Like Europe, the NA LCS has been much different than preseason expectations, so far. The Spring Split has seen new teams succeed and have rough starts, while old teams push forward and falter. The renewed best-of-one format creates a different paradigm for teams to rise and fall. Each week comes down to two games. The teams only have three outcomes–a 100 percent win rate, a 50 percent win rate, or a zero percent win rate. These three outcomes basically boil down to climbing, stagnating or sinking.
GRAPHING THE STANDINGS
The first week of the Spring Split illustrates these three outcomes. Four teams began tied for first, because they won both games. Two teams tied for fifth with 1-1 records, and four teams took the week 0-2, tying them at seventh.
Echo Fox (orange) and Golden Guardians (yellow) were the only teams to maintain their places over several weeks, framing the league in first and last. Cloud9 (sky blue) and Team Liquid (light grey) followed similar trajectories, dipping and rising around the top, until Liquid’s 0-2 in week four. Optic (light green) has trended similarly around the bottom three spots.
All the rest of the North American teams have varied quite a bit in the standings. Clutch (red), TSM (black), CLG (cyan), FlyQuest (dark green) and 100 Thieves (dark grey) average 3.4 places between their highest and lowest placement over the first six weeks. FlyQuest, the least variable, has been hovering between seventh and fifth. Meanwhile, 100 Thieves started in first, dropped to fifth, and are currently back upward. CLG, on the other hand, started in seventh, rose to fifth, and have tanked down to ninth going into week seven.
Clutch Gaming and TSM have varied in a more positive way. TSM were stuck in seventh for two weeks, before climbing to fourth, and solidifying themselves in sixth with two wins above seventh place. Clutch dipped into seventh place with an 0-2 third week, but have since risen to a third place tie after winning five of their past six matches.
INTO WEEK SEVEN
Coming out of week six, there seems to be a clear separation between the top five teams and the bottom five. However, simply graphing the standings can be misleading, as TSM is only one win off of Clutch, Liquid, and 100 Thieves. Instead, the true separation lies between the top six and bottom four, as FlyQuest and Optic are two wins behind TSM.
If TSM and the other top six teams continue to maintain their current forms, then the bottom four do not really have much chance in catching up. There are only eight games left for each team, and the lower teams are going to have to take wins from the higher teams to reach playoffs. Instead, it looks like Golden Guardians and Optic are climbing at FlyQuest and CLG’s expense, and 100 Thieves and TSM are clawing their way upwards by beating teams above them. For example, TSM beat Echo Fox and 100 Thieves beat Cloud9 in week six, but TSM lost to Cloud9 and 100 Thieves lost to Echo Fox in week five.
If the momentum of week six carries over and repeats in week seven, the standings get even more divided. Clutch, Liquid, and TSM would collide at fourth place with 8-6 records, while Optic would stick to seventh at 5-9. The top of the standings would spread out, as Echo Fox, Cloud9, and 100 Thieves finished first, second, and third, respectively. Golden Guardians would reach its highest place in the standings since week one, while CLG would reach its lowest, tenth.
Of course, the schedule will play a major factor in the rest of the Spring Split standings. TSM still needs to rematch FlyQuest, 100 Thieves, Cloud9, CLG, Golden Guardians, and Team Liquid, only three of which they beat. Meanwhile, Optic only plays one opponent currently ranked below them in the standings for the next three weeks. Essentially, if any teams want to continue their movement up the ranks, they will need to win against opponents that previously bested them.
While such uncertainty in the standings probably causes anxiety for the NA LCS teams, players, and organizations, it has made for an exciting, engaging fan experience. Watching Echo Fox rise to the top of the ranks and maintain their first place goes against all of the preseason story-lines. Seeing CLG struggle harder than ever before, while Clutch and 100 Thieves probably make playoffs, represents a kind of success with franchising.
The best-of-one format makes every game do-or-die, which is probably boosting some teams. Best-of-threes in the playoffs will test teams in new ways, which should allow well-rounded rosters to shine. However, these teams need to win their single games first, before they can even think about series.
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