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If there’s one thing I know, it’s this: I know nothing. After hyping up CLG (I’m sorry, CLG fans), they clocked in an 0-2 week, which is both entirely expected and also entirely unexpected depending on who you ask and how long they’ve been watching. What looked like a well-defined playoff picture is now a jumbled mess, and we wouldn’t have it any other way in North America. Fresh from the vaults of Area 51, here’s 10 thoughts going into Week 7!
1. TEAM LIQUID [9-3] — Cancel the apocalypse
If we ever need to send someone to the depths of the Mariana Trench to destroy a portal that Kaiju are coming from, then I propose we send Impact because he would be immune to the enormous amount of pressure. Here is a dude who doesn’t blink when he’s ganked and has never bothered to learn the word tilt. After a strong 2-0 weekend from TL, they’ve reclaimed sole possession of first place in the LCS, and every team immediately below them has faltered in one way or another in recent weeks. They were already the favorite and now the other teams are failing to challenge them for that title — this is a team that has stumbled to close out splits in the past, though, so the only thing I’d really be worried about is them falling to their own complacency or looking too far ahead towards Worlds. Though in the long term I am also not particularly worried about that, considering they’ve been at their best during the playoffs in each of their championship-winning splits. It was nice to see Doublelift completely dominate while playing marksmen (boooo Sona boooo), and if you can’t really attack bot lane or top lane against this roster, then that just leaves mid lane, which is helmed by Jensen. Which means you really do not have very many options. Which is why they are, overwhelmingly, the favorite to win their 4th consecutive LCS title.
2. CLOUD9 [8-4] — Title hopes waning
Starting with Cloud9, we begin the row of teams that could have easily finished 0-2 (or did finish 0-2) last week, which is to say the 1-1 week was not a good showing from C9. This is at least excused somewhat for them because they’re playing Kumo instead of Licorice, which is a shame for spectators because this really was the one roster I trusted the most to take on TL in the playoffs. Not having Licorice was pretty painfully clear in their 51-minute loss to FOX, where Kumo built up a nice stat line but was pretty ineffective at generating pressure in the game itself — it just felt like he was leaning too hard on grouping with his team as Jayce when that was clearly not working. A player like Licorice would have been much more apt to make a play (either in a side lane or in a team fight situation), and I felt like his presence was sorely missed the longer this game went on. I do think that Kumo has a lot of potential, and it’s hard to say whether the grouping was his fault or not, but there’s still a lot he needs to learn, and with the season winding down (and C9’s Worlds ticket far from being punched), it needs to happen quickly. If not for a pretty colossal throw from TSM on Sunday, this would have been a bad 0-2 weekend for them. It’ll be curious to see if Licorice is able to recover in time to not only return but to return at full strength.
3. COUNTER LOGIC GAMING [7-5] — In which I flame CLG for their fans
When I flame CLG in this column, they do a lot better than when I praise them. So I want you all to realize that if I am flaming them, I am doing it for your sake — it is not out of hatred but of love. Sunday was a good throwback for longtime LCS fans in that CLG and TSM both looked equally strong, which is to say they both threw 8k gold leads, which is to say both fan bases are equally dismayed. It’s Worlds 2016 all over again. I will say, though, that I’d much rather have my team throw a big lead than claw back from a big deficit in the grand scheme of things. This almost always means you just choked or made some careless mistakes while you were ahead, and it’s not something that’s bound to happen very often. Comebacks are great storylines because they are rare, and when you contextualize that going forward, it’s definitely a good sign that CLG can build up a massive early lead against a team with strong laners like GGS. The game against TL was a much more worrying tell on the overall power level of CLG (they are not as good as the #1 team) than the throw against GGS — I don’t expect this slide to extend for very long, but again, seeing as how they do poorly whenever I hype them up, I will do you CLG fans a big favor and say they suck and will never win again and should just open mid next game to save us all time.
4. TSM [7-5] — Overheated
If you missed TSM’s match against Clutch, then you missed out on a fine Azir vs. Cassiopeia matchup in top lane, which is exactly what happens when you get autofilled mid laners on your team in Solo Queue. It is also exactly what happens when it’s 2019 and Huni still plays whatever he wants on the top side of the map. TSM should have 2-0ed the week, but they, like CLG, also threw an 8k gold lead in their match against C9. I was pretty surprised to see Bjergsen play Rumble, and maybe he was surprised as well considering he failed to use his ultimate on a couple of critical plays in the game. I do like the pick, though, and I hope this game was an aberration more than it was an indication of how proficient he can be on that champion — Rumble is an excellent skirmisher with a surprising amount of all-in potential, and his power spike happens in the mid game (without falling off very much even late), which to me is where the vast majority of games are decided in this meta. It’s an intelligent pick that can support TSM’s preference to push early leads this year, and it’s a playmaker that can exert its presence over a wide area on the map. I’m still concerned about TSM’s inconsistency this split, but with Akaadian finally being named the starter for the rest of the split, I think this team will finally settle into a groove.
5. GOLDEN GUARDIANS [6-6] — Contractz with the devil
Is Froggen a secret Riot agent employed by the Golden Guardians solely to remind us that champions like Lissandra and Vel’Koz still exist? I’m not saying no. Froggen has become a poster child for playing
Anivia comfort over playing for what’s necessarily in-meta, and at times, he’s even helped popularize non-meta picks (like Lee Sin mid back in the day). That makes the Guardians one of the most interesting teams to watch, because until they lock in their mid laner, it could be pretty much anything. The decision to sub FBI and Huhi into the starting roster still seems to be an on-going experiment as the results have been fairly mixed so far, but because it’s still an unknown factor, that means it could be the X-factor that lifts this team into the next echelon of teams if they can put all of the loose cogs together. Fitting all of this together into the team better will be on the back of Contractz, who is having an inconsistent split right now. The key to GGS’ chances will be tied to whether or not he can deliver more consistent performances, as so many games are decided in the early portions of the games right now.
6. OPTIC GAMING [6-6] — Huge slump
OpTic’s tumble from the top of the table continued last week — after a 4-0 start to the season, many of us wondered how much of that was attributed to them having a fairly easy schedule. And as of today, you should start sweating if you’re an OPT fan. Crown in particular is only 1-5 in his last six outings as the starter for this team, and this week’s losses to CG and 100 were the kinds of matches they really couldn’t afford to drop. Not only are CG and 100 now just a single game behind them, they also represented two of the easiest matches left on OPT’s schedule. Looking ahead, five out of six of OPT’s remaining games are against teams currently in playoff contention. This slump basically hit at the worst possible time, and while it’s not impossible to envision them recovering, it’s going to take a pretty significant turnabout in the level of their performance. When they were winning, this was a very promising looking team that played around Meteos and Crown, but right now it feels like one of the side lanes needs to step up to help shoulder more of the playmaking load. OpTic is otherwise in a lot of trouble and looking like they are in the fast lane towards the offseason.
7. 100 THIEVES [5-7] — Ryu can never retire
For all intents and purposes, Ryu is happy to be playing again and happy to be winning again. However, it makes me laugh to imagine he is reluctantly playing and actually just wants to be able to retire finally, like some Liam Neeson action flick where he must (again) save his daughter. With only three weeks to go in the season, 100 is only one game removed from the playoffs, which means they’ve firmly reverted their 0-5 start to be right in the thick of the playoff race. That’s an incredible feat even in light of the high expectations that were placed on them to start the year. FakeGod posted a deathless weekend which is exactly what you want from him — maybe we are overselling the fact that he doesn’t soak up resources (and maybe this will bite them in the ass eventually), but it’s good to see everyone else step up to take advantage of that. Amazing and Bang have been crushing it in the wins for this team, but the real test starts now. Being close to making the playoffs at this point in the year is, at the end of the day, the same as being far from it. They still have super difficult road ahead of them with games against the likes of CLG, C9, and TSM still on the schedule. The last time 100 posted a 2-0 week, they followed it with an 0-2 performance, so I don’t quite buy their resurrection just yet. If they can complete another 2-0 week, though, then I think you’d have to start talking about them as one of the best teams in the LCS.
8. CLUTCH GAMING [5-7] — In search of magic
Props to Damonte for being the first player to bust out Qiyana in the LCS — he played her in both of Clutch’s matches last weekend. Almost every new champion released or reworked over the last few years has been a staple for at least a couple months after they were released, and just looking at Qiyana’s kit, you have to figure she is going to be utilized in a similar fashion to the likes of Akali and Irelia. I’ve described CG as a bit of a Solo Queue-esque team this split in the sense that they are pretty good at snowballing leads and playing out individual lanes, so it makes sense they’d be among the first to adapt a new champion that you’ve really only had any real practice on in Solo Queue. Clutch, like the 100 Thieves, is sitting on the edge of the playoffs, but unlike 100, I don’t feel like their upside is as high. This is a team that’s been hovering around this level of play for the entire year, and outside of an ADC swap (which to me is the least impactful swap out of all the positions), the potential for a significant change isn’t really there. There aren’t any unknown quantities. They just… need to get better, which is not really a thing we often see from teams at this point in the year. This isn’t a sports movie where some amazing speech or team bonding trip to the forest will just make things click for them.
9. FLYQUEST [4-8] — Too little, too late
Right now FlyQuest is on pace to have a season like when you are on the 5th game of your promo series after having started 0-2, and your teammates are all feeding their asses off. You are sitting in your lane doing just fine — maybe you are winning, even — and then you have a moment of reflection about how you wish you’d played like this in those first two games that you lost. It is the quintessential “too little, too late” narrative. FLY’s disastrous 1-7 start to the Summer is likely going to haunt them as they watch the playoffs from the sidelines, but of course it’s not impossible for them to make a run. They’ve got one of the easiest remaining schedules with games against FOX, 100, and CG still on the table, so they do have some control over their schedule. And with Wadid in the lineup, they have looked like an entirely different team in this second round robin. The problem is they’re still going to be prone to some of the big mistakes that cost them earlier in the split (people getting caught, V1per looking like a god on Riven and then just fine on other things…). I just can’t picture this team playing perfectly down the stretch to avoid game-ending mistakes, and I don’t see them winning the early game hard enough to have a cushion against that. And they certainly don’t have enough cushion in their record to afford losses, which means I am very pessimistic about their outlook as we turn towards the final stretch of the Summer Split.
10. ECHO FOX [3-9] — No tempo
The FOX vs. C9 game was a work of art. You might not understand if you aren’t an [checks notes] artist like me, but what can possibly be more refined than watching a team avoid Veigar’s cage for 30 minutes as they throw rockets and cat saliva (or whatever Yuumi throws) at them? Watching FOX navigate around Nisqy’s Veigar was like watching a fox break into a boobie-trapped chicken coop to steal some eggs and whatnot. At 51 minutes, it was one of the longest games all year and may serve as one of the few fond memories for FOX fans this summer. The team continues to toil at the bottom of the standings and even after fiddling with the roster all split, there doesn’t seem to be much progress on the whole. MikeYeung’s integration into FOX after a couple weeks now has been pretty lackluster, and while it takes longer than that to find your groove with a team, I think you’ll have to start asking questions soon as to what’s causing him to not fit properly. It’s looking like it’ll, once again, be a long offseason for FOX.