-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. The Spring Split has wrapped up and the top 6 teams will take place in the first ever Mid-Season Showdown. The Mid-Season Showdown is the replacement for the Spring Playoffs of years past and determines who will be the American representative at the Mid-Season Invitational, the first of two international tournaments. This piece will preview the final 3 teams heading into the weekend. But first, a moment of reflection for the 3 teams to fall out of the tournament.
Evil Geniuses (10-8): Room for improvement
I don’t know how to feel about Evil Geniuses making an early exit. I will fully admit that I expected a first-round exit from them as the lowest seed so the 3-1 loss to TSM shouldn’t be that shocking. It’s just the way they lost that has me baffled. Games 1 and 2 were complete stomps in favor of TSM and EG respectively but games 3 and 4 were just painful. Game 3 saw EG get out to an 8-2 kill lead (albeit the gold was close) by the 20-minute mark only to throw it all away because Deftly got hit by a hook in the mid lane from a mile away with plenty of time to react with flash still up and TSM Lost picked up a quadra. From there, TSM just stomped the rest of the game. Game 4 was the same story with a 16-8 kill lead (gold and dragons were still close) before EG took a fight they should’ve won, only to watch Deftly, their 8/0/2 Kaisa flash in and get headbutted out of the fight by SwordArt as TSM cleaned up EG who didn’t have their main source of damage. The rest of the game didn’t go much better as TSM never let go of the momentum and ran over EG in the final fight.
The optimistic way to look at this is that EG is a good enough team to get leads against the top-of-the-table teams and just needs to clean up the way they the close game out. Jiizuke in game 3 and Deftly in game 4 got out to pretty sizable leads over their counterparts. They aren't horrible, they have the individual skills and some teamwork, they just need to clean up the mistakes in the key moments. The pessimistic way to look at it is that Evil Geniuses choked away an easily winnable series and I have doubts if this team can perform in the clutch. That series was EG’s to lose and they did just that. Seriously Deflty, how do you manage to make a 10/2/4 Kaisa look useless in the late game, I just can’t get over that.
Dignitas (11-7): Out with a whimper
This is why you think twice before buying into the hype everyone. The predictions surrounding 100T and DIG were quite strange. Dignitas dropped 3 spots in the final week to finish 5th but from the way the general community was talking (albeit some if not most of the analysts had the right idea), you would think DIG were poised to stomp 100T. Most of it was due to the hype surrounding their all-NA roster, the first in years and the first that didn’t suck in even longer. 100T were in the middle of a tailspin coming off of a weak end to the split and a 3-0 stomping by C9, people were ready to declare 100 Thieves dead. With the stage set and the script prime for and upset, we were all glued to our screens as we watched the resurgence of Dignitas: Give every meta pick to 100T! Refuse to learn from their mistakes! Tilt off the face of the earth! And then roll over and die! …wait what?
Yeah, that was one of the sadder 3-0’s I’ve seen in a while. Dignitas drafted horribly, letting their opponents take all of the key picks like Gnar, Orianna, Hecarim, Alistar, and Kaisa while picking suboptimal champs in game 1. They were in it for a while, but you can only hold out for so long against a draft difference that big. Game 2 saw them let 100T pick up 4/5 of the same champions. And the only champion that wasn’t picked was subbed out for the only support possibly even stronger than the previous one (Rell for Alistar). It went even worse as DIG picked up 1st blood, 1st dragon, and almost nothing else. It was a complete stomp in all senses of the word. And game 3 somehow was even worse. Although DIG didn’t let 100T go 3/3, they still lost hard in the draft, and even worse, DIG’s mental was completely shot to pieces. Everyone was tilted and playing like they wanted it to just end already. Special mention goes out to Dardoch who got about as close to “running it down” as you can without getting fined, going 0/7/3, spamming emotes, and giving us all a prime example of what tilt looks like not seen since his glory days of starring in “Breaking Point” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eIzGXt--Ig4).
As for going forward, Summer will be the test for Dignitas to make anything off their strong start. It is safe to say Spring was an absolute overperformance from what everyone expected, but only time will tell if this is the floor of a developmental roster or the absolute peak of a roster that just can’t cut it against the top dogs.
100 Thieves (11-7): Pain
That MSS run was… underwhelming to say the least. They got curb stomped by C9 without having any hope of fighting back in the upper bracket, swept an underwhelming DIG team that was just happy to be there, and then fell out of the tournament 3-1 to TSM is one of the uglier series I have seen in a while. There were just, so many mistakes from both sides I’m pretty sure you could play the first 25 minutes of each game and if you hid the scoreboard, I couldn’t tell you which one it was. It was just so formulaic: no team with a big lead after the early game, 100T takes 2 early dragons, TSM takes an early baron 100T botches a major team fight and loses.
This team is just depressing. Both to watch and to think about what they could’ve been. That Golden Guardians roster might have finished 5th, but they were 1 game away from double eliminating the eventual champs. With an upgrade (on paper) in the top lane and plenty of room to grow, I had 100T as a dark horse pick to win the split. Instead, 100T have turned into one of the most boring, soulless teams to watch play League of Legends (at least their out-of-game content is good). Ssumday got exposed to this series. He was supposed to be the key piece in taking this roster to next level and Huni destroyed him all series. No flame to Huni he’s a great top laner but Ssumday was supposed to be one of the best and he just didn’t live up to it. Now I’m even more worried for the Thieves as this organization has a tendency to either barely improve (10th to 8th in 2019) or get worse in summer (2nd to 4th in 2018, 5th to 7th in 2020). There are so many questions surrounding almost every position and I don’t have answers for any of them.
With the recap of the fallen three finalized, let's get on to the remaining teams.
Is it too early to call Cloud 9 NA’s only hope for international success? Probably, but I really want to do it anyway after seeing how the rest of the MSS has played out. All of C9 looks to be firing on all cylinders. Perkz and Fudge in particular are really stepping up as the former is showcasing how good he is in the clutch and is looking the best he has all season while the latter was considered to be the weak link but stood up to and beat one of the most dominant top laners in LCS history. While I won’t lie and say that C9’s 3-1 victory over Team Liquid wasn’t entirely their own doing as TL horrifically underperformed, they were still much cleaner than they were in their previous matches with TL. This roster was picked by many to win the split in convincing fashion and they look primed to do it.
But who will be challenging C9?
Vs #3 (12-6)
The top 3 most everyone predicted came to be and the organizations that had the most cash to pay their way to victory are the ones ruling the top of the table with an iron fist. I am incredibly shocked! Seriously between the $11 million buyouts for Perkz, the multiple multi-million-dollar contracts on TL, and the $6 million for SwordArt, if one of these teams didn’t make finals weekend you might as well just delete the franchise. It has been an interesting MSS for TL and a rough one for TSM. Things started well enough for Liquid with a clean 3-1 over a major rival but nobody showed up against C9. Alphari didn’t live up to the hype, Santorin was invisible (it was just sad at some points), Jensen got beaten so badly and Perkz did so much more than him that I’m pretty sure he got flashbacks to the 2019 MSI finals, Tactical and CoreJJ were outplayed at every turn by their C9 counterparts, and the drafts were abysmal. Their coach Jatt even said straight up that TL just underperformed against C9 and they’ve been working hard to make sure it doesn’t happen again
TSM has had it even worse with the aforementioned 3-1 against TL, an ugly 3-1 win against EG, and an even uglier 3-1 win against 100T. That’s not to say this team has been horrible, Huni and PowerOfEvil in particular have looked quite good, and Lost is doing well in his first-ever playoffs. But it just feels like TSM shouldn’t be winning some of the games they’ve won. A blind pick Gnar wasn’t punished for 3 games (watch the LPL if you want to see how you properly punish that) against 100 Thieves because TSM was just mechanically better. It feels like TSM is just scraping by because the 5 individuals on TSM are better than their opponents. While that is good in context what happens when they don’t skill gap their opponents? They lose and they lose ugly. And spoiler alert, between DAMWON not missing a beat from their World title run in Korea, the ever-present G2 and the new kings in Rogue in MAD in Europe, and the cornucopia of good teams including a FunPlus Phoenix that’s looking like their 2019 world championship form in China, TSM (or any NA team for that matter) will not be able to get buy by simply being better in international competition.
Prediction: TL 3-1 then C9 3-1. TL vs TSM feels like a pretty easy one to call. If both teams flounder around like idiots, TL has experience in high-pressure situations and an advantage in star power. If both teams play at their peak, It will probably go how it did last time. Although I would normally give TSM the advantage in momentum, TSM hasn’t really fixed their mistakes so it feels like both teams are coming in with something to prove. I pick C9 to beat whichever team comes out of this due to the general skill of every individual and that they seem to be the only team in the LCS with any kind of consistency. If C9 doesn’t choke, I don’t see how they lose to TSM and they only lose to TL if TL fixes their mistakes and then some.
The Mid-Season Showdown will begin this Saturday with the Lower Bracket final between Team Liquid and TSM. The match will begin at 3 P.M. CST and will be a best of 5 matches. The winner’s Bo5 against Cloud 9 will be on Sunday at the same time. You can find the full schedule at lolesports.com, and you can watch the matches on the website, the L.O.L esports YouTube channel, or Twitch.tv/LCS.