2021 LCS Mid-Season Showdown Preview | Making Sense of the Bigger Picture
We are mere days away from the 2021 LCS Mid-Season Showdown which means it’s the perfect moment to do a somewhat short preview of what’s to come! First of all, you might be wondering — what in the world is a “mid-season showdown?” Well, in short, it’s a fancy way of saying “Spring Split playoffs.” Teams will still compete in a double elimination format, matches are still Best of 5, and the team that wins it all will get crowned as the first LCS champions of the year! As if all of that wasn’t enough, the winning team will get a sizable sack of cash for their efforts and represent North America at this year’s Mid-Season Invitational in Reykjavik, Iceland!
So, as always, there’s quite a lot on the line. How this will affect the six playoff contenders still remains to be seen as no two teams perform the same under pressure. The thing is, we haven’t really witnessed a whole lot of consistency from anyone involved. In fact, we’re putting it mildly here — all ten permanent partners struggled mightily from time to time, so no one’s quite sure what to think going forward. There are favorites, of course, but even Cloud9 and Team Liquid had huge dips in performance so it’s impossible to make any kind of prediction with confidence.
Such volatility will no longer be excused. If a team is located in the upper half of the bracket and happens to drop a Best of 5, they’ll only get one shot at redemption. If they’re in the lower half, however, they can’t afford to make any mistakes whatsoever. That’s about as tense as it gets! Mental fortitude, flexibility, and sheer resilience are of the utmost importance at this point.
To start things off, we have two exceptional Best of 5s ahead of us — Team Liquid vs. Team SoloMid and Cloud9 vs. 100 Thieves! There are also two highly unique and idiosyncratic challengers awaiting in the lower half of the bracket. They’re not quite as cohesive or talented as the four teams ranked above them, but they certainly pose a threat. What they lack in consistency they more than make up for in sheer aggression and willingness to skirmish regardless of the odds.
So, without any further ado, let’s begin with our 2021 LCS Mid-Season Showdown preview!
TL vs. TSM | A Clash of Age-Old Titans
Our first Mid-Season Showdown Best of 5 is an absolute barnburner in the making! Any time Team Liquid and Team SoloMid step foot on stage to compete, we all have a reason to tune in — it is a rivalry between two perennial competitive League giants, and it’s always worth your time and attention.
On paper, Team Liquid are better in every way, shape, and form. They have the better players, the higher skill ceiling, more experience, and even more synergy between their members. But they haven’t exactly been all that consistent, to say the least. Whether that’s because they experimented a bit too much or because certain individuals regressed performance-wise (we’re looking at you Edward “Tactical” Ra) is up for debate. And sure, they did improve quite a bit as the season progressed, but the sights of them fumbling and failing are still fresh in everyone’s minds precisely because no one expected them to struggle whatsoever.
The way they steamrolled through all opposition back at the first-ever LCS Lock-In was all we needed to see to pronounce them as the front-runners to win the whole split. And, for a brief moment in time, it looked like no one would be able to challenge them other than Cloud9. But that wasn’t exactly the case, at least not during the regular portion of the split. In fact, Team Liquid has a negative head-to-head record against Team SoloMid, which definitely adds a bit of spice to this oh-so alluring Best of 5.
Team SoloMid, on the other hand, are still hard to read. Are they a top-tier team? Absolutely, but they still often struggle with the most basic things and aren’t all that cohesive either. When they bring their “A game” they can definitely trade blows with anyone in the region, but whether or not said “A game” will be brought is impossible to predict. They’re also slightly predictable in the way they want to play the game out. They don’t accrue any big leads individually through the laning phase but are instead all about objective control (Baron especially) and mid-to-late game team fighting. Whenever they had to face a different kind of challenge — like Evil Geniuses 1-3-1 split-push — they crumbled in every which way. That’s a hallmark of a team that’s still trying to figure out its identity, and there’s no shame in that whatsoever.
Their drafts are also all over the place. There were multiple instances when they drafted losing match-ups and proceeded to get dumpstered by the opposing team — not because they were worse than their opponents but because they didn’t set themselves up for success. Was it just experimentation? It’s hard to tell, but it was definitely confusing (and a bit painful) to watch.
Still, when they get on the same page and double down on their strengths they’re definitely a force to be reckoned with. Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon, in particular, has been a tremendous surprise in the best possible sense. He’s still Huni (i.e. as coin-flip as it gets) but he’s been far less volatile than most expected. And sure, he did have a couple of those dreadful games at the start of the split, but ever since TSM put him on weak side duty he’s been absolutely stellar, so credit where credit is due.
A Most Surprising Advantage
Given how badly Tactical has been performing lately, it’s fair to say that TSM will have an edge in the bottom lane — and that’s surprising, to say the least. Tactical is playing worse than ever and is citing burnout as the main issue. Still, while we can certainly sympathize with this young marksman, this is definitely not the time for inconsistent performances and subpar teamfighting.
He’s often making egregious mistakes regardless of whom he’s up against, not to mention his dreadful positioning and tendency to get caught out of position. If he doesn’t step up in time for the Mid-Season Showdown, Team Liquid might be in a bit of a pickle. And sure, they can always play through Barney “Alphari” Morris — an absolute behemoth and MVP candidate — but winning through top lane isn’t always an option, especially not if TL’s bottom lane duo is getting styled on. Jo “CoreJJ” Yong-in is as immaculate and impactful as ever, but without a well-performing marksman by his side, CoreJJ’s effectiveness goes down as well; TL would much rather have him roaming than “babysitting” Tactical and making sure he doesn’t throw it all away. Lawrence “Lost” Sze Yuy Hui and Hu “SwordArt” Shuo-Chieh, on the other hand, have been on an upwards trajectory and are not to be trifled with. Liquid has the edge early on, but the boys in black and white have been a lot cleaner in the late game, so it’ll really depend on whether or not Tactical can step up and start pulling his weight.
In any case, it’ll be interesting to see which team prepares (and executes) better. Team Liquid are favored for a reason, but they’ll need to be on their “best behavior” if they intend on beating Team SoloMid.
C9 vs. 100T | LCS Lock-In Semifinals, Take Two
Our second Best of 5 of the week is nowhere near as exciting as the one preceding it, but it’s still a heck of a good time. Cloud9 and 100 Thieves already clashed off less than two months ago in one of the most exciting Best of 5s in recent history. C9’s remarkable reverse sweep was definitely a bitter pill to swallow for anyone sporting a 100 Thieves journey and it did, in a way, foreshadow much of what would come later on.
For C9, things only got better and better; for 100 Thieves, however, things were never quite the same.
And it’s not like that Best of 5 “broke” them in any which way — it was a mixture of things and changes, some small, some less to. The meta shifted (in nuanced but important ways), and Tanner “Damonte” Damonte’s effectiveness dropped off as well. Their drafts were also quite perplexing. They no longer wanted to play through their insanely capable bottom lane duo, for whatever reason. Maybe it was just an attempt to broaden their arsenal of weapons? Who knows, but one thing is for certain: by the time they decided to “revert back to normal,” they were no longer quite as clean or commanding as was the case during the LCS Lock-In.
And, really, that cannot be overstated enough. It’s a night and day difference — the sort of gap that differentiates a top-tier challenger from a feisty mid-tier gatekeeper. Whether they’ll be able to shore up their weaknesses and actually give Cloud9 a run for their money is anyone’s guess at this point, but the odds are certainly stacked against them.
Speaking of Cloud9, they’re basically a shoo-in for the Mid-Season Showdown finals. Whether they’ll get to hoist the LCS trophy, however, heavily depends on whom they end up facing. They probably won’t stand much of a chance against Team Liquid (if their recent games are any indication), but over anyone else they’d probably be favored. Quite an interesting position to be in.
As for this match-up, in particular, it’s hard to imagine a world in which they drop a Best of 5 to 100 Thieves. That doesn’t mean they’ll get the win with ease, but they know what they’re up against and are better across the board. Still, you should definitely tune in as Cloud9 always delivers — regardless if they’re favored or not!
The Lower Bracket — Feisty Challengers Await
Beneath the four teams listed above, we have Evil Geniuses and Dignitas awaiting in the lower half of the bracket. They’re not exactly the most consistent or dangerous of opponents, but they’re not far off either. Still, they’re in the losers’ bracket for a reason. Whenever push came shove, whenever their backs were against the wall, these teams failed to deliver. They’re streaky in every sense of the word. One week they’ll blow everyone’s minds with immaculate play and off-the-wall drafts, and then they’ll implode beyond reason and fail to mount an offensive just a couple of days afterward.
If it’s logic and reason you’re after, then you’d be wise to look elsewhere.
Dignitas are a bit less volatile than Evil Geniuses, but they don’t possess their aggression and mechanical talent so they can’t reach the same highs either. You can’t have it both ways, it seems. With Evil Geniuses, this is especially true — it’s like they often fly “too close to the Sun.” But at least they’re entertaining no matter what happens; they’re not the kind of team that’ll go down without a fight. Instead, they prefer going out in a “blaze of glory.” They know winning the LCS is out of the question, so they might as well throw caution out the window and entertain the masses — and we’re definitely grateful for it.
Regardless, the fact that Evil Geniuses and Dignitas aren’t favored much doesn’t mean they won’t try their hardest to upset the long-established status quo. On the contrary! They’ll enter their matches with a chip on their shoulder, hungry for the spotlight and with a clear goal in mind: advancing further into the playoffs bracket and making a bit of history. They’ll almost surely fail, but their valiant efforts deserve praise regardless.
That’s it for our preview! The 2021 LCS Mid-Season Showdown is bound to deliver in all the right ways, so make sure to tune in!