NA LCS Summer Preview Part 3, The Elite

Yesterday (Part 2) can be found here, I’m happy to finally be able to let happiness into one of these previews. There’s no need to define what ‘elite’ is, you know it when you see it. They’ll be in order from what I perceive to the lowest placed team to the highest, so fourth to first.

4. Team Solomid: Reginald, We Have A Jungle Problem

On June 14th Team Solomid announced this,

Honestly I have no confidence in Grig’s ability to play at an LCS level. Having said that I do think this is an important move if TSM want’s to keep their roster together. My personal theory is that Grig has been promoted in order to test MikeYeung and get him to compete for a starting spot that should clearly be his. While MikeYeung does not have a lot of LCS level experience he is still one of the most talented junglers in NA. I believe he could be the missing link for this team and if he’s able to get his act together this could be the best TSM team ever assembled.

Going into the Spring Split there was an argument that on-paper this was the best TSM team. Reginald had undoubtedly won the off-season. There was a very short list of players that TSM could have brought in that would be equal to Doublelift and Reginald instead brought the best botlane in the EULCS over to TSM. It should be simple for them (and Bjergsen) to adapt to the new Meta and I don’t see them stumbling. It will be difficult for them to deal with some of the more outlandish drafts that some teams create when this kind of tectonic shift happens. TSM do take their preparation seriously so here’s hoping their analysts have prepared the team for the curve balls that will come out for the next couple of weeks.

This incarnation of TSM should be able to snag a decent playoff seed at a bare minimum. I’m not confidant that they can win at the NA LCS Summer Playoffs but this team should be able to win NA Regionals after playoffs are over. I want to see this team at worlds, they have far too much talent to stay at home.

3. 100 Thieves, How High Can We Fly Before Our Wings Melt?

100 Thieves rose to the occasion during the Spring Split. This is a team that never lost twice to any other NA LCS team. No one expected 100 Thieves to be performing so well, so quickly. I think some credit is in order for their management for creating a roster that only has 1 player with less than six years experience playing at a professional level. Pairing Cody Sun (their least experienced player) with aphromoo covers that weakness as well. The masterstroke for 100 Thieves (at least to me) has to be signing Pr0lly as the coach.

Despite their loss in the Spring Split final I don’t think that loss is entirely on them. I don’t know if any team in NA could have beaten Team Liquid in that final, Doublelift was still on fire and the rest of his team (especially Pobelter) showed up to play that day. Now 100 Thieves deserve a lot of credit for beating Clutch Gaming in the semifinals 3-2. Clutch Gaming are inferior competition but that best-of series was 100 Thieves first best-of series (of any consequence, scrims don’t count) ever. I think 100 Thieves are capable of another great regular split and I expect them to win their first playoff series again. I don’t like their chances in the Summer Split final (if they make it there) but I could see this team making waves in the NA regional after the playoffs are over.

2. Echo Fox, Don’t Let Your Dreams Be Memes

Echo Fox have got to be the ultimate momentum based team in NA LCS. If both Huni and Dardoch can get fully engaged in a game, Echo Fox can easily roll to a victory. When Dardoch or Huni get held back (or start feeding) Echo Fox tends to lose games pretty hard. This is best exemplified by their series against Team Liquid in the semifinal during the Spring Playoffs. In Echo Fox only win Dardoch had a great performance on Skarner. The issue with both Huni and Dardoch is that they rarely show consistency in a best-of series. On top of that problem Echo Fox don’t really have someone else on this roster to pick up the slack when Huni and Dardoch are having bad games.

I realize that Altec did have a good Game 2 on Caitlyn but his performance in he other four games is what reaffirms my beliefs about him. Altec is a veteran player but he’s never been anything more than an above average AD Carry. Game 2 against Team Liquid is probably his ceiling for any given game. Given the fact that Adrian is less experienced and at his best Adrian is slightly above average; Echo Fox have a very pronounced weakness in the botlane. Some of that is only because Huni and Dardoch can shine so bright but the majority of that weakness comes from Altec & Adrian.

The meta is a bit wonky right now and Echo Fox should be able to play that in their favor. It should only take a few weeks for the Meta to settle down (or stay in it’s completely bonkers current state) and after that Echo Fox can get back to business. Echo Fox may be a very one dimensional team but when that strategy works they are capable of taking a game from any team in NA LCS. I expect this team to make both the Summer Split Playoffs and NA Regionals, what happens once those events start is anyone’s guess.

1. Team Liquid, Once And Future Kings

Did you watch the Spring Playoffs? Did you see any of Doublelift’s games where he didn’t die? Team Liquid didn’t just win the NA LCS Spring Split, they crushed every single team. Through three different playoff series Team Liquid only lost one game. During the off-season when everyone else was looking at expensive imports or prospects Team Liquid went out and found three players that had already won championships and added Impact (still a former world champion) and Olleh. The Spring final finally revealed the truth to the rest of the NA LCS teams, while the regular season is not their forte, Team Liquid has no equals in a best-of-five series. Nothing any team has done during the break between splits has changed that.

Team Liquid did not have a good time at the Mid-Season Invitational but theu did manage to grow as a team. Team Liquid looked like a train wreck during their first few games at MSI and this team deserves credit for getting it together. They didn’t manage to get out of the group stage but it’s a small miracle they forced a tiebreaker at all. Team Liquid’s biggest issue did emerge from MSI though, Olleh had a number of terrible games at MSI. Team Liquid even had Joey start a game before coaxing Olleh back to his starting position. The support position is probably the only thing holding Team Liquid back from a sure victory in the Summer Playoffs. Team Liquid need to work with Olleh, he needs to overcome his confidence issues and the team needs to draft in a way that sets him up for victory.

Speaking of drafting I belive that Team Liquid are in a unique position to take advantage of the current Meta. Unlike most other LCS teams, Liquid have two carries that can always be relied upon in Doublelift and Impact. Pobelter can be trusted to hold his lane and on occasion he too can play a carry champion. Xmithie can easy play whatever his team needs. If Team Liquid really wanted to they could treat Doublelift and Impact as carries in the sense of DOTA 2. This meta encourages unorthodox drafting and Team Liquid has a number of extremely talented and experienced players. I fully expect this team not to finish at the top of the Regular Season standings but at the end of the Summer Playoffs I look forward to seeing Team Liquid hoist their second straight NA LCS trophy.

That’s all for my NA LCS Summer preview, from this point on I’ll be updating sporadically on the NA LCS and hopefully the LPL, LCK and maybe the EU LCS. The NA LCS begins on May 16th at 5pm Eastern Time.

NA LCS Summer Preview Part 2, The Midcard

Now that the bottom teams of the North American League Championship Series have been discussed (Part 1 is here) we can get to the fun stuff. Midcard is a term used to describe matches that take place in the middle portion of a wrestling, boxing or MMA event. The Midcard features individuals who might have found their professional ceiling or individuals that are trying to break into main event status. They’ll be in order from what I perceive to the lowest placed team to the highest, so seventh to fifth.

7. Counter Logic Gaming, The Super Friends

The Super Friends is a cartoon that started in the 70’s which prominently featured the Justice League. I refer to CLG that way because of statements like this one,

“Unfortunately, Dardoch was unwilling to adhere to the set of standards expected of every member of the team”

That’s from CLG’s press release following their decision to part ways with Dardoch. I don’t have any issues with a team wanting to create a specific atmosphere among its players or the organization as a whole. My issue with this process CLG are going through is that this contrived method of scouting has left CLG with a roster that’s slightly above average at best. Almost all of the players that have left CLG’s LCS roster have gone on to better things (not Omargod, sorry dude). Dardoch, Aphromoo, Xmithie, Pobelter and Doublelift are all doing significant;y better than their counterparts on CLG. While Aphromoo and Xmithie may have left of their own accord there’s no question CLG should have done more to keep both of them (if it was a financial problem that’s a whole different issue). None of CLG’s current starting roster are necessarily bad, but neither are they exceptional at anything. Even huhi’s vaunted Aurelion Sol was not enough to get them a win during the Spring Split.

I’m honestly angry at CLG’s current management and how this philosophy have seemingly stalled what was once a championship winning franchise. CLG could consider moving players up from their academy team again but performing against lesser competition has never been an indicator of success when a player goes from NA Challenger (or NA Academy nowadays) to the LCS. If this team can’t get its act together and make a playoff run I don’t see any reason to keep anyone on this starting roster. Maybe Darshan, because he’s the only popular player left in this organization.

6. Clutch Gaming, The Little Engine That Could

I actually don’t have much to say here. Clutch Gaming performed as expected during the Spring Split, then they had a nice playoff run. Despite being one of the brand new franchises Clutch Gaming’s management put together a respectable roster and they seem to be coming together nicely. Maybe CG’s management will reevaluate everyone after the Summer Split is over and hopefully make adjustments. I think the glass ceiling for this team is the Semifinals and I would be a little disappointed if they failed to make the playoffs again.

5. Cloud9, Either A Dumpster Fire Or A Clown Fiesta

Of those options I think Cloud9 are more of a Clown Fiesta right now, I wouldn’t classify them as a Dumpster Fire until they make their next unexplained roster move. For those of you who are not aware this video may shed some light on why Sneaky, Jensen and Smoothie are playing on Cloud9 Academy right now.

No one outside of the Cloud9 organization is exactly sure about why Cloud9 are doing this. Theories may include: Cloud9 rewarding their challenger players for in-house performance; Cloud9 experimenting with the Academy roster to find a better LCS roster; Cloud9 wanting to promote their Cloud9 Academy Twitch Stream; motivating their LCS players by moving them down to the Academy team. I honestly don’t know which of these reasons (if any) could be true. Regardless, Cloud9 Academy played their first game of the NA Academy split and it went pretty well. Cloud9 even had a really cool studio set-up in addition to pregame and postgame content. Ordinarily I would never recommend NA Academy games but their broadcast worth a view. Having said that I believe that if they did this roster move just to generate content or viewership (or both), it would go down as one of the worst decisions any organization has made in recent memory. There were five different tiebreaker matches at the end of the Spring Split. For Cloud9 to potentially throw away two easy points (they play Clutch Gaming and Golden Guardians week one and two respectively) is absolutely unforgivable.

What angers me the most about this decision is that I can’t recall any point in time where Goldenglue & Keith have been legitimately better options than Jensen & Sneaky. Maybe when Jensen was known as Incarnati0n and was banned but that’s it. Goldenglue and Keith have both been given opportunities to play at the LCS level (against good competition to boot) and neither of them have proven that they can perform a level where they deserve to start for Cloud9.

Cloud9 had a swift exit from the Spring Playoffs when they were swept by Team Liquid. While that series was disappointing for them I don’t think this move is an appropriate response (if the players playoff performance was considered at all, who knows). If Reapered and/or Westrice (or anyone else in Cloud9 management for that matter) legitimately think that Shiro and Blaber are worth starting on their LCS team they’re not going to get any pertinent information from their play in NA Academy. NA Academy is an inferior competition by design, furthermore it does not make any sense to draw conclusions about team synergy when this iteration of Cloud9 Academy are so significantly better than any of their NA Academy competition. Winning every game by an insurmountable margin does not help a team (or the individual players) grow at all, it’s possible that Jensen, Sneaky and Smoothie all regress while on Cloud9 Academy.

Honestly Cloud9 should be able to make the playoffs while they sleepwalk through the regular split. Right now there’s no permutation of Cloud9 that will find any playoff success and this organization should not expect to make Worlds. I sincerely hope the Cloud9 organization gets its act together as the Cloud9 LCS team should be able to win another NA LCS Summer Championship and compete at worlds.

Part 3 Tomorrow, Potential NA LCS Champions Incoming

That’s all for Part 2 of my NA LCS Summer preview, in Part 3 I’ll be discussing top teams in NA LCS and determining who should be favored to win the Summer Split. The NA LCS begins on May 16th at 5pm Eastern Time.