Welcome back to the North American League of Legends Championship Series power rankings for the 2017 Summer Split.
With only one week down, it's hard to make any huge assumptions of relative power in the league.
But with all 10 teams returning from relegation to compete in summer, we can begin to look at how these starts continue the promises, suspicions, concerns and successes of the spring.
Safety Not Guaranteed
Team SoloMid’s early spot at the top is expected—but to say it’s safe? Well, let’s just say we’re not looking at the same dominant summer for TSM.
Yes, it’s early in the season, and any team’s successes and failings after Week 1 should be taken lightly. But in the case of TSM—with the return of their strongest roster—let’s dig into what we saw.
Immortals’ 2-0 sweep over Team SoloMid showed a cohesive unit that picked apart and completely dismantled TSM, after looking like the defending champions hadn’t skipped a beat with Doublelift’s return the day before in a clean win over Cloud9.
From TSM’s perspective, the Galio drafts could've been an exercise in experimentation. Trying to play a power pick in Galio is one thing (especially when it’s as blatantly broken as that reworked champion), and on paper Hauntzer and Doublelift should be able to step up into main carry roles when Bjergsen plays a more supportive role on a tank.
But, to put it simply, Bjergsen didn’t know how to play Galio, and TSM didn’t know how to play with Galio (or really team compositions when their mid-lane ace isn’t on high-damage champions).
So you can say they might be using the split to learn how to do just that—play around other lane priorities, the ghost of international competitions past that continues to haunt and curse the org—but it only answers half the question.
If it’s true, credit to TSM for caring more about the team’s overall identity than their split record. But the glaring problems can never be excuses, and TSM’s are still very much there because Immortals still outplayed them at the end of the day.
1. Team SoloMid
Mutually Assured Improvement
Has there ever been a trade that immediately benefitted two orgs like Counter Logic Gaming and Immortals’ jungler swap?
CLG’s start could’ve gone two ways given Dardoch’s reputation: rocky, as they figure out how the jungler’s blunt and brash personality fits into this notorious “friendships” team, or all cylinders firing with arguably NA’s strongest homegrown talent.
After a convincing 2-0 start over Cloud9 and Team Liquid, it appears the Dardoch acquisition has unlocked CLG. For Stixxay's and Huhi’s parts, it’s more of the same from two of the more impressive performers last spring. But for Aphromoo and Darshan (the surprisingly problematic parts of last split), Dardoch’s presence brought them back to life—the result being a deadly CLG roster in which almost every player is invigorated.
Strangely enough, it’s almost exactly the same story for Immortals.
Above all else, Immortals feels like they’ve settled into their roles. Maybe it’s because of external factors—a chemistry that Xmithie brings that Dardoch couldn’t—but Pobelter feels empowered, Flame seems more comfortable and the bot lane looks more consistent.
The individual comfort and team cohesion is there; the basis of a much stronger summer roster has been formed. But to break into the top spots, this team needs to show week-to-week growth. It wouldn’t be outlandish to assume they get there, but consistency still needs to be proved in a roster that certainly lacked that last split.
It's Not the Zhonya's
It was the story of spring in Cloud9’s opening loss to CLG.
Aside from their Game 1 win in the series, Cloud9 had problems establishing their own early game leads. And when CLG warmed up on the stage, with better identified win conditions and less of a substantial early game disadvantage on the back of misplays, they eventually took down a learned Cloud9.
The same would be said of Cloud9 in their loss to TSM—arguably a bigger stomp, one where they could’ve extended the series to a third game if not for giving TSM the chance to claw back into the mid game after picking apart a disjointed Cloud9 at Baron.
Their early-game weaknesses are still there, but their strengths—their decisiveness in the mid and late game—is missing. In games in which they would normally be able to translate even their early games into massive mid-game map advantages, teams like CLG and TSM won’t budge.
Cloud9 had the hardest schedule of any team, and so opinions must be tempered. Whether their 0-2 start indicates a team falling apart is definitely absurd, but losses against two of the top teams in the region make you wonder if Cloud9 has hit a ceiling.
Ups, Downs and Everything in Between
It might be convenient to lump half the league in a tier of their own, but they all genuinely find themselves in the middle of the pack, from which any team can break out.
It’s just that the likely contenders and early favorites to do so might’ve changed.
In a field with FlyQuest and Phoenix1, you’d expect them possibly to stumble a bit but ultimately regain their Spring Playoffs form. Instead, it’s Dignitas and Echo Fox who look like the prime squads out of the bunch.
Something’s working at Dignitas. And by something, we mean someone: Ssumday. We know what this top lane monster is capable of from his time in the LCK, and it’s beginning to surface again. Spring wasn’t kind to Ssumday; understandably, he had trouble adjusting to a new region, a new team and a new jungle synergy. But it seems like the Dignitas ace has arrived. With the top lane carry meta shift, we can only expect it to get worse for the rest of the region’s top laners.
Echo Fox, for their part, are familiar with the perils of early hype; they rocketed last spring with the same roster only to come crashing back down to reality in the middle of the split. It could all happen again this summer, but relatively clean wins over Team Liquid and FlyQuest, with a surprise Sejuani support pick, might mean there’s more to Rick Fox’s squad.
Meanwhile, a new, more confident EnVyUs find themselves in the mix, a distant change from the discussion around the team last split. Lira is still Lira (the crux of the team’s strengths) but the mid-lane swap from Ninja to Pirean looks to be paying off with two commanding wins over Phoenix1 and a close series loss to Dignitas.
In the case of Phoenix1 and FlyQuest, the magic that brought them to the playoffs could be gone.
Toward the end of the Spring Split, the FlyQuest team was one others in the league eventually read and learned and understood. The confident Hai calls and the off-meta picks were less threatening. So in a league in which every team has already played your roster (WildTurtle withstanding, though the pick-up doesn't do much in strategic depth) and understands your strategy, it's hard to soar again.
Phoenix1's opening performance was maybe the most shocking, having been the dark-horse darling of the Spring Split. Though P1 has strong carries in Arrow and Ryu, they have decided to favor the Inori-Shady jungle-support duo over Meteos-Stunt, which didn’t do much for them in playoffs (while the latter saw them even challenge TSM and Cloud9 for a playoff bye).
The successes that saw them make Top Four last split are missing and need to be found or FlyQuest and Phoenix1 risk getting left in the dust, as every roster in the middle seems to be already on the road.
6. Echo Fox
The Boiling Point
Let’s just get straight to it.
Like we said, Week 1 results stand for very little in the grand scheme of things. At least, it feels like they do for everyone but Team Liquid.
They’re not at the bottom because of the 0-2 start but instead because of the vortex of questionable decisions around the team.
Team Liquid chose to double down on this roster at the start of Summer Split, and that’s a fine decision. Maybe the team saw a massive offseason improvement with a rejuvenated GoldenGlue and new head coach Cain hailing from the LCK.
But the problems truly arise when you suddenly throw that commitment in a ditch on the side of the road after one single loss in a best of three. The decision to replace GoldenGlue mid-series? Now that’s the issue with this team, and it underlies an increasingly apparent mismanagement of this roster, something that certainly only breeds confusion and frustration (as evidenced from Piglet’s shockingly honest criticism of his teammates after one week).
It’s certainly hard to be a Team Liquid fan at the moment. But that shouldn't have any less to do with the team’s performance or the community’s criticism than Team Liquid’s management. Still, it’s hard to be a Team Liquid fan midst management's constant whiplash.
10. Team Liquid