Run It Down - 2018 NA LCS Spring Split - Week 1
Prior to the weekend, if someone had told me, “I bet TSM and CLG both go 0–2 this week,” I would’ve scoffed and said that was impossible.
Well here I am, exceptionally wrong.
Most people had easily placed Team SoloMid and Counter Logic Gaming in the top four teams in the league alongside new-and-improved Team Liquid and Cloud 9. The latter two teams went 2–0, defeating TSM and CLG respectively, on day 1 of play. That’s fine; in a battle between the expected top four teams, two of them have to lose. What was unexpected was day 2 results. TSM dropped their second game of the split to Flyquest, and CLG was — quite frankly — stomped by 100 Thieves.
It is only the first week of play, however, so I’ll keep overreactions here to a minimum. That being said, it looks like the NA LCS Spring Split Finals are shaping up to be Echo Fox vs. 100 Thieves, and Riot Games are kicking TSM and CLG out of franchising. A link to a Google Sheet (which will be updated weekly) is provided here, so without further ado, let’s talk about Week 1.
Note: Standings order according to lolesports
1. Echo Fox [FOX ] (2 - 0)
Admittedly, Echo Fox didn’t have the toughest matchups in their first week; both Flyquest and Clutch Gaming are expected to be bottom-tier teams. Even taking all of this into account, Echo Fox looked clean in both of their victories this weekend. Huni practically looked like he was smurfing against Flyquest, even against Flame, and somehow FeniX is still being allowed to play Azir in a meta where Azir is a top pick. Altec and Adrian capitalized on existing bot-lane synergy as one of two bot-lane duos that didn’t change coming into this split — the other being C9 Sneaky and Smoothie — and Dardoch, as per usual, is starting his split strong. Next week will be a drastic change in difficulty, however, as they match up against Cloud 9 and TSM. I’m curious to see if their success will translate against more experienced teams.
1. Cloud 9 [C9] (2 - 0)
To some, C9 had a weak off-season. They lost their rock in the top, Impact, and replaced him with Challenger Series player Licorice. They lost Contractz, a strong rookie with carry potential, and replaced him with Svenskeren, a player whom many attributed TSM’s problems last year. In every way, 2018 C9 looked like a downgrade…yet they defeated an auspicious lineup from CLG and famed shotcaller Hai and the Golden Guardians to open up the split 2 - 0. In both games, C9 came out to slow starts, but by the time mid-game rolled around, they kicked into gear.
Rookie top-laner Licorice had a rough game against CLG where he was tower-dove twice in the first 10 minutes, but he bounced back the next day, finishing his first professional week with a 7/0/6 performance on the first Kled pick of the year. Twitch chat exploded alongside the nexuses of CLG and GGS with messages of “SVEN WAS THE PROBLEM” as the former TSM jungler came clutch with his Sejuani ultimates and Evelynn pressure, rocking a 75% and 87.5% KP respectively.
Most people had C9 power ranked 4th, but with CLG and TSM faltering in this first week, it seems the reports of C9’s off-season loss have been greatly exaggerated.
1. 100 Thieves  (2 - 0)
With a lineup of fan-favorites and coach pr0lly, 100 Thieves has racked up a voluminous following since Riot’s announcement of the new franchised teams. Veteran players with years of experience cover the whole map, with Cody Sun being the newest player in only his second season of play. Analysts were pretty split on how well this new entrant would perform, either ranking them as middle-of-the-pack or towards the bottom, given that — apart from Ssumday and Cody Sun — it could be argued that the rest of the players could be on their career decline.
Well they’ve come out defeating OpTic, a likely bottom-two team, and CLG. As it turned out, they had a harder time defeating their fellow newcomer than they did CLG. After a 65-minute farm-fest and almost 235k combined gold earned, 100 Thieves was able to bring down OpTic’s nexus on day 1; although 100 Thieves went 1 - 0 that day, no one really won that game.
Fast forward to Sunday and it was practically a different team. Maybe Aphromoo was just rearing to go against his former team, but 100 Thieves ran circles around CLG, bringing early aggression with multiple early ganks bot to shutdown the Caitlyn/Janna duo. After losing the Malzahar vs. Zilean matchup the day before, CLG huhi was unable to recreate C9 Jensen’s play and fell to 100 Thieves’ pressure in the mid-lane. Ssumday pulled out one of the best performances of the weekend, going 6/1/4 as Gnar and outplaying CLG multiple times including a 1v2 against huhi’s Zilean and Darshan’s Gangplank.
100 Thieves has, without a doubt, the hardest week 2 match-ups as they face off against Team Liquid and Cloud 9; as with this week, they’ll be going in as the underdogs. They’ve already taken down CLG though, so who knows what else they’ll steal?
1. Team Liquid [TL] (2 - 0)
Let’s see here…let me just pull up this weekend’s results on my HTC phone as I sip on my Monster energy drink and leave crunchyroll running in the background on my Alienware computer. Paid by Steve (TM) seems to have paid off as Team Liquid burst out of the gates to pummel their opponents into oblivion.
The first match of the split couldn’t have been more hype (kudos to Riot’s scheduling team). TSM, coached by former Immortals coach Ssong, just dropped Doublelift, and now he’s on the NA superteam of Team Liquid, the new home of 3 former Immortals players. Liquid’s roster is unbelievable on paper, but no one could’ve guessed how bad they would make TSM look. The returning NA LCS champions managed 1 kill, 2 towers, and 2 dragons in their 28-minute loss; Team Liquid came through with 11 kills, 10 towers, 2 dragons, Rift Herald, and Baron. Frankly speaking, it’s impressive to take that many objectives in a sub-30-minute game, and TL did it to TSM.
Liquid’s day 2 game against OpTic was less hype and less action-packed, but equally clean. Through both games neither TL Impact nor TL Doublelift have died, pulling in whopping KDAs of 18 and 23, respectively. TL’s bot-lane also had 95.8% KP each, only missing out on 1 kill across the weekend and registering the highest KPs across all players except for TSM Bjergsen, who participated in all 10 of TSM’s kills.
I think this is a good time to reiterate it’s only the first week of play. Maybe Liquid got lucky and the next time they face TSM they’ll get bodied into the ground. For now, however, Liquid looks like the best team in the NA LCS.
5. Clutch Gaming [CG] (1 - 1)
Clutch Gaming, made up of the three best players from NV plus Challenger Series top-laner Solo and H2K Febiven, was one of two teams that went 1 - 1 this weekend. Their loss against Echo Fox on day 2 was lost quickly in 32 minutes after FOX Huni entirely outclassed Solo in top-lane and FOX FeniX was given Azir and bullied Febiven to a 24 – 10 CS lead after the first 4 waves and dropping Febiven to less than 100 HP.
CG’s play on day 1, albeit against Golden Guardians, looked good. CG Hakuho pulled out support Ornn and pressured GGS’ bot-lane while jungle/mid duo LirA and Febiven did the same against Contractz and Hai. Widely considered a bottom-tier team, Clutch Gaming has shown signs of promise in the macro game, but when faced with mechanically superior lanes, they seem to crumble early. Unfortunately for them, the NA LCS is filled to the brim with superstar top-laners like Huni and Ssumday, so rookie, and expected weak link, Solo is going to have to improve significantly and quickly.
5. Flyquest [FLY] (1 - 1)
WildTurtle is the shining face of Flyquest but he spent a lot of time this weekend with a gray screen. Day 1 was a stomp from a strong Echo Fox team; FOX Huni pulled out his signature top-lane Lucian as a counter-pick to FLY Flame’s Gangplank and FOX Dardoch showed his jungle superiority over FLY jungler AnDa in his professional debut.
The fun happened on their second day of play, however, as they faced off against TSM, WildTurtle’s former team. It seems TSM is doomed against any of their former players because Flyquest pulled off a spectacular upset. Had it not been for Bjergsen playing PvE on Xerath and WildTurtle getting caught and dying way too often, this would’ve likely been a 35-minute game rather than the 51-minute game it was. Either way, Flyquest, with a substitute mid-laner, defeated the defending NA LCS champions. Despite this win, Flyquest have clear things they need to work on. WildTurtle needs to rid himself of his old habits of getting caught and Flyquest need to learn how to end games. Despite taking Rift Herald, two Infernal Dragons, and four Barons, it took Flyquest 51 minutes to end the game.
They play Golden Guardians and OpTic Gaming next week, both of which went 0 - 2 this week. OpTic didn’t look awful in their losses, however, and Golden Guardians have 200 IQ Hai. Flyquest’s macro needs improvement and decisiveness, hopefully both will improve this week.
7. Team SoloMid [TSM] (0 - 2)
Alright let’s talk about it. I was trying to think of a clever analogy for TSM but I don’t think anything could’ve summarized it quite like reddit user u/Ask_Me_If_I_Suck’s comment on the post-game thread, “TSM looks like the TSM from worlds with 3 new people.” Most everyone power-ranked TSM as a top two team with Team Liquid, maybe top three depending on who you asked. For them to lose to Team Liquid wasn’t entirely surprising; Liquid look like the closest thing to an NA super team we’ve ever seen before.
Losing to Flyquest, however, shouldn’t happen. Flyquest is made up of five players who’ve never played together before, discounting AnDa and Flame’s time together on IMT, while TSM has “the best bottom-lane in the West”, last Summer’s Rookie of the Split, Bjergsen, and Hauntzer. The popular blame game bandwagon currently lies on Bjergsen, the simultaneously deathless, 100% KP, and 0 - 2 player of the weekend.
Personally, I think the blame is only partially deserved. It’s been a long time since Bjergsen played aggressively like his time on Copenhagen Wolves and Ninja in Pyjamas. His time on TSM has gradually rounded him out into a safe player, one who does what he needs to, but whose breakout games where he 1v9’s are few and far between.
The bigger problems lie in the new additions to the team. MikeYeung had subpar performances in both games, despite playing carry junglers in Shyvana and Kha’Zix, while Zven and Mithy are a combined 1/11/10. Zven’s positioning at the end of the Flyquest game single-handedly lost the game for TSM and MikeYeung simply did not exact enough early pressure for his laners.
TSM will undoubtedly bounce back from this week’s showing, but for the first time in a long time, TSM doesn’t have the best individual mechanics across the board. Once that happens, they can go back to the win lane/win game of previous iterations.
7. Counter Logic Gaming [CLG] (0 - 2)
I’m a longtime CLG fan. Ever since season 2, I’ve held faith in the potential through the ups and downs, through the reverse sweeps to climb out of relegations, and through the 3 - 0 sweep against TSM to be NA LCS champions. I’d be lying if I didn’t enter this season with high expectations. Sure we lost Aphromoo, but we gained Reignover and Biofrost, both of which couldn’t be anything but mechanical upgrades. Despite this, to quote Supreme Leader Snoke, my disappointment in their performance cannot be overstated.
Okay that’s a little dramatic, and CLG didn’t really do that badly, at least in the game against Cloud 9. C9 Jensen’s Zilean counterpick against huhi showed its significance early. Chronoshift negated Nether Grasp every time and he even solo-killed huhi mid-game. Although Darshan, Reignover, and huhi bullied C9 Licorice in the top-lane, the early leads were unable to snowball CLG enough to beat C9’s superior comp. Rengar was picked twice this weekend and lost both games; in a meta of tanks, Rengar simply doesn’t scale well enough past 20 minutes to be useful. CLG’s early game definitely showed improvement over last year, where they were frequently behind, but after a few clutch Svenskeren Sejuani ultimates, CLG simply got outscaled.
I still have faith in this lineup (after all, if I don’t have faith, why am I even here)? Despite being throttled by 100 Thieves on day 2, I believe in CLG’s coaching staff and their ability to identify problems and areas to improve on. CLG have a fairly loose week 2, facing off against Clutch Gaming and Golden Guardians. They have a history of losing against Hai, however, so here’s hoping.
7. OpTic Gaming [OPT] (0 - 2)
OpTic had a rough first week. Although their roster doesn’t look half bad at first glance, the meta has shifted away from early aggression junglers that Akaadian excelled on and both zig and Arrow had poor performances last summer on Phoenix1. PowerOfEvil is coming off of a beautiful Worlds run on Misfits, but Lemonnation, now Lemon, hasn’t been a top support in the league in a long time, especially with his brief stint as a coach.
Their first game was pretty close, in a rather depressing way since the game lasted over an hour and mostly consisted of Arrow throwing Mystic Shots at 100 Thieves until Meteos finished channeling his 60-minute-game-time-buff and landed a Sejuani ultimate engage on PowerOfEvil, forcing him out of the fight and allowing 100 Thieves to clean up the last nexus towers.
There’s, unfortunately, not much to be said about game 2. OpTic put up a relatively decent fight, but Team Liquid’s players simply eclipse every one of OpTic’s players and they lost in 36 minutes.
Despite these two losses, OpTic show more reassuring signs of potential success than I initially expected. Mechanically, Arrow is still a monster, PowerOfEvil has always been a strong mid-laner, and Akaadian has tons of room to grow as a jungler. I expect OpTic to place middle-of-the-pack this split, and they have a good opportunity to prove themselves next week against TSM and Flyquest.
7. Golden Guardians [GGS] (0 - 2)
As expected, Golden Guardians sit at the bottom of the standings. They’re in good company though; they’re joined by TSM and CLG. In all seriousness, GGS are likely to go into every game this split as heavy underdogs. Their bottom-lane is probably the worst in the league and Lourlo is a bottom three top-laner. Hai is still the shotcaller he always has been, but shotcalling alone won’t win games and Contractz doesn’t have his usual solo-laners to enable his aggressive jungling. Deftly/Matt are a combined 0/10/9 and Contractz is 0/4/8. Had it not been for Hai’s Zoe shenanigans, GGS would’ve lost their game against Cloud 9 much more quickly and in less spectacular fashion.
Deftly and Matt need to improve individually to kickstart the early-game rotations. Even though Lourlo is bottom three, that’s more a result of the ridiculous caliber of top-laners in the NA LCS than it is Lourlo being bad. If GGS can equal their opponents in the early game, Hai’s famed in-game leadership may rear it’s shining head again and bring Golden Guardians out of Gold.