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The LCS summer championships have been underway for a week, and things are heating up. Friday kicked off the first of four action-packed games, and the stakes have never been higher. Eight teams are still in the running to claim the coveted $100,000 prize, and three spots at the Worlds are up for grabs.
Counter Logic Gaming
Counter Logic Gaming will face Golden Guardians on Saturday in the second match of the loser’s bracket. CLG will want to return to winning ways, and should back themselves against a team they’ve already beaten twice in the regular season.
CLG slipped to a 2-3 defeat against Cloud9 last week in the upper round, which demoted them to the loser’s bracket alongside TSM and Golden Guardians. There they joined FlyQuest, who suffered a heavy defeat to Team Liquid. The first playoff contest against Cloud9 was a nail-biter from start to finish. Both teams were very closely matched in terms of skill and aggression, and the skirmish went back and forth from game one to five.
Cloud9 took the lead in the first game, but CLG dragged things back in the next. The second contest was a bloodbath, witnessing over 40 kills between both sides. Niship “Dhokla” Doshi and Cristian “Palafox” Palafox were the main aggressors, taking 14 kills between. In the next game, however, they found themselves on the receiving end of an assault by Fudge and Berserker, and Cloud9 took the lead again. And back and forth it went, but in the end Cloud9 surged ahead, booking their place in the next round.
CLG’s turnaround this year has been nothing short of inspirational. It’s hard to believe that they’re the same team that has struggled on the sidelines of the LCS for years, always on the fringes of the playoffs but treated with disdain by the bigger teams. Last year they completely overturned their roster, bringing in Fatih ‘Luger’ Güven, Philippe ‘Poome’ Lavoie-Giguere and Juan Arturo ‘Contractaz’ Garcia in November.
It’s taken this set of players a split to adjust, but the addition of Dhokla was the catalyst that brought the paradigm shift in their approach, and consequently their results. Their resurgence has made them one of the most exciting teams to watch this split, and many will be curious to see how the team builds on this performance in the future.
Golden Guardians were the very last team to qualify for the playoffs, finishing eighth on the rankings. They managed this on account of a totally unexpected victory in their final game of the regular season, where they defeated Dignitas and moved to eighth seed. This bottom-of-the-table clash towards the end of the split was written off by most as inconsequential to the standings, but GG had other ideas.
Dignitas were blindsided, and Immortals, who’d been assuring themselves of that last spot for weeks, suddenly dropped to ninth place. Until then, GG had taken a battering for almost the entire second half of the season. They defeated Dignitas in the fourth week of the split, but after that were dealt loss after heartbreaking loss.
After succumbing to eight losses in a row, their playoff chances looked bleak, and when they were beaten by Immortals in the penultimate week, had reduced to practically nothing. Two demoralizing defeats to Evil Geniuses and Team Liquid followed to seemingly hammer that final nail in the coffin, but GG had one last chance to make it – by beating the scapegoats Dignitas.
But Dignitas didn’t exactly want to roll over and die either, or give GG a free pass by any means. Both teams scored 17 kills each, but GG came through in the end after nearly 40 minutes of a difficult, high-stakes contest. They haven’t been able to beat CLG even once this season, but will be more hopeful after their high-pressure victory against Dignitas last week.
Round two of the upper bracket will get underway on Sunday, the first contest to take place between 100 Thieves and Team Liquid. Both have been among the top teams of this split, and at least one will doubtless appear in the grand final.
The winner of this game progresses to round four, and will face the victor of the clash between Evil Geniuses and Cloud9. The loser will drop to the lower bracket, alongside FlyQuest, TSM, GG and CLG. This contest, between two of the most high-profile teams of the LCS, promises to be a slugfest.
Seed number three, TL, met seed number six FlyQuest last week in the first round of the upper bracket. Unexpectedly they lost the first game, but it served as a wake-up call. After that they pulled themselves together to win the next three on the trot. All in all, it was an easy, clinical victory for TL, and they managed to wrap it up in four games.
Throughout the course of the summer they have been early aggressors, keen to draw first blood. Soren “Bjergsen” Bjerg and Steven “Hans Sama” Liv continued to follow that approach, and across the next three games they didn’t miss a beat.
At the start of last year, TL showed clear intent with their new signings. Their star-studded roster was the topic of much discussion, with everyone in full agreement that they had built North America’s super team. Santorin was joined by Gabriël ‘Bwipo’ Rau, and Hans Sama and Bjergsen were signed as well.
27-year-old Bjergsen gave up his role as head coach of TSM to resume competitive play, and his experience and acumen have served Team Liquid extremely well so far. While his spring split performances weren’t great, he’s shaken off all the rust and come through for the team in crunch moments.
Though TL eventually finished third in the round robin, they haven’t maintained the kind of consistency that one would expect from a team of their caliber. They’ve won 12 and lost six of their games in the regular season, a shock defeat to TSM in the early stages of the split raising several eyebrows. 100 Thieves have beaten them twice this season, and though TL certainly possess the skill set to blow past any team they’re up against, they’ll be nervous heading into this game.
Over the last couple of years, 100 Thieves have evolved into one of the best LoL teams in North America. In the summer of 2021 they were crowned LCS champions for the first time in their five-year history, and looked well on course to making it a double set this past spring. Of course, they – and everybody, honestly – were not accounting for the meteoric rise of Evil Geniuses, who swooped in from the shadows to clinch their maiden title at the LCS.
That final instilled a hunger into them that has been evident across practically every game they’ve played since then. The 100 finished as second seed on the summer standings, with only 4 losses from the round robin. During the middle weeks of the split they ran riot, going undefeated for seven games in a row before the golden streak was broken by FlyQuest.
No other player in the split, except for maybe EG’s Danny, has been able to hold a candle to the 100’s ultra-aggressive bot-laner Ian Victor “FBI” Huang. FBI averages a whopping 4.72 kills per game, accounting for a third of 100’s 13.8 kills per game. Their gameplay this season has been calculated and incisive, and they’ve preferred to err on the side of caution rather than jumping on the offensive.
They’ll fancy their chances against TL, whom they’ve already beaten twice this summer. Considering that their opponents haven’t always held their nerve in tense moments, the 100’s steady approach to their game will give them the edge in this contest.
The second match of the upper bracket features Evil Geniuses and Cloud9, the top and fifth seeds respectively, squaring off on Monday. EG seeded directly into the second round on account of their top place finish, while Cloud9 defeated CLG in a five-match slugfest. Reigning champions EG won’t doubt themselves in this clash, but should remember that Cloud9 have an uncanny ability to knock over top teams.
Tournament favorites EG have dominated the summer, and it is foolish to suggest that they won’t go the distance in the playoffs. They have conducted a near-perfect defense of their spring title, having lost just three of their eighteen games in the round robin, one each to CLG, 100 Thieves and Team Liquid.
All eyes were on EG after their preposterous win in the spring to see whether they could maintain that lofty standard of play, and no one was disappointed. Their LCS title qualified them for the Mid-Season Invitational in Korea, and they seeded 3rd-4th, bringing home $25,000. The experience playing at the international level worked wonders for their young lineup, and EG returned bigger and better than ever before.
Last spring EG was quite ordinary during the regular season, but no one is in a hurry to forget the mayhem they caused at the playoffs. Least of all Team Liquid and 100 Thieves, both of whom had been favorites to win all along. This summer they’ve changed that, and bossed the other teams around from the word go.
They’ve topped the charts across practically every metric – most gold per minute (1877), most kills per game (15.6), most towers destroyed (8.1), and highest damage per minute (2400). Volumes can be written about bot-laner Kyle “Danny” Sakamaki, a player who could walk into any team in the world.
He tops the kill charts at 4.98 kills per game, with Kacper “Inspired” Słoma, and of course, Joseph Joon “jojopyun” Pyun, not far behind. EG are the very definition of a champion team, and unless they put a spoke in their own wheel, no one else has the capacity to stop them from bringing home their second title of the year.
Cloud9 have had a mixed summer. They finished fifth on the rankings with 10 wins and 8 losses, but had to secure that with a tie-breaker against FlyQuest. Cloud9 have turned in varying performances this year.
At times they’ve appeared confident, lethal, and as if nothing can stop them – and on other occasions have looked like they’re struggling to wake up from a bad dream. Cloud9 have won the LCS twice in the last three years, and while they’ve shown glimpses of the same brilliance that brought them the trophy in the spring of 2021, it hasn’t been often enough.
Cloud9 had a tough start to their tournament, losing their first three games and finishing bottom at the end of the first week. In some ways, it feels like they’ve been playing catch up ever since. They were without two of their overseas roster members, support Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen and star bot laner Kim “Berserker” Min-cheol in the first couple of games owing to visa issues. Berserker’s absence left a heavy impact on their side in the first week, but his return brought immediate results. He has been the star of the show for Cloud9 this season, with 3.69 kills and 6.25 assists per game.
On a good day, Cloud9 seem like they have the capacity to steamroller any obstacle in their path. On the bad ones, however, they’ve suffered losses to teams like Golden Guardians and Immortals. They’ll be praying for a good one against Evil Geniuses, because they haven’t found a way to beat them all summer.
|Team Liquid, Counter Logic Gaming, Cloud9, Evil Geniuses, 100 Thieves, Golden Guardians
|Conducted in North America
|Saturday, August 27 at 1 pm EST onwards
|How to watch
|Official Twitch channel
With an interest in strategy and mathematics, applying that to sports writing was the natural progression. A writer at night and the founder of a gaming company, Nikhil’s previous experience includes working with ESPN for five years. His specialization includes soccer, basketball, tennis, and esports betting. Email: [email protected]More info on Nikhil Kalro
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