The flip side, though, is that it is wonderful timing for those who are more invested in C9’s standing in the LCS, where they currently share a tie for 2nd with three other teams. Better at Rift Rivals than in matches that could impact their Worlds chances, ya? So unless you’re interested in how good Blaber and Svenskeren are outside of the jungle (or Nisqy’s Sivir), I would say there isn’t much to go over regarding their Rift Rivals performance. They did however lose a perplexing game to the 100 Thieves when we last saw them in the LCS, which is maybe a bigger point of concern. Nisqy can be a bit of a boom-or-bust player on stage which is a thing I’d have worried about more in the past, but seeing as how Caps is like that, too, I think it could be a good thing. He just seems happy to take aggressive plays even if he’s not sure where the enemy jungler is, but it’s much harder to always make vision-guaranteed plays in today’s LoL, so you need players who are willing to find these 51-49 plays. They’re not going to overcome their Worlds placing from last year without taking some risks. And it seems to me like C9 is the one team in the LCS that’s trying to train that muscle — their ceiling is very high if their mechanical prowess can keep up.

3. COUNTER LOGIC GAMING [5-3] — Ruin the streak
In high school, I had teachers who would sometimes hand tests back starting with the lowest score to shame those particular students into working harder (the pedagogical effectiveness of this is certainly debatable), and right now CLG fans are the student who thought they bombed the test. Other names get read off and they clench up with each one, but then more than half the class has received their scores already. Suddenly they start to panic. Did they actually do well? Were they forgotten? Or did they do so spectacularly bad that the teacher wanted to make a special case for them? Well, we’re about to find out the answer to that this weekend. After a tough match against Clutch, CLG will once again face off against TSM, who they have infamously not beaten since the 2016 Spring Split Finals. What was once one of the most famous rivalries in esports has dwindled into the tiny butt of a cigarette whimpering away in the asphalt. But there is the hint of a great fire there. There is much to be optimistic about. CLG’s 1-2 punch in the solo lanes featuring Ruin and PowerOfEvil may be one of the deadliest in the league, and dominant solo laners have been a key to success for the best teams across the world for the past year. Ruin also flexed a Renekton pick into mid lane (for matchup purposes) in Week 4, which I think is something I’d like to see them do more proactively. Good luck to the CLG nation this Sunday — the streak has to end eventually.

4. OPTIC GAMING [5-3] — Scarlet Letter
[ x ] lose MVP-candidate mid laner but beat TSM
[ x ] lose MVP candidate mid laner and lose to FOX

This is kind of like completing an escort mission in an MMORPG and then also immediately being told to kill that person you just escorted for the next quest. Scarlet’s LCS debut was quite good for someone who probably wasn’t expecting much if any play time this split. Crown was dealing with health issues and it’s not immediately clear how long it will be before he is able to recover, so this may not be the last we see of Scarlet. It’s reassuring that OPT can still win games without their star  mid laner, but it’s not as if that TSM win was without bumps. Take wins where you can get them, but the team’s overall level is definitely going to be lower until Crown returns. People won’t be caught off-guard by Scarlet anymore now, and I expect opponents to be able to adjust to what he showed in Week 4. Fortunately, OPT plays against GGS and FLY this week, which gives them a good chance of at least going even to keep their record afloat if Crown isn’t able to return to the lineup yet. Or maybe I am underestimating just how good Scarlet is and can be after the week — doubling his sample size would let us see what’s going on.

5. TSM [5-3] — Bjerger King
There are two ways of looking at TSM right now. The first is that they are right where they left off at the end of the Spring Split, which is in second place (yay). The second is that they are right back where they left off last season, which is Bjergsen carries or they lose (oh no). We’re halfway through the season now and TSM is still undefeated with Grig in the LCS and 1-3 with Akaadian — that they keep rotating the two suggests there’s no clear frontrunner for them based on scrims and whatnot. TSM may also just be trying to settle into a two jungle rotation to let them change up what they want to do, but at least to me it looks like they’re not really utilizing Grig and Akaadian all that differently. Their champion pools haven’t even deviated from each other that much this split, so I’m kind of cautious about TSM’s current state (especially after their Rift Rivals showing). Bjergsen is, however, putting in an MVP-caliber performance again, and if it’s as Smoothie suggested about learning more at Rift Rivals then the entirety of the spring split combined, then I think there’s still plenty of reason to believe in this team. TSM also started off slowly last split before nearly running the table to close out the season.

6. CLUTCH GAMING [4-4] — Benchmark team
So far this split, Clutch is winless against teams that have a winning record and undefeated against everyone else, and they’ve at times looked absolutely dominant in wins and absolutely miserable in defeats. If the pattern upholds, they’re in for an 0-2 week against C9 and CLG. I’m not really sure if this means they’re consistent in that they can overpower weaker teams but can’t overpower strong teams, or if it means they’re inconsistent and they only play well sometimes. This isn’t a team that is known for their strategy or macro-oriented styles, though, so I’d lean more towards the former, which is that they are able to snowball leads when they secure them in the early game but aren’t able to break teams that know how to stall or can even just beat them outright in the lane phase. Clutch has some very aggressive players in their side lanes in particular — they’re the type of players that always press R whenever their Yasuo tornado hits 3+ people, for example. That’s great when you have a lead, and not so great when the game is balanced on a thin margin. This is the type of team that can be very annoying to beat even if you generally understand how to do it and even if you know they’ll try to make some very aggressive plays or overextensions. With the halfway mark here now, though, they’ll need to find just a little more composure if they’re to complete a playoff push.

7. GOLDEN GUARDIANS [4-4] — Staying alive
If Goku is ever charging the spirit bomb and we need to send someone to stall for time, then I nominate the Golden Guardians. They’re our Piccolo. They might not win but they’ll be damned if they don’t drag out their defeat, which is a thing Froggen in particular has excelled at throughout his career. I don’t know if it’s necessarily a good thing considering they still lost both of the games in Week 4 (a combined 88 minutes of game time), but Froggen does instill some sort of belief in you as a viewer that GGS can win any fight so long as he’s still alive. You never really think they can win the game itself, but you do think they can keep it going. He’s like that one friend in your group that’s always the last one alive in a battle royale game, and there’s three of you crawling on your knees trying to hide behind a tree so he can come revive you. GGS again looks like a middling team that struggles to identify win conditions. It just feels like they’re super lacking, maybe more-so than any other playoff contender, when it comes to properly utilizing the side lanes. They’re almost too content to just circle around Froggen and team fight. I think they could break out of this mindset by sticking him more on split pushers — Twisted Fate in particular should still be in his arsenal — and I think doing that will help them evolve into a more flexible team. The Anivias and Vel’kozs of the world seem a little too reliant on waiting for the other team to screw up.

8. 100 THIEVES [3-5] — Bang!
Bang woke up one day a couple of weeks ago and remembered he was a two-time World Champion playing in North America and decided he’d had enough of this shit. 100 has righted their ship after an 0-5 start (in which I was very mean to them) and all without playing Ssumday, which is crazy to me. He’s still one of the best top laners in the league if you place him into a vacuum, so I can’t imagine he’s terribly satisfied with how things have unfolded this split. But it does go to show that overall team synergy is the most important thing in the current professional landscape, and perhaps FakeGod is simply allowing the team to better allocate their resources elsewhere (like, into Bang for example). Week 4 was the best individual-looking week for Bang, and he was quick to show off why he was once considered the best ADC in the world (or at least one of the best) by many people. The roster jigsaw that they’re playing with right now is paying off, and with it they’ve managed to salvage a season that by all rights should be dead (and still very easily could be). The momentum could be stymied with a brutal week against TSM and TL now, but if they manage to take even one of these games, then I think they start to enter the playoff picture again.

9. ECHO FOX [2-6] — No Rush
FOX’s experiment with Rush has ended after a super underwhelming start to the split — he’s just unfortunately been too inconsistent of a player. He ranks third in total number of deaths this split at 25 despite playing in two less games than the two people ahead of him (Olleh at 30 and Ruin at 27), which could also be a product of the team as a whole, but it’s been a couple of splits now where he’s struggled to fit into their roster. FOX certainly has issues all across the board, though, as we saw them pick up MikeYeung to theoretically battle with Panda for the starting jungle slot, and we’ve seen Solo take a seat in favor of Lourlo. Fenix and Apollo have also been benched at various points this year. This is an organization that just hasn’t had much stability on their roster, well, ever. Maybe MikeYeung can provide a resurgence, though — he was at this best when he was able to be the star of a struggling team, and if he is able to replicate that carry style once again, then this team could develop a unique identity. One good silver lining is they have however managed to defeat OpTic and Liquid this split, which goes to show anyone can win on any given day. You figure that means they aren’t that far away from being able to regularly challenge teams.

10. FLYQUEST [1-7] — SighQuest
If you go back to the last time FLY looked good, which was their 3-2 win over GGS in the Spring Split Quarterfinals, you’d think this was a team with a lot of upside. They have young players to complement their veterans, and they have a jungler on the verge of becoming a superstar in a region that is otherwise not particularly strong in that role. Their two carries — Pobelter and WildTurtle — are long-time veterans with a lot of wins between them, even if they can be inconsistent at times. All of this is to say absolutely nobody expected them to post a 1-10 record since that point. The 0-3 in the Semifinals was, perhaps, not entirely surprising. And then the slow start to the split was also not entirely surprising given their difficult schedule. But now, after half of a split, they’ve only managed to secure a single win. They have rotated out their promising young support, and they aren’t really even staying competitive in their games. It’s been probably the most disappointing thread to follow this season because it was a team that was so full of promise, and for it to just evaporate is so mind-boggling to me. I don’t even feel like the meta has evolved that much from last split — at least not in the LCS. The second half of the season can go one of two ways for teams in this position: they rally and play hard (even if they don’t win) or they collapse entirely and count the days until the offseason. I’m hoping they can rally together — if 100 can do it from 0-5, then surely FLY can make a similar push?

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Europe dominates North America at Rift Rivals