Alright, it's not technically the mid-season since we've already hit the 10 game mark of the season, but we can let that slide, right? The best teams in North America are making their moves to get one of the coveted top six spots in the league before the regular season, their hopes at a domestic title and dreams of Worlds on the line.
Up to this point in the season, some things never change — Team SoloMid, even through roster issues, are atop of the standings. Team Impulse are still certified psychopaths by fighting everyone and everything on Summoner's Rift. Counter Logic Gaming got off to a hot start to take first place in the standings, and are coming off an 0-2 weekend after only dropping one game through their first four weeks.
But, when you used to see TSM in one of the top three spots in the standings, Cloud9 were right there alongside them as the constant guards of North America.
Not this season.
Biggest Story: The Fall of Cloud9
Cloud9 are 3-7 in their first 10 games of the season.
In their first year of LCS play (Summer '13 and Spring '14), Cloud9 lost seven games altogether in their run to back-to-back NA LCS championships. When it comes to being out of a playoff spot, C9 doesn't really know how that feels this deep into a season. Even when they had their worst start to a regular season last split, the experienced starting five of C9 turned it around late to take a first round bye away from the flailing Counter Logic Gaming.
The big difference this season is that it isn't the same starting five that became synonymous with Cloud9 over two years. Hai, leaving for a management role in the organization, was replaced by Incarnati0n, a touted solo queue prospect from Europe.
The team knew and stated the first few weeks wouldn't be the best and that it would take time to hit their stride. With only eight games remaining in the season, time has practically ran out for C9 to start making their move up the rankings, currently sitting in a once-unimaginable position of being a relegation team.
Cloud9 were always the team that you could count on to play a strong macro game. There were times players would slump or not be individually great, but their strength came the five starting players relying on each other to be selfless and win games through teamwork.
This season has had those same individual drops in performance, but none of the togetherness and macro play that made C9 a Western powerhouse. Incarnati0n's been decent as a rookie and shouldn't be singled out as the main reason why C9's fallen so hard in the standings this season. Hai, although criticized heavily for his individual stats, was the glue that held the team together. He was selfless, a strong shot-caller, and was the voice that the rest of the team could rally behind and follow when things weren't going well in the mid-game.
Meteos took on that role this season and the team hasn't gelled like it used to. It could have been anyone on Cloud 9, not just Meteos. Cloud9 were a team that won through their smart, quickfire decisions and excellent teamwork in the late-game through play calling. Incarnati0n might beat Hai when it comes to a 1v1 contest, but that doesn't mean much when Cloud9 lost everything that made them great — their familiarity with one another, a happy go lucky style as friends, and a clear, leading voice that they could believe in to a win game even when they were down to their last hit on the Nexus.
Announced earlier today, Cloud9 will be bringing Hai back into the fold for at least one week. Meteos will be stepping down as starting jungler for the first time in over two years, the former mid lane starter and captain taking over at the position. It won't be the first time Hai has played jungle, being the primary jungler for Cloud9 before the team actually signed Meteos before the qualifiers that got C9 into the LCS for the first time.
Will the change do anything? Who knows. Hai is coming in cold following a few months of retirement. Meteos, although not having a good season, is still one of the premiere talents in the Western scene. Incarnati0n will need to work together with the guy he replaced. Hai will need to adapt to a jungle that he hasn't professionally played in for two years. Everything could blow up in C9's face, pushing them to a horrific 3-9 standing that could destroy any aspirations left to make Worlds this fall.
Or Hai returns on the 4th of July, North America's former premiere team arises from the grave, and Cloud9 with their old captain realize that you never know how good something is until you don't have it anymore.
Most Improved Player: Dyrus (Team SoloMid)
Dyrus last season was, for a lack of better words, a sacrificial lamb. He barely participated with the team in kills, was left alone to die on an island, and dangled in front of other teams long enough for him to get killed while TSM picked up objects along the map.
This season, however, Dyrus is playing League of Legends. He's tied for fourth out of all players when it comes to fewest amount of deaths, tied with Gravity's ace Altec. TSM's top laner is already beating his kills total from last split, currently holding 30 to his name compared to last season's 27. With the top lane becoming more diverse with champion choices and strategies, Dyrus is picking up the slack while TSM's bottom lane has been the main issue with the team this season.
Most Valuable Top Laner: Quas (Team Liquid)
This is one of the hardest positions to judge so far this season. Dyrus, ZionSpartan, and Gamsu all have claims to being the best top laner in North America, but Quas is the most valuable to his team. He's everywhere for Team Liquid, leading all players at his position with a 76% kill participation and only trailing Gravity's Hauntzer's in kills.
With the top lane turning from an isle of soulless tanks slapping each other for twenty minutes before their respective teams yell at them to teleport down and eat up damage, it's allowed Quas and other top laners to be more influential through carrying. The Venezuelan is doing just that, outputting top damage for his team and reliably snowballing advantages from winning in the laning phase.
Most Valuable Jungler: Santorin (Team SoloMid)
The recipient of last season's rookie of the split award, Santorin is fitting in perfectly with TSM's style of play. No, he isn't going to carry any games and isn't going to see much of the gold or output much damage, but he does everything that the team needs him to. He's currently top in the league when it comes to not facing the grey screen, only dying nine times in the first 10 games of the season.
As it's been since he joined TSM, Bjergsen is the sword of TSM and Santorin is his Danish countryman's shield. Fewest amount of deaths, most assists, and fifth in kills out of the jungle position — there isn't much else you can ask from the 18-year-old Dane.
Most Valuable Mid Laner: Bjergsen (Team SoloMid)
Who else could it be?
Bjergsen has 75 kills, over 20 more than his closest competitor at his position in CLG's Pobelter.
He leads all mid laners in kill participation, involved in 76% of his team's kills.
Team SoloMid has gone as far as Bjergsen has carried them the past two seasons, and TSM are on the road to a three-peat of NA LCS titles. He's the best player in North America and TSM's ace through and through. Bjergsen and Santorin, TSM's Danish Sword and Shield, are keeping TSM atop of the standings along with Dyrus while they are trying to figure out to do in the bottom lane with their AD carry position.
Most Valuable AD Carry: Altec (Gravity)
Gravity's been one of the league's biggest positive surprises this season, currently tied for 2nd place at a record of 7-3. Their offseason signing of former Winterfox AD carry Altec has been the catalyst to their success, the young AD carry coming into his own on Gravity. He's been given responsibility from the start, getting put in a role to carry and succeed as an ace if he could live up to expectations.
Altec's surpassed expectations, leading all ADCs in DPM (Damage Per Minute) and only trailing CLG's Doublelift in kills by one. Former Gravity AD carry Cop has been giving his replacement advice and encouragement as his new role as Gravity's head coach, and the move of making Bunny Fufuu the main shot-caller in the bottom lane has worked out ideally for last season's first round exits.
Most Valuable Support: Aphromoo (Counter Logic Gaming)
The prevailing narrative of this season's NA LCS will be shot calling and the importance of having a strong leader. We saw Cloud9 change their roster from last season, hoping that the loss of Hai's play calling and leadership would work out in the end by Meteos' growth at the role and Incarnati0n's individual talent potential.
The same happened with Gravity and CLG, with Bunny Fufu and Aphromoo becoming the leaders of the team when it came to making the calls. While C9's changes ultimately looked like they failed, they've worked for GV and CLG.
Similar to the AD carry award, it came down to the league's top two bottom lanes, Doubelift/Aphromoo and Altec/Bunny. Instead of giving the Gravity bot-lane a sweep, the award goes to Aphromoo, the playmaking support that leads all supports in assists alongside GV's Bunny at 118.
If CLG are going to break out of their playoff nightmares and finally contend for their first NA LCS championships, it's going to have to come from Aphromoo's leadership as the season gets closer to reaching its end.
Tyler "Fionn" Erzberger is a staff writer for The Score eSports who covers the North American LCS and Korea's Champions. You can follow him on Twitter.