LCS Summer Split 2021 drama, misfortune and roster swaps aplenty. Part 1
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 my coverage of the spring split earlier this year and the preview of MSI. A lot has happened since then in regard to the LCS. Let’s see what we missed over these past 2 months
So how did MSI go for Cloud 9?
... Not great
Cloud 9 at MSI was a team of some very high highs, and some very low lows. With more emphasis being placed on that last one. C9 escaped the play-in stage at 4-2, a good record on paper. They took care of business against the LLA reps Infinity, took a game off the World Champions, DWG KIA… but also dropped a game to Detonation FocusMe, the Japanese reps who play on one of the smallest servers and budgets in the entire LoL ecosystem. Blaber became famous for one of the worst plays we have seen all year as he flashed and died for one scuttle crab that all but handed DFM the game at minute 3.
As 5/6 of the expected teams made it to the rumble stage, C9’s run was not particularly great. On one hand, they took care of business in the first match against Pentanet.GG (the first time OCE has made the mainstage, good on them), got one over on their EU rivals on the final day of play against MAD Lions, and even took a game off of the LPL juggernaut (and eventual MSI winner), Royal Never Give Up.
The problem? Those were their only 3 wins. They showed signs of life in the rematches vs DK but couldn’t take it home, PSG Talon ran them over twice, the 1st matches against MAD and RNG went about as well as we expected, and Cloud 9 followed up their monumental victory over RNG by losing a match to Pentanet.GG from Oceania, a team from a region that does not even have a Riot Games funded league anymore. 1 Player from C9 makes more than PGG’s entire roster, the game wasn’t even close. Humiliating does not even begin to describe it.
Cloud 9 ended up 3-7 and thus, did not qualify for knockouts. For a team with a budget so massive, one of the best western players of all time and being hailed as one of the strongest rosters NA has ever sent to an event, to only barley do better than the dreaded G2-8 of 2016 (which also had Perkz on it) is quite frankly, unacceptable.
As for the rest of the tournament, PGG finished below C9 at 1-9, RNG took out PSG in the quarters in an exciting 3-1, DK survived a 5-game series with MAD, and RNG took home their 2nd MSI title in a 5-game thriller against Damwon KIA.
So how did the Summer Split go? Who is looking to grab one of the 3 Worlds spots to represent NA? How is the LCS looking right now?
…hoo boy, there is a LOT to discuss. As for format, it was triple round robin, records and head to head carried over from spring, top 8 made playoffs. Playoffs were best of 5’s, double elemination, top 2 get 1st round byes, bottom 2 start in the lower bracket. Unfortunatley for these 7 teams, their seasons have ended. Let’s ascertain the cause of death shall we?
These two teams did not even make the playoffs in a league where 8/10 teams do. Their season had few bright spots, were very painful to watch, and the organizations in question have a lot of work to do if they want to be competitive next year.
10th. Counter Logic Gaming: 12-33 (7-20 in Summer) – Abandon all hope.
Roster: Finn: Top, Broxah: Jungle, Pobelter/Damonte: Mid, WildTurtle: ADC, Smoothie: Support.
To think this organization was once one of NA’s “big 3” with multiple titles and World Championship appearances under their belt and even being an MSI finalist in 2016. Unfortunately, ever since the dawn of franchising and being purchased by Madison Square Garden, (really should have seen a team run by the same people who run the Knicks being a garbage fire coming) CLG has been in a sorry state. 3 straight 7-11 seasons to miss the playoffs. A third-place finish in 2019 summer that as time goes on is looking more and more like a fluke. Back-to-back bottom two finishes in 2020. No international appearances in 5 years. And the pain didn’t just continue this year, if anything, it somehow got even worse.
When we last left this sorry excuse for an esports organization, they were forced to dig themselves out of a deficit caused by visa issues, but I had hope that with all 5 pieces and the org seemingly on an upturn at the end of Spring, they could turn things around. I should have known better than to have faith in CLG.
CLG started of the split 1-5, their only win was a 42-minute dogfight with the last place Golden Guardians and every loss saw at least one of their members get completely outclassed. But then, hope arrived. By picking compositions that relied on a good teamfight and one big combo, CLG managed to go undefeated in week 3! Faith was restored, the CLG hype train was starting up.
…Before being quickly derailed as the rest of the LCS figured them out in a week as they returned to normalcy with back-to-back winless weeks. Despite a 6-game losing streak and player and fan morale being at its lowest, weeks 6 and 7 managed to be the darkest points of the season.
Despite a better than usual 1-2 record to close off week 6, CLG’s management made the baffling decision to release a private team meeting on Twitter for the world to see as a sponsored video. In it, their coach told the players that because of the 1-2 week, this was likely the last time this roster would play together. The players were devasted and the worst part of it was that it was a sponsored video for CLG’s Bud Light Cooldown. CLG came under fire from fans, personalities, and players alike all-around the globe for airing their players essentially being fired to promote Bud Light. It got even worse when mid laner Pobelter admitted the CLG/IMT game (more on that below) that he broke down crying in front of his coach after his last match because of the sheer misery the season had brought. The video was deleted, and a corporate style apology was put up within hours of its release. CLG managed to somehow drag their already awful reputation even further through the mud.
Despite subbing out Pobelter (sarcastically reframing his benching on twitter as him getting Bud Light Ace’d) for Damonte (100 Thieves’ previous mid laner) their struggles only got worse in week 7 as CLG not only went 0-3 but played possibly the single worst game in a major league of the entire year against Immortals.
What began as a 9k gold lead and 3 dragons to 1 lead at 33 minutes with no deaths slowly turned into a nightmare as a horrible baron attempt and even worse response led to Xerxe stealing the baron and IMT denying the soul for CLG as they got nothing in response. The casters (Phreak and Azael) were quite literally screaming at CLG to do something, anything right. They did not listen as CLG did not get a single objective (3 dragons, 2 barons went over to IMT) or kill (CLG ended with 5, IMT with only 6) after their early lead and somehow managed to lose a completely unlosable game. The casters were in disbelief, the CLG players were crushed, and IMT’s top laner Revenge had zero respect for CLG in the postgame interview saying that “even though we were behind for most of the game, we all knew CLG would find a way to throw the game” and that “he just didn’t want to lose to CLG and get Bud Light Ace’d by his coach”.
Even though CLG was still in playoff contention going into the final week, the team had been dead for a long time. Their final two weeks ended with little fanfare as they went 0-3 in week 8 and lost their first two games in the final week to be eliminated but ended their year by snubbing Flyquest of a playoff spot by beating them in the last game of the season. A small silver lining in an unbelievably dark cloud.
With CLG having spent 7/8 splits in the basement, I think it’s officially safe to say that MSG has run CLG into the ground. If CLG finishes 9th/10th in spring next year, due to league rules, they will be up for relegation. I don’t want the league to wait that long. It can be seen as clear as day with the video, or just following Broxah on twitter over the past month that CLG has become a miserable place to play for. Most of their pieces are so much better than what CLG is. 3 Players (Finn, Broxah, WildTurtle) had recently attended worlds and Pobelter is one of the most decorated NA mids of all time and this is what it amounted to? I had them at a solid 6th place going into the year, not great but not terrible. There is simply no saving this franchise.
I sincerely hope Riot Games forces CLG to sell their LCS spot, even though I know they won’t. The players don’t deserve playing in such an awful environment. The ever-faithful CLG fanbase does not deserve to be shackled to such an awful organization. Fans of other teams or professional LoL in general don’t deserve to be subjected to watching such a garbage fire of an organization do the bare minimum to remain relevant (not great, not good, relevant) and somehow fail at even that.
Just mercy kill this franchise already so fans can keep the good memories with pre-MSG CLG before they become tainted with whatever CLG is doing now.
9. Flyquest: 14-31 (8-19 in Summer) – Long and uncertain road ahead
Roster: Licorice/Kumo: Top, Josedeodo/Nxi Jungle, Palafox/Triple Mid, Johnsun/Tomo ADC, Dreams/Diamond: Support.
I remember when people were calling this rebuild one of the best Flyquest could’ve hoped for with the budget cuts and how much potential this roster had. I had them as a dark horse that would be fun to watch.
Those were the days.
Their 3-2 start to the split with wins over higher ranked teams like EG and TSM quickly turned into a nightmare of a split as Flyquest lost their next 10 games. Very few of them were even competitive, there were almost no bright spots. The team had no identity, and everyone was either the worst or at least bottom 3 in their role. Everyone looked terrible but the one receiving the most criticism was their top laner Licorice. The young star who once went to World’s semifinals on C9 who was expected to be a leader for the team wasn’t up to the task and suffered massive regression. Nothing was working. Changes had to be made.
And they were, in week 6, Flyquest swapped out their entire roster for their top ranked academy roster. 4/5 of the starters headed to the academy while Licorice was shipped off to Golden Guardians. With this change, new life was given to the org as they went undefeated in their first week toppling the juggernaut of C9 and an IMT squad on a hot streak.
That hope was quickly snuffed as the academy hopefuls were given a reality check and lost 5 of their next 6. A last second mixing of the academy squad and original starters almost saved them as they picked up a win against a floundering IMT, but they lost their first game against Golden Guardians to their former top laner and lost their last game in brutal fashion to CLG to miss out on playoffs due to having a 2-3 h2h against GGS. Even worse, Licorice was one of the main reasons for Golden Guardians late season rally. If they don’t give him away, they might have snuck into playoffs due to the 3-game cushion they started the season with.
Now having not even made the playoffs in a league where 80% of the teams do, Flyquest has some tough questions to answer. Do they give the young guns another year or do they try to scrape together money to buy some big names for an all-in push for a title? If you stick with your in-house options, how do you want to mix the rosters? Who had flashes of brilliance and just need more experience and who are simply not cut out for the LCS? How can they better translate academy success onto the big stage? The Flyquest management is going to have to make some tough calls and their players are going to have to develop fast in the offseason if they want to find any hope of being a contender next year.