With the final week of the LCS’ Summer Split coming to a close, playoffs are just around the corner. The top eight teams have locked in their positions and will begin battling it out in best-of-five sets to claim the top three spots for their seeding into Worlds. The first round of games is set to be played this week, starting on August 13th and ending on August 16th. The finals will be played on September 6th, just nineteen days before the start of Worlds 2020. There are a lot of games to be played this playoffs, especially with the newest addition of a seventh and eighth seed, but we’re going to take a look at how the teams closed the split and see how they match up against their competitors.
Team Liquid – #1 Seed Finishing at 15W/3L
Photo via Team Liquid
Bouncing back from a devastating finish of ninth place in Spring, Team Liquid reminds everyone why they were the back-to-back-to-back-to-back champions of North America. A Spring full of unforeseeable circumstances that led to turmoil among teammates seems to have only been a minor setback. Trading Doublelift, the star that was the catalyst for the longest streak of uncontested dominance that North America has ever seen, was a gamble that has yet to show signs of backfiring. Team Liquid started their Summer dominating TSM and former star Doublelift–a sign that the team may have rid themselves of Spring’s problems. Unfortunately, the level they displayed against TSM was all but fleeting.
The team continued to put win after win on the board and only suffered three losses throughout the split (the best W/L record the organization has seen since its inception), but games were not convincing. It was coin flip after coin flip and nobody was convinced the team was the real deal and a contender for another championship title. In the back half of the split, the roster started to show signs of its former self and started picking up clean wins that showed a superior understanding of macro play, regardless of draft. Even though they were showing signs of strength, nobody was expecting them to claim the first seed for playoffs until their nail biter of a game against Cloud 9 in week seven. With Cloud 9’s fall from grace and Team Liquid’s resurgence, it was in their hands to control their fate.
Team Liquid had to win one match last week to clinch the first seed and did so in their first game against Immortals. The squad put on a dominant showing when it came to teamfighting and securing objectives, but the lack of siege power often put the game in lull states. After securing infernal soul, two Baron kills, and two Elder Dragon kills they were able to close the game out off the back of a pre-buffed Jensen’s Akali going 9/0/8–a threat that teams will need to consider once playoffs start on patch 10.16 where Akali is buffed.
Their match against TSM would follow the day after on Sunday and was the matchup of the week. Though there was nothing on the line for Team Liquid having already clinched first place, TSM was playing for second seed. On top of that, this was a grudge match against their former star player and captain that they just traded to TSM. Both sides wanted a win and it showed in the game. It was a back and forth game until Team Liquid caught TSM sleeping and snuck Baron without vision on it. It remained close, but with Team Liquid in the driver’s seat and being able to dictate the state of the game, Impact began split pushing and forced TSM into an unfavourable position at the dragon pit. After a back and forth fight at the pit, TSM secured Ocean Soul but lost four for nothing. Team Liquid marched their way to the nexus and put an end to TSM’s hopes and dreams of a second-place finish.
Team Liquid faced harsh criticism after most wins for their inconsistency, lack of convincing wins, and poor drafts. Though they are still an incomplete team that shows exploitable flaws in the draft, this team has demonstrated that they have grown consistently and are deserving of first seed after having worked on their style week after week. While some teams were experimenting, Team Liquid was working on perfecting their style. There’s still a long way to go for a team that yearns for international success, but this team is sitting in everyone’s minds now as a finalist and potential champion set to book their tickets for Worlds.
Cloud 9 – #2 Seed Finishing at 13W/5L
Photo via Riot Games
While second seed was the hopes of many coming into Summer, this can’t be seen as anything but a disappointment for Cloud 9 after coming off the most impressive and dominant Spring that a team has ever had in North America. The team showed no signs of weakness–no style of play that could be cracked by any of their regional opposition. That was, however, until the second half of Summer.
Cloud 9 started their Summer the same way they ended their Spring–embarrassing their opponents. They finished the first round-robin going 9-0 with only slight signs of weakness that seemed unpunishable by their fellow North Americans. They finished their second round-robin going 4-5, an astonishing fall that nobody could have predicted. The fall began with the team testing new compositions and fans and analysts alike chalking it up to limit testing. After receiving criticism for failing to execute on compositions that were far from what North America perceived as meta and starting to lose sight of their first seed bye, the team reverted back to playing standard and were still not able to put up a positive W/L for the end of the split.
Though Cloud 9 finished the second round-robin with a negative W/L, they were in contention for first all the way into week nine barring any wins from Team Liquid. Cloud 9 played Dignitas on Friday and butted heads with what people would have originally expected to be an easy win for Cloud 9. It was a back and forth game that had both organization’s fans on the edge of their seats. For Cloud 9 to stay in the race for first, they needed to win. For Dignitas to stay in the race for playoffs, they needed to win at least one game on the weekend. Cloud 9 managed to secure the win off the back of a game-losing blunder from Dignitas’ Fenix.
Cloud 9’s next match was against a CLG that seemed destined for last place. Cloud 9 put up a scoreline, match time, and gold difference that fans of League of Legends across the world began to expect of them this year. The entire roster was slotted onto comfort picks and decimated CLG in twenty-seven minutes. Though they couldn’t contest for first anymore after Team Liquid’s win against Immortals on Saturday, Cloud 9 was now playing for the coveted second seed that TSM was chasing after in Cloud 9’s shadow. A good showing like this was a much-needed win for the team both standing wise and mentally. With playoffs around the corner, heading into it with low morale is an unneeded obstacle.
With TSM losing to Team Liquid on Sunday, Cloud 9 avoided the necessity for a tie-breaker and secured second seed. This is a blessing for Cloud 9 as they had just lost to TSM the week prior with the worst performance we have seen from Licorice all year. TSM has been ramping up and, until the loss to Team Liquid, was on the longest winning streak to date in the LCS.
Cloud 9’s fate in the playoffs is clouded by uncertainty. Their fall from grace was an inevitable one as the other North American teams were bound to catch up at some point, but for them to trip over their own feet so close to the finish line is what leaves people unsure of their true strength. Are they slumping? Will their prior experimentation allow them to flourish in a best-of-five format? Or will they continue to fall as other teams rise to take their place just before Worlds? If you told me before the playoffs that Cloud 9 was going to be the dark horse, I would have laughed. Now, it seems like that is a compliment.
FlyQuest – #3 Seed Finishing at 12W/6L
Photo via Riot Games
FlyQuest continues to ride their momentum from a second-place finish in Spring playoffs and consistently reminds North American fans, analysts, and teams why they are a roster to be taken seriously. Though they dabbled with roster changes in the bottom lane with Wildturtle and Mash, they found their stride with the return of a reinvigorated Wildturtle. And while Santorin continues to prove himself as one of North America’s top junglers and deserving of being on the international stage again, FlyQuest is a team of players that truly allows one another to shine through various styles of play. They are a rare breed in North America.
It was hard to imagine a world where the acquisition of Solo in place of V1per would have helped this team propel themselves to the top of LCS for two splits in a row, but that is the reality that every team that failed to utilize or turned down Solo must face now. With a consistent rock like Solo that can play a steady weak side or an aggressive carry, it has opened up what Santorin and PowerOfEvil are able to do in the draft and in the game. Not only have they found themselves in the playoffs once more, but they’ve also placed third in the regular season after a fourth-place regular-season finish in Spring. Statistically, the team is trending upwards and their second round-robin shows just that.
FlyQuest was in a likely position to contend for second seed if Cloud 9 faltered in both of their games. Unfortunately for FlyQuest, the blunder that Fenix made in the match against Cloud 9 allowed Cloud 9 to close out what was starting to look like a lost game that would give FlyQuest the chance for a playoff bye. With third seed still on the line, the team had to have a couple scenarios come to be for them to secure it. The first condition was that FlyQuest would have to beat CLG on Saturday and Immortals on Sunday. They successfully met this condition and did so with ease as both their opponents were busy battling for last place in the league. The second was TSM losing to Team Liquid. With Team Liquid denying their former star’s chances at first or second seed bye and FlyQuest having the 2-0 head-to-head over TSM, FlyQuest was able to secure their highest seeding and finish the organization has seen in a regular season.
While third seed is a great place to finish for an organization that has never achieved it, there is no doubt this team could have finished first or second had they not had issues in the bottom lane. If we look at FlyQuest’s record against the other teams in the top four, we see them going 1-1 against Team Liquid, 0-2 against Cloud 9, and 2-0 against TSM. Aside from their Team Liquid and Cloud 9 losses, their other three losses come from teams they are expected to beat. With a more stable second round-robin, this team appears to be a threat to every team in the playoffs. Depending on which team picks FlyQuest, we may very well see them in back-to-back finals.
TSM – #4 Seed Finishing at 12W/6L
Photo via Riot Games
2016 and 2017 TSM are a fan favourite among the LCS fanbase. Even if you weren’t a fan of TSM, it was hard to not be a fan of their players. Their personality and camaraderie were infectious. Kicking Doublelift was a risky, but understandable decision in pursuit of further greatness. With TSM having experienced nothing but failure since removing Doublelift from the roster and having watched him win four trophies in a row, they decided it was time to welcome him back home. On top of welcoming back Doublelift, TSM also reacquired Biofrost and reformed three out of the five of the 2016/2017 TSM roster.
Fans and analysts alike were excited to see Bjergsen, Doublelift, and Biofrost back together. Unfortunately, the split didn’t start too well for the boys in black and white. They suffered a crushing defeat to Team Liquid but went on to go find various winning streaks while only suffering four more losses the entire split after their first. Statistically, their record seems great and shouldn’t warrant any changes. The issue that TSM faced was similar to that of Team Liquid’s–wins that should be easily acquired were often made on the flip of a coin. Their wins weren’t convincing and it looked as if little progress was being made during stage games. After an 0-2 weekend, TSM’s remedy for this was by substituting in Treatz, their academy support, for Biofrost.
Approaching the final week of the regular season, TSM’s performances were night and day with them putting up a 5-1 record with Treatz on the roster. Wins came more convincingly and the win streak was alive and well. If they were to go 2-0 in the final week beating out Golden Guardians and Team Liquid, they were then in a fight for the coveted first seed bye. In their first match against Golden Guardians, TSM played a relatively convincing game. The game was on a knife’s edge until about thirteen minutes in where Golden Guardians accrued a slight gold lead. Off the backs of Bjergsen’s MVP performance piloting LeBlanc and Treatz backpacking him on Yuumi, the gold lead tipped back into TSM’s favour twenty-five minutes in. After breaking the gold lead, Bjergsen never gave them a second chance and TSM closed it out in convincing fashion.
We’ve already touched on why the TSM versus Team Liquid matchup was important, but it was especially important for a TSM that came off two years of winning nothing and being denied a trophy by Team Liquid. Beating Team Liquid here would not guarantee them a trophy, but it would get them closer to a playoff seed and prevent them from sliding down the standings based on how other teams performed. TSM lost and did indeed slide down the standings due to FlyQuest’s win.
While it is clear Doublelift didn’t choose to leave Team Liquid, he has also made it clear that he isn’t stopping for anything other than greatness and an untouchable legacy–Summer being just another step along the way and Team Liquid being just another team he will take down. Many people think that with Cloud 9’s slump that the finals will be TSM versus Team Liquid. With the current strength of both teams, a pseudo rematch of the 2019 Spring Finals may be on the docket.
Golden Guardians – #5 Seed Finishing at 9W/9L
Photo via Riot Games
The swap from Goldenglue to Damonte in the mid lane at the last minute before the split started was one that came as a shock for both fans and the two players. The Goldenglue iteration finished Spring with a 9-13 record, having to compete in some back and forth tie-breaker games to determine their seeding. Despite the losing record, the team was making slow progress towards becoming a respectable team. After losing 0-3 to FlyQuest in the first round, it seems the team thought Damote was the answer.
Headed into the final week of Summer, Golden Guardians were coming off a 2-0 week and a three-game winning streak, one of the games being against Cloud 9. Their placement was completely up in the air as they were sitting in the middle slightly above .500. They faced TSM on Friday and, as mentioned above, had a slight lead until Bjergsen popped off on LeBlanc, going 7/0/6. Damonte held his own for the most part, but Golden Guardian’s draft of Renekton, Nidalee, Sylas, Ezreal, and Bard was one that couldn’t do much to succeed against a LeBlanc being constantly topped off by Yuumi. The draft was a confusing one that didn’t have solid forms of initiation but had champions that wanted to go in and support the initiation. Half of them wanted to go in, the other half wanted to peel off and poke. The game seemed doomed from draft unless they got a massive lead in the top half of the map–something they weren’t able to achieve.
Their final game of the split was against Evil Geniuses–Goldenglue’s new home. Golden Guardians drafted Renekton, Nidalee, and Bard again but changed up Ezreal with Kalista and Sylas with Ekko. Four minutes in, Golden Guardians secure the first blood and continue to hold that lead for the entirety of the game. Even though they maintained a gold lead, Evil Geniuses start winning fights and grab Baron to close out the game.
The Damonte iteration finished Summer with a 9-9 record, just one game off of finishing above .500. Since the organization’s inception in 2018, none of their rosters have managed to finish over .500 and this seemed like it was their first real shot at doing so. Despite the team not having a convincing W/L record, every game they played felt winnable. No matter the team they were against, it always felt as if they were capable of winning. In fact, they were the first team this split to pressure Cloud 9 and expose their early game. Their record speaks to the strengths and weaknesses of the team, though. Coin flip games seem to be a theme in North America.
Evil Geniuses – #6 Seed Finishing at 8W/10L
Photo via Riot Games
Jizuke and Kumo out, Huni and Goldenglue in. Changes came for Evil Geniuses after failing to continue the success they found with their roster in Spring. Not many people were sure what to expect from the returning Evil Geniuses organization, but with the acquisition of three of Cloud 9’s players in Kumo, Svenskeren, and Zeyzal, things were looking good for this organization. Things didn’t start too hot, though.
They started slow in Spring but ramped up towards the end. Even though they lost 1-3 in playoffs against Cloud 9 and FlyQuest, people were still hopeful of the roster that seemed to figure out how to play together towards the end. They were Cloud 9-lite. Not as clean, but just as aggressive. If they could figure out how to clean up their mistakes, they seemed like Cloud 9’s only likely rival in North America. Summer started off well with the squad being quick to pick up the recently reworked Volibear. Against Evil Geniuses, teams left Volibear open and let Kumo run free on the rift. Kumo, the weak link of Evil Geniuses in Spring, seemed to find his stride and convinced viewers and analysts alike of his evolution. Unfortunately, once people started respecting the Volibear pick, Kumo’s performances quickly returned to his Spring form.
Swapping Jizuke and Kumo for Goldenglue and Huni is a decision that people will, rightfully so, debate. Jizuke has proven himself to be a more successful player than Goldenglue, but Huni is a proven veteran that has appeared on various international stages while Kumo has been making his way up to the big stage as a rookie. Due to the import limit, Evil Geniuses’ hands were forced if they wanted to have stage time with Huni. They made the swap and handed Cloud 9 their second loss of the split. Evil Geniuses doubled down on this roster following the win by extending Goldenglue’s contract and continued to field them for the rest of the split. Things never really picked up after that win, though.
With their playoff spot not being on the line even with them being 7-9, they looked to the last week of Summer to get their second 2-0 weekend after having not achieved one since the first week. First and second were out of reach, but a .500 and top-four finish was achievable. Their first match of the weekend was against Golden Guardians. For Goldenglue, this was a match against his former team that had just replaced him at the start of the split. For Evil Geniuses, it was important for an upper bracket placement. Goldenglue put up one of his best games yet against Golden Guardians on his Azir, going 6/1/2. Though the gold lead was never in their favour after four minutes in, they held strong, found picks, and fought where they could and secured a Baron to help them close the game out. Their final match of the split was against the struggling 7-10 100 Thieves. Unfortunately for Evil Geniuses, they were outclassed from start to finish and lost in twenty-four minutes and thirty-three seconds, just twenty-four seconds short of the quickest game played this split.
Looking at the playoffs, Evil Geniuses have a tough mountain to climb. They were fortunate enough to place high enough for the upper bracket. No matter which roster they field, they are going to be a feast or famine team. If they continue fielding Huni and Goldenglue, their success is going to rely on finding consistency in the top side of the map.
100 Thieves – #7 Seed Finishing at 7W/11L
Photo via Riot Games
A trend among 100 Thieves’ rosters seems to be that they are an engine that needs warming up. In Spring, the team ended the first round-robin going 3-6 and ended the second round-robin going 7-2 (8-3 if we include the tie-breaker games). They faltered in the playoffs losing out to the titans in Cloud 9 going 0-3 and then falling to TSM 2-3. Coming into Summer, the expectations of them were similar to that of Evil Geniuses’. If they kept building from the momentum they had from the previous split, they were surely going to be a top team. Unfortunately, they started Summer even worse than they did Spring.
After accumulating loss after loss and going 1-5, 100 Thieves made the decision to permanently replace Meteos and Stunt with Contractz and Poome starting week four. A change that was met by criticism by Meteos and fans, was one that seemed as if it was destined to fail. Contractz has been a hollow shell of his former Cloud 9-self and Poome was an untested rookie that just started playing League of Legends two years ago. After the roster swap, 100 Thieves managed to find their first 2-0 weekend in week five and handed Cloud 9 their first loss of the split. The roster started to show signs of life.
Coming into the final week, 100 Thieves were 6-10 and were in danger of losing a spot in the playoffs. Not only did they have to win at least one of their games, but they also needed the other teams around them to lose. Their first game of the weekend was against Dignitas, one of their direct competitors for their spot if things didn’t go in their favour. The back and forth game went for forty-seven minutes and was lost to a Luden’s Echo proc denying 100 Thieves the ability to base and having to watch their nexus be destroyed by a backdoor from V1per. Their second match was against Evil Geniuses where they were shown little opposition and closed the game out at nearly record speed, securing their spot in the playoffs and avoiding any need for a tie-breaker.
100 Thieves’ life expectancy in the playoffs isn’t one you should bet on lasting long. While their roster shows signs of life, they will have to battle on the rift against the loser of the FlyQuest versus Evil Geniuses series. They do have a 1-1 record against both teams, but the team’s lack of time together may not bode well for them as they start their run in the lower bracket.
Dignitas – #8 Seed Finishing at 6W/13L
Photo via Riot Games
Dignitas makes their return to the playoffs after a Cinderella story in the Summer Split of 2019. After buying out Clutch Gaming’s position in the LCS, fans had high hopes for the return of Dignitas after years of absence from competitive League of Legends. With the acquisition of the Clutch Gaming roster that went on to shock the region and almost upset perennial champions Team Liquid, people were excited to see how the roster would grow with more time together under their belts. To the shock of all the fans, Dignitas opted to drop four of their five starters and chose to retain Huni, a player and contract they would soon seek to unload.
The team hasn’t been able to find success since and has attempted various roster changes in an attempt to remedy their problems. Before the split started, Dignitas was unsure of their starting roster and was doing in-houses between their ten players to determine which five would start. Since the beginning of Summer, Dignitas has gone through four roster changes. Their record comes as no surprise when you consider how little time these players had to build chemistry and understanding with one another. But, through the veteran leadership in Aphromoo, the consistent performances the young Jonhsun puts up, and the aggressive and confident jungling that Dardoch brings, the team managed to put up wins when they desperately needed them most.
The final week of LCS was one full of uncertainty for every team, not just the teams sitting at the bottom. While the top six teams were guaranteed a spot in playoffs, their seeding wasn’t secure. The bottom teams, however, were busy fighting for a chance at seeding. Dignitas, CLG, Immortals, and 100 Thieves all could have found their way into the playoffs given the right circumstances. Some teams had more control of their fate than others, but each needed things out of their hands to go their way for them to have a chance in the postseason. Dignitas had a tough strength of schedule to close out their final week and needed to not only beat CLG at the very least but also for FlyQuest and Cloud 9 to beat their opposition. FlyQuest was facing CLG and Immortals, direct competitors with Dignitas at the bottom, and Cloud 9 was facing CLG. CLG had full control of their destiny, but with bewildering roster decisions, Dignitas had a good chance.
Dignitas opened their weekend against Cloud 9 with a barn burner. The game was shockingly close despite the disparity between the two in W/L records. An important factor for the game being close was Dardoch playing Lillia. It was back and forth for about fifteen minutes before the game started to see major swings in gold. At around twenty-two minutes in, Dignitas managed to secure a lead and it lasted until thirty-five minutes in when Cloud 9 secured Mountain Soul. Despite the acquisition of soul, Dignitas managed to win a fight near Baron and moved towards the neutral objective with their eyes set on winning against the former champions. While they did manage to secure it, it wasn’t without opposition from the couple remaining survivors of Cloud 9 from the previous fight. Now, this may have ended up being a neutral trade and the game may have continued in a back and forth state until Elder, but Fenix made a positioning blunder that would cost not only him his life, but Johnson’s as well. Instead of buying his team time to return to base with Baron empowered recalls, Fenix tried to survive and ended up getting Johnsun killed in the process. With no firepower alive and a small line of defense to break, Cloud 9 closed the game out shortly after.
Though the stars needed to align, Dignitas still believed and put up one of their cleanest wins of the year against CLG in a tie-breaker. We got to see a bit of the aggression, skill, and confidence that younger Dardoch used to display. Piloting Olaf, Dardoch decimated CLG going 7/0/6. Every dragon, every Baron, every Harold belonged to Dignitas. Just thirty minutes in, Dignitas secure Elder and Baron back-to-back and close out the game minutes later.
Dignitas is a team that many people have written off going into playoffs–myself included. There are too many holes in the draft that are exploitable. In the playoffs, they may have the weakest mid and top lineup. But, with what seems like a Dardoch eager to prove himself again after being removed from TSM, an Aphromoo back to making plays, and the young Johnsun being the cornerstone for the team, nothing is impossible for this squad. With the playoffs being played on 10.16, the aggressiveness that this team brings may thrive off the unknown of a new patch.