End of Spring Split final standings and thoughts on Mid-Split predictions

“While C9 has the playoff series advantage of experience, Dignitas is our favorite for winning this quarterfinals matchup, bringing the right mix of player-counters to topple the North American dynasty.”

Just after the mid-split tournament Rift Rivals took place, RiftStory wrote a Power Rankings and playoff standing predictions. Whenever we produce a piece of content such as a Power Ranking, we want to return to our own results and rate them based on actual end match record and teams’ final standing. This score is 2 points per team, 1 point for each of those items, across 10 teams for a maximum of 20 points total.

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

Team Liquid

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Standing prediction: 8th Final standing: 10th
Match record prediction: 4W – 14L Final match record: 4W – 14L
1 of 2 points

In a surprising turn of events, Team Liquid reclaimed their nomadic Jungler Dardoch as he returns to the team he debuted on, leaving behind a team making its way into the playoffs. In addition to the new trade of this superstar North American Jungler, Team Liquid created more excitement when they acquired Korean Midlaner Mickey, formerly of KT Rolster. What looks like preparation for an Academy team has had little success on the LCS stage where match wins matter. If Team Liquid, like other teams in this list, can manage to implement a coherent consistent strategy for picking a starting squad and using substitutes then they will find more success. The inability to nail down a core starting 5 makes their problems more inconsistent and harder to fix.

One of the consistent under-performers on the squad, AD Carry Piglet, has somehow gone untouched throughout this split, despite a recurring theme. Team Liquid continues to run Protect the AD Carry compositions and keeps coming away unsuccessful, and this could be due to two controllable factors: 1) the team is not prepared to put their AD in a position to carry them, either with poor composition or mechanics. Or 2) their AD is unable to find the right spaces to do damage safely given their champion pick. Piglet is an exceptional player, a World Champion, but he is not infallible. The only consistently starting player, aside from Top laner Lourlo, remains on the squad and continues to have games played around his lane. This pays off in the Promotion/Relegations tournament, but against LCS teams with more knowledge and mechanical prowess to make targeted plays, Protect the AD Carry has been very easy to punish. It doesn’t help that almost every other game for the last year Team Liquid hasn’t given Piglet a standard group/composition to pull out, but the fact this strategy keeps appearing begs a lot of questioning.

Phoenix1

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Standing prediction: 5th Final standing: 9th
Match record prediction: 8W – 10L Final match record: 4W – 14L
0 of 2 points

After a dominating show of strength at Rift Rivals, Phoenix1 seemed to be on the rise–before their season came crashing down around them. At the time of writing the Mid-Split predictions, Phoenix1 had 3 wins and were riding a morale high from their international tournament coupled with net-positive roster swaps. As we enter playoffs, it is all the more surprising that P1 only managed to scrape together a single match win, even against the other teams in the bottom half of the ladder. Looking back, the singular play style of the team is a start reminder of another international breakout team from this year: Gigabyte Marines from Vietnam at the Mid-Season Invitational. The rapid-fire aggression only gets you so far before teams draft comps to counter your primary carry.

For P1, like Gigabyte Marines, that ended up being their Jungler, MikeYeung. On top of that, what seemed like a positive meta for AD Carry Arrow actually put him in a worse position to carry with the hotfixes to strong lethality items and an overbearing super-tank meta. These issues could have been resolved, as we saw in Europe, but Phoenix1 chose not to enable their 2017 Split Split MVP by banning against the meta. By the end of the season, frustrated with the direction of the team and losing mental focus shown by uncharacteristic mistakes, the P1 Midlaner Ryu asked for an unexpected break, shuffling the roster for a few games and shaking up team synergy before returning. P1, unable to find their bearings after being countered in play, slow to adapt to the meta, and visibly losing morale went on to have the worst second half of the split of all the LCS teams.

Echo Fox

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Standing prediction: 9th Final standing: 8th
Match record prediction: 4W – 14L Final match record: 5W – 13L
0 of 2 points

Opting for a new strategy to fully incorporate their Challenger Series roster as part of a 10-man LCS squad, Echo Fox took a big risk. Making regular substitutions of 2-3 players every week, Echo Fox seemed to struggle to find team synergy in-game, which especially hurt their mid to late-game calls as members of the team were inexplicably caught out of position where they shouldn’t have been, or the team’s map pressure gained in the early game slowly sunk away from them against coordinated opponents. While the Echo Fox “backline,” as Rick Fox called them, was able to match their opponents in some cases during the lane phase, the veterans on the squad teetered out trying to put their teammates in a position to ultimately hard carry the game. The confused play shows through in mismanaged team fights and baron calls, base sieges and inability to execute their split push compositions. On the flipside, Echo Fox looks best prepared to acclimate to the upcoming format of the LCS Franchise, despite falling short of playoffs this season. With a longer time to prepare and build a core philosophy for in-game decision making and teamwork, this team has more experience than any other squad in LCS with a full roster of substitute options.

FlyQuest

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Standing prediction: 10th Final standing: 7th
Match record prediction: 4W – 14L Final match record: 6W-12L
0 of 2 points

The greatest minds in all of North America couldn’t pull the faltering early game of FlyQuest into a win condition that they intended to play. The two unexpected wins came in the last week of the regular season, against the bottom two teams that-as explained above-ultimately failed to live up to expectations for a variety of reasons. Avoiding relegations, FlyQuest still has a narrow shot to go to Worlds if EnvyUs can manage to lose to Counter Logic Gaming in the quarterfinals round of Playoffs, and then FlyQuest would have to win the Regional Gauntlet to appear in Shanghai as NA’s third seed. It wouldn’t be the first time members of this group have pulled that off, but lacking a star player in the likes of Cloud9’s Jensen, the former Cloud9/Cloud9 Challenger squad will find the gauntlet to be as insurmountable as the Summer Split against stronger squads with multiple standout performers.

Team EnvyUs

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Standing prediction: 6th Final standing: 6th
Match record prediction: 8W – 10L Final match record: 8W – 10L
2 of 2 points

Landing right where we predicted, Team EnvyUs has a strong core group of players in nearly every role, but they fail to outperform the other teams in the playoffs due to their easily exploited top lane. Teams in the upper half of the standings have correctly identified the weakness of Team Envy, and that is folding the top half of the map into the jungle and then the mid lane down to bottom lane. As Seraph fails to join his team quick enough, or at all in some cases, for team fights in the bottom lane or mid, Lira is getting constantly invaded and pressured by enemies with knowledge of his position on the map and engaging on his other teammates he has little to no chance of reaching in time. The only improving factor here since our mid-split rankings is Nisqy.

Since joining the squad, Nisqy has shown a wider champion pool, stronger mechanics, and more willingness to make plays elsewhere on the map besides his own lane. This has been somewhat of a boon for their AD Carry Apollo and roaming support Hakuho, who frequently makes visits to mid lane to get Nisqy an advantage, and Lira, who-as mentioned before, is under more pressure than ever to keep his own camps and use his game knowledge to affect the map. Nisqy is also in the running to steal Rookie of the split from early bird and fan favorite P1 MikeYeung, and rightfully so. For playoffs, EnvyUs has a unique opportunity to upset Counter Logic Gaming, a team that is also weaker on the top side of the map now with the sudden change to their rookie Jungler, Omargod. If Envy is to win this quarterfinals series versus CLG, they will need to find ways to incorporate Seraph earlier while flexing Lira’s veteran strengths on Omargod across the map.

Team Dignitas

Standing

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prediction: 7th Final standing: 5th
Match record prediction: 7W – 11L Final match record: 11W – 7L
0 of 2 points

Dignitas played upset to our earlier predictions, upsetting 3 of the top four teams above them: CLG, TSM, and Immortals. Since bringing in Adrian and Altec to remedy their struggling bot lane lane, this team is on an absolute tear through the standings, going on a 6-2 record since Rift Rivals. While Ssumday has been playing champions that scale poorly, he has been outputting worlds of difference in pressure for his lane and transitioning his lead to others very effectively, a complete polar opposite of Seraph’s performances on Team EnvyUs. The real game changer for this team however doesn’t come from their exceptional Top laner, but from their recent Support pickup before roster deadlines closed.

Adrian has been conspicuously absent from pro-play since his falling out from Phoenix1, and then his short stint with Doublelift on Team Liquid, but he is about to enter the meta of his dreams. With the changes to Ardent Censor pushing many of his well-known champions into priority picks, having the quintessential healer/disengage support that helped push Immortals to their dominating Spring and Summer splits of 2016 is looking like it may just be the counter to Cloud9 that DIG needs to overcome the C9 play makers starting in every role. While C9 has the playoff series advantage of experience, Dignitas is our favorite for winning this  quarterfinals matchup, bringing the right mix of player-counters to topple the North American dynasty.

Counter Logic Gaming

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Standing prediction: 2nd Final standing: 4th
Match record prediction: 15W – 3L Final match record: 12W – 6L
0 of 2 points

The last time we wrote about Counter Logic Gaming, there was a lot of warning signs that we haven’t seen from the oldest North American organization in a long time, and it seems one particular meme has made a return: roster changes. In the pre-season, CLG made a hugely risky-but widely heralded as net-positive-trade League of Legends Esports, possibly the entire year in Esports. Despite that positive press, the results weren’t transitioning to the stage, with some initial exemplary victories with their veteran Jungler Dardoch early on, the new-team fire seemed to die out very quickly. In a now notorious press release by the organization, CLG sold Dardoch back to his original squad Team Liquid and immediately replaced him with their substitute Jungler, Omargod. Touting his superior team play, his green thumb status has been exploited in multiple series by more experienced Junglers, and his champion pool thus far as been very team-centric and selfless. While this may be a benefit given the current meta of CC super tanks, the inability to show more complex compositions or risky carry potential from their Jungle role makes CLG seem weaker than they looked earlier in the season.

At one point, CLG was the sole occupant of first place in the standings mid-way through the split, now they sit at 4th just before the playoffs. Whatever the case may be, they are about to play one of the strongest early game teams in the league, Team EnvyUs, which also happens to have one of, if not the most respected Jungler in the NA LCS right now besides potential MVP pick IMT Xmithie. In order for this squad to win, Support and Shotcaller Aphromoo will need to be on his A game, directing his pieces across the board to stay even or ahead during the first 15 minutes of each game, because if Stixxay doesn’t have time to scale on the current meta of AD Carry picks, then CLG may find themselves dropping some of the quickest matches in playoffs history.

Cloud9

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Standing prediction: 3rd Final standing: 3rd
Match record prediction: 14W – 4L Final match record: 12W – 6L
1 of 2 points

On the rise to a potential return to form, Cloud9 has shown some recovery in the second half of the split, turning in a 6 match win streak in the last 3 weeks of play to reclaim their spot as top three of the ladder, knocking off stumbling CLG. Lead by the carry performances of Jensen and Contractz, the boys in blue have adapted to the meta well, with Impact playing his comfort tanks, Contractz free to gank any lane and invade the enemy’s jungle while Jensen solo kills his opposing laner and makes a surprising amount of roams to other lanes, their bottom lane Support Smoothie playing hard engage champions like Alistar and Taric, and Sneaky putting up consistently strong performances.

The real problem with pressuring Cloud9’s carries is they require so many resources to kill, with Jensen dodging skill shots so expertly, and Sneaky forcing the enemies to burn their summoners or else lose their life instead, Cloud9 plays a very controlled lanes, safe plays-with-vision game. However, no team with without weakness in this list and Cloud9 is the same. In a changing meta where playmakers and hard engage are about to countered with disengage enchanter supports, Cloud9 may be ill-suited to show their mechanical prowess when all of their damage and tools are wasted due to the heals and shields of enemy support picks, DIG Adrian’s forte. Counting out Cloud9 would be a mistake however, as this team is very experienced in best of five series, the high-pressure environment of playoffs, and has the single most powerful carry in the NA LCS: Jensen. If Cloud9 can keep Jensen in the driver’s seat as he has been in the past, they should crush Dignitas through buckling the DIG mid lane and transferring that map advantage to the bot lane of the map.

Immortals

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Standing prediction: 4th Final standing: 2nd
Match record prediction: 13W – 5L Final match record: 14W – 4L
0 of 2 points

Call it anything but luck. Throughout the season, it looked like other teams would retain a top two spot over IMT and knock them out from a first round bye in the playoffs. However, week after week, game after game, Immortals displayed confidence, comfort, and adaptability to each opponent that they were able to regain their spot atop the ladder and prove they deserve to be there. Jungle Xmithie has made the most of the trade to Immortals in the off-season, rebuilding his Mid-Jungle synergy with former teammate Pobelter, who has also had a standout split once again on the Immortals squad.

Immortals is holding onto two of the most talked about players in contention for MVP, Xmithie and Support Olleh. A Support being talked about for MVP is incredibly rare, the only other Support ever to come into discussion was 2016 CLG Aphromoo. Olleh has displayed a wide champion pool, practiced buddy roaming with Xmithie to gain vision, and a willingness to use his Flash to secure a kill not seen by any other Support in the LCS. Communication issues discussed while Dardoch was on the team are nowhere to be found: this team is crisp, coordinated and ready to topple their next opponent in the semi-finals to be the first new team since 2015 to challenge TSM in the finals, joining an elite group and erasing their poor performance of the 2016 season. The way teams will challenge Immortals will be through startlingly aggressive play a la 2016 regular season Immortals, or contesting their vision gains across the map so that Xmithie can’t pinpoint where the enemy’s Jungler is and Olleh is punished for his out-of-position over aggression.

Team SoloMid

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Standing prediction: 1st Final standing 1st
Match record prediction: 15W – 3L Final match record: 14W – 4L
1 of 2 points

TSM reunited the dominating 2016 Summer starting squad that swept the regular season, dropping only one match of 18 games, and eventually securing the Championship trophy. This split has not been the same level of dominance from last year, as they struggled to adapt to some of the meta changes, the relative skill and determination of the other squads has risen to match their own as teams gird for a Worlds spot, and they slowly found their style of play. It doesn’t help that mid lane will be slightly weaker going into playoffs with a slew of nerfs targeting Bjergsen’s gigantic champion pool. The TSM botlane has struggled to find their bearings in this split as Doublelift returned from streaming along with some bad habits and Biofrost ceded some vision control to play more for lane dominance, leading to unexpected enemy ganks and giving up early kills. The stable parts of the map, surprisingly, come from Top lane Hauntzer and Jungle Svenskeren these days.

During the Mid-Season Invitational, Sven was bombarded with criticism regarding his risky invades and early on this split Hauntzer was being dived under turret and forced to play from behind the rest of the game. Those issues seem to have been corrected as Hauntzer has been receiving support from his team to reinforce his position to counter incoming dives or laneswaps from the enemy and Svenskeren has focused more of his play around ganking/counterganking for lanes instead of invading areas of the jungle the team has no vision in or pressure for. The ability to carry through the mid lane may be lower than it has been previously in the season, but Bjergsen’s game pressure across the map is touted as the single most reason why he is the best player in the league split after split. TSM is going to need that dominant performance now perhaps more than ever as the bot lane meta favors late-game scaling ADs Doublelift is known for. It’s TSMs tournament to lose as they head into playoffs with the first place seed once again. Expect some new picks from this veteran squad that may surprise some teams, overall this playoffs patch looks to have widened dramatically the available options for mid lane, AD Carry and Support roles. TSM will have the unique opportunity to play a variety of team comps and come away with victories if they can execute them at a high level of play.

Prediction accuracy rating: F

5/20 points = 25% accurate

Prediction

1st seed: Team SoloMid
2nd seed: Counter Logic Gaming
3rd seed: Cloud9
4th seed: Immortals
5th seed: Phoenix1
6th seed: Team EnvyUs

Actual

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

Playoffs Predictions

Quarterfinals Dignitas v. Cloud9: DIG 3-2
Quarterfinals Team EnvyUs v. Counter Logic Gaming: CLG 3-1
Semifinals Immortals v. TBD (DIG or CLG): IMT 3-2
Semifinals Team SoloMid v. TBD (DIG or CLG): TSM 3-1

Finals Matchup TSM v. IMT

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