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 7? 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 7, we'll look at how 100 Thieves are stealthily coming back into relevancy, how TSM is once again looking like a dominant force in the NA LCS, and how the six playoff teams, and those on the outside looking in, are shaping up as the season wanes.
TL;DR: 100 Thieves have halted their downward (or, middling) spiral with a strong 2-0 week, stemming questions on the legitimacy of the roster as contenders. Those questions silenced (for now), can the team carry their new-found momentum into this week?
I’ll admit, in the preseason I was riding the 100 Thieves hype train, completely from personal bias. Seeing William "Meteos" Hartman, Zaqueri "aphromoo" Black , and Kim "Ssumday" Chan-ho on the same team felt like a dream come true. While the team’s early results in the season showed promise, they’ve struggled to make a real dent in the past few weeks. Until last week, with a shocking 2-0 weekend with one of those wins off of top team Cloud 9. The worries around this roster started to settle, at least for now.
It was the game against Cloud 9 that really showed 100 Thieves potential, and possibly their ability to make a deep run in their first playoffs as a franchise. Cody "Cody Sun" Sun, the ‘under the radar’ player for 100 Thieves (with big-name veterans, that’s understandable) was the star of the show, pulling off an insane deathless weekend, going 11/0/4 KDA in his game against Cloud 9, while finishing their game against FlyQuest 9/0/4, for a whooping 20/0/8 weekend KDA. That’s insane.
Of course, it’s his team around him that’s enabled him to shine like this, and that’s even better. 100 Thieves were a team that if all of their members clicked, while maybe not a ‘super team,’ could easily be a scary combination for any opposing side. They’re starting to show us that potential again, and if they can carry it into their week against slumping Team Liquid and the rising TSM, then they’ll have made a real case going into the rest of the split to be a real contender during the playoffs.
TL;DR: A slow start (that may be too polite a way of putting it) has turned around to the usual for the TSM squad. Whether they're able to silence the critiques with some more solid Ws is to be seen, but even not the team is looking more alive than ever.
Ahhhhh, TSM. The team that seems to be in ways like SKT; you just can’t count these guys out, ever. An abysmal start to the split, with one of the fastest losses against Team Liquid for the split, has completely turned around, as the roster is looking more and more like a team than a desperate group of solo queue players trying to win their promotion games. An odd draft from Echo Fox may be to blame for their loss to TSM, but I’m never one to discount a win: taking down one of the teams tied for first is amazing for a team that barely looked to be scraping by in the beginning. That's some good growth.
While maybe not the absolute dominance we were expecting, Jesper "Zven" Svenningsen and Alfonso "mithy" Aguirre Rodríguez have finally shaped up into the duo lane we expected the European imports to be. They’re not styling on kids left, right and center like they were in the EU LCS, but the two are starting to hold their own and making some good plays. Additionally, Søren "Bjergsen" Bjerg and Kevin "Hauntzer" Yarnell have shown why they were the two retained players for TSM, coming online to do some serious damage against Echo Fox and OpTic.
The win over Echo Fox was the big test for the squad, who are used to seeing themselves as the ‘team to beat to become real contenders.’ But it wasn't just a win, TSM absolutely controlled and manipulated the Echo Fox team, barely conceding much and asserting themselves quite well as still a team to watch out for. Unsurprisingly, a strong performance from Bjergsen and Hauntzer was much of the reason for the W. While Michael "MikeYeung" Yeung and Zven/Mithy may not have been the star-studded positional upgrades fans were looking for, it seems they’re starting to prove their worth as a team that can make a statement in the playoffs.
TL;DR: The midway in the season is passed, and now playoff considerations are cutthroat. The top Six(ish) have all but assembled themselves, but questions abound for all the NA LCS teams.
The Playoff Six are starting to shape up, as the season begins to wane and teams start pulling more and more ahead (while others fall behind.) Echo Fox and Cloud 9 hold first and second place respectively to themselves, having proved time and time again to be a cut above the rest (however, not without a few losses along the way). With a deadly duo of Heo "Huni" Seung-hoon and Joshua "Dardoch" Hartnett have seen Echo Fox destroy competition, new teams and the old guard alike, finally ascending the standings. Cloud 9, rock steady, ‘losing the offseason,’ found a rare NA Top lane talent that’s just dominated in Eric "Licorice" Ritchie, with Zachary "Sneaky" Scuderi/Andy "Smoothie" Ta and Nicolaj "Jensen" Jensen doing what they do best: winning lane.
Third place is a three-way tie between some surprising teams: Clutch Gaming, TSM, and Team Liquid. Clutch Gaming have shocked many, or maybe not that many, with a surprisingly strong team, particularly centered around axel point in Fabian "Febiven" Diepstraten, who secured the first Pentakill in the NA LCS Spring Split. TSM, on the other hand, have come from looking atrocious to becoming more and more than their old, dominant selves, with import bot lane shaping up more and Mikeyeung starting to seem less… getting-caught-out-a-lot. Team Liquid have been the inverse of TSM, starting absolutely amazingly strong and have all but sputtered out as the split goes on. They’ll probably squeak into the playoffs, but it’s a significant drop from the expectations fans had from their earlier performances.
Those on the outside looking in are OpTic Gaming, FlyQuest, CLG, and Golden Guardians. The first two have the best chance of making it into the last playoff spot, with OpTic Gaming’s hard carrying style out of Tristan "PowerOfEvil" Schrage and Noh "Arrow" Dong-hyeon. With FlyQuest, they’ve finally assembled their new roster, and have been at least putting up more of a consistent fight against teams. CLG is… the head-scratcher. This roster went from challenging for Worlds, to really just… being there. They look lost and without an identity after main shotcaller Aphromoo left, and the team has been in all but panic mode justifying themselves. Golden Guardians, on the other hand, have happily one not just one, or two, but THREE games. The roster that was set to not even win anything have 300% their expectations, and, well, there’s that. At least there’s no more relegation tournament waiting for these guys, right?