Week 3 of the NA LCS has concluded and the gap between the top teams and the bottom teams is getting bigger. And because of the best-of-three format, we finally get to see more intense matches, giving me a reason to look forward to the next time certain teams go up against each other. After this last weekend’s matches, some teams have stepped up to exceed expectations while others started to show that their strengths aren’t enough to make up for their weaknesses.
1. Team Solo Mid (6-0)
Although TSM is the strongest team in NA right now, there are a lot of things it needs to improve on during this split if it wants to stay on top and compete at an international level. There have been many times over the past three weeks where the team’s aggression puts it into early deficits, and the only time it had come back from that kind of deficit was Game 3 against Immortals. A lot of the time it stems from not clearing vision well enough, so the enemy team sees exactly what TSM is doing and can counter accordingly. That being said, when TSM is put into those situations, it will always try to find a way back into the game even if it means losing before the 30-minute mark. This is rare to see from NA teams and if TSM can better hone that skill, then it will be a force to be reckoned with when the playoffs come around.
2. Immortals (5-1)
Immortals seems to have lucked out when it comes to the current meta. Carry top laners are now the most viable picks along with ranged supports overtaking their melee counterparts. But it seems that Immortals still suffers from the same problems from last split. The team tends to play way too cocky in certain situations, causing them to either prolong an already won game, or lose a game where it had a lead. But I will say that it is nice to see that Pobelter is showing that he has the ability to carry when given the chance. He might not be the most impressive mid laner, but he gets the job done in team fights. Overall, Immortals needs to know when to back off from a bad situation, and how to properly pressure the map during the late game.
3. Cloud9 (4-2)
I honestly don’t know how to feel about Cloud9. The team has very talented players in each role, but it seems to lack in the macro portion of its strategy. When Cloud9 has a lead, it doesn’t fully understand how to pressure the map. Side lanes won’t get pushed properly before they make a play mid, and there are times where Meteos is on the wrong side of the map and not pressuring that side when one of his teammates gets caught out. But even though this would be a problem with any other team, Cloud9 tends to get away with it since it has so many skilled players. This is something that needs to be fixed as soon as possible if Cloud9 expects to do well later on in the split. A good step towards fixing the team’s bad macro play would be to lock in a starting support player. Cloud9 has been switching between BunnyFuFu and Smoothie in the middle of every series, and sometimes it doesn’t make too much sense. I feel like switching between the two players should only happen after a loss, but it will happen no matter the result of the first game. There is nothing wrong with the strategy, but Cloud9 should give the support that wins the first game a chance to ride the high for the second game. One of these players has to be better than the other, and Cloud9 should try to figure out who it is when the playoffs come around.
4. Team Envy (5-1)
While Team Envy only has one loss, it still has its biggest test coming up this weekend going against TSM and Cloud9. Both teams have better players in every position except for the top lane, where it seems to be an even match up. But where Team Envy lacks in the laning phase, it makes up by its impressive macro and team fighting. I think it is fair to say that Team Envy is the better version of CLG. But as CLG has shown this split, these qualities can only get a team so far when there are teams like TSM and Immortals with great players, and have gotten better at these aspects. Team Envy is going to have to improve a lot more to contend for the top two spots in NA, and I think it has the talent to do so. If Team Envy doesn’t improve, the gap between it and the teams below it will close quickly once those teams learn how to mesh well together.
5. Team Liquid (3-3)
Dardoch is the glue that holds Liquid together. That might sound a little weird considering Liquid has one of the best ADCs in NA, but the way Dardoch pressures the map is insane. He will repeatedly gank a lane and still find time to out-farm his opponent’s jungler. Unfortunately having a skilled jungler isn’t enough to close out games. Liquid still suffers from lackluster team fighting and poor macro decisions. Matt tends to get caught out while clearing and setting up vision, and Fenix will randomly die in lane because he doesn’t ward properly. Though these issues seem to be getting better with time, these are things that should have been fixed or worked on during the offseason. But one good thing that has come up during this split is Lourlo’s ability to carry from the top lane. He used to be relegated to playing tanks, but now that he has been given the chance to carry, he has been pretty impressive. Lourlo isn’t the best top laner by any means, but it is good that Liquid has another carry option to diversify its pick/ban phase. Maybe Liquid will rise to the occasion this split or maybe it will fall down the same way it always does.
6. Counter Logic Gaming (CLG) (2-4)
Despite the 2-4 record, CLG doesn’t look like a weak team. It will still try to find ways to win even if it is behind and the team still has superior map play. The main thing that has been holding CLG back this split is that its members tend to get outplayed a lot. I think this mostly comes down to Huhi’s small champion pool and Darshan not being as threatening as he used to be. Huhi has always been a serviceable mid laner, but when he is put on a champion he isn’t fully familiar with, he becomes a low-tier player. Whether it is bad Zilean ultimates, or pulling red cards as Twisted Fate, it is not pleasant to watch. For Darshan, competition in the top lane is way more fierce than it has ever been, and his inconsistent play just doesn’t cut it anymore. Fortunately for CLG, it still has six weeks to fix these problems. I believe that CLG can make the playoffs, but how far it goes afterwards depends on how hard the team works to resolve its issues.
7. Apex (3-3)
I am terribly disappointed with Apex. The way that the team plays the map can be predictable at times, since Ray is its strongest laner and the other lanes just take a back seat most of the time. I will say that Apex is good at capitalizing on mistakes and gaining an advantage afterwards. I was impressed by the team at the start of the split, but since then it has been severely underwhelming. I think Apex still needs some time to properly assess, and this weekend is probably its best chance to prove that it is more than just a middle-of-the-pack team.
8. NRG (1-5)
NRG is slowly starting to show what its roster has to offer. Santorin is surprisingly more aggressive in the jungle than he was in the past, but is still nowhere near the same level as Dardoch or Svenskeren. Quas is finally getting his competitive spirit back, but still lacks good teleport plays. GBM isn’t as scared in lane as he usually is, but his team fighting isn’t as good as it used to be. Ohq is getting more kills, but also dies doing so. Having these kind of trade-offs will prevent NRG from being a playoff team. NRG can potentially make the positives better than the negatives, but I don’t know if it will come fast enough.
9. Echo Fox (1-5)
I had such high hopes for Echo Fox, but these past couple of weeks showed me that it will have a hard time making it out of relegation territory. Echo Fox has no sense of how to play the map. Even when it has an advantage, the team just sits around doing nothing. This gets even worse whenever Echo Fox is behind. I don’t personally think sitting in a bush for two minutes will get a team back into the game. Or putting four people mid without properly pushing out the side waves causing them to be under-leveled. I don’t know if Echo Fox will be able to pull off a miracle run to avoid relegation like they did last split, but on the off chance it does, it will have to come from the new coaching staff that it is going to bring in.
10. Phoenix1 (0-6)
The biggest improvement for Phoenix1 has to be that there are times where it looks pretty decent. I just don’t think that Phoenix1 is a good team when it comes to a best-of-three format. The times that Phoenix1 did win a game, it usually followed it up with a game where its opponent didn’t make the same mistakes and simply outplays them with better champion matchups. I think it can get a few series, but not enough to get the team out of relegation territory.