Run It Down - 2018 NA LCS Spring Split - Week 9
The scriptwriters gave us a lot to work with, but not without some twists of their own. The CLG miracle run wasn’t meant to be, C9 is fifth place at the end of the regular season, and 100 Thieves tops the standings in their first NA LCS split. It’s been quite a journey up to this point, but it’s not over yet. Since relegation tournaments are a thing of the past, playoffs will begin this weekend. This means participating teams will have one less week than usual to prepare for this weekend’s best-of-five play. TSM is looking to reinstate themselves as the premiere North American team, but they’ll be going into playoffs without a bye for the first time since Spring 2016.
Let’s run it down.
1. 100 Thieves  (13 - 6) | W6ESE (Week 6 End-of-Split Expectation): (11 - 7)
If you predicted 100 Thieves to end this split at number 1, go buy a lottery ticket. At one point it could’ve been argued that four out of five members of this roster were on their career decline. Ssumday used to be in the conversation for best top-laner in the world, Meteos was OG C9, Ryu went toe-to-toe with Faker, and aphromoo hasn’t made support look that easy in a long time. Meme about NA if you want, but placing 1st after going 9 - 1 in the back half of the split is nothing to scoff at. The Thieves have stolen the top spot for now, and they’ll be heading to Miami with a playoff bye. Their first best-of-five together will be against the winner of Team Liquid and Cloud 9.
2. Echo Fox [FOX] (12 - 7) | W6ESE: (15 - 3)
It appears I’d put a little too much faith in Echo Fox’s ability to remedy their issues. Admittedly, FOX started Damonte and PapaChau instead of FeniX and Adrian, which — without a doubt — factored into their Week 9 performance. Regardless, in contrast to 100 Thieves ending on a 9 - 1 streak, FOX began the split 9 - 1, and faltered towards the end. A strong start is important, but maintaining form going into playoffs is arguably even more so; FOX have not accomplished that. They’re lucky to have clinched their playoff bye, otherwise I wouldn’t expect them to make it to semifinals. As it stands, I predict them to lose to the winner of TSM and CG.
3. Team SoloMid [TSM] (13 - 7) | W6ESE: (11 - 7)
Why did I ever doubt them? When TSM finds their groove, they never let go. The reigning North American powerhouse, after an unspectacular start, has ended the split at 3rd place, and they’re poised to retake their throne. Their fight for semifinals is a repeat match of their tiebreaker on Sunday against Clutch Gaming. Although Clutch has the head-to-head at 2 - 1, their first two wins were back-to-back, in Weeks 4 and 5. In the most recent battle, TSM took the win handily, ending the game in 38:50 with a 17.2k gold lead. With TSM on the up-and-up and CG on the decline, a TSM victory—dare I say, 3 - 0—is expected this weekend.
4. Team Liquid [TL] (12 - 8) | W6ESE: (10 - 8)
Honestly, the memes write themselves. This is the 4th split since Liquid last placed 4th, and it’s the 4th time they’ve placed 4th in the regular season. It’s no wonder Doublelift played Jhin this weekend. Most people power-ranked Team Liquid at 1st or 2nd during pre-season, but the NA super team hasn’t met everyone’s expectations so far. At times, this roster plays exceptionally well, but most of the time they’re just “good”, and “good” is not what this roster is limited to. Liquid defeated C9 to place 4th, and they’ll need to do it three more times to make it to semifinals against 100 Thieves. The last time these two teams played in a best-of scenario was in the 2015 Regional Qualifiers when C9 made the miracle guantlet run. Liquid is looking to even up the score.
5. Cloud 9 [C9] (12 - 8) | W6ESE: (14 - 4)
What happened here? Cloud 9 were on a tear through the NA LCS, looking nigh unstoppable. Now they find themselves playing for a spot in semifinals, when all they had to do to clinch a playoff bye was defeat Flyquest on Sunday. Fortunately for them, C9 won over CG in Sunday’s final tiebreaker, allowing them to dodge TSM this weekend. Unfortunately for them, they lost to Liquid twice this past weekend, and they’re gearing up for a best-of-five against them on Saturday. Two weeks ago, if someone had asked me about this matchup, I would’ve picked C9 without question. Now, I fear C9 may be in for an early exit.
6. Clutch Gaming [CG] (11 - 9) | W6ESE: (10 - 8)
Just like Cloud 9 and Echo Fox, Clutch Gaming have faltered at the end of the split. They couldn’t clutch it, you might say (I’m sorry). Losing both tiebreakers on Sunday only made matters worse, as they now have to face off against TSM for a spot in semifinals. Unlike previous splits, LirA hasn’t looked like the dominant jungler we remember him to be. If he and Febiven can somehow shutdown Bjergsen, CG might have a chance. With TSM’s current form, however, I don’t see Clutch making it a close series.
7. Counter Logic Gaming [CLG] (7 - 11) | W6ESE: (4 - 12)
I don’t blame CLG for losing their last two games of the split. Despite an incredible four wins in a row in Weeks 7 and 8, CLG’s playoff fates rested in the hands of the Golden Guardians and Cloud 9. Since neither of them were able to fend off TSM and Team Liquid on Saturday, CLG was unable to qualify for playoffs for the first time in the organization’s history. Focus shattered, the team lost both games in the final week of play, bringing their head-to-head against OpTic to a 0 - 2, and extending their loss streak against TSM.
8. Flyquest [FLY] (6 - 12) | W6ESE: (6 - 12)
Hey, I got one right! Flyquest had an unlucky final two games against Echo Fox and Cloud 9. They really should’ve gone 0 - 2, but either due to C9’s struggles — or Flyquest’s extremely late improvement — they were able to go 1 - 1. Realistically, the win was a fluke. If C9 and FLY played right now, ten times out of ten, I’d bet on C9. Flyquest needs change, and it should probably come outside of the game. Synergy does take time to develop, and settling on the starting 5 was the first step. Flyquest isn’t going to become a top-tier team after one split, but they’ve got to start somewhere. A bootcamp and an in-house support coach could be what they need.
9. OpTic Gaming [OPT] (5 - 13) | W6ESE: (5 - 13)
Two in a row, hey not bad. PowerOfEvil couldn’t let his first split in NA end without a cheese pick. Enter AP Ezreal. The off-meta pick threw CLG for a spin and helped bring OpTic their fifth and final win of the split. It’s hard to tell whether Dhokla is an improvement over zig when OpTic as a whole is performing so mediocrely, but in end-of-split scenarios like this where playoffs are unreachable, maybe some stage experience for the academy team players isn’t so bad.
10. Golden Guardians [GGS] (4 - 14) | W6ESE: (3 - 15)
Okay so I couldn’t clutch the last three, but this last estimate was only one game off. After starting the split as Potentially The Worst Team Ever, GGS has ended these nine weeks as Only The Worst This Split. With wins against Echo Fox and Team Liquid, it’s hard to say that this team will never amount to anything. The team has the backing of an NBA dynasty (too strong?) and the ability to create a powerful infrastructure. Playoffs might be a stretch, but given time, leadership, and proper coaching, GGS could grow into a 7th or 8th place team, no question.