Run It Down - 2018 NA LCS Spring Split - Week 3
Echo Fox took their first loss , Cloud 9 reminded everyone why they're always NA’s last hope at Worlds, and Team Liquid look goddamn clean. The three-way tie for 1st place will resolve itself next week as Liquid play both C9 and Echo Fox. The tie for 5th place will break too as Counter Logic Gaming and Team SoloMid face off for the first time this season. The longest-standing rivalry in LCS history has, historically, been mostly one-sided in favor of the defending champions. So far this split, however, CLG and TSM have mirrored each other’s success; both teams have started 0 – 2 in the first week, 1 – 1 in the second week, and 2 – 0 in the third week. This is probably the most interesting week of the split so far, don’t miss it.
Note: Standings order according to lolesports
1. Echo Fox [FOX] (5 - 1)
It really isn't Echo Fox’s fault they lost to CLG; CLG have a history of taking down top-ranked teams, especially when they’re going into the match off recent struggles. FOX’s first loss stemmed mostly from the bottom-lane this game. Altec and Adrian were constantly pushed in by a seemingly-rejuvenated Stixxay, and Dardoch lost a lot of early camps to Reignover on the recently-buffed Nunu. Although Rift Herald went the way of FOX, objective control was clearly in CLG’s favor. On one hand, it’s certainly difficult to wrest control over a Nunu and Kalista; on the other hand, FOX drafted Gragas with Nunu open. If you’re going to leave a powerful jungler like Nunu open, especially in competitive, you’d best be prepared to up your vision game to keep him from taking those early objectives for free.
It’s easy to avoid tilt when you’re winning. Some people were afraid the Dardoch Effect would show itself after FOX’s loss on Saturday, but the team bounced back on Sunday to take down OpTic Gaming (interestingly enough, with 3/5 of the CLG composition they lost to on day 1). Despite multiple botched mid-game teamfights, FOX kept OpTic to 0 towers and ended the game nearly 20k gold ahead. It’s so far, so good for Echo Fox fans, but they have a vital game to win next week against Liquid. If they can pull out the win, they’ll have a good buffer between them and the rest of the pack.
1. Cloud 9 [C9] (5 - 1)
Smoothie might be the first support player to earn an MVP of the Split award. There’s not much to be said; on a team filled with talent, Smoothie stands out as the backbone of the squad. Cloud 9 had a roaring start to the weekend with a clean win against OpTic. Licorice looks better and better every week and Sneaky is still the quiet and consistent rock in the bot-lane. Svenskeren made Akaadian’s Nunu look like pre-patch 8.2 Nunu and Jensen is still doing Jensen things in the mid-lane. The game against OpTic was largely uneventful, except for a massive denial near Baron from Smoothie against Akaadian, as Cloud 9 ran circles around OpTic.
Day 2 was a little rougher for the boys in blue. It wasn’t until C9 took 3 Barons in a row and the Elder Drake that Clutch Gaming’s nexus fell at 46 minutes. Despite racking up 5 of the team’s 12 total deaths this weekend, Smoothie’s Alistar has revealed itself as a must-ban. His ability to zone the enemy team is unparalleled, and when you put proper shotcalling and competent play on a playmaker, you get a perfect blend of support, a smoothie, if you will.
1. Team Liquid [TL] (5 - 1)
The new Alienware Training Facility must have Team Liquid itching to get back because they’re hardly allowing their opponents to play League of Legends before the game is over. Liquid set the record for the fastest game of the split against Flyquest on Saturday at 27:35, breaking their previous record from week 2 against Clutch Gaming by 2 seconds. On Sunday they set a new record fastest game against Golden Guardians at 26:24. In total, Liquid gave up 4 kills this weekend, and no, I’m not forgetting anything. That means their opponents took 0 towers, 0 dragons, 0 Rift Heralds, and 0 Barons.
Let’s face it, Flyquest and Golden Guardians are, respectively and respectfully, barely mid-tier and literally dead-last teams, let alone proper competition for Liquid. Even so, to allow for 0 objectives taken means impeccable map control at all stages of the game. Liquid has a clear rhythm going for them, and it’s as swift as a coursing river, and has the force of a great typhoon. If Liquid can carry this momentum into next week, Cloud 9 and Echo Fox are going to be caught in its wake.
4. 100 Thieves  (4 - 2)
They ended with the slightest of gold deficits, but 100 Thieves came out of Saturday with another tick in the wins column. In what was probably their least clean win, 100 Thieves managed to climb back after being down 10k gold at 41 minutes thanks to a beautiful Baron play. Ssumday’s Gnar ult into LirA’s Jarvan IV Cataclysm reminisced of Hauntzer’s 5-man Gnar ult at last year’s World Championships, and it was the final nail in Clutch’s coffin.
A rough win on day 1 transitioned into a tough loss on day 2. Despite securing Rift Herald, 100 Thieves was unable to take any other neutral objective all game. Cody Sun tried his best, but a Kog’Maw without peel against an Ornn, Gangplank, and Sejuani is destined to either die or be zoned out of the fight. 100’s mid-game was noticeably weaker, and part of this could be attributed to TSM’s map presence with GP and Taliyah. All in all, 100 Thieves had a minor setback this week with a weak win and a limp loss. Hopefully they’ll bounce back with clean wins next week against Flyquest and Golden Guardians.
5. Counter Logic Gaming [CLG] (3 - 3)
CLG may have finally found their groove. An oppressive comp with Nunu and Kalista for objective control, and Zoe for Zoe things, led to a rejuvenated CLG and brought them to victory over the undefeated Echo Fox. From the very first wave, Stixxay and Biofrost pushed Altec and Adrian. Thanks to Reignover’s pressure around the jungle, Dardoch was unable to capitalize on his pushed-in bot-lane, and — although he struggled to punish Huni early — Darshan’s Gnar kept the former SKT top-laner in check. Stixxay popped off this game and pushed the game to a lethal tempo around Barons and Drakes; a triple kill in the last teamfight led to a final push into Echo Fox’s base.
It appears Biofrost took a note from Smoothie’s notebook, because his Alistar was absolutely brutal. Multiple fights began thanks to beautiful flanks from the cow, and, although the entire CLG lineup deserves praise for how well they played this game, the cleanliness of the fights was undoubtedly a result of Biofrost’s engages. Counter Logic Gaming, in typical CLG fashion, may be emerging from their early-split struggles and coming into their mid-split surge. Their game against a similarly-surging TSM next week will be a crucial one as both teams will be playing for their standings, rivalry, and pride.
5. Team SoloMid [TSM] (3 - 3)
TSM had their first 2 - 0 week playing against Golden Guardians and 100 Thieves. The match against GGS was like a match between Challengers and bots. TSM could’ve sat in base for five minutes at the beginning of the game and still come out with the win. They were 2 towers away from the perfect game, however, so clearly they need to work on that.
Their second win of the week came off the back of TSM’s solo laners, with Hauntzer and Bjergsen splitting all13 kills between the two of them. People might meme MikeYeung for moving off of carry junglers, what he’s known for, and onto tanks like Sejuani, but his early game is looking much better than it did in the first two weeks of play. TSM had solid wins this week, albeit one of them being over Golden Guardians, and they’ll need to continue this energy forward. TSM plays their age-old rival in CLG this weekend. Maybe we’ll be treated to another bet between HotshotGG and Reginald, maybe not. Either way, we’re sure to be in for one hype match-up.
7. Clutch Gaming [CG] (2 - 4)
Clutch looked mostly decent in both their losses this week. They threw a 10k gold lead against 100 Thieves on day 1, and on day 2 they were holding out against a powerful C9 before rolling over and conceding their nexus without a proper fight. Capitalizing on advantages and tempered aggression is the name of the game for this Clutch squad. Multiple times, Clutch picked off a member of 100 Thieves but then failed to capitalize by taking a neutral objective. They had a good Baron Power Play and took 2 towers and Elder Drake, which is good. However, 100 Thieves was able to pick 2 members and take Baron. Clutch allowed 100 Thieves to push two full lanes and end the game. When running a double TP with solo lane Jayce and support Shen, all you need to do is run a 4 – 1 split push, especially in the rare instance when Jayce is ahead.
Clutch’s game against C9 was a bit of a wash since C9 held the pace of the game the whole time (a 12-minute Rift Herald will do that for you). Despite being down more than 10k for the last 10 minutes of the game, CG was able to wave clear with Gangplank and Orianna, delaying C9 from pushing into the base; in the end, however, there was nothing they could do. From these first three weeks of play, it seems that CG’s win condition is to have Febiven carry the game, every game. It might work playing Azir against CLG, but this is an unsustainable playstyle. If they’re unable to adapt, they’re going to find themselves keeping the Golden Guardians company at the bottom of the standings.
7. Flyquest [FLY] (2 - 4)
I don’t think anyone can really blame Flyquest for losing to Team Liquid and a surging CLG in such an explosive manner. Liquid legitimately looks like the best team in North America, and CLG is hitting their mid-season stride with Stixxay looking to rejoin the conversation as best AD in NA. Flyquest has moments of hope, but they’re sparsely littered throughout an expanse of miscommunication and despair.
AnDa being subbed out for Shrimp has proved to be a large leap in the wrong direction, and Flyquest is still missing it’s starting mid-laner. A solid mid can be a rallying point for a team; Keane is not that person. Flame has, perhaps, experienced the largest dropoff for any player, having left a World Championship IMT roster and been unfortunately placed in elo hell on Flyquest (excluding the returning members of the SKT roster). Along with Flame, Wildturtle is the best performing member of the team. He looks better and better every week, but when Shrimp and Keane combine for 11/17 deaths in one game and 9/16 in the next, he has a hard time getting the space he needs to output damage. FLY Fly’s entrance can’t come soon enough, as Flyquest’s trouble and strife are likely to continue into next week against 100 Thieves and Cloud 9.
9. OpTic Gaming [OPT] (1 - 5)
At first it was, “well OpTic have had a hard schedule so far.” Considering the team has now played six of the 10 teams in the LCS, I’m not sure that can be used as an excuse anymore. Drafting Nunu seemed like a good start to the weekend, but Akaadian’s performance left much to be desired. He had little to no pressure in the early game and was unable to secure any neutral objective for his team save for 1 Ocean Drake 26 minutes into the game; Nunu could be soloing Drakes on spawn.
Yes, OpTic played C9 and Echo Fox this week, and yes, those two teams are each 5 - 1, but besides PowerOfEvil and Arrow, OpTic’s gameplay looks lifeless. Something is clearly not working for this team and it goes beyond the rift. At least PowerOfEvil got what he asked for…he’s not on “some 5th or 6th place team,” he’s one game away from dead last.
10. Golden Guardians [GGS] (0 - 6)
Golden Guardians had a similarly rough week against TSM and Liquid…okay every week is a rough week if you’re the Golden Guardians. Let’s look at pure numbers this time. Against TSM, GGS earned 0 kills, 2 towers, 0 Drakes, 0 Barons, 0 Rift Heralds, died 8 times, and lost in 33 minutes. Against Liquid, GGS earned 1 kill, 0 towers, 0 Drakes, 0 Barons, 0 Rift Heralds, died 12 times, and lost in 26 minutes. They have the best team in the NBA, but the Golden State Warriors might also have the worst team in LCS history. A case for Worst Team Ever should be made for 2015 Spring Split Team Coast, which ended 1 - 17, but if GGS goes 0 - 2 next week as well, they’ll be on track to one-up (one-down?) Team Coast, which was 1 - 7 after week 4.