Stories Around the Rift will bring you the overarching storylines week to week in the NA LCS. Which team is on the up and up in NA LCS Week 5? Who needs to prove themselves, or bounce back from a bad week? Which players are surprising and which are disappointing? Esports is just as much about the stories and the narratives as it is the gameplay. So sit down, grab some cookies and milk, and get ready for storytime kiddos.
This week, for NA LCS Week 5, we'll look at how the top of the table is separating from the pack, the shift from 'growing pains' to playoff contention, Liquid's 0-2 week, and whether FLY Fly and Co. can make an impact this season.
TL;DR: The Cream of the Crop in the NA LCS are continuing their trajectory upwards. Clearly front-runners in the standings, it's not just that, but their quality of play that sets them apart.
The top of the NA LCS traditionally has usually had TSM... and... well, Cloud 9 often times, or occasionally CLG/Immortals. This year, Cloud 9 (who "lost the offseason lol") are once again tied at the top with... Echo Fox. The team that completely rehauled a lackluster roster into the scariest one in the region currently. It's a shake-up of the norm, which is hailed by many as a sign of growth in the scene.
Given that Echo Fox beat Cloud 9, we can hold them as being first place. Their strong roster of talent revolving around Worlds finalist Top laner Heo "Huni" Seung-hoon and controversial Jungler Joshua "Dardoch" Hartnett have seen the team completely shock the NA LCS with their dominance. Cloud 9, too, who were touted to have lost the offseason (and have now memed that) look somehow stronger than ever. Jungler Dennis "Svenskeren" Johnsen looks to be in SK Gaming form, and Nicolaj "Jensen" Jensen is still looking MVP quality. Hell, even new kid Eric "Licorice" Ritchie styled on ex-C9 top laner Jung "Impact" Eon-yeong. The top teams seem to have really separated themselves in skill and talent from the middle of the pack, not just in standings but in quality of play.
TL;DR: With the season half over, every game counts towards any playoff hopeful team's dreams can be won or lost in a game. Games in the second half of the season are going to be more and more important.
So we're midway through the season, which means 'playoff consequences' and 'playoff considerations' are going to be thrown around like they're hotcakes. A loss or win against a team in these final weeks can be the deciding factor for a team making it into the playoffs, and thus have a real shot at taking home some Championship Points towards Worlds, each teams' dream, and ultimate goal.
With Liquid's first 0-2 week, they're at 5-3, holding third place and within one 2-0 week from another team of being in contention for that spot. TSM, Clutch Gaming, and 100 Thieves are all 4-4, nipping at the heels of the team that blew open the NA LCS in their first two weeks. Behind them is the revitalized and full roster FlyQuest, and a CLG that can't seem to find if it's a contender or not, who are also within touching distance. Everyone's going to be looking for those wins against each other and trying to prove that they belong at the big teams' tables and in Playoffs.
TL;DR: Anytime a team goes 0-2 in a week, it's cause for some mild concern. But when a team who, in the opening weeks of the split, came out swinging to go 0-2 can be a little more worrisome than the usual team. Can Liquid bounce back this week?
I'm not one to base judgments off of one week, but again, Team Liquid are having a worrisome trend. An 0-2 week is rough to take, but there should be some credit given: They lost two Bo1s against the two tied for first place teams. This is the hardest week that Liquid could have had. But... Against Cloud 9, Liquid looked outclassed. The images of Impact's emotional response to the loss say it all: this was a game that Liquid felt they needed to win to prove themselves against Cloud 9.
Losing to Echo Fox was a bit closer of a matchup, but again Liquid have to come back this week fighting. Every team has their 0-2 week, and it's not about Liquid going 0-2, but more on how they'll respond to such a rough week. Will they come back and crush like they did against TSM? Or will they start to fray? This is a team of largely veteran talent, and figuring a good support staff, I doubt we'll see an implosion. But the roster will need to win if nothing else for a confidence boost and to remind the league that they're a real top tier team.
TL;DR: Finally, the meme has arrived, as FlyQuest's Fly makes his debut in the league. A solid performance from the mid laner sparks a possible FlyQuest playoff run. If nothing else, some stability in the roster will help the squad.
FLY Fly is finally a thing, as FlyQuest's starter mid laner in Song "Fly" Yong-jun has worked out his visa issues and is with the team. While many fans of the higher, more refined mid lane taste were excited for the other Aurelion Sol to be facing off against Choi "Huhi" Jae-hyun, Fly is also hyped for being a particularly talented mid laner. The roster that FlyQuest had originally imagined has come together, and a 1-1 week with a loss to Cloud 9 and a win over fellow middle of the pack 100 Thieves isn't too bad a start.
Fly's performance on the team was... well, the definition of a selfless mid laner. 0-0-12 in a 12 kill game. Yea, that's interesting. His Galio play was great, and the team seemed to just play differently with Fly in the mix. Only being 1 win off from the rest of the middle of the pack teams, FlyQuest has an easier shot at making a real wave this week, going up against Clutch Gaming and OpTic. Whether they can find success here will be the real testament to this teams strength. Losing to the first place team is fine, but the middle of the pack teams separate themselves by beating the teams below them consistently. With FLY Fly here, FlyQuest's hopes for a shot in the playoffs have increased, but they need to act on this and get some wins.