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10 thoughts going into Week 4 — “IMT fills you with a mixture of admiration and disgust. They skirt the line between genius and stupid.”

‘Twas the days before Valentine’s and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even your spouse, who doesn’t exist. We do, however, have League of Legends. There is no truer love in the world. We’re a third of the way through the LCS season, which feels kind of crazy, and Broxah is finally coming to town! Here are 10 more thoughts as we head into Week 4!

Cloud9 (6-0) — Zven down!!
In an interview with LeTigress this past weekend, Nisqy said C9 hasn’t really had to play from behind very much this year — in practice and on stage — because they simply have not fallen behind to begin with. This is what you call a big flex. It’s telling that the biggest news for C9 this past week was that Zven finally died in a game — with no other context, if you learned this one thing, you’d have to assume C9 was enjoying a terrific split. Which, of course, they are. I talk about it at one point or another every year, but I want to see a team actually come out and steamroll the LCS. This hasn’t happened since 2016, when we sent a 17-1 TSM squad to Worlds that, despite their failures, may have been the strongest NA team ever. We are still extremely far away from that point for C9, but so far they are clicking on all cylinders and squares and trapezoids. They don’t have a single weak lane, which frees Blaber to play aggressively in the early game, and he might be the most exciting player to watch in the league right now. C9 has a major test this weekend against TSM, who are on a four-game winning streak — a win here and the only the thing that might stand between them and an undefeated season is Broxah… or Blaber reverting to his old ways and inting at about the 17-minute mark.

Immortals (4-2) — A win’s a win
We’ve all met at least one person who skirts the line between genius and stupid — some of the things they come up with to save a few seconds here or there fill you with a mixture of admiration and disgust. That’s IMT. The final play against CLG was something I truly loved as a viewer. You 100% trade the Baron for the Nexus every single time. If I had to think about it as a coach, though, then I am decidedly a lot less happy about it. The worst part about it is that IMT found themselves in that position to begin with — ideally your games are a lot cleaner, but IMT’s mid game macro is still not particularly good. They’re just extremely good at being able to identify win conditions (for both teams), which means they’re okay with giving up anything that’s not their Nexus. At the same time, they’re also great at identifying when the opponent’s Nexus can be pressured or straight up taken. That’s the second time this split already that they’ve managed to just randomly win the game, and if nothing else, I find that extremely impressive. Ultimately every single objective you take in the game is meant to open up a path to the the enemy Nexus, and it’s no surprise that a team with sOAZ and Xmithie (two perennial winners) is very good at doing just that. I’m just not sure I can call it a “style,” which means it’s not something you can do much to improve upon. As such, I’m still low on IMT despite their 4-2 record.

TSM (4-2) — Connect four
Sports have always been about “what can you do for me lately,” which makes TSM the second most attractive team in the league right now. Second most attractive is normally good, but maybe not so good with Valentine’s coming up. After an abysmal Week 1 showing, TSM has rebounded to take four games in a row, and while the wins haven’t been as convincing as C9’s, I do think they’ve been ramping it up with each passing game. They combined for 33 kills last weekend, which isn’t an especially impressive number or anything, but it’s a good change of pace for longtime TSM fans who might be accustomed to slower drawls of games where barely nothing happens until a single decisive fight. C9 being next on the menu is perfect timing for them to gauge exactly how good they are — even a loss will help identify what they need to work on. I think the area that C9 can potentially be exploited the hardest is in mid lane, where Nisqy hasn’t always been the most consistent player (he mentioned in his interview that he disappeared against Jensen in the playoffs, for example). Bjergsen continues to be one of the premier mid laners in the league, and I expect TSM’s engine to still depend on him to function. I’d say a win against C9 here would be one of the best regular season win for TSM in years, as it could be a declaration to all of their fans that Bay Life is back.

100 Thieves (3-3) — All Might
The 100 Thieves might not be a good team, but they might also not be a bad team. Or they might be good, or they might be bad. Who can really say. The most promising thing that happened for them was Ssumday putting on his Ssumdaddy face to smash TL in their win — I’ve talked about how I feel like he’s their only true hard-carry threat in terms of playstyle, and it’s good to see he still has it in him. Ry0ma is showing that his laning isn’t too bad, but to me it still seems singularly focused on not falling behind as opposed to generating advantages, and that feels like an awkward playstyle from a mid laner. His mid and late game (things you can’t really practice in Solo Queue) still leave much to be desired, but I do think he’s making progress, and that’s all you can reasonably expect from him. It looks like 100 has enough leadership and skill on this team to hang around the middle of the pack, at least, but it’s become pretty clear that they won’t be able to break from it. Right now they just don’t have an identity of any sorts, and until they figure out how they want to play or who they want to play the game around, I think we’ll continue to see inconsistency.

Dignitas (3-3) — Reverse
Opposite of TSM’s success in the “what have you done for me lately” camp is Dignitas, who are now on a three-game slide after earning (rightfully so at the time) a lot of hype for their strong start. I talked earlier in the season about how I was worried they’d fall back onto comfort picks which might not be optimal — like Froggen’s Vel’Koz — and, well, he picked Vel’Koz and they lost. I feel like there’s a reason no one else is playing that champion, and it’s not because it’s particularly mechanically intense. That loss wasn’t necessarily Froggen’s fault, but that they lost with him on the pick kind of reinforces many of my concerns with buying into the hype for this roster. They’ve been manhandled in all of their losses, and that feels like it’s been a product of a weak early and mid game — I think they’ll need to figure out how to better incorporate Grig (or he needs to figure out how to play around his laners better), or it’s going to shape out to be a long season. While it’s only three losses, that still means they’re on the biggest slide in the league — I’m curious about how that has affected the team environment, especially for a rookie like Johnsun.

FlyQuest (3-3) — Focusing on the trees at the cost of the forest
FLY finds themselves in a similar boat as DIG after an 0-2 weekend (rip trees), which is unfortunate because that was a big chance for them to flex their status as a contender. Being routed by C9 is par for the course for everybody right now, but I imagine it’s extremely demoralizing when you consider FLY was in contention for the #2 slot in the league before that. You have to figure you’d play a close match at the very least, but all that game did was illustrate the difference between C9 and the rest of the league. And if you’re not capable of challenging the top of the ladder in the Spring Split where only being #1 matters, then what are you orienting your goals around? Just “improving” is a nebulous goal that sounds nice, but it’s the concrete rewards that truly feel satisfying. That they followed it with a loss to a floundering EG squad only further amplifies the fact that FLY is just another member of the big pack that is the middle of the table in the LCS. I still feel like PowerOfEvil and Santorin need to be the anchor for this team’s success, but they didn’t manage to capitalize on much of anything in the losses. So going forward, I’d task them with stepping up even more so that they are strong even in losses — that would at least give your team something to rally behind.

Evil Geniuses (2-4) — Malzahar is a difficult champion
If I had written this after Saturday when EG became the first team to lose to CLG, I would have declared them to be the new worst team in the league. However, because they followed it up by trouncing FlyQuest, I think it’s more apt to just say they’re just inconsistent as hell. Right now, I think they’re trying too hard to make individual plays — Jiizuke for example got caught (as Orianna) and died near Dragon in the game against CLG because he was trying to poke at them. It felt like he forgot he was playing an immobile mage, and while that single misplay wasn’t the reason for their defeat, it captured what the biggest issue with him this split has been. He’s someone who pokes his head forward a lot, and sometimes that generates good plays for his team, but sometimes it also backfires heavily. I think he needs to be better at identifying when he needs to be a playmaker and when he needs to be a backline fighter, and that generally extends to EG as a whole. They’re a little too gung-ho at the moment, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing in theory, but they’re not in sync with it so it just looks extremely sloppy. I felt like sticking Jiizuke on Malzahar duty might have addressed a lot of my concerns, so I wonder if they’ll continue leaning into safer and easy-to-execute mid lane champs like that. In either case, their two wins have come when Jiizuke has played well, so he needs to be the key that unlocks this roster’s potential.

Golden Guardians (2-4) — kEiThMcGrIeF
Fans: lmao keithmcgrief
TL: lol imagine griefing your team
TL: ok dlift you play senna

Watching Keith generate a 2v2 kill in bot lane against Doublelift and CoreJJ was extremely satisfying to watch after seeing how hard he’s been roasted by the community the past couple of weeks. Most of us who’ve been around for a while have seen the cycle of hatred come and go for so many different players at this point that it gets kind of old. I’m not going to say Keith didn’t deserve any criticism, but it just made me wonder what exactly people were expecting from an AD-turned-support. I don’t think having a good game against TL is going to wipe the slate for him, but I do think he’s earned a bit of real estate, and I hope that a bit of the burden has been lifted from his shoulder. Sometimes you only need one good game to serve as a mental image that you can fall back on when struggling. So in the future, just think about the time you dunked Doublelift in lane, Keith. That said, beating TL isn’t exactly a monumental achievement at this point in the season, but going up to 2-4 should be a good morale boost for a team that could be 0-6 and no one would really bat an eye about it. GG still needs to improve on almost every facet of their game (and Keith does need to improve, which he knows better than any of us), but that kind of morale boosting win over TL is often the exact type of game that serves as a rally cry for a downtrodden team.

Team Liquid (2-4) — Broxah Smash
Has Liquid played six games this season, and have they lost four times, and have all four of those times been with a Senna pick? If you are a TL fan, then the answer is “who cares!” Those six games may as well be the preseason for you as Broxah has finally had his visa approved. Whether he can save the wreck that is the TL ship at the moment remains to be seen, but I’m pretty confident he’s going to make his presence a lot more known than Shernfire, who also benefits from this as he can now go improve in Academy instead of being thrust into a role with massive expectations. In a worst-case scenario where Broxah’s visa wasn’t approved, I imagine Shernfire would have suddenly found himself a massive scapegoat for the entire Spring Split, so I’m glad that didn’t come to fruition. I’m especially glad, though, that Broxah can finally play again — he’s long been one of the most talented players in Europe (and was arguably Fnatic’s best player last year). I know TL still needs to turn this around in NA, but I think it’s important to remember that the expectation with Broxah isn’t that TL can win NA. That’s a prerequisite to the expectation, which is that Broxah is here to turn TL into a world-class team. I don’t think it’ll happen immediately, but that’s the bar that we should hold them to, and that’s the bar they’ll be pushing towards.

Counter Logic Gaming (1-5) — Defeat from the jaws of victory
Halfway through CLG’s game against IMT, I remember thinking, “Damn, I guess I really did underestimate CLG. Maybe the first four games were just unlucky.” The CLG god, of course, must have heard me (and the other CLG fans who dared to let hope seep into their hearts again), and what followed was what we like to call a very CLG ending. There are few teams in the history of LoL that are as creative as CLG is when it comes to finding a way to lose, and that this has somehow managed to stay true over multiple rosters is proof that the universe has decided to punish this organization. I don’t think you can even look at a single player on this roster and say that switching them out would somehow fix things. CLG is the opposite of IMT in that they are terrible at identifying win conditions, and it feels almost like they try too hard to play by the book in terms of what should be the correct play instead of what is the right play. However, because I was extremely negative about CLG last week, they managed to prove me wrong by winning. Thus, for the sake of CLG fans, I would like to declare that CLG is the worst team in the league right now (which I do believe). The coming match against GG is likely the game that will see the loser truly claim that title.

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