The LEC was off last weekend, which meant that Origen’s ADC was able to make a guest appearance in the LCS. The result was Upset Weekend! There are no longer any zeros in the win or the loss column for any team as C9 finally fell and DIG finally got their shit together. Once again it’s an anyone-beats-anyone kind of league. Here are 10 thoughts going into Week 6!
1. Cloud9 (9-1) — The Phantom Menace Broke: C9 Classic could finish Top 6 in the LCS Woke: C9 Classic could finish Top 6 at Worlds
It’s not too late to completely dump your roster and play a new starting five, LCS teams! It worked (kind of) for Immortals! Long time C9 fans got a nice treat in the form of the OG C9 roster getting together again to win the classic showmatch against Classic TSM (featuring a guest appearance from Voyboy). Unfortunately, it came at a cost as current C9 suffered their first loss of the split in a game that felt like when Obi-Wan Kenobi had to watch Qui Gon Jin get killed by Darth Maul. You sit there watching (and understanding) that, of course, in a fight where two people are swinging around death beams, that anyone could get hurt. You just don’t expect it to happen to your friend, who you’ve watched dodge laser guns time and again. And then [cue Phantom Menace soundtrack] it happens. He gets stabbed. As was the case for Cloud9 fans this weekend — even when down 2k or 3k or 5k gold, you think they can come back. At the 10k deficit, you just stop thinking altogether — this is what they mean when they talk about watching a trainwreck in slow motion. You see it all unfold. And now the most pessimistic of fans are thinking, “Oh god, what if we just keep losing?” I am here to tell you to shut up. You will be fine. Cloud9 was pretty clearly experimenting in the draft this weekend when we saw them give up Olaf (which was instrumental in beating them) on the second draft rotation to instead play Wukong/Senna again. Like last split, they now also no longer have to worry about the undefeated mark — they can focus solely on improving so as to be ready for the Playoffs and subsequently Worlds. Darth Maul isn’t real.
2. Team Liquid (8-2) — Number Two Is Team Liquid the second best team in the LCS? That’s between the scriptwriters and God. But are they definitively the second place team in the standings (which, again, is how 10 Thoughts is structured– this is not a power ranking!)? Absolutely, which gives them a pretty damn good case for being the second best team period. You might even see some cheeky trolls start to ask if they might be the best team overall this split now that they’re only one game back on C9, which is a ridiculous notion given how the teams have all looked so far. But there is at least the tiniest molecule of merit to the conversation now, and there will be more merit to it every week if they are able to keep on winning. There’s no question that there is a lot of individual talent on this roster, and many of the things that impressed me when they won four straight titles remain: their ability to team fight, their macro when ahead, and their solo laners’ ability to just randomly hard carry games. Impact did that again this weekend on his Shen pick. Like FLY, Liquid is not a flashy team and never really was even in their heyday — they very much followed in the lineage of TSM before them in being a slower-paced team that was deadly when you messed up. C9 players have already suggested that this is the most difficult team for them to beat in scrims, and it feels like TL is hungry to prove that their Spring Split was a blip on the radar.
3. TSM (6-4) — At least Bjergsen is good again? Let’s start on the bright side by acknowledging that even after an 0-2 weekend, TSM holds sole possession of 3rd place in the LCS, which means that there are seven teams below them who have somehow managed to fumble away parts of this split even harder than TSM just did. We spend a lot of time trying to figure out if teams are good or not when sometimes we should just accept being better (and 6-4 is decidedly better) — that is the mantra for all you TSM fans this week. There are still clearly some synergy issues on the topside of the map and even the Doublelift/Biofrost lane struggled at times this weekend, but Bjergsen has been a consistent rock (without even needing to play Malphite) for them. This may be the best split he’s had in the last couple of years and so long as he is able to continue playing at the highest level, then TSM will always be a threat to the other teams in the LCS. This team has been lauded by everyone for what they can look like, and I think that’s a fine expectation to hold over their head — being able to get there consistently is going to make or break their year, though, and right now they are struggling to replicate their peak, which makes you start to wonder if it was a product of the opponent playing so poorly as to make them look better.
4. CLG (5-5) — Deus Point I recently suggested that for CLG to get better, they’ll need Ruin in particular to step it up, and instead of that happening he was asked to step down entirely. [Adam Sandler voice] A simple no would have sufficed. Deus made his debut in the LCS this weekend in what was a largely lackluster performance — it felt like he was severely outclassed in both games, though that was definitely tied to the amount of attention he received from the opposing junglers. It wasn’t a memorable debut for him, but CLG still managed to secure a win and you can say that, at least, he didn’t really throw at any point in the games either. I don’t know if I’d say he’s comfortable with playing the weak side, but sometimes you really just do need to survive. CLG admittedly should have lost both games, and if not for a pretty big throw from EG, then we’d still be talking through the same issues about this team, which is their lack of proactivity especially in the mid game. It seems like they are a capable team when at even gold or ahead in the late game (I imagine thanks in large part to Pobelter) but they struggle to generate advantages in the early stages of the game to actually get to the end game. Pobelter is currently #2 and #3 respectively in kill participation and damage share among all mid laners, which is a good indicator that this team is playing pretty heavily around him. He’s responded by delivering consistent and strong performances, and it seems with the benching of Ruin that this will continue to be their focus going forward. I’ll be keeping an eye on Deus in the next couple of weeks as well — if he is able to start minimizing losses in the early game, then perhaps CLG will have settled into a new style for the second round robin.
5. Evil Geniuses (5-5) — Flight Movie One movie that I love (unironically) is Pacific Rim — there are dozens of movies like this that are just whacky nonsensical action, and all of them are perfect to watch on an airplane when you are doing your best to not think of death. EG is the LCS equivalent of those kinds of movies — their games almost never make any sense but they’re always extremely fun to watch. Jiizuke is simultaneously the Jaeger and the Kaiju in that the range of results from his performances varies more than probably any other player in the league. At his best, such as in the LeBlanc game against GG or the early stages of the Ekko game against CLG, I am left in awe and start to have conversations with myself about whether or not he’s the best overall player in the league. And then, sometimes, you see him deep between the enemy Nexus turrets when the inhibitor turrets are still up and you have to squint to see if you’re reading the name plate correctly. As such, EG found themselves on the losing end of two heartbreaking losses this weekend and joined the growing thicket of teams writhing around in the middle of the table. It is difficult for me to ever have too much faith in teams that are this inconsistent, but there is still great value in judging what they could look like. We have seen bottom of the table performances from everyone that’s caught in the middle of the table, but not all of them have been able to produce the same types of highs as EG. Being in spots where you are throwing games is much easier to recover from than constantly fighting uphill, which means I expect EG to eventually settle down as the split goes on (like in the Spring).
6. FlyQuest (5-5) — Throwing Rocks FlyQuest is the one friend in your group who always does things by the book, and then one day you convince them it’s not going to hurt anybody if you throw rocks at passing cars on the road (god, kids are dumb as hell). They do it because they want to fit in, and then when you are inevitably caught, the adult looks at the friend and says, “I expected better from you.” This week I am that adult, and FLY is that friend. They got manhandled last weekend in a couple of games that weren’t ever particularly close. This came after a week in which many people, myself included, suggested that they still had a pretty solid claim to being the #2 overall team in the LCS. After this past week, though, I am much more apt to put them in the bottom two — it makes me wonder if the revolution C9 has started with faster-tempo play is finally starting to take shape. It felt a little like seeing someone trying to escape an avalanche only to be finally engulfed by the violent blanket of snow. All year long FLY has been reliant on PoE and Santorin to make plays for them, and when the two have been locked down, it’s been up to IgNar to step up. His play was lackluster over the weekend, though — it’s like the old Jordan rules where teams forced anyone but Jordan to shoot. In this case, IgNar is the “anyone.” If FLY is to rebound and reclaim their status as an elite team, then he’s the most likely piece to the puzzle to deliver.
7. 100 Thieves (4-6) — Contractz with the Devil Did 100 sign a contract with the devil to have such a strong week, or did they simply just sign Contractz? His journey is not unlike that of child stars who made big splashes before disappearing, and then finally making a comeback as an adult. Those who’ve been around for a while say, “Where the hell have they been all this time?” Contractz had an extremely successful start as a pro before flaming out entirely after leaving C9, and so it’s fitting for him to make a name for himself again by handing the first loss of the summer to what may be the strongest C9 team of all time. The resurgent 100 roster looks to be a legitimate force thanks to two big wins — they are only the third team period this year to take a game off of C9, which counts as much more than one win in my books. If you are to grade teams based on what their peak looks like, then surely you have to be high on what this roster can do. I don’t think Blaber is going to get outclassed every single time they meet up — Contractz even ceded in the post-game interview that Blaber should still be regarded as the best jungler in the league — but it does give you some hope to see it be replicated. 100 also has Ssumday, who may be the best individual player in the league, and so long as that is true, there is no reason to think they can’t continue to reach new heights.
8. Golden Guardians (4-6) — Live Growth I appreciate this team not because I think they are good (they are not) but because I think they are trying to be good. It’s like watching someone repeatedly do overhand serves in a tennis match, and missing, when they are perfectly capable of hitting a soft one over. The latter guarantees you a volley and a chance to win any point, whereas the former that you have clearly not mastered is more often negative than positive. You can see GG try — and fail — to make a lot of proactive plays. I am thinking of some bold flashes by Damonte in particular. The thing is you don’t really get better by practicing soft hits over the net. All you are doing is consistently placing yourself in bad positions by giving up tempo to the opponent. They get to hit whatever they want back at you. By practicing aggression, GG is ensuring that they can dictate the pace of their games, and they seem content on winning or losing based on that. I much prefer to see that as a coach or a fan than a team that is constantly at the mercy of what the enemy is doing. This may ultimately prove to be a case of the team wanting and understanding what the ideal style of play is but not being able to execute on it. It doesn’t really matter if I know that SHFFLing with Fox is the best way to play Melee if my fingers can’t follow my brain, you know? There’s still a whole half of the split to figure it out, though, and they’ve got some buffer room to afford mistakes. I hope they keep tossing that ball high into the sky so as to swing with all their might.
9. Dignitas (2-8) — Yes Diggity Thank you, Team Dignitas, for finally winning games so I can stop being mean to you. And thank you for also making the league more exciting — we spend so much time focusing on whether the LCS is good or not that we sometimes miss out on the fact that it can be extremely entertaining to watch. Fenix reminded us that he was sometimes called an Azir one-trick for good reason — his expertise and understanding of the Emperor of Shurima were pivotal to DIG’s wins over the weekend. Dardoch also showed us that he’s still a very mechanically impressive jungler, and I’d like to remind people that him “inting” the later stages of the game while on TSM was something that didn’t really plague him at any other point in his career. I’m ultimately still not convinced that this is a good team, but it was nice to see the players prove to everyone that when the conditions are good for them, they can still perform at a high level. Johnsun and Aphromoo have also continued their strong split — there’s finally some rumblings and appreciation for Aphromoo’s play (which was widely panned last split to the point where people demanded he retired). Let’s see if DIG can make a big run like last split.
10. Immortals (2-8) — Close but still bottom IMT shares a few similarities with DIG — the biggest one being that both feature a large core of long-time vets who are flanked by some young talent. In IMT’s case, that has been Allorim and Insanity, who were suddenly thrust into the LCS in the middle of the season thanks to a staffing change on IMT. So far they’ve made the most of the opportunity and look to be promising young talents going forward — this would have been true even if they’d lost to TSM, but winning that game should be a huge morale boost for them. Still, if I had to identify which team feels like the weakest in the LCS right now, then it’s definitely this team. They’ve proven to not be an easy out by any stretch of the imagination, but that’s a statement that’s also true for everybody else right now. IMT has been good at hanging around in games but bad at actually finishing comebacks and bad at closing out leads — both of these things being true means they have struggled to win and will continue to struggle if that doesn’t change. Look to Xmithie some more as an indicator of how this team will fare — if he is able to continue putting in strong performances in support of his rookie solo laners, then perhaps this team can still prove me wrong.