Capping off our series on North America’s World Championship prospects are none other than the 2 teams from the original NA rivalry: CLG and TSM. While several other teams technically have a chance to break through to Worlds; it would seem that CLG and TSM are the only ones either performing well enough, or with enough points to make it. Because this piece is about 2 separate teams; rather than just one; I will also discuss who I think is most likely to make it in the first place, before of course, talking about each individual team.
For those of you who are joining me now, without checking out the previous 2 posts, I would recommend you read at least the first one, in order to gain background information about the current status of North America, in the context of professional League of Legends.
Who Will Make It?
To anyone unfamiliar with the system used to determine World Championship participants, I’ll give a quick overview of how it works. Each year is divided up into two seasons: spring and summer. The winner of the summer split immediately wins an invitation to the World Championship. They will earn the first seed, as they should technically be the best team heading into September and October. The second team is decided by championship points, which are awarded to teams based on their placement; both in the spring and summer. The team with the most amount of championship points, aside from the first seed, will be the second seed in the tournament. Finally, the third seed is decided through a gauntlet between the 4 teams with the next most championship points.
If it weren’t for the championship point system, I would honestly say TSM has no chance to make it to the World Championship. I’ve mentioned this a bit earlier, but they are playing horrid in comparison to their higher-up, domestic competition. While all of the top teams have had their inconsistencies, I believe it’s TSM who have been struggling the most, and in the most amount of ways. From drafting, to execution in almost every way, they manage to make every game a coin flip. Several games; such as their games against Golden Guardians and Echo Fox; they’ve been horrifically behind, but have managed to win through some strong scaling champions. Other games; like their game against C9; have given them huge leads, that they’ve then given up. At this point, no matter the state of their game at 20 minutes, I’m pretty sure there’s a 50/50 chance TSM will win.
Contrasting this, is CLG’s rise from the grave they’ve been digging for the past 3ish years. While, as I said, they’ve had their own bit of poor performance, they’re honestly borderline the most consistent team in North America; with their only competition being the first place Team Liquid. It’s amazing what a couple months of a break can do for a team. Having breakout wins over all other top 3 teams, CLG has stepped up in every manner. I think they have maybe the best drafting in the league; often using aggressive, bot-lane duos to control that side of the map: a strategy that is not utilized very often in this meta. And Wiggily, who is essentially a rookie this year, is probably the second best jungler in the league.
The big thing is the amount of championship points each team has. TSM, who finished at a whopping second place this past split, have been awarded 70 championship points. However, CLG did not make playoffs at all, meaning they are currently the owners of 0 championship points. This means that TSM holds the keys to their future. If they perform decently, they’ll most-likely have enough points to make it as the second seed. If they lose in the first round, it’s most likely that Cloud9 will overtake them in points, and end up with the second seed, forcing them into the gauntlet (this is all going under the assumption that Team Liquid wins the split, which is likely). Sadly, CLG essentially needs to win the split to guarantee themselves a spot, without them also going through the gauntlet.
So a large part of this is actually the performance of outside teams; mainly being C9 and TL. If I were to bet right now, I’d say that TL wins the split once again. I can see a world where they don’t, but I believe they have at least a 50% chance to claim their throne once again. Their talent is just too strong. Past that, it comes down to CLG and C9. TSM, without a miraculous recovery, will most likely not get past the semifinals. So, between C9 and CLG, I personally believe C9 has the edge. Though I think CLG are the BEST drafters, I think C9 are the most UNIQUE drafters (potentially aside from Clutch Gaming), giving them special advantages in 5-game series that they will be able to use, and have in the past. If C9 gets second place behind TL, worst case scenario for them, I believe they have to play TSM in a points tie-breaker, that I don’t ever see going in the favor of TSM.
This potential result would have CLG and TSM both making it to the gauntlet to decide the third seed. As I said before, CLG is performing miles above TSM, however, they’d be seeded below them due to points; meaning they would have to play 2 series, instead of TSM’s 1. In that case, I think I would still bet in favor of CLG, but if TSM prepared enough for CLG in the extra time they’d have, I could see a world where they take them out. All in all, I believe the most likely World Championship seeding from North America is 1. TL, 2.C9, 3. CLG.
Chances at the Championship
Now let’s get to each team’s individual prospects at the tournament, if they make it. Because neither team has made it to substantial international competition in a while (Rift Rivals for TSM isn’t very much data), I’m going to mainly talk about their overall performance, rather than split it into domestic and international, like I did in the past.
I feel I’m being redundant, but CLG has become one of the scariest teams in North America. Their incredibly strong and self-reliant top side of the map allows for their bottom lane to take advantages their superstar jungler often gives them. Although Ruin does not have the best stats, he is left on an island, and most importantly, just absorbs pressure. PowerofEvil does what he does best; and farms up until late game. This combo, while not being flashy, is incredibly strong. It reminds me a lot of last year’s Team Liquid lineup, before they acquired Jensen.
The problem with this playstyle; or whatever you may call it; in international play, is that there are often many teams with better bot lanes than your own. And of course, we saw this with Team Liquid last year. Granted, Olleh wasn’t playing the best, and Biofrost is much stronger, but many Chinese and Korean bottom lanes will easily smash this duo from North America. Or, at the very least, not allow advantages to be gained. This causes a large issue; as they don’t really have the personnel necessary to play through other pressure points. Although POE has shown the ability to carry in the late game, he doesn’t make enough happen early, to win the game on his own. And I don’t see CLG as a mid-jungle duo that’s incredibly strong and communicative.
Because of this, if CLG makes it to the World Championship, I don’t see them making it past the group stage. They could get a lucky draw, or they could improve greatly through a Korean boot camp, but I do not see a world where Ruin can perform well enough on his own to allow them to win on the international stage. The only saving grace, I think, would be a large meta-shift, but Riot has made it clear that they do not intend on making large changes before the very end of the season, after Worlds.
Now, in these past several posts; especially this one; I’ve trash-talked TSM. And although those of you who know me know my hatred of the team, it’s not due to that. I’ll give Team Liquid credit any time of the day, and I despise them way more than I despise TSM. Instead, they’re simply under-performing, and it’s known that this is true, based on their performances at the end of the last split. Without any roster changes, they went from almost taking down TL, to barely making playoffs. I would argue that in many ways, they don’t even deserve to go that far. So naturally, I don’t think they’d do fantastic outside of their region either.
However, unlike CLG, they have an incredibly strong top side of the map; capable of carrying if given the chance. Brokenblade and Bjergsen are some of the most mechanically tight solo laners out there, and will push advantages if given them. So, while in their current state, I believe they may even go 0-6 in the group stage, they have the playstyle and talent potential to possibly make it out of the group stage.
If TSM are able to capture the performance they gave at the end of spring split this year, I think they could have a chance to break through a somewhat-easier group. Their main problem is of course, their jungle confusion, and their currently-weak bottom lane. But both problems have been fixed before, and could potentially be fixed again. In which case, we may have 2-3 teams that could make a splash, instead of 1-2.
I started this series asking the question “Will North America follow through on their somewhat-high expectations, after a couple strong international performances” (*whew* long question). And personally, I think no. I talked about, at first, the strong potential TL has, based upon their previous performance in the middle of the season, but their inconsistency tells me that they will most likely barely slide out of groups, and could potentially not make it out at all. Best case, realistic scenario, they make it to semifinals and lose like C9 did last year; which only matches the result; most likely doing it against least-impressive teams.
Cloud9 once again has strong potential, but I believe that Nisqy is not quite as good as Jensen, and they’ve shown lots of health and mental issues causing a bit of strife, which leads me to believe that they will not follow up last year’s Worlds performance.
Finally, CLG, being a strong team, doesn’t have the flexibility to make it very far in an international environment. Most teams will either be able to smash them top lane, while minimizing losses bot lane, or do the opposite and just win in the bottom lane. And TSM could potentially surprise fans and analysts by making it to maaaaaybe a Worlds quarterfinals, but that is not the high expectation set, both for the region or for them.
Sadly, it looks like my favorite region will once again struggle to gain attention based upon their good play, and may find themselves back at the bottom of the barrel of international play. I think TL is the only hope to maybe get something done, and even then, their current practice doesn’t give them the necessary experience headed into tougher opponents.
I really enjoyed making this series, and I think am going to continue talking about LoL Esports for a next couple of posts! Sorry if this isn’t what you enjoy or want from the blog, but this is what I’m having the easiest time writing about, and I love to have new content for the site. Hope to see you back soon!