The 2021 League Championship Series Championship is only a few matches from concluding, and with nearly every regular-season award already given out, the Honda Most Valuable Player award for the LCS Summer Split has been narrowed down to TSM jungler Mingyi "Spica" Lu, 100 Thieves jungler Can "Closer" Çelik, Evil Geniuses mid laner Daniele "Jiizuke" di Mauro, and Cloud9 top laner Ibrahim "Fudge" Allami.
All four of these players play on teams stacked with talent and each of them contributed to their team's success in different ways, but who ultimately brought the most value to their respective squad? Let's rank the four candidates up for the LCS Summer Split MVP in order of whose performance was most deserving of the award.
Fudge — Cloud9
|Fudge - Stats among LCS top laners||Kills||Assists||KDA||Least Death Percentage|
|LCS Summer Split||1st||2nd||1st||1st|
John "Oddball" Popko: 1st place
Cloud9 was drowning in problems this split. They had a brand new head coach. Internal problems led to constant flip-flopping in the bottom lane. And after the Mid Season Invitational, several of their players seemed to have had their skills stolen, as if robbed by the Monstars in Space Jam. With all the problems that came with an elite roster, the one constant was Fudge.
Although every player had games back to their regular selves, Fudge brought strong performances every game. He was able to lead his position in several statistics, and keep Cloud9 afloat near the top of the standings. Everything—his consistency, his team play, and his individual showmanship—was excellent. The fact he was able to do this all from the top lane—forever a neglected position—cleary puts Fudge in first for MVP.
Nick Geracie: 1st place
Fudge won the FTX Most Improved Player Award for his growth throughout the 2021 LCS season, and for good reason. The top laner went from the clear weak point on Cloud9 at the beginning of the season to the team's best player since the start of the 2021 Mid-Season Invitational.
However, praising Fudge's improvement doesn't even begin to contextualize how important he was for C9. With AD carry Jesper "Zven" Svenningsen benched for half the split, a slumping Luka "Perkz" Perković in the mid lane, and Robert "Blaber" Huang seemingly unable to escape his MSI curse in the jungle, Fudge was often the sole shining light in the C9 camp as the reigning LCS champion went 15-12 in its summer matches, a strong decline in win percentage from its 13-5 spring.
Fudge has looked a bit more mortal in the LCS Championship, but for the entire summer split, he was Cloud9's best player when the team was playing far below its level and continued to be the most consistent player in the LCS during the team's return to form regardless of the meta, his compositional requirements, or how heavily focused he was by his opponents.
There was a very real chance that Cloud9 started its post-season in the lower bracket. No one contributed to stopping that outcome from becoming reality than Fudge.
Jiizuke — Evil Geniuses [MID]
|Jiizuke - Stats among LCS mid laners||Kills||CS Per Minute||Damage Per Minute||Damage Percentage|
|LCS Summer Split||1st||T-1st||1st||3rd|
Oddball: 4th place
With Evil Geniuses finally using Jizuke to his strengths, their star mid laner became one of the brightest spectacles in the league — a potent force capable of creating flashy plays and multiple wins for his team.
Unfortunately, Jizuke is in an odd position, as teammates Danny and Impact also had great splits in their respective positions, so he didn't have the same individual impact on his team as Fudge did for Cloud9. His team wasn’t even that spectacular in the regular season: 100 Thieves and TSM did just as well and while their candidates (Spica and Closer) led their positions both in the eye test and individual statistics, Jizuke actually lags behind in the latter. A showstopping season, but not enough to be MVP.
Geracie: 2nd place
Evil Geniuses was the most fun team to watch in the LCS this season as one of the most aggressive squads in the league, featuring a teamwide playstyle that was far more suited to Jiizuke’s individual style than the 2020 iteration. Head coach Peter Dun was upfront with Jiizuke about giving him the tools he needed to succeed within the team in 2021, and the result was a better Jiizuke and a better EG.
Jiizuke was the beating heart of EG’s style this season, and in that style, top laner Jeong “Impact” Eon-young re-established himself as a consistent carry threat after three years of weak side duty on Team Liquid. Jiizuke would often roam with jungler Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen — and later, Juan “Contractz” Garcia when he started splitting time with Svenskeren — to get Impact ahead for ridiculous carry performances on champions like Renekton and Sett.
Jiizuke leading EG’s charge in teamfights also helped rookie of the year Kyle “Danny” Sakamaki thrive in the AD carry position. Not only did having the team’s other carry often playing more aggressive than the league average creates space for Danny to provide consistent damage from a position of safety in fights, but it also allowed him to press his own go button in and jump in on champions like Kai’Sa to finish off a teamfight amongst his blood brothers.
Everyone at Evil Geniuses, including the rightfully awarded Coaching Staff of the Split, deserves credit for the team’s success in 2021, but none of that success happens the way it did without Jiizuke.
Closer — 100 Thieves
|Closer - Stats among LCS junglers||Kills||KDA||CS Per Minute||Earned Gold Per Minute|
|LCS Summer Split||1st||1st||2nd||1st|
Oddball: 2nd place
Closer and Spica are so neck-and-neck it’s ridiculous and I wouldn’t blame anyone for having Spica over Closer. What puts Closer over the edge for me is his adaptability. Yes, Abbedagge is a very talented mid laner, which hurts Closer's MVP case and puts Fudge over him, and with all the hype surrounding his entrance into the LCS, Abbedagge and Closer competed for player of the game awards. In spite of that, Closer still came out with just as many as Spica.
And as fantastic as Abbedagge is, PowerOfEvil is a very comparable mid laner, one who actually leads him in several significant statistics. More than that, Closer was able to develop great synergy with his mid laner in one split. Compare that with Spica, who had the entire season to develop chemistry with his team — a team with arguably more talented lanes. They’re both in contention for MVP, but Closer has that extra bit over the TSM jungler.
Geracie: 4th place
Closer has been a phenomenal individual player for 100 Thieves, without a doubt. His carry performances, specifically on champions like Xin Zhao and Diana, set him apart from his peers and has helped establish 100 Thieves as the LCS' only true five-carry team.
However, Closer's laners are some of the best in the league in their respective positions. It's easy to imagine a 100 Thieves with an entirely different jungler at Closer's admittedly impressive individual level, and with the decline of Blaber and the health break of Team Liquid jungler Lucas "Santorin" Larsen, it's hard to make a case that Closer was more valuable than every other player up for the award.
Spica — TSM
|Spica - Stats among LCS junglers||Kills||KDA||First Blood Percentage||Wards Cleared Per Minute|
|LCS Summer Split||2nd||2nd||2nd||1st|
Oddball: 3rd place
Obviously, Spica comes in third in my ranking in a very close race. And no matter what, it’s difficult not having the best player on (technically) the best team in contention for the award. Spica is young and he could continue to be in these discussions for years to come. This split, he made as much use of his talented team as possible, and always put his team in a strong position to succeed.
While it could be argued Spica’s laners were stronger than Closer’s, what can’t be argued is Spica’s impressive neutral objective control. While Blaber at his peak is a superior ganker and teamfight threat, Spica has shown excellent decision-making and understanding of objectives. While not MVP yet, he has a bright future ahead of him.
Geracie: 3rd place
Spica's Summer Split was the best of his LCS career. The young jungler thrived throughout every meta, finding signature picks throughout the long summer like Udyr, Rumble, and Diana and oftentimes being the teamfight catalyst for TSM. Spica's was the most consistent jungler in the league, and his value becomes even more clear in the context of TSM's style.
TSM has a much slower early game than other top teams in the LCS. The team often falls behind early on to allow its carries to scale up for snap mid-game decision making and well-executed teamfighting. The team has done a better job at playing around Heo "Huni" Seung-hoon in the past month or two, but for much of summer and nearly the entirety of spring, Spica WAS the early game for TSM.
In addition to his consistency, Spica has been absurdly clutch for TSM. No LCS team has better Baron control than TSM, and a large part of that league-best secure percentage is Spica's knack for stealing major neutral objectives from opponents in critical moments. Spica thrives within TSM's identity and he's an integral part of whatever has gone right for the team in 2021.
All images by: Tina Jo /Riot Games via ESPAT
All statistics courtesy of Oracle's Elixir
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