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 9? 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 we'll take a look at how CLG, somehow, after looking completely lost for most of the split can still make their way into the playoffs, the battle at the top between Echo Fox and Cloud 9 isn't just a battle of two anymore, and TSM and Team Liquid find themselves gatekeepers for Playoffs for the first time in a long time.

CLG: Still a Chance in Hell for Playoffs

TL;DR: CLG somehow managed to turn their atrocious split around, have taken down both Echo Fox and Cloud 9 in recent weeks, and are possibly playoff bound after a trashfire beginning of the split. Can they stay strong in the end of their run and cross the finish line?

Alright CLG. You've pulled off some impressive stuff in your past, but if you manage to sneak into the Playoffs after the beginning of this split by going basically undefeated over three weeks... well, that'd be somethin' special. It's unlikely (or maybe that's just having seen CLG fall short multiple times in their history), and it would take quite a few things happening and lining up just right but... it's... a possibility.

Yes, the most likely scenario that CLG needs to pull this off is for Golden Guardians (you know, the team that didn't really impress many and then started upsetting randomly?) to defeat TSM... once that happens, CLG need to then actually take down rival TSM. If they can do this, they force a tiebreaker between the two organizations (ohh, and CLG can't lose to OpTic Gaming too!) I mean, it's not the most... impossible thing to happen, but it's never fun having your fate in the hands of another team.

On the bright side, CLG has looked immensely better in the past few weeks than they did during the rest of the split. Trevor "Stixxay" Hayes has stepped up, putting on his carry pants in quite a few games. Stixxay's lanemate in Vincent "Biofrost" Wang and newly minted shotcaller has made play after play, and some solid shotcalling to boot (I think C9 fans will have bad memories of their loss to CLG in an insane comeback.) As long as the gods of League smile on CLG, and they perform, they still have a shot to playoffs and a chance to make a real statement in the post-season. If not, they'll have a long break before they can prove themselves again in the Summer Split.

Cloud 9 and Echo Fox: Playoff byes aside, there's a lot on the line for the last week

TL;DR: The once untouchable Cloud 9 and Echo Fox have seen better days, with Cloud 9 going 3-2 in the past five, and Echo Fox going 2-3. Playoffs are locked in, but the first round bye is not (yet), and the teams will need to right the ship to get their playoff bys over surging 100 Thieves and Clutch Gaming.

The two gods of the NA LCS are looking more and more... reachable, particularly in the past few weeks. Both have posted a 1-1 record in the past three weeks, with some surprising losses (Echo Fox loss to Golden Guardians, and Cloud 9's loss to CLG,) have the two teams, who were once in proxy battle with each other for that coveted top place in the league, now have some new teams nipping at their heels.

For the first time in Echo Fox history, #LOLFOX will be attending the #NALCS playoffs - Echo Fox

100 Thieves have stolen their way back into playoff relevancy, with a resurgence in form from star Top laner Kim "Ssumday" Chan-ho and pleasantly surprisingly good play from ADC Cody "Cody Sun" Sun. Also within touching range is Clutch Gaming, the 'underrated' team that's not underrated by anyone who's paid any attention to the NA LCS. This team looks good, and it's not just a one-man show in Fabian "Febiven" Diepstraten, but the whole team has formed into a damn good team.

100 Thieves

With Echo Fox and Cloud 9 looking to be mortal again, this week isn't just vital for clinching those playoff byes, it's also a sign for how they'll do in the playoffs. Regular season placements are good, but it wouldn't be the first time a team has done well in regular season and choked in the all-important playoffs. Both teams are filled with experience, playoff and regular season, so that may not be as big a concern. However, going anything less than 1-1 (and even that is worrisome) will spell some serious worries for the teams if they want to claim that NA LCS finals victory.

TSM and Liquid: Gatekeepers with something to prove

TL;DR: TSM and Liquid are the gatekeepers for CLG's playoff Cinderella story, and neither team wants to let up. TSM is in the precarious position that if they drop a game to Golden Guardians, their back half of the split performances will be for not. Team Liquid, constantly in question, needs to have a strong week to close off the split, not just for playoff positioning, but to make a statement.

Team Liquid Pobelter Impact

Playoffs, playoffs, playoffs, everything this week is about playoffs, and TSM and Team Liquid are in a strange position. For TSM, not having their playoffs spot locked up is a whole new experience. Team Liquid, on the other hand, is feeling at least better than previous iterations, finally finding themselves poised to enter the playoffs.

The fact is, neither team is dead set, with CLG roaring into the last week of the regular season with a four-game win-streak, taking down both C9 and Echo Fox. They're on a tear, while Team Liquid is still seeming a bit off. TSM, on the other hand, seem ready to stop the CLG hype train in its track. If they win the rematch game against their oldest rivals than it'll be the sweetest victory, securing their own playoff spot and denying it to their longtime rivals. For Team Liquid, it'll be the first time since Summer Split 2016 that they've made it into playoffs. For the newly minted Super Team, this is an important week, not just to get themselves into that post-season, but to reassure fans that they are the real deal.

TSM sit at a healthy 4-1 in the last five games record, and that's impressive. Team Liquid is less optimistically at a 2-3 record, which is endemic of the last half the split for them. With TSM's latter split resurgence, they'll need to carry that momentum to carry themselves into the playoffs. They face CLG, so a loss to them will mean the possible end to a good turnaround split. Team Liquid needs to at least finish 1-1 to maintain their chances getting in (OpTic should be an easy win...) and a 2-0 would be great if they could take down Cloud 9. They need to prove to fans and pundits alike that they're the real deal or not, and that depends on their performance this week.


Enjoy this article? Check out last week's article: Stories Around the Rift NA LCS Week 7