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Some might say that we’re halfway through the 2020 LCS Spring Split, but I am here to tell you it’s already over and Cloud9 was the champion. Congratulations to everyone else for participating. At 10-0, they remain undefeated and no one is showing that they’re even close to challenging them. Here are 10-0 facts going into Week 6!
Cloud9 (10-0) — Cue Queen’s “We Are The Champions”
I remember glancing at the CS at one point in the IMT vs. C9 game and being confused that Vulcan had a bunch of CS and Zven had none — I actually almost pinged someone internally to report a visual bug. It was, however, not a bug (though you might argue it shouldn’t be allowed to exist) — Zven was just playing Senna in the bot lane slot using Black Mist Scythe, a support item that generates gold. I read that this was already played in Challengers Korea, so I’m not going to say C9 invented this idea, but it was nice to see the first place team in NA execute a new strategy instead of sitting on their laurels. This is the kind of thing that our top teams have often lacked. Not since the OG C9 team or the 2016 IMT roster has a team been both dominant and aggressive in terms of setting and defining the meta (which we do see a lot from top teams in other regions like FPX or G2). I’m not saying C9 has been extremely unorthodox otherwise, but it’s a good sign to me that they are going to be able to adapt quickly to shifting metas. Unlike the four-time reigning champ TL, for example, this C9 team has been much less likely to lean into a scaling late-game oriented comp where they just wait for mistakes. Blaber has actually played Lee Sin more than anyone else has played anything, and it’s been nice to see his mechanical prowess be put on display towards that end. C9 has more-or-less clinched a playoff spot already, and at this point they’re making the rest of the competition look like they should go try their hand at Twitch Rivals.
FlyQuest (7-3) — Planting a Forest
FlyQuest has a match against C9 this weekend that shapes up to be the match of the split, which is not a string of words most people imagined they’d be saying as we enter Week 6. But hundreds of trees later, here we are! Again, I’ve been on the PowerOfEvil train for a long time now, and after another couple of convincing wins, he’s helped lead FLY to solo possession of 2nd place in the LCS. This is after a summer split in which he led the now-last place CLG to 3rd, which makes him one of the clear MVP candidates with over half the season done. That, then, makes this match against C9 a literal opportunity for him to play for an MVP — if he’s able topple C9 here and then continue or exceed his level of play for the second half of the season, then there will be a really strong MVP case for him, especially with C9 members likely to split votes. I specifically want to give him a shoutout for the Baron fight against CLG in which he Corki-packaged into CLG and then proceeded to obliterate them (dealing 9k dmg compared to about 10k from all nine other players combined!). The person who designed the package for Corki must have imagined that exact play when they introduced the concept. It looked like what I imagine myself to look like when I pick up the Corki package which I inevitably use to propel myself into zero damage death. So, if FLY can knock down C9 here, then we can officially shift the goalposts from “are they good” to “how good are they?”
TSM (6-4) — Bjergsen x Syndra
Halfway through reading this blurb, you’re going to get blasted by orbs and then stunned for a couple seconds. That’s right, you’ve also been caught out by Bjergsen’s Syndra. As we slowly grow older and move towards the inevitable end of our days, it is nice to see his iconic Syndra. It’s like rewatching a The Office even though there are literally thousands of other options you could try — the familiarity brings a sort of comfort that is exactly the thing you are craving. TSM had a nice 2-0 week, but I want to focus on the EG game in particular, which they won with an 8-1 scoreline and it never felt like they were in jeopardy that game (even if the gold disparity wasn’t that big). If you look beyond the scoreline, though, you’d see that EG had more dragons and then TSM wasn’t able to close out until they forced a 50/50 Baron. It’s the kind of play you make out of desperation in Solo Queue when you don’t know what else to do, which makes it exactly the kind of play you hate to see on the professional level. Baron setup and control has always been a good benchmark for whether a team is good or not, and I feel like even though they won, TSM failed that in this case. Again, this was extremely weird because it never felt like they would lose, so why force the one play that might change that? We’re over halfway into the season and seeing that kind of play is pretty demoralizing if you have championship aspirations (as I am sure TSM does). This team’s early game dominance feels like it’s being wasted by their mid and late game decision making, and that’s a shame for anyone hoping for a little parity at the top of the LCS.
Dignitas (5-5) — There’s no team in Huni, but there is an I
This team feels like it lives and dies based on how well Huni plays — I actually wonder if Huni can have a good game where his team still loses. And then I wonder if that’s ever been the case for Huni teams. For better or for worse, he’s always been a major catalyst for his teams, and that’s something Dignitas is going to need to hone as the split wraps up. With Froggen on the team, they can win even if he has a bad game, but I think if you find success whenever Huni does well, then you should formulate your gameplan around him first and foremost every single time. He’s been a pro for so long that’s hard for him to change, or at least much harder than it is for you to adjust your pick & ban phase or your early jungling priority. This is likely tied to what makes Dignitas maybe the biggest sink or swim team in the league — they can go from looking like a top-class LCS team to getting stomped between a Saturday and a Sunday. My prescription is to hard camp Huni’s lane (level 2 red buff gank all day, every day) for both junglers in the game, and if that fails them petition to bring back the Revive summoner spell for him.
Immortals (5-5) — Sinking into the soup
After their hot 5-2 start to the season, the Immortals were minced in two crushing losses over the weekend to cap off a three-game slide. They have not looked good in any of those losses! The theory for their success early on is that they were simply smarter than other teams and could win thanks to having better map play. The caveat to that, though, was that teams always start off the split (Spring especially) a little slowly, and IMT would need to also improve their early game if they hoped to continue winning. That has, unfortunately, not panned out. IMT is starting to look a lot more like pre-season projections of them, and for this slide to come as we enter the second half of the split bodes extremely poorly for their playoff prospects. They do have matches against GG and CLG this weekend to bounce back, though, and I’d say they’re probably the favorite to take both of those matches. With the standings being so close, this feels a bit like a breaking point for this team — if they aren’t able to beat two of the worst teams in the league, then it’s hard to imagine them surfacing from the LCS soup that is the middle of the standings.
100 Thieves (4-6) — Big Back
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the largest backpack in the world is measured at 39 feet and 9 inches, which means Ssumday is an absolute unit. The win against GG is the second time this split I’ve felt that Ssumday just put his team on his back for a win. His splitpushing as Lucian against Hauntzer’s Gangplank made me wonder if we have rules against cyberbullying in the LCS Rules and Regulations. That’s the good news for this team. The flipside is when you are able to shutdown Ssumday, which teams have been able to do, can anyone else step up on that team to become their win condition? We saw Ryoma get solo killed by Bjergsen, which felt like a proverbial nail of sorts for all of the critics hammering on his level of play. But I liked what Cody Sun said in a post-game interview after their win this weekend, though, which is that they need to believe in the process. Ultimately if you are trying to be good by summer, then it doesn’t matter as much if you are bad now — synergy does develop over time if you are able to avoid pointing fingers, and that might be a better solution than immediately changing your roster. But that’s the kind of thing where a real metric doesn’t exist — who can truly say if letting that synergy develop is actually better (or worse)? They probably need to stick to this roster for the year if they want to test that theory out, though sticking with the roster may mean the year ends up as a wash.
Evil Geniuses (4-6) — Out with a Bang
Bang didn’t die at all over the weekend, which is very good, but EG only won one of those games, which is very much less good. That more or less sums up his time in the LCS so far. There are a few games where he has absolutely shined, but throughout his career, he’s rarely been the type of player to go out and single-handedly win you the game (and to be fair to him, bot lane is a role which often rewards and values consistency and safe play over do-or-die gambits). EG’s one kill against TSM was a solo kill from Jiizuke onto Bjergsen, who seems to try for that kind of play multiple times every game, but it is also not a particularly reliable tactic. This roster just doesn’t have much of an identity right now, so I am kind of forced to respect Jiizuke’s attempts at blowing games open. If he pops off, that has been one of their only (if not the only) win conditions so far. But those attempts might also be costing them the ability to win in other ways because he seems to always try it (put him back on Malzahar duty!). As we push into the second half of the season, I’m especially interested in watching how Svenskeren plays — he hasn’t been particularly bad or anything, but he’s been extremely lackluster compared to his MVP Summer Split. This is a great example of why I’m always a little hesitant to praise or criticize a jungler too much — it’s by far the role that is most impacted by how strong or weak your teammates are.
Golden Guardians (4-6) — In search of glue
A Reddit post yesterday wondered if Goldenglue parted ways with GG because his Twitter account didn’t have any of the appropriate information in the bio. It was pretty quickly dispelled as a rumor by Goldenglue, but I can’t help but find it funny that it was met with serious concern (including from me) about his status with the team. It’d be seen immediately as a joke of sorts if it came from, say, Doublelift, which is to say Goldenglue has had a difficult road to arrive at this point in his career. And right now, he is in the midst of another difficult split (though this time, you will find very few fingers identifying him as specifically the problem). The Guardians continue to look like a pedestrian team after the laning phase, which means they should contact TSM to form a support group for each other and maybe practice late game together — maybe share notes, etc. To me, if a team struggles in mid and late game, that means they are having a lot of communication breakdowns or poor team fighting (or both), and right now it feels like GG is lacking in both. I don’t have much faith in them to pop off and win critical 50/50 team fights by outskilling their opponents, which means I’d want them to play the map better, which also is not happening. So, while rumors of Goldenglue’s departure were greatly exaggerated, this is a team that needs a little more than just glue to keep together.
Team Liquid (4-6) — New look? Old look.
I love that Team Liquid’s name positions them alphabetically at the bottom of this list, which is secretly a marketing ploy from me to get you to read more of my article so that my sponsors (which do not exist… yet) will be happier. Liquid hasn’t exactly turned into the goliath that we expected they’d be when Broxah arrived, and part of that is still tied to their inability to generate plays (which, you might remember, is what has cost them internationally the last two years). This is a team that has historically feasted on mistakes — they are like a fisherman waiting for a dumb fish to come along and take the bait, and in the LCS pond, there have historically been a lot of willing fish. They have not, however, managed to land the sharks of the international oceans with any sort of consistency. Broxah was supposed to change that by being a stronger jungler, which theoretically means more early game plays (since early game ganks are what most people think of when they think of junglers), but if you think back on his time with Fnatic, it’s not like he was a well-known early game jungler there either. What we do get with Broxah, though, is high level mechanics in the mid and late game to better generate picks — as we saw from his Lee Sin in the game against Dignitas. This team still has the markings of an elite team when they are able to secure a mid game lead — their biggest problems, though, seems to be pulling triggers to secure those leads. I do still expect them to ramp it up as Broxah becomes more comfortable and we start to push towards higher-stakes games.
Counter Logic Gaming (1-9) — [hopeful title for CLG fans]
First of all, welcome back, Pobelter. Second of all, sorry. CLG isn’t mathematically eliminated yet, but if they come back and make the playoffs, I will write a ten thousand word apology for everything negative I’ve ever said about them. They did become the first team to ace Cloud9 this split (though that was more C9 acing themselves), which is a small kind of consolation in a split that is otherwise extremely bleak. Pobelter replacing Crown was a desperate kind of ploy to salvage their season, and at this point with the season essentially lost, I think you have to rotate out other players if only to try different combinations. There is no level of synergy that can be built to save a ship like this — it’s more or less impossible to keep morale high, and at least privately I imagine players already have inklings as to who they think is at fault. CLG is going to have a lot of questions to answer in the offseason, and at 1-9, I feel like you might as well get a head start on answering them.