The 2018 NA LCS Summer Split playoffs begin this weekend, and this split’s quarterfinals are much different than those we saw in the spring.
At the end of the Spring Split, the four teams battling in the quarterfinals were largely uneven. Cloud9 had played an extremely subpar split, so the 3-0 stomp at the hands of Team Liquid wasn’t surprising in the slightest. And although Clutch ended up overthrowing TSM in their bout, TSM were the clear favorites heading in. This split is a different story, though, because it’s very difficult to make any semblance of a prediction.
Echo Fox, 100 Thieves, and FlyQuest all spent time in first place throughout the split. They’re top-tier teams, by all accounts of the phrase, and it’s going to be a tight race to the finish for all of them. Each team has their own very unique strengths and weaknesses, like 100T’s unparalleled late-game power or Echo Fox’s unquenchable aggression, and each team will be given opportunities to draft and play around those styles to win.
There’s one team that has a leg up on the rest heading into the first knockout round, though, and it’s the only team among the four quarterfinal contenders that we never thought would actually have a chance to win the split four or five weeks ago—TSM.
While TSM have had one of the worst years in the team’s history as an NA LCS organization, their last few weeks have been impressive. Rather than playing overly-passive and appearing without an actual plan and with poor coordination, they’ve seemed really on top of things. Most games in the final weeks of the split were filled with proactive map movements, solid objective control, much more cohesion, and what appeared to be a solid grip on how to win a game as a late-game-centric roster. The other three teams, however, fell in the opposite direction.
The start of the split was fantastic for Echo Fox and 100 Thieves—each of them spent a good portion of time in first place or tied for first place. Throughout most of the split, they’ve been favorites—sometimes even over Team Liquid, who are clearly the strongest team in the league now. While TSM have been surging in recent weeks, though, EF and 100T have stumbled, and they’ve stumbled a lot. Throughout weeks eight and nine of the regular season, not including tiebreakers or the game they played against one another, both teams have lost a collective five of their last six. That’s a bad sign.
There’s a bright side to the situation, though. Echo Fox, for starters, looked a little better than 100T during those two weeks—they were the team that took the single win. On top of that, 100T won both of their games in the tiebreaker round and were able to best Echo Fox in their matchup against one another, so they’re on a bit of a comeback themselves. FlyQuest are in a similar state of affairs, but they hadn’t started to look very threatening until the midseason, and then that sort of fell to the wayside in their losses to Cloud9, Liquid, and OpTic in the last few weeks of the split. Fortunately, their other games were against CLG, Clutch, and Golden Guardians, so they were able to hold onto their spot in the top six, despite losing to the more challenging teams.
TSM, on the other hand, are in the middle of their climb back to the top. They won five of their last six games in weeks seven through nine, not including tiebreakers. This means, despite going 1-1 in the tiebreaker on Monday, they still look and feel better than any of these other teams heading into the quarterfinals, which isn’t necessarily great for their first-round opponent, Echo Fox.
As most NA LCS fans know by now, though, TSM doesn’t perform very well under pressure, and there’s a lot of pressure riding on them this week. They were knocked out by Clutch Gaming in the quarterfinals last split, and that was the first time in the team’s history that they didn’t make a finals appearance. If they were to be knocked out in the quarterfinals twice in a row, that’d certainly be difficult to come back from.
The first match of the quarterfinals begins this Saturday at 4pm CT with the showdown between TSM and Echo Fox.