Welcome to the LCS Summer Split, also known as the only LCS split that matters!
Spring Split was fun, sure. But with no implications on Worlds seeding, it was ultimately a dalliance in low-impact League. And that was before the COVID-19 pandemic halted play in the LCS studio, prompting the players to vote to cancel the season rather than play online games from home.
But Summer Split is no joke with actual Worlds spots on the line. After the realignment of regional seeds last April, North America still somehow has three Worlds spots up for grabs. Well, two if you count out the one that Cloud9 have virtually guaranteed themselves as the undisputed Spring champions.
Who else is likely to join them? To find out, we asked our voters to rank each team from one point (worst) to 10 points (best).
Here’s what we think of the league heading into the first week of the season.
Does it matter: Dignitas, CLG, Golden Guardians
There was actually a fair amount of disagreement among our voters as to the state of the bottom of the table. Some of our analysts look at CLG, the last-place team from Spring, and wonder what they could have done with Pobelter in mid lane for a full split. Others look at how bad they were even after subbing him in and wonder how CLG can do this to their fans again.
Golden Guardians turned to a mid lane sub in Damonte to turn around their season. Damonte should enable a lot of what jungler Closer wants to do, if the team commits to playing his style and acting fast around his roams.
Several analysts have higher hopes for Dignitas, but other than releasing Huni, their highest-paid player, what did this team do to warrant that? At the end of the day, we can spin circles analyzing these three and not come to a consensus, other than the fact that none of them will make Worlds.
Yay, playoffs: 100 Thieves, Team Liquid, Immortals
In this next tier we’ll be dealing with playoff teams. That’s right, starting this split, eight teams will make the summer playoffs, Riot’s latest bid to make the regular season totally irrelevant. Of course, that means a playoff miss from any of these three would be even more embarrassing.
Of the three, Liquid have the most experienced getting embarrassed, as they fumbled away a legacy of four-straight LCS titles by placing ninth in the Spring Split. In theory, this team should work. They have a top laner who can play a low-resource role, allowing for Broxah to invest his time in mid, where Jensen likes to press up in lane. The challenge has always been to get Jensen to use his lane advantage elsewhere, especially in the unproven bot lane.
Immortals were just a win better than Liquid in the spring, but the expectations for them weren’t high to begin with. This team should continue to improve even if the pieces are the same.
100 Thieves are the one squad that could make a jump. They went at least 1-1 against every team in the league last split except for C9. That shows that they have the goods to beat anyone, they just have to do it more consistently.
More interesting: FlyQuest, TSM
If 100 Thieves challenge for a Worlds spot, that means one of these two won’t make it. FlyQuest are coming off their best competitive split, one in which they were clearly the second-best team at the end of the playoffs. Their emphasis on saving the world this year makes them a hard team to root against.
The problem is that FlyQuest stood still while others like TSM made visible improvements. Kobbe wasn’t a problem for TSM last split, and there’s a real possibility that Doublelift’s recent form actually makes that team worse.
This team is clearly not the 2016 iteration of TSM that ran through the LCS, but if Doublelift does step up, the team gets really interesting. They have a solid laner in BrokenBlade on the other side of the map, and Bjergsen is still Bjergsen. Some will poke at Spica, their latest new jungler, but it’s not like TSM has really used junglers effectively before. The best case scenario is that they take FlyQuest’s spot in the finals against C9.
A new challenger: Cloud9, Evil Geniuses
We know all about Cloud9. North America’s best international team is finally North America’s best domestic team again. They have Worlds-level players at most positions and a genius coach who wins year after year.
The unknown is whether Evil Geniuses can keep up with them. The votes for them as the second-best team in the region are unanimous, even if they carry major question marks heading into the split.
The first question is: who starts? They have three import players in Huni, Jiizuke, and Bang, and until Huni gains residency, only two can start. The base case is that Huni plays on the Academy squad, but Jiizuke’s performances last split were not convincing—there could be a change if the team fails to meet early expectations.
But if it does all work, the team could be really good. All of them, excepting Kumo, have been to Worlds. Bang and Huni played on an SKT squad that made the finals before losing to Samsung. Based on raw talent, this team should be there again at the end. But talent is an ephemeral thing—the geniuses have to prove this split that they still have it.