As Week 9 of the LCS starts on March 23, only four teams have secured their playoff spot. Team Liquid has taken first place again and has a bye to the League of Legends semifinals. Cloud9, TSM, and FlyQuest have also secured playoff spots, but depending on how these teams perform, placing could vary. With two spots left and four teams in contention for playoffs, OpTic Gaming, Golden Guardians, Echo Fox, and Counter Logic Gaming will be making every game count. We’ll look at the these four teams and how — ideally — they could make playoffs.
As it turns out, Golden Guardians, OpTic Gaming, and Counter Logic Gaming all have not made LCS playoffs since franchising took place in 2018. The team with the worst record to make it into playoffs in the LCS was EnVyUs at 8-10 during the 2016 summer split.
At the top of the teams trying to take the next step this season are the Golden Guardians. Since franchising, GGS placed 10th in both spring and summer splits last year. After their performance, they changed out three of the team’s members. They acquired Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell, Henrik “Froggen” Hansen, and Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung to round out their roster. They had four wins in spring 2018, and five in Summer, so at seven wins, the team has certainly made improvements. GGS also sit at the team with the best odds to make it to the LCS playoffs.
Coincidentally for GGS, their first game this weekend is against OpTic. Beating OpTic guarantees a Golden Guardian playoff position. The highest record any other team could muster would be 8-10, so even in a multi-way tie, GGS has the advantage in head-to-heads against the other teams. From their first game against OpTic, GGS played fairly cleanly. It seemed like this was their first game working together as a team. This game was actually their first win this split, so having a 6-5 record after this game has shown how GGS has been adapting. The game itself was worked well for GGS. Froggen last picked Karthus, but did give over First Blood to OpTic. GGS was able to close out that game in just under 33 minutes. Going to face OpTic again, GGS needs to look out for whoever OpTic decides to start.
Their second game on the weekend is against FlyQuest. They first met back all the way in Week 1, so after a complete season, both teams will be looking to change up the game. The meta has changed so much since then that most of the champions played during Week 1, like Urgot, Camille jungle, and Galio mid have all been nerfed to the point that they’ve left their original position. Golden Guardians even has a chance to make it as high as fourth over FlyQuest depending on a few factors. Froggen actually stands tied as the player with the most Player of the Game standings with Jo “CoreJJ” Yong-in.
CLG continues its struggle this year to make playoffs. In both previous splits last year, CLG ended the regular season at 7-11, and possibly will end this split with the same record if they go 1-1. The only change from last year to this is the addition of mid laner Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage to the roster. Ats one of the three teams sitting at 6-10, CLG needs to separate itself from the pack to even hope to make LCS playoffs. It’s unlikely for CLG to make it past Golden Guardians, just because of the head-to-head matchup. But in order to clutch the last playoff spot, a 2-0 weekend would help greatly.
100 Thieves only has only gotten four wins this split and hasn’t won a game since Week 6, so CLG should be confident going into this match. If CLG loses here, they will probably be out of contention. The first game against 100 Thieves did not go well, with the loss coming in a little over 41 minutes. 100 Thieves has been struggling with consistency and keeps switching out mid laners. Max “Soligo” Soong has been playing with 100 Thieves for four games but has yet to win in the LCS. CLG should take as much advantage as it can if they want to make a playoff run.
Hoping to get a 2-0 against one of the teams they are tied with, CLG beat Echo Fox Week 3 in about 42 minutes. CLG had a stronger first half of the split, but evening out records against the other three teams would be ideal to get them into playoffs. Playing a fairly standard composition with Syndra, Ezreal, and Tahm Kench, CLG could replicate this composition. With the added buffs to fighters like Jax and Riven, Darshan “Darshan” Upadhyaya could bring out the olden days of ZionSpartan and take command once again.
OpTic needed to revitalize its roster after barely missing LCS playoffs last summer. This was shown by adding a duo jungle of Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett and William “Meteos” Hartman, with Meteos playing 10 games and Dardoch playing 6. The other pickup was with mid-laner Lee “Crown” Min-ho from Gen. G. Crown was also a part of the 2017 World Champions Samsung Galaxy team. Even with these additions, the team still seemed to struggle, having their only 2-0 week in Week 5. Meteos is 3-7 and Dardoch is 3-3 overall. But the meta has moved away more from Dardoch’s more aggressive playstyle towards more control champions, like Skarner and Rek’sai, so Meteos is more likely to play.
As mentioned earlier, OpTic did have a relatively meta draft with Lissandra, Urgot, and Kai’sa. Crown did secure First Blood, but OpTic never really accrued an early lead or deficit. GGS kept picking off OpTic members and securing neutral objectives until it could successfully get Baron. OpTic did not look like it had a direction in mind and didn’t really play to its strengths. Crown has hard-carried games from OpTic, but in order to better secure a playoff spot, beating GGS will even up their record against possibly tied opponents.
Against 100 Thieves, OpTic was actually down gold and kills for a considerable time. OpTic almost threw the game when Meteos died to Baron after an Ezreal ultimate. Fortunately, OpTic was able to turn around the fight when 100 Thieves took Baron. After another two Barons taken, Optic was able to backdoor the Nexus when 100 Thieves went for the Elder Dragon. It was not a pretty win by all means, but it was still a win for OpTic. OpTic Gaming has been struggling on the top side, so focusing more mid and bot might help send the Green Wall to playoffs for the first time.
Much like OpTic, Echo Fox can even up its score record with the other teams. Coming into its split, Echo Fox signed a nearly different roster, mostly from Clutch’s team last split. Fox also re-signed Kim “Fenix” Jae-hun to the mid lane and signed Lee “Rush” Yoon-jae back to the LCS. After many lackluster games from Rush, Fox did sub in James “Panda” Ding for four games, but he has yet to pick up a win. Echo Fox is the only team of the four to make playoffs last year, but it has only been declining since its 3rd place finish last spring.
This is going to be an uphill battle for Echo Fox. Team Liquid has been destroying most of the LCS teams and has only dropped games to TSM and FlyQuest last week. The first game against TL was played relatively well. Fox drafted a poke composition with Zoe and Jayce, and a good front line with Zac and Braum. TL was just able to out-engage Echo Fox and pushed its lead well. They were never really able to find an advantage and were out scaled by TL’s team-fighting ability.
This game is not only how Echo Fox helps itself get into playoffs, but also possibly plays spoiler for CLG. Should Echo Fox win, any multi-team tie situation that has CLG in it would force them out of contention due to overall game records. It was a relatively slow game against CLG, but the Baron steal only pushed Fox further behind and was out-sieged by CLG. The CLG frontline was too tanky for Rush’s Nocturne to reliably have access to the backline.
The two most important games this weekend are Golden Guardians against OpTic and Echo Fox against Counter Logic Gaming. Most of the options for teams will come from these two games for playoff contention. Teams like Team Liquid and 100 Thieves are in positions to play spoiler to teams, so keeping spirits high will be important.
I am a League of Legends writer from New Jersey. Graduated from Rutgers with my Bachelor’s in Journalism. Favorite League champions: Vel’Koz, Sion, Blitzcrank to name a few. I also play Overwatch, Slay the Spire, Stardew Valley, and D&D. Find me on Twitter @JaredWarnke