League of Legends

The Race is on - Who Will Claim the Final Playoffs Spots in the NA LCS?



Unlike in Europe – where only Fnatic mathematically is guaranteed in the playoffs following today’s games – on the other side of the pond,  three teams already secured their spot in the Top 6 – and two of them are very welcomed surprises in a NA LCS that has been controlled by a handful of organizations since its inception back in 2013. Is this finally the year somebody will break the TSM-C9-CLG dominance?

Well, that is surely a subject for next month. For now, it is all about the playoffs. Already guaranteed in the Top 6, Echo Fox, Cloud 9 and Clutch Gaming will fight to secure that much desired bye directly to the semi-finals – which automatically means a trip to Miami – whereas the other seven teams will enter the Rift hoping to avoid going into vacations earlier than they would have expected this split.

Check out my overview for every team, as well as who I think will make into the so much coveted Top 6 in North America:

1- Echo Fox

Record: 11-3

Recent Form: 3-2

Schedule: Clutch Gaming, Counter Logic Gaming, FlyQuest and 100 Thieves

THE team currently to be beaten in North America, Echo Fox are coming from a rather shaky Week 7, with a surprising loss to the Golden Guardians followed by a close win against OpTic. However, this is not yet enough to dethrone the team who have enchanted the NA LCS so far. Heo "Huni" Seung-hoon is hungry for glory and for finally having the opportunity to win the league, and Joshua "Dardoch" Hartnett is in the form of his life at the moment, being selected into Riot’s “Weekly OP 5” 5 times so far.

They have all it takes to end the regular split first, but need to find the adaptation on 8.4 that was missing last week. The first match of this week, against an uprising Clutch Gaming, should see if Echo Fox are indeed back on track.

Prediction: Bye to Semis

2- Cloud9

Record: 10-4

Recent Form: 3-2

Schedule: OpTic Gaming, TSM, Team Liquid and FlyQuest 

Second-placed Cloud9 also found some struggles of late, dropping games to theoretically weaker sides such as Counter Logic Gaming and 100 Thieves, but the side still have all the cards on hands to secure the bye to the semi-finals. With a Nicolaj "Jensen" Jensen delivering MVP-worthy performances, and Zachary "Sneaky" Scuderi and Andy "Smoothie" Ta likely the most reliable bottom duo of the league, C9 is looking as the only threat to Echo Fox’s dominance so far.

For now. As during the playoffs the game will be a very different one, and unlike Echo Fox, Cloud9 will try to use their squad’s experience to win for the organization their first NA LCS title in 4 years.

Prediction: Bye to Semis

3- Clutch Gaming

Record: 9-5

Recent Form: 4-1

Schedule: Echo Fox, Team Liquid, 100 Thieves and Golden Guardians

For some a big surprise, for me just the result of smart squad building and exceptional teamwork. Containing that three strongest members of the last year’s EnVy side that gave some of the big teams a run for their money, the additions of toplaner Colin "Solo" Earnest and especially of star midlaner Fabian "Febiven" Diepstraten strengthened exactly the positions where EnVy fell short in 2017.

Without the responsibly of being the team’s sole star, Nam "LirA" Tae-yoo is being able to play more naturally, and despite a rough start to the split, Clutch is actually performing as a title contender, having dropped just one of their last 8 games. Personally, I am extremely hyped for this week’s game against Echo Fox, which I deem as the very best matchup the NA LCS can offer this regular season. And who knows, with a win, they might even challenge for that bye to the semis – which would mean a trip to Miami for the Texan organization in their very first NA LCS split. Not bad at all.

Prediction: “Just” Playoffs – damn for that bad start!

4- 100 Thieves

Record: 8-6

Recent Form: 4-1

Schedule: Golden Guardians, OpTic Gaming, Clutch Gaming and Echo Fox

Another team on the upward following a rocky beginning, 100 Thieves are likely to secure their presence in the playoffs this weekend, as they will be facing two of the weakest teams in the league in Week 8. The squad led by two of the most iconic American players of all-time - William "Meteos" Hartman and Zaqueri "aphromoo" Black – is also defying expectations, which put them at the bottom half of the standings at the start of the split.

In a league stacked with world-class toplaners, Kim "Ssumday" Chan-ho is one of the shiniest stars, whose consistent performances had a big impact on the rest of his teammates as well, bringing 100 Thieves forward. But despite almost reaching their goal for the split, they surely won’t want to stop now, and want to end the regular split in top notch before entering their first ever NA LCS playoffs.

Prediction: Playoffs – and maybe something more?

4- Team Liquid

Record: 8-6

Recent Form: 2-3

Schedule: Golden Guardians, OpTic Gaming, Clutch Gaming and Echo Fox

Trouble in paradise...once again coming to the split full of expectations, fielding one of the best rosters money (and Steve) can buy, Team Liquid are yet to find their form right now, as, despite sitting on a playoffs spot, just two of their wins this split came against the other Top 5 teams. Way too few for such a stellar roster, who however, despite the tough schedule in the final weeks, should confirm their presence in the Best-of-5 without any problems.

But for now, it is looking they won’t be able to achieve much more than that, unless the gears start working together, and this bunch of stars starts showing a more cohesive and coordinated team play. 

Prediction: Playoffs – and maybe nothing else?

6- TSM

Record: 8-6

Recent Form: 3-2

Schedule: Team Liquid, Cloud9, Golden Guardians, Counter Logic Gaming

It is very unusual not seeing TSM fighting for the top places, but once you take a look at some of their performances, the 6th place is more than justified. The team's three new members for 2018, rookie of the split Michael "MikeYeung" Yeung and star European bot lane duo Jesper "Zven" Svenningsen and Alfonso "mithy" Aguirre Rodríguez are yet to find themselves on TSM. And TSM need to find themselves as quick as possible, as silly losses, such as the one against 100 Thieves last week, will be punished harder in the playoffs

About the playoffs themselves, missing them would be perhaps the biggest “disaster” in the TSM’s domestic history, but that is extremely unlikely to happen. But for the most victorious organization, nothing less than an appearance at the grand finals in Miami would be disappointing – and right now they are not showing they can fulfill these expectations.

Prediction: Playoffs – but that is not enough

7- Counter Logic Gaming

Record: 5-9

Recent Form: 2-3

Schedule: FlyQuest, Echo Fox. OpTic Gaming, TSM

Another traditional organization in trouble this split, Counter Logic Gaming will need a small miracle to reach playoffs, despite coming from a 2-0 Week 7, where they showed improved performances against two sides from the top half of the standings – Cloud9 and Team Liquid. Which however are simply too late after a completely failed start for the split, where newcomer jungler Kim "Reignover" Yeu-jin still is out-of-sync, especially with his solo lanes, and ADC Trevor "Stixxay" Hayes is simply getting outmatched by his counterparts, even if he too improved considerably in Week 7.

The good news comes in form of support Vincent "Biofrost" Wang, who, by (almost) literally carrying his team on his back, is the main responsible for CLG still having any, albeit slim, chances to reach playoffs. Nonetheless, the line-up has a lot of potentials, and if they manage to fix all troubles haunting them, this should show in time for the Summer Split.

Prediction: Early Vacation – reaction came way too late

8- FlyQuest

Record: 4-8

Recent Form: 1-4

Schedule: Counter Logic Gaming, Golden Guardians, Echo Fox, Cloud 9

Despite sitting relatively close to the playoffs spots for the most part of the split, any hope for FlyQuest should be gone after weak performances on Week 6 and 7, where they were simply outmatched four times in a row. Considered by many at the start of the season, despite acquiring star toplaner Lee "Flame" Ho-jong from Immortals, the weakest line-up on paper alongside the Golden Guardians, there is simply not much to expect from FlyQuest, who fail short when the subject is individual talent within their roster.

Sometimes this lack of individual brilliance can be overcome by exceptional collective and macro play, but that is not the case this time. Therefore, all that remains for FlyQuest is to try end the Spring Split on a positive note, while looking for potential reinforcements for the second half of the season.  

Prediction: Early Vacation – should start planning for the Summer Split

8- OpTic Gaming

Record: 4-8

Recent Form: 1-4

Schedule: Counter Logic Gaming, Golden Guardians, Echo Fox, Cloud 9

A maiden split to forget for the traditional esports organization, who didn’t end a single week in the Top 6. Backed by two strong carries in form of Tristan "PowerOfEvil" Schrage and Noh "Arrow" Dong-hyeon, like other teams who have a higher ceiling due to their roster’s raw individual talent, OpTic Gaming is plagued by a generally weak macro, and doubtful drafts at times, with the result being inconsistent performances, such as last week against Echo Fox, where they actually looked strong for good part of the game, just to fall apart following individual mistakes.

Luckily for them, the season is obviously not over yet, and they have the talent and resources necessary to change things for the Summer Split. But needless to say that this wasn’t the split the iconic Green Wall expected.

Prediction: Early Vacation – should start planning for the Summer Split too

8- Golden Guardians

Record: 4-8

Recent Form: 3-2

Schedule: Clou9, 100 Thieves, Counter Logic Game, Team Liquid

That the Golden Guardians after 7 weeks are still – even if just barely – fighting for a playoffs spot is a big surprise when we take into account that they lost the first seven games of the split, with many starting joking that they were to bound to end the regular season holding a “perfect” 0-18 record.

But luckily for them, that didn’t happen, and since the dismissal of head coach Choi "Locodoco" Yoon-seop, NA LCS’ only full-American side have been improving considerably, culminating last week in the biggest upset of the split so far, when they managed to take down number one team Echo Fox. It will most likely not enough to reach playoffs, but unlike FlyQuest and OpTic, the Golden Guardians have reason to smile coming to the final weeks of the regular season.

Prediction: Early Vacation – but in a better situation than expected

(Pictures courtesy of Riot Games)

Disclaimer: The following article was written freely based on the author's opinion, and it may not necessarily represent Inven Global's editorial stance.

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