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6 thoughts going into Playoffs

Are you a little disappointed with the direction of your life lately? Perhaps you are playing too much TFT and neglecting all the more enriching aspects of your life? Well, I am here to tell you that’s got nothing to do with it — the disappointing vibes means Worlds is right around the corner and the odds of your favorite team standing on top are slim. With Summer Playoffs about to begin, we are entering do-or-die mode as we begin to narrow the competition down to one single winner on the year. Here’s 30-50 feral hogs 6 thoughts going into the 2019 LCS Summer Split Quarterfinals!

1. TEAM LIQUID [14-4] — King Liquid
You have to go back to Summer 2016 for the last time a champion roster in NA ended up not repeating (without roster changes). It doesn’t seem particularly likely for that to happen this year either — TL has been, by far, the best and most consistent team in the LCS all summer. Having already clinched the #1 overall seed going into their final match of the split against TSM last Sunday, Liquid decided to bust out a TFT glacial comp. TSM, also locked into 4th at that point, responded by letting Bjergsen lock in Zed. The result was a bonanza of a game that showed us Impact knows how to play Volibear for some reason, which is like when your baseball friend kicks your ass at racquetball even though they’ve never played before. It kind of pisses you off. Not much else to say about Liquid, though — they are indisputably the heavy favorite to advance and win Finals again. Doublelift has made the Finals of the last seven splits he’s played in and won six of them — it’s an unprecedented level of dominance, and unless he decides to pursue a baseball career with a Chicago White Sox affiliate, I don’t see this stopping. He completely crushed his colleagues this year in terms of KDA and kills and will once again serve as the LCS’ final boss.

2. CLOUD9 [13-6] — Roster depth paves the way
When Cloud9 first burst onto the scene, they quickly became the premier organization in NA when it came to winning, but they’ve since become a bit of meme (in both good and bad ways) and haven’t won a title since Spring 2014. That’s kind of insane to think about considering they’ve still managed to make Worlds every single year since then, and that’s with making considerable changes every single year. Even this year they brought in Nisqy to replace Jensen, and while the two bring different things to their teams, C9 hasn’t really missed a beat. This is a team that historically ramps it up towards Playoffs and Worlds, and I expect that to be similarly true this year. At Worlds last year, Sneaky told me he thinks C9 is just a team that adapts well to their environment, and in the LCS that can be a bad thing when you are adapting to your level of competition. They could do well to play more consistently based on their own terms, as even this year you’ll see they are easily baited into the enemy’s pace. They just like to fight and that makes them force plays a bit too much sometimes. I think they’re comfortably the second best team in NA, and as the only roster to effectively utilize subs all split, perhaps their depth will give them the extra edge they need to return to the top in the Playoffs.

3. CLG [12-7] — Faith… restored?
No one:
Me: let’s break down the most heartbreaking scenario for CLG

The easiest way towards this scenario this weekend is that CLG loses their series to OPT, which isn’t super likely as I think CLG is actually a good team, and for Clutch to beat TSM (which is also not likely). If this happens, CLG would be eliminated completely and would not even be able to play in the Regional Qualifier. Again, though, this is super unlikely. But the rule with CLG is that as soon as you believe in them, they take your heart and rub it against a cactus, so who can really say. What is more likely, though, is that CLG wins and advances to the Semifinals, and at that point they are underdogs to both C9 and TL, so if things pan out as expected, that would knock them into the gauntlet where I suspect TSM will also fall to, which means the most heartbreaking scenario for CLG is for them to be eliminated by TSM in the regional qualifier. It is, however, also maybe the most gratifying possible ending if they win there. This is the most exciting team CLG has fielded since 2016, and now that they’ve made it this far, I’m sure fans are asking, “Why not just go to Worlds, too? Is that too much to ask for?” With Wiggily’s growth as a player this split, CLG doesn’t have any particularly weak points on the map, and because they don’t just have one player carrying them, you can’t just camp someone to shut them down. They’ve attacked Crown heavily when they’ve played OPT this split, and I expect that pattern to continue — this is a series that will ride on how well CLG can shutdown OPT’s star mid and jungle duo. CLG is the heavy favorite, and a straight set will restore confidence in their ability to push even to the Summer Finals.

4. TSM [10-8] — This is… fine?
This split, TSM has been the “this is fine” dog sitting in the middle of a fire. After it looked like they’d committed to Akaadian over Grig, they decided to field their academy jungler Spica in the final week of the season. It was a pretty safe play considering TSM’s spot in the Playoffs was fairly secure, but it signals to me that there’s still a lot of discomfort with Akaadian. TSM, of course, is notorious for having jungler issues over the years, but for it to come in the final week of the regular season (in the Summer Split no less) is a massively worrying sign. A clutch Smite steal from Spica sealed the game for them against FLY, though, so perhaps that can serve as a nice confidence boost for Spica if TSM decides to play him in the Playoffs. That little bit of stage experience could end up saving their season if things start to turn sour. As is, though, TSM hasn’t posted a clean victory in months now, so the matchup against Clutch isn’t as surefire as you might expect. That said, I don’t think Clutch is a particularly tricky team to play against, and LirA isn’t exactly going to run over Akaadian or Spica with his aggression, so I think it’s the perfect chance for them to make some final tune-ups. At this point, it doesn’t matter if the wins are ugly so long as they are wins — this, at least, is a resilience they’ve managed over and over this summer. There is something to be said about a team that knows how to play in the mud.

5. CLUTCH GAMING [9-9] — Pulling through in the clutch
The last time CG posted a 2-0 week (before last week) was Week 2 — otherwise it’s been almost entirely 1-1 weeks for them. So posting a 2-0 week in the final week of the regular season to clinch Playoffs is very, well, clutch. They waited until the last day to study for the exam and then they aced it. Their reward is a Quarterfinals matchup against TSM, which is a powerhouse organization that’s been in a long slump this split. In the past, even if TSM looked bad in the regular season, they’d find a way to bounce back and dominate in the playoffs. That reputation has been less true now since they haven’t won a title since 2017, and their Finals run in the Spring wasn’t unexpected because they were riding an extremely hot streak (wrath is swift) going into playoffs then. This split is different, though, and I think that opens a big crack in the doorway for Clutch to slide through. They’ve been very definitively mediocre this split — not just in their string of 1-1 weeks, but also in their playstyle. They’ve been dominant against teams lower than them in the standings and abysmal against those above them. Against TSM, I think the key matchup will be top lane, where Huni needs to step up and play at an MVP level if CG hopes to win. Broken Blade is having a tougher time this split, but Huni also hasn’t looked like the perennial MVP candidate he used to be in over a year now, so if one of them can elevate their play again, that could tip the series entirely in their team’s favor. This is Clutch’s last rodeo before they rebrand next year, which means it’s their last chance to yee their haws.

6. OPTIC GAMING [10-10] — Knock Knock
My big idea is we call it a knock knock Dhok whenever we tell someone Dhokla had a big weekend because it’s definitely not a joke. On the receiving end of a ton of criticism since he debuted into the LCS, I feel like his performances in helping OPT secure a playoff berth will help reverse the conversation around his level of play. Sunday started out extremely grim for OPT as Crown finished their game against C9 with an 0-7 scoreline that was reminiscent of his time with Gen.G at Worlds last year. All of it could have easily gone to shit, and maybe it did for him, but Dhokla had a very strong performance in the otherwise lopsided game to start that day, and perhaps that served as a guiding light for the team to recuperate. I will say I was pretty surprised when they proceeded to knock out 100 and GGS in tiebreakers to secure the sixth and final playoff spot, which is a thing that has eluded them the previous two splits (they were one game out of playoffs both times). Playoffs is new territory for Dhokla and Big, but the other three are long-time veterans with a ton of experience between them. I’d expect this team to be battle-ready for their first run, but they’ll take on a CLG team that has firmly established itself as one of the major contenders this summer. Meteos and Crown have been central to this roster’s successes this year, and that’s not going to change much in the playoffs. If they two of them can sync up to continue making strong plays around the map, then OPT can continue their surge. Having already ended two team’s seasons, finishing off CLG would give them a strikeout.

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