Stories Around the Rift will bring you the overarching storylines week to week in the NA LCS. Which team is on the up and up in NA LCS Week 6? Who needs to prove themselves, or bounce back from a bad week? Which players are surprising and which are disappointing? Esports is just as much about the stories and the narratives as it is the gameplay. So sit down, grab some cookies and milk, and get ready for storytime kiddos.
This week, for NA LCS Week 6, we'll look at Echo Fox's 'Longzhu-ness', Clutch Gaming's silent grind for legitimacy, FlyQuest's possible playoff push, and Team Liquids continued troubles and tribulations.
TL;DR: Echo Fox's win over Cloud 9 cements them as the top team in the league (for now.) With a strong top lane and mid lane presence, can the 'Longzhu' of the NA LCS continue their ascent to their first title?
With an extremely important game beginning the second ‘half’ of the Spring Split (every team has played each other once), Echo Fox faced rivals for first place in Cloud 9 in the opening game. Walking away with the win, thanks in large part to an absolutely dominant performance from Top laner Heo "Huni" Seung-hoon and Jungler Joshua "Dardoch" Hartnett to shut down Eric "Licorice" Ritchie. A mid-game Baron loss to Cloud 9, mixed with a team wipe that put Nicolaj "Jensen" Jensen at the top of the scoreboard for a while, almost cost them the game. However, Echo Fox’s relentless pressure was too much for the Cloud 9 side, as the Foxes team fighting proved too strong.
Caster Aidan "Zirene" Moon made a comment that really stuck out to me: Echo Fox look like Longzhu (now Kingzone.) You have an aggressive, mechanically gifted top laner, a strong mid lane presence, and a Jungler that gets to have their pick of who to gank. Additionally, they’re slowly creating a bot lane that doesn’t require a lot of assistance (at least in that game against Cloud 9.) Pressure in the top and mid lane opens the map wide open for Echo Fox in the early game, where they thrive, and it’s quickly becoming a style that teams don’t seem to know how to address, much like Longzhu had. If the team can refine this style into perfection like Longzhu did, they're set to continue dominating the LCS.
TL;DR: Every year there's a 'Dark Horse' team, a team nobody thought would do as well as they are. This year it has to be Clutch Gaming, who have been looking dominant with imported mid lane Febiven and the core of old EnVyUs. Can the team make a legitimate push in the playoffs?
Clutch Gaming came into the split with the majority of the old EnVyUs roster. While that roster never found much success, some arguably massive upgrades in the solo lanes with Colin "Solo" Earnest filling in the Top lane for leaving Shin "Seraph" Woo-yeong, and the true star of the show in Fabian "Febiven" Diepstraten filling out the mid lane have seen the team shine. Febiven, in particular, has put his carry pants on for this roster and absolutely demolished the NA LCS’ mid lane talents. Every split there's a team that surprises the pundits with how well they're doing, and this year it has to be Clutch Gaming.
But it’s not just a star show from Clutch Gaming. A lot of teams can claim to have such a strong presence on their team that seems to drag the team kicking and screaming into victory. Clutch isn’t like that. The core three from EnVyUs in Nam "LirA" Tae-yoo, Apollo "Apollo" Price and Nickolas "Hakuho" Surgent have remained strong players. Overall, too, the team is decisive in their plays and their calls. They play like a team, not like a group of players who have great carries. While Clutch Gaming gathered their team through analytics and stats, it’s hard to deny that keeping a core with LirA on it, who acted not only as star jungler but also the coach to the team on EnVyUs, is a big part of their success. Febiven, of course, can’t be understated, but this is a team that is playing together too. That’s scary going into the second half of the split for these dark horses.
TL;DR: The addition of Fly has shot FlyQuest from outliers to playoff hopefuls. A weird situation in the support position may have cost them a few losses, but if the team can settle a bit, they have a real chance to make it into the post season.
FlyQuest is finally complete, having added their meme worthy mid lane choice in Song "Fly" Yong-jun (and thus the FLY Fly meme was born), the team has started to shape up into a stronger force in the NA LCS. A 2-2 record since Fly has joined the team may not sound impressive, but one of those losses was to Cloud 9. With arguably some of the strongest solo laners in the league (and that’s a bold statement,) like Top laner Lee "Flame" Ho-jong, FlyQuest and Fly, FlyQuest are forming into a possible playoff contender. A crushing defeat to Clutch Gaming is unfortunate, but a good showing against OpTic (who, despite their record, seem to have a core of talent) is some possible new light for the team.
While fitting Fly into the team will take a bit of time to adjust, FlyQuest also seem to be playing around in their support position, subbing starter William "Stunt" Chen it seems every other game for Academy player Juan "JayJ" Guibert may result in some less than desirable play. Support is a very crucial role on the team, particularly paired with their ADCs, so pending FlyQuest can settle on an identity, they’ll start to shape up a bit more. The mixture of Fly is starting to show some real strengths going forward, and so long as they figure out who they want as their starter, consistency may come to the team.
TL;DR: Everyone's talking about it, but the fact that Team Liquid have looked so week after looking so insanely good is concerning. Whether this is a case of the KT Rolster super team growing pains, or a real issue with synergy in the team, is a big storyline.
Team Liquid sit 6-4 in the League, currently tied for third place with Clutch Gaming. 6-4 going into Week 6 isn’t that bad really. But the problem is, that a lot of those wins, particularly the stronger showings, came early in the split. Liquid have slipped in a lot of their matches, most recently losing to last place Golden Guardians quite handily. With Liquid, it’s not so much a story of whether they can squeak into the post-season (yet). The real story is… what is going wrong with this team?
Team Liquid reminds me of KT Rolster in the early days. Liquid's offseason, arguably, was establishing a super team of sorts, taking the best of the best that were available in each position and combining them into a mega team. How’d that go for the KT boys? Atrociously, at first. Now they’re a dominant force in the LCK. Team Liquid needs to work out their communication issues and solidify their identity more. Overall, every player has their areas to improve on (except, maybe, Kim "Olleh" Joo-sung who has just been solid) but more importantly, they need to mesh and figure out their weaknesses as a unit. The exciting reality of a team of super stars is if they can work together and find that rhythm, well, they’ll be stomping all over their opponents quite handily (KT Rolster is known as the most aggressive early game team in the LCK for a reason.)