The North American League Championship Series standings are in upheaval. Six of the 10 teams are tied at 2-2 on the heels of two of the historically best North American franchises (Team SoloMid and Cloud9) coming off 0-2 weeks.
Cloud9's continuing struggles
Cloud9 is showing the same weaknesses it displayed in Week 1: a general inability to translate leads into proactive plays on the map, along with a general lack of mid- to late-game playmaking.
Eric "Licorice" Ritchie seems to be the only player on the team consistently performing, putting up 4/0/5 (kills/deaths/assists) and 1/1/3 games on Shen and a 5/1/0 game on Fiora in three losses so far. His KDA and CS per minute both rank first among all top lane players in team losses this split. His 72.7 percent kill participation ranks second among top lane players who have played all four games for their teams (77.5 percent, Jung "Impact" Eon-yeong -- Team Liquid). Even with this success, Licorice has not been able to find a way to translate strong play into team success.
Meanwhile, Cloud9 continues to languish in a historic slump, dating to the Spring Split, netting only two wins in its last 12 games. In those games, the team's lack of early objective control is worrying. Despite picking winning lanes and even obtaining first blood in seven of those 12 games, C9 killed the Rift Herald in only two of those games. This is particularly troubling for a team that puts a strong emphasis on the Rift Herald. Among the rest of its Spring Split games, Cloud9 captured 11 of 15 Rift Heralds with only two being conceded to its opponents.
A similar trend can be seen in Cloud9's total team kills. It had double-digit kills in 12 out of 15 games before this slump (the second-to-last week of Spring Split), yet since then, only three of its 12 games have had 10 or more total kills. Cloud9 seems to be attempting to take a more conservative approach with a focus on late-game fights, however that becomes difficult to do when giving up so many mid-game objectives all while attempting to incorporate three new players into its roster.
Should we worry about TSM again?
TSM started off Week 2 with another loss to Clutch Gaming, dropping its overall game record with Clutch to 2-6. Since 2016, Clutch boasted the honor of being the only team in North America with a winning record against TSM. The defining feature of this matchup always seems to come down to Clutch jungler Nam "LirA" Tae-yoo, particularly his champion pick of Skarner (4-0). LirA is one of the few players in North America who is consistently able to take advantage of TSM's weak point in the jungle and turn that into a team-wide advantage. In every loss to Clutch, TSM's jungler has had at least three deaths, while in its only two wins Michael "MikeYeung" Yeung went deathless in both games.
TSM lost its second game of the week to Team Liquid with a team composition that included a Lulu mid-lane and an Ezreal bot lane that raised some eyebrows. The Lulu mid-lane pick usually indicates the team wants to scale into late game with more of a "protect-the-carry" style team composition. However, Ezreal does not have the late-game damage output that most traditional AD Carries have. In fact, that mid-lane, bot-lane duo has only ever been picked together one other time since 2016.
Cloud9 and TSM face off against each other in the first game of Week 3 on Saturday and look to prove which team really needs to make changes.