BY Kien Lam LoL eSports
If Nick Foles can win the Super Bowl, then your team can win the NA LCS. There isn’t really a clear front-runner right now — the top six teams can all take games off of each other. Three of NBA-backed squads toil away at the bottom and will need to figure out how to rebound. We’re already two-thirds of the way through the season! Here’s this week’s 10 thoughts (or is this a Tide commercial?).
The best bot lane in NA?
One time I came back to my desk and my smoothie was missing. It was a really Sneaky Smoothie. Smoothie is enabled to roam and make plays because he doesn’t have to worry about Sneaky doing something stupid while he’s gone. They’ve played together for so long that they don’t have the same type of synergy issues other teams may experience this split. And Sneaky’s the kind of guy to say “I’m tilted” while actually smiling and laughing (so… not tilted), and right now it just seems to me like this team is having more fun playing League of Legends than anyone else. I don’t know if they’re the best bot lane in NA — especially with the way Doublelift and Olleh are playing — but I do think they’re the most versatile.
Fox’s first loss this split came against Counter Logic Gaming, which was theoretically unexpected and thus expected because it was CLG. Also CLG picked Nunu, and playing against Nunu is like playing Mario with an unplugged controller because you are too young to tell you aren’t actually moving the character. And actually, Nunu is holding your controller. You don’t get to play the game. Prior to the week, Darshan suggested the way to beat FOX is to beat Huni, and then he went out and proved it. But “just solo kill Huni” seems like a difficult game plan to pull off. Even his teacher would call that crazy. FOX bounced back from their loss in a somewhat shaky win (though they were never really in danger of losing it) over OpTic. I’m curious to see how this team will fare against a more stylistically defensive team — right now they’re like a cat that pounces at the smallest twitch. What happens when it’s a trap? A Bo5 against a TSM, for example, would be very interesting.
Everyone else is trash?
Doublelift has a league-leading 19.3 KDA right now — he’s only died three times this split! There were games back in his CLG days especially where he’d die at least three times because he was farming a side wave for too long. And as a team, Team Liquid has only died 26 times over six games. For reference, the league leader in deaths — LemonNation — has died 21 times! In case you’re a TL fan and this excitement seems like a foreign language to you, what I am trying to say is Liquid is very good. Nobody is generating (and capitalizing) on early leads quite like them. They have huge matches against C9 and FOX this week, so we’re about to see just how good they actually are.
Coach pr0lly said he wanted his team to play an “annoying” style. I think he means that he’s encouraging his team to play a multi-pronged attack that features a lot of skirmishes — we saw this with the Twisted Fate/Vladimir comp against TSM. But we also saw it’s much harder to properly execute. Day9 once suggested the counter to these tactics (albeit in Starcraft) was “just go fucking kill them.” And running a five-man death ball down mid is certainly easier to do, but I respect 100 for trying to forge an identity. At the end of the day, getting poked in your side is definitely annoying, but it doesn’t really do anything. 100 needs to be more consistent at turning those pokes into punches.
Just CLG things
Stixxay heard the criticism loud and clear and showed up in a big way this past week. That makes it three straight wins for CLG — it seems they’ve found their groove (as they often do at this point in the season). CLG have always been at their best when Darshan has been able to pressure if not outright kill his lane, and if he can continue to play at a high level, they’ll be super hard to stop. This week features a massive matchup against longtime rival TSM, though both teams struggled to open this split. With many of the faces that built this rivalry now gone, the matchup feels like a shell of its former self. What will it take to stir up the bad blood?
When the Q lands
TSM notched a nice win against 100 this past week, but otherwise they have wins over GGS and OPT. It’s not exactly an impressive resume. But they’ll have a chance to continue building up their confidence this week as they take on a struggling Clutch and FreeLG (ayy am I doing it right, TSM fans?). MikeYeung is slowly stepping into his more aggressive shoes — he needs to overcome the insane amount of pressure that comes with being TSM’s jungler if TSM is to level up. Right now he’s like a Lee Sin player who just landed Sonic Wave and can’t decide if he should take the Resonating Strike. As a more famous Michael often said — just do it.
In search of the clutch
geneClutch Gaming’s two losses this past week were actually close matches — I think they’re much closer to the teams above them at the moment than the ones below. That said, there’s a ton of pressure on Febiven to carry those late game fights. Apollo doesn’t really shine as much in the late game — nor has Solo. Neither of them have been the type of players to straight up win the game for you (even if they might not lose it for you). So, to me, one thing CG can focus on is shoring up their early game. Even to the point of committing hard to early game champions. They may be better served trying to avoid going late — play to your strengths (or maybe in this case play to conceal your weaknesses), you know? A less drastic approach is to just not pick NA Jayce.
Bring back the eyeball!
We can’t really gauge much from this team right now because they’re not playing with their full roster — even changing one piece can do so much. Just look at what happened to SKT without their star and savior, Huni. Any single one of these players may look better (or worse) when Fly finally makes his debut, so I think it’s best to reserve judgment until then. Instead, I’d just like to say I’m starting to miss the FlyQuest Fl-eyeball. It had a kind of charm to it like how people say they think pugs are cute.
OpTic seems to constantly find a way to look like they’re okay even if the gold difference is not okay. I’m not sure they’re as bad as their record suggests, but it’s also hard for me to say they’re really any better than the teams above them. So maybe this is just the new bar for “bad.” Going into the season, this team was seen as being too top heavy between PowerOfEvil and Arrow, and that seems to be the case so far. Are they drawing too many resources? Or is the rest of the team just underperforming? Right now the vaunted green wall is more like a few green bricks scattered about. They need a catalyst to bring that together.
Hai risk, no reward
Hai is leading the league with 91% kill participation and has the 3rd highest deaths — this means he’s been pressured into trying to make plays for his team. It also means he’s not being terribly effective with the playmaking thus far as it hasn’t translated into wins. It might be better for the team if someone else tries to make those plays, but this might also mean no one else is capable or even trying. Though it might also mean no one else can make the play because he doesn’t give them that space. It’s a chicken or egg scenario. And with FOX and some Thieves lurking just outside the pen, both the chicken and the eggs may be in danger this week.
CLOUD9 TEAM LIQUID
This is going to be like one of those old western paintings of a horse staring into the stormy beyond. It’s a matchup featuring two of the most dominant bot lanes in the league right now, and I expect most of the focus will be on making sure that lane isn’t lost. While Jensen is having another monstrous split, Pobelter is also popping off — especially this past week, and the nature of mid lane right now (lots of late game scalers) makes it hard for that lane to have significant influence on an early game snowball at the moment. That makes top lane, where Impact will take on his old team and his replacement, Licorice, the dark horse for stealing this show. Early tests show Licorice isn’t afraid of any challenges, but this will be a particularly pressure-filled game for him as C9 fans who are still hesitant on him will be given a direct comparison point. Impact was beloved on C9. If Licorice falters here, then questions surrounding his ability to fill or even surpass Impact’s shoes will surface once again. I think he’ll be fine, but maybe Svenskeren ought to pay a few extra visits to top lane to ensure that. What do you think — which of these teams has the better bot lane? And will be the better bot lane be the difference in this matchup?