By Petar Vukobrat
September 10, 2019
Let’s take a closer look at five North American teams that accomplished the most and who fought through adversity. The five teams below carved out a spot for themselves amidst all the chaos. When coming up with a list of 2019 LCS Summer Split winners, the criteria has to be understandable and somewhat simple. A team needs to have finished higher in the standings than most expected, and they had to have attained more success than many thought they could.
The North American 2019 regular season had its fair share of twists and turns, and even though both splits ultimately resolved in an expected manner, the things that occurred in between were anything but expected. Multiple new challengers rose to the occasion and challenged the LCS status quo in ways we never thought would happen.
But perhaps most importantly, a couple of old and recognizable names improved leaps and bounds throughout the year and eventually made the playoffs race a lot more thrilling. The Summer Split had it all — upsets, fiestas, boring slugfests as well as exciting back and forth barnburners. In the end, when we combine everything that transpired, we can fairly say that one thing didn’t lack: entertainment.
There are your 2019 LCS Summer Split winners, listed in no particular order:
This one is somewhat of a no-brainer, but Team Liquid isn’t on this list because they’re the champions. Instead, they’re here because they persevered through a metric ton of adversity and still found a way to be as relevant as ever.
In fact, by winning their fourth LCS split in a row, they became the first organization in history to accomplish such a staggering feat. They were almost dethroned back in Spring and had to claw back from the jaws of defeat against Team SoloMid. Their finals Best of 5 against Cloud9 was much of the same. Liquid had to fight for the Summoner’s Rift against challengers who were willing to leave it on stage in an attempt to grab the spotlight.
When you’re at the top, it’s easy to get complacent. Liquid is the best and most stacked team North America ever produced, and they know it too. With so many titles behind their belts, there’s little left to fight for. They’ve already proven their worth. Their most recent success at the Mid-Season Invitational proved to the world that they have what it takes to tango with the titans of competitive League.
It was easy for Liquid to slack off. They decided to go the hard route and assert their dominance once again — even when they had nothing left to prove.
After such a historic run on home soil, everyone’s left wondering — will they be able to leave a mark on the international stage? Will Team Liquid be able to compete, or was their Mid-Season Invitational triumph a one-off thing?
It’s still too early to know for sure, but the odds are stacked in their favor.
Cloud9 managed to triumph even in defeat. Coming into 2019, the perennial LCS giants lost one of the most important players — Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen. To say that Jensen was one of their best players would indeed be an understatement. Ever since he moved across the pond and started playing for Cloud9, Jensen made big waves within an insanely short amount of time. His spectacular mechanics, laning prowess and team fight impact, were second to none.
And he certainly didn’t look the part. He was of a somewhat scrawny physique and had an aura of a toxic EU West mid lane prodigy. He wanted to become the best mid laner in North America and in doing so, dethrone Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg. To his credit, one could argue that he succeeded reasonably quickly. Soon enough, Jensen became a valuable part of the LCS pantheon.
His transfer over to Team Liquid meant Cloud9 were left without one of their most valuable (and potent) assets. Enter Yasin “Nisqy” Dinçer.
Some believed he would be enough. Others had their doubts and with good reason. Nisqy is a known quantity, but other than a couple of stand-out moments he never really left his mark in either of the major regions he played in.
Two splits later, and there’s no doubt left. Nisqy didn’t accurately fill the void in a classic sense but instead forced Cloud9 to adapt and grow — which is a huge positive. In other words, he was more than up to the task, and that’s commendable.
This, in a nutshell, allowed Cloud9 to remain at the top of the region. They continued developing their highly distinctive style of play, and by the end of Summer were as competitive and capable as ever. Now sure, they failed to clutch things out when it mattered the most, but they came achingly close, which is an excellent sign of things to come.
Whether Cloud9 themselves are satisfied with the way things resolved is an entirely different matter. They wanted more, but there’s no reason for disappointment. They’re the second-best team in North America and will once again grace the stage at the upcoming World Championship.
Clutch Gaming has to be considered the most prominent 2019 LCS Summer Split winners. It’s not even a competition, frankly.
From ninth place in Spring to Top 3 in Summer, talk about a meteoric rise for the team. But the numbers behind their staggering improvement aren’t the most impressive thing. Instead, the fashion in which Clutch improved is what made everyone take notice.
But their resurgence didn’t exactly happen straight away. Instead, Clutch struggled mightily once the Summer Split began. They were unable to maintain a respectable level of play, and their games went from fiesta to masterclass and back in a split of a second. It was absolute insanity, and we never really knew what was going to happen until someone’s Nexus exploded.
They could spawn on the Rift and steamroll through any opposition. Those moments were mostly followed by abysmal, out of sync slugfests when they looked like absolute amateurs. It was impossible to give out a verdict when it came to Clutch Gaming, and their volatile, carnivorous “off the wall” style of play garnered a lot of attention.
As the split came to an end, Clutch Gaming stepped up immensely. They locked down a playoff spot and then went for a historic run. They took Team Liquid to the brink of defeat in a thrilling five-game brawler. Then came their back and forth affair against Counter Logic Gaming. For a brief moment, things looked dire for the ragtag group of underdogs; it seemed like their miracle run wasn’t meant to be.
But Clutch persevered. They went back to the drawing board and worked on their weaknesses. And then what followed was absolute insanity: Three Best of 5s back-to-back-to-back. They had to go through FlyQuest, Counter Logic Gaming (again), and Team SoloMid to lock down a spot at the World Championship. The spot many believed was reserved for the LCS elite. And against all the odds, the Clutch Gaming bunch followed through.
They will represent North America as their third seed. Let that one sink in. What a strange and unexpected twist.
Clutch Gaming players wear their hearts on their sleeves. They’re passionate and honest, almost to a fault, which is one of the many reasons why we all love them. This is also one of the rare occasions that North America has an entirely original (playstyle-wise) representative at the World Championship. They bring their flavor and swagger any time they step foot on stage.
And who knows. If they’ve come this far, who’s to say they won’t be able to make a splash on the Worlds stage as well?
Next up, we have OpTic Gaming. They didn’t exactly leave as big of a mark as Clutch did, but they improved leaps and bounds in an incredibly short amount of time. The OpTic Gaming from Summer was a completely different team when compared to the one in Spring. They were aggressive, proactive, in sync, and highly capable. Their three-person core hard carried beyond comprehension, and for a good while, they were ranked near the very top of the region.
William “Meteos” Hartman was perhaps their most significant catalyst. Even though he’s been playing for years, the LCS veteran remains as impactful and dominant as ever. His cerebral, macro-oriented style of play enabled OpTic Gaming more often than not, and his synergy with Lee “Crown” Min-ho caught everyone by surprise.
The sights of OpTic Gaming dominating were confusing because we weren’t used to such a thing. And they weren’t winning through cheese either — OpTic was a reliable, well-rounded team. They were playing far better than anyone expected, and it was a refreshing sight. For a brief moment, North America had yet another up-and-coming contender, which is always a cause for celebration. While they ultimately failed to upset the status quo, they made everyone take notice.
If they continue building on their three-person core, they stand a chance at challenging for the LCS throne once the 2020 Spring Split comes around, and definitely performed well enough to qualify as one of our LCS Summer Split winners.
Finally, we have Counter Logic Gaming. Split after split, it felt like Counter Logic Gaming was just a few games away from working their way back to relevancy. They were close, but it never materialized for a wide variety of reasons. The days when they were a top-tier team felt like an ancient past — like a dream we dreamt long ago.
But once Kim “Ruin” Hyeong-min joined the line-up (along with a couple of stellar coaching staff improvements), things took a turn for the better. Fast forward a couple of months: Counter Logic Gaming are contesting for a playoff bye. That was, at once, both shocking and somehow expected. It was a clash of reality and our own (adequate) expectations from an OG organization.
They might not deserve a spot at the very top, but they should be capable of contesting for playoffs, at the very least. That said, there were always evident, glaring weaknesses. Their drafting leaves a lot to be desired, and for some reason, they don’t always play to their strengths.
And that’s putting it mildly.
They experiment way too much, and their champion pool flexibility (and willingness to draft off-meta picks) often hinders their chances of attaining success. We also saw how big of a role Vincent “Biofrost” Wang plays and how meek and incapable they are when he’s not on a carry, engage support pick. It’s a night and day difference.
And while things did end on a sour note for the former LCS champions, there’s still a lot to look forward to come 2020. They’re finally a top-tier challenger worthy of mentioning, and that hasn’t happened in years. We’ve seen many positive things when it comes to Counter Logic Gaming, and if they continue building on this foundation, then they’re bound to find more success sooner rather than later.
That’s it for our list of the five biggest LCS Summer Split winners! For a good majority of teams, the season ends here. But for three teams that stood out (and succeeded) the most, they’ll get the chance to make their region proud at the upcoming World Championship.
Mark your calendars, because it should be one heck of a ride.