TSM came a close second in the Spring Split; can they take the title in the LCS Summer Split? (Photo by Tina Jo/Riot Games)
The 2019 League of Legends Championship Series (LCS) Summer Split begins June 1 and will last until August 4. The ten teams will compete in a double round-robin regular season in best-of-one matches for 18 regular season games each. The top six teams from the regular season will advance to the playoffs, with the top two receiving a bye to the semifinals.
Team Liquid won the 2019 LCS Spring Split by beating TSM 3-2 in the Finals after a dominant regular season run. They highlight the big storylines to follow as we ramp up for the LCS Summer Split.
Team Liquid’s run at the 2019 Mid-Season Invitational was a decidedly mixed bag. The highs were arguably as high as any North American team has ever reached — dominating prohibitive favorites and reigning world champions Invictus Gaming 3-1 in the semifinals. But the lows were there too — finishing the Group Stage with a losing record and being non-competitive in G2 Esports 3-0 Finals annihilation.
Losing to the best the world has to offer isn’t a black mark by any means, but Team Liquid will have to show improvement to stay on top in the LCS Summer Split — more so than any other MSI team. Consider that while iG, SKT and G2 all swept their domestic finals 3-0, TL struggled to a 3-2 victory over the same TSM team who barely scraped by Cloud 9 3-2 in the semifinals.
Jo “CoreJJ” Yong-in was a worthy MVP choice for the Spring Split, but even with his addition and the Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen mid lane upgrade, TL were not as dominant in North America as they were in 2018. They have made no roster changes heading into the Summer Split, and assuming teams like TSM, Cloud 9, and FlyQuest continue to grow, Team Liquid will need to kick their game up a level if they want to win their fourth consecutive LCS crown.
On the back of an incredible second-half stretch of the Spring Split, TSM were finally back to being one of the most feared teams in North America, for good reason. Sergen “Broken Blade” Çelik brought a new dimension to the team by giving TSM a second dominant solo laner next to the already best-in-NA mid laner Soren “Bjergsen” Bjerg. Matthew “Akaadian” Higginbotham did not always play perfectly, but he finally gave TSM and fans a blend between aggression and smart pathing that had been absent for too long.
After vanquishing Cloud 9, the only team to beat them in the second half of the split, in the semifinals, TSM took a quick 2-0 lead over TL in the finals and looked every bit like the best team in NA. TL fought back to even the series, but TSM were in total control of the fifth game before Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen inexplicably let TL back in by being caught out. Yes, it was good on TL to seize their opportunity and make the most of it, but the series as a whole left the impression that TSM had the higher ceiling as a team. They weren’t ready to put it away in the Spring Split, but with another season under the direction of Tony “Zikzlol” Gray, TSM might be ready in the LCS Summer Split.
The biggest advantage that TSM hold is through their raw laning power. Mechanically, they are likely the strongest in NA, depending how strongly you feel about Cloud 9. The optimistic view is that you can always build better synergy and team fighting, strengths that Zikzlol and Bjergsen have been known for in particular.
But the growth of Akaadian (and/or a potential cameo by Jonathan “Grig” Armao) will be the most telling tale for TSM’s Summer Split prospects. Think back to the difference in Jake “Xmithie” Puchero’s level of play between the Group Stage, semifinals, and finals and how it correlated with TL’s success. TSM got good jungle play in the Spring Split, but they will need great jungle play in the Summer Split.
100 Thieves have followed a pattern of performing inversely well compared to their expectations, long known as the CLG special. When their original lineup debuted in Spring 2018, fans were excited as a new organization with awesome merch entered the league with fan favorites like Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black and Williams “Meteos” Hartman. Nobody expected them to contend for a title.
Coming into Summer 2018, fans expected to see the typical improvement from a newly formed team coming together. Sure roster changes took their toll, but 100 Thieves were undoubtedly worse in Summer 2018 and had a poor showing at Worlds. Expectations were again sky-high heading into Spring 2019 with the additions of Choi “Huhi” Jae-hyun and Bae “Bang” Jun-sik, but the team posted their worst split to date. 100T, put among the top four in almost every power ranking of NA heading into 2019, finished 4-14 for tenth place in the LCS in the Spring Split.
1 week until #LCS.
We took this offseason to reevaluate and recharge, and now we’re ready. We’re motivated now more than ever heading into this new split. #100T
— 100 Thieves (@100Thieves) May 24, 2019
Now? Maurice “Amazing” Stückenschneider should be an upgrade at jungle, but Max “Soligo” Soong is one of the most unproven players in the LCS on arguably the most important role in League of Legends. Coupled with a poor calendar year of play from Aphromoo, and expectations are low for Summer 2019. But from what we’ve seen so far, that’s right where 100 Thieves thrive.
Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho and Bang are still among the best at their roles, and Aphromoo has already shown before that he can come back from a slump. 100 Thieves have enough firepower, pedigree and opportunity to again subvert expectations and make their way into the playoffs.