The LCS Summer Split is technically over, and two NA teams are set to go to this year's World Championship. Team Liquid is NA's first seed, after winning both splits this season. Meanwhile, Cloud9 holds the second seed due to their high placements and sufficient championship points. But what about the third seed? That's where the LCS Gauntlet comes in.
Four teams have the opportunity to claim this final spot for Worlds. They are Flyquest, Clutch Gaming, Counter Logic Gaming ("CLG") and Team SoloMid ("TSM"). Two teams are newer to the league and two are old, but all have the same drive to win. Expectations weigh heavy on each of these teams as they look to make potentially their last push this year. The Gauntlet is these teams' last chance to punch a ticket to Worlds, so with everything on the line, they're sure to deliver a ton of fantastic games!
The Young Blood
First off is FlyQuest. Now, its been a while since we've seen them in action. Last split, they were the underdogs everyone rooted for in playoffs, where they made it all the way to the Semifinals. But this split was definitely worse for them. They finished with an abysmal 5-13 record and were a long way from making playoffs. They’re not expected to accomplish much in the Gauntlet, but with a few weeks of preparation, its possible they can make a splash.
Their biggest strength is Santorin. People couldn’t stop singing his praises last split, and despite their rough Summer Split, he still has the potential to carry his team. There were a lot of problems Flyquest faced this split, so he’ll have a lot of pressure on his shoulders to ensure his team can have good laning phases and skirmishes.
Up next is Clutch Gaming. Funnily enough, their story is about the opposite of Flyquest’s. They went from last place in the Spring Split to beating TSM in the Summer Split Quarterfinals. They then went on to seriously challenge Team Liquid, NA’s super-team, in a best of five series. If anyone has momentum on their side, its Clutch.
Aggressiveness is synonymous with this squad. Though it was seen as a downfall in the past, they’ve refined this style to make it truly threatening. They rely on comfort picks and counter picks quite a bit, which can be potentially be exploited by clever drafting. But even if a team can out draft Clutch, they have one more thing to worry about. Cody Sun. Clutch Gaming’s AD Carry has had an incredible split and was even better in playoffs. No matter what happens in a game, it always seems Cody sun has the potential to carry this team from any deficit.
The Old Guard
Thirdly, we have CLG. Though they're one of the LCS' most historic teams, they haven't found much success in the past few years. But this Gauntlet is their chance to turn that all around. Their squad made a fantastic run all the way to Semifinals this Split, and though they suffered a harsh defeat at the hands of Cloud9, they showed throughout the regular season they have the potential to overcome the top teams. Going into the Gauntlet, they’re arguably the favorites.
Their whole team was on fire this split. Their solo laners were utilizing different picks to great success, while their bottom lane was performing very well in lane and in team fights. But their biggest strength lie in their jungle position. Wiggily has stepped up to the plate when it mattered and is a force to be reckoned with. If they play to their peak, the Gauntlet can be theirs.
Last up is TSM. The iconic TSM chants have been quieter this year, as the organization struggles to regain its former glory. They ended Summer Split in fourth with a 10-8 record, which isn’t bad, but not something long-time TSM fans like to see. They faced off versus Clutch in the Quarterfinal and were handed a hefty defeat.
They’re not down for the count, however. With the caliber of players they have, they have a decent chance of claiming that last Worlds spot. Zven and Smoothie have been successful on other teams, and have the capabilities to recreate that success in this do-or-die moment. But all eyes should be on the mid lane. Bjergsen is the rock of this team, and if given the right circumstances, can force victories by just his own hand. If they get their jungle position straightened out, TSM will be a serious contender.
The first match of the Gauntlet will be between Flyquest and Clutch Gaming on Friday. In all honesty, it should be a one-sided affair. Flyquest was a wreck this split, while Clutch took Team Liquid all the way to Silver Scrapes in a best of five series. It will be a huge upset if FlyQuest wins. But even if they lose, Clutch truly only wins if they convincingly beat them. That's because the winner of this series will have to face CLG on Saturday. If Clutch makes it here, it will likely be a close series, but with CLG taking the victory in the end.
That brings CLG to face TSM in the last series on Sunday. TSM as an organization has the ability to put up a fight, but with so many question marks around their top and jungle positions, its probable that CLG wins here too. So at the end, CLG is predicted to win the Gauntlet and take NA's third seed for Worlds.
That said, don't be too surprised if Clutch or TSM claim that spot. They're great teams in their own right and though the gap between these three teams is hard to gauge, it's probably not too large. Either of them would make a great representative for North America. Unfortunately, Flyquest's chances are pretty slim overall and would need a few miracles to make it happen. But no matter the outcome, viewers will have a great weekend of LCS action to watch!
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