This week, we finally got to see the match that had been built up to all split: the rematch between Team Solomid and Immortals. Meanwhile, the playoffs had almost entirely been secured up to this point with a couple teams jockeying for better seed placements, while Team Envy’s loss to Phoenix 1 gave Apex fans hope for an upset. Phoenix 1 also made an impression this week for their off meta team composition built around their hilarious jungle choice and the win they managed to secure because of it.
1st Place: Team SoloMid 17W-1L
2nd Place: (↓1 from last week) Immortals 16W-2L
3rd Place: Cloud 9 12W-6L
4th Place: Counter Logic Gaming 10W-8L
5th Place: (↓1 from last week) Team Liquid 9W-9L
6th Place: Team Envy 8W-10L
7th Place:Apex 8W-10L
8th Place: Phoenix 1 5W-13L
9th Place: (↓1 from last week) NRG Esports 4W-14L
10th Place: Echo Fox 1W-17L
Only the top 6 teams advance to the playoffs. The bottom 3 teams must participate in the Promotion Series to remain in the NA LCS. Apex is ranked 7th because they lost both of their matches against Team Envy.
Fabio hits the Rift
Over in the bottom lane, Sona had been picked up in the wake of recent changes to her kit that enabled her to more consistently chain her cadence of buffs and heals, but her performance was mixed as most teams burst her down to prevent her sustained fighting power from becoming a problem. She was also outshined by the biggest pickup of this week: Taric (aka Fabio). Teams have more or less figured out how to properly plan fights around the timing delay on his ultimate, Cosmic Radiance, and its ability to grant invincibility to multiple champions. This short window of invincibility, when utilized correctly, makes Taric a hard counter against AOE burst comps that use champions like Viktor and Cassiopeia, two top picks of the mid lane.
Hecarim surged further forward in popularity this week due to his power as a backline assassin and his kit’s aptitude for punishing less mobile champions. Meanwhile, the Sivir-Karma bot combo is still being highly contested and banned away. In the top lane, Shen has begun warranting a ban as the meta has once again shifted further towards tanks and his global presence is unmatched by other top laners in the meta. While in mid lane, Malzahar also saw a massive spike in his ban rate as players still have trouble laning against him as well as fighting against his crowd control and single target burst/lockdown. With all of these prime picks, there are more options for players to choose from than there are bans, forcing teams to target players rather than general threats. For example, teams banned Illaoi mostly in games against NRG’s Quas while Taliyah was banned more against Bjergsen than against other mid laners. It may have taken all split, but the series of changes and reworks have finally introduced some variety into the North American metagame.
Clash of the Titans
In the match of the week, Immortals and Team Solomid faced off for the number one seed in the North America playoffs. Going into the week tied, both teams were relying on this win to secure 1st place. And while Team Solomid swept them, Immortals fought tooth and nail in an extremely back-and-forth first game.
Game 1 started out with lots of posturing on both sides. Neither team wanted to make a mistake that would cost them the match and held off from hard engagements for the first fourteen minutes. But then everything changed when the dragon became under contention. After Team Solomid successfully secured the objective, Immortals immediately picked off Biofrost. Pobelter then flashed forward to secure another kill, but ended up dying for it when Svenskeren charged in as Hecarim and pushed him into the rest of TSM. With both sides considerably weakened at this point, they proceeded to poke at each other with ranged abilities until Immortals moved too close to the frontline of TSM and paid for it with 3 deaths.
This led Immortals to drag out the game for another ten minutes to recoup their losses, eventually allowing them to break the outer-middle turret, secure a couple kills, and even claim Baron Nashor. With the score evened up, Immortals attempted a power play in the bottom lane and found themselves sieging the base of TSM. Yet their positioning would once again be their undoing as Huni was melted by Bjergsen as he assaulted TSM’s inhibitor, giving the opening Svenskeren needed to once again charge behind and scatter Immortals on their retreat, eventually leading to the deaths of the rest of the team. Immortals was then once again forced to play on the defensive and eventually waited out for a bad engage by TSM that allowed them to kill the frontline and take the Elder Drake, only to fall for the last time after taking Baron Nashor left their own frontline out of position and vulnerable.
Phoenix 1, the Giant Killers
Phoenix 1 have established themselves as the giant killers of North America. Throughout the entire summer split, they had taken more games off of Team Solomid than all the other teams combined, while their unorthodox performance against Immortals confounded many and brought hilarity to all who were watching. Continuing their trend of off-meta jungle picks, Phoenix 1 went further off the reservation by picking Mordekaiser. But that was somehow only the beginning of the many surprises of that game. Once they were able to leave the fountain, Inori rushed down with his bot lane duo to surprise Immortal’s Adrian with an ambush that led to an early First Blood. Inori then repeatedly pressured the bottom lane to kill Adrian again, while Brandini teleported in from the top lane to help clean up the rest of Immortals. Phoenix 1’s team comp allowed for extreme neutral objective control with the combination of Kalista and Mordekaiser, while Brandini’s Trundle was an incredible split-pushing threat on his own and an overall bully in teamfights. Gate’s choice in Taric prevented Pobelter from inflicting any real harm with Cosmic Radiance, and was a tanky enough threat to allow for Mash to use Kalista’s ultimate, Fate's Call, to throw him in the middle of the enemy team so he could follow up with a stun or two. Immortals were only able to pull off one successful skirmish out of the entire game when they picked off Inori before he could secure the dragon, but found no real success for the rest of it. They also made the mistake of engaging onto Phoenix 1 despite their many counter engagement threats and ended up losing the game. While they would ultimately come back in the next two games to take the match, Phoenix 1 had already won over the crowd in the first game.
The Apex of Apex
Apex gave their most impressive performance of the split that put them in playoff contention, beating out both Team Liquid and Counter Logic Gaming in a string of methodical games that proved their worth when they weren’t expected to win either. However, since they lost the head to head with Team Envy, they were ranked lower despite having the same win-loss record. While, Envy’s loss to Phoenix 1 gave everyone hope, Apex’s fate was in the hands of Echo Fox, who’s shaky season continued to disappoint Apex and Echo Fox fans alike.
They may not have led any games by large margins and were even on the verge of defeat for a few, but their tenacity kept them in and they struck back hard in the final games of both their series. With a focus on pick comps and a priority on Gragas, Apex managed to surprise both Liquid and CLG with countless ambushes from supposedly safe distances. This may be the end of their season, but they proved that they are very much deserving of consideration in the future.
Still More to Come...
The split may be over, but there is still a long road ahead for all the teams except Apex. Phoenix 1, NRG Esports, and Echo Fox must play against the top two teams of the Challenger Series, Cloud9 Challenger and Team Liquid Academy, if they wish to keep their spots in the LCS. Meanwhile, the top 6 teams of the split are getting ready for playoffs. As the 1st and 2nd seeds, Team Solomid and Immortals have guaranteed buys into the semifinals, though it is likely that they will see each other in the finals anyways. But there is more to just placing well in the playoffs, there are Championship Points on the line as well. While the winners will secure a spot representing North America on world stage, other teams will be relying on their Championship Points to secure the second spot. These points are based on how well the teams performed this season, which definitely favors the champions of the spring split: Counter Logic Gaming. With a few weeks before playoffs begins, all teams will definitely be training hard to perform well. For some, winning the playoffs is their only way into the World Championships.