(Image Credit: Chris Yunker)
The NA LCS returns June 16th for the 2018 Summer Split, and there's plenty to get excited about. Let's break down the action you can expect only ten days away, and how the teams stack up heading into Saturday.
#10) OpTic Gaming
Last place would have been a forgivable finish for a brand new team if two of the other three new teams (100T and CG) hadn't made it into the playoffs / won the title. Unfortunately, the reality of being able to overtake the NA LCS with a solid group of players for any team is the reality that OpTic Gaming live in.
They'll look to start strong, but will quickly have their morale snuffed out after a couple of weeks of hard losses and will throw substitutes around like crazy until the end of the split when they have to face a last place finish.
OpTic certainly doesn't have much to live up to as a new team, but for the sake of the brand, I hope they can prove me wrong and find the kind of play necessary to at least carry them to 7th place. But it won't happen.
Instead, they'll follow suite with FlyQuest and make drastic changes in the winter in preparation for 2019, and I can't wait to watch it all unfold in the summer.
Not even Wildturtle's wicked fine hairline can persuade me that this team has what it takes to improve moving into the summer.
I suspect a worse finish from them this split, and a heavy change of roster in the winter. They aren't good, but they just edge out OpTic at the bottom of the table.
#8) Golden Guardians
It felt a little unjust to see Hai falter so much with his brand new toy of a team. While I expected them to have a rough start early on, I didn't expect them to take last place for their first season in the LCS.
There isn't much to be said about the team, and nothing much to be hopeful for aside the weak claims that a split of experience will be enough to push them forward this coming split.
As tedious as it is giving the 'in denial' cries the time of day, the fun play style and healthy mindset GGS took on at the end of the split makes them a team worth considering as a high moral / low skill team that can compete with their bottom of the tier peers.
I suspect a jump from 10th to 8th this split simply because I believe the other squads are less likely to grow.
#7) Counter Logic Gaming
It feels like any team with the names of Darshan, Reignover, and Biofrost should be at least mid-tiered on a bad day, but as it turns out, feelings don't matter, and CLG are hot trash.
They ended the spring split at 7th place with a 7-11 record, meaning they would have had to win three more games to simply tie themselves up with CG for a chance at the playoffs. A disappointing performance to say the least.
In terms of statistics, they don't do any better. Their best performing player on the KDA list ranks at just below the halfway mark for the season, which obviously means it isn't any better for the rest of the team. And that's just about CLG's season in a nutshell: Just below average.
The name they have to live up to means that their going to want a better summer performance, I.E. 5th-1st place, but I just don't see them even making playoffs should they still have traces of scrub in their veins.
Seventh place, its unfortunate to say, will be their likely spot on the finish line.
#6) Clutch Gaming
Despite the sixth place finish, another one of the four new teams of the LCS found themselves in a good spot to build the foundations of their team off of.
Don't let the sixth place end to their season fool you, this team was only a couple of wins away from stealing third place away from TSM, which means ranking them just behind their Thieving comrades make a little more sense than the spring split tables would have you believe.
The likes of Hakuho and Febiven, who grasped an astonishing fourth place on the KDA list, will allow the team to pull off upsets here and there while also competing with the bottom four below them for padding on their W/L record.
A solid team that will look towards strengthening themselves over the long term to become a successful LCS organization.
The Leicester City of the NA LCS.
They showed us a larger than life performance at the end of the last split by finishing strong and winning the title. A perfect start for a team's first ever season in the NA LCS.
Despite the victory, questions have to be asked of their longevity as a new team. Just like Leicester City's victory in the EPL, the road to the title for 100Thieves was littered with opponents trying to sort out their internal struggles and as a result the terrain was much more comfortable.
And just like Leicester City's victory in the EPL, the season to follow will be much more secure with opponents that have ironed out their problems and are looking to crush the league title holders.
The talent of Aphromoo and Cody Sun can't go understated, but will be something the top four will handle, and something the bottom five won't.
#4) Team Liquid
The play off victors and MSI disappointments are a bit further down than you'd probably expect. But upon rethinking the course of the last split, it becomes apparent that having a big piece to a puzzle doesn't matter if you don't have the smaller ones to complete it.
Team Liquid did very well to make it as far as they did at MSI, and their performances at the NA LCS playoffs was nothing short of absolutely dominant. But having 4/5'ths of the team showing up on a coin flip isn't the strategy needed to be absolutely dominant over the course of an entire split, and 1/5th of a team isn't enough to get a desired result every time, even if that fifth is the best AD carry in the league.
Doublelift ranked sixth on the KDA list for the last split out of all players, which is good on its own, but not when you realize that the next best Liquid player was Xmithie ranked at eighteenth.
It sounds perfectly fine to have a progression of skill gaps on teams, but that kind of distance starts to seem extraordinarily wide when you see that teams like TSM and Echo Fox have two or more of their players within the top ten of the KDA list.
All of which point the nature of these teams, which is that they are multi-faceted and can rely on more than one strategy and / or player, which, as we saw during MSI, Team Liquid most certainly can not.
As Mike Yeung has taught us, statistics don't give you the whole story. But they are a useful indication of someone's performance over a long period of time, and Team Liquid's just does not convince me.
#3) Echo Fox
The aforementioned team who's secret to success continues to elude us all.
Before the first split of 2018 began, most people who wanted to see Echo Fox succeed assumed they would be able to have their dreams realized through Huni. The ex-SKT top laner is one of the best players in the world and boasts a lot of international experience.
To the surprise of everyone Huni turned out to not be the glue to hold the team together in their good performances, but instead looked to Dardoch when in need of some stability within the team.
The jungler, who comes in second just behind Meteos on the KDA list for junglers of the spring split, was the first person fans expected to become a liability to the team with his history of toxic behavior. Instead, he quickly became an Echo Fox favorite that compliments the outlandish playstyle of Huni perfectly.
The biggest test to Echo Fox's success this split will be whether they can sort out their issues in the bot lane, much like their neighbors at TSM.
Unlike their neighbors, the confidence in ADC Altec and support Adrian isn't high enough to warrant a second place finish.
Even if the team manages to fix their issues in the carry lane (which is becoming more and more important as the meta shifts into a protect the carry version of itself) it isn't too likely that they can overcome teams like C9 or TSM, who have Dardoch levels of talent across the entire rift and onto the sub's bench.
#2) Team SoloMid
One of the most disappointing teams of last season managed to make amends with their early season faults and finish in a high third place position.
Despite ADC Zven having the best KDA of the season out of any other player, TSM made it known that their problems stemmed from a lack of communication between the core of the team and their new European bot lane duo.
After a full mid-season to recuperate and develop synergy between the players, TSM will be looking to make a case for why they should be at the top of the NA LCS table and why they belong on the international stage for North America.
The biggest question lies within jungler Mike Yeung's ability to stay solid for the majority of the season, for the last time around he was definitely not.
The rookie did well on the stats page, being the third best jungler in terms of KDA. Though what will make or break him as a TSM jungler will be whether he has worked on his late game play.
It's one thing to be able to put up good numbers on the scoreboard, it's another thing entirely to not be a liability to your team past twenty minutes due to poor macro play: an issue he exhibited most clearly against Echo Fox last split.
Consistency was the name of the game from C9 in 2018's summer split. When teams like TSM and TL showed their weaknesses early on in the league, it was Cloud9 that managed to climb above their peers and remain at the top of the table for the majority of the season.
With a tight finish to the final two weeks and some unfortunate performances by rookie Licorice, Cloud9 would have felt that their finish at 5th place for the season was an unjust end to a season that needs redemption.
Now that the dust has settled and Licorice has gotten a full split of experience under his belt, C9 are the favorites to take home the 2018 summer split title.