Photo: Riot Games

For our first gauntlet Best of 5, we have a rather exciting clash between Clutch Gaming and FlyQuest. Now, this match-up doesn’t exactly scream “potential”, but it’s far from an underwhelming one as well. In essence, this is a fight between two teams that love to skirmish. They’re always willing to throw caution out the window and fight until there’s just one team standing.

That’s why we love them, and while they don’t always play at the highest of levels, it’s hard to fault them. They’re trying their best, they’re thriving in a fairly competitive region and are always working on refining their identity and playstyle. They’re not perfect, and they don’t need to be. Right now, they’re not aiming to become the best team the LCS has to offer. They both know that ship has sailed for 2019. Instead, they want to salvage their season and to continue developing.

Also, there’s an incredibly valuable prize on the line — a ticket to the World Championship. They both have three Best of 5s before potentially going to Europe and fighting on the biggest of stages. Not too shabby. As far as consolation prizes go, this one is rather monumental.

That said, both of these two teams are entering this Best of 5 with differing amounts of hype and momentum. Clutch Gaming are, in a way, at the top of the world after their incredible matches against Team Liquid and Counter Logic Gaming. They won everyone over and their fighting spirit left no one indifferent. We all want them to succeed — they’re the ultimate underdog and are fighting their hearts out any time they step foot on the Summoner’s Rift.

They’re also the kind of teams that never shy away from a challenge. Heck, they might not be capable enough to win when it’s expected from them, but they’re going to try their hardest.

This time around, however, there are more than just a couple of exciting question marks.

We’ve seen just how strong and dangerous Clutch Gaming can be when they’re focused and in sync. They’re a beast of a team and they’ve shown no signs of stopping. Their inherent weaknesses sometimes also function as strengths as well, which is quite a confusing sight. They’re fearless, almost to a fault. They found their groove and they’re unrelenting when they get on the same page. In short, they’re an original North American challenger that’s playing its own style. They’re not imitating the Korean macro-oriented style of play, nor are they imitating G2 Esports. The way Clutch Gaming plays League of Legends is completely original — for better or worse.

While they do have glaring weaknesses and holes in their game, they fight with so much grit and passion that it’s impossible not to cheer for them. Also, while they can be exploited, a team has to survive Clutch’s early onslaught and off-the-wall decision making to actually stand a chance later on in the mid and late game. They’re not exactly as flexible or talented as G2 Esports, but they’re every bit as crazy. To make matters even better, they’re a fairly solid mix of players, style-wise.

Huni and Damonte always want to go in and have the mechanical prowess to back it up. Lira is more of a subdued, cerebral style of jungler who prefers playing the vision game rather than invading like a headless chicken. And their bottom lane — which is horrendously underrated — is perhaps their biggest asset. Cody Sun and Vulcan have been playing out of their mind ever since they stepped foot on the LCS stage as a bottom lane duo.

Their biggest weaknesses, however, have to be their unhinged aggression along with individual mistakes and shallow champion pools. Huni is arguably the biggest offender whose patented susceptibility to tilt and overextend was punished on more than one occasion. When he’s on fire, he’s the one who’s carrying his team over the finish line. But when that’s not the case, and that happens far more often, he’s dragging Clutch down to the jaws of defeat. Their confusing drafting tendencies don’t help out either.

But they had more than enough time to diversify their arsenal, to re-focus and adjust to the current meta. They know exactly against whom they’re playing, they know when and how they failed and what they need to do in order to fix it. Whether or not they’ll succeed at doing so is a completely different matter, but the odds are definitely stacked in their favor.

FlyQuest, on the other hand, is a huge question mark right now.

The last time they played on the LCS stage was all the way back on August 4th, and the last time they won a game was on July 27th against Cloud9. Their 5W-13L regular season record tells you all you need to know and their ninth-place finish didn’t exactly blow anyone’s mind. Not in the slightest. Their fall from grace was staggering, especially after their meteoric rise in Spring. Regardless, they’re a talented bunch and they still have some exceptional player within their five-man line-up. They had a month to chill, relax, recharge their batteries and come up with a solid game plan for the gauntlet. They had the luxury of observing their opponents and have kept all of their cards close to the chest, meaning they have the capacity to upset this time around.

The thing is, we simply don’t know how strong they’ll be tonight. They could step on stage and completely obliterate Clutch Gaming. We’ve seen their highs and we were not left indifferent. Conversely, they could completely implode and fail to mount an offensive. It’s also important to highlight that the problems they had throughout the Summer Split could have easily been solved over the last month, so they definitely have a puncher’s chance.

Regardless of the final outcome, one thing is for certain — we should be in for one heck of Best of 5. Both teams know what’s on the line which means they’ll trade heavy blows from the moment they spawn on the Rift. In such a chaotic affair, we simply have to side with Clutch Gaming. They’ve done more than enough over the last couple of weeks to earn our benefit of the doubt. They might not blow FlyQuest out of the water but they definitely have all the right tools in order to emerge victorious.

Winner: Clutch Gaming, 1.40 (odds @ Betway)