Midseason Check-In: NALCS
We're a few weeks into NALCS, and there have been a crazy number of roster changes and throws, so I figured I'd give a tiny bit of insight into what I think the NALCS is shaping up to be. Keep in mind that this is solely my opinion based off of what I've been noticing.
IMMORTALS -- currently in: 1st
- Expected to finish regular season in: 1st
Immortals (IMT), as expected, has exhibited dominance over lesser opponents on their quest to take the NA title. A resurgent WildTurtle combined with the still-standing synergy between Huni and Reignover has forced opponents to pressure the sidelanes with ganking resources, thus freeing up Pobelter to focus more on his laning and less on river control. Adrian's sophomore showing has been highlighted by an impressive KDA run, though only on Janna and Soraka. Currently, IMT show no signs of slowing down, and will only be exposed by complacency and cockiness (should it appear, of course) later in the split.
COUNTER LOGIC GAMING -- currently in: 2nd
- Expected to finish regular season in: 2nd
Counter Logic Gaming (CLG) could definitely make a repeat run to the title this split on the backs of their newfound double-solo-lane-carry identity. Their main obstacle is the draft phase: often CLG begins the phase with a strong power pick and target bans, but as the rounds progress, CLG somehow gets mind-gamed by their opponent, and make picks reactively rather than proactively toward their composition. Although the end results don't necessarily reflect this weakness, CLG's attempts to close out games are a telltale sign of poor drafting -- they limit their ways to win and become overly focused on a single playstyle, usually resulting in Darshan split-pushing after the team loses a mid-game fight. Hopefully, CLG develops more consistently and versatility in their draft phase as the split progresses.
NRG ESPORTS -- currently in: 2nd
- Expected to finish regular season in: 3rd
NRG eSports (NRG) looks strong. On a positive note, GBM looks on top of his form since coming over to NA. On a more sour note, unfortunately, his synergy with Moon hasn't quite picked up steam yet. Moon showed flashes of brilliance while in the NACS, but still looks a bit lost in the river when his solo lanes are dead even. KonKwon has been a pleasant surprise at support, after spending only brief stints with teams previously, and has shown strong laning alongside Altec. As long as Impact and GBM continue their consistent teamfighting, Moon will catch up extremely quickly and NRG will be able to make a solid playoff run.
TEAM LIQUID -- currently in: 6th
- Expected to finish regular season in: 4th
Team Liquid (TL) shows a lot of promise, honestly. Not only are they balancing seasoned veterans (Fenix, Piglet) with hungry fresh meat (Lourlo, Dardoch), but their support, Matt, is one of the brighter minds to join the professional scene in awhile. He not only looks for in-game success alongside his teammates, but also spends a great deal of time learning about and understanding his teammates and support staff outside of the game. This type of environment rarely shows immediate results, but sets up teams for tremendous growth and healthy team atmosphere, making TL one of the dark horse favorites moving further down the line.
TEAM SOLOMID -- currently in: 2nd
- Expected to finish regular season in: 5th
Team SoloMid (TSM) should not be winning. Watching their macro play feels as if they're acting out a script, that they didn't write themselves, for the first time. Bjergsen and Yellowstar show flashes of world-class shotcalling, and the team has exhibited signs of Korean-style engage timings, but Svenskeren and Doublelift tend to waste time moving around the map in favor of selfish resources, thus throwing the overall efficiency of the team out of whack. Doublelift stated recently that the coaching staff isn't making practice as effective as possible, which causes him to lose a bit of drive. It'll be interesting to see if TSM can improve their practice methods in the future, in hopes of contributing to a stronger Western scene.
CLOUD 9 -- currently in: 2nd
- Expected to finish regular season in: 6th
Cloud 9 (C9) needs an identity. Apart from the multiple attempts to fit Hai into the lineup in order to maintain that shotcalling presence, C9's focus appears to not be on improving as a unit. The players all show up consistently from week to week with impressive individual performances, but C9's drafting and indecision force these messy, chaotic mid-game fights that could honestly go either way. For C9 to finish the split on a high note, the coaching staff needs to determine where the focus should be in both the early- and mid-game macro decisions.
DIGNITAS -- currently in: 7th
- Expected to finish regular season in: 7th
Dignitas (DIG) has been a disappointment this split. After signing an aggressive-minded jungler in Kirei, many experts saw Shiphtur having a breakout season due to the aggressive meta and his form-fit teammates. Unfortunately, DIG's top lane presence has been next-to-nonexistent, both from SmittyJ and BillyBoss, causing Shiphtur to play more along the lines of safe waveclear and less toward his playmaking characters. For DIG to make a miracle run at the title, they either need to find a top laner who understands the limits of river control or accelerate Apollo and Kiwikid's laning phase to the point where a weak top lane presence is nullified.
ECHO FOX -- currently in: 9th
- Expected to finish regular season in: 8th
Echo Fox (FOX) should remind us of a wonderful NALCS team from back in the day that always played well, yet managed to lose consistently. Yes, Scarra, FOX is the Team Coast of 2016. Although FOX has managed to play the entire Ember roster for a week or two now and draft halfway decent, they seem to be a complete mess for now. They've fallen behind three times in lane swap scenarios, have thrown decently-sized leads a few times, and the personalities on the roster seem to be alright with each other, yet not cohesive as a unit. For FOX to make it past this split, Froggen and Hard need to use their leadership to develop the less experienced, slightly more immature players (Keith, BIG) so that people are on the same page in practice, champ select, laning phase, teamfights, and outside the game.
TEAM IMPULSE -- currently in: 7th
- Expected to finish regular season in: 9th
Team Impulse (TIP) has unsurprisingly been written off by a majority of the community due to their lack of both a solid roster and a support staff. Gate recently stated in an interview that the community was harsh to jump to conclusions about a roster that has very little time practicing together, and I'd have to say I can see where he's coming from. In the few games TIP has played as a full, 5-man roster, they look pretty good as far as the first 15-20 minutes are concerned. Once the communication and team play get more consistent and receive a bit higher priority in the practice queue, TIP could definitely take some games off of the top teams in NALCS. However, I wouldn't count them as a playoff contender quite yet.
RENEGADES -- currently in: 9th
- Expected to finish regular season in: 10th
Renegades (REN) are a bit lost at the moment. Every now and then, they play a few teamfights really, REALLY well, but struggle at maximizing their advantage and taking the map for themselves. Unfortunately, their best player (Remi) recently stepped down and Crumbz has begun to show signs of desperation in his jungling, often overstepping his bounds in greed. REN absolutely need to buckle down and just grind the game for the rest of split. Until their team synergy develops, they don't stand much of a chance at finishing top 6 this split.