Kien Lam, League of Legends eSports
Now that we’ve officially cleared the halfway mark on the split, I’d like to focus on what I think teams need to do to make a strong second-half push. It’s as simple as becoming a Kai’Sa main. Reminder that this isn’t a power ranking unless your idea of a power ranking is the teams listed in alphabetical order by standings. But that’s on you and not me. Here’s 10 thoughts!
Focus on: their mid gameThe mid game is usually centered around proper wave manipulation. If you can safely control the waves, then you open more opportunities to pick off opponents — either the rotator or engaging on whoever’s left behind to defend mid lane, for example. It’s pretty hard to just brute force an objective in the mid game otherwise. FOX needs to play this phase out with some more patience. They seem intent on trying force a surrender at 20. They did almost accomplish it against C9, though, with how hard they camped top. At least Licorice’s Lucian got to spend a lot of time with his wife over the weekend thanks to Dardoch and Huni sending him to the grave so much. FOX truly is family first.
Focus on: JensenC9 got bopped in the early game against FOX last week and Jensen still managed to pop off during team fights. I think they’ll always have a shot at winning so long as they can get to a team fight phase without being too far behind in gold. C9 just needs to learn how to translate this success into the playoffs, where they’ve floundered for four years now. History isn’t all bitter for C9, though — there’s also good news for longtime fans. Sneaky and Meteos reunite to cast a lounge stream this week. As the two liked say, prepare your b… self. Prepare yourself.
Focus on: Enabling the side lanesHonestly, two weeks ago I didn’t think this team was very good. They’ve since rattled off four wins — and it’s not just Febiven hard-carrying them (though he is playing very well). They should stock up on whatever wheaties they’re eating in the morning right now. They played two nearly perfect games last weekend, and that’ll continue to happen if the side lanes keep performing well. Turns out Solo is a bit better than your average Redditor’s perception of him. Team Solo Top may yet come to fruition.
Focus on: Letting Olleh looseLiquid might just be trying some different things out right now, but they were at their best this season when they could secure early leads. A lot of those leads came on the heels of Olleh and Xmithie making plays together. But the last two weeks, they’ve looked average at best. To me, it’s more likely a slump than an indication they’re falling apart. Especially when you compare it to the state of the teams below them in the standings. Liquid is sea level and everyone else is drowning.
Focus on: Camp topDid Hashinshin write the subtitle for this one? Possibly. The Thieves’ slide has continued, and if not for some ingenious tactics against CLG, they might have dropped that game, too. I just think that 100 have a top laner in Ssumday who was a 1st team All-NA LCS player last split, and this week he had poor matchups in both games. Why not set up the draft in such a way that it demands for him to be the carry? They still have some time to work it out, but there’s definitely a distinct lack of identity at the moment.
Focus on: Roster stabilityJust as Fly finally cleared his visa hurdle, they started to experiment with a different support player. It’s going to be very hard to discover a rhythm like that, so I think the team needs to just commit to something as they make a playoff push here. Fly has played pretty well, but they need to give one group of five some time to establish synergy.
Focus on: AnythingThey acquired a new shotcaller. A new jungler. A new coach. And this is the result? I continue to be baffled by TSM because I expected them to potentially run the table ahead of the split. The individual talent is there, but they’re just not coming together as a team. Right now, TSM just doesn’t look like they know what their win condition is in any given game. Or if they do know, then they aren’t executing on it. I think they need to be more willing to take aggressive risks — they have the individual micro talent to manipulate those situations into their favor. Otherwise it’s way too early in the year for TSM to already be in Worlds form…
Focus on: ObjectivesI actually think this squad has been really good at team fighting. They could be down 10k gold and they’d still have a shot in a fight because their core positions around each other very well, and their styles complement each other. But their map movement right now seems to be based on randomly pinging the minimap. I think part of Stixxay’s gaffs this year may be tied to him trying to shotcall more often. They may very well find themselves at the bottom of the standings this week if they don’t figure out their macro play.
Focus on: Hitting the NexusTruly an unlucky ending to their match against FLY. OPT is struggling to get wins, but at least they aren’t rolling over in their losses. A few things swinging this way or that and this team could very easily be over .500 on the split. I feel like people call for roster swaps for this team more than any other team. The stats certainly don’t favor LemonNation or Zig, but raw stats like KDA and CS fail to adjust for things like jungle proximity or lane matchup. Something’s not quite clicking, though — this is a team of veterans who have much higher aspirations than simply being not last.
Focus on: Getting to the mid gameWhenever they don’t get randomly killed in the lane phase, this team has actually looked decent. Compared to other teams, they’re decisive (though sometimes this backfires, too) and team fight well. They generally don’t rely on any fancy tactics — they’ll wait for good flanks and then fight. Chaining a couple of wins together will be good for their confidence — sometimes that’s the biggest blocker for players like Lourlo. Anyway, you can’t have a good comeback story if you don’t start 2-8 or so. All they have to do in the second half of the split? Don’t go 2-8. How hard could it be?
Could this game be a symbolic nail in the coffin for TSM’s split? Is that dramatic? Not since the YellOwStaR split has TSM struggled this much out of the gate, and Echo Fox is the current top dog in the pack. If I’d told you before the split this match would feature a 9-1 team and a 4-6 team, you’d probably say, “Echo Fox is doing alright, huh? Four wins ain’t awful.” Instead, here we are. TSM hasn’t done much this split to suggest they’re a top tier team. They’re only one game ahead of OpTic (who they play Sunday), but I think we’re still more likely to hold TSM in the same breath as FOX than OPT. Sure, TSM deserves a longer leash than a new org, but how much longer at this point? They’re still a dangerous team if they can make the playoffs (if only because of their reputation) — and it’s honestly hard to imagine them missing it — but they need to pick up some marquee wins to show they can pull it off. I think it’s easy to pin this on MikeYeung — he hasn’t looked great — but one of those dominant lanes needs to make it easier for him. This matchup against Dardoch (who may be the frontrunner for MVP) could be brutal. A win here, though, may signal this TSM’s coming together. The flip side is FOX could cement their place at the top here. Could TSM still be an elite team? Or is FOX on a different level? What do you think?