NA LCS: Mid-Split Power Rankings & Playoff Seeding Predictions

“Echo Fox got dealt a bad hand with the end of this split, with most of their easier games behind them, only one word describes their current situation: unlucky.

With the conclusion of Rift Rivals across the world, we turn to NA for our first ever look at where America’s League Championship Series teams stand and conclude with a brief look at their expected Playoffs seeding.

Note: RiftStory Power Rankings may not reflect official/current standings in the ladder. Rather, these are almost always predictions or estimations of teams’ strength among their competition and should not be taken as fact.

10. FlyQuest (FLY) 3W-7L

35529714781_cf95f4ab4d_b

Our 4th place team from last split has performed almost as badly as everyone’s expectations of them at the beginning of the Spring Split. Unlike spring, FlyQuest has not made a compelling case for being a top tier team in the summer. Their macro game has been slower and riskier than previously seen, and their solo laners are unable to stay even with their opponents.  That said, the meta is only just now accommodating their players, with Corki mid rising in priority for Hai, and Tristana showing resurgence in the bot lane for Wildturtle, enabling his risky forward-positioning play-style. Last split, FlyQuest showed us teamplay and objective trading was their strength. This split nothing looks as clean as it used to. Unfortunately, even their surprisingly strong  team fighting and god tier macro from last split can’t carry them out of huge gold deficits amassed from the lane phase. By the time they take a few turrets or hit critical item spikes for their next engage, their opponents have done that sooner, gotten even bigger leads from just farming creeps, or simply out-stat them in elongated skirmishes, diminishing their options for winning in almost any scenario. At this point, Flyquest’s only win condition is  their opponents not to having one. Expected end result: 4W-14L.

9. EchoFox (FOX) 4W-6L

34694409690_9886cb31f7_b

EchoFox has looked like a disaster. For a team with such exceptional players in every role, their games last the longest of all teams and they seem to have no clear identity other than outlasting the other teams in pure endurance tests of who will make the critical mistake that loses the game post 40 minutes. Unable to close gigantic leads, poor understanding of lane pressure and an inability to close out games with Baron buff on five members, Echo Fox has floundered this Summer with seemingly poor communication and few team-fight victories. Opting into a split-push strategy has actually weakened them in the mid to late game with solo psuhers getting caught out or the rest of the core group getting chased down due to poorly drafted team comps for engage/disengage strategies. Without a consistent strategy for winning, EchoFox looks to be a contender for worst team of the split with little chance of returning to form this late in the season. While the wins they have acquired may double the next team on this list (currently), the poor understanding of how to close out games or properly set up macro plays is especially disheartening to see from a roster of experienced players like Looper and Froggen. Add this to the fact their remaining schedule pits them against the 6 highest placed teams in NA for seven of their remaining eight games with only one match against a team with worse position in the standings than their own: Phoenix1. Unfortunately for them, P1 is a team they lost to in week 4 of the split, and also a team which has had significant success both domestically and internationally since the acquisition of their new Jungler. Echo Fox got dealt a bad hand with the end of this split, with most of their easier games behind them, only one word describes their current situation: unlucky. Expected end result: 4W-14L.

8. Team Liquid (TL) 2W-8L

34406052144_c038e712e4_b

In Team Liquid’s games, one cant help but see stark similarities to their Spring split performance, although this summer it seems like there are actually more teams sitting at or below their level (#PARITY). That being said, this is a team that can find victories with certain comps and win-conditions (like Galio + Olaf) and that should be reassuring. This is a team that can close out leads (if they get one, and hold it) post mid game. Liquid’s standing depends as much on their closest competitors losing as it does on their players working together, which is lucky considering the bottom half of the NA LCS standings are crowded as is, and positions can flip during any weekend. Expected end result: 4W-14L.

7. Team Dignitas (DIG) 5W-5L

35660094245_83d63c3836_b

Dignitas hit the ground running for their Summer split, showing off a lot of the same win-conditions we’ve seen before (snowball topside->win the game) featuring a new face in the Jungle, Shrimp. Having already made some changes to their roster, it seems DIG still wasn’t comfortable and has now made additional changes, this time to their botlane: benching LOD and replacing him with former FlyQuest ADC Altec. Still, DIG hasn’t looked as strong as initially suspected. Already, Dignitas has dropped two games to weaker teams and is struggling to find wins in coordinated team play. At this level, shutting down their singular win condition is enough to shut down Dignitas, and that is troubling for this squad. If the teams below them conjure any consistency, Dignitas could be the one team with the hardest drop in the standings of all the teams that had a positive record this season. Expected end result: 7W-11L.

6. Team EnvyUs (NV) 5W-5L

35081265765_640bf131a1_b

Midway through the split, Team EnvyUs has a lot of tools and options to win games with: an aggressive and innovative Jungler, a stronger, more well-rounded mid lane pool, and a rising bot lane duo outplaying their opponents left and right. Last split, NV’s Jungler Lira was in discussion for MVP based on how important his contributions were to his team and the entire league in terms of identifying strong ganking paths and new jungle routes to gain level advantages. Now, NV seems to be a team that can play through almost any role, their recent additions to the midlane have shown some carry potential while their botside has risen to the top of some conversations as best in the league. Their ADC Apollo especially has stunned on several occasions with clutch 1v1s on priority targets even when on the initially disadvantageous side of the trade. Because of this strength enabling their Marksman to be in lanes alone, Hakuho their Support is free to roam and create plays elsewhere. This roster is stronger than last split’s in every way except the top lane, the only clearly exploitable factor as their top laner Seraph is uncharacteristically selfish, taking minions in the face of the enemy top laner or simply refusing to teleport to his team for an engage or to save allies. However, unlike Dignitas, the other roles on this team are able to over perform and secure leads, playing to other places on the map besides just their toplane. Expected end result: 8W-10L.

5. Phoenix1 (P1) 3W-7L

35642062265_a73070b67b_b

The worst is behind Phoenix1. With a few roster swaps in Support and Jungle, Phoenix1 has found a team comprised of veteran players and young motivated talent. Now finally stabilizing their bottom lane after a series of four different Support player swaps, an experienced Support, Xpecial, can cover for AD Carry Arrow’s weaknesses. Luckily for Arrow the meta is also returning his roster of Marksmen champions during his MVP split in spring back into priority picks, further complimenting the P1 botlane’s ability to carry and style on the enemy team. However, the single biggest influence on the team’s upswing seems to have been the addition of the newest young NA talent in their jungle role, since selling off one of their most popular Jungler players and allowing the other to sit out the rest of the split. Since MikeYeung,  the frontrunner for Rookie of the Split, was signed, Phoenix1 has been on an upward trend of wins, culminating in a dazzling performance at Rift Rivals between North America’s top three teams from last split and Europe’s top three. Phoenix1 surprised all when they overtook C9 in W/L in the tournament and looked to be challenging TSM to represent NA in the finals. These hugely net-positive roster swaps, coupled with a meta shifting in their favor, makes it seem like Phoenix1 has a high probability of picking up more than a few wins in the coming weeks ahead, even topping some higher seeded teams along the way. Expected end result: 8W-10L.

4. Immortals (IMT) 7W-3L

35064028635_4dec41eb8e_b

As far as trades go, this has to be the most surprising result in League history. Never before have both teams benefited so much in a net-positive result that both teams then rise to be the contenders for top four in the split. Now the Immortals veteran Jungler, Xmithie, is paired with once again with former Counter Logic Gaming teammate and longtime friend in the midlane Pobelter. With him has come a clean slate, motivating the players around them and developingof a more safe play style that punishes enemies heavily for making mistakes. Alongside his fellow former CLG teammate, Pobelter himself has been returning to his Spring Split 2016 Championship form regaining control of the midlane, making proactive roams, and using the buddy-system with Xmithie invade the enemy jungle and relieve pressure elsewhere. Having finally integrated their Korean Toplaner Flame fully into their communication system, the infamous farm heavy carry is able to bolster their avenues for victory with the option to split-push or suffocate the enemy Toplaner out of farm and kills. The IMT botlane Cody Sun and support Olleh, despite a poor start in the beginning of spring, were in contention for best bot lane of Spring Split by the end. This play making Support and stable AD Carry have not stopped impressing, putting out invaluable pressure and controlling their lane expertly with 2v2/2v3 skirmishes and knowing when to hold turrets to counter enemy dives or roam to top lane to trade objectives. IMT have shown that their level of teamwork and individual carry potential can match that of the other top teams on this list, despite some calling their fortunate season just a bit of luck. Expected end result: 13-5.

3. Cloud9 (C9) 6W-4L

34220281164_7a2ce8e5dc_b

C9 was a story of two Tops last split: one being defensive, team-oriented, and stable–that’s Impact. The other, Ray, was known to be wild, aggressive, with more potential to outplay his opponent and carry. While the meta certainly favored the former last split, this split the latter is seeing more dominant play. Featuring incredible stand out performances from Cloud9’s Midlaner Jensen (Formerly Incarnation), C9 with a lead adopted a play style of blitzing the enemy team with hyper aggressive duels and securing small gains rapidly until their lead has become overwhelming; insurmountable without C9 taking unnecessary risks while ahead. Their Jungler Contractz has ceded his carry potential somewhat to better enable his Mid and Top laners to carry and spill over their leads to other parts of the map, and the C9 botlane AD Carry Sneaky has always been consistent with positioning, champion pool growth/flexibility and damage output. C9 knows how to make plays around vision control: their Support Smoothie places more wards on the map than any of the other top four teams’ supports. There’s a reason C9 has been in the finals and at the top of the standings so many times since entering the LCS: they know how to play the game at a structured, high skill level and can execute comps others would struggle with. Expected end result 14-4.

2. Counter Logic Gaming (CLG) 8W-2L

35529712631_1ed5091089_b

The surging squad of CLG had one of the highest profile trades happen in the off-season, one that has changed the entire play style of the team since. Split-pushing strategies? Gone. Winning through side lanes? Gone. Immaculate team fighting? Gone. So what have they changed that’s allowing them to win games? Their games have become incredibly scrappy and filled with cross map trades for objectives or kills. The addition of Dardoch in the Jungle in place of (now IMT) Xmithie has resulted in a more aggressive play style. Determined to invade camps, snowball Huhi‘s midlane, and pressure baron, Dardoch has stayed true to self while becoming more team-oriented alongside strong players in every role. Guided by Aphromoo‘s shotcalling and macro understanding of the game, CLG has managed to secure victories through picks on priority members of their enemies’ team and minion control. Stixxay however, has had trouble finding his place in this meta it seems, not delivering the same kind of performance he treated us to during his debut just one year ago in Summer Split 2016 on similar meta champions. The majority of their stand-out play is done in the mid game, when lane advantages become less important as the botlane and toplane begin rotating around the map and shifting their points of strength to cover their playmaking Jungler. While Dardoch has in some cases been caught out for playing too aggressively, the fact CLG sits atop the standings right now shows the rest of the squad is able to play around this by trading other objectives or kills in his stead. In fact, the team is enabled by Dardoch drawing pressure into the enemy team’s jungle and forcing the enemy to either protect their Jungler or cede their side of jungle camps, putting their Jungler further behind in the face of the Dardoch powerhouse. The only reason they won’t take first on this list is TSM has the head-to-head advantage, and is expected to win again because…Expected end result 15-3.

1. TeamSoloMid (TSM) 7W-3L

35668409111_2f0f1f23f0_b

This time, TSM has taken a new approach to the game in practicing newer, stage untested compositions which put one or several of their players on picks they may be uncomfortable with or cede some of their carry potential on in favor of others’. Post-Rift Rivals, we can see the fruits of their labor have benefited them immensely despite public outcry for their standard dominating performance of years’ past. What this has done, while still demonstrating they can 2-0 most teams with their standard compositions, is given them a new set of tools that has made their team more flexible and even more threatening before playoffs even starts. That being said, TeamSoloMid has had a bit of a rocky start to the split. After reassembling their near perfect 2016 summer roster for 2017, expectations were certainly high for the reunited squad. Bjergsen, while not having quite the year of C9 Jensen’s, stat wise, is still in contention for MVP of the split yet again because of his well-rounded play style: strong roams, continuous warding, covering for his Jungler’s invades, on top of widening his champion pool with crowd-hating picks that helped the team secure an 8-1 record at Rift Rivals in victory over Europe. Bjergsen has shown an ability to carry teams of composed of weaker teammates to a championship victory, but TSM is completely stacked in every role. There are four other huge threats in the TSM lineup, with Hauntzer, the crowd favorite for MVP last split, Svenskeren, leveling up his play and returning to dominant form in the jungle, Doublelift bringing back the decisive decision-making attitude and bot-lane dominance paired with his handpicked Support Biofrost, who is coming into his own again as the meta shifts away from mage supports to play-making tanks. TSM has a lot to prove heading into playoffs, and possibly Worlds after. If they secure the match record we predict here, they will be better positioned than ever to break out of group stages and move onward to the bracket stages. Expected end result: 15-3.


Play-offs seeding predictions

1st seed: TeamSoloMid
2nd seed: Counter Logic Gaming
3rd seed: Cloud9
4th seed: Immortals
5th seed: Pheonix1
6th seed: Team EnvyUs

Photo credits go to LoL Esports Photos’ Flickr. Please support them.