Two weeks of the NA LCS down, and now we’re ready to revisit the current strength of the North American squads.
We decided to skip a week between power rankings, in large part to let the kneejerk reactions settle a bit more. While Week 2 still doesn’t provide an accurate picture of relative strength between the teams, we do have a better idea of how they might fare in the remaining days to come.
A Mortal Flaw
Let’s just get it out of the way quickly: EnVyUs don’t look amazing. They were without their starting jungler Lira (many believe to be the ace for the team) in their opening week, but when he returned, little changed for EnVyUs’ fortunes. In short, it’s really no surprise that the squad finds themselves sitting firmly at 0-4 at the bottom of the league.
However, most shocking of all after these weeks, Immortals find themselves right down there with EnVyUs—salvaging their second week with a tight win over them. The standings don’t lie: Immortals look like a roster out of its depth at the moment. Yes, it’s an entirely new group built around one of NA’s darlings, Pobelter. But that darling looks troubled—struggling and a shell of his former self. The rookie bot duo looks almost too fresh, unable to lane against many of their NA LCS opponents. Flame and Dardoch oscillate in their aggression, one going too deep without their other four teammates ready to back them up, a sign the team is still learning how to build its communication system.
Everything seems to be barely working for Immortals against low-tier teams and much less against the top-tier ones. Now, whether they stay among the relegation zone teams remains to be seen. They certainly have the talent to climb (maybe exponentially) once the team’s structure and style become more coherent. But now they sit wondering how to achieve that level of success that made the orginzation one to be feared.
Lastly, Echo Fox—out of all the teams at the bottom—make the strongest case for moving out of a potential relegation battle at the end of the season; in all likelihood, that case can even be made now. But it’s hard to do so.
A 2-0 showing in Week 2 was certainly impressive and unexpected. After the first week, you would be hard pressed to predict Echo Fox would take down Dignitas and FlyQuest—two teams who many ranked among the top of the NA LCS after strong opening weeks. But Rick Fox’s boys managed to do it, scraping by but taking the win when all was said and done. The question is whether they can close out more decisively against the CLGs, Team Liquids and TSMs—squads with more established cores that (although being weaker versions of themselves) have the greater experience to not fall prey to Echo Fox’s style.
9. Immortals (-4)
8. Echo Fox (+1)
The Confused Veterans
Both Counter Logic Gaming and Team Liquid find themselves in the same tier as the preseason: teams that should, could and probably will make playoffs but right now still look lackluster compared to their organization’s stature in the scene.
CLG appear to be the biggest offenders. We predicted Huhi to remain a problematic area, but the extent of the team’s problems are far greater. Most notably, Aphromoo, CLG’s longstanding world-class player, seems to have declined severely in form, while his AD carry Stixxay looks to be the best player whenever CLG takes Summoner’s Rift.
It’s that disconnect that puzzles when watching CLG play; it’s the apparent breakdown in the team’s chemistry. For a squad that made no changes in the offseason and were known for their tight-knit synergy to eventually pull out wins over teams that were mechanically superior, they look like a rookie roster figuring it out.
Team Liquid, on the other hand, look a bit better than predicted. They put in a good performance against Team SoloMid, keeping the series tight at first but ultimately crumbling at the end.
To understand Team Liquid’s strength is to look at Lourlo. There’s been much talk about the 2017 season being “The Year of Lourlo,” the resident NA top laner’s breakout year. But to say Team Liquid’s power is tied with Lourlo is not to say it’s because he’s particularly impressive.
Lourlo’s certainly not bad. He’s good, acceptable among a handful of mechanically gifted top laners. That’s why his form is indicative of Team Liquid’s; he’s the only part that’s generally working for the team. Reignover seems to still be adapting to a new team structure without an explosive top laner and consistent mid laner he had in Immortals. Piglet and Matt are surprisingly struggling amongst NA bot lanes where they should be thriving. And Goldenglue is, well, Goldenglue.
All taken together, Team Liquid’s doing OK—occupying a weird paradox where they’re playing under their potential, while their skill ceiling exists where they currently stand.
7. CLG (-1)
6. Team Liquid (+1)
Learning in Translation
The two biggest roster overhauls (Immortals notwithstanding) still find themselves closer to the top, albeit dropping due to the very apparent, very expected growing pains.
While many probably overrated Dignitas going into the season, it wasn’t without justification. With four games played, they find themselves 1-3 in the league with definite promise. It’s become clear Dignitas must play around Ssumday, the brightest spot on the roster, at the moment. His laning is absurd, his tank play is solid and his carry top laner skill is terrifying (just ask TSM how they feel about his Fiora).
The problem is that the rest of the league knows this. LOD and Xpecial are among the better bot lanes in the NA LCS, but not enough to justify a concerted effort from the enemy team in shutting them down.
But if you can shut down Ssumday, Dignitas becomes a much less fearsome opponent. What’s more, the lack of synergy with his jungler, Chaser, means any and all resources and attention devoted to the top lane will likely not be challenged by Dignitas.
Phoenix1 has the opposite problem at the moment.
If the team can get Ryu to the late game, they genuinely look among one of the best teams in North America. That’s not to say that a lot of it relies on Ryu being coddled; the veteran Korean mid laner can fend for himself amongst his opponent. It’s just the rest of his team not giving up too many advantages while Inori finds a way to get them ahead.
Phoenix1 feels further along the path to team cohesion than Dignitas and Immortals. They still have trouble closing out games and the communication definitely needs improvement, but the raw skill of the lineup seems to be enough for P1 to get a win over a lot of confused rosters in the NA LCS in the end.
5. Dignitas (-1)
4. Phoenix1 (-1)
Familiar Faces Fighting
It’s been an interesting couple of weeks for FlyQuest and Team SoloMid.
FlyQuest, a team many (including us) didn’t expect much from this season, came roaring out in their opening week, going 2-0 in rather decisive wins.
The team still largely revolves around Hai, which makes sense when you have arguably the greatest shot-caller the region has ever seen. With a seemingly improved and rejuvenated Moon, the former C9 trio manages to continue their signature, unified map plays—team fights and rotations that largely make up for their relatively weak laning.
FlyQuest has seen a huge leap, but it remains to be seen whether or not they’ll be able to keep it up. In just their second week, they managed to beat CLG and lose to Echo Fox. It seems most teams they’ve played try to outsmart them or misguidedly underestimate the depths of their strategy or champion pools. The likelihood of that continuing is slim, and FlyQuest—although soaring among the elite like they used to—may not be able to sustain that flight for long.
TSM, on the other hand, finds themselves unchanged. Unfortunately, the defending champions don’t look like they’ll provide a challenge for the top spot anytime soon.
Sure, they have a 3-1 record and their only loss is to Cloud9 in the season opener. But their wins heretofore hardly resemble the Doublelift-era TSM that obliterated their opponents in (most of the time) overwhelming stomps.
Sparks of that team show in the series they’ve played so far—usually in the last game when everything’s tied up 1-1 in the best of three—but the games they drop often stem from being outplayed across the map, where they only make a challenge late into the game due to their mechanically superior, coordinated team fights.
Two weeks in, and the sky isn’t falling for TSM. Fans may have been inconsolable after the first week, but things look to be improving. The remaining problem, however, is if it’ll ever coalesce into a serious challenge to the No. 1 spot during the split.
3. FlyQuest (+5)
2. Team SoloMid
Alone Atop North America
No surprise here.
Cloud9 is the best team in the league by a large margin. So much so that it’s hard to even conceive when a team could contend with the veteran organization.
And it’s because everything in the team works. Jensen, Impact and Sneaky all look to have not skipped a beat in the offseason, providing the team with the same level of consistency and strength that saw them ranked among the best of their roles last season.
In addition, Smoothie seems to have paid off. The NA support showed promise last season, but he’s truly shined in the last four games. His champion pool is deep (allowing Cloud9 even more versatility in their drafts), his macro play is solid and his mechanics are proven.
But most of all, Contractz is a revelation. His jungling against the region’s best was surprisingly confident. In fact, it was more than that: The NA rookie has shown he can outplay the jungle talent around him. Not once did it feel like there were growing pains, and some predicted that. Yes, Contractz was a new player on an existing team replacing a legend in the region. But he was entering one of the best systems in North America.
And that system seems unstoppable, without any clear challenger to knock them off the top.