NA LCS Spring Week 2: Snakes and ladders

Jess Carruthers Roar Guru

By Jess Carruthers, Jess Carruthers is a Roar Guru

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    A new season of League of Legends is dawning. (Photo: Twitter)

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    Two weeks in, and although it’s still early days we are starting to get a feeling for the way the North American League of Legends Championship Series will shape up.

    The standings after week two (team, match record, game record).

    1. Cloud 9: 4-0; 8-2
    2. Team SoloMid: 3-1; 6-4
    2. FlyQuest: 3-1; 7-3
    2. Phoenix1: 3-1; 7-2
    5. Echo Fox: 2-2; 5-5
    5. Immortals: 2-2; 5-6
    7. Team Liquid: 1-3; 4-6
    7. Team Dignitas: 1-3; 5-7
    7. CounterLogic Gaming: 1-3; 3-6
    10. Team EnVyUs: 0-4; 1-8

    This week, let’s take a look at some of the movers and shakers. Echo Fox won both their games this week to jump into the middle of the standings, including a surprise win over FlyQuest. On the other hand, CounterLogic Gaming and Team Dignitas lost both of their matches, sliding from even records to 1-3.

    Echo Fox
    Echo Fox’s performance in week one may have left a lot to be desired, but in week two they have turned themselves around, only dropping one game. Now sitting at 2-2, if we were to finish our split right now they would qualify to go through to playoffs, with Akaadian in particular deserves a shoutout for his clean plays.

    Their first match was against Dignitas, who we will have a look at later in the article. Dignitas looked really strong in the first game. They finished in just over thirty minutes, shutting Echo Fox out in a performance in this game was very similar to expectations from last week.

    After that game, Kobe said, “Fox need to make it a completely different story,” for game two, and change that story they did! It wasn’t easy, in a game just shy of fifty minutes, but the bot lane duo of Keith and Gate had a 10/0/19 Kill/Death/Assist ratio between them. Playing a pick game around Froggen’s Twisted Fate in the mid lane worked so well for them, getting kills on Dignitas consistently from around five minutes in.

    Game three saw Froggen pull out his classic Anivia. His walls, combined with the Lee Sin kicks courtesy of Akaadian, brought the team a sub-25 minute victory, with more than three times as many kills as their opponents. They did give up a couple of early kills, but not first blood, so they weren’t more than a thousand gold behind at any point.

    In both their wins, they didn’t lose a single turret or baron, and only gave up one dragon in game two (which remember went for fifty minutes).

    The result against Dignitas was a surprise in itself, but Echo Fox’s match against FlyQuest came out of nowhere. Echo Fox looked fantastic in their sub-30 minute game one, with Gate pulling out support Camille (?) to beat out a Poppy top lane counter pick.

    They also got to take Kha’zix in the Jungle, although Moon’s Evelynn was the only one on FlyQuest to have a half decent scoreline. Froggen continued his form from the first match, going 7/1/8.

    The second game did not go so well for them though. In another 30-minute game, with a mediocre 4/4/4 Graves jungle being the best showing on the team and not holding a candle to Moon’s 9/0/8 Kha’zix.

    Even As a FlyQuest supporter, I can’t be mad about how that game ended. The biggest gold lead in the game was about 3k at 20 minutes; Echo Fox were only ahead by 669 gold at the end of the game. But the stats don’t tell the best part of the story.

    As much as it was an exciting and close game, Froggen played his heart out with some of the best Orianna shockwaves I’ve seen in a long time, and the game-winning play had me literally off my seat. He finished the game 5/3/17 (that’s 91 per cent kill participation!), and Keith had a great Ashe game.

    Echo Fox’s newfound success seems to stem from the quality of Froggen’s play. Akaadian and Froggen are such a clean duo; if the meta changes significantly then the others will need to step up, but as long as everyone continues to play to this level, they should be able to adapt just fine.

    Echo Fox will be playing Team Liquid at 10am AEDT on Saturday, then Cloud9 at 10am on Monday. Team Liquid are on a bit of a losing streak at the moment; I’m sure Reignover will do what he can to help Goldenglue, but Froggen and Akaadian should be able to play around them for a win. Cloud9 are a very different beast: they are the only team left undefeated, but Echo Fox took down the other undefeated team, so this will definitely be a game to watch.

    CounterLogic Gaming
    CounterLogic Gaming were up near the top of all the tier rankings in the preseason, but if the season were to end right now, they would be sent to the relegation tournament. The reality here is that although CounterLogic Gaming has kept a consistent roster since they won Spring Split 2016 and came second at the Mid-Season Invitational shortly after, since then they have been looking less and less dominant.

    In their first match against FlyQuest, they simply seemed to underestimate their opponents. Last week, this would almost have been acceptable, but after FlyQuest showed their strength this just shouldn’t have happened. In all fairness, game one didn’t reflect well on either team; at 42 minutes long, with 40 kills total, it was a bloody game for both sides.

    That said, FlyQuest was way ahead in kills all game, which allowed them to control neutral objectives and to push their gold lead. CounterLogic Gaming did briefly take a gold lead after acing FlyQuest, but they just didn’t manage to keep up with their macro game, leading to FlyQuest winning a team fight at 40 minutes, and the game shortly after

    In game two, leaving Rengar open for Moon was pure disrespect. Regardless of your opinion of Moon as a player, giving the strongest jungler in the league to any team is a silly move, much less the team at the top of the standings. It’s not too hard to see how it happened in picks and bans, and personally I’m a big fan of the redside tactic of leaving two overpowered champions open so as to be able to play one of them, but it was also somewhat obvious what they were going for.

    Xmithie has one Rengar game in the last two seasons (a loss), whereas Huhi has 14 LeBlanc games (7-7) in the same time. FlyQuest knew Huhi would take it, and if a team with Hai and LemonNation lets you take a champion like that, you know (at least you really ought to know) that they will have an answer. Where game one was lost on the back of generally being disorganised, game two could have looked very different if they had just changed their ban strategy once Flyquest banned Ryze.

    It didn’t get any easier for CounterLogic Gaming going into their second match against an undefeated team. In their first game, they held out for 36 minutes, but they had started to fall behind from the ten minute mark, initially almost entirely from a farm defeciet.

    The key damage dealers on CounterLogic Gaming were also predominantly skill-shot reliant bursters; once they were isolated or had used their ult, it was way too easy for Cloud 9 to jump on them, hold them down, and rip through their health.

    Against a different team, the match-up could have gone another way, but the enitrety of Cloud 9 are going to be able to dodge skillshots with their mastery of micromechanics. You can absolutely see what CounterLogic Gaming were going for, and they did their best with it, but this time it just didn’t pan out.

    In game two, CounterLogic Gaming looked their best all weekend. Although they didn’t have a minion lead to begin with, they had a gold lead from kills by five minutes, gained a turret by seven, and they were able to snowball that lead into more gold and map objectives to win the game. In game three, CounterLogic Gaming went off to a great start.

    They took the gold lead, growing it to nearly 4k by 21 minutes, although seven minutes later it swung 8k back towards Cloud 9. Huhi played very well against Jensen, and the botlanes went relatively even, but by the end of the game, Contractz truly outclassed Xmithie, and we were reminded that Darshan simply isn’t looking as good as he has in the past.

    In each lost game, Xmithie has been notably behind his counterparts. In a jungle-centric meta, he needs to hold his own. Against Team SoloMid at 7am on Sunday, he is going to have a tough time of it; Svenskeren hasn’t been playing his best so far this split, but he is still undoubtedly a top-tier Jungle.

    The game at 7am on Monday against Team Dignitas is much better for CounterLogic Gaming. I’ll go into it in just a moment, but both teams have had fantastic games and dismal games; we need to see which version of each team turns up next week.

    Team Dignitas
    Team Dignitas, Like CounterLogic Gaming, had some pretty high hopes on their shoulders coming into the split. So far, however, they are not living up to expectations. In their favour over CounterLogic Gaming, they have not had any of their matches go 0-2 so far, but they are still sitting just above relegations spots.

    Their first loss of the week was in a series against Team SoloMid. Dignitas did look decent in their first game; despite being down on kills, they were up in gold from around 24 minutes into the game, and they won the final base-race by an awesome play from Xpecial preventing Bjergsen from returning to base to take on the Fiora. With the Fiora banned out in game two though, Ssumday moved onto Jayce and was just not able to perform as strongly, finishing 0/4/2.

    Dignitas didn’t have a single tank on their team, which meant that the team was taken out super quickly; it’s fair enough that they wanted Ssumday on a carry champion, but in game one Chaser filled the tank-hole with Rek’sai – both players did finish the game with black cleavers, but that simply wasn’t enough.

    Game three was over in under 30 minutes, with Team SoloMid holding a gold lead from five minutes in and getting two solo kills on Keane within six. They had a chance in the teamfight at 24 minutes, but with some tricky kiting from Turtle and a good teleport play from Hauntzer, Dignitas were just not able to finish them off.

    I always want to give credit to the opponents, but in this game in particular Team SoloMid really took the game, with Hauntzer playing incredibly on Nautilus, and selling all his tank items to go full AP in the last 30 seconds of the game.

    Match two was against Echo Fox and it played out in a familiar way. They had a good game one – they gave up no objectives and only three kills. Ssumday looked really good on Maokai; we expect him to look good on carries, but even on a tank he gained and kept a significant minion lead throughout the game.

    Game two was very different though. Picking the Zyra support so early, giving Echo Fox the opportunity to counter pick with the Miss Fortune was absolutely fatal. That bot lane was able to steamroll off the back of Froggen’s Twisted Fate, which ran circles around Dignitas.

    To give all fairness to Dignitas, it’s probably not a team comp they have a heap of practise playing against, and there was only so much they could do.

    In in five of Dignitas’ six games the outcome was determined by which team got a 1k gold lead first (in the sixth, it was 1.3k). While it would be great to see Dignitas learn to take a game from further behind, that’s just not something that gets practised in scrims, so for them to do better in next week’s games against FlyQuest (7am Sunday) and CounterLogic Gaming (7am Monday) I’d like to see them push for early advantages and gold leads, because they’ve shown several times that once they get a lead, they’re absolutely able to snowball it into a win.

    I have to keep reminding myself that we’re only two weeks into the split. Next week we will be a third of the way through though, and that’s the stage at which teams really need to step up or ship out.

    There will be a few interesting match-ups next week, not just those I’ve mentioned, so hopefully we will see a few more three game series!

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