by Tanner Kinney

To be honest, week three wasn’t looking like an exciting week of games initially. Every game just seemed like a mismatch between a team on the top end of bracket and a team on the bottom end. During Sunday’s games, they seemed so predictable that both of the analysts on the desk predicted the exact same winner for each game, purely coincidentally. I also didn’t expect much from this week. It just seemed like we’d see if the top teams really were as strong as they looked. As it turns out, a few teams we counted out just came back and surprised us, while the true top teams didn’t falter in crushing their enemies. As we start getting closer to the middle of the season, the best teams I think will reach their place at the top, while the frauds who took advantage of the early chaos will start to be exploited.

Return of the King(s)

The first two weeks were absolutely brutal for both Team Solomid and Counter Logic Gaming. By the end of week two, both teams only managed to pick up a single win against a team that was predicted to be low tier trash anyways, and even then CLG seemed to only barely beat the Golden Guardians. I was with the angry Reddit commenters, blaming TSM’s communication and saying that the CLG roster needed to be gutted completely, or at least Reignover needed to be cut. Serious work needed to be done by these teams if they wanted to compete with the undefeated Echo Fox and the explosive looking 100 Thieves. Fortunately, it seemed that the first two teams awoke a fire in TSM and CLG, with both scoring a 2-0 week that they should’ve been scoring much, much sooner.

CLG vs Echo Fox began week three with a bang. The match lived up to usual Echo Fox bloodbath expectations, but this time CLG flowed with their chaos instead of trying to fight against it. At the start, Echo Fox were taking anything they could and getting away with it. Huhi’s Zoe was seemingly getting shut down, while Reignover’s Nunu did little else but secure dragons early on. In CLG’s favor, Darshan kept advantages in the top lane, while the bot lane went relatively even. It still seemed like Echo Fox’s raw power was going to take down another team. Fortunately for the viewers, that’s not what happened.

I believe the real deciding factor of this game is the absolutely disgusting pick potential from Huhi. Huhi’s usage of the Sleepy Trouble Bubble kept finding CLG kills they would not have gotten otherwise. Combined with Braum stuns from Biofrost and Nunu’s Bloodboil, Stixxay’s Kalista was given free reign to start melting targets, particularly in the last fight near Elder Dragon where they picked up a clean ace and ended the game. Echo Fox was completely unable to push their advantages simply by the pick power the CLG composition had. Zoe may be busted, but CLG used that power to their advantage. It may not have been clean, but taking a win off an undefeated team had to feel good for the struggling CLG.

The other former king, TSM, showed an impressive week, not only having two very clean victories, but one of those victories being against a team that was previously sitting at the top of the standings. Their match against 100 Thieves may not have been the bloodbath that CLG had, but it was completely controlled by TSM at all times. Though TSM lost a couple of kills early, they got picks that mattered and snowballed a lead purely off of objective control. 100 Thieves may have picked up a few tower kills, but they could not get a single Dragon or Baron buff out of TSM’s hands. Getting good luck with the Dragon spawns was big boon to TSM as well.

On top of all of that, Bjergsen and Hauntzer played absolutely out of their minds, completely eclipsing everyone else in terms of damage dealt. Even though 100 Thieves almost started to pull it back, the dominating lead TSM had just was too strong for them. Finally, TSM was able to execute on that controlled, calculated TSM style they had been trying to against a team perceived as good. I still hold it that 100 Thieves are a bunch of frauds, and once teams get better they will drop in the standings, but that’s besides the point. TSM simply put out an amazing performance this week, and I’m excited to see them start their climb back to the top like a sports anime protagonist.

All around me are familiar faces

The big hype of the season was around the new teams entering the Rift. Despite that, most of those teams were placed relatively low in most power rankings, my own included. The ol’ reliable teams like Cloud 9 and Team Liquid stayed at the top, while good looking new teams like Clutch Gaming sat at the bottom. Just looking at the current standings, the only new team above fifth place is 100 Thieves, and I expect them to start losing more in the coming weeks. Maybe not next week, considering they face FlyQuest and the LULden Guardians, but soon enough. I’m notoriously wrong in my predictions though. So, what makes Cloud 9 and Team Liquid so consistent?

Let’s start with Team Liquid. They got taken down a peg in week two after losing to 100 Thieves, but didn’t let that keep them down. The mark of a truly good top team is being able to soundly beat the bottom teams, sometimes absolutely murdering them. Team Liquid is definitely a good team at doing that. They’ve beaten their own record for fastest game time of the split three times already. It’s like watching the speedrunner Darbian beat his own world records over and over again. Their current best was scored against the LULden Guardians, clocking in at 26:24. The Guardians got absolutely nothing other than a sound beating from Pobelter’s Azir. There’s almost no silver lining for the Guardians in that game, it was just a massacre. Team Liquid also put up a similarly good performance against FlyQuest the day before, with FlyQuest also getting nothing but a sound beating from Pobelter’s Corki. Pobelter is a monster, and has a good team around him to highlight that. Finally, the prodigal son of North America is rising to the top as a godlike mid laner. He might even be top ten best in NA now.

Similarly, Cloud 9 had their brains turned on in their matches against OpTic and Clutch Gaming. C9 beat OpTic thanks to some amazing play by Smoothie, along with the team as a whole just playing so well with Smoothie’s aggressive Alistar. I wish my Alistar was as clean as Smoothie’s, but I’m also a dirty Janna one-trick so my brain is too small for that. Clutch Gaming did slightly better than OpTic, giving C9 a little bit of a struggle, but C9 still scored the victory in that game, again, thanks to Smoothie. Credit to Clutch Gaming, Febiven is looking like a monster and the Clutch bot lane is looking fairly solid, but C9 is just too strong and too consistent. Their only loss was to Echo Fox, another first place team, so it’s truly commendable how well they’ve been doing, especially since analysts like myself expected them to do worse with Svenskeren and Licorice. Sven and Licorice have been absolutely amazing for the team, Licorice especially smashing any and all expectations people had for him despite being a rookie. It’s always a pleasure to see C9 do well, as long as they never return to the dark days of almost relegation. Never again.

Games to Watch

Cloud 9 v. Team Liquid on Saturday at 6:00 pm EST

Two first place teams battle it out for sole possession of first place (until Echo Fox plays later that day). These matches are always exciting, just because two top teams battling it out will always lead to a great game, generally. It may not be as bloody as an Echo Fox game, but it’ll be good. Plus, Pobelter’s on a quest to prove himself as the best mid laner in NA, and Jensen stands in his way of that title. I think Team Liquid will pull out the win, but both teams are so close that it will be exciting to watch.

Team Solomid v. Counter Logic Gaming on Sunday at 7:00 pm EST

The original El Clásico of the NA LCS, TSM and CLG have both been on an upswing from week three. Who is swinging harder? Will TSM’s raw power be too much for CLG, or will the Counter Logic chaos take down TSM’s methodic playstyle? CLG likes to get messy in their games, for better or for worse. I think TSM will probably handily win this game because CLG is actually a terrible team with no redeeming qualities and I have absolutely no faith in them at all. Nope, never rooting for CLG. This is definitely not me trying to lower the CLG hype so that they can pull out a win when you believe in them the least. Nope, not at all. CLG is just a trash team.

A quick concluding look at upcoming patches, 8.4 is looking like it’ll shake up competitive play a bit. Mage items are getting revamped, so certain champions that are currently good may either get better or worse depending on how broken the new items are on them. I honestly don’t know WHO will be strong, but I’d like to believe that Veigar may make a reappearance. Or rather, I hope Veigar makes a reappearance. He’s my favorite tiny master of evil. 8.3 on the other hand, eh, not likely to do that much, other than Ryze might see less play. We won’t see 8.4 for a few weeks though, so who knows how teams will be looking by then. In other news, my duo partner and I both reached Gold ranking this past weekend. It’s not a huge achievement, but my duo partner only recently started playing and he’s already better than people who have played it for eight years. So, remember to always chase your dreams kids, even if you are duo trash.


Images: YouTube, Esportsranks

Tanner is both a Telecommunications and Theatrical Studies major. Tanner keeps a large collection of gaming related stuffed animals. Self-proclaimed expert in all things related to former Indiana governor Paul V. McNutt. Has beaten the PSP version of Final Fantasy in under two hours.

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