LCS Landscape - Story of week 8
Things are beginning to wrap up for the summer split and it's been an exceptional journey thus far, yet with one week left there is still much to be gained for almost every team of both regions. Let's take a look back at how week 8 shaped the LCS standings starting with Europe.
Week 8 - EU LCS
Let's face it, Europe is pretty much centered around Fnatic right now and has been since the split started. Yellowstar & co are now 16-0 with multiple comeback victories throughout the split, at times from as much as a 7k gold deficit. You could be forgiven for thinking that Fnatic are just toying with their opponents from time to time but what a luxury it must be to be able to say "a difficult win still feels like a loss" when they haven't dropped a single game this split in the first place. Their confidence shone through this week in quite spectacular fashion as Fantic put their star top laner, Huni, on a couple of very new and interesting picks, most surprisingly of all (to some) being Riven vs ROCCAT. LCK in particular has been known to bring forth a Riven or two specifically to counter Rumble and while Huni may not have gone off as hard as many would have liked to see, his Riven play was still something to behold, at one point flanking ROCCAT and flashing in for a three man stun to completely dominate a team fight in the mid game.
H2K's inconsistency in recent weeks reared its ugly head once more this week. Whilst quickly and efficiently dispatching GIANTS Gaming on day 1, H2K were taken down by possibly the most unlikely team imaginable, Copenhagen Wolves. With the gift of a Rumble for top lane (a champion touted by many to be first pick and ban worthy due to the recent AP changes) and Freeze showing off his quality as an AD Carry that we all know he posseses, the game itself wasn't even particularly close. H2K may have shown some surges of life as late game hit but it simply wasn't enough with CW eventually winning a 4v5 to close out the game. This slip up has also allowed Origen to take sole control of 2nd place which would result in them receiving the other bye straight into the semi finals of playoffs.
Week 8 was huge when it came to middle of the pack teams fighting for playoff spots and to avoid relegations. Every single team below Fnatic (with the exception of GIANTS Gaming who were the only team to go 0-2 this week) had a 1-1 week. While it's certain that CW will be facing relegations in some form and almost certain that SK Gaming will be facing relegations as well, everything else is still very much to play for as the entire table breaks down into "mini" battles. Expect hard games in the coming week from Europe.
NA LCS - Week 8
Let's start with the certainty in North America and say farewell to Team Dragon Knights who now are unable to avoid auto-relegation this split. TDK had been plagued with roster problems from the start of the split right up until week 5 where they gained their first, and currently only, victory against Team Dignitas. While this was a big deal at the time, hindsight may suggest differently as DIG fell to the same inconsistency we are used to seeing from the team. No doubt it will always be a "what if..." for TDK players and fans alike. Could things have been different if they had their full roster from week 1? While Ninja and Emperor were definite upgrades from their substitute counterparts, on top of Emperor getting highly over confident at times and inevitably throwing his life at the enemy team,it definitely feels as though the team play just isn't there yet. TDK seem determined to go out with a bang however as their game against Team Impulse showed. With relegation certain now, TDK went all out and decided to pick a couple of champions that we haven't seen in a while. With Kez first picking Elise and Ninja taking Syndra, the tone for this game seemed to be set from the start. Along with Seraph taking his infamous Vladimir, Emperor picking up Vayne and Smoothie on Bard, Team Dragon Knights were set to have some fun. However, with TDK's remaining games being against Cloud 9 and Gravity, I hope that they do take them somewhat seriously as there is still much to play for for both of their opponents and it would be a shame to see standings decided on "troll games."
Have Counter Logic Gaming finally evolved? There was an awful lot of uncertainty surrounding CLG as they hit a mid season performance dip yet they seem to have come out the other end with nothing more than a couple of scratches. Doublelift & Co. pick up yet another 2-0 week with hard fought victories against Team Liquid and a much better looking Cloud 9. Do CLG fans dare to dream that this is the season for their team to make a decent run at playoffs? This summer split is already going hard against tradition with the usual performance drop coming mid season rather than at the end. Perhaps this is the boost CLG needs to manage to make it through a playoffs without choking. Sat firmly in a 3 way tie for 2nd place, along with Team Impulse and Team Liquid, their fate is almost entirely in their own hands. The murmurings of a "Platinum Age" could finally come true.
Team Solo Mid were almost set to make some records of their own this week as they matched their longest loss streak in LCS history of 0-4 with a loss on day 1 against Team Impulse. This was the first week with Reginald stepping in as Head Coach for TSM and the composition used vs TIP seemed somewhat familiar of the TSM of old. With both Twisted Fate and Shen locked in for Bjergsen and Dyrus respectively, all that was missing was for Santorin to be playing Nocturne and we would have revisited an old TSM staple. The game itself was a rather close affair with team fights going back and forth for the most part. Many questions will be asked of Wildturtle as he, not once but twice, Valkyrie'd aggressively for kills that never came to fruition and cost him his own life in return. This was certainly responsible for giving TIP some of their early kills and giving them an early lead. But TIP's victory was not all TSM misplay. The usually highly aggressive Team Impulse showed some diversity in their strategy as they played out multiple mid and late game team fights with the precision and finesse one would come to expect from neuro-surgery. Using multiple points of re-engage and keeping TSM running ragged, TIP have shown that they are definitely not just a one trick super aggro pony. TSM were able to save themselves from making it a 0-5 streak as they finally picked up a much needed win against Team Dignitas. This now places TSM in 5th place on their own, merely a single win behind the cluster of teams fighting for that coveted 2nd place spot.
We couldn't talk about North America without discussing, the seemingly revitalised, Cloud 9. With games against Enemy Esports and Counter Logic Gaming this week, fans would be forgiven for being unsure of what to expect. The previous week saw C9 go 1-1 with their loss coming at the hands of the 1st place Gravity but the win being over Team Dignitas. While it's clear that Dignitas are not playing with the same vigour they were at the beginning of the split, they are still not a team to be overlooked. Normally, Cloud 9 would be expected to win with ease over a team like NME but with how things have been going this split, anyone would be forgiven for being somewhat hesitant about putting money on it. Yet, C9 showed that they still have some solid fight left in them, and with Hai having the confidence to pull out the only devourer jungler of the week in both regions with Shyvana, NME were rather easily cast aside. The game against Counter Logic Gaming would definitely not be as simple but Cloud 9 had no intention of making it easy for CLG either. Incarnation appears to have finally arrived in North America as he put up a solo performance unlike anything we have seen from the European solo queue import to date in the LCS. Playing an absurdly aggressive Orianna against Pobelter's Azir, Incarnation was able to gain himself a very impressive early CS lead and keep it that way for the entirety of the game. Zionspartan was a saviour for CLG however as his Kennen pick was used to great effectiveness for engaging. Team fights went back and forth for the majority of the mid game until a pick onto a split Incarnation saw CLG take a Baron and complete control of the game. Even if Cloud 9 were to face relegations now, the rate the team is improving is a good sign for all C9 fans.
Looking ahead to week 9 - EU
While it remains unlikely, Copenhagen Wolves can still save themselves from auto-relegation. Victories over ROCCAT and Giants Gaming can certainly be managed but even if that were to happen CW also need to rely on SK Gaming losing to both Fnatic (which is almost a certainty) and Elements. Should the stars align and both of these conditions happen, we will see a tie-breaker between CW and SK to decide 9th and 10th place.
Unicorns of Love will still need to fight hard to keep their playoff spot as they are only 1 win above Gambit Gaming, Giants Gaming and ROCCAT who are all tied at 7-9. The only problem being that UoL must play against Fnatic on the final day of the split. None of the teams fighting for these playoff spots have a totally easy week, so each team will need to come out swinging to keep playoff dreams alive.
Looking towards the top of the standings, H2K and Origen will have the opportunity to decide their fate for themselves as they face off on day 1 of the final week. Should H2K win this will put them in a tie with Origen as well as giving them the 1-1 head-to-head. With H2K facing Gambit and Origen facing ROCCAT on day 2 both teams will still have to play hard to get the win they need. It would be difficult to call it an upset win for Gambit or ROCCAT given how both teams have been playing recently and while they still have playoff spots to fight for you can guarantee that both mid table teams will have something up their sleeves.
As for Fnatic...18-0?
Looking ahead to week 9 - NA
It's all to play for at both ends of the table. Starting at the lower end, Team 8 have an exceptionally tough week on their hands. Playing against Team Liquid and Counter Logic Gaming, T8 will have to pull out something extra special to upset either of these teams hard fighting for 2nd place. Cloud 9 have a slightly easier week with games against Team Dragon Knights and Team Solo Mid. The improved C9 are certainly capable of beating TDK and with TSM's recent performance, and should C9 be able to play like they did against CLG, it wouldn't be beyond possibility for C9 to take this game either. The head-to-head is currently at 1-1 between T8 and C9 so we would see a tie breaker for 7th place should a tie end up happening.
It will be impossible for Dignitas to jump to 2nd place from their current position with Team Liquid or Team Impulse guaranteeing themselves to go at least 12-6 as they play against each other on day 2. DIG could play spoiler for CLG however as they match up on day 1. By strength of schedule, the favorites to take 2nd place would be Counter Logic Gaming with their games being against Dignitas (who look less than solid by all accounts) and Team 8. TSM could potentially join the tie for 2nd place but this is assuming that not only do they win both of their games against Enemy Esports and Cloud 9 (both very possible) but that CLG, TIP and TL all go at least 1-1 on the week.
Looking up at Gravity, the cinderella story is simply one week away. Standing in their way of retaining 1st place are Team Impulse and Team Dragon Knights. While it is unlikely that TDK will win, Team Impulse have everything to play for in this game alone. A win would tie TIP for 1st with GV and could also potentially allow both CLG and TL to join in that very same tie. CLG hold a 1-1 head-to-head with TIP, TL and Gravity meaning that tie breakers are almost guaranteed when CLG is involved. For what places they will be for will be the key. As long as Gravity win at least 1 game this week it will also be impossible for Team Liquid to take 1st place as Gravity hold the 2-0 over them in the head-to-head. Team Impulse really do have it all to play for. They are 0-1 against both of their week 9 opponents. While it is still possible for them to take 1st place simply by winning both of their games on the week it will stand them in better stead to win both to at least achieve tie breaker status should it be needed.
All in all, week 9 is going to be huge. Playoffs are around the corner and simply glancing at the current standings can generate all the hype necessary. Exciting times are ahead and I look forward to breaking down and simplifying all of the week 9 action for you here. Until next time...
Don't try this at home.