NA LCS Playoffs – Highest And Lowest Placements Of Each Team And Win Conditions
A switch to the best-of-one matches in 2018 has the potential to make the League of Legends Championship Series messier. With fewer standard tie-breaker metrics like point totals from best-of-three matches, more tie-breaker games tacked on at the end may be necessary to determine the final ranking. In Europe, every single team remains in the running for playoffs, and the tiebreaker scenarios boggle the mind. The North American LCS teams have less of an intense battle for the last playoff spot than their European cousins with three teams already out of the running, but that doesn’t make their final week any less intense. A six-way tie scenario among the elite remains possible with byes up for grabs for every team from TSM to Cloud9. Only two playoff spots remain, and neither TSM, TL, or CLG have locked in a position. That could easily mean a historic sour note for one of two teams that have never missed an LCS playoff bracket. It also means bye spots could well be occupied by two teams without banners already hanging from the wall in the LCS studio: definitely something to fill the seats.
Fight for DignityUnfortunately, a byproduct of franchising means that fights featuring bottom-level teams no longer have the same desperation. OpTic, Golden Guardians, and FlyQuest all sit outside the playoffs race in the final week of NA LCS, which might make it seem like their matches are less exciting or they don’t have anything to fight for, while in the past, they’d be struggling to stay out of relegation.In the last week, however, a lot of top teams played bottom teams. For OpTic, GG, and FQ, the last week is about playing spoiler to the hopes and dreams of those pegged as favorites. Any upset over CLG, TL, TSM, Clutch, FOX, or C9 will easily be remembered as a pivotal moment in the season’s history. That’s something a franchised team will want on its card to curry the favor of fans and boost morale coming into the Summer Split.
OpTic Gaming (4-12)Best possible placing: 8thWorst possible placing: 10thWeek 9 Matches: Counter Logic Gaming, Team LiquidIt shouldn’t shock anyone to see OpTic at the bottom, with the roster and staff it built in 2018 Spring. An inexperienced head coach and hodge podge of general staff leads a team of seemingly thrown together players with teeming champion pool issues and extremely limited threat in the early stages of the game.Just because OpTic’s split has progressed predictably, however, doesn’t mean it has to end predictably. Increased focus around bottom lane and opening up Jhin could give the team a pivot point for upsets, and the recently reinvigorated CLG are the most vulnerable targets.
Golden Guardians (4-12)Best possible placing: 8thWorst possible placing: 10thWeek 9 Matches: Team SoloMid, Clutch GamingAs with OpTic, few will express surprise seeing GG at the bottom of the table with only four wins to their name. On paper, the season set out in front of this roster seemed like an extra fast “GG.” Scrambling together the leftovers of NA talent for a gimmick roster and then marketing it as a talent investment program cheapens the idea of NA talent investment in general. Certainly, there are promising young NA players. Certainly, a roster of all-NA players can win the NA LCS. But GG on surface level seems like the kind of ploy that could easily set back both efforts in the region.Nevertheless, four wins may be more success than skeptics considered at the start of the 2018 split. Cheesing bottom lane gave GG a win over Echo Fox in Week 7 on the new patch, and a Baron rush strategy could work against a TSM team if GG’s players can hold onto the laning phase. GG probably have the most difficult schedule of the bottom three, and any dignity they earn will be hard won.
FlyQuest (5-11)Best possible placing: 8thWorst possible placing: 10thWeek 9 Matches: Echo Fox, Cloud9Many commentators had good things to say about FlyQuest’s staff and signings at the start of the season, but Song “Fly” Yong-jun hasn’t been the meal ticket his eponymous (not actually) organization made him out to be. This team lacks fundamentals in jungle-mid synergy, and its mid laner seems willing to sacrifice map control to make a single gank work without well-established comms in place.Even so, with the state in which one finds Echo Fox, having lost four of their past six games, one might even go so far as to call Fly favorites to win at least one game in their final week. FlyQuest’s bottom lane is nothing if not aggressive, and Fox’s bottom lane looks increasingly vulnerable. Winning one in three games may not have been what pundits projected for FlyQuest at the start of the split, but it’s more than one would expect after seeing the team in action.
Playoffs RaceWhile there’s a very clear bottom in the NA LCS, the league hasn’t been without surprises. The real story of the end of the season is Counter Logic Gaming’s surge from last place to vying for the final spot in the playoff bracket via a 4-0 winning streak.The playoff race becomes murky with the contest for first round byes, as only one of the top seven teams cannot place first via a convoluted five- or six-way tie. CLG surged dramatically, Team Liquid have dragged, and TSM look increasingly like the league-beating team they were supposed to be. But only two playoffs spots remain for the taking, and one of the league’s favorite legacy teams will be left out in the cold.
Counter Logic Gaming (7-9)Best possible placing: 5thWorst possible placing: 7thWeek 9 Matches: OpTic Gaming, Team SoloMidPegged as one of the favorites for first at the start of the season, CLG had one of the worst split’s in the organizations history. They remain treading water after a 4-0 turn around on Patch 8.4. A winning early strategy and concise plan or the ability (luck?) to force the enemy team to 5v5 with a 1-3-1 comp has given CLG a leg-up where they shouldn’t have had one.Baron has been CLG’s unwitting ally, and they’ve fallen back on simple compositions with stacking AOE. CLG should be able to best OpTic with more decisive play early on, then they rely upon TSM to lose to Golden Guardians (unlikely, but luck certainly hasn’t abandoned CLG in the past two weeks) and Team Liquid to at least lose to Cloud9 to put fate into CLG’s hands. A good flank could cement CLG’s perfect playoff berth track record.
Team SoloMid (9-7)Best possible placing: 1stWorst possible placing: 7thWeek 9 Matches: Golden Guardians, Counter Logic GamingTeam SoloMid see a five-way or six-way tie that would still allow them to take first place or a playoffs bye, but more realistically, they just want to ensure they make top six with at least one win. One win over Golden Guardians, tied for last place, will guarantee TSM their spot in playoffs and make it impossible for CLG to usurp them, even if they best them on the final day of the regular season.If TSM aim for the bye, they need Cloud9 and Echo Fox to lose every game, which means 100 Thieves also have to lose to Clutch. That would lock five teams at the top with 11 wins (six if Team Liquid also make the run). According to the NA LCS tie-breaker rules, that will put the teams with the lowest Strength of Victory scores (in the case of a five-way tie, the bottom two, and in the case of a six-way time, the bottom four) into a play-in to play a proper bracket single elimination tournament for seeding.TSM should focus on lane assignments in mid-to-late game and backing up Mike “MikeYeung” Yeung in jungle invades when they draft strong lane comps (Patch 8.5 should open more aggressive jungle picks). Closing out games against CLG means spreading out the siege and coordinating wave crashes instead of grouping. Careful trinket placement will shut down Golden Guardians’ reckless play-making.
Team Liquid (9-7)Best possible placing: 1stWorst possible placing: 7thWeek 9 Matches: Cloud9, OpTic GamingLike Team SoloMid, TL have a way into first place if stars align for a five or six-way tie. Also like TSM, if TL want to make playoffs, they only have to win one game against a bottom tier team. Of course, if CLG doesn’t manage to 2-0, TL don’t have to lift a finger, but that’s a much less accomplished finish. Cloud9 got the better of Team Liquid in their previous encounter, but if the same should happen again, TL just keep themselves stable for Sunday and force around bottom lane the way they would naturally to find themselves at least sixth in the standings.Aiming high means keeping Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen from roaming top or getting the first back. Since Eugene “Pobelter” Park tends to give up priority with his own roams, this will not be a natural fit. That said, if Team Liquid remain relatively competitive, they may be able to bait Cloud9 into a 5v5 even if they have a 1-3-1 or 1-4 composition.
Playing for Seeding:Though Team Liquid and Team SoloMid were pegged to lead the season, they’re the last teams in the standings not locked into playoffs. Clutch Gaming, 100 Thieves, Echo Fox, and Cloud9 stand at the top with only one win between top two and second rung. Every top four team plays another with the exception of Cloud9 -- but their week isn’t a walk in the park either with a determined Team Liquid on the docket. Any of these teams have more than just a fanciful chance at a playoff bye and regular season first.
Clutch Gaming (10-6)Best possible placing: 1stWorst possible placing: 6thWeek 9 Matches: 100 Thieves, Golden GuardiansThough Clutch’s roster was pegged for top five with favorable odds, that was a conservative estimate at best. Analysts like Isaac "Azael" Cummings Bentley have still erred to the side of caution when discussing Clutch’s chances at storming playoffs. Though Fabian "Febiven" Diepstraten comfortably joined the NA LCS mid lane elites, Clutch seem reliant on him to snatch one of his best picks and carry the day. Clutch have a relatively light schedule, and a 2-0 advantage over TSM is a good option to have in the event of a two-way tie, though they’ll be hurting against Cloud9 or Liquid. Being able to force a tie-breaker match against Echo Fox may also come in handy.With perhaps the best reactive play in the league, Clutch almost always takes the better trade when the opposing team makes the first move. That gives them an interesting matchup against 100 Thieves, who seem to have a similar philosophy, only to a more extreme, pacifistic extent. Last time the two faced, the Thieves stole the day.Yet Clutch have better chances than the sloppy set of five that came to the stage in Week Three. Nam “LirA” Taeyoo is working better with Febiven, especially on extremely strong picks like Skarner. The bottom lane is back to at least staying even. If Clutch can snowball, they can buffer late game by taking smart reactive fights: something 100 Thieves still skirt. Clutch also frequently ban some of Yoo “Ryu” Sangwook’s best picks, which could well give them a good natural advantage for a 2-0 week to close the split.
100 Thieves (10-6)Best possible placing: 1stWorst possible placing: 6thWeek 9 Matches: Clutch Gaming, Echo FoxThough they still show a defined preference for setting up 1-3-1 or 1-4 comps and at times avoiding fights to their own detriment, 100 Thieves picked their season back up by putting Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black on champions where he can function as primary engage. Ryu also showed a willingness to expand his horizons with picks like Viktor, a champion he has never particularly demonstrated affinity for, even when it dominated the mid lane.Even if 100 Thieves lose to Clutch, they can still force a tie-breaker match with them having won earlier in the split. A win over Echo Fox would mean that 100 Thieves can uniquely force a tie-breaker match with any of the other top four. That would give them a major leg-up in gunning for first, compensating for a rougher final weekend.On paper, 100 Thieves have the most difficult schedule of the top four teams, contending with Clutch Gaming and Echo Fox. Since Patch 8.4, however, Echo Fox have been hemorrhaging from bottom lane and struggle to find the same synergy between top, jungle, and mid with the powerful Resolve tree forcing tanks in to the top lane. If 100 Thieves aim for first, focusing on pushing side lanes will ease pressure on Ryu, and opening up Aphromoo to roam from bottom to mid with William “Meteos” Hartman is a solid strategy against both Echo Fox and Clutch.
Echo Fox (11-5)Best possible placing: 1stWorst possible placing: 6thWeek 9 Matches: FlyQuest, 100 ThievesEcho Fox spent the season snubbing their noses at naysayers who called their style predictable or a retread of Immortals in 2016. As soon as the patch switched to favor tanks with the strength of the Aftershock and Bone Plating combo, however, the wheels loosened, and the words of skeptics had a new rattling truth to them.Luckily of Echo Fox, they face two teams that have relied a lot on the strengths of their top laners to carry. A shift to more high trading bottom lanes with the Fleet Footwork nerf on 8.5 could make 100 Thieves’ preferred scaling AD approach fall under fire and give Echo Fox’s oft-targeted duo an opening to change the tide for the upstart squad. FlyQuest’s preferred style leaves mid lane open for Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett and Kim “Fenix” Jaehun to force through the lane. Echo Fox don’t even necessarily have to adapt to ensure they stay ahead of 100 Thieves and Clutch and their 2-0 head-to-head against Cloud9 means a perfect week guarantees first place.
Cloud9 (11-5)Best possible placing: 1stWorst possible placing: 6thWeek 9 Matches: Team Liquid, FlyQuestThough many hailed the loss of Jun “Impact” Eonyeong and Juan “Contractz” Arturo Garcia as a downgrade, Cloud9 had one of their most convincing regular splits since 2013. Cloud9 dropped more games than they have in their more dominant splits, but the clean mid-to-top formula carried their early macro for much of the season. Only toward the end did other teams start to disrupt Jensen’s ability to control mid lane and roam or shake them into disadvantageous fights in the late game.Despite having the same score as Echo Fox, a 2-0 week won’t guarantee Cloud9 a first place finish or even pave the way for a tie-breaker because they lost to FOX in both regular season encounters. It will, however, guarantee a bye. With no top four teams on the docket, Cloud9 may have the easiest week, and given Echo Fox’s form, the best shot at finishing first.FlyQuest should allow Cloud9 to get the first mid lane turret with ease, and Team Liquid’s approach of starting early skirmishes in the bottom lane could make it simple for Cloud9 to trade their duo lane away from advantage in mid and top. The entire map may be predicated on whether Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen ensures Jensen backs before his opponents. Though a word of caution: if Cloud9 want to team fight, they should draft a team fighting comp and avoid pulling champions like Ryze into group slaughters he won’t win.Related stories:How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Banner Of Command MetaFrom Cloud9 To Golden Guardians: Contractz On Charting To Success In The NA LCS100 Thieves’ Revenge: How 100T Used Holes In Cloud9’s Formula To Turn The Score In The Second Half
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