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Team Liquid became the first team in the LCS to secure a playoff spot last weekend, which was a thing I know they and their fans were sweating over. Even though they won three straight LCS championships and then made the Finals at MSI, I don’t think anybody saw this coming. TL making Playoffs already is truly out of left field. A real underdog story. Miracle on Ice. Angels in the Outfield. Here’s 10 not-bullshit (or are they) thoughts going into Week 8!
1. TEAM LIQUID [11-3] — Still leading the way
After Liquid’s win on Sunday, my friend said, “CoreJJ is like literally so fucking good.” Which is absolutely true and is one of the commandments of Runeterra (thou shall kill steal, thou shall deny thy friend the penta, thou CoreJJ is like literally so fucking good, etc.). This is a sentiment you can really feel towards any single player on this roster, though. I feel like I repeat myself often with this team, but it’s really insane that they have a top two player at every single position (and you could argue that they have the best player at every single role). At the core (heh) of this, though, is definitely CoreJJ — alongside Jensen, he was brought in to turn TL from a perennial LCS champion to a world-class team. That, so far, has proven to be true enough. After winning the Spring Split MVP award in a landslide, I think you have to figure he’s one of the early favorites to take that award again (though I think the competition is stiffer this split and he’ll be facing voter fatigue). TL eased up in the last two weeks of the season last split, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see them do the same thing here. Their year has been a long and grueling one, and these two weeks could offer the first shot at some much needed rest if they’re able to secure a bye. TL’s now just a hair’s width away from being able to fully turn their attention towards Worlds, and I am excited for their prospects this year.
2. CLOUD9 [9-5] — Licorice returns
If the LCS was a sports anime (it is), then TL would be the supremely talented and serious prodigy rival to Cloud9, who is the dumbass that often surprises people with supreme talent as well (but is often clumsy). C9 is a very fun team to watch because they only see opportunities — what is a 30% (chance of success) play for one team could be a 50/50 for C9, and they always bite at those chances. They seem to love taking fights. Licorice returned after a short break due to wrist problems, which means they were probably keen to make sure he was in good form for playoffs — while C9 has managed to clinch a Worlds appearance every single year since their inception, it’s definitely never a guarantee. All it takes is a couple of bad days for them to be eliminated early, so it’s in their best interest to push for a Finals appearance at the very least. Svenskeren is still generating a lot of hype in the MVP conversation, but C9’s been all over the place in terms of consistency, and part of that is tied to their ever-changing roster. I’d look to see them clamp down in the final two weeks here and to solidify the starting five they’ll be using in the Playoffs. That means I expect to see Svenskeren the rest of the way, though I’d expect them to shuffle Blaber back in for Best-of-5 scenarios. When this team is clicking, they’re extremely scary, but their problem right now is they’re not always clicking.
3. COUNTER LOGIC GAMING [9-5] — Don’t get excited for KT CLG
Praise CLG and they lose. Flame CLG and they win. I’m not saying I have sole control over their destiny depending on what I decide to write in this column every week, but I am saying that I have a lot of power. So where do I begin? Is it possible that CLG, after thoroughly laying the smackdown on Cloud9, is the second best team in the league at the moment? Are we excited by how they took an early game lead and smashed it down the C9 defenses? Or are we nervous that they took a super risky (not quite 50/50 but close) Baron when they were up 12k gold? There’s a lot to love about this team and a lot to hate and the venn diagram between those two things is a perfect circle. It is, however, a fact (so this does not count as praise) that CLG has finally secured more than seven wins in a split for the first time since Summer 2017, and they could very easily clinch a playoff berth this weekend (even if they lose both games, I think). Which is great because the optimistic CLG fans get at least one Best-of-5 from their team, or it is awful because the pessimistic CLG fans now get at least one Best-of-5 from their team. The player to watch going forward is Wiggily — if he can maintain his form, I’d say an All-Pro spot is very likely for him, which is an incredible turnaround for a guy who was otherwise best known for looking like MandatoryCloud. Anyway, I am sorry but I really need to hand them some props. Climbing over that seven win stump is a big deal, and I think CLG fans have every right (as dumb as it is) to be excited for the remainder of the year — they’re looking like a favorite to take one of the three Worlds spots from NA.
4. OPTIC GAMING [8-6] — Crowning moment
You know that moment in the sports movie — usually it’s halftime — where the coach or the team captain delivers a rousing speech to everyone that actives their protagonist power? The music kicks in. The camera pans over the gleam in the main character’s eye as they take the “I’m going to destroy you” deep breath. If they go on to make a strong run, then last week was that moment for OPT. That said, I don’t expect them to win this split or make it to Worlds or honestly even win a Best-of-5, but I am extremely pleased to see a team on such a freefall in the standings manage to recover. Like I mentioned in last week’s column, Crown was on a 1-5 slide going into the weekend, so getting a 2-0 week has to be such an enormous burden lifted from his shoulders. And that one of the wins was over TSM validates it — they absolutely smashed them. This team turned a lot of heads with their 4-0 start, but this is the first time they’ve been able to secure another 2-0 week since then, and it comes at the best time possible in the season. Dhokla had a very strong showing all weekend, and if he can manage to play like that again, Meteos will have three potent lanes to play around. Meteos is a monster on the map especially when his laners can gain advantages on their own. OPT’s final four games will be tough, but like CLG, they are looking prime to finally make it to the playoffs.
5. TSM [8-6] — Hanging on
Another week, another rocky performance from TSM — if not for some miraculous (or clutch, I guess) Baron steals, they’d be staring down the barrel of an 0-2 week. This is the exact same thing I wrote about them last week, too, which means they were very close to posting an 0-4 slate. And when that slate includes an OPT team that’s in a freefall and a GGS squad that’s also in a freefall, it is decidedly not the kind of performance you want to see from a team with Worlds aspirations. At this point, TSM is doing all they can to just cling onto their spot in the Playoffs. The good news for them, though, is they have one of the easiest remaining schedules — with games against FOX, FLY, and 100, you figure a Playoff spot should be easy to lock, which means they’ve still got time to fix their problems. To me, it seems like Broken Blade isn’t enjoying the same success he had last split, which makes me wonder if TSM pulled back on the amount of resources they were allocating to him. TSM was at their scariest last split when he was enabled to be a carry and a playmaker, and I’m hoping they turn to him more as they prepare for playoffs. Missing Worlds even once was bad enough for TSM, but right now I’d say they’re on the outside looking in.
6. 100 THIEVES [6-8] — Sneaking in
Is that the sound of the LCS Playoffs burglary alarm going off? Damn right. The 100 Thieves have slipped into a share of the 6th and final playoff spot for the Summer Split, which means their hopes for a second consecutive Worlds appearance is not yet dead. The three way logjam here features 100 as the hottest of the three teams, with GGS slumping hard and CG getting no better (and no worse). This has echoes of Cloud9’s Summer 2015 run where they started similarly poorly before recovering in time to make a Worlds push — complete even with bringing in their old mid laner. It is, however, hard for me to say they’re the clear favorite to take this. The problem with just being the hottest team is that it doesn’t necessarily mean you are good — FakeGod is still a rookie that can be super exploited in lane, for example. And because there’s only four games left on their schedule, even one bad day or weekend could be enough to send them home for the fall. Good teams shield themselves from stumbles by building cushions in the standings, and 100 was decidedly not a good team to start this split. There is no room for error now, but if they can complete their turnabout, then it will be the feel good story of the split. Miss it, though, and this run won’t mean a thing.
7. CLUTCH GAMING [6-8] — Just okay
Twitch chat: zed or bed
Clutch: fk sleep
For the second time this split, CG locked in Zed (this time giving it to their mid laner instead of their ADC, which is a bold strategy), and for the second time it was more or less completely useless. I point this out because I love Zed and wish he was viable, but he is unfortunately super easy to counter at the professional level. You figure CG is probably having some good success with it in scrims, but I think this is another one of those cases where teams play much more carefully on stage and thus prevent snowbally champs like Zed from taking off. Clutch’s ability to go 1-1 on any given weekend is remarkable as they continue to barely hang onto their playoff spot, and with games remaining against both GGS and 100, they definitely control their own destiny. Alongside a game against FLY, this is also one of the easiest remaining schedules, which is perfect because they have one final chance to overcome their mediocrity this year. It’s a team that’s never looked completely awful this split and thus continues to be the benchmark for whether you are good or not. The problem is it’s still hard to tell whether they’re good or not.
8. GOLDEN GUARDIANS [6-8] — Golden Age has ended
Since opening the split with a 4-2 record, they’ve gone 2-6, and one of those wins was a pretty significant comeback (which was really a huge throw from CLG). Realistically they should be 1-7 in that stretch, in which they even completely swapped up their bot lane. I figure that was done because they felt like they needed to take a risk to make it into the upper tier of teams, but so far FBI and Huhi haven’t quite panned out for them. They’ve had games where their inexperience has clearly shown through, such as the game against TL where they overstayed in lane near their tower. A lot has been said this split about how GGS is just a two-man show between Froggen and Hauntzer, but I think it’s at least worth noting that neither of these guys have been on particularly successful teams in a while now — even if they’re able to stay even or win lane, it’s puzzling that they’re unable to transition it into more wins. Solo laners are carrying many of the top teams in the world at the moment, and while they’re definitely not playing bad, I think you do have to ask if there’s more they can do on the map. That’s not to say the GGS bot lane and Contractz shouldn’t shoulder responsibility for this collapse, though — it’s been a very poor showing from them thus far. The silver (or should I say golden) lining for this team, though, is the remainder of their schedule is pretty lax. With games against both 100 and CG, they still have a chance to redeem themselves.
9. FLYQUEST [4-10] — Showcase lateness
Last week, I said all it would take is for one mistake for FLY’s season to come to a grinding halt, and in the game against CLG, one positioning error from WildTurtle led to him dying which led to someone else dying and then another and then another and then bam — a close game suddenly becomes a loss. The way the schedule works out, they absolutely need to win at least three of their remaining games to have a shot at the playoffs, but more realistically they’re going to need to win out. So while the door isn’t completely closed for this team, there’s only a tiny seam left where any sort of light might crawl through. It’d be a bitter ending to the split for a team that finished 4th in the Spring — I’m sure they felt like they only needed to make an adjustment here or there and they could then be one of the three Worlds representatives from NA. Pobelter could be missing Worlds for the first time in a couple years, and Turtle’s long drought is looking to extend here. I think the long offseason is extra tough on the veterans because they know what it’s like to be playing still, and they’ll also have to wrestle with doubts or public opinions over whether or not they’re diminishing as players. They are not a bad team by any means, but they played very poorly on stage to start the split, and now that’s come back to bite them in the ass.
10. ECHO FOX [3-11] — Over and out
The only thing to really say when you are watching a FOX game at this point in the season is, “Hmm…” The brutal thing about playing at a juncture like this is that your reputation as a player can just die — MikeYeung for example, finally received another shot at the LCS, but with how disastrous it’s been, it’s definitely going to affect whether or not teams will choose to bite on him again in the future. The same goes for the entire team — at this point they’re not playing for any real stakes as a team, which means all that’s left (if you are trying to prolong your career) is to not look like you’re completely washed up individually. And when you’re in a situation like that, it becomes even harder to effectively play as a team, which in turn could make you look even worse individually. It’s a vicious cycle, and I hope they’re able to avoid it and rally to gain some wins (or at least close losses) as a team, which I’ve said before, but I keep hoping.