By Tanner Kinney
The first week of the spring split is always an explosive one. New teams have entered and are battling it out with the former kings. Massive roster shifts tend to inevitably shake up who’s at the top, and many power rankings look like they were put together by frauds. As I fully admit from the start that I’m a fraud, I will say that I misjudged the power of certain teams. Then again, only one week of games where each team has only played two games is a bad judge of the power of teams. Many teams take a while to gel and become powerhouses; while other teams naturally click, but struggle to have the natural ability to hold their high ranking. So, which teams are struggling, which teams are succeeding, and which matches next week are going to be the ones to watch? Let’s get into that.
No king rules forever, my TSM (and CLG)
The biggest shock of the first week was that two teams that topped many analysts power rankings, including my own, floundered and failed to pick up a win. Both Team Solomid and Counter Logic Gaming not only failed to pick up a win, but got completely crushed in one or both of their matches. It was strange to see players like Hauntzer and the bottom lane (bot lane) of Zven and Mithy get completely routed by their counterparts on the other side. Were teams like 100 Thieves and FlyQuest just better than analysts expected, or are there problems within the teams of CLG and TSM that might need to be addressed? Let’s take a look at a couple of the matches that were good examples of what happened.
TSM versus FLY was supposed to be an easy win for TSM. Simply comparing the teams, people like WildTurtle and Stunt competing with the former kings of Europe seemed laughable. FLY wasn’t even using their starter in Fly, instead using former Gravity mid laner Keane, who is the substitute and mid laner on FlyQuest Academy. Even Flame is only considered just slightly better than Hauntzer, though people who genuinely believe that are delusional. I haven’t seen enough of AnDa to really rank him against MikeYeung, but even then it would seem that, on paper, TSM has 3 out of 5 roles that are just straight up better than FlyQuest. On top of that, FlyQuest lost the day before to a stellar Echo Fox showing, so the cards were almost completely in favor of TSM.
Despite this, TSM got routed by the FlyQuest roster. TSM had a strong start, holding a sizeable advantage over FlyQuest for much of the mid game. Eventually though, good teamfighting from Keane, AnDa, and Stunt manage to tear TSM apart and swing the game in FlyQuest’s favor. The deciding factor of the game, however, was FlyQuest’s vision control and, particularly, Baron control. While they gave up two (relatively useless) Cloud drakes to TSM, FlyQuest picked up every objective that mattered. They never really lost the leads they made while holding the Baron buff, and frequently got picks on a rough looking MikeYeung. MikeYeung getting picked near the very end of the game allowed FlyQuest to push without fear, and a pair of good ultimates from Flame’s Gnar and Keane’s Azir sealed TSM’s fate.
While blame was passed around between the European bot lane and MikeYeung, the person who took the brunt of the blame was TSM’s mid laner, Bjergsen. This weekend, Bjergsen put in a good scoreline of 5/0/5, not dying once, but many believe he failed to make an impact, calling him a “KDA player.” One Reddit thread in particular pointed to one play from their game against Team Liquid, where Bjergsen recalls while his team engages a fight. Even though Bjergsen tried to return to the fight, his teammates had already fallen. I disagree that this was all Bjergsen’s fault. This was a fault of communication throughout the whole team, which seems to be TSM’s current biggest issue. Fortunately, communication can be fixed, and perhaps we’ll see a much stronger TSM after this wake-up call of a first week.
CLG versus 100 Thieves was, admittedly, a match anticipated to be fairly close. While CLG failed to beat Cloud 9 (C9) the day before, C9 looked like a much stronger team than 100 Thieves. On top of that, even though 100 Thieves looked good in their match against OpTic, no one expected OpTic to be that great. In fact, OpTic actually was beating 100 Thieves in the early game. CLG has always been known as a strong team early game, one that can create leads from good early rotations from Huhi and formerly Aphromoo. Now that I write that though, I guess it’s really no surprise how 100 Thieves beat CLG, since that amazing playmaker in Aphromoo just so happened to be on the other team.
The thing here is that 100 Thieves didn’t just beat CLG; the Thieves completely stole the game away while CLG was sleeping. The CLG botlane got completely embarrassed by Cody Sun and Aphromoo, with occasions where it seemed that Biofrost just was running it down. Reignover also got picked off a number of times, much like the day before. While the top and mid lanes didn’t completely get trashed by their lane opponents, the whole unit of 100 Thieves just performed better than CLG. I’m not sure I could pinpoint exactly what on CLG isn’t working. Personally, I think Reignover is still underperforming, and that CLG is missing that shot-calling voice they had in Aphromoo. Both Biofrost and Reignover aren’t the leaders that CLG used to have, and that could end up hurting in the long run. Someone will need to step up. But, as a CLG fan, I’m very familiar with having faith. If I had no faith, why would I even be here?
New kids on the block have a bunch of hits
The big story of the first week was that the new teams are performing very well, minus the Golden Guardians. The standings may not show it very well, but 100 Thieves, OpTic, and Clutch Gaming all had very strong performances in the first week. 100 Thieves went 2-0 for the week, completely destroying CLG and having a very good showing against OpTic. Clutch Gaming may have went 1-1, dropping a game to a very strong looking Echo Fox, but all the things that worked with EnVy before are simply heightened in this team. They took down the Golden Guardians with ease. Even OpTic, despite going 0-2, showed a lot of promise, as they gave Team Liquid a much harder time than TSM, and did a good job challenging 100 Thieves in the early game. The only new team that failed to deliver was the Golden Guardians, to the surprise of no one. The only reason their game against C9 even had a chance to go in favor of the Guardians was because Hai picked up Zoe, an incredibly strong champion who picked up a 90% ban rate in the first week.
Some of the older members of the LCS who formerly stayed in the low end of the bracket have also climbed to the top. FlyQuest, while not at the very top, have shown their team CAN perform on a higher level, and may potentially challenge more top teams in the future. Team Liquid, of course, stunned the world by not completely choking. They absolutely styled on their opponents this week, and will a be a huge target in the coming weeks. If you can beat this Liquid roster, you have a chance to go places. Echo Fox also delivered two very strong performances this week, going 2-0. While Echo Fox’s games may have been against “weaker” teams, they also just simply showed how strong they were, with former SKT top lane Huni crushing FlyQuest with his trademark Lucian top, much to the enjoyment of Echo Fox owner and former NBA superstar Rick Fox.
— Rick Fox (@RickFox) January 21, 2018
Games to watch this weekend
TSM versus OpTic on Saturday at 6:00 pm EST:
This game may not seem exciting, but as an armchair analyst, the predicted last place team who seems to be performing reasonably well in OpTic are facing the predicted first place team who so far have failed to find a win. If TSM can’t beat OpTic, there are going to be some serious questions that will be asked about this TSM roster. At the very least, TSM needs a victory to bring some confidence back into the team.
100 Thieves versus Team Liquid on Saturday at 8:00 pm EST:
Two currently top of the table teams are battling to not get an L on their record. Both teams are looking very strong mechanically and as a team, with both having good team environments and communication. Will the loser start to tilt and go on a losing streak? That’s the main question. Either way, the game should be very high quality.
Cloud 9 versus 100 Thieves on Sunday at 6:00 pm EST:
I haven’t talked about C9 much, because they performed to expectations. I’m interested to see how they perform against the very strong 100 Thieves roster, especially the jungle match-up with Svenskeren taking on former C9 jungler Meteos. The memes for this match should at least be high quality, as Sneaky and Meteos were once the best power couple in the LCS. They battle on the rift, with Meteos and his new love Ryu challenging Sneaky and his current love Jensen. Will love bloom on the battlefield? Absolutely, yes please.
Golden Guardians versus CLG on Sunday at 8:00 pm EST:
Similar reasoning to the TSM match being one to watch. I don’t think Golden Guardians are as good as OpTic is, so I highly don’t they will be able to beat CLG. However, if they do, things are going to definitely be wild. This next weekend may decide if CLG or TSM start doing roster swaps or not. I don’t think they should this early in the season, but teams have made weirder roster decisions.
That’s it for Week 1 of the NA LCS. Will Team Liquid be able to keep their dominating performance up this next weekend? Will TSM be forced further down in the standings, or will they pick up wins against teams they are supposed to beat? And when does OpTic play? These questions and more will be answered this weekend. And for those curious about power rankings, all three of you, I’m not going to do more rankings until more games are played. Another list will probably be made during the off-week of the LCS, so watch out for that. For now, remember to ban Nunu in all of your solo queue games because Riot decided he was going to be the next overpowered champion. Thanks Riot, can’t wait to see that in the LCS in a couple of weeks. Absolutely mental.
Tanner is a Film and Media Studies major and a Digital Media minor. His Neo Yokio review won a second-place CSPA Golden Circle award for the 2017 semester. He enjoys playing JRPG’s of any variety, regardless of how obscure and strange it is. Tanner is also the host of Byte at the Movies, the premiere movie discussion live-stream.