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Cloud9 will start as slight favorites against TSM to open the round
Team Liquid against 100 Thieves will be the blockbuster game of this round
Evil Geniuses looking for some confidence after slow start to new spring season
TSM haven’t done too badly to begin the LCS Spin 2023. Currently fifth in the 10-team pool, they’re desperately in need of a win to open up a bit of a gap between them and two others - CLG and Team Liquid - who are breathing down their necks.
It may have yet been a tight race if this was a single round-robin format; but because each team plays 18 games, there is some wriggle room yet. Against Cloud9, who seemingly are sitting a lot more comfortably at second with a 3-1 win-loss record, they will be tested to the hilt.
And tested not just in terms of their proficiency but also skill, temperament, patience, and execution. Back Cloud9 to go all the way with this one, but don’t be surprised if TSM, who have exceeded expectations until now, put up a good fight.
One look at TSM’s records so far and you know where they’ve been found wanting. Their offensive proficiency has been canceled out by their weak defense. Take for example Neo, their bot laner. Who has an average kill rate of 3, but in averaging 3 deaths and a mere 5 assists, there’s little the team has gained as a result.
Ditto with Solo, who has landed 2 kills and averages 2 deaths. This hints at a pattern of predictability. They’ve allowed teams to dictate terms, and kill off their plans easily. It’s time to do things differently
The team appeared completely shaken up last year when they received a competitive ruling from the LCS, where their co-owner was fined for bullying his players, and the former head coach banned from being associated with any team in Riot-sanctioned competitions for “alarming and unethical behavior” towards current and former TSM players.
And it has taken a lot for them to just move on from there. That was just the tip of the iceberg. If that wasn’t enough, they lost one of their biggest names Søren "Bjergsen" Bjerg to Team Liquid. Then came the news that one of their biggest sponsors had pulled out.
This was followed by MVP jungler Mingyi "Spica" Lu leaving for FlyQuest. That’s one blow after another. One dagger after another. If after all this, they’re still competing hard to find stability, you have to doff your hats to their current group of players. Give them time.
Cruising high and happy with four wins to begin the split are FlyQuest, who have executed all their plans to the T. They will however be wary of immediate challengers Evil Geniuses, who are locked in a 3-1 fight with Cloud9 and 100 Thieves.
A win will give them a joint top spot for now, a loss will push them slightly into the mid-table, even if it may not be a cause for alarm just yet. All said this is a clash of equals; between two strong teams capable of pushing each other to the limit. The odds are with FlyQuest purely on the basis of how one-sided their wins have been.
That they have surged to the top despite playing without a prolific support player tells you how much of a marker they’ve laid down. Bill “Eyla” Nguyen hasn’t been able to link up for the first two weeks because of visa issues, and in his absence, FlyQuest’s Challengers support Kim “Winsome” Dong-keon has done a commendable job.
It seemed as if this absence could affect them against Team Liquid and Dignitas, but they looked anything but suspect in taking them both down in a convincing fashion. They also discovered a new superstar - AD carry Prince, who has so far exceeded expectations.
They came into the split with a mixed regular season. They won their first-ever LCS Championship in the spring but fizzled out when they were favorites in the summer, ending third. That’s the thing about big teams.
A trophy-less season doesn’t count as a success, and that Evil Geniuses aren’t celebrating these improvements is because they’re after titles. They’re hungry to win now because those two splits were followed by an up-and-down Worlds too, where they only managed to get out of the Play-In stage.
If there’s one clash this week that’s too close to call because teams are so equal on several counts, it’s this one. Team Liquid v 100 Thieves may have you tearing your hair out to pick an outright winner; leaving you possibly looking for reasons why you should pick one over the other instead of having one definitive answer. And that’s because these are two quality teams with quality players.
Liquid are currently 2-2 in the split, while 100 Thieves are 3-1 up. It’s one victory that separates the two and there’s a long way to go before a proper trend can emerge on who makes the top six.
On current form and squad composition, you’d back both of them to make the playoffs, which is why it isn’t too outlandish to suggest you’re not going to be wrong by picking one team over the other as favorites for this clash.
All said, Team Liquid don’t want to be getting into a rut early, and then training their energies on getting out of quicksand as the split reaches the mid-way mark.
While they ran TSM close before losing, they were literally handed a pounding in their opening game by FlyQuest. The two wins have been dominating ones though, and in that they hold out hope that should they get ahead of the contest early, they have the skill and firepower to hold on.
100 Thieves are in rebuild mode after having parted ways with four players - Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho, Choi “Huh” Jae-Hyun, Victory “FBI” Huang, and Felix “Abbedagge” Braun. This is the same roster that helped them win the LCS Championship in 2021 when they beat Team Liquid in the final. So Liquid can already sense an advantage this time around.
What this tells you is reputation only counts for so much in a big tournament. Ultimately, form is what matters and there’s little place for sentiment. How 100 Thieves cope with it, only time will tell. But this much is known: their new squad has lofty standards to live up to and the results are there for everyone to see.
CLG are in the mid-table, trying to get out of the clutter, but two of their four wins have brought out glimpses of their burgeoning potential. Golden Guardians have slumped to one heavy defeat after another.
They are currently winless and at the bottom of the pile, l searching for their best combination. They’re also grappling with several questions, not least their defensive strategy which has turned out to be counter-productive.
When you’re down and out the only way is up. For the Guardians, they have an opportunity to unearth massive potential in mid laner Young Ho “Young” Choi, who was signed to the NA Challengers League team at the end of last year.
He now has an opportunity to get an extended run thanks to visa issues with “Gori” Tae-woo, who is expected to be available soon. At the Challengers, Young brought his team two diverting draws in which he played a pivotal role. They’ll hope the promise extends to the bigger stage.
It’s a clash of two bottom-of-the-pile teams trying to make the upward climb, but have often slipped down the slope. Immortals are eighth with a 1-3 record, while Dignitas are one of only two teams yet to open their account.
Purely going by the points and the proceedings so far this split, expect Immortals to get a much-needed win, but if Dignitas can open their account, they can get the ammunition needed to challenge the mid-table.
That said, one game won’t make a massive difference to either side, but the value of a win can’t be understated. The odds may favor Immortals but let that not hoodwink you into believing they’re overwhelming favorites here.
It’s a clash of equals; a clash of two underperforming sides. Invariably, such contests often turn into compelling clashes. Let’s hope this one stays true to that.
Teams: 100 Thieves, Cloud9, Golden Guardians, Evil Geniuses, FlyQuest, Team Liquid, Counter Logic Gaming, Dignitas, Immortals
Location: North America
Time: Thursday, February 9 at 3 PM ET onwards
How to watch: LCS 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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