2021 LCS Spring Split Storylines — The Pressure Is Mounting
The 2021 LCS Spring Split is nearly over and, based on everything that we’ve seen thus far; it’s fair to say that it’s been one heck of a ride. By this, we mean both good things and bad — it was thrilling and baffling in equal measure; we also witnessed many storylines come into existence, most of which took our breath away (for better and worse). And, frankly, this last slew of games should prove to be no exception.
In true NA fashion, there were moments of brilliance and moments of absolute craziness as well. Sometimes they came in weekly bursts, and other times we saw things change from one end of the spectrum to another in just a couple of hours. That’s just North American League of Legends, and we’re all used to it by this point. Still, it feels as though things are perhaps a bit too crazy. There’s very little rhyme or reason behind what’s going on, which is slightly concerning given how we’re mere days away from the playoffs.
We could go a step further and say that whoever wrote this “script” was either in a state of altered consciousness or just flat-out drunk. Are you a fan of fiestas? Then you’re surely having the time of your life. If, however, you’re into top-tier play and want to see North America succeed on the international stage, then you don’t have any huge reason for optimism. Not yet, at least. And while that could certainly change going forward, you really shouldn’t hold your breath for it to happen.
Most LCS teams are just not good, and those that have shown some promise are nowhere near as consistent as they need to be to stand a chance against the best teams the world of competitive League has to offer. Think of the G2s and Sunings of the world — you give them an inch, and they’ll take a mile. Heck, they’ll take a mile even if you don’t give them anything at all. They’re that good. And to stand a chance — no matter how remote — North American teams need to step up, and they need to do it soon.
If you’re a top-tier team, you really shouldn’t be dropping games to mid-tier contenders and bottom-tier dwellers at this point. And yet recent trends in NA speak of an entirely different state of affairs. Just look at last week’s games: Team Liquid beat Cloud9, Team SoloMid dropped a game to Dignitas (again), Counter Logic Gaming beat both Dignitas and Team Liquid, and 100 Thieves are on a four-game losing streak. Everyone’s beating everyone, and don’t even try to make sense of it all.
Now, make no mistake: this isn’t happening because everyone’s insanely good, and the region itself is more competitive than ever. We’re not inhabiting such a reality. Instead, this is happening because no one’s all that confident in how the game should be played. Everyone’s struggling to develop a coherent identity and consistently deliver regardless of whom they’re up against.
In the end, though, things will almost surely resolve expectedly: with one of the perennial North American giants getting showered in (virtual) confetti. But how things will unravel up to that point is anyone’s guess. While such volatility isn’t good for the region as a whole, at least we’re not bored out of our minds with lopsided beatdowns! We can’t have it both ways; it seems like.
LCS Standings — A State of Flux
Perhaps the most intriguing thing coming into the last week of regular season play is that most teams are separated by the slimmest of margins. And we mean this not just in terms of gameplay but also ranking-wise. Cloud9 (11W-4L) are in first place, but they’ve just dropped two games in a row and have both Dignitas and Team SoloMid (10W-5L) breathing on their necks. Heck, the boys in white and blue are just two wins away from Team Liquid and 100 Thieves, both tied for fourth. With three games left to be played, there’s no more room for error.
In other words, every single game going forward matters immensely. No one has the luxury of dropping games to teams ranked below them, as doing so could heavily affect their chances of reaching the playoffs. We could even go a step further and say that just a single game could end up being the difference between reaching Top 6 and waiting things out on the sidelines.
Needless to say, the pressure is mounting.
Standings Matter (A Lot)
This year’s Mid-Season Showdown (a fancy title for the 2021 LCS Spring Split playoffs) brings a fairly interesting change to the format: the first and fourth seeds are matched up automatically, with teams ranked second and third fighting in the other half of the upper bracket. The fifth and sixth ranked teams will await the losers of these two Best of 5s in the lower half of the bracket.
This is noticeably different from the LEC playoffs format, where the number one seed gets to choose between the third and fourth seed for its Round 1 opponent. This fact provides the number one seed with quite a big strategic edge — one that can prove instrumental in the grand scheme of things. In North America, however, there’s no such thing. Instead, teams know well ahead of time that finishing as high as possible is of the utmost importance. If we assume that the very best team in the LCS will finish first (a logical assumption, you’ll probably agree), then finishing fourth is pretty much a “death sentence.”
That’s the one spot no one wants to be in, and with good reason.
As mentioned above, the six best teams are all separated by just a couple of wins. Cloud9 (ranked first) is only three wins above Evil Geniuses, currently in sole possession of sixth place. The playoff picture is far from set, and things could develop in a myriad of different ways. And, frankly, if the last couple of weeks are any indication, we might be in for a slew of surprises, too!
So, with that out of the way, let’s focus on the most interesting storylines coming into the tail end of the 2021 LCS Spring Split!
Cloud9 — A Repeat of 2020?
No one’s quite sure what’s going on with Cloud9. A two-game losing streak isn’t exactly the moment anyone should sound the alarms, but it is a worrying sign, one that — if not taken seriously — could heavily affect their chances of winning the LCS.
They have all the tools necessary to reclaim the LCS throne, but they haven’t been as precise or consistent as they need to be to warrant our benefit from the doubt. They’re more than capable of running circles around their lesser talented opposition, but whenever they’re up against someone who can go blow for blow, things tend to get out of hand. They’re tied with both Evil Geniuses and Team SoloMid and have yet to win against Team Liquid.
And sure, these are all Best of 1s we’re talking about — they don’t mean much in the grand scheme of things — but they are indicative of Cloud9’s weaknesses (some more debilitating than others). Either way, it’ll be interesting to see if they can close things out on a high note and enter the playoffs as the number one seed. They have Counter Logic Gaming, Dignitas, and Immortals lined up next, a fairly solid test (albeit far from an insurmountable one). They should, by all means, be able to win all three games, with that second one against Dignitas being far more important than most people realize, given how there’s just a single win separating them in the standings.
Team SoloMid — The Jury’s Still Out
TSM is arguably the biggest enigma of the 2021 LCS Spring Split. You just can’t predict what’ll happen any time they step foot on the Summoner’s Rift to compete. What is certain, however, is that they’re undeniably a top-tier team. But they’re noticeably flawed, so it’s impossible to assess their current power level. They always manage to string a couple of high-profile wins before losing at the most random moment imaginable. But at least they’re winning more often than not — that alone is worthy of the highest praise given their lack of pre-existing synergy coming into 2021.
Right now, as things stand, they’re tied for second, which is quite incredible given just how badly they’d started things off. Despite being supremely inconsistent at times, they’re more than capable of throwing down with the best teams the LCS has to offer. They’re scheduled to face Evil Geniuses, Immortals, and Golden Guardians next. They should, by all means, be able to lock down a playoff goodbye (barring any unforeseen dip in performance).
Dignitas — Are You Aboard the Hype Train?
Yet another hugely entertaining question mark. Simply put, Dignitas have no business being this good. It boggles the mind. The fact that they’re more consistent and seemingly more dangerous than Team Liquid, 100 Thieves, Team SoloMid, and Evil Geniuses at this point is a twist no one saw coming. And, frankly, we’re glad it’s happening, not just because this is an all-native line-up, but also because it’s a breath of fresh air. All of a sudden, there’s this team no one gave much thought to, beating top-tier challengers left and right — and they’re doing this consistently. Absolute lunacy!
Now, whether or not they’re the “real deal” is less important at this point; Dignitas are more than worthy of our undivided attention. They’ll be looking to close things out on a high note and enter the playoffs with as much momentum as possible. There’s an excellent chance they’ll finish in third place, which means that, if things pan out as expected, they’ll go up against Team SoloMid — a team they’ve already beaten twice.
If that does end up happening, we should be in for one heck of a Best of 5!
Team Liquid — A Frustrating Mix
Are Team Liquid the frontrunners to win the whole split? That depends on whom you ask. We’d be inclined to think so, given their talent and experience (not to mention Best of 5 prowess), but their current level of play leaves a lot to be desired. Why they’re so inconsistent is anyone’s guess at this point, but it’s been going on for far too long. A team this good and capable shouldn’t be struggling all that much, especially not against mid-tier gatekeepers and bottom-tier dwellers.
Regardless, a lot has been said and written about Liquid’s surprising dip in performance. It is a topic that has been discussed and dissected from a myriad of different angles, and we’re no closer to understanding what’s going on than when these analyses first began. They know what needs to be done to improve and are surely working around the clock to deliver and make their fans proud.
100 Thieves — Downward Spiral
History — the greatest teacher of them all — tends to repeat itself. If you want proof, then look no further than 100 Thieves. At this point, their coaching staff needs to shoulder the grunt of the blame. There’s just no other way to put it. Throughout history, 100 Thieves haven’t been all that great when making good roster moves and decisions, and 2021 has proven to be no different in that regard.
They did so many things right back in the LCS Lock-In tournament that it’s truly baffling how they’ve regressed so darn much in such a short time. It makes no sense whatsoever. And sure, the meta did change ever so slightly, and their opponents did figure out Tanner “Damonte” Damonte’s champion pool issues, but that shouldn’t be enough to boot 100 Thieves out of contention for Top 5 instantly. They have a metric ton of pre-existing synergy, one of the most potent bottom lane duos in the region, and a bona fide legend as their top laner — it’s not like they lack the tools to compete at the highest of levels.
And sure, they’re still sitting on a positive 8W-6L record, but if they don’t deliver this week, they might not make it into the playoffs. Let that one sink in. They’re 1W-3L in their last four games. They’ve looked pretty dreadful overall.
Either way, we can’t wait to see whether they’ve shored up their weaknesses or if they’ll crash and burn and throw it all away at the eleventh hour.
Evil Geniuses — Heads or Tails?
As far as 2021 LCS Spring Split storylines go, the one surrounding Evil Geniuses is not for the faint of heart. Their run thus far has been as volatile and topsy-turvy as possible, and it’s been quite frustrating to watch. Just when you think they’ve outgrown their gatekeeper status, they end up throwing it all away by imploding at the most random moment.
Then again, most of us expected such a thing to happen to come into 2021. It was only a matter of time before their volatility crept up to the surface. To their credit, they managed to stave off that moment for much longer than most of us expected, but it was still inevitable. They’re currently in sole possession of sixth place, but they’ve got just a one-game buffer over Immortals, so their position in the standings could easily change (for the worse) should they keep underperforming.
They’re brimming with aggression and bravado and one of the more entertaining teams in the region. But that means very little if they can’t harness these strengths accordingly and even them out with a bit of strategy and nuance. They’re like a blunt instrument — their playstyle does wonders against bottom-tier dwellers, but against the LCS pantheon, it’s just not enough. Whether they’ll manage to diversify their arsenal in time for the playoffs is anyone’s guess (assuming they make it in), but the odds are certainly stacked against them.