With two weeks remaining in the regular season most of the six playoff slots have been secured, though the top six teams will still be battling for better seeds in the playoff bracket. While Echo Fox, Cloud9 and Clutch Gaming have guaranteed playoff slots, the teams competing for the remaining slots could have a more difficult time securing their place in playoffs. It’s unlikely that the three teams tied in last place will manage to reach playoffs, since it would require winning nearly all of their remaining games as well as the teams above them in the standings to lose most of their games. CLG will be a team to watch over the next two weeks, after their impressive improvement last week taking down both C9 and Team Liquid, there’s still a chance CLG could edge out some of their competition and sneak into playoffs.
While I was away for two weeks and my most recent article had some now-defunct power rankings, with only four matches left for each team and each team having played each other once in the round robin, games should be easier to predict. The large 8.4 patch did change the meta champions and strategies to some degree, though it’s also expected that teams are settling into the patch and their preferred strategies. Looking forward to playoffs, it would be difficult to predict how teams will perform based on what we’ve seen in the best-of-one format in the regular season. While some teams with veteran rosters have looked better in longer series, this split has seen many new faces and rosters in the NA LCS, and the volatile nature of best-of-ones make predicting playoff matchups outside of the standings and head-to-head records complicated. I will likely try to predict playoffs after next week’s games when we know what the bracket will look like; for now let’s get into this week’s games.
Saturday, March 10
Clutch Gaming vs. Echo Fox
Most of Clutch’s victories have come from carry performances from Febiven, and while the remaining members have looked solid, that’s not enough to comfortably say they can go toe-to-toe with Echo Fox. Since Fox’s bot lane was their weakest link last week, Clutch should look to pressure Altec and Adrian, but they can’t afford to ignore Huni and Fenix, who have had strong carry performances throughout the split. If Fox can play a global focused style and keep even pressure across the map,helping their bot when the time comes, Fox should be able to defend their round one playoff bye.
Winner: Echo Fox
FlyQuest vs. Counter Logic Gaming
With FlyQuest slumping and CLG taking two impressive victories against C9 and Liquid last week, CLG needs to have a strong performance vs. the teams lower than them if they hope to clinch a playoff spot. CLG did take a victory against FlyQuest in week three, and even though FlyQuest have their intended starting mid laner, with BioFrost taking over shotcalling duties on CLG, Huhi should have a better performance in mid.
Winner: Counter Logic Gaming
OpTic Gaming vs. Cloud9
After last week’s questionable Baron play OpTic’s greatest weakness still seems like their poor communication or shotcalling, which doesn’t bode well for their chances against a team with both stronger individual members and decisiveness in C9. While C9 did have a shaky loss to CLG last week, Svenskeren said in an interview that C9 has been more willing to experiment in their recent games. OpTic has also been experimenting with their roster, moving Dhokla up from their academy team, but Dhokla will likely have a difficult time in lane against rookie of the split candidate Licorice. With playoffs fast approaching however, C9 should look to secure a playoff bye from a first or second place finish in the regular season and play a strong standard game.
Team SoloMid vs. Team Liquid
Although the first time these teams matched up earlier in the season it was a smashing victory for Liquid, some of the color commentators and analysts have noticed a glaring flaw in Liquid’s playstyle. When Liquid falls behind early, they struggle to make an impact on the game and lose as fast as they win. With TSM steadily improving throughout the split and their playoff buff fast approaching, if TSM can build an early game lead they can likely pick up a win vs. Liquid. Barring some misplays like in last Sunday’s game when mithy and Bjergsen tried to 2v4 vs. 100 Thieves, TSM should have the edge here, especially if they can set up for a carry top lane matchup for Hauntzer, since Impact has historically looked better on tanks.
Winner: Team SoloMid
100 Thieves vs. Golden Guardians
Golden Guardians have been steadily improving after picking up their first win in four, and though that was against 100 Thieves, the Thieves were slumping in the middle of the split and seem to have returned to their earlier form. Also, while unrelated to this specific game, GGS has been going 1-1 since week four, and I expect them to beat FlyQuest so a loss to 100 Thieves seems fair to assume with the current strengths of both teams. If GGS can throw 100 Thieves off balance in champ select they have a better chance at picking up a win than if both teams try to play standard, where the more experienced members of 100T should prevail.
Winner: 100 Thieves
Sunday, March 11
Echo Fox vs. Counter Logic Gaming
If CLG can pick up a win here they have a slightly easier schedule next week vs. OpTic and TSM, but may still need to hope for the teams above them to lose in order to make playoffs. While I would point to their easier games and final showing against TSM to be “must win” games, CLG is one of the only three teams to have handed Fox a loss so far this split. With BioFrost looking decisive, CLG should look to pressure bot lane like I discussed in Clutch vs. Fox on Saturday. Playing against Fox requires a careful balance of pressure however, as Dardoch could easily look to snowball either Huni or Fenix if CLG puts too many resources in bot. Especially with how shaky Reignover has looked on CLG, the jungle matchup will likely set the pace in this game. Reignover still farms well with his intelligent pathing, but Dardoch has been able to consistently set up advantages for his lanes with strong ganks and carry performances. A win here isn’t out of the question for CLG, but we would likely have to see a standout performance from at least Reignover and one other lane.
Winner: Echo Fox
FlyQuest vs. Golden Guardians
While FlyQuest initially looked strong with their intended starting mid Fly, the last win they picked up was in week five against fellow eighth place team OpTic. Now that GGS looks to be surging ahead of the bottom of the pack after a surprising upset vs. Echo Fox last week, I would give the edge here to GGS.
Winner: Golden Guardians
Clutch Gamings vs. Team Liquid
This is one of the more difficult games for me to predict this week, while Clutch has looked strong the past two weeks, going 3-1, their wins were against the pre-surging CLG, OpTic and FlyQuest. Liquid has a 2-2 record in the same time window, beating FLY and 100T, while losing to Fox and an improved CLG. If Clutch can build an early lead or stay even, Febiven could carry them to another victory, but Liquid did defeat Clutch earlier in the season. Based on the head-to-head and recent results, I’m expecting a win for Liquid, but with Clutch improving through the split and some of Liquid’s weaknesses recently exposed, this could be a close game.
Winner: Team Liquid
Team SoloMid vs. Cloud9
With TSM currently occupying the last playoff slot, many of their upcoming games are do-or-die for the six time NA LCS champions. The team still doesn’t seem to be on quite the same page when it comes to communication, which could be their downfall against C9’s confident style. While Zven and mithy were the strongest bot in Europe for years, they haven’t had as many strong performances so far with TSM, and probably won’t be able to create their own advantages against Sneaky and Smoothie, who have been very consistent as usual. The junglers will likely be setting the pace for this game early, and I would give the advantage to Svenskeren, given that he’s familiar with Bjergsen and Hauntzer from his time on TSM, and MikeYeung still looks out of place at times. C9 should be able to push any early advantages to a victory, while TSM has historically struggled with passive, risk-averse play that could lead to an even game falling into C9’s hands.
OpTic Gaming vs. 100 Thieves
Since OpTic has a poor record against teams higher in the standings, and 100T has been returning to their strong early season performance, this should be an easy win for 100T. The sidelane matchups here should heavily favor 100T, where Ssumday should have no trouble dispatching Dhokla, and aphromoo has been supporting CodySun to some impressive damage numbers, and are unlikely to be challenged by Arrow and LemonNation. With OpTic’s communication looking messy after last week, aphromoo should be able to lead 100T to victory with decisive calls.
Winner: 100 Thieves
TL;DR: Winners in Bold
Saturday March 10
- Clutch vs. Fox
- Fly vs. CLG
- OpTic vs. C9
- TSM vs. Liquid
- 100T vs. GGS
Sunday March 11
- Fox vs. CLG
- Fly vs. GGS
- Clutch vs. Liquid
- TSM vs. C9
- OpTic vs. 100T