A last safe haven: the battle for seventh in North America

by theScore Staff Jul 18 2015
Thumbnail image courtesy of Damian Estrada / theScore

With only two weeks left in the LCS regular season, things are heating up as teams fight for the few remaining playoff spots.

Lower down the standings, though, there is an equally intense race happening. It’s not for fame, or for glory, or for the chance to be crowned the best in North America.

This race is to stay alive.

With four teams fighting for seventh place, the last and only safe haven, each and every game matters.

Team 8 (5-9)

Remaining Matches: TDK, GV, Liquid, CLG

Currently sitting in the hot seat (or should I say safe seat?), Team 8 are going into the final weeks desperately trying to hold onto their current position in the standings.

But fate rarely makes things easy, and so of course Team 8 are starting down the hardest remaining schedule of any of the bottom four teams. Basically, Team 8 must upset at least one other team like they did against Team SoloMid last week.

On the bright side if they can pull it off their safety is all but guaranteed.

On the other - the dark side if you will - a failure to make it work against at least one of Gravity, Liquid or CLG means their destiny would no longer be in their hands. Both Cloud9 or Enemy would have the possibility of passing them if with wins in three out of four.

And it should go without saying that a loss to TDK would be a complete disaster.

Looking at their play this split, Team 8 is a mixed bag. The only top team they’ve beaten was the aforementioned TSM, and they hold a 0-2 series loss against next closest Dignitas (which all but eliminates T8 from playoff contention). Interestingly, despite being a middle of the table team in a handful of statistical categories (First Blood, First Dragon, Gold Diff. at 10), they are woeful second last in terms of Team KDA (0.68), Total Kills (164) and Total Deaths (242).

What this says is that T8 struggles to come back from large kill disadvantage, but generally does better in objective focused, low kill games (as we saw against TSM). Unfortunately for Team 8 it’s highly doubtful they’ll be able to out-objective Gravity, Liquid or CLG, which puts them in a bit of a pickle strategy-wise.

Pickle or no, at the present moment Team 8 have by far the best chance of avoiding relegation and holding onto seventh.

All that’s left is to play it out and let the chips fall where they may.

Cloud9 (4-10)

Remaining Matches: Enemy, CLG, TSM, TDK

Oh how the mighty have fallen.

If you had told me two months ago that Cloud9, one of the most dominant teams in North American LCS history, would be starting down a date with relegation, I’d have put you into an asylum. But here we are.

Just about everything that’s needed to be said about Cloud9’s fall from grace has already been said, and I don’t need to add fuel to that fire.

So let’s start with the positives of the situation: unlike Team 8, Cloud 9 were blessed with the lightest schedule of any of the team fighting for seventh. Playing both Enemy and TDK actually puts Cloud9 in a decent position if not to make a run at it, at least end up with the higher relegation seed.

That being said their match against Enemy is in some ways a double-edged sword, especially considering that Enemy already hold the 1-0 series lead. If Enemy takes the win and owns the tiebreaker as a result, it’s pretty much curtains for C9.

Cloud9 showed a flash of their old selves last week against Dignitas, but a flash just isn’t going to cut it against old rivals TSM and CLG who are looking to secure their playoff positions (and more likely than not rub a little salt into C9’s wounds).

With the benefit of a few more week’s worth of practice with Hai back at the helm, C9 might just have a chance of challenging Team 8 for seventh.

But that would take a minor miracle. Hai said that his team was aiming for the safe spot, but I think a more realistic goal would be 8th.

At this point it’s the best they can hope for.

Enemy (4-10)

Remaining Matches: C9, Liquid, TSM, Dig

It’s not looking good for Enemy. And that’s putting it nicely.

Compared to their auto-qualified brother from across the pond, Origen, Enemy’s debut season has been a disappointment.

Statistically speaking, Enemy is a mess. They have by far the lowest First Blood percentage (14%) in North America and are third in overall team KDA (0.7). Oh, and did I mention their average gold differential at 10 minutes is TEN TIMES WORSE than the next closest team at -1082.

All those numbers go to say that Enemy either win early and or fall impossibly far behind. It’s not a wonder then that the only top six team they have beaten all split was Gravity, and even that victory was back in Week 1, by far Gravity’s worst performance of the split so far. The rest of their wins come against their basement-dwelling brothers Cloud9 (1-0) and TDK (2-0). They’ve also completely failed to build any momentum off of their few wins, having no back-to-back victories this split.

Enemy are in the rough right now. But it’s not an impossible journey, especially considering their schedule — just a really unlikely one.

The first major obstacle is that Team 8 currently holds the 2-0 tiebreaker, which means Enemy need to win at least half of their remaining matches and Team 8 needs to lose out for Enemy to even have a prayer. One T8 victory makes it hard, two nearly impossible, and three puts it officially out of reach.

But there is a silver lining for Enemy, because both Dignitas and Team SoloMid are slumping hard riding three straight loses. While those matches aren’t until Week 9, if things go Enemy’s way the might be able to capitalize and pick up the rare wins over playoff teams the desperately need.

They say a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step, and Enemy aren’t going to be going anywhere if they can’t first step past Cloud9.

Game on.

Team Dragon Knights (1-13)

Remaining Matches: T8, TiP, C9, GV

Real talk - Team Dragon Knights might just be the best worst team in LCS history.

They’re not depressing to watch like Coast was, and they’re not frustratingly average like 2014 Complexity.

No, hidden beneath their 1-13 record are flashes of brilliance, sadly crushed under the heel of visa issues and the suicidal tendencies of their AD carry. Ninja especially has played his heart out since arriving; if nothing else, you have to admire them for trying so very, very hard.

And yet for all their effort, it seems inevitable that TDK will end the season dead last, a casualty of bureaucracy and the unforgiving LCS system. Just about the best that TDK can hope for at this point is to play spoiler to either Team 8 or Cloud9, because barring some act of God they will be auto-relegated out of the LCS.

Should this roster stick together, get some actual practice under their belt playing in Challenger and try again next year they might actually be a force to be reckoned with. Or they could go the way of Winterfox - it’s a coin-flip.

PS. Kudos go out to the subs (LattmaN especially) who stuck it out through four weeks without practice and brutal beatdown after brutal beatdown. That takes real guts and they handled it like champions.

That’s how things look at the bottom of the barrel.

It’s certainly not pretty. But, it sure is entertaining.

If you want a rundown of the entire NA LCS standing, you can read about The Road to New York and find out who were the NA LCS All-Stars for Week 7 here.

Nicholas Doucet is a News Editor for theScore eSports. You can follow him on Twitter.