NA LCS summer week 3: No closer to answers

Jess Carruthers Roar Guru

By Jess Carruthers, Jess Carruthers is a Roar Guru


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    It's going to be a massive 2018 for Australian eSports. (Image: Riot Games)

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    After the second week of games, the North American League Championship Series standings make little more sense than they did ten matches ago.

    Last split’s top teams still have a pretty abysmal record, while the team that was last has not only matched their total series wins from last split, but is sharing first place.

    Truly counter logic. The standings.

    1. CounterLogic Gaming (CLG): 3-1 in matches; 7-4 in games
    1. Team Dignitas (DIG): 3-1; 7-4
    1. Immortals (IMT): 3-1; 6-4
    1. Team EnvyUs (NV): 3-1; 7-4
    5. Team SoloMid (TSM): 2-2; 5-5
    5. Echo Fox (FOX): 2-2; 5-4
    5. Cloud9 (C9): 2-2; 5-4
    8. Team Liquid (TL): 1-3; 3-7
    8. FlyQuest (FLY): 1-3; 3-6
    10. Phoenix1 (P1): 0-4; 2-8

    We saw several more upsets over this weekend. You may remember IMT’s surprise win over TSM last week; well, this week we had the opportunity to see NV take down IMT 2-0. After an overall abysmal showing so far, perhaps P1’s 0-2 loss to FLY was not so unexpected, but this is a team going to Rift Rivals in just two and a half weeks’ time, and we would hope to see some improvement.

    On the subject of improvement, C9’s 2-0 record for the week would seem to indicate growth, but given that the matches were against P1 who I’ve discussed already, and a struggle against FOX with a substitute Jungler, I’m yet to be convinced. The only other team to go 2-0 this week was NV, who played against the aforementioned IMT, alongside an unintimidating TL. Still, NV are in first place, and it’s not entirely fair to minimise that.

    Even though there are four teams sharing first place, I’m not really that impressed by any of them. The best win rate on the board right now (shared by CLG, DIG and IMT) is 63 per cent, the very best teams so far are losing more than a third of their games.

    Although my confidence can’t be restored in a single week of games, a more consistent showing in week three from anyone would really help. In fairness to these teams, week one was a new split, and in week two teams had to immediately jump to the new patch 7.11, so maybe this week we will finally get a proper idea of where things stand. On that note, here is a preview of some of the more indicative games coming up.

    Team EnvyUs vs Echo Fox at 11am AEST Saturday
    So far, both of these teams have well and truly exceeded expectations. Broadly pegged as the bottom teams this split, both NV and FOX are in the top half of the standings coming into week three. Despite their overall ratios being positive however, neither of these teams have particularly excellent winrates, and they have both had weak moments.

    Based on results so far, while it may be a challenge for NV, they have a strong shot at taking this series. They need to be very careful about underestimating FOX though; this is a team who didn’t drop a single game week one, and now have a bit more practise on the new patch.

    FOX have the ability to win this, but their lives will be significantly easier if they start Akaadian over Grig, and keep the rest of their roster without change. Grig had some good moments, but overall didn’t have the strongest LCS debut.

    Ultimately, it comes down to whether FOX’s goal this split is to make it to playoffs and aim for a world’s spot, or if it’s to build a strong and functional 10-man roster ahead of the 2018 season when franchising is introduced. A big part of why this match is important will be to see what their starting roster is, and whether any substitutions are made. The on week/off week meme that FOX started in summer has carried on into this split, but roster decisions will play a significant role in maintaining it or not.

    For NV’s part, they have not only had a strong opening as a team, but the players have looked good as individuals. This version of NV seems very different to last split, in bigger ways than just the switch to Pirean can account for. Apollo and Seraph are both more than pulling their weight, LirA is as strong of a Jungler as ever, and Hakhuo is one of the most underrated Supports in the league.

    In theory, this was supposed to be a 6-man roster with alternate Midlaner Nisqy. Due to visa delays, Nisqy hasn’t yet had playtime, but the NV org tweeted that we should expect to see him in week three. I’m torn on this; Nisqy was part of the Fnatic Academy roster that qualified for the EU LCS before being bought out by Ninjas in Pajamas, so he’s definitely a worthy player, but you have to wonder if he has nearly as much team practise as Pirean.

    It’s a similar situation to FOX in this case; do they want to try the alternate player and take a big risk on the win? Or will they stick with the existing roster that has seen a lot of success so far? At the time of writing this, no announcements have been made regarding starters for this week, but the lineups for this game will play a real part in whether the week starts well for these two teams.

    Immortals vs Cloud9 at 5am Sunday
    This could well be the most indicative game of the weekend. IMT were expected to be in the middle of the pack, but they started the split guns blazing; conversely C9, who were tipped as one of the best teams, had an atrocious opener.

    Week two rebalanced somewhat, but as we really get into the swing of the split, a match between these teams should be a clearer display of where they will fall in the standings. Generally speaking, I would say that the more relevant results come from the second week of the split, but given it was the first round on a new patch, I’m not quite ready to say that IMT are actually average and C9 are actually gods.

    IMT’s prospects have significantly improved with the acquisition of Xmithie. I’m really impressed by how well the trade worked out for both parties, with both teams tied up at the top of the standings. Although his stats don’t say much, he seems to have meshed really well with the team, and especially Pobelter. In the series against FlyQuest, his initiations were a key part of the third win.

    And as a whole, the team has played solidly. Even in the games where they were behind, the players have been in sync, with calm and controlled games bringing out wins. Things fall apart for them when they get ahead of themselves though; over-aggressing against NV was a big part of the reason they lost that series, in particular from the bot lane in game one. Still, this has only been a problem in a handful of games to date, so hopefully NV have had taken this week to improve in this area.

    If you read these regularly, you know I’m a C9 fangirl at heart, but I’m not quite convinced that this week signalled a real rebound for them. With the way that games so far have gone, there’s no real way to assess strength of schedule, but with neither FOX nor P1 looking like strong contenders for this split this week should not have been as much of a struggle as it was for C9.

    You wouldn’t think the games for C9 would have been as rough as they were, given the outcome, but the series against FOX really showed them up for all their weaknesses. C9 is a team that coasted for quite a bit of Split 1; their opponents often didn’t take advantage of their weak early game, leaving them free to take over in the mid-late game. This split however (and to some degree, the back half of last split), many teams have shored up those early game weaknesses, as evidenced in the trash heap that was the C9 vs FOX series.

    This match really could go either way. I’m especially excited to see how the Junglers show up; Contractz was recipient of the Rookie of the Split award in Split 1, where Xmithie is part of NA’s old guard having been in the professional scene since 2012. Both teams have players that could carry or ruin the series, but these two are definitely the ones to watch most closely.

    Now, just because I’ve focused on two games doesn’t mean there won’t be other series worth watching this week! NV vs TSM is at 5am Monday; it’s the top vs bottom of last split. IMT beat TSM in week one, but were then beaten by NV in week two; does this mean NV will beat TSM this week? Then we have FLY vs C9 at 8am on Monday, and although they’re not exactly on the same level, it’s still fun to watch for anyone who followed league back in Seasons three and four.

    What’s your not-to-be missed game this week?

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