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We now have twice the amount of data as last week to make assessments. Unfortunately twice of a little thing is often still just a little, which means we do not have that much data on these teams. That, however, is not going to stop me from declaring that Cloud9 is the best team in the league and will be the team that finally redeems North America on the international stage. We will 100% win [the] Worlds [Series] this year. Here’s 10 thoughts going to Week 3, where the 0 in “10 thoughts” represents Zven’s total death count this year.
Cloud9 (4-0) — Zven Garden
Zven’s most famous play on TSM came last spring in St. Louis — with his team up 5k gold in the 5th game of the Finals, he was caught out in, probably, the most inexplicably bad play of his career. This is what I think of when I think about how he’s the only player in the LCS to remain deathless through the first two weeks. He sports a 51.0 KDA, which is higher than the next 7 ADCs combined. After TSM’s season ended short last year, I was extremely confident that was the last time we’d see Zven in NA. I was sure he’d return to Europe to try to find himself again, so the C9 transfer was shocking both in the sense that Sneaky was gone and in the sense that Zven was still here. And while we’re only four games in, Zven’s clearly been the best off-season acquisition. He’s near the top of the league in every major statistical category for ADCs, including laning numbers which (you may have heard) were not so hot for Sneaky. I’d be remiss to not mention that Vulcan has also been a standout for them, and together the pairing look to be the piece of the puzzle that could finally dethrone Team Liquid. In the NBA, for years, teams needed to build a roster that could have an “answer” for Jordan or Shaq or LeBron. It didn’t matter if you were good at x or y if those two things weren’t tied to stopping those players because you had to beat them to win it all. Few teams ever managed to do so. In the LCS, Doublelift is that looming giant at the top of the mountain. You can’t stand on top unless you knock him down, and to me, to be a true contender in the LCS means you have to have — like TL — a world-class bot lane. Not just good enough or good in some situations. That is what C9 seems to have built — Zven was the promised import that would be able to challenge Doublelift, and two years after his arrival, that promise might finally be realized.
Dignitas (3-1) — Go Diggity
Blackstreet once sang, “I like the way you work it, go DIGgity,” which makes them the first known DIG fans. They are joined by many others after the first two weeks of this season. There was a lot of hype over Dignitas primarily because they didn’t throw at Baron (wow), but also over the fact that they were 2-0, “Froggen finally has a team,” Huni didn’t die, and rookie ADC Johnsun, who gave everyone hope that maybe the dearth of talent in NA was exaggerated. If you review those facts for Week 2, you’ll see those things are… still mostly true. While they did manage to knock out TL, I felt like that was a game that TL threw away. I bet if you go into the history of TL in NA, you wouldn’t find many games where they lost after securing one Baron, let alone two (and two inhibs). That is especially not a good look for DIG when TL is still not playing with their intended starting jungler (though it’s not exactly DIG’s fault that TL threw, and DIG did make a nice proactive engagement at the end). My Week 2 assessment of this team is that they are good, but a dividing line between the top and everyone else has been established, and right now only C9 stands above that line. DIG was clobbered by FLY on Monday night, which happens, but two things stood out as red flags for me. First was Huni getting caught out and killed by a gank early in the game (back to his old ways?), and second was Froggen’s general ineffectiveness on a mid pick (Ekko) that’s not a back-line fighter. I was worried about this team’s stylistic flexibility, so that’s something I’ll continue to monitor going forward. For now, though, there is still a lot of potential for this roster — sometimes you just forget to ban Rumble and he kills all of you and the fix is to, simply, ban it next time.
FlyQuest (3-1) — Tree Top
I have planted exactly one thing in my life, which was a radish that I later ate for a university class’s “mid-term,” which was literally just harvesting and eating the plants we grew (poetry school is wild). There is a particular kind of beauty in creating something and watching it come to life be it radishes or children or trees or LCS teams. Right now, this FLY team is the equivalent of the first stem that pokes through the dirt (or is it a leaf? How do trees even work?). It feels especially great for them because many people were telling them nothing would grow in that dirt. Like their 3-1 brethren DIG, FLY was also dismantled in their one loss last week (to TL), but unlike them, they didn’t struggle in their win. PowerOfEvil and Santorin continue to look like one of the best (if not the best) mid-jungle duo in the league, and while I talked a lot about how important bot lane was earlier (in NA), mid-jungle is the synergy that has often failed NA on the international stage. It could potentially be another “answer” to the Doublelift mountain. FLY’s path to success should pivot around these two, and I’m of the opinion that you should play to your strengths. It is better to be good at something sub-optimal (if that is even true for mid/jungle, which I don’t think is true) than to be sub-optimal at something good.
100 Thieves (2-2) — frymeme.jpeg
If I am to be candid, then I would say I don’t think this team is good. If I am to be further candid (but optimistically so), then I would say I expect this team to finish 9-9 and potentially upset someone in a playoff series, which is decidedly a “good” result. These two candids are, of course, at odds. All of this is to say I actually have no idea how good 100 are — it just feels like they’re going to grind out some weird wins. Ssumday hasn’t looked particularly effective to start out this season, which makes me wonder if that’s a product of him playing poorly or a product of top laners generally not being very impactful at the moment. Across the whole league, I don’t think you could make a good case for any of them being the focal point of their team at the moment. This is not a good thing for 100 considering Ssumday is (or, at least, was) their best individual player. We’ve seen a couple LPL games where TheShy popped off to know that it’s possible in 2020 for top laners to have impact, but TheShy is an outlier. I don’t know if Ssumday can be that much better than his NA counterparts, and if that doesn’t happen, then I also don’t really see how the other lanes will elevate above their opponents. That puts 100 in an awkward middleground where I think this split will be about finding their bearings more than actually contending for the title.
Immortals (2-2) — frymeme_imt.jpeg
I thought about copy-pasting the 100 blurb and only replacing the names to see if you’d notice a difference. Think about it: an unproven mid import, an old school control-style NA jungler, a solid bot lane, and a top lane import with a decorated history. Who is who? My assessment of IMT is almost identical to 100 in that I also don’t really understand if this team is good or not (and they don’t really look good but what does that mean anyway). This is a team where if you are an optimist, you tell yourself they still haven’t quite gelled as a whole yet because of the Visa issues (how long can we use this excuse, though?). They looked pretty good in their win over GG and then looked equally bad in the loss against C9 (but everyone is getting bopped by C9), so I think you’d argue they’re capable of fighting for the middle of the pack. That is not an entirely unreasonable expectation given they have Xmithie and sOAZ — the two might not be world-class per se but they should still be good enough domestically to keep this IMT roster even-keeled and in contention for wins, especially against less organized teams. This team’s ceiling is going to hinge almost entirely on what Eika can do, and like criticisms levied against Ry0ma, he’ll be facing the same questions. A mid import — from EU no less — has a lot of comparison points, and Eika hasn’t quite lived up to that yet.
Team Liquid (2-2) — Brox-aaahhhhhhhhhhhh
Team Liquid should be 3-1 given their play so far, but the 49ers also should be the champions. Should is a thing that happens in a parallel timeline where sports follow the expected trajectories of the course they set out on. There are no sudden pivots. No heroics. No throws (or in the case of the 49ers, way more throws than they wanted for their game plan). Broxah also should be here already, but he’s not, and Steve just announced they’ll know on Thursday what his fate will be — this means the biggest thing at hand for Liquid is that Broxah might be entirely blocked from joining their roster. I don’t want to speculate too much on what-ifs as that could all be moot by tomorrow, but I do want to reiterate that it’s pretty difficult to judge this team until we know for sure what that future looks like. I will say Jensen had a nice game against DIG even though they lost — he was making a lot of proactive plays that I feel like is something we want to continue seeing (even more so) from him as the split progresses.
TSM (2-2) — Dardoch goes in, doesn’t come out
Put away the pitchforks, TSM is back on the menu. They’re undefeated in the Bjergsen-isn’t-extremely-sick era, which means we should re-evaluate how good they are. Their wins also come against two of the teams at the bottom of the standings, though, so it’s premature to say they’re necessarily a title contender. I will say, though, that one thing I enjoy about this team is Dardoch’s aggressiveness. He makes some boneheaded plays in the mid game, but no one is going to criticize him for doing nothing at least, which is a thing I think will be good for TSM. The last time they sported this kind of “fk it just go” mentality was the Akaadian “swift wrath” period where they won about a dozen games in a row last spring. As long as he can continue to force plays, I think Bjergsen and Kobbe will be able to follow-up well. And in the long run, the benefit of him forcing plays is that TSM will get better at recognizing what is or isn’t a good time to fight — the only way to discover your limits is to try to push beyond them. They’ve got a matchup against DIG on Saturday that will be a good measuring stick for both teams — a convincing win there would have me asking if they might be good enough to challenge the top of the table this split.
Evil Geniuses (1-3) — Evil does not live
I was pretty negative about GG last week, which means if you are a team that manages to lose to GG, then I should be even more negative about you, right? One benchmark for me for whether a team is good or not is how they handle split pushers (Fiora, as GG played, being the preeminent example). If you manage to lose to a 1-3 Fiora in what is largely an even game-state (where your own top laner finishes 7-1-2), then that probably means you have awful mid-game macro. And by you, I mean EG. In a way they did a service to us all by losing with the old Sona/Kench lane, but that they pulled it out means it’s probably seeing a non-insignificant amount of play in scrims, which means (in NA at least) that it might be viable still? 2020 is a mistake after all. I don’t think anyone expected EG to jump out of the gate and immediately be worldbeaters, but I also don’t think we expected them to look this out of sync. This is a team that went to Korea to bootcamp together, and presumably the extra time should have helped them come out stronger than the other teams. Up next for EG is CLG, and if they end up losing there, then I think we’re going to start asking some really difficult questions (philosophical stuff like what exactly constitutes evil?).
Golden Guardians (1-3) — One up
Good news for GG is that they won a game. Everything else is bad news. I will say that while watching their loss to IMT, at one point in the game, I thought, “You know, GG really isn’t that bad.” I say that as someone who has watched LCS since its inception — there have been some truly awful teams that have spawned onto Rift. GG at least doesn’t look wholly out of place in their games. The one big black hole, however, has been AD-turned-support Keith. In four games so far in his new role, he’s a combined 1/22/12, which is extremely bad. I would, however, like to make a case for him, which is that I’d rather see him do this (the deaths a result of trying to make plays) rather than a no-impact support who manages to not die. I am thinking about the Janna players who just sit behind you in lane as you get poked to death and then ping you for dying and then go roam because they think you suck. Keith is decidedly not that Janna player, and honestly bless him for that. Sure, it’s possible that he’s not learning anything whatsoever, but I find that hard to believe for anyone who’s at least Challenger-level in terms of raw mechanics. He must be showing something behind the scenes for the team to give him this shot. The flip side to this, though, is how much more of these games can you stomach from him on the stage? I’d say we’re fast approaching that limit — this weekend could literally be do-or-die for his career, and I hope we are maybe a little cognizant of that before we decide to pile on him.
Counter Logic Gaming (0-4) — Familiar territory
Hmm… do I use this space to talk about CLG or should I start pitching it as open real estate to sponsors? I don’t know if there’s even a single positive thing I can say about this team. There are some neutral things like maybe Stixxay has looked just fine (or maybe this is the only neutral thing), but that’s a pretty bad silver lining. The only real silver lining is the same one every other team also has which is that it’s early in the season and really anything can happen. Hell, SKT started 1-5 last summer and still rebounded to make it to Worlds Semifinals, so there’s kind of a blueprint? Unfortunately CLG is not SKT, which means it is extremely unlikely to be the case, and further than that this iteration of CLG doesn’t have any history of success whatsoever. They’ve got EG and IMT on the schedule this week, which are two teams who haven’t looked particularly good either — it’s a chance to reset. They absolutely must win at least one of these games to me, which makes these the first must-win games for a team this split. I think dropping to 0-6 would mean they’re done for, but being in a do-or-die situation this early means you’re already on the brink of death. Nobody wants to start a split like that.