Photo: Riot Games

The end of the 2019 Spring Split is coming near. It’s been an exciting ride, albeit a pretty confusing one. Eight weeks into the split, and many teams are not only missing a concrete identity, but they’re also not that synergetic. They’re not showing any concrete palpable potential, and even though they’re playing passable League of Legends, it’s not that far from the fiesta realm. There are only three teams out of the ten permanent partners that have shown anything resembling success and that’s the defending champions Team Liquid, Cloud9 and finally Team Solo Mid. That’s three out of ten. While it’s not abysmal per se, it’s still rather underwhelming.

Everyone was patient when the region got franchised — a lot of money got invested into the league and teams needed to adapt and get adjusted to a different kind of rhythm. This time around, however, there are no concrete excuses. They’re just not that good overall, and it’s a shame.

The standings do a fairly good job at showcasing the fact as well. We have three teams at the top, and they’re separated from the middle of the pack by a good margin. They’re good, mechanically sound, they’ve adapted to the meta and have shown great proficiency at a wide range of team comps, strategies and champions. Below them, we have FlyQuest – a solid albeit fairly inconsistent mid-tier contender that’s currently playing the role of a gatekeeper. They’re good, and at times even great. But their short bursts of excellence aren’t consistent (or perhaps even strong enough) to warrant a spot higher up the standings.

They’ll reach the playoffs and put up a solid fight regardless of the opponent, but you’re not really giving them much stock. They don’t deserve any benefit of the doubt right now, but they have ample potential. Perhaps they’ll be able to upset the status quo once the Summer Split comes along, but that’s a long shot as well. A lot can happen over the next couple of months and their hypothetical improvement is a big question mark.

After the top four, things become extremely chaotic. Maybe that’s even an understatement. We have a couple of teams that are, by all accounts, still rough around the edges. They have some potential but they still need time before they can put up a bigger fight against the upper echelon of the LCS. When they’re good, when they’re synergetic they’re good, perhaps even great. But when they’re not, which is far more often, you can just see their glaring weaknesses. Bad macro, sloppy engages, ill-advised decision making, chaotic team fights, and egregious individual mistakes. It’s not all bad, but when it is, things go awry very quickly.

The biggest problem, perhaps, is the fact that they look good when ahead, but when they make just a single mistake (regardless of its size), they don’t have the fortitude and resilience to bounce back. They’re lost and fragile, and against top-tier teams making just a single mistake is more than enough for them to capitalize. Building such fortitude can only be done with time and experience. Unfortunately, they don’t have either seeing how the regular portion of the split is coming to a close. They need to step up in a very short amount of time.

Every single game going forward counts. That’s a cliché phrase if there ever was one, but it’s true. They’ve all been playing and practicing for months on end with the playoffs in mind, and slipping at this point in the split would be catastrophic. Teams that are fighting for a playoff spot can’t afford to drop games over the next two weeks, and they’ll have to fight tooth and nail in order to reach the top six.

If you’re a viewer, however, things cannot get any more exciting. We have a couple of top-tier teams that are developing nicely, and a couple of potential challengers and dark horses for the playoffs as well. Either way, it’s going to be an exciting photo finish.

With that out of the way, let’s take a closer look at this week’s games!

DAY ONE

OpTic Gaming vs. Counter Logic Gaming – To open things up, we have a clash between two mid-tier contenders. Now, after last week’s debacle, it’s hard to consider Counter Logic Gaming as anything but a gatekeeper, but you can never really count them out – for better or worse. They’re fighting for the playoffs and even though the odds are against them, they can be deceptively strong at times and you never really know which kind of CLG will come out and play. They’re always capable of putting up a solid fight, and this time around should be no different.

OpTic Gaming, on the other hand, are predicted to be at least a bit stronger than CLG, even though they’re equally as volatile. When they’re on the same page they can go blow-for-blow with the best in the region. When they’re not, however, they’re a bottom tier team. They have three exceptional carries in Crown, Meteos/Dardoch, and Arrow, and can put up a fight regardless of the opponent.

We’re going with OpTic on this one, although it could be incredibly close. It all depends on who CLG decides to start with. If they start with Stixxay and Wiggily, they might stand a chance. Otherwise, they should get steamrolled by OpTic. Either way, if you’re betting this week perhaps it’s best to skip this match altogether seeing how it can really go either way. When you have to mid-tier teams that are extremely sloppy in their execution, the slimmest of margins become the determining factor.

Winner: OpTic Gaming, 1.55 (odds @ Betway)

Clutch Gaming vs. Team Liquid – This is where things become a bit more interesting, although not by a lot. We have a clash between the number one team, the reigning defending champions, and a mid-tier contender that’s looking to make waves. The thing with Clutch is that they’re deceptively strong and capable, but only when they impose their own highly specific playstyle. When they draft a triple threat team comp, they’re incredibly strong. When, on the other hand, they draft a standard team comp, it seems as though they’re not as good. When Piglet is on bruisers or fighters he’s 3-0. When not, well, they’re 2-9. It’s not as one-dimensional, but they really do play a lot better when every member can carry his fair share of the weight.

This time around though it shouldn’t be enough. After all, they’re up against Liquid. It’s impossible to side against the defending champs, and with good reason.

Winner: Team Liquid, 1.12 (odds @ Betway)

Echo Fox vs. Cloud9 – Yet another fairly confusing clash between a top-tier team and bottom tier dweller. This is, without a doubt, the least exciting clash of the day. While Echo Fox are capable of making things somewhat competitive, they’re currently a complete train wreck and are arguably the worst team in the region.

There’s no fighting against Cloud9, unless you’re a team called Team Liquid. Anyone else will play second-fiddle almost by default, and Echo Fox are definitely nowhere close to challenging the 2018 World Championship semifinalists.

We’re going with Cloud9 on this one and with full confidence.

Winner: Cloud9, 1.18 (odds @ Betway)

Team Solo Mid vs. Golden Guardians – This is where things actually get interesting, and perhaps even competitive. A clash between a vulnerable, relatively top-tier Team Solo Mid, and a fighting up-and-coming Golden Guardians. This clash doesn’t guarantee top-tier League of Legends by default but it’s going to be great regardless. Team Solo Mid want to continue building on their successful LCS run, and they want to further differentiate themselves from the pack by scoring a couple of key wins. Their chances of reaching Top 2 are pretty slim, but scoring a third-place finish is far from shabby seeing how they’re playing with a (nearly) completely revamped roster.

The Golden Guardians, on the other hand, are pretty volatile. “Hot and cold” would perhaps be the better phrase, but they’re deceptively strong when they start off on the right foot. Froggen is hardcarrying like a madman, but even his immense talent and mechanical skill aren’t always enough. They’re fragile at times and their decision making is suspect at best.

Now, sure, they’re developing synergy but the individual mistakes that they make (Olleh and Hauntzer, in particular) are often so huge in size that they become huge detriments to the team. When fighting against a top-tier opponent, these small openings are all they need in order to be on the receiving end of things.

Because of this, we’re siding with the perennial North American titans. They deserve our benefit of the doubt, and even though they haven’t been playing that well last week, they still have what it takes in order to tango with the teams below them. While it might not be as one-sided as most people expect, Team Solo Mid should be able to get the win without much trouble.

Winner: Team Solo Mid, 1.40 (odds @ Betway)

FlyQuest vs. 100 Thieves – To close out the day, we have a relatively interesting clash between fourth-ranked FlyQuest and ninth-ranked 100 Thieves. This isn’t exactly a must-watch clash, but it’s going to be competitive regardless. FlyQuest are the clear favorites and with good reason, but that doesn’t mean that 100 Thieves don’t have what it takes in order to make this rather competitive. They’re solid in the early game, almost unexpectedly well-rounded. It is when the mid and later stages of the game come around that they start to fall apart. Their decision making is almost non-existent, and they’re about as passive and reactive as possible.

We’re going with FlyQuest on this one and with full confidence. While 100 Thieves do have a deceptively potent early game, they start to fall off after the fifteen-minute mark. FlyQuest, on the other hand, have a weak early game but they kick things up at the right moment 100 Thieves fall off. Perhaps most important, they’re exceptionally strong when five-on-five team fights break out, and they’re often on the same page when it matters the most. That should be more than enough to take a wobbly 100 Thieves down.

While it might not be particularly clean or dominant, FlyQuest should get the win.

Winner: FlyQuest, 1.50 (odds @ Betway)

DAY TWO

Golden Guardians vs. Clutch Gaming – To start things off we have a clash between two teams that are pretty even in the standings. The Golden Guardians are predicted as the favorites — and with good reason, but after seeing them outclassed against Team Solo Mid, it’s hard to give them the benefit of the doubt. Individual mistakes, bad team play, and abysmal drafting, the GGS specialty. Clutch Gaming, on the other hand, put up a solid fight against the defending champions, and even though they eventually lost, they shouldn’t be ashamed of their performance.

This is by no means an easy game to predict, but we’re siding with Clutch Gaming on this one. Either way, if you’re betting today, skipping this game altogether would be for the best.

Winner: Golden Guardians, 2.20 (odds @ Betway)

Cloud9 vs. OpTic Gaming – This is where things get incredibly interesting. Now by no means did OpTic Gaming have a close game against Counter Logic Gaming, but we’ve seen their highs and they’ll rebound fairly quickly. Cloud9, on the other hand, just lost to Echo Fox. Let that sink in. Regardless, they’re a top tier team and they’re looking to make a statement after their upset loss. They have to, because their Top 2 spot is in jeopardy seeing how TSM can tie them if they take down CLG later in the day.

We’re going with Cloud9 on this one. A single snafu against Echo Fox shouldn’t hit their stock too much.

Winner: Cloud9, 1.32 (odds @ Betway)

100 Thieves vs. Echo Fox – This is probably where you can close the stream, go for a walk, or make a cup of coffee. The opposite of top tier play, and probably the least interesting game in a while. That said, if you’re a fan of fiestas then you’ll probably want to stick around. We’re going with Echo Fox on this one. Even though it’s a risky bet (when is it not when Echo Fox play), but they deserve the benefit of the doubt after playing so exceptionally well across the board against the second-ranked Cloud9.

Winner: Echo Fox, 2.05 (odds @ Betway)

Team Liquid vs. FlyQuest – This is the most interesting match of the day. While Liquid are favored (when are they not, at this point), FlyQuest definitely pose an interesting threat to the Liquid dynasty. Their team fighting and synergy is deceptively strong, and seeing how they’re also fairly aggressive they could definitely surprise the defending champs. That said, they shouldn’t be able to take them down. They’re simply not that clean in their execution, and Liquid only need a small opening in order to turn things around completely

We’re going with the champions on this one, and with full confidence.

Winner: Team Liquid, 1.25 (odds @ Betway)

Counter Logic Gaming vs. Team Solo Mid – To close out the day, we have a perennial clash between two staple North American organizations. Even though CLG isn’t particularly strong right now, they have this innate ability to go blow-for-blow with both TSM and Cloud9 regardless of their rosters. This game should be no exception. It’ll probably be a barnburner that’ll eventually go in TSM’s favor. We’re going with the boys in black and white on this one. They’re simply playing on a whole ‘nother level right now, and they’re showing no signs of stopping. With eight wins in their last nine matches, TSM is the team to beat right now. That said, CLG do have the tools within their arsenal to make this a closely contested affair. Fireworks are almost guaranteed.

Winner: Team Solo Mid, 1.25 (odds @ Betway)