Now that the LCS Summer Split is nearing the halfway point, the state of the league is starting to take shape. Team Liquid has reclaimed its status as the best team in North America after starting off fatigued from the lack of time off between the 2019 Mid-Season Invitational and the Summer Split. FlyQuest has seemingly stopped any signs of forward motion, falling to the bottom of the standings as other teams continue to develop.
While every match in a best-of-1 format is important, a few teams have higher stakes than others. This week of LCS features matchups that may define the entire season for teams sitting on the proverbial fence of 'pretender' and 'contender'. Keep an eye on these three teams heading into week 5 of the LCS.
After missing playoffs for its first three splits in Lol Esports, OpTic Gaming exploded out of the gate at 4-0. Lee "Crown" Min-ho's return to form has been a revelation for the team, and William "Meteos" Hartman has arguably been the best Jungler in the LCS.
While the Mid/JG duo for OpTic has been nothing short of spectacular, the rest of the team has been doing its part to fit the new and improved mold. Former split-push machine Niship "Dhokla" Doshi has freed up the team with admirable flexibility towards a low-econ, teamfight-centric style in the Top Lane, and Noh "Arrow" Dong-hyeon looks revitalized alongside Terry "Big" Chuong in the Bot Lane.
Meteos spoke to Nick Geracie after OpTic Gaming's third win of the split, citing the visa issues that plagued the Green Wall in spring as the reason for the main roster struggled to find its footing after finally assembling: "We don't have that hurdle we had to deal with before...We've had so much more time to work together."
Doubters may point to OpTic's 1-3 record in the past two weeks as cause for concern, but Crown falling ill and being subbed out for OPT Academy Mid Laner Marcel "Scarlet" Wiederhofer changes the effectiveness of OpTic's playstyle.
The rookie Mid debuted impressively against Søren "Bjergsen" Bjerg in OpTic Gaming's victory over TSM, but he does not possess the experience or macro understanding of a veteran like Crown, who has run the map for OpTic on the likes of Twisted Fate.
OpTic faces Golden Guardians and FlyQuest this week, and while that schedule is not nearly as difficult as previous weeks, Crown's health and the team's ability to adapt if it continues to waver will be pivotal in measuring OpTic's playoff chances.
Clutch Gaming may sit at a record of 4-4 in the middle of the pack, but in four weeks, that's already one win away from the team's entire win total in the Spring Split. CG started the Summer Split off with an 0-2 week 1, looking every bit plagued by the same problems that affected them through spring. However, the team has shown improved form in the recent weeks.
Cody "Cody Sun" Sun has been the reliable carry in the Bot Lane needed to balance out the metoric insanity of Top Laner Heo "Huni" Seung-hoon. Parting ways with Chae "Piglet" Gwang-jin, while strange and convoluted, has turned out to be a blessing for the CG side. However, Cody Sun attributes a lot of his success with the team to his time on Clutch Gaming Academy in spring.
"In the NA Academy League, I was able to re-focus on myself and why I even want to play League of Legends in the first place," Cody Sun told Inven Global's Nick Geracie. "It's not about making people stressed; money; clout...it's my love for the game."
Support Philippe "Vulcan" LaFlamme has done a great job to adapt to Cody's playstyle after spending the entirety of his professional career duoing with Piglet. The pair plays a safe, tight laning phase that focuses on incremental advantages to be the team's insurance policy while Nam "LirA" Tae-yoo plays around Huni and Tanner "Damonte" Damonte in the solo lanes.
Part of Vulcan's smooth adjustment to Cody Sun is the latter's experience on CGA not only getting his head right, but allowing him to work on leadership qualities. "I was given the opportunity to develop leadership skills on CGA because we didn't really have," Cody Sun explained.
Clutch Gaming have two pivotal matchups this week in Counter Logic Gaming and Cloud9. With both opponents tied for second place, CG's performance in week 5 may dictate whether they are a playoff-caliber team.
100 Thieves' 3-5 record may have them sitting on this list in peculiar fashion, but the past two weeks have been such a turnaround for the squad that current form may possess higher value than the past half-season. Ryu "Ryu" Sang-wook's return to the Mid Lane can be credited for the improved macro game, and Aaron "FakeGod" Lee has done a good enough job to justify sending Kim "Ssumday" Chan-Ho 100 Thieves Academy to free up the new-old-new Mid Laner's import slot.
The main difference maker, however, has been in the Bot Lane. Bae "Bang" Jun-sik and Zaqueri "Aphromoo" Black seem to have finally found their form, tearing other Bot Lanes apart with the likes of Xayah and Rakan. 100 Thieves has shown an increased focus on their bottom pair, drafting the Lover's Duo in the first rotation anytime the two picks are available.
After the team's third win in four games, Bang sat down with Nick Geracie to tell Inven Global about the changes the team has made to improve at such a rapid rate. "We've been trying to get priority picks in the Bot Lane," Bang confirmed. "Xayah/Rakan is still pretty good in this meta, and it fits our style...When we have priority picks in the Bot Lane, we can do everything."
100 Thieves faces arguably the two best teams in the LCS in TSM and Team Liquid this weekend. If the Thieves want to truly show that they're out of the darkness, nothing would hammer that home than a 2-0 weekend against North America's finest.