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Are Cloud9 and Golden Guardians on a Collision Course at the LCS 2023 Championship?

Zakaria Almughrabi

The LCS 2023 Championship is soon to be upon us. The top eight teams in NA are set to play for their chance at the LCS title. While the lower six seeds must play through three to four best-of-five series to even get to that Grand Final stage, the top two seeds are sitting pretty with a round one bye. Those two teams are the same ones that fought for the Spring Split title, Cloud9 and Golden Guardians.

LCS 2023 Championship

Image Credit Riot Games | Stefan Wisnoski

Cloud9 has been dominating the LCS all year, placing first in both the Spring and Summer regular seasons. They also won the Spring Split, defeating GGS 3-1 to claim the org’s sixth LCS title. Golden Guardians on the other hand struggled at the start of Spring. Their 9-9 finish was barely enough to sneak into the playoffs. Despite this, GGS was able to put all the pieces together when it mattered most. They ran through the Losers’ Bracket to face Cloud9 in what was GGS’s first LCS Finals appearance.

This success out of both teams led to their rosters staying the exact same going into Summer. This proved to be the right decision, as C9 and GGS ended the regular season tied for first at 13-5. All five starters from both teams earned all-pro honors. The entire GGS lineup was either first or second team all-pro, while C9 were spread among first, second, and third.

Without a doubt, C9 and GGS are the two favorites heading into the LCS 2023 Championship. As far as head-to-head is concerned, they traded matches evenly in the regular season. Cloud9 did secure an edge in playoff seeding thanks to a best-of-one tiebreaker. Regardless, all eyes are on C9 and GGS to face off in the Winners’ Finals, and eventually rematch in the Grand Finals.

NRG Stir Things Up

While C9 and GGS did claim the top two seeds, they were by no means infallible during the Summer regular season. The most interesting aspect of the league-wide head-to-heads involved both teams. The fifth seeded NRG ended Summer with a 9-9 record, nothing too impressive by the numbers alone. What is impressive though, is that NRG had 2-0 records against BOTH C9 and GGS.

How did a team go 4-0 against both previous LCS Grand Finalists, but only end at .500? Well, an 0-2 record against the last place Immortals and 1-1 records against the ninth, eighth, and seventh seeds will do that. This is to say that NRG can beat the best of them, but also lose to the worst of them. NRG is without a doubt the biggest wildcard of the entire playoffs.

NRG ADC Ian Victor “FBI” Huang gets far less CS than any ADC in the league. Despite this, he deals the most damage/minute of any ADC. NRG’s wins tend to come about thanks to FBI coming online. The issue is what happens if he isn’t given that freedom thanks to the rest of the map falling apart. If NRG can stay stable or get leads in the early game, they can take down any team. That’s a big if though, and come playoffs teams should be ready to combat their playstyle.

Cloud9 actually made off like bandits here. Since they won the end-of-season tiebreaker, they get to choose their opponent in round two. NRG and Team Liquid are the only two teams that swept Cloud9 in Summer, and they are playing against each other in round one. This means that C9 can just throw whoever wins to GGS, or opt out of a matchup against Evil Geniuses if they wish.

EG Are the Real Deal

Speaking of Evil Geniuses, they finished Summer in third seed just one win behind C9 and GGS. This EG team is looking to be at their strongest ever since last Summer where they finished the regular season in first, albeit falling in Losers’ Finals to 100 Thieves. Joseph Joon “jojopyun” Pyun is currently the number one mid-laner in CS/minute and number two in damage/minute. He earned first team all-pro, making him the only non-C9 or GGS player to claim the honor (with the highest points of any player as well).

EG did drop the odd game to teams below them, but three of their six losses came against C9 and GGS. If anything, this makes them the anti-NRG. EG has the potential to go far in this Championship bracket, but they’ll need to be playing at their best to have a chance at breaking through the walls that have stopped them all split. Being third seed does buy them a much easier round one matchup. They’ll play TSM, a team that lost both games against EG and had a negative overall record at 8-10. This should be a lopsided series, setting up EG for a date with either C9 or GGS.

If any team has a shot at reaching the LCS Championship Finals in a double elimination format besides Cloud9 and Golden Guardians, its Evil Geniuses. Jojopyun is a major carry threat no matter who he’s playing against. The rest of EG has also had a solid season overall and can easily match up on their days. Assuming they don’t collapse against TSM, we could see an early upset in round two.

Is it Truly Anyone’s Game?

Although Cloud9 and Golden Guardians are favorites on paper at the LCS 2023 Championship, paper is just that. The most important aspect that all championship teams have is the ability to show up on the day. Playing under the highest pressure is tough. Both C9 and GGS are full of players who have won LCS titles previously and are no strangers to the big stage.

That said, the likes of Evil Geniuses, Team Liquid, and even NRG don’t fall too far in the quality category. Upsets will always be a possibility. Only one team can win it all, and there is no room for mistakes when it’s all on the line. Will we see the repeat Grand Final rematch, or will a new LCS titan emerge much like how GGS did in the Spring?

The LCS 2023 Championship begins on July 27 at 5:00 PM EST. The Grand Finals will be on August 20 at 4:00 PM EST.