-By Edward Brady
The LCS is the North American League of Legends professional league and one of the 4 major regions in the League of Legends Esports scene, where players compete on franchised teams for fame, pride, a considerable salary, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash prizes. You may remember our brief coverage of the League of Legends World Championship last year; these Regional seasons are the build-up to the international tournaments. Week 5 has wrapped up. The playoffs are looming closer and the race is a tight one. Here is a recap of last week's LCS teams from best record to worst, along with their playoff scenarios.
1. Cloud9 11-4 – Minor hiccup
Cloud 9 kicked off week 5 with a crushing victory over Flyquest as everyone expected> However the rest of the week didn’t quite go according to plan. They took on Team Liquid on Saturday, and despite TL making a number of plays where they were not on the same page (Alphari TP’d into the enemy team without backup twice) TL clawed their way back into the game off of a few C9 misplays and outplays of their own to take the win in a 40-minute thriller that could’ve gone either way. The key difference in that game was the top lane matchup best demonstrated when Alphari solo killed Fudge bot lane the TP’d into the baron pit to clean up the team fight across the map. They got off to a hot start against TSM getting 3 kills onto the Jungler Spica in a little over 5 minutes. However, TSM was still able to take the victory quite convincingly. Spica, despite the slow start, did much more than Blaber (Spica didn’t die after the 5-minute disaster and went 3/3/13, Blaber went 0/4/5). Perkz also made some very questionable plays in both games. This is hardly a reason to sound the alarm bells, but Cloud 9 shouldn’t think they're invincible anymore.
Playoffs: Cloud 9 has already clinched a playoff berth and is 1 game in front of the pack. They clinch 1st seed if they win out (CLG, DIG, IMT).
2. Dignitas 10-5 – The people’s team
Can I just say that Dignitas is one of the most pleasant surprises of competitive LoL this year? This was a roster that was thought to be a stopgap until Dig could gather funds to pay for “real” players. Instead, Dignitas has made a name for themselves as NA’s champions. In a region that consists mostly of imports and imports who’ve been around long enough to earn citizenship, Dignitas is the only squad in the LCS to have 0 imports. With the oversaturation of imports and the talk of owners wanting to remove the import cap (Teams could sign a squad of 5 Korean challengers, kneecap their salaries and nothing could be done about that), the Academy scene having serious questions if they're doing enough to help players develop and NA talent falling to the wayside, DIG is a breath of fresh air.
This is essentially the LCS version of Moneyball, with “washed up” veteran Aphromoo proving that you don’t get to stay in the LCS for 6 years without being a great player as he plays like one of the best supports in the league, Dardoch a jungler who apparently “no one wanted” (actual leaked quote from the president of TSM when they were trying to trade him) having one of the most diverse champ pool in the LCS and running rampant over his old team in TSM. You have Soligo and FakeGod who “already blew their chance and aren’t LCS ready” crushing the lower ends of the competition and not only holding their own but beating the best of the best. Cap it all off with the rookie ADC Neo really getting a chance to shine under Aphromoo’s guidance (this is like the 3rd rookie ADC Aphro has played with who looks incredible, he has a talent for this sort of thing) and you have a recipe for success and likeability
Playoffs: Dignitas clinch an upper bracket Playoff berth with a win (TL, C9, FLY). They can also unseat C9 if they beat them this week and C9 drops another game.
3. TSM 10-5 – True contenders
TSM is shaping up to be a very threatening team come playoff time. Although the week didn’t start out as planned by losing a perfectly winnable game against Dignitas, and thus going 0-2 against them and getting into some hot water in the social media and PR department, but the rest of the week was great. With a dominant victory against fellow playoff contender 100 Thieves and a smackdown of the first place C9, TSM is looking to be hitting their stride at just the right time as they head into playoffs while teams that looked good are starting to falter a bit (C9,100T) or have yet to fully hit it (EG, TL). With solid play from all 5 positions, if TSM keeps pace they are poised to make a deep playoff run.
Playoffs: The only way TSM misses playoffs is if they lose out (EG, IMT, GG), and even then, they would still get a tiebreaker.
4. 100 Thieves 9-6 – Worrying trends
100 Thieves is looking very shaky right now. Before the week even began, They made news by subbing out their mid-laner Damonte for Ry0ma. While Damonte was struggling there were some doubts if Ry0ma was any better. The evidence seems to be inconclusive as 100T kept up the losing by falling to EG and TSM, two of their main contenders in the race for the upper bracket. They were able to correct their course a little bit by not having a repeat of week 3 and slaughtering the Golden Guardians, but that was completely expected of them and everyone beats GG. The roster is starting to lose its luster. FBI and Huhi aren’t looking like the best bot lane anymore and there are questions if their earlier form wasn’t just a massive overperformance. Their jungler Closer in particular has fallen off of a cliff over the past few weeks. If last week was the start of ringing alarm bells, this week is cause for full-blown panic.
Playoffs: If 100T win 2 of 3 (IMT, FLY, TL) they get into the upper bracket. Win 1 of 3 and they probably go into the lower bracket. Lose out and they are in danger of losing the last spot to IMT (they play them Friday).
5. Team Liquid 9-6 – Frustration incarnate
Team Liquid is a team who for the price they paid to get this roster should be (and honestly probably is but I can’t give the benefit of the doubt) a lot better than their record. TL went into the week with an appetizer against GG, the main course in C9, and a tasty dessert in CLG. The appetizer was excellent as they blew out GG without even giving them a chance. The main course was even better as they managed to upset the LCS favorites in C9. Between the LCS and the Lock-in, TL is now 7-2 against the best team in the league. By all accounts, TL should be fighting for first. But did they really have to choke on the dessert? A perfect opportunity to gain ground in the race for first was presented to them as C9 lost and they were up against an already eliminated CLG and they completely blew it. They played probably their worst game of the season against a team that was already dead. Now not only is 1st place all but dead, they have yet to even clinch. I don’t know if they just looked past their opponents or what but TL getting punched in the mouth by a team they should be superior to is nothing new but still ever frustrating.
Playoffs: Win 2 of 3 (DIG, EG, 100T) and get in. only winning one could risk a tiebreaker for 6th. Lose out and their destiny isn’t in their hands.
6. Evil Geniuses 8-7 – Gatekeeper
Evil Geniuses are in a strange position. They have good players individually, Impact is one of the best top laners in LCS, Sven and Jiizuke are great when they’re on form, and that bot lane is a very good one. However, I would be lying if I said I had faith that they could challenge the top of the table. A victory over a floundering 100T helped boost the confidence but a loss to DIG hampered the expectations. however, the most glaring issue was the loss to IMT. A win there all but guarantees a playoff berth and IMT had just lost to CLG severely dampening their playoff hopes. Now EG is in danger of not even making the playoffs. I can’t tell if the league is just stacked with talent, if the roster is underperforming, or if they aren’t as good as their nameplates. Either way, this week will be a tell-all with two matches against contenders and a CLG looking to spoil wherever possible.
Playoffs: This is the team with the most volatility. If they win out (TSM, TL, CLG), they can challenge for an upper bracket spot. If they start losing games, Immortals is only one game back and holds the 2-0 head-to-head tiebreaker. If any team were to fall out of the playoff race in the final week it would be EG.
7. Immortals 7-8 – On the edge of relevance
Immortals were a team expected to round out the bottom of the table and just being in the playoff race going into the final week of play is more than anyone could’ve hoped for when the roster was revealed. It feels like IMT is so close to taking that next step towards being a good team. They are still miles away from being a serious contender, but it still feels like IMT could end up doing a lot of damage if they just cleaned up a few areas. This week was a perfect example. They upset EG and now are 2-0 against their main competition for the final playoff spot. They also took care of business against FLY and with EG floundering, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to gain ground. The problem? To kick off the week they lost to CLG in an ugly fashion. That’s two ugly losses to two bad teams (CLG, GG) that are keeping them on the outside looking in. Perhaps in summer, they will clean things up, but it is an uphill battle if they want to make it to the playoffs in Spring.
Playoffs: If Evil Geniuses, Team Liquid, or 100 Thieves lose out while Immortals win two or three of their next matches (100T, TSM, C9), they’ll enter into a tiebreaker. If Immortals lose out, they won’t qualify, but at least one win could mean a tiebreaker for sixth place with Evil Geniuses.
8. FlyQuest 5-10 – Lessons learned
In contrast, FlyQuest is probably the biggest disappointment of the LCS (CLG has the excuse of not having their full roster for 6 games albeit the Pobelter situation is on them). What was once thought to be an exciting team displaying the finest talent NA has with promising academy players, a proven NA vet, a young NA ADC coming off a fantastic rookie year, and Jesus Christ himself in Josedeodo. All in the name of the environment. What can go wrong? A lot, as it turns out. FlyQuest is a below-average team with no discernable identity beyond what’s happening off of the rift (which is still great, and nothing can take that away from them). Diamond and Palafox really haven’t carried over their academy success and it's starting to raise questions as to if Academy is doing enough to facilitate the growth of young players (evidence from LCS games and interviews are pointing to “no”). It’s the same story with Johnsun expect to replace Academy with the rookie season. Licorice has regressed dramatically and now people are wondering how much of his success was his own and how much was being carried by a great C9 squad. Josedeodo is the lone bright spot but even divine intervention from the man himself can’t save this squad. The most disappointing thing about them is just how boring they are to watch. Strip away the Beequest and nameplates and there is just nothing exciting going on here.
Playoffs: Flyquest is eliminated from playoff contention and can only really mess up 100T’s playoff chances.
9. Counter Logic Gaming 4-11 – Super spoiler
The “miracle run” is a lesson in why you never get excited for CLG. Its been common knowledge for years that CLG’s success is inverse to how much hype is around them. After starting the week right with a victory over IMT and some top teams continued to lose, people started to get excited about this ridiculous possibility. Then they rolled over and died against FlyQuest as Pobelter had one of the worst games of his career. With the run dead, people went straight back to mocking and not caring about CLG. Then they beat TL, a TL that had just beaten C9. CLG now holds the role of spoiler as they might have seriously hamstrung not one but two teams’ playoff chances. They are the main reason IMT isn’t tied for 6 with head-to-head and are the reason TL still hasn’t clinched a playoff berth. Misery loves company and CLG intends to drag the rest of the league down with them.
Playoffs: CLG is eliminated from playoff contention but can affect the fight for first by beating C9 or cripple EG by beating them Sunday.
10. Golden Guardians 2-13 – Really?
I remember there being quite a bit of excitement when the Golden Guardians were announced to be joining the newly franchised LCS. “The Golden State Warriors are investing into the LCS? Esports is really hitting the big time!” It is unfortunate that the Golden Guardians have chosen to pay homage to the late ’90s and early 2000’s with the exercise in futility and failure this franchise has come to represent. This franchise is pathetic: Back-to-back last-place finishes in their debut year, yet to finish above .500, 1 Playoff victory in 7 splits, and the current squad is on pace for the worst record in LCS since franchising and the worst record in LCS since 2016 Summer Split Echo Fox. The only positive thing I can say about this team is that the coaches seem invested in NA minor league infrastructure and Niles has a funny Twitter page. Everyone is the undisputed worst in their role. The team hasn’t looked competitive at all. Everything else has been an unmitigated disaster as their budding fanbase left when the old roster did, and they have failed to grow a new one. At this point, Golden Guardians only serve as a cautionary tale of what happens when owners who don’t care but have big pockets buy-in and don’t do anything to cultivate growth.
Playoffs: Golden Guardians are eliminated from playoff contention and can only mildly inconvenience TSM at this point.
The LCS will resume playing this Friday with Cloud 9 vs Counter Logic Gaming at 5 P.M. There will be 5 matches a day and games will be played on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Games on the weekend will begin at 3 P.M. You can find the full schedule at lolesports.com, and you can watch the matches on the website, the lol esports YouTube channel, or Twitch.tv/LCS.