The NA LCS Summer Split has come and gone, and the first and second seeds of North America are now decided. It is now time for a series of best of fives to determine who will be joining Team Liquid and 100 Thieves in South Korea to have a shot at the title of World Champion.
Here are the teams in the Regional Qualifier – ranked according to their recent performances.
4. Clutch Gaming
Clutch Gaming might be the forgotten men, but they are not out yet. The team has two claims to fame— their upset win against TSM in the quarterfinals last spring, and the longest game of the entire season. They are in the Regional Qualifier because of their 4th place finish last spring.
I’ll be honest with you: Clutch Gaming have not looked that hot at the end of the summer split regular season. They finished 9th. Individually the team members were poor. They have a tough road ahead of them in the gauntlet. They need to show that they have made improvements while they sat out the NA LCS Playoffs.
Clutch Gaming’s playstyle is, “concede the minimum, scale safely, and win a late game team fight”. For most of the summer split this style of play did not work well. Fabian “Febiven” Diepstraten wasn’t comfortable as any champion, even on his signature Swain from spring. Nam “LirA” Tae-yoo has been out of sorts as well, missing crucial smites and getting outjungled by his opponents.
A major cause of concern is Clutch Gaming’s bottom lane. Nickolas “Hakuho” Surgent and Apollo “Apollo” Price haven’t replicated their form seen in the spring. Hakuho’s playmaking and Apollo’s reliability have been absent and it has hurt the team. 2v2 kills have happened in the laning phase during the regular season as well.
One ray of hope for the team is that Colin “Solo” Earnest has stepped up in the summer. He has been a serviceable tank player, and has shown to be capable piloting carry-oriented champions.
If Clutch Gaming can recapture their old form they have a chance.
3. Echo Fox
Echo Fox are an unpredictable team. They are an absolute joy to watch but they can just as easily have you pulling your hair out. What they lack in consistency they make up for in spirit. They never stop fighting. No matter he balance of the game.
But it’s consistency than wins the big tournaments. In Spring they took a bunch of wins in the first half of the split. Only to fall off in the second half. In the summer, we saw more or less of the same. Then in the regular season we saw an uptick in form.
The main carries to watch are Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon and Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett. Huni is the same aggressive top laner we have seen on Fnatic, Immortals, and SK Telecom T1. We have seen him completely take over games whenever he gains an advantage in the top side of the map. However, whenever he is behind, he struggles to find a way back into the game. Huni maybe depends a little too much on his jungler. If his lane is ganked once or twice successfully, it ends the game for him.
Dardoch, on the other hand, has been the best carry jungler in the League. The performances that he has shown on champions like Kindred and Graves belong on the highlight reels. He paths intelligently and outjungles his opponents. He takes high-risk plays and he possesses the mechanical prowess to pull them off.
The bottom lane has greatly improved since the roster changes. Lawrence “Lost” Hui seems to have champion pool issues, but on comfort picks he is capable of darting and weaving in the midst of a team fight, dishing out great amounts of damage. Andy “Smoothie” Ta is also a great laning support and is dependable as a playmaker and shotcaller. Tanner “Damonte” Damonte is a reliable mid laner in rather supportive mid lane picks such as the Galio. Is it finally time to see him try his hand at the Malzahar?
The problem with the team is that while they may have highs their lows aren’t far away. They get caught out mid-rotation and at times they are uncoordinated when making plays or in team fight situations.
If they improve their communication they could secure 3rd seed. That’s a big if.
At one point this summer Cloud9 looked invincible. Widely considered the top team in North America. Then the playoffs came and the shortcoming were there for all to see.
They were making blunders in the drafting phase, over-prioritizing champions that are unexpected on the part of the enemy team. This is obvious in their first rotation picks of the Quinn and the Twitch. No team has been using these in the summer. In addition, they repeatedly drafted all losing lanes in some games in the post season.
What has gotten them to the Grand Final of the NA LCS Summer Split is their employment of the seven-man roster. By swapping out their middle lane and jungle duos, they are able to give multiple identities to the team. The duo of Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen and Robert “Blaber” Huang focus more on skirmishes across the river and jungle. While the duo of Greyson “Goldenglue” Gilmer and Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen focus more on lane dominance. In the Playoffs, we saw Rookie of the Split Blaber underperform. This meant him and Jensen were subbed out for Goldenglue and Svenskeren. We also saw the “original” mid-jungle duo of this roster, Jensen and Svenskeren, in their final game against Team Liquid. It’s not yet clear what iteration we will see in the gauntlet.
A noticeable pattern is that Eric “Licorice” Ritchie has not been receiving resources and subsequently the team haven’t been playing through him. Even in scenarios where they could go for a lane-dominant counter pick they haven’t. Cloud9 went for tanks for him instead. Licorice arguably has the greatest carry potential in the team. If the team let him take over it could be to their advantage.
Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi and Tristan “Zeyzal” Stidam have been doing well in lane. Getting 2v2 kills against Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng and Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung in the finals. In addition, Sneaky is perfectly capable of carrying games on the Kai’sa, and it is a possible draft option for the team.
Cloud9 has not missed Worlds since its inception but they are at risk to do just that, if they don’t improve their early season form
1. Team SoloMid
Disclaimer: I am not a TSM fan. Yes, of course I know Cloud9 won against TSM in the Semifinal. Why, then, am I putting them at the top of the power rankings for the regional qualifier?
TSM was the team to show the biggest improvement over the course of the playoffs. They played the maximum amount of games a team can play in their postseason run (15 games.) They have netted convincing wins in the series that they played. It is also notable that in their series against 100 Thieves, spring split’s runner up, they almost had a perfect game.
TSM have a decent chance of making it to Worlds because they have found their groove during their playoff run. Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell looks comfortable on champions with clear engage options such as Sion, or ones that could be rather scrappy such as Ryze. Jonathan “Grig” Armao’s playstyle is now better defined. Not exactly a tank player. His potential is realized on champions that have target selection options such as Sejuani or Camille.
Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen can be counted upon to safely scale on champions like Kai’sa and Varus, or he could be on a safer pick like Ezreal. Alfonso “Mithy” Aguirre Rodríguez can also be a dependable playmaker and secondary engage or disengage, like on Morgana or even Gragas support. It must noted that TSM can pick the Swain and Pyke bottom lane, that could kill a squishy carry in lane if one of their crowd control abilities lands.
The star of the team is, of course, Soren “Bjergsen” Bjerg. He has been on different champions over the course of the summer, and has proven himself exceptional on assassins. This is not news, he made his name in the LCS in a time when assassins were common in the middle lane. The surprise is that he has shown himself to be proficient on supportive picks like the Zilean in the third place match, and this is a pick that other teams should look out for.
Team SoloMid’s drafting is akin to what the teams from the LCK do. Flexing Ryze to the top lane, picking Swain and Pyke for the bottom lane and picking the Vel’Koz as a counter to a blind pick Ryze in the middle lane. Judging from recent trends we might get to see them pick up the Urgot as a flex pick between mid lane and top lane sooner or later.
We will see if TSM continues its legacy of being the only team to have made it to every World Championship.
Which team do you think will be North America’s third seed? Do you agree with our power rankings? Let us know in the comment section below!