Lol eSports – 10 thoughts going into Week 9
Kien Lam – League of Legions eSports
Don’t call it a Morgana bind, because this split went by so quickly! One week left. Three teams eliminated from playoff contention with one more to join them — either Counter Logic Gaming, Team Liquid, or TSM will find themselves on the outside looking in. All three organizations wear heartbreak on their sleeves, but which one will wear it most prominently? Here’s this week’s 10 thoughts (this is not a power ranking):
Dark Elementalist Luck
Guess we know the skin Sneaky will pick if C9 wins Worlds… The MVP race is going to be pretty interesting going down the stretch — if FOX continues their slide, then you’d figure a player from C9 would be the favorite. But with so many teams clustered together in the standings, it’s going to be a tough call. Jensen and Smoothie are definitely both in the running, so my advice for them this week is to take all the kills. Smoothie should just run Ignite and spam “oops sry didn’t mean to” after he takes the kills.
Their first 0-2 week“
What have you done for me lately?” is my second favorite metric to predict playoff success in any sport (which team has the better mascot is #1). Which means FOX’s slide to end this season doesn’t bode well for them in my book. When they were winning, they were playing with a lot of swagger. But that can come with sloppiness, and they’d showed signs of flailing in the mid-game even when they were winning. You want steady play when it comes to playoffs. That makes FOX a very difficult team to bet on.
100 finally put Ssumday on a carry and… he carried. Darius dunks 101 (or should I say 100). This will be a particularly scary team come playoffs because they can play around the top and bottom sides of the map with relative ease. I think a lot of the hype around Cody Sun slowed down when he had his infamous Cody Done play at Worlds last year, but he’s leading the league in kills and kill participation at the moment. Now 100 have a tough week with CG and FOX on deck — this will be a good glimpse at their playoffs form.
The win over FOX last weekend was a big statement game from CG — they’ve been very good against teams below them but not good against teams above them in the standings. Sometimes it just takes a win like this to give a team the confidence to believe they are capable of winning it all. In any sport, there are teams and players who just think they are good. And then there are teams who don’t think about that at all — for those teams, there’s never any doubt. They just know, instinctually, they’re good. I don’t know where CG’s mentality is right now, but to me, this is a very good team. All of their players are top five in KDA, with Solo, Hakuho, and Febiven all leading their respective roles.
How did Liquid even end up in this position? Will the gravitational pull from 4th place be enough to save them from falling out of the playoffs? They’ve been incredibly average for weeks now, which is decidedly not a good look for a team of stars. It’d take a pretty major collapse for them to miss playoffs altogether at this point — three straight losses (one of which to OPT) at that, but Liquid fans may remember having lost three straight games to end their season in the past. Maybe it’s Impact’s declining form. Maybe it’s Doublelift’s lane-focus not synergizing well with Olleh’s roam-style. They could still figure it out, but I just wonder if it’s too late in the season (and in these players’ careers) to expect a changeup in their styles.
Surely they’ll make playoffs, right?
Step 1: spend the season being extra critical of TSM because you expected better from them. Step 2: pick them to win the whole thing anyway (I’ve got TSM over Michigan State University in my March Madness Bracket). If they enter the playoffs as the sixth seed but still win the Spring Split, then we’re not going to remember the regular season anyway. That said, the ultimate storyline would be seeing TSM stumble on Saturday (it’s against GGS so unlikely) so we get to see a 9-8 TSM take on an 8-9 CLG to end the split — I imagine the tension and pressure of a game like that would actually be good for TSM’s development (if they win it).
Too little, too late?
Everything needs to go right in order for CLG to sneak into the playoffs. Which means almost everything will go right until they do something dumb at Elder Dragon. One can see CLG’s future by looking at their past. CLG making playoffs after the start they had would be one of the most remarkable runs we’ve ever seen in the NA LCS. Everybody on the team has been playing well, but I think Stixxay in particular has really stood out when compared to CLG’s struggles earlier on in the season. He’s tied with Cody Sun for most kills in the league at 70, 20 of which came last weekend. They’ll need some help to get in at this point, though — I think them finishing 9-9 (on a six game win streak) but missing playoffs is a very likely outcome.
A bird in the bush
Watching them fail to close out that game against CLG is pretty much the only glimpse you need to get a grasp on how their season went. FLY has some massive synergy issues, and maybe an offseason will help them figure that out. Compared to the other two teams at the bottom of the standings, I don’t see as many people pointing at individual players as being the problem. But maybe that just makes it harder to actually understand why they struggled. To fly, a chick must first jump from the nest. I am unsure if FLY’s split was a freefall or if they simply haven’t jumped yet.
All that withers is gold
Their consecutive weeks with a win finally came to a halt last weekend. I think GGS definitely showed growth over the split, but I guess it doesn’t make much sense to me for that to be the goal. Maybe that was just them tempering expectations, but it’s not like being at the bottom of the table nets any tangible rewards (like draft picks in sports). So what does an offseason look like for them? Is their path of growth defined well enough to make the leap from perceptions of not-belonging to actually making Worlds in the summer? In the new world of franchises, I wonder if teams will be more willing to give struggling rosters more time.
In need of some down-time
OPT’s split continues to be summed up by their inability to play around top lane. I’ve said it for weeks — but that needs to be the thing they address in the offseason. I’m not so sure it’s as easy as sticking a new player in. As is, though, the formula to beating OPT seems to be simple: camp top. Their struggles may have been exacerbated by having a rookie coach as well — it was a major adjustment period for the players and the organization. I think OPT is the team most likely to see some restructuring in the offseason, and this final weekend may serve more as an audition for some of their players.
This is the type of game that has the potential to reset the entire rivalry. For CLG fans, the first time they knocked out TSM in the 2015 Summer Finals at Madison Square Garden was legendary. It was the lifting of a curse and burden they’d shouldered for years as the lesser team of the rivalry. But this game — this could be their first step towards knocking TSM out of playoff contention altogether (they’d have to win a tiebreaker as well). I can’t imagine a dreamier scenario for the pettiest of CLG fans. TSM have made 10 straight NA LCS Finals. Them missing the playoffs would be so surreal. But, possibly, here we are. CLG doesn’t have any control over their own fate, though. They either need TL to go 0-2 this weekend against C9 and OPT or for TSM to go 0-2. And even then, they’d only be forcing a tiebreaker. There’s a world in which CLG finishes the split on a six game win streak, but on the outside of playoffs looking in — even though they might be in the best form of any team in the league at that point. That would truly be counter logic.