With just 3 weeks left in the Spring Split of the NA LCS, each team looks to posture themselves for a run at playoffs. Already guaranteed playoff spots, TSM and Cloud 9 look to secure their first round byes by holding onto their positions on top of the leader boards. CLG is slowly pulling away from the middle of the pack and cementing themselves as the third place seed. The bottom of the pack is only separated by four games, so a strong week from any team could leapfrog them into playoff contention and away from relegation. These next few weeks will determine who will continue their split into a playoff berth and who will be forced into a relegation tournament with LMQ waiting in the wings. Here is a look at week 9 in the NA LCS.
Saturday, March 22nd
Team SoloMid (17-3) vs. XDG (5-15)
I will eat a slice of humble pie and come out and say it: I was wrong. When it was announced that Reggie would come in and sub for Bjergsen in his absence, I thought that TSM would take a huge hit in the standings. Reggie proved me wrong by having dominating Super Week performances on Gragas and Lulu. TSM managed to go 1-1 in week 7, and 4-0 during super week, only dropping one game with Reggie in their roster. They seemed un-phased the mid lane swap, and I think that they are going to finish their Spring Split strong with Bjergsen back in the lineup.
While XDG only went 1-3 in Super Week, it looks like they are improving a bit. They did however lose an all-important game against EG, putting them one game behind Krepo and crew. While their team does seem to look more comfortable in their lanes, they still have problems with closing out games. In their one win against Coast, XDG hit a point where they were just trying to not throw the game.
In their super week game, TSM abused the bot lane of XDG. Zuna got caught early and was forced to blow his flash before the creeps spawned. TheOddOne then proceeded to camp bottom lane, with Zuna going 1-4 during laning phase. The game was as one-sided as it could get, with TSM commanding a 10k gold lead just 20 minutes into the game. XDG has their work cut out for them with TSM, and unless TSM tests a new strategy for the playoffs TSM should be able to handle XDG easily.
Curse (8-12) vs. Dignitas (9-11)
Curse had a great Super Week, going 3-1 with their new support player Bunny Fufuu. They looked strong in all four of their games, especially in their loss against Cloud 9. Curse had a strong early game and showed great jungle pressure from IWillDominate. I was especially impressed with Cop, who seemed to be perfectly positioned throughout the whole game. Curse then showed their true potential in a dominating game against Dignitas. They methodically shut down each lane and rotated to their next objective.
Dignitas did not fare as well as Curse did in Super Week, They dropped three games and seemed to fall out of contention for third place. Aside from their loss to Curse, there were no obvious problems with the team. Dignitas played very well in most of their games, and seem to just lose a crucial team fight that eventually costs them the game.
Dignitas will have to shake off the lost last week and come into the game fresh if they want to win on Saturday. It looks like Curse was so much more decisive in Super Week. I’m not sure if it’s because IWillDominate is the only shot caller now that Saint is gone, but the team looked very impressive when they snowballed a dragon into a baron and two inhibitors. If Curse can take a game off of Dignitas, it will put them in a tie for fourth place and make the last two weeks of the LCS very interesting.
Coast (7-13) vs. Cloud 9 HyperX (16-4)
Team Coast’s struggles continued into Super Week, going 0-4 in their week 8 matches. Most of their struggle lies with Nintendude in the jungle. Although he did make some flashy plays on Vi for first blood, he tends to not be very effective in applying early jungle pressure. He also has a problem with knowing how long he can stay in a fight. A jungler needs to know how much damage he can take after engaging a fight because it is the difference between a clean initiation and just running in and feeding. Coast needs to be able to not have to rely on either ZionSpartan or Shiphtur to hard carry games for them. Nintendude and Coast’s bot lane has to step up if the team wants to avoid relegation.
Cloud 9 is coming off of a perfect 4-0 Super Week and a strong showing at IEM Katowice. Cloud 9 showed that they belong on the world stage in their two wins over WE and TPA. Cloud 9 has clinched a playoff berth, but still needs to hold onto their second place spot to secure their first round bye. Cloud 9 has been playing very well as of late, showing strong rotations on top of their top tier team fighting skills.
Team Coast has yet to take a game from Cloud 9, and they have a lot of work to do if they want to have a chance on Saturday. Cloud 9 looked very strong on the world stage, and Meteos showed that he can control a game from the jungle. Nintendude will have his work cut out for him in the game, and can’t let Meteos dictate the pace of the game. Cloud 9 has proven that they know how to close out games, so Coast will have to play perfectly if they want to take their first win from Cloud 9.
Evil Geniuses (6-14) vs. Counter Logic Gaming (12-8)
EG has announced recently that they will be playing without Snoopeh, Krepo, and Yellowpete this week. They had some issues regarding scheduling and they ended up having to stay longer than expected in Europe. They will be replaced by RobertXLee as ADC, Ken as support, and ThinkCard in the jungle. It will be interesting to see how Innox and Pobelter will mesh with the new subs with just a week of practice. The substitution also comes at an inconvenient time because EG is just one game ahead of XDG. If XDG can leapfrog them in the standings, it may leave EG in last place and force them into a relegation match against LMQ.
CLG went 2-2 in their Super Week, dropping their two games against the top two teams in the LCS. They have pulled away from the middle of the pack and have almost firmly cemented themselves in third place. A strong week will almost definitely give them a playoff berth and the all-important job security. CLG looked strong during Super Week, showing their ability to rotate for towers as soon as they see someone out of position. While Nien showed brilliance in his slow-push Ryze play against Dignitas, he still has problems with getting over-confident and getting caught out when proxy-farming.
EG and CLG are currently 1-1 against each other, and neither team can afford to lose a game. CLG wants to be able to clinch up their playoff spot, while EG needs to keep their LCS spot alive. I’m unsure how the EG roster filled with substitutes will fare against a very strong CLG team. RobertXLee and Ken do not play on the same team, so they will have their hands full against Rush Hour in the bot lane. Pobelter will have to step up big for EG if they want to stay out of last place.
Sunday, March 23rd
Team SoloMid (17-3) vs. Dignitas (9-11)
In the fourth meeting between TSM and Dignitas, TSM finds themselves up three games against Scarra and crew. Bjergsen, who had to sit out for two weeks due to visa issues, is back in the lineup after receiving a 5 year work visa. Dignitas has yet to find the answer to TSM’s early dragon control and late game team fighting. TSM has been able to control the pace of the game early and snowball the lead into objectives around the map.
If Dignitas wants to beat TSM, they need to have Crumbzz put pressure on TheOddOne from the get go. Crumbzz’ aggressive early plays could help snowball the game in Dignitas’ favor. Dignitas has been known to throw games at Baron and give up early leads, and cannot let TSM back in the game if they manage to get ahead early. TSM has shown that they can drag teams out into deep waters if they are behind, so Dignitas has their work cut out for them in week 9.
Coast (7-13) vs. Counter Logic Gaming (12-8)
Coast comes into their fourth meeting with CLG three games behind the third place team. After going 0-4 in their Super Week, Coast desperately needs a win to climb out of the relegation zone. Currently just one game ahead of EG and two games ahead of XDG, Coast needs to be able to string together a win streak to avoid last place and LMQ. They have their hands full this week with Cloud 9 and CLG, so Shiphtur and Zionspartan need to show up for their team.
Coast’s schedule this week is brutal. I’m predicting a loss on Saturday to a very strong Cloud 9 team, and they are forced to bounce back and play against a CLG team that has world-class rotations. I think this game is going to come down to the top lane. Link has been playing out of his mind recently, so I don’t believe that Shiphtur will be a factor in this game. If Zionspartan can shut Nien down on a snowball champion like Jax, he may be able to carry the game from the top lane.
XDG has yet to take a game from Curse this split, and will need to capitalize on his matchup if they want to avoid last place and LMQ in relegation. EG has a tough schedule and a roster filled with substitutes, so XDG needs to take advantage of it and take a game from Curse. Curse is also looking to pull themselves out of the middle of the pack and leapfrog Dignitas into fourth place. A fourth place finish guarantees them a spot in the Summer Split, and will put any fears about job security to rest.
Although XDG is in last place, they looked comfortable in their old roles with the addition of Sheep. With that being said, Curse also looked very strong in their 3-1 performance during Super Week. Cop has finally evolved into the top-tier ADC that Liquid said he was, and Dom’s constant early jungle pressure normally gives Curse an early lead. XDG needs to be able to deal with the early pressure from Dom, and has to have an answer for the pressure that Curse will exert for early dragon control. Curse has shown that they can snowball a game from early objectives, so XDG will have to be on their A-game.
Cloud 9 HyperX (16-4) vs. Evil Geniuses (6-14)
In another 3-0 matchup, EG has yet to beat Cloud 9 this split. EG’s subs have their work cut out for them this weekend against a Cloud 9 team fresh off their fourth place finish at IEM Katowice. While RobertXLee has had some LAN experience in his unsuccessful attempt at getting into the LCS, I’m not sure how Ken and ThinkCard will react under the LCS studio lights. While they may not be as invested as Innox and Pobelter, the pressure of slipping into last place combined with the screaming crowd may be too much to handle for the subs.
I don’t think this game will be fun to watch for EG fans. A Cloud 9 team that looked very strong on the world stage is set to go up against a team that has only had a week of practice together. EG’s only hope is for Pobelter to HAM on a champ like Leblanc or Riven and single handedly carry the game. Barring any cheese from Cloud 9, I don’t see EG winning this game.
That wraps it up for week 9 of the North American League Championship Series. With playoffs approaching, each team is looking to for a top 6 spot and a chance at the playoffs. TSM and Cloud 9 look to cement their first round byes, while XDG, EG, and Coast look to fight their way out of the bottom of the standings and into playoff contention.
Be sure to catch all of the action on www.lolesports.com, starting at 3pm EST/ Noon PST.