Dominant Dignitas and other lessons from week 2 of the NA LCS
The second week of the League Championship Series Summer Split in North America saw one team ascend the standings and a few others establish themselves as contenders. Dignitas sits on top with a 5-1 record, just ahead of Cloud9, LMQ, and Counter Logic Gaming all at 4-2.
Every team has now played six of the seven other squads in the LCS. It’s a good time to look back and see just what we learned from two weeks of play.
1) Dignitas alone on top of the NA LCS
The number one team in North America is the new look Dignitas, and they’ve done it by beating their biggest challengers in convincing fashion.
This week they added LMQ and Team SoloMid to a list of victims that already included defending champions Cloud9. Dignitas completely obliterated LMQ and Cloud9, controlling both games from the get go and showing that they are a serious contender for the title. Cloud9 and LMQ for their part look like Dignitas’ two biggest challengers, and those games weren’t close.
Dignitas showed they can win with different styles this week against TSM. They took a lane clear heavy team composition so they could extend the match into the lategame where their top laner Darshan “ZionSpartan” Upadhyaya on Jax could become a monster. They went head-to-head with TSM’s usually strong laning and came out on top.
The new lineup has fit together much quicker than anyone could have expected. Danny “Shiphtur” Le and Upadhyaya seem to fit the team dynamic. The coaching staff and former Dignitas captain William “Scarra” Li deserve a lot of credit, but the lion's share should go to jungler Alberto “Crumbzz” Rengifo.
Rengifo has re-designed himself as a jungler this season. Instead of taking a more playmaking carry style, he’s adopted more of a support role, controlling vision to keep his solo lanes safe and get them fed. In week one, for example, Rengifo bought more green wards than the entire LMQ team combined. That vision control allowed Dignitas to dominate LMQ in their match together as Dignitas was just two steps ahead of the Chinese team at every turn.
That’s perfect for the new Dignitas, which features players who can carry games in every lane. Upadhyaya and marksman Michael “Imaqtpie” Santana had just average Super Weeks, but they showed off what they can do in week two. Upadhyaya posted a 17.0 KDA in week two with zero deaths.
Dignitas has yet to play Counter Logic Gaming, who they will face next week. If this week was any indication, Dignitas will certainly be prepared. While CLG says they’ve done well in scrims against Dignitas, it’s clear they have their work cut out for them.
2) Team SoloMid struggles to find new identity
Unlike Dignitas, things just aren’t clicking for Team SoloMid. It may be that the coaching and analysts behind Dignitas are providing more of a boost than expected, because Team SoloMid looks a bit out of sorts with their new lineup. They’re making odd choices of team compositions and struggling to figure out just how to take advantage of the vast talent throughout their lineup.
Last season TSM could simply beat their foes into submission with superior laning talent. Søren "Bjergsen" Bjerg was a dominant superstar in the mid lane. Marcus “Dyrus” Hill never lost in top. Jason “WildTurtle” Tran and Alex “Xpecial” Chu were bottom lane stars.
This season, their laning was weakened a bit by the addition of Nicolas “Gleebglarbu” Haddad at support. He simply isn’t hitting the skill shots or applying the same lane pressure as Chu at this point in his career. That doesn’t fly against a Dignitas who greatly strengthened their solo lanes. Or LMQ, and their amazing Chinese mechanics. It doesn’t work against Counter Logic Gaming, who could already handle the old TSM bottom lane and now showed they have a big advantage in lane this week.
New jungler Maurice "Amazing" Stückenschneider is a playmaker who applies much more pressure than his predecessor, Brian “TheOddOne” Wyllie. But the ways TSM have tried to take advantage of it - with two Kog’Maw centric team compositions this week, for example - seem ill-advised. Against Dignitas they put their biggest weapon, Bjergsen, on Lulu in more of a supportive role, and that prevented TSM from building a real advantage.
The season is still young, and TSM has plenty of time to put things together. But at 3-3, their start has to be disappointing to a team used to dominating the standings. Next week they’ll face LMQ, and if they play the way they did this week, it’s likely they’ll add another tally to the loss column.
3) LMQ isn’t the second coming of Cloud9, but they’re really good
After such a dominant first week, there was a niggling of doubt that LMQ would not suffer from the same failings as many other Chinese sides: A lack of vision control, with risky roaming compounding the issue; a reliance on winning team fights at Baron instead of utilizing a wider range of strategies. It looked like they could maybe be that dominant new team, like Cloud9 when they exploded onto the scene.
But this week they were exposed a bit against one of America’s strongest sides. Dignitas abused vision to control the pace of the game, dictating to LMQ instead of letting the Chinese push their aggression against Dignitas. The Dignitas laners held their own, too; LMQ isn’t some mechanical monster so talented they can simply roll over America’s best.
Against Cloud9, LMQ bounced back, showing a more solid performance, but that still wasn’t enough. They showed a healthy ability to control the jungle, especially with the support style Nunu jungle pick. They showed they can make strong late game decisions, when they stole the baron from Cloud9 to secure a winning team fight. But they also showed they aren’t necessarily the best team fighting team in the league, and that they can sometimes struggle to turn a solid advantage into a victory.
Their 4-2 record ranks them right where they should be, but the top teams in America need to be wary. TSM has avoided the Chinese buzzsaw, but right now LMQ looks like they could be the better squad.
4) Rumors of Cloud 9’s demise are greatly exaggerated
The first week of the Summer Split was surprisingly uncharacteristic for Cloud9, the most consistent team in League of Legends. But it looks like a lot of that can be chalked up to mid laner Hai Lam’s collapsed lung, and his long recovery from that injury.
A week removed from Super Week, Cloud9 looked much stronger. They handled Curse Gaming with ease, and then showed LMQ their invasion won’t be tolerated in one of the most exciting matches of the split. Cloud9 started with a disadvantage but showed they can recover even against a team as mechanically skilled as LMQ.
The demise of Hai Lam was also greatly exaggerated, as he finished the week with a 10/4/12 KDA on Kha’Zix. Cloud9 marksman Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi was transcendent on Corki against LMQ, and ended the week with a 9/2/11 KDA with two games on the champion.
5) Shiphtur is the best mid laner in the NA LCS
The stats don’t lie, right?
Danny “Shiphtur” Le has a ridiculous 31.5 KDA through two weeks in the LCS. That’s miles ahead of the second place player, his teammate Michael “Imaqtpie” Santana. Le’s gold per minute (GPM) ranks third overall at 413. He’s putting together a monster season so far with his new team.
There were three true contenders for best mid laner through the first two weeks: Le, Søren "Bjergsen" Bjerg, and Yu “XiaoWeiXiao” Xian.
Bjerg’s KDA of 6.8 ranks fourth overall in the league behind three Dignitas players. Yu’s 6.4 KDA is a bit behind that. But Yu’s farming reputation is well deserved, with 414 GPM, good for second in the league. Bjerg is far behind with 379 GPM this season. Both players just don’t have the numbers to stand up to Le, and part of that’s because he shut them down in-game.
This week, Le’s Dignitas beat the other two head-to-head, and had the bigger impact than his lane opponent in both matches.
Shutting down Yu is impressive, considering LMQ bases their team’s compositions around him carrying the game. The head to head against Bjergsen was a bit of a throwaway considering the lane matchup, the safe Ziggs against ultra safe Lulu. But Le did more in the late game. When Le wasn’t having a massive game, like with his pentakill against Complexity in Super Week, he was shutting down the enemy superstar from doing so.
And that’s a big reason why Dignitas is currently sitting at the top of the standings.
The LCS Summer Split is still young. Just three teams will make it to the World Championships in Korea, and so far it looks like the moves teams like Dignitas made to compete with Cloud9 and company have paid off. It’s anyone's game right now. And that should make for an exciting season.