Photo: Riot Games

With two weeks of competitive play behind us, we finally have a big enough sample size to fairly judge all ten teams that are competing. Some have shown more potential than others, and after four games spread across two weeks, it feels like the standings finally came into place. That said, there are still a couple of surprises here and there, but as a whole, things are developing quite nicely over in North America.

The teams that should be winning are doing so, and even though many rosters are still plagued by inconsistency, things are settling into place. We’re still waiting to see a bit more from teams like FlyQuest, Golden Guardians, Counter Logic Gaming, and even Clutch Gaming, seeing how all four teams showed flashes of brilliance over the last two weeks. There are a couple of key questions that are just waiting to be answered — how good are they really? Did we get a short glimpse of their potential, or was it more of a one off thing? If it’s the latter, no one would be surprised. But if it’s the former, however, we could be seeing a slight change in the LCS status quo. OpTic Gaming already solidified themselves as a solid, concrete contender with their spotless 4W-0L record, and they could only mark the beginning of a different kind of era.

While the three titans at the top aren’t going anywhere (Team Liquid, Team Solo Mid, Cloud9), it’s fair to say that any spot below them is up for grabs. And the sooner a team is able to synergize and step up as a unit the better. They will not only build confidence and momentum, but also grab a couple of key wins that could end up deciding their fate once the regular portion of the split concludes. If two teams are tied, the head-to-head record plays a big role, so someone like OpTic Gaming is already in a spectacular position with their four wins even if they do drop a couple of spots over the coming weeks.

With all of that said, let’s take a closer look at this week’s games!

DAY ONE

Team Liquid vs. FlyQuest — To open up the day, we have an incredibly exciting clash between the defending LCS champions, and an unlikely challenger in FlyQuest. Now, two weeks have passed, and we have a fairly solid read on both teams. Liquid are still recuperating from their most recent success on the international stage, so they’ve shown a lot of good but also a ton of bad play on the Summoner’s Rift. They’re a spectacular team — of that we are sure, but they’re wounded right now, and they’re not exactly playing up to their full potential. They’re bound to drop a couple of games over the coming weeks just because of the fact that they burned out a little, and that’s understandable.

This means FlyQuest actually have a chance, perhaps the biggest one they ever got. So will they win, will they make the best of their opportunity? The odds are definitely stacked against them, that’s for sure. But they definitely have the right tools in order to challenge in the right way. If things go as expected, we should be in for one heck of a skirmish from the very get-go. FlyQuest has definitely been a bit hot and cold over their last four games, but they didn’t do enough to warrant any benefit of the doubt, not yet at least.

This is basically a repeat of their clash back in the Spring Split playoffs. And we all know how that one ended — a quick and dominant showing from Liquid allowed them to demolish FlyQuest in clean 3-0 fashion. Will this game be any different? Odds are: no. But FlyQuestis a resilient bunch. They’re strong, they’re cohesive, they’re a bit crazy, and are unwilling to go down without a fight. So we’re siding with Team Liquid, and that’s perhaps the only logical choice at this point, even though they’re sitting at a rather underwhelming 2W-2L record right now. They want to bounce back, they want to create momentum and they know this is a must win.

Winner: Team Liquid, 1.28 (odds @ Betway)

Cloud9 vs. OpTic Gaming — If you thought our last match was exciting, wait until you see this one. A fight between the number one team in the region (if we were to judge solely off of the current standings), and one of the most beloved and celebrated North American teams in history — Cloud9. Now, predicting the outcome of this game is pretty darn hard, and that’s a strange feeling. We’re talking about OpTic Gaming. They’re a gatekeeper at best, and we’re saying this after watching them play for months and months. They had some flashes of brilliance sprinkled over the last year and a half, but as an organization — regardless of the roster they fielded — they never did much to warrant any hype or respect. They were okay. They were serviceable, and in a competitive environment such as the LCS, that just doesn’t cut it any longer.

But 2019 has been telling a different kind of story for the OpTic squad. Now sur,e they had a somewhat easy strength of schedule up to this point, but a win is a win — and they have four to their name right now. That’s two more than Team Solo Mid, two more than Liquid, and one more than Cloud9. Not too shabby for a team that recently ended up just outside the playoff Top 6. They’re playing with confidence, and they’re confused at their success as much as we are. Something changed within their roster and it’s evident in their play as well. They’re still somewhat subdued at times, scared to go for a play out of a fear of failure, but when push comes to shove, they all sync up and do the right thing. That’s, at the very least, a hallmark of a solid playoff contender, and they’ve definitely thrown their name into the mix thanks to their recent level of play.

Cloud9 aren’t much worse, hype-wise. They had a couple of ups, a couple of downs, but as a whole, they’re as strong, capable, and volatile as ever. Perhaps “crazy” is the better word here. Their one loss came against the Golden Guardians, but they were the ones to blame for that defeat — Golden Guardians basically just capitalized seeing how the boys in black and blue imploded at the worst possible moment in the game.

That one game aside, they’ve been on point game after game, and even though they’re not predicted to really challenge Team Liquid’s throne, they will remain a top-tier team for the foreseeable future. Predicting this game is hard, but we simply have to side with Cloud9. There’s no reason not to, even though they haven’t been spotless over the last two weeks. On the other hand, this will give us a better read on OpTic and their innate potential. If they take down Cloud9, then it’s high time to get hyped about their potential. If they fail to do so, however, they’ll drop down into the “mid tier” category where many feel they actually belong.

Winner: Cloud9, 1.50 (odds @ Betway)

Counter Logic Gaming vs. Echo Fox — Yet another exceptionally interesting clash between two teams we simply can’t fully judge right now. Four games is a solid sample size, that’s for sure, but both of these teams showed incredible play, which was often followed by mind-boggling decision-making and shoddy team play. We’ve seen them at their best, but also at their worst. So what gives? They’re still developing synergy and they’re adapting to the current meta. That means they’re more prone to making mistakes than one might think, and it’s showing in their play on the Rift as well.

That said, both of these two teams are exceptional competitors. They have a ton of potential, but it’s hard saying just how strong they’ll eventually be. Between the two of them, Counter Logic Gaming seem to have the edge, and their skill ceiling feels much higher. They’re more versatile, more flexible, and they’re more solid in every facet of play. Their strengths, however, aren’t always on display, but they’re a very serious playoff contender and they’re bound to reach the Top 6 if their continue playing in such fashion.

Echo Fox, on the other hand, are (as expected) far more volatile. They’re a coin toss type of team. When they come to play, when they impose their will, they’re capable of some great things. But the problem is we never really know which Echo Fox will come to play, and how well they’ll start off. And there’s no logic behind it all either. They can lose to the last-ranked team in the region, and then upset Team Liquid a day afterwards.

Right now, even though they’re basically even, we have to side with Counter Logic Gaming. They’re coming in hot after taking down Team Liquid last Sunday, and they’re improving as a five-man unit at a staggering speed. How high they will eventually climb still remains to be seen, but they definitely have the potential to challenge the upper echelon of the LCS.

Winner: Counter Logic Gaming, 1.65 (odds @ Betway)

Clutch Gaming vs. Team Solo Mid — Much like the three games preceding it, this one has a metric ton of potential, albeit whether or not it ends up being as exciting still remains to be seen. We’re either in for a hectic clash between ten players who are skirmishing non-stop, or a one-sided beating from Team Solo Mid. Much like Echo Fox and CLG before them, judging these two teams is downright impossible. For every good move they made, there was something highly questionable or just bad following it.

As expected, Team Solo Mid are better across the board. They’re more capable, more synergetic, more talented both individually as well as a five-man unit, and they’ve shown more not just over the last two weeks but last split as well. They’re a behemoth, even though they’re not exactly playing like one right now. They always drafting late game team comps and even though they pull them off more often than not, the deficits they find themselves in eventually become insurmountable. Why do such a thing so early in the split? Are they practicing? Trying something new out? Either way, regardless of the answer, they’re just not as capable on such team comps as they think.

Conversely, Clutch Gaming showed a lot of progress last week as they took down both 100 Thieves (an expected result) as well as the Golden Guardians (an unexpected one). Judging their power level right now is impossible, but we’ve seen flashes of exceptional play. They’re still the crazy, unhinged team we all know, but they’re a bit more cohesive this time around, and they’re playing to their strengths. With a better AD carry in the line-up as well, they’re dangerous across the board. Huni and Damonte are solid laners and team fighters, and when you add all of that up, you get a fairly solid and deceptively strong contender.

So do they stand a chance against Team Solo Mid? Absolutely, although the odds are stacked against them. We’re going with the boys in black and white on this one, although this is a fight that will be waged on a somewhat level playing field. Expect and absolute barnburner with a ton of bloodshed and hectic skirmishing.

Winner: Team Solo Mid, 1.35 (odds @ Betway)

100 Thieves vs. Golden Guardians — Closing out the day, we have a clash that is definitely not as exciting as the four games preceding it. Then again, any time 100 Thieves step foot on stage is far from a moment for celebration. This is literally a fight between the worst team in the region and a solid up and coming playoff contender. So, basically, not a lot to talk about. 100 Thieves have slowly shown improvement over the last couple of games but these changes and upgrades are of an incremental nature. They are negligible and minute. Conversely, the Golden Guardians have been playing exceptionally well and are coming in hot after their upset win over Cloud9 last week.

They’re not perfect, they’re often making ludicrous mistakes that simply have no excuse, but they’re still light years ahead of what 100 Thieves bring to the table. They are better individually, but also as a five-man unit. Even if they start the game with a deficit, odds are, they’re going to bounce back and get the job done. With such a stellar carry in the mid lane (Froggen), they’re poised to run over 100 Thieves.

We’re going with the Guardians on this one. There’s simply no reason not to as it’ll surely be a one-sided shellacking.

Winner: Golden Guardians, 1.28 (odds @ Betway)

DAY TWO

OpTic Gaming vs. Team Liquid — An exciting match-up to start the day off. Coming into this week, this seemed like a much more even fight, but after witnessing both teams’ level of play yesterday, it’s downright impossible not to side with the defending champions They were able to outclass FlyQuest in all facets of play, and once they accrued a big enough lead, they were as commanding as possible. It was the kind of showing everyone expected from the champs, and there simply isn’t anything OpTic has to offer right now to make Liquid’s life hard. If they draft well (and ban accordingly), they shouldn’t have a problem in taking OpTic Gaming down. That said, if the boys in green and black step up and impose their playstyle, this could be a pretty even fight.

Winner: Counter Logic Gaming, 1.65 (odds @ Betway)

Echo Fox vs. 100 Thieves — This isn’t exactly the most exciting clash in the world if you’re itching for top-tier play, but it should end up being a fun scrap regardless. 100 Thieves have definitely shown improvement yesterday and even though their play left a lot to be desired they at least made things somewhat competitive. Small, incremental upgrades are the name of the game right now for the former LCS finalists, and they’re definitely showing improvement. Echo Fox, on the other hand, looked really great against Counter Logic Gaming, and even though they eventually failed to get the win, they didn’t lose much stock. Smaller errors are easier to fix, so they should be coming into today’s match looking for redemption. We’re going with Echo Fox on this one, although it might end up being a lot close than most people expect.

Winner: Counter Echo Fox, 1.60 (odds @ Betway)

Team Solo Mid vs. Cloud9 — The most anticipated North American clash. The fight everyone wants to witness. Right now, it’s hard saying which team is better. They’re doing a lot of stuff right, but they’re also rough around the edges. They’re still unknown quantities in the current meta, but it’s important to highlight that Cloud9 definitely showed more every time they stepped foot on the Rift. They have more hype and momentum right now, and the better overall win/loss record as well. They might not be the best team in the region, but they’re darn close. That said, Team Solo Mid definitely has the tools to make this into one heck of a series, so expect and absolute barnburner.

Winner: Cloud9, 1.95 (odds @ Betway)

FlyQuest vs. Clutch Gaming — Following the NA el clasico, we have yet another interesting clash, albeit not as monumental. We have a fight between the Spring Split playoff contenders FlyQuest, and the team that just can’t get “off the ground” — Clutch Gaming. Generally speaking, Clutch Gaming have a better score, but FlyQuest had the hardest schedule out of any team in the region up to this point. They had to fight every single top tier team, and as a result, dropped a couple of games along the way. That was expected, although it’s important to highlight that they don’t really have any momentum at this point. Regardless, they’re a talented bunch with a fair bit of potential. Unlike Clutch, they have an identity for themselves and it’s evident any time they play. Sometimes they don’t really get to show it off against top tier opposition, but this game should be much more one sided than the odds below tell us.

Winner: FlyQuest, 1.80 (odds @ Betway)

Golden Guardians vs. Counter Logic Gaming — Finally, to close out the day, we have a very exciting clash between two playoff contenders. These two teams have shown exceptional growth over the last couple of weeks, and it’s hard saying which one has the edge. Counter Logic Gaming have definitely seemed like the better and more cohesive unit, but also as a more threatening line-up. They have more weapons, and they can play through any of their three main lanes. The Guardians, on the other hand, always rely on Froggen to hard carry, and while he’s often up to the task, there is only so much that a single player can do. This should be an insanely close match, but we have to give the edge over to Counter Logic Gaming. They’ve shown great fortitude in each of their games and they’re a much more layered team at this point. That said, expect fireworks from the very get-go. Neither team will go down without a fight and they’re both willing to skirmish whenever the need arises.

Winner: Counter Logic Gaming, 2.30 (odds @ Betway)