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10 thoughts going into Week 9

The ebb and flow of the marksmen class of champions is simple: they are too strong, and then they are too weak, and then they are strong again — such is the nature of balance changes. And every year, without fail, after a small tweak or even just people trying new things, there’s suddenly 10 of them in your game. They become so good that they’re like an invasive species to solo lanes. This year started with Corki — a mainstay in the “actually, I am good” flow — and has now expanded to include Tristana. Whose lane is this, anyway? Here’s 10 thoughts going into Week 9!

1. TEAM LIQUID [12-4] — Mounting pressure
TL had a chance to secure a bye last week but were thwarted by a C9 squad that suddenly decided to look like one of the best teams in the world (it is, however, fleeting). I don’t think TL is in danger of losing their perch at the top considering they can just wrap it up with a win over FOX (which is, sorry to say, basically a freebie at this point), but I thought this last split too when they ended dropping their final three games (including one against FOX) to end that regular season. They seem to be holding most of their cards close to their chest as there’s no major reason for them to deviate from what they’re good at, or maybe they’ve already proven that their style can be effective against Worlds-caliber opponents if they’re able to execute, so why experiment? I think they’re probably more focused on consistency at the moment. As we approach Worlds, though, perhaps the pressure on them will tick higher and higher. NA’s #1 overall seed has disappointed almost every single year, and that’s not something that has escaped these particular players either (except Jensen, who has never been on NA’s #1 seed at Worlds). I’d be a little worried if they dropped games this weekend because it’d be better for them to keep their morale and confidence high before we start pushing towards Worlds, but… ah… who am I kidding. Punch Liquid’s ticket to the Semifinals at least — there’s pretty much zero chance we don’t see them in Detroit.

2. COUNTER LOGIC GAMING [11-5] — Esports bubble
You know when you see someone blowing a bubble with their bubblegum and it just keeps getting bigger and bigger? Well, right now CLG is still blowing air into that bubble, and it’s gotten so big that it’s completely dwarfed their face — you can’t even see them anymore. You don’t know who they are or what they look like, and that is a thing that both terrifies and excites you. There is a lot of tension for CLG fans — you are wondering when this thing will pop, and I am here to tell you it doesn’t really matter if it does. This has been an immensely successful season for CLG no matter how you slice it, and while missing Worlds would be a disappointment, I think it’s important to acknowledge the successes as they come. Make no mistake about it, though — CLG is a favorite (alongside TL and C9) at this point to represent NA at Worlds, which is not a thing I expected to say about them when this year began. Overshooting their expectations means anything they accomplish from here on out is a bonus, and if they’re able to maintain that mentality (fans, too), then I think this will be a very rewarding split no matter what happens. That said, clinching a first-round bye here will be pretty critical as it would ensure them a shot in the gauntlet at least. With games remaining against OPT and 100, they have a chance to firmly establish that they are an elite team by not stumbling against middling opponents.

3. CLOUD9 [10-6] — dog.gif
There’s a pretty famous gif of a dog that drags itself with its front legs (as if its back legs are injured) and then it starts to walk on all fours like it was just faking with a big dumb grin. That’s Cloud9 in a nutshell (except sometimes they’re that gif in reverse). Losing to 9th place FlyQuest and then beating 1st place Team Liquid is pretty… expected at this point for this boom-or-bust roster. That makes them the most exciting team in the league to watch for me, and I really hope they have a chance to go to Worlds because I think they have a lot of upset potential. But it also means they could flame out super hard and miss Worlds altogether — this is a team that has a very good record when they field their starting five, so I think their number of losses is a bit deceptive (even the FLY loss had Deftly in for Sneaky). This could also be tied to their consistency issues, though it’s hard to say until a Best-of-5. All of the roster changes will likely detract from Svenskeren’s bid for the MVP award this split, but I do think he has played at that caliber whenever C9 fields their main roster. They’ll need some help to secure a first round bye, which I think could end up being pretty critical towards their Worlds aspirations. They’re a cloudy day that might rain, or it might not rain.

4. TSM [9-7] — Tough experiments
Doublelift suggested this week that TSM’s experiments on stage are what’s causing them to look shaky, which is entirely possible and is the most optimistic take on TSM. I have to wonder, though, if experiments are the reason they played a 45-minute game against a hapless FOX and then lost to 100, making it three straight weeks where TSM narrowly avoided disaster by winning games from losing positions to avoid 0-2s. It just kind of feels like even if you are experimenting, the games shouldn’t look this shaky. Their super high stock after the Spring Final has plummeted in the public eye as they have not turned in a strong performance on stage in about a month now. Broken Blade still seems to be on the receiving end of a lot of pressure from the enemy team right now, and I think unless TSM figures out how to play properly around the top side of their map (or not play around it at all), they’ll continue to be stuck in a middling ground. If CLG benefits from having already exceeded expectations this year, then TSM suffers from their own looming shadow pulling at their backs — this is the most prideful organization in the LCS, and unless they challenge for the top, both them and their fans will be massively disappointed. They’re likely to make playoffs but it’s not guaranteed — if they end up losing against FLY, then a final match against TL could even crush their playoff hopes.

5. GOLDEN GUARDIANS [8-8] — Press R
Smash Mouth once sang, “All that glitters is gold[en guardians], only shooting stars break the mold,” which was a reference to how the Golden Guardians don’t stick to the meta. On the verge of collapse, GGS turned to what they know best, which is pressing R (let Froggen play weird-ass champions like Karthus). They now sit comfortably in the middle of a pack of five teams all fighting for three playoff spots, but a looming match against Clutch on Sunday could turn out to be a single game wildcard with a playoff spot on the line. Notching both wins last week, though, lets them sit pretty comfortably in the driver’s seat after they spent the middle part of the summer throwing away the efforts of their year. FBI turned in his best weekend of the split by far, dying only once to rack up a 22.0 KDA, and if he can continue to pair up with Huhi to deliver strong performances, then I think this team will be a tough out in the playoffs. They have a pretty unique style thanks to their pick/ban oddities, and that’s something that can benefit them in an extended series. That’s if they can ride this momentum in the playoffs, and given how inconsistent they’ve been, that’s anything but a given.

6. OPTIC GAMING [8-8] — Fizzle
OpTic knocked on TL’s door over and over but just couldn’t find a way to get in — that was the type of loss that comes back to haunt teams later on. Coming off a 2-0 week and then holding a major advantage over TL (largely thanks to the efforts of Crown), there was a moment last Saturday where you felt like OPT might really have the chops to challenge for the Summer Split Championship. There was a moment where Crown felt like, easily, the best player in the league. And then it all came crashing into the wall that was Impact and Aatrox. OPT has a brutal slate left with CLG and C9 on deck, and I can’t help but wonder if this is going to be it for them. It’d be a shame because this is an organization that has constantly been on the brink of making it to the Playoffs, and with their sale looming, this could be the last time we see them. It’ll be a fizzling out not unlike a can of soda that’s been left in the sun for just a bit too long.

7. 100 THIEVES [7-9] — Last chance
On the outside looking in is where they’ve been pretty much all year, but one final opportunity to step inside is way more than any of them or us could have imagined. In the Spring Split, I actually felt like 100 was the strongest team going into the year, and then I was extremely wrong, and then I felt like they’d rebound a little in the Summer, only to be extremely wrong again. It wasn’t until I’d completely written them off (thanks to their 0-5 start) that they began to rebound. I’m still not in the camp that believes this team is particularly good, especially relatively to the top of the leaderboard, but their surge in the latter half of the split makes them a very scary opponent. FakeGod continues to settle into his role for this team, and unlike some of the other teams jostling for a spot, I feel like there’s been a clear pattern of growth for 100 (which hasn’t stopped). With no championship points to fall back on, though, they absolutely must make the playoffs if they hope to keep the year alive. Truly it will be a 0-100 kind of year if they are able to accomplish it.

8. CLUTCH GAMING [7-9] — Some things never change
Clutch goes to the same diner every single day and orders the same cup of coffee to go with the same small breakfast. They just do not… change. This team feels exactly like the same team they were four weeks ago, which felt like the same team they were four months ago. They keep punching in 1-1 weeks one after another, and with matches against 100 and GGS this week, I kind of feel like we’re in for another one of those weeks. They haven’t made the kind of stride that invokes faith but they also haven’t completely beaten the hope out of me — they’re just… there. There’s some kind of comfort in knowing that they will clock in just a fine performance this weekend — in many circles, consistency is valued as a strength. Clutch is a team that plays well if they can snowball a lead but otherwise flail around the map when there are too many macro decisions to be made. They are like a dog chasing a ball, and nothing else matters but the ball, so when there are too many balls their heads just go boom. If they want to seize a playoff spot by themselves, they’ll need to step up and actually prove they are capable of more.

9. FLYQUEST [5-11] — Shoefly
It seems there will be no FLY on the walls of the LCS Summer Split Playoffs, as the 4th place team from the Spring Split finds themselves watching from the standings now. There’s still a [good] shot for them to make the Regional Qualifier thanks to the 40 points they accumulated in the spring, but it’s pretty unfathomable for a team of this stature to survive the gauntlet. However, the bright side is there’s still a month until they need to do that, and that’s a lot of time to make the proper adjustments. They’re definitely on the rise compared to their 1-7 start to the split, which is a good sign there’s still a lot of fighting spirit here (this hasn’t always been the case for teams riding their Spring Split points in the past). FLY also just picked up a nice win against C9 (albeit C9 subbed in Deftly) which should provide a nice boost of confidence that they can win if they execute properly. If they finish 9th this split, which seems fairly likely at this point, I think they’d go down as one of the strongest 9th place teams ever, which nets them absolutely no rewards, but I do think it’s important to realize that results aren’t always indicative of strength. They may yet scare some folks in the gauntlet.

10. ECHO FOX [3-13] — FOXed out
Can it get worse for FOX? Probably not. They’re in 10th place after swapping out everybody on their roster at least once this split, and they have zero shot of making it to Worlds. They’re guaranteed to have an extremely long offseason (about 5 months) after Week 9’s games as a team, and for the individual players that drought might prove to be even longer. This will also be the last time I talk about FOX — probably ever — because they’re unfortunately selling their spot after this split. As an organization, they were probably best known for the engagement of one of their owners — Rick Fox — which is great in the sense that he’s been an incredibly positive presence in the scene, but bad in the sense that they don’t have many notable achievements otherwise. FOX will leave the LCS on as sour a note as they’ve tasted during their tenure — I will say their most memorable moment for me was when they went 3-0 in the 2018 Spring Split 3rd place match in really dope neon jerseys. At the time, their future seemed bright, and for it to have all come crashing down since is a major bummer. This last weekend will just be for the players to fight and show their pride as professionals — it will be their last chance to make an impression on stage in a great while.

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/dev: State of Modes