While last week had its share of scares, no one could have possibly predicted this week. In what is easily the biggest upset of the season, Team Solomid was beaten by Phoenix 1. However, Phoenix 1’s victory was almost completely eclipsed by Counter Logic Gaming, and their impressive campaign from the middle of the pack into a tie for 4th place, safely securing their spot for the playoffs. With only one week left, the teams in the top 5 of the brackets have now guaranteed their playoff spots while Team Envy is still at risk of losing theirs to the likes of Apex.
1st Place: Team SoloMid & (↑1 from last week) Immortals 15W-1L
3rd Place: Cloud 9 10W-6L
4th Place: (↓1) Team Liquid & (↑1) Counter Logic Gaming 9W-7L
6th Place: (↓1 from last week) Team Envy 7W-9L
7th Place: Apex 6W-10L
8th Place: NRG Esports & (↑1 from last week) Phoenix 1 4W-12L
10th Place: Echo Fox 1W-15L
Taking a page from Team Solomid, teams across NA have been attempting to draft the Sivir-Karma bot lane duo, two important pieces in a late game speed comp that have decent power scaling throughout the game. The ability to buff the speed of all nearby allies from two sources gives incredible engagement and rotation power. This comp has been deemed so effective and dangerous that teams have begun to ban Sivir and take Karma at the first opportunity, which in turn has opened up Vladimir and Malzahar, who are both still performing well with few answers. This in turn has caused the ban phase to be played around them and first picks more often than not involve whichever of the three remain.
This week, Team Solomid demonstrated one of their most fatal weaknesses: their slowness to adapt to off-meta picks and team comps. Their loss to Phoenix 1 made them look their weakest all split and seemed so out of character for them. Throughout the first fifteen minutes of Game 2, the gold was rather even. While TSM’s Bjergson roamed to bot lane constantly as Taliyah, Phoenix 1’s Inori and Pirean responded in kind with Rengar and Malzahar. The jungler-mid laner duo heavily punished TSM whenever they attempted an excursion into Phoenix 1’s jungle, picking them off quickly without any chance of rebuttal. This proved to be extremely deadly throughout the entire match, where Inori was only too happy to follow up on any time Pirean caught anyone with Malzahar’s Nether Grasp and the combination of assassinations and cleanups kept the score extremely even for the first 20 minutes, even though TSM outrotated and converged much more frequently for objectives. Eventually, Rengar’s ability to run up and pounce on weakened enemies allowed Inori to turn around supposedly lost fights and take out the entirety of the TSM backline, nullifying the damage threat to his teammates as they picked off the front line. Then at the 27 minute mark, TSM attempted to engage against a seemingly scattered Phoenix 1, only to be kited and stalled out. Meanwhile, Inori was singlehandedly burning down their base while they unsuccessfully struggled to stay alive and recall in time to save their nexus.
Team Envy met Team Solomid on the rift the next day, hoping that their defeat the day before would put them on tilt. But those hopes were soon dashed as TSM quickly overpowered them and demonstrated that an unexpected loss does little to faze them when looking at the big picture. In Game 2, Envy decided to adopt a “protect the Kog’Maw” composition. However, they initially lacked damage (as composition of this nature typically take time to scale up), which provided little deterrence from the “converge and destroy” style typical to TSM. After 20 minutes, TSM was encroaching upon their base and the only damage threats to stop them were Ninja’s Vladimir and LOD’s Kog’maw. But this proved to be enough as the rest of the team provided ample ditraction while LOD indiscriminately wailed on whoever got too close. Yet while their defense was successful, they were virtually confined to their base without the ability to push out and take turrets. The rest of the match was a veritable stalemate as they bunkered down near their nexus, where they eventually lost all three of their inhibitors and succumbed to the overwhelming pressure of super minions and champions knocking on their door.
Counter Logic Gaming showed immense resilience against Team Liquid this week, after taking the first game and nearly being clobbered on the third. CLG’s Huhi has at this point proven to be a below average mid laner throughout the laning phase, which stymies his teamfighting capabilities during the late game. Without the help of an aggressive or advantageous matchup, coupled with assistance from jungler Xmithie, Huhi has trouble taking off. However, if CLG gives a playmaking support to Aphromoo, he has proven to be more than capable of carrying the team until they are past the shaky early/midgame.
Despite their weaknesses, Counter Logic Gaming took another week by storm and moved up yet again in the bracket where they are now safely in the playoffs. It was anything but a walk in the park to get there though as their third game was one of the biggest deficit they have recovered from all split. The game began with Team Liquid unsuccessfully overcommitting into the mid lane, giving CLG an early edge
With the final week approaching, there are three major points of contention: who will be number one this split, if either Team Envy or Apex or going to the playoffs, and who is playing in the relegation tournament with Echo Fox. With the former, it is almost impossible to say. Both teams are on near equal footing and there is little that separates them in terms of skill. The fight for the last playoff spot, on the other hand, is definitely favoring Team Envy, who will enjoy their easiest week yet against Phoenix 1 and Echo Fox while Apex must face Team Liquid and Counter Logic Gaming, who are tied for 4th and still must win one more match than Envy. And given the way Counter Logic Gaming has been playing lately, it is unlikely that Apex will be moving on. Meanwhile, NRG Esports and Phoenix 1 are both looking to end the split in 8th place to safely stay in the LCS next split. Phoenix 1 has only a slight advantage here, as NRG will have to face CLG and Team Solomid while Phoenix 1’s best chance of pulling off a win will be against Envy. As always, nothing is set in stone, especially after this week’s upsets.