As we enter week six of the LCS and get closer to finishing the regular season, all eyes are on the top four teams in the league. This weekend, Team Liquid, Counter Logic Gaming, Team SoloMid, and Cloud9 will square off to give us a clear read on their respective power levels.
Despite a rough set of games in week five, Liquid are undoubtedly the most complete team in NA. They have the best understanding of how to play toward their strong side, regardless of how ahead or behind they are in a game, and will consistently exploit enemy mistakes. On top of that, Jeong "Impact" Eon-yeong is thriving in a meta centered around solo lane performance.
All the top four teams have a chance to break into first place, but Liquid will be the team to beat until someone actually pulls ahead of them in the standings. The surging CLG squad will test their mettle against the league front-runners on Saturday, while C9 will meet their rivals TSM on Sunday.
This game will come down to which team has the best preparation and operates the best as a unit. Regardless of whether or not team fight-centric strategies are executed by either team, the team that best transitions their bot lane into the mid game will have a major advantage.
That being said, CLG is a team that wants to split the map. Like Impact, Kim "Ruin" Hyeong-min is a top laner that excels in playing out both sides of the 1v1. He's typically more comfortable in a carry role, but will always prove useful to his team even in a losing lane. If CLG can use the strength of their solo laners, Ruin and Tristan "PowerOfEvil" Schrage, to take the heat off their bot lane early, they'll generate enough of a lead to take over the side lanes.
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While Liquid's loss against CLG earlier in the split was by no means a fluke, it's unlikely they'll repeat the same mistakes on Saturday. Liquid's standard win condition is "play as they always do," but they'll need to track Raymond "Wiggily" Griffin's early pathing closer than before if they want to come out ahead after 15 minutes. Lucky for them, Jake "Xmithie" Puchero excels at controlling his jungle opponents as one of the most cerebral junglers in the LCS.
From the experimentation and jungler issues to the frequent mechanical mistakes, something has been off about TSM all split. On the other hand, Cloud9 should also be starting Eric "Licorice" Ritchie after he took a week off to rest an injured wrist, so this match will be a pulse check for both teams.
When it's C9 up against TSM, it's hard to predict how the teams are going to play. The game typically starts off heavily in favor of one side, only to break out into a total free-for-all once the mid game arrives. The biggest edge C9 has always had over TSM, however, is their unpredictability.
C9 are always breaking out new picks and new strategies on stage, and they love to do it against TSM, a team known for their rigidity. Yasin "Nisqy" Dinçer has spoken before about his intent to expand his champion pool, so if TSM want a shot at winning this game, they can't afford to be caught off guard by an unorthodox draft.
The laning phase won't matter much, as these two teams won't hesitate to make plays from behind. It's all about the execution. A victory here could mean that TSM is on their way out of their slump in time for playoffs, and for C9, it could break them out of the tie for first place.
CLG play Team Liquid on Saturday, July 13 at 3 p.m. PDT, and TSM play C9 on Sunday, July 14 at 1 p.m. PDT.