The Road to New York: From the Penthouse to the Dungeon

by theScore Staff Jul 11 2015
Thumbnail image courtesy of Robert Paul / theScore eSports

Only four weeks remain in the regular season of the NA LCS, and the fight for the playoffs are on.

A divide has started to take place in the standings, as the Top 6 teams are enjoying comfortable leads over the four squads at the bottom that are hoping for a final sprint towards the postseason. Team Impulse and the free falling Counter Logic Gaming currently possess the all important final spots to make the opening round of the playoffs, but the challenger kings, Enemy eSports, and Team 8 are hoping to turn heads in the closing rounds.

Who in North America is enjoying the high life in the penthouse with six games remaining in the season, and which teams are staring relegation in the face?

Here are our rankings going into a pivotal Week 7 of NA LCS action.

The North American Ladder

1. Gravity: 9-3

Welcome to the penthouse, rocket boys! An inauspicious kickoff to the season with various changing parts on the rosters has transitioned into a league leading record for Gravity. Last season was a solid rookie campaign for the former Curse Academy squad and they've graduated in a full-fledged title contender this season, dispatching Team SoloMid in one of the cleanest games the NA LCS have seen in some time.

Their two offseason moves have been nothing short of amazing for the leather clad Gravity. Altec has stepped up and become the carry ace of the squad, and Move's hawk-eyed motions across the map opens avenues for the rest of his team to prosper from. If things continue on their upward trend, Gravity might find themselves racking in the regular season awards through their stellar offseason moves — Cop as best coach, Move as best rookie, and if the stars align, Altec as the league's most valuable player.

2. Team SoloMid: 9-3

As expected, Team SoloMid are still in the penthouse for the sixth straight NA LCS season. No matter the roster changes, tinkering with positions, or individual slumps, TSM have proven one thing over the past three years: they'll find a way to stay on top. Unlike Cloud9, who've taken a nosedive with their first big roster swap in the team's LCS history, TSM know how to reload on the fly, even messing with the roster when they're on top.

Last week was Keith's introduction to the team as the former Team Liquid AD Carry played on Saturday in a victory while WildTurtle started in TSM's loss to Gravity. Let's not jump to conclusions though, as Keith was a footnote in his team's close, knife-edge victory over the last place Team Dragon Knights, and Turtle lost to one of the best teams in the LCS in a game where TSM were completely countered in the pick/ban phase.

With Turtle slated to start at least the first game this week against one of the bottom teams in Team 8, circle this as the game where we'll really see if there will be a competition for TSM's starting AD Carry role.

3. Team Liquid: 8-4

We now move from the penthouse down a little ways to one of the suites in the NA LCS. Liquid aren't sipping champagne on the roof in a jacuzzi with their former Curse kin Gravity, but they're in a great spot with four weeks remaining in the season. Cloud9's implosion this season makes Liquid's third place finish in last season's playoffs even more valuable, as it puts them in a prime position to grab one of the three NA invitations to Worlds.

The strongest laning phase team in the region, a lot of Liquid's success this season can be credited to Fenix's growth in the mid lane, evolving from a middling positional player last season to an elite mid this season. He only trails Piglet in kills on the team by three, and he's the best on the squad when it comes to CS differential at 10 minutes, outputting his opponents on average of 7.5 by the 10 minute mark.

4. Team Dignitas: 8-4

Last season, Team Dignitas would have been lucky to even be let into the building. This season, however, they're riding high, hanging out with Liquid in one of the suites in the NA LCS, already beating their last season win total of six with four weeks remaining. Dignitas were a cautionary surprise pick at the start of the split, beating up on the weaker teams while struggling against the better squads.

That belief has dissipated over the past three weeks, Dignitas affirming themselves as a legit playoff team and contenders for a trip to New York City. This round will be another chance for them to rise up the hierarchy of NA, pitted against Team Impulse to start the weekend and finishing with the downtrodden Cloud9 on Sunday.

5. Team Impulse: 7-5

Team Impulse are currently climbing through the stairwells of the NA LCS building, punching and kicking everyone in their path until they reach the very top. It's been a tug of war split for Impulse, splitting games back and forth all season long. That luckily changed for them last weekend, as Impulse pulling out an all important 2-0 round to get them back into a firm playoff position.

One thing to watch in the coming weeks will be the bottom lane, with rumors of the team trying out amateur player Heaventime in the role of support over Adrian. The talent for Impulse has always been there, and they'll most likely always be the team that loves to fight as long Rush is on the team, but they're going to need to all be on the same page if the former LMQ team wants to make a return trip back to Worlds.

6. Counter Logic Gaming: 7-5

Counter Logic Gaming are falling.

And falling some more.

They started at the penthouse for the first few weeks of the season, hanging out as best friends and drinking scotch while laughing at everyone below them.

Then Doubelift tried to slam dunk a basketball on the roof of the building, hurt his hand, and everything started to fall apart. The team started to stumble down the building, breaking through the ceiling down into the below suites. Their descent hasn't stopped there, the team tripping over themselves last week to put them at four straight losses and inching closer to the uncomfortable position of rooming with Enemy and Team 8 in the bottom quarters.

CLG will get a chance to break their losing ways this weekend and maybe find themselves back at the top where they were only a few weeks ago. They play the two rookie teams this round, pitted against their closest competitor in the standings Enemy on Saturday, and then a date with the full-powered Team Dragon Knights to end the week.

If things go well, CLG will end the week 9-5, looking down at the bottom teams and preparing for the playoffs. However, if things go awry and somehow lose both games, they'll be seated 7-7 on a six game losing streak and looking to break the sound barrier record with their dive from the penthouse to the very bottom of the ladder.

7. Enemy: 4-8

The former kings of Challenger, Enemy are chilling at the bar and just enjoying themselves in their first season as an LCS organization. Things could have gotten dangerous if they fell to Team Dragon Knights to end the week and pull them closer to relegation, but they pulled off the important win to push TDK closer to auto-relegation and keep themselves afloat in the bottom half of the standings.

When Enemy lose, they lose quickly and hard. They lead the league when it comes to having the biggest deficit of gold at 10 minutes, currently averaging 800 less gold than their opponent at that time. That would usually mean certain death for a squad and a Coast-like record, yet Enemy are at a somewhat respectable 4-8 for a new team in the league and an outside shot at the playoffs. They're truly a boom or bust team — when they're on their games, they can play a strong mid and late-game to secure victories, and when they're not...they get absolutely destroyed.

Grab another drink, Enemy. It'll take away the pain of the laning phase.

8. Team 8: 4-8

The eighth placed Team 8 are slowly sneaking up the stairs of NA LCS, hoping that no one notices them creeping up the standings. The season started horribly for the team many suspected to be auto-relegated last split during the preseason, with an 0-4 start to the campaign and the roster move of Nien replacing Maplestreet not appearing to be a solid trade.

But, since their horrid start, even with Slooshi stepping down for personal reasons and Goldenglue replacing them, T8 have been quietly solid. They've gone 1-1 their past four weekends, mirroring how Team Impulse have done most of their work since they got into the LCS. Team 8 aren't world beaters and probably will never be in the penthouse, but they know how to fight and scrap together wins when the opportunity arises. They did it last season when no expected them to challenge for a playoff spot, and they're doing it once again this split with an unrelenting attitude that doesn't quit.

9. Cloud9: 3-9

Cloud9 have left the building. They don't even know where they are anymore. Meteos is off the starting roster. Hai is playing jungle. Incarnati0n is a rookie on a team that is blowing up all around him. Sneaky is shrugging his shoulders, knowing every team in NA LCS will give him a call if C9 somehow get relegated. Balls is lifting weights. LemonNation is off in the corner, scribbling in his notebook and trying to calculate how in the hell Cloud9 are going to make worlds with a 3-9 record and only six games remaining in the regular season.

The former two-time NA LCS champions gambled everything on the hope that their roster change could lead them to a high finish at Worlds. It's all backfired and their bet is currently setting the casino on fire, Cloud9 running outside the NA LCS building not knowing what is going on anymore and hoping that a miracle happens to jetpack them back to the penthouse.

10. Team Dragon Knights: 1-11

The last placed team in the league and in the worst danger to be auto-relegated, TDK currently sit in the dungeon underneath the NA LCS foundation cursing the United States government and their visa system. TDK have played well in the three games they've played their starting roster, but it was a little too late for any late season rampages through the entire league.

Emperor and Ninja have a natural talent that is clear through their highlight plays and early game heroics, yet everything comes crashing back down to earth when their same aggression gets them into trouble when the game is on the line. If they had their entire team from the start of the campaign, they're probably sitting around 6-6 or higher with thoughts of the playoffs and Worlds dancing around in their heads.

Now they're just sitting alone at the bottom of everyone else, swearing and yelling at the top of their lungs at a glorious summer that could have been.

The All-NA LCS Team (Week 6)

Top: Hauntzer (Gravity)

Gravity will be a running theme in this week's All-NA LCS team, the new league toppers the clear winners of Week 6 in terms of performance. It all starts in the top lane, Hauntzer going perfect last weekend, not dying once along with five kills and 15 assists to his stats.

Jungle: Move (Gravity)

Move started this season as Gravity's biggest problem and is now possibly their greatest asset. He's stopped trying to do everything and has focused primarily on vision across the map, speeding around Summoner's Rift with a mission to assist his team at the best of his abilities. He's not a carnivore like his Korean peer Rush on Team Impulse, but Gravity's herbivore jungler is doing just fine in his role as the fleet-footed jungler for the league's top squad.

Mid: Shiphtur (Team Diginitas)

Shiphtur continued his consistent season last weekend, finishing the weekend 7/1/6 in two games and keeping his team in a clear shot for the playoffs. He's gone from the flashy assassin player that Dig threw all their hopes into to now being a true leader for the squad, playing various champion types to help his team get where they want to be in late August: New York City for the LCS Grand Finals.

AD Carry: Piglet (Team Liquid)

The season of redemption is still in high gear for Piglet. Last split was a war of emotions, Piglet, the former world champion, benched in the middle of the season and only coming around at the end of the split to show the skill that many expected to see from the beginning. After missing a chance to defend his Worlds title last year, Piglet doesn't want to miss out on facing his former teammates this season, the ace AD carry performing up to expectations. He went 14/2/17 in Week 6 and hopes to continue his torrid pace this weekend.

Support: Bunny Fufu (Gravity)

The voice of the newly charged Gravity is our final all-NA LCS team member for Week 6. Bunny's shift to a stylish playmaking support to a true leader has been one of the biggest narratives of the season thus far, Gravity's surgical dissection of TSM to close out Week 6 the cleanest game any team in NA has played this season.

Tyler "Fionn" Erzberger is a staff writer for theScore eSports who covers the North American LCS and Korea's Champions.