NA LCS Power Rankings: Cloud9 Trapped in the Eye of the Mid-Split Storm

Alex MagdalenoTeam Stream StaffJune 29, 2017

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Welcome back to the North American League of Legends Championship Series power rankings for the 2017 Summer Split.

As we approach the midseason point, we're beginning to notice two trends within the NA LCS: frequent changes at the top and bottom, and a strange stasis for everyone trapped in the middle.

At the top, we have three teams that have proved to be worthy of the contest—far and away the best in the league but still ironing out the small flaws in their play when it comes to head-to-head contests. Similarly, the bottom-tier squads, after making early changes, are figuring out whether they have the mettle (and time) to make up for the poor starts.

But in the middle, we find four teams trapped—looking ahead at how much more they have to refine in order to ascend into the upper echelon while looking behind to see whether someone gets their act together to mount a comeback.

     

New Week, New King

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Any one of Immortals, Team SoloMid and Counter Logic Gaming has the credentials to be No. 1. They have shown to be ahead of the rest of the league in terms of communication, coordination and consistency and are clear playoff favorites.

That said, Counter Logic Gaming's claim seems to be the weakest. After comfortably sitting at the top of the league for the past two weeks, CLG's early season luster is starting to fade. CLG is far from losing its status as playoff favorite, but in recent weeks the team has been tested.

Whether it's the Game 2 syndrome or not, it's taking CLG a full best-of-three series to find wins against lower-tier teams like Team Envy, Phoenix1 and FlyQuest. And with a dominating loss to Immortals to open Week 4, CLG stands at 6-5 in their past four matches—maybe a worrying sign for fans as other top teams begin to accelerate.

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Meanwhile, Team SoloMid continues to bolster its case. With a five-match winning streak (10-1 in its most recent games), TSM is no longer dropping random series to lower-tier teams thanks to said outfits' reluctance to ban Svenskeren's Lee Sin (who said he wouldn't mind it during an interview with LoL Esports).

In truth, the past few series against FlyQuest, Echo Fox and Team Envy are free wins for TSM if it doesn't ban its power picks and offer little weight in its claim to the top. Instead, the midseason change in TSM has come in the form of finding wins with experimental drafts—games that are far from complete, controlled wins but still opportunities for TSM to learn while not jeopardizing its regular-season standing.

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In the end, though, Immortals takes the throne this week. It owns the head-to-heads over both CLG and TSM, but Immortals' rise is more than that.

Xmithie looks like the best jungler in the league. But maybe more importantly, he's a positive force who continues to unlock the potential of his team. Considering that, his team is far from slacking off, with each member stepping up to the plate to create the most complete squad in the NA LCS.

It's been and back forth start for Immortals, but the team is finally showing its first-week potential wasn't just a fluke; what's more, it has shown that said potential is far from capped.

1. Immortals (+2)

2. TSM (no change)

3. CLG (-2)

      

The Static Middle

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While we expect a ton of movement at the top going into playoffs, the same cannot be said about the middle. Suffice to say, there's no change as it is becoming harder to differentiate yourself in the league and, in doing so, break out of the pack.

However, the lack of movement in Cloud9's ranking might be a bit disingenuous; this is far from the team we saw at the beginning of the season. The team is winning as a unit, not just the Jensen show. The Sneaky-Smoothie duo is hitting its Spring Split form, and Contractz is beginning to steadily improve into the season. They are two important changes that have allowed C9 to play through more than just a fed Jensen.

Additionally, C9's lack of movement is still an improvement for the team. Like we said in the previous power rankings, the debate between Cloud9 and Dignitas over fourth would largely come down to their series. Cloud9 would have a chance to show a level of cohesion we expect from the veteran squad and Dignitas an opportunity to prove doubters wrong about their insistence on playing through Ssumday as a fatal flaw.

C9 walked away the victor, and Dignitas did little in making its case. Instead, like many predicted, it’s an exploitable weakness of the Dignitas team, with Ssumday repeatedly being the target for a more focused Cloud9.

In the same respect though, Dignitas keeps hold of fifth because of doubts over whether teams below them, like Envy, can repeat Cloud9's success.

Team Envy has done enough this week to hold on to its hypothetical playoff spot, as a 1-1 week shows the change to Nisqy over Pirean hasn't resulted in too much of a loss in form given their earlier start. Nisqy-era Envy was able to pull back from a messy Game 1 against FlyQuest (closing it out with trademark dominance from Lira), while also keeping CLG honest and bringing the former No. 1 to a Game 3.

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So as Envy begin to pick the pieces up after the hype train derailed last week, its focus should be on finding ways to maintain that form with gradual gains as both the top and bottom of the leagues continue to be in flux.

That can be said no more of any team in the middle than Echo Fox. In short, its seventh-place standing—that it has held throughout most of the season—is in jeopardy. It only holds on to it this week because the three teams below haven't shown they can consistently punch above their weight (despite Phoenix1 doing exactly that against Echo Fox).

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We'll give Echo Fox the advantage there just for its entire season thus far, but it is going to need to find more wins out of its strong early games as it is on the front line of a mounting threat from the bottom.

4. Cloud9 (no change)

5. Dignitas (no change)

6. Team Envy (no change)

7. Echo Fox (no change)

       

Trust the Process?

The bottom of the league, weirdly enough, looks like it is in the same constant shake-up seen at the top.

Team Liquid and Phoenix1 will likely continue to trade places until one finds its stride and mounts a challenge for Echo Fox's spot.

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And for this week, it is Team Liquid. Phoenix1 finally picked up its first win of the split, did so in rather convincing fashion and even mounted a challenge against Team Liquid. But for this week, we have to give it to the head-to-head advantage. Bolstered by a commitment to its old 10-man roster experiment, the extra reinforcements in Slooshi, KonKwon and Inori might be just what Liquid needed to figure out the pervasive mentality issues that seemed to plague the team in past splits.

That said, the coming weeks will present a better picture of who that team might be—whose small early-season changes might see it climb out of the old relegation zone.

And when you consider that, Phoenix1's potential might be higher than Team Liquid's. While we haven't seen Team Liquid's potential (and probably never will), we've seen plenty of how this dysfunctional team succeeds and falters.

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With Phoenix1, you have the Spring Split MVP working with a veteran support to some early success and a rookie jungler under the guidance of said support and a Korean mid-lane legend. All of that seems to be more fruitful for the organization.

8. Team Liquid (+2)

9. Phoenix1 (-1)

      

The Long Layover

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We've had these thoughts for a while now (pretty much every week), but the fact remains we're not sure who FlyQuest is as a team in this league.

It's strange because, while it is definitely one of the worst teams in the league, FlyQuest is still able to make games close. It doesn't win, and it doesn't seem concerned with making bigger changes to the team like Team Liquid and P1 have in order to get back on track. But it is still an unpredictable force for the league's benefit.

It occupies this gray area, and what it boils down to is FlyQuest looks like the team many had suspected last split: North American veterans who, while being kings of seasons' past, are out of their depth among a completely changed NA landscape.

At 1-7, it's hard to imagine what FlyQuest does. Getting the split back on course seems to no avail; the rest of the league appears far away for FlyQuest to mount a serious climb back into playoffs. And with relegation out of the picture, the threat of dropping out because of performance alone is no longer a concern.

So maybe we are just waiting with FlyQuest—waiting until the season is over to see whether this split has done enough to hurt its chances for a franchise spot.

10. FlyQuest (-1)