2020 LCS Summer Split Playoffs | Round 1 Takeaways
With four Best of 5s already in the history books, it’s time for us to gather a couple of key takeaways from round 1 of the 2020 LCS Summer Split playoffs! Needless to say, things didn’t start off as everyone expected, with Team SoloMid getting demolished in swift 0-3 fashion by the Golden Guardians. That one series seemingly put the playoffs in a state of flux. All of a sudden, no one was quite sure what to expect. After all, seeing the perennial North American giants fumble in such dramatic fashion kind of makes you wonder whether anyone has a solid enough read on the region and the overall strength of its many challengers.
But there’s more to unravel other than just that one Best of 5, so let’s dive deeper with our LCS 2020 playoffs round 1 takeaways!
Team SoloMid — A Struggling Giant
If you’re a hardcore TSM fan, one can only hope that you were too busy last week to watch your team drop the ball against a challenger many deemed inferior. Then again, maybe “dropping the ball” is putting it lightly. TSM was outclassed in quite embarrassing fashion. Not only did they have an uncharacteristically bad showing, but GGS punched way above its weight class with exquisite drafts, strong early games, pristine positioning, and picture-perfect team fighting. We saw one team that did almost nothing right, and another that simply “clicked” at the right moment in time.
Fortunately, the double elimination format meant Team SoloMid was given a shot at redemption — something they were in dire need of. This recent change to the 2020 playoffs format is a great thing for both fans and players. The latter, in particular, can sometimes have a bad day, and with esports being so unforgiving because of its results-based nature, it’s nice to see teams get a bit of leeway. In other words, a bad couple of games (which can happen to anyone) isn’t necessarily the be-all and end-all.
Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng, in particular, looked so out of sorts that — if you weren’t acquainted with his resume — you’d think he was an absolute rookie, yanked from Academy to sub in for someone more experienced. He was that bad. And obviously, he’s not that bad in general.
Fortunately, this peculiar TSM line-up managed to redeem itself (at least ever so slightly) by beating Team Dignitas in almost the same, dominant fashion in which it lost mere days prior. All of this, however, tells us one important thing: they’re nowhere near as dominant or consistent to actually challenge for the LCS throne. They might be close, but they still have many kinks to work out. And that’s a shame, really, given the amount of talent and depth present within this roster.
They need more time, is all, and they’ll have the entire off-season (barring any unexpected roster changes) to get on the same page and make their fans proud once 2021 comes around. The path to reclaiming their long-lost LCS glory is neither short nor easy, and they’re witnessing it first-hand.
The only question left is whether or not they’ll be able to reach Top 3 and lock down a ticket to the World Championship. The odds are obviously against them, but as long as they’re in the playoffs there’s a chance. That said, with Team Liquid, Cloud9, FlyQuest, and Golden Guardians all looking mighty strong, TSM is bound to face an uphill battle.
Golden Guardians — Mediocre No More
One of the more fascinating playoff narratives was surely the ascension of the Golden Guardians. They were never particularly impressive throughout the year (a few flashes of brilliance aside), but they were still good enough to put up a fight and therefore reach the playoffs. But if you took the name tags off in their match against Team SoloMid, you’d think you were watching a bona fide titan of competitive League, rather than a well-rounded mid-tier gatekeeper.
The Golden Guardians blew the minds of many, and they’ve earned their hype fair and square. Now, granted, Team SoloMid often looks rather shaky, but only a few teams throughout history were able to make the boys in black and white look like a bunch of scrubs. If it were even remotely close — and TSM still lost — no one would’ve been overly surprised. But the fact that they were outclassed and demolished across the board is what makes this so darn unexpected.
This one Best of 5 told us something very important: the Golden Guardians have earned their spot near the very top of the region. Now, before anyone starts hyping them up beyond measure, it needs to be said that they’re not a top-tier behemoth by any stretch of the imagination, but rather a dangerous challenger with an identity to call its own. Furthermore, all five players have made it clear that they’re neither past their prime nor underprepared for the monumental task at hand. Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell is by no means a washed-up veteran, Can “Closer” Çelik is more than worthy of taking up an import slot, Tanner “Damonte” Damonte still hasn’t peaked, Choi “huhi” Jae-hyun is having a resurgence in an entirely different role than the one we’re used to seeing him in, and Victor “FBI” Huang is playing out of his mind — a semi-rookie that’s putting out spectacular numbers and is carrying his team in ways no one expected from him.
As a team, they’re doing so many things right, and they’re also one of the few teams with an insanely good read of the meta. They’re drafting to their strengths while also adapting to their opponents. Now, that might sound like a logical thing, but you’d be surprised how many top-tier teams are unaware of what they’re good at and what they need to prioritize in the pick and ban phase. And it seems as though it’s not a matter of talent or experience but rather of preparation and hard work. If it were the other way around, they would’ve surely been outdrafted by their more seasoned peers over at TSM.
Overall, the outlook is bright for the boys in black and gold, and we cannot wait to see them clash against Team Liquid. The odds are stacked against them, but they like it that way. Most people are probably dying to find out how well FBI and Huhi stack up against Edward “Tactical” Ra and Jo “CoreJJ” Yong-in, but there’s so much to this clash than just the inevitable spectacle in the bottom lane.
Friday can’t come soon enough!
FlyQuest — As Good As Expected
Many years have passed since we last saw a top-tier challenger emerge in North America. We’re all so used to seeing the exact same teams compete for the throne (Team Liquid, Cloud9, Team SoloMid), with everyone else fighting for scraps and a bit of redemption. That has been the story for such an excruciatingly long period of time, and frankly, it meant things got quite boring.
But 2020 ushered in a different kind of status quo, and that holds true for both the LCS and the LEC. Much like the MAD Lions, FlyQuest has risen to the occasion and is every bit as good as people hoped they would be. It took them a bit of time to iron a couple of kinks out, but now, at the time of this writing, they’re undoubtedly a Top 3 team in North America and are poised to represent their region on the biggest of stages come October — barring any unforeseen, mind-blowing twist, that is. There’s just no weak link on the roster and they’re always well-prepared regardless of whom they’re up against. They’re not perfect, but in a region as inconsistent and flawed as North America, they don’t need to be.
Finally, watching them compete has been nothing short of mesmerizing. They’re unafraid in every sense of the word and are fully aware of their biggest and most potent virtues. With multiple carries and playmakers within their ranks, they’ve been one of the most entertaining and fun teams to watch throughout the year.
Hopefully, this wasn’t just a good season but rather an indication of their overall worth and long-term potential. North America sure could use a change in scenery, and this incarnation of FlyQuest obviously has what it takes to compete for a spot at the top.
Evil Geniuses — A Dangerous Gatekeeper
Depending on what you expected from Evil Geniuses coming into the playoffs, you’re either slightly impressed or are indifferent to their existence. Either way, that’s not such a bad position to be in for an organization that has just re-entered the LCS mere months ago. On the one hand, they’re not all that impressive once you start analyzing their line-up from multiple angles. On the other, they’re obviously stronger than the sum of their parts — at least when they don’t int in the pick and ban phase, when they give Greyson “Goldenglue” Gilmer agency and the resources to carry, and when Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen doesn’t channel his age-old “brother Sven” persona.
That’s quite a long list of things that need to happen for Evil Geniuses to shine as bright as possible. They have a fantastic bottom lane duo, but the rest of the map sometimes ends up failing to such a staggering degree that there’s very little that Bae “Bang” Jun-sik and Tristan “Zeyzal” Stidam can do. Still, if we observe them as a five-man unit, we’d have to argue that they’re a well-rounded challenger that’s performing quite well, especially considering their late-split roster changes.
Again, nothing too mind-blowing, but better than expected. And, frankly, that’s more than acceptable. Evil Geniuses only had a couple of months to set things up and they’ve already accomplished more as an organization than most of their peers did in years. That’s quite commendable, to say the least. It’ll be interesting to see how they’ll approach the 2021 off-season, and whether we’ll see a vastly different EG come Spring Split.
But for now, they’re laser-focused on their upcoming Best of 5 (against a TBD opponent), and are going to fight their hearts out to reach Top 3 and get that oh-so-alluring ticket to the World Championship.
100 Thieves — Surrender at 20
Watching 100 Thieves compete in round 1 of the 2020 LCS summer playoffs was a crushing experience, and it’s not because of any allegiance. They were like fish out of water; it was obvious that they lacked the talent and potential to actually compete against the best teams in the LCS, and there’s no amount of PR talk that can change the fact. Had they gotten their hands on what seems to be the only team comp they can execute on, maybe things would’ve been slightly different — but punishing a one-dimensional team only requires mere seconds in the pick and ban phase.
This wasn’t an off showing, but rather an indication of 100 Thieves’ strength or lack thereof. Nothing worked in their favor; their drafts were horrendous, their early games were sloppy and indecisive, and their individual play? Abysmal across the board, barring a couple of okay plays from their one saving grace Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho — a man that’s been stuck in elo hell ever since he moved to North America.
100 Thieves need to change in more ways than one if they intend on challenging for a spot at the top. Heck, they’re perhaps even too flawed to be a mid-tier gatekeeper, let alone something more prestigious. As things stand, however, there’s just nothing to be impressed by, nor anything to praise them for. This was about as depressing a conclusion as they could’ve gotten. Hopefully, they’ll restructure and re-build from the ground up and find more success once 2021 comes around.
Team Dignitas — A Enigma From Start to Finish
Dignitas’ 2020 season was confusing in more ways than one. If someone asks you whether they were good or not, you’d probably answer in the negative, but that wouldn’t be particularly fair to the age-old North American organization — or their players. Whenever we see a line-up like this one, it’s mostly a case of seasoned veterans phoning it in, collecting paychecks and cruising on auto-pilot. But this Dignitas, for reasons that still elude us, was different. They actually fought to the best of their ability; they made roster changes when they thought they were necessary (for better and worse); they adapted and experimented and tried their hardest to leave a mark in 2020.
And sure enough, they did. It wasn’t a big mark, of course, and they wouldn’t have even reached round 1 of the 2020 LCS playoffs had Riot not shifted the format to Top 8, but the point still stands. Each player on their roster had moments of brilliance (some more than others), and they all played like their jobs were on the line which, frankly speaking, was probably the case. After all, there is only a finite number of times you can get picked up as a starting player before everyone unanimously decides you’re “not worth it.” Perhaps the biggest surprise of all was seeing Johnson “Johnsun” Nguyen and Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black in action — an up-and-coming rookie with an insane amount of potential and a grizzled veteran who seemed to be in his twilight years. This unlikely bottom lane duo quickly made the region take notice and now everyone’s wondering: where will they go next? Most top-tier teams already have beastly line-ups, and Johnsun and Aphromoo — as talented as they are — deserve better than Dignitas. If 100 Thieves decide to make sweeping changes to their roster (and they really should), signing this incredible duo feels like a no-brainer.
That’s it for our 2020 LCS round 1 playoffs takeaways! Fortunately, this is just the beginning as we’re in for a ton of action this week as well, with Cloud9 taking on FlyQuest this Thursday! Mark your calendars as you do not want to miss it!