-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 1 has wrapped up. Some teams performed as expected, others started much slower than expected, and one team was so painful to watch that you could honestly summarize watching them as “cruel and unusual punishment” and you wouldn’t be too far off. Here is a recap of week 1 of the LCS, team by team and from best to worst record.
1. 100 Thieves 3-0 – Slow and steady
100 Thieves ended week 1 of LCS plays undefeated but the story of how they got there was an interesting one. They kicked off the season against Evil Geniuses, the other semifinalist of Lock-in. 10 minutes in, 100T took both neutral objectives but were down 5-1 in kills and down 1.4k in gold. 10 minutes later and that lead ballooned to 10-3, 2 dragons a rift herald, and 3.6k gold. However, the Thieves would slowly claw their way back into the game through good team fighting from FBI culminating in a 4 for 0 fight in the mid lane 46 minutes in to take the win. Their 2nd game vs CLG (the worst team in the league playing their academy mid laner and jungler) once again saw 100T give up plenty of kills early but keep it relatively even in terms of gold and neutral objectives until a fight around Rift Herald 16 minutes in blew the game wide open for CLG as they eventually picked up infernal soul 30 minutes in (infernal soul is one of the most powerful buffs in the game and is permanent. If you pick this up, you should win) and eventually Baron. However, thanks to some incredible team fighting and misplays from CLG, 100T won fights around Elder Dragon and Baron twice each and took the win in an almost 50-minute game. Their game against Dignitas on the other hand was a complete stomp from start to finish with 100T controlling the pace of the game. 100T have the second-highest average game time behind CLG at 42:19.
100 Thieves are certainly a good team and will continue to get better as the split goes on and most of their slow starts will hopefully be ironed out. However, they will have their work cut out for them this week as they play a hungry FlyQuest and the two favorites in TL and C9.
2. Cloud9 3-0 – Absolute destruction
The preseason favorite plays the (predicted) 9th and 10th place teams and a team that has been struggling to get their act together. It goes exactly how you would expect. C9 fresh off a 2nd place finish at Lock-in faced off against the Golden Guardians and ran over them for almost the entire game. GGS had a few good plays and to their credit didn’t just roll over and die, but C9 got first blood 2 minutes and GGS top laner Iconic had 4 deaths by 9 minutes, the rest of the game was just them showing off. They then played their long time rival TSM and what was expected to be a close competition saw C9 looking better in every aspect from draft to macro, to mechanics. They closed out the week by playing Immortals, who had recently upset Team Liquid (the other favorite and winner of Lock-in). Lightning would not strike twice as C9 got first blood 3 minutes in, completely controlled the pace of the game, and was only 3 kills away from achieving the ever-elusive perfect game (no towers, no neutral objectives, no kills given up) and it took over 20 minutes for IMT to score 1 kill. To say C9 performed as advertised would be an understatement.
Special mention goes to Blaber, the jungler who is putting up some stats that are just unbelievable. He has a 100% first blood (scoring the 1st kill of the game) rate, has the highest damage per minute out of all junglers, and more than half of the ADC’s, (a, if not the main source of damage) 80.6% kill participation (highest of all junglers and 5th in the LCS) and most impressively was 17th in CS per minute. For context CS mostly takes place in the lanes and thus CSM is dominated by the laners. (ADC, Mid, Top in that order) Blaber’s 8.4 CSM means he picked up more farm than 2 ADCs, 4 mid laners, and every single top laner minus Alphari. He’s almost 1 CS ahead of the next closest jungler (Iconic from GG, 7.5) is 2.1 CS ahead of the worldwide average, and is 1st worldwide in jungle CSM. Even if you think 3 games is too small a sample size and include the Lock-in (jumps to 17 games), he drops to “only” 7.5 and is still tied for the top spot with FPX’s (from China) Bo. If he keeps up this pace throughout the season, C9 will be almost unstoppable.
3. Evil Geniuses 2-1 – Potential realized?
In my preview of the LCS, I said that Evil Geniuses certainly have the talent to compete but might lack the consistency to be a true contender. I also criticized the pickup of AD Carry Deftly wondering if he was truly the best option out there. I am glad to say I might be wrong on the first account and was definitely wrong on the second. Throughout both the Lock-In and the first week of LCS Evil Geniuses have been firing on all cylinders. Impact played great and was doing well on nonstandard picks such as Sylas and his signature Shen, Svenskeren looks to be back to his old self, Jiizuke looks to be cutting back on the questionable deaths while still keeping up the aggression he’s known for, and Ignar hasn’t missed a beat from his FlyQuest days. Deftly has really stepped upholding the 3rd highest CSM, 7th highest KDA, and is 3rd highest kills. (all overall rankings) He is also the 3rd highest ADC in fantasy points and I’m starting to regret taking Johnsun over him.
Evil Geniuses had a good week taking 100T to the brink as described above, no small task as that team almost swept C9 in the Lock-in and 4/5 members are from the same team, so the synergy is inbuilt. They took care of business against Flyquest and the Golden Guardians, and while they were favorites in both, Flyquest was coming off of an upset against TSM and GG’s had just picked up their first win in a thriller vs IMT. Beating these teams isn’t exactly surprising, but these kind of games where EG just needed to take care of business were ones EG tended to lose last year. Just showing up and getting the job done will be key to finding success this year.
4. Team Liquid 2-1 – A minor setback
Team Liquid was coming off of a very strong Lock-in showing, dropping one game in the group stage, sweeping Flyquest and Evil Geniuses, and almost sweeping C9 and holding off the reverse sweep to win the tourney. For some, it was enough to declare TL the favorites for the LCS title over C9 although the two are still neck and neck. They got to start off their season by laughing at their rival TSM’s misfortune and get an easy game against Immortals…
And then Immortals punched TL in the mouth. Revenge, top laner for the 9th place academy team solo killed TL’s million-dollar multi-year import Alpari. Only 3 minutes later he would get a double kill onto Tactical and CoreJJ, the bot lane that had been terrorizing the Lock-in. While TL would keep things even in gold and take 3 dragons, questionable positioning by Tactical would result in him constantly getting caught out, which IMT would take advantage of to hand TL the first defeat of the season. However, doubters were quickly silenced as TL bounced back against Dignitas. Apart from one play around dragon, TL was in control from start to finish. Their game against FlyQuest was much the same story with TL taking control of the game early and never letting go. TL looked very dominant in their victories, so it is probably safe to write the IMT loss off as a fluke. (not helped by the questionable decisions in draft) The only real concern is that Tactical was constantly get picked off even in their victories, although whether that is the young player simply testing his limits or a sign of things to come has yet to be seen. Their match against 100 Thieves this Valentines' day at 3 p.m. will tell us a lot about this team.
5. Dignitas 1-2 – Identity crisis
Dignitas didn’t have a great start to 2021. Despite fielding their full roster and being in the group of life, they failed to make it out of groups in the Lock-in. Their regular season has only started marginally better. They managed to beat CLG in their first game of the split but as you will soon see, that isn’t saying much. They were quickly swept aside by 100T and TL Although most teams would’ve lost to these two, some of the mistakes they made were appalling. Dardoch lost a dragon to an Orianna ultimate because DIG didn’t pull the dragon out of the pit. Against 100T Dardoch died to his own krugs (something that absolutely should not happen in pro play). The only reason I’m talking about him so much is that there really isn’t anything to discuss about the rest of his team. They seemed mediocre at best and outclassed at worst. I can’t really name anything Dignitas does particularly well.
6. FlyQuest 1-2 – Winning off the rift
Can I just commend FlyQuest for doing an excellent job at building a brand this year? People were wondering what environmental fundraiser they would be doing this split after TreeQuest, SeaQuest, and WorldsQuest, the answer was BeeQuest. FlyQuest will be donating $1 for each Flyquest kill, $10 for each Ocean dragon (taken by any team), and $100 for each win to the bee conservancy. The other way they won off the rift was through their import jungler, Josedeodo. Josedeodo originally played on Rainbow 7, the world's representative last year for the emerging Liga Latinoamérica. By signing Josedeodo, they also obtained his massive Latin American fanbase. What nobody expected was for FlyQuest to announce that they would be co-streaming every single LCS game in Spanish. This pleased both the intense Latin American fanbase the team recently gained and made fans out of those who wanted to see the LCS grow further internationally. Seriously, this org is a masterclass in building a brand.
On the rift, things were a mixed bag. They kicked off their split vs TSM in a rematch of the summer finals. Although Flyquest was even or ahead in kills, TSM was up in gold by quite a bit for most of the game. However, Flyquest would continue to stack dragons and win fights around key objectives, mounting the comeback, taking control over the game to start the season off with an unexpected win. Their games against EG and TL showcased they still have a lot to learn, as they didn’t look horrible in them, but it was pretty clear they were outmatched in terms of mechanics and decision making. The one thing to keep in mind is that this roster is very young with 3 players making their LCS debut this year, Johnsun being in his 2nd year of LCS, and Licorice being the only real leader. I wouldn’t expect FlyQuest to win the split or even seriously compete for a title, but I do expect them to ramp up over time. Even if they don’t I’m excited to see what the org does next.
7. Golden Guardians 1-2 – Score one for the little guy
The Golden Guardians coming into the season were expected to be the for sure 10th place team. They are starting 2 players fresh out of college, 1 from the Academy scene, an ADC off of a bad year, and a player from a minor region. So far this 2021 they haven’t looked horrible. Well, they did vs C0 but most teams look horrible vs C9. Despite falling behind Immortals early, Golden Guardians proved to be the smarter team, showcasing excellent decision making around the map as they never allowed Immortals a good opportunity to capitalize on their early lead. This eventually lead to their 2nd victory of 2021 in a 48-minute thriller. They followed it up by getting slapped around by EG, but this roster showcased that they do indeed have potential. Don’t expect them to compete but they could pull off some upsets as the season goes on.
8. Immortals 1-2 – Strong-ish start
The predicted 9th place team plays the two preseason favorites and the predicted 10th place team. Things don’t go entirely to plan. The winner of the Lock-in vs a team that was only just playing their first game together (Xerxe. Raes and Destiny had visa issues) ended in a surprising victory for the underdog. Revenge in particular made a name for himself by solo killing Alphari and the sheer joy and elation he showed on the player cam after winning the game. It's safe to say he gained a lot of new fans that day and by extension, the rest of IMT did too. Not bad for a guy who wasn’t expected to be anywhere near a starting LCS role only a few months prior. The bot lane of Raes and Destiny also shocked people, with Destiny who got kicked from Astralis (then Origen) for Jactroll of all people hitting almost every hook he threw on Blitzcrank and Raes standing up to the bot lane duo that destroyed his old team in Legacy esports back in September.
The rest of the weekend didn’t go so well as Immortals had a strong start against Golden Guardians, but the Guardians' superior map play never gave IMT a shot to close out the game and take the win. Their matchup vs Cloud 9 went about as poorly as one would expect on paper. With the roster having only played 3 full games together, it is way to early to pass judgment, it will be interesting to see where things go from here.
9. TSM 1-2 – 6 million dollars well spent
To call TSM the reigning LCS champs might be misleading as there is only 1 member left from that roster (Spica). This off-season saw TSM making huge splashes in the offseason They picked up PowerOfEvil from Flyquest who was (realistically) the best option on the market, spent the big bucks on Huhi who has had consistency issues but a high ceiling promoted Lost from Academy and signed SwordArt, a world finalist to a 2 year 6 million dollar contract. Fans of the LPL (the region he comes from) called this a drastic overpayment for someone who wasn’t even considered to be a top 5 support. There was a lot of hope around this roster but also a lot of skepticism. The skeptics might have been proven right.
Don’t let that single win fool you, TSM has looked abysmal. There is not a single member of the team that I would say has played “well” and there is no aspect of play that has been “good”. TSM is tied with CLG for the highest average deaths in the LCS. Their drafts have been horrible, they seem to ignore the power of jungle in season 11, they saved the last pick vs C9 for Corki, (a champ that has been struggling mightily in s11) they drafted Lost an immobile ADC with little peel when the enemy picked a comp that wants to jump on the ADC. Their play has been bad too. They garnered a sizeable lead against FlyQuest and did nothing with it. That Corki pick wen 1/7 and Huhi died 6 times vs C9. And SwordArt, oh god, SwordArt. He has the third-highest average death total in the LCS. He looked like a completely different player than his Worlds performance. I know he was hired as a shot-caller rather than for his mechanical skills, but the mechanics are important too, and that 6-million-dollar contract is looking worse and worse by the day. I know its only 3 games in and it is probably too early to start ringing alarm bells. But this team has been together since Lock-in and is representing one of the oldest and most storied franchises in the LCS. TSM is held to higher standards and the roster has failed to measure up to them. And that win vs CLG… more on that below, but just know I have been watching competitive LoL since 2015 and that CLG vs TSM ranks in the top ten worst professional games I have witnessed. It was flat out painful to watch as a fan of high quality LoL.
10. CLG 0-3 – Masters of pain
Players, analysts, and fans around the world might regard CLG as a horrible team. They might believe that they are incredibly agonizing to watch, showcase very little talent and awaken a desire to bring relegation back to the LCS. I vehemently disagree, for I believe CLG is one of the most successful organizations out there in fulfilling its mission statement. The vitriol is because people are confused about what the mission is. For you see, CLG’s mission is not to win the LCS, it is not to put out the most competitive team, or even to win as many games as they can. It is to cause as much pain to the poor souls who root for them as humanly possible. It starts before the first game is even played as mid-laner Pobelter is benched for the academy mid rjs (formerly known as Deus, and CLG’s academy top laner) due to attitude issues, he was apparently frustrated with the coaching staff for being useless (echoing the sentiment of most CLG fans) and is reportedly demanding a trade out of CLG. To rjs’s credit, he was not the reason CLG is 0-3, mostly. Their jungler Broxah is having visa issues and has yet to make it to the states. (poor guy, this happened in spring of last year too and he’s one of the nicest personalities in the scene) He is being replaced by Griffin, (formerly Wiggly) one of the worst-performing members of that god-awful 2020 CLG roster who thought a name change would distract the audience from his constant underperformance.
On the rift, CLG was even more successful at causing pain than off it. What was once thought to simply be an uninspiring roster that was mediocrity incarnate has turned out to be a train wreck that rivals traditional sports teams in the ways they can hurt their fans, their first game against Dignitas was a rather tame one between the 2 teams that placed last in Lock-in. CLG was never truly in control although they did at one point manage to get up to a 1.6k gold lead and kept the kill score close, Dignitas eventually won out. Their game against 100 Thieves has already been chronicled but is still no less amazing how they managed to take one of the best teams to the brink, pick up both infernal soul and baron, and still, somehow lose. And the final game vs TSM, was simply legendary. A once-storied matchup turned clown fiesta, a chance to humiliate a longtime rival and win the series for the first time in 344 days, an 8.4k gold lead. All thrown away in the span of 2 minutes off of a misplay from the substitute mid-laner who had been carrying the game and watching all hopes and dreams die over the span of approximately 15 due to repeated incredibly poor decision making. This level of giving the most cynical of fanbases false hope and continuing to dig down even after hitting the apparent rock bottom is inspiring. I look forward to seeing what new and inventive ways CLG will find to lose.
The LCS will resume play this Friday with 100 Thieves vs FlyQuest 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.