LCS: 8 thoughts going into Playoffs
Started by vodanhphd, 08-17-2020
LCS: 8 thoughts going into Playoffs
Joined Jul 2019
8 thoughts going into Playoffs
I hope you’ve got some chocolates stashed away from Valentine’s Day that you were intending to give to someone but didn’t because you play League of Legends and are single because it’s that time of the year where hearts are either filled or broken. Playoffs is upon us and this year’s format is brand new -- eight teams hit the Rift which means I’ve got 8 thoughts for you!
1. Team Liquid (1) -- Coach of the Year Jatt?
The 15-win mark achieved by this roster of Team Liquid is twice as good as their Spring Split run (where they missed Playoffs, in case you forgot) and also serves as the single best regular season in franchise history. The huge turnaround is a major testament to them -- any other organization that goes from missing playoffs to winning the split would be lauded with praise. For Liquid, though, it has been more of a return to expectations, and even then they’ve somehow fallen short. There aren’t too many believers in this roster, at least in terms of whether or not they are the best team in the LCS. There is no doubt that they are a good team but people are still judging them against what our perception of C9 was last split, which is to say if you are not clobbering everyone in 25 minutes, then you are maybe not that good. That, I think, is not quite fair to TL. A slower style isn’t necessarily a worse style, even if that’s what has been working for world-class teams in recent years. I don’t mean to say that TL is playing the game perfectly, but building a mistake-free foundation feels like a really strong starting point for a team that wants to be able to compete at the highest levels. They have a week off now as they’ll get to watch the meta unfold a bit more over the first weekend of the playoffs. By all measures, including a likely second MVP trophy for CoreJJ, this has been a terrific split for TL, and I’m excited to see how their style holds up over the course of a Bo5. For now, though, it’s a much deserved week of respite.
2. Cloud9 (2) -- Don’t call it a comeback
Is a 2-0 week a bounceback week if it’s against DIG and CLG? Especially if the game against DIG was only won thanks to a colossal blunder from Fenix? Eh… you know what, let’s just take it It’s better than whatever C9 was doing before that, you know? And at least their win over CLG (even if that situation has been a gigantic shitshow) was extremely clean and reminiscent of what the C9 of old (and by old I mean a month ago) did. Sometimes you just need to jostle that muscle memory to be able to do something again. It’s like how when I try to imagine myself throwing a football or swinging a baseball bat left-handed, my brain short circuits. But if you give me a ball or a bat, then I can do it just fine. Or in LoL, sometimes you are in the middle of a huge losing streak, but then you are up five or six kills early in a game and all your head can imagine is the ways in which your team can still lose. And then one bad thing happens and you spiral into a mental hell. That, I think, is what kind of happened to C9 the last few weeks. You have to remember that this team has literally never experienced a losing streak before the recent slump -- they went 26-2 in the Spring into a 9-0 start in the summer for a combined 35-2 run. Even one loss was jarring let alone two or two in a row or the five they just endured. What that has led to is a situation where they might actually be a bit of a dark horse to win the split -- not in the sense that they’re actually underdogs when compared to the rest of the field but when compared to their 35-2 start. If I had to pick a team to win it all still, I’d still put my bet on C9, and until they actually lose a Bo5, that will not change.
3. FlyQuest (3) -- TurtleQuest
In an alternate universe, their version of Outkast instead sang, “What’s hotter than being hot?” (which I always swear is part of the song but then it turns out it is not at all) and the answer to that is in our universe, which is FlyQuest. Their six-game winning streak is the best in the league right now, which makes them arguably the most dangerous team heading into the Playoffs. Across all sports one of the most common things to look for is what kind of streak a team is riding into the Playoffs, and it’s hard to argue against FLY when the meta seems to favor more scaling compositions at the moment. Turtle’s return to the lineup is either the smartest move of the split (in that they brought him back) or the dumbest (in that they ever benched him at all) depending on which angle you want to hit it from. Turtle seems to have buried a bit of the inting-tendencies that he was once flamed for regularly. I’m not saying he doesn’t still Flash forward sometimes, but you definitely aren’t seeing commentary on his blunders as much these days. He finished the regular season at #1 in KDA, kill participation, and first blood percentage (50% of FLY’s FBs involve him) while being strong at pretty much every metric despite one of the lowest gold shares in the league. His stability has quietly been one of the key reasons for FLY’s big surge in the second half. It makes sense for a split in which FLY is branding themselves as SeaQuest to then have a wild turtle be integral to their success.
4. TSM (4) -- Meeting expectations?
Jensen says TSM is overrated. Some fans think they’re overrated. I think they’re… rated. They’re just fine. Being so very close to playing for a bye but then losing definitely hurts TSM as they’ve now got a tough matchup against a hungry Golden Guardians team. On paper I’d say TSM still has a slight edge, but you won’t find many people who’d be outright surprised at GG beating them. The loss to TL came after a really close (the game was literally even gold for a large stretch in the middle) match but ended on a TP blunder from Broken Blade that was then made worse by the rest of TSM’s decision to stick around the dragon pit. While that ending was unfortunate, I would say that it’s definitely a loss you can stomach because you know exactly where your major blunder happened. That’s a much better position to be in than just not knowing at all why you lost (or there being 10 minor things that added up) or being in a position where you were just outclassed in the laning phase. TSM doesn’t lack individual talent and right now Bjergsen (as he has been all split) and Treatz both appear to be in top form. The extra week of play, so long as they are able to defeat GG, should actually prove to be extremely valuable experience for them before they are tasked with taking on the behemoth of a test that is Cloud9 in Round 2. This slower paced meta that allows for lane dominant ADCs like Caitlyn and Jhin (or Xayah/Rakan) to come into play should be a huge boon for Doublelift -- it feels like he’s able to exert his presence much earlier than in games where he’s just waiting to scale on the likes of Kai’Sa or Aphelios. TSM is maybe a 6:4 favorite here.
5. Golden Guardians (5) -- Just another horse in the race
My dark horse for the playoffs is now more of a regular horse (as everyone knows about them) even though they dropped the final two games of the season to miss out on having a winning split for the first time in franchise history. They can fix that gaffe entirely by winning a Bo5 over TSM. One thing that’s extremely great about Bo5s is that it becomes very clear whether or not one of your positions is outclassed over the course of the set. Unlike the regular season, where you are able to adjust your draft to compensate for a weakness and surprise someone, you are now forced to be adaptable throughout the set as teams can adjust their draft strategy to target you. For example, players will likely have to play Red and Blue side, which means you won’t always get the counterpick you want. For GG and TSM, the matchup on paper that looks the most exploitable should be in the jungle, where Closer has been regarded as an MVP-caliber performer. Spica has, well, not. I’m curious to see how much emphasis will go towards controlling Closer (or enabling him) -- I expect GG to pick laners who can either push or roam to help Closer, and I expect TSM to limit that as much as possible. Whichever way the jungle matchup swings is what will determine the outcome of this series.
6. Evil Geniuses (6) -- How many geniuses does it take to win a Bo5?
Not too many bangers from EG in the second half of the split. Not much evil and not much living either. Just a lot of dying. They’ll crawl into the Playoffs with one silver lining, which is that in a Bo5 that turns sour, they’ll be able to pivot between their mid/top duos more seamlessly than other teams in the playoffs. Getting that split experience in is valuable, and it’s not like the replaced pair of Jiizuke and Kumo were horrible players -- EG just wanted a change of pace. Unfortunately, no other stock in the league dropped quite as quickly as theirs, who at the midway point were considered to be only a step or two away from potentially challenging the then-untouchable Cloud9. It feels now like they are outclassed pretty heavily by the five teams above them in the standings, so I’ll be curious to see if they make any immediate substitutions if the first game goes poorly. They are matched up against the very team that knocked them out of the Playoffs in the spring in FLY, which makes this grudge match another chapter in the burgeoning rivalry between the two orgs. FLY’s mid/jungle matchup is going to be key to this one again, and it feels like a lot of pressure will be on the swole bros duo especially to perform.
7. 100 Thieves (7) -- Ssumday show
Broke: Ssumday on tanks
Woke: Ssumday on carries
Awakened: Ssumday tanks on carries??
Wait a sec… I am always extremely glad when we get to see Ssumday play on Camille instead of being pushed in by Camille, which was the dichotomy on display last weekend. 100 putting him on [insert tank name] duty has become kind of a meme, but I’d also like to remind everyone that tanks are extremely important to compositions and can carry games even if it’s not in the same flashy manner as a splitpush. We’ve all seen a full tank Ornn build randomly one shot an enemy mid laner. Also, letting a game reach a point where an enemy split pusher can just ignore your tank to kill a turret often means a lot of other things went wrong and isn’t necessarily tied to Ssumday being on a tank. All that said, please give us Ssumday on carries in the playoffs. I’m not going to sit here and say that it’s 100% better but I will tell you that it is 100% better as a viewing experience, which is all I care about. There is this misconception that the split pusher 1v9s the game (which does sometimes happen) but to me the other four properly disengaging and contesting key objectives or fights is arguably more important. The split push isn’t particularly difficult to execute mechanically-speaking. You wait for people to show up on the map and then you move up and autoattack the turret. It’s not complicated. What makes it hard is being able to properly coordinate with your team so that they are able to take something in return in the event that you are collapsed upon, which is not a skill 100 has properly and consistently displayed even on regular comps.
8. Dignitas (8) -- Started from the bottom
Have you ever wondered, “What would a team that was at one point 0-8 look like in Playoffs?” First off, why would you ever think that, and second off, congratulations because you no longer have to wonder (thanks to S04 in LEC as well, which is definitely exactly the same scenario as DIG and that is my official line). Major roster swaps after the disastrous start to the split have propelled DIG into the Playoffs thanks in large part to a colossal collapse from CLG, which includes the tiebreaker in which DIG completely stomped them to squash any doubt as to whether or not they deserved the slot (over CLG at least). This DIG roster has been extremely weird in that when they lose, they get absolutely rolled over in games that make you wonder if they are actually even at their desks. This makes it look like they are prone to tilting if they don’t start off well, which makes me worried for their playoff chances should one thing start to go bad. In the regular season, you can tilt out of a game and then mentally reset overnight, but in a Bo5, if your mental goes boom, it just snowballs from there. There aren’t really any easy breaks. DIG has plenty of individual talent on their roster, though, and their veteran players have been here before -- I don’t expect the playoff stage to rattle any more than regular season games. The big question is whether or not star rookie Johnsun can perform at the same high level in the playoffs -- based on the demeanor he showed so far this year, I’d say you can bet on him.
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