LoL eSports 6 thoughts going into Playoffs
BY Kien Lam – League of Legends eSports
Not since the Battle of Endor have we seen so many TIEs break. After a grueling final day to end the regular season, the 2018 NA LCS Spring Split enters its do-or-die playoff stage. Six teams enter for a chance to represent the NA LCS in Europe at the Mid-Season Invitational. Which team shall bear unreasonable expectations? Here’s this week’s 6 thoughts:
1 to 100
During Ocean’s Eleven’s climax where shit really hits the fan, a swat team rolls in guns blazing. It looks like the good (bad?) guys are about to get caught. But then the dust settles and bam! There’s a twist — they’d faked the raid by dressing up as the SWAT team and taking the money themselves. That’s the level of heist we saw from 100T in the second half of the split, where they went 9-1 to finish in 1st to end the regular season. Cody Sun is played by Matt Damon (the up-and-coming but talented kid). Clooney is Aphromoo (the leader). Pitt is Meteos (the right hand man). Ryu is Ryu. And Cheadle is Ssumday (explosives). This team is just clicking really well together at the moment — their team fighting in particular has been very impressive thanks in large part to Meteos’ initiations. In the Best of 5 scenario, they’ll be able to play around any of their lanes, which should give them a ton of flexibility.
Bye Bye Bye
Since starting the split 9-1, FOX has gone 3-6 and limped into the bye. But it feels more like your local frat boys karaoking N’Sync’s “Bye Bye Bye” than JT. They did however play substitutes in their final week, which makes it difficult to gauge their current form. Maybe things are dire and they’re just trying something new. Maybe they’re so confident in their starting five that they wanted to give the substitutes some more stage experience. The trend of their results, though, is decidedly downwards. Some of this is tied to their bot lane underperforming — Altec and Adrian have a week off to figure out what’s going on. I think the slide will ultimately be a good kick in the butt for them — it’s good to know what the team atmosphere is like during struggles. Being able to handle adversity is critical in a Best of 5, and we’ll finally see this team’s mental fortitude be put to the test.
A familiar feeling
If you have a magic 8-ball, grab it and ask, “Will TSM make Finals again?” Then shake it. It will read, “TSMMMM!” Even during their struggles, I thought they were the team I most wanted to avoid in the playoffs. I think they generally hold a massive mental advantage over teams. Like, if you’ve ever tried shooting a basketball over someone who was just much taller than you, it doesn’t matter if you might actually be better. It’s still going to mess with your head. That’s the kind of pressure I feel TSM exerts — especially in playoff scenarios. Coupled with the fact that their team is actually playing well right now and bam, you’ve got a terrifying monster. MikeYeung is finally coming to terms with the kind of role he needs to play on TSM — which is, to me, one that involves aggressive positioning early to give his laners info on where the enemy jungler might be. And in team fights, he needs to play more of a frontline role than he did on carries like Nidalee with P1. His filling of TSM’s need for more of an “entry frag” has elevated their play. To me, TSM is the odds-on favorite to win the split.
Did Sinbad play a genie in the movie Shazaam in the 90s? Was there enough room on the door for Jack? Is the LCS scripted? I’m not going to answer these questions. But here we are. Franchising. The format reverted. A Tesla shot into space. And Team Liquid still in 4th place. I do like that TL had a strong comeback win against C9 last weekend. It wasn’t a massive comeback, but they’ve flopped in games like that all season. That’s the kind of win they can look back on in the future when they’re down to use as a source of inspiration. Just like how you might be less inclined to forfeit at 20 minutes if you just had a come-from-behind win in the previous game. Doublelift was also in excellent form last week — there were moments where I was like, “Oh shit, maybe he’s the best player in the world after all.” TL’s chances of 3-0ing this week are just as likely as their chances of going 0-3. Let’s see which version shows up.
I like C9 fans a lot because their response to their team’s collapse last week was to simply say, “Same.” You know how people crack jokes to mask their deep, underlying sadness? That’s all y’all C9 fans. There is good news, though — C9 will avoid TSM until the Finals if they can get that far. The problem for them at the moment is the whole getting that far part. I think a lot of C9’s issues can be fixed in a Best-of-5 set, though — they seem to get sloppy at times either because of arrogance or because they lack focus. Both of those things are tempered in a longer set. I think the top lane matchup will be the most interesting — the wily veteran vs. the hot rookie. I want to see if Impact can get in Licorice’s head over the set, or if Licorice can rise to the occasion.
CG is in the same position as Envy was in to end last split — the 6th seed team looking uphill. Most people are writing them off already, and it’s not really their fault. This has been a consistently strong team all season, and they even 2-1ed TSM in the regular season. So I do wonder how much of their underdog status is tied to their play and how much of it is tied to TSM’s reputation. Maybe they should stream a few games with Drake to increase perceptions of their legitimacy. It has been a month since these teams last played, though, and TSM has been on an upswing ever since. I don’t think LirA can exploit MikeYeung much this time around, which means they’ll need Febiven to really pop off. Clutch’s strength has been their tempered mid game, though, and if they can get there, then I do think they have a shot at winning team fights. They’re not going to be an easy out.
Liquid is coming off a 2-0 week against C9 (including the tiebreaker), which would give most fan bases some form of relief going into Saturday. But the Liquid fan base is sitting there thinking, “Things went well… too well…” And there’s definitely reason to worry — they may be the least consistent team out of any of the playoffs teams. The drop-off from their highs to their lows is enough to pop your ears. The bright side for them is two-fold. Firstly, they have to win in order to get 4th. The prophecy is on their side. Second, Doublelift is still a monster (and there’s definitely no historical precedence for him choking in playoffs). On the flip side, C9 fans get to see Jensen adapt to his opponent over an extended set. Pobelter is a very sturdy player, but I don’t know if he can stand up to Jensen consistently enough. While it’s not as critical of a matchup as the top lane, it still has the potential to flip the match in C9’s favor. This will be a very close set if both teams show up — but I still give C9 a 55/45 advantage here.
This is a matchup where if CG ends up winning, people will look back and say, “Well, they did 2-1 them in the regular season.” They’ll say all the signs were there. LirA is still better than MikeYeung. Febiven is one of the few mid laners in the world that actually threatens Bjergsen in lane. And their side lanes actually performed well all split. That’s the revisionist. And maybe those signs have some merit. But I’ve followed sports for long enough to know that regular season performances don’t translate into the playoffs. Ask Eastern Conference teams in the NBA about LeBron’s regular season. While you might be able to stand up to a player for one game, the better of the two typically prevails in a longer set. They adapt quicker. They have more versatility in champion pool and playstyle. And for TSM — I think they have better lanes in top and bottom, and Bjergsen is playing well enough to at the very least go even with Febiven — who is typically the core of CG’s win condition. I think this may be a split too early for CG, and while I don’t think the two teams are vastly different in skill-level, a TSM loss would be a massive upset.