NA LCS Summer Week 6: Phoenix1 rising

Jess Carruthers Roar Pro

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    The NA LCS is heating up as it nears a conclusion.

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    With Rift Rivals over as quickly as it started, we’re back to our regular schedule and ready for the second half of Split 2 of the LCS.

    Rift Rivals was a lot of fun. There were plenty of surprises; Unicorns of Love really picked up from their day one 0-2 slump to move into the finals, although once there they got thoroughly smashed by Team SoloMid. Phoenix1 had a much stronger showing than pretty much anyone expected, while G2 esports had a much poorer showing than expected.

    There are plenty of valid criticisms of the tournament, including it not being a particularly competitive format, but even so it was really great to watch as a viewer. Across the five tournaments, we’ve also had a small preview for how worlds might stack up (a very small preview, but still). This has been a great way to get fans thinking ahead about the tournament, which starts up at the end of September.

    But for now, back to the NA LCS. Here are the standings as we come into week six:

    1. CounterLogic Gaming (CLG): 8-2 in matches; 17-10 in games
    2. Team SoloMid (TSM): 7-3; 16-7
    2. Immortals (IMT): 7-3; 15-10
    4. Cloud9 (C9): 6-4; 15-10
    5. Team Dignitas (DIG): 5-5; 15-14
    5. Team EnvyUs (NV): 5-5; 13-14
    7. Echo Fox (FOX): 4-6; 11-13
    8. Phoenix1 (P1): 3-7; 11-16
    8. FlyQuest (FLY): 3-7; 9-16
    10. Team Liquid (TL): 2-8; 6-18

    In week five, the first round of rematches were played. Out of ten rematches, seven resulted in a head-to-head record tie up, TL has now lost the head to head against both CLG and FOX, and CLG is 2-0 over C9.

    This week though, I want to take a closer look at just one team: P1. They had their first 2-0 week in Week 5, followed by a great showing out at Rift Rivals. Although MikeYeung has a lot of eyes on him right now, he’s not the sole reason for their rebound; between him and Xpecial, the team seems to have leveled up, with their existing players looking stronger.

    P1 has an important pair of games this weekend. At 5am AEST on Sunday they play TSM, who despite winning Rift Rivals on the weekend are currently only second in the LCS. This has the potential to be one of the best games this weekend, and we’ve not actually seen these two teams face off yet.

    I will say upfront that I do not expect P1 to win this. I do, however, expect them to give TSM a run for their money, and if TSM are not on top of their game, the game could end up going the other way; in Week 5, P1 were able to take down IMT 2-1.

    TSM’s stand-out performance in Berlin was significantly helped by the fact that Svenskeren, who has looked distinctly average this split, really upped his game for the tournament. He won MVP of the finals, and it was well-deserved; he was deathless in the first game, and went 14/3/31 across the series.

    If he maintains this form against P1 on Sunday, TSM should be okay, but if he goes back to being on the shaky side, the games could be a lot closer. P1 must be feeling good off the back of their above expectations showing at rift rivals; I reckon we’re going to see them pull out a game one win here, even if TSM do take the series.

    Their second game this weekend is at 5am Monday, against DIG. In Week 5, P1 beat NV, who are currently tied with DIG, 2-1, so they have a very good shot at winning this game too.

    One big difference between weeks 5 and 6 are the change to patch 7.13. P1 have already played an entire (small) tournament on it, and have a reasonable grasp on the meta, but they will also have lost two full days of practise while in transit. I’ll be watching DIG’s first game (against CLG at 5am Sunday) closely to see what they’ve done with the extra scrim time.

    Grassroots esports scenes matter just as much as the international circuits.

    With the way P1 is looking, they should be able to take a win in this series. If they do that, resulting in a 1-1 week, there is a good chance for them to move up to be even with FOX, who have to play against IMT and NV. It’s not a given by any means – on the occasion that FOX really pulls it out, they can be a great team – but P1 will be doing everything they can in the back half of the split to climb up into playoff contention.

    It’s still not quite soon enough to look too closely, but it’s worth starting to think about the road to worlds for this team. They have quite a few spots to make up with their next eight games if they want to make it into playoffs. With the trajectory of the other teams, I reckon they need to win around six of those remaining games to be in with a shot, and they really want to take this match against DIG so that the head-to-head is even.

    I do think they are capable of this, but in truth it’s a pretty tall order; I think it’s more likely that they will have to run the gauntlet in the regional qualifier. Only the top four point holders from the season will go into the gauntlet though, and I confess that I’ve not looked too closely at the numbers to see if their 50 points from Split 1 alone is likely to be enough to get them there.

    There are a lot of variables here, and I don’t doubt that P1’s support staff (and probably the team) are aware of the hurdles they face if they want to take part in the 2017 World Championships. But again, this is getting ahead of things; first, they need to win some more games in the regular season.

    That game against TSM is the one I’m going to be watching most closely; I think it’s going to be most indicative of how far up the ladder P1 could move between now and split’s end. That said, I’m increasingly a P1 fan, and both of the matches we’ve looked at should be both interesting to watch, and important for P1 to win if they want to move into playoffs season on a high note.

    A lot of the other games this weekend are somewhat unevenly matched; as a C9 fan, I want to see if they pick themselves back up after a disappointing showing at Rift Rivals, but I don’t know how interesting the games themselves will be. Are there any games you’re particularly excited to see?

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