This week, Taliyah came onto the scene swinging while Team Liquid and Cloud 9 were able to pull ahead ever so slightly from the rest of the pack in the mad dash for the 3rd and 4th playoff spots. The Summer Finals are fast approaching and those top 4 spots, and the championship points that come with them, are now all the more important as teams begin to make their moves to represent North America in the World Championships. But with six more matches to go in the coming weeks, no team has guaranteed their spot yet and anything can happen.
1st Place: (↕0 from last week) Team SoloMid 12W-0L
2nd Place: (↕0 from last week) Immortals 11W-1L
3rd Place: TIE
(↕0 from last week) Team Liquid 7W-5L
(↕0 from last week) Cloud 9 7W-5L
5th Place: TIE
(↓2 from last week) Team Envy 6W-6L
(↑1 from last week) Counter Logic Gaming 6W-6L
7th Place: (↓1 from last week) Apex 5W-7L
8th Place: (↕0 from last week) NRG Esports 3W-9L
9th Place: (↕0 from last week) Phoenix 1 2W-10L
10th Place: (↓1 from last week) Echo Fox 1W-11L
Things are now getting down to the wire as the gap between playoff contenders and those at risk of being relegated widened further. Counter Logic Gaming was the only team this week to move up in the brackets and went 2-0 to jump back into the top 6. However, they still have a ways to go since the Summer Finals will only take the top 4 teams. Meanwhile at the bottom, there is now no chance of Phoenix 1 and Echo Fox making playoffs this split, even if they were to win ALL of their matches for the remainder of summer. NRG Esports are also facing the same problem as another mediocre showing gave them no net gains to put them closer to 4th place.
This week, a couple new trends emerged to shake up what has otherwise been a cut-and-dry metagame. Hecarim has been making a rise on the scene as another backline assassin off-tank like Irelia, and his ultimate has become a force to be reckoned in team fights with the power to scatter the back line and put him in prime position to pick off weaker targets. IMT and CLG top laners Huni and Darshan brought their arsenal of carry top laners, such as Gangplank and Fiora, to the Rift this week and made notable contributions to the victories of their respective teams. But the biggest surprise was Taliyah, who was picked 5 times in matches this week despite how recently she was released. Her inherently movement steroids in her kit combined with her ultimate to quickly make her way across map, made her a favored playmaker of mid lane this week. Meanwhile, Graves has found himself once again on the losing end of the spectrum, going without a single victory any time he was picked. No matter how dominant he was in the mid-game, junglers were not able to translate that dominance into the late game where he was constantly focused and crowd-controlled before he could do any damage. This was problematic because his mid game dominance was usually built on him having a majority of the kills.
While Team Solomid mid laner Bjergson was not the first to use Taliyah in NA LCS, he definitely did her justice with a score of 7/0/5 and gave the most expertly executed demonstration of her power this week. With the help of his team’s speed composition, Bjergson rushed a pair of Boots of Swiftness and proceeded to run away with the game: pressuring all sides of the map by constantly roaming, as well as splitting up the enemy team or cutting off escape routes with Taliyah’s ultimate, Weaver’s Wall, which created easy picks for himself and the rest of his team. However, Apex did not go down without a fight. At 19 minutes in, they successfully stole dragon and killed 3 members of Team Solomid for free. However, Team Solomid had a considerable advantage that was deterred little by a single bad skirmish, and continuously picked off APX top laner Ray throughout the match as well as take advantage of their incredible mobility to move from objective to objective with little resistance, while Apex struggled to keep up.
Meanwhile, Counter Logic Gaming has been mired in inconsistency this split, so fans are rejoicing at their 2-0 week. Their first game of the day had a rocky start, as CLG mid laner Huhi constantly missed his initiations on Cassiopeia. Fortunately, their team composition was heavy on initiation and they were able to salvage these missteps to keep the game in contention long enough for him to get his act together. The game dragged on with little bouts of give and take until eventually Envy found themselves without a player after the entirety of CLG’s initiation was dumped on the unlucky NV top laner, Seraph, who was both a tank and source of crowd-control. Without him there to keep CLG at bay, NV’s base was methodically taken apart.
The second game was a figurative seesaw as CLG opened with extremely aggressive play that gave them both kills and turrets, but also drew them deep into enemy territory. Eventually, a single misstep inside NV’s base led to disaster, and CLG found themselves in retreat as they ceded just as much territory as they gained throughout the midgame. Then it was Envy’s turn to make a misstep in the form of AD carry LOD, who was deleted by CLG when support Aphromoo landed a hook as Thresh when LOD wandered too far forward. NV’s mid laner, Ninja, was subsequently hunted down while CLG Darshan sacrificed himself to secure another turret within NV’s base. This left Envy’s base wide open to attacks from all sides, scattering them as they scrambled to defend and left an opening on LOD that Aphromoo was only too happy to exploit again, leading to CLG’s hard won victory.
Team Envy's loss to Counter Logic Gaming is just one of many recent defeats that have led to their fall from grace. This was a team who tied for second with Immortals in Week 3, but now find themselves struggling to stay afloat. After a strong start to the split with a 5-1 record, they have failed to claim victory against the top teams for the past couple of weeks. Luckily for them, a majority of their matches in the coming weeks will be against the bottom of the standings, which will potentially pad their win-loss record enough to make it to the playoffs.
Over at the bottom, Echo Fox’s biggest obstacle this split has been communication. The rookies that make up the team have proven more or less to be mechanically proficient. However, you see their inexperience in their progression throughout the game, where they fail to properly exploit both positional and numerical advantages. While Echo Fox has only won one match this split, they have been able to upset perfect sweeps like when they surprisingly took the first game of their match against TSM in Week 4. This week when they faced Team Liquid, they were able to repeat the spectacle in the 2nd game of the match, where Froggen played the champion he is best known for: Anivia. The game itself did showcase Echo Fox’s faults, but it bore a striking resemblance to their victory against TSM. They picked battles with more discretion and their rotations were on point. They also poured a huge amount of resources into FOX top laner kfo’s Irelia, which allowed him to dominate his lane and become a split pushing monster in late game. That drew a lot of resources from Team Liquid that allowed Echo Fox to control the game and pick off players in small skirmishes, winning the match with an impressive kill score of 10-1. Echo Fox may not be a great team, but these games that they have taken off of veterans show that they indeed have potential for greatness in the future.
Team Solomid and Immortals both once again finished the week clean and now lead the competition by a wide enough margin that it is unlikely, if not impossible, for the top 2 seeds in the playoffs to go to anyone else but them. Unfortunately for their fans, they aren’t scheduled to face off again until Week 9, the final week before playoffs, and given both teams’ performances that will be THE match to watch this split. While Immortals boast higher kill scores in their victories, Team Solomid has maintained an extreme level of consistency and mechanical prowess that has only cost them 3 games across their 12 best-of-3 matches. Yet split play has almost no bearing on how teams perform in the playoffs. As everyone remembers, Immortals went 17-1 in the Spring Split, only to be swept by the 9-9 Team Solomid when they faced each other in the playoffs. When it comes to playoffs, experience is what matters the most.