Here we are, folks. Nine weeks and 17 games all come down to one final day in the NA LCS regular season, with the Top 5 teams in the league still jostling for seeding and one of the two first round byes to the semifinals.
At the bottom of the table, Team Dragon Knights, auto-relegated but still out for blood, took their biggest win of the season by playing spoiler against former champions Cloud9. Now, C9 will need to beat Team SoloMid, along with Team 8 losing their last game to Counter Logic Gaming, to force a do-or-die tiebreaker for the seventh spot.
There's no denying that this season hasn't been a pretty one for North America. The league's two pillars, TSM and C9, are having their worst seasons in LCS history. Cloud9 are already confirmed to miss their first domestic postseason and TSM is in danger of finishing as low as fifth place in the standings. The new teams that have usurped them, Gravity and Team Impulse, are battling issues of their own, with GV on a downward trend the past few weeks since dismantling the defending champions TSM in a one-sided blowout. Impulse, while on an eight game winning streak, have a chance to finish the second half of the season undefeated, but are going through major roster issues as their former-MVP mid laner XiaoWeiXiao is suspended due to ELO boosting allegations.
Team Liquid and Counter Logic Gaming are the two teams notorious in NA for failing in the playoffs and qualifying for Worlds. Team Liquid (and as Curse) have never made it to the largest tournament of the year, and this might be their best chance to ever qualify with the rest of the region falling around them. The same goes for Counter Logic Gaming, having not been to Worlds since 2012 and continually blowing up when the playoffs are in front of them.
On the final day of the season, only two things for certain: Team Dignitas will finish in sixth place and match up against whichever team ends up in third, and Team Dragon Knights will be sent down to the Challenger league where we'll have to see if their current Korean-infused lineup will stick around to try and qualify once more or leave for easier avenues to a premiere league.
For the other eight teams, they all need a hero. One player to step up, no matter the team's circumstances, and come through in the clutch when his team needs it the most. No matter if they are fighting for a Top 2 spot, a better playoff seed, or to have one last shot at keeping their Worlds hope alive. In a season of chaos and disappointment, the 50 players in NA have one last shot to be the hero their team needs to save their season.
Fan Mindset: Don't choke...don't choke...don't choke.
It feels like almost yesterday that Gravity securing a Top 2 position was less of a concern and more of an afterthought. They were destroying everyone in the league, Move was proving to be the best jungler in the league, and the rest of the team was getting stronger with every passing week.
We're now heading into the final day of the season and another upset loss to the zombie Dragon Knights would mean Gravity won't finish first this regular season. The fans should still feel confident that their team can get it done against a 2-15 team and at least force a tiebreak for one of the two first round byes. Yet, like the rest of North America, nothing is coming easy for anyone this split.
Counter Logic Gaming: 12-5
Fan Mindset: Optimistic, excited, and also extremely scared that somehow the team will lose 12 games on the final day and get auto-relegated by some technicality handed down by a departing Nick Allen.
CLG haven't been in this good of position in years in domestic play, and they're a single win against Team 8 away from at least forcing some sort of tiebreaker for one of the two playoff byes.
Above all that, they're playing well, are extremely strong in the early game, and have shown they can brush off a slump to return back to top form before the postseason comes. CLG fans should still be scared and fearing the worst since they're, you know, CLG fans, but cautious optimism is acceptable.
Team Impulse: 12-5
Fan Mindset: Hahahahahahahaha.
They're the only team in the league that is playing well and don't have a history of choking horribly in the playoffs. Adrian stepped down two weeks ago and got replaced by Gate, and then XiaoWeiXiao was suspended this week for alleged ELO boosting. That forced Gate to return to his natural mid lane position and Adrian to come back as the team's starting support.
It's been two weeks of continuous drama for Impulse, but they're still winning games and looking good doing it. As long as Impact and Rush are on the team and leading the charge, the pieces around them simply need to hold on for their lives and follow them into battle. Who the hell knows where Impulse will end up? They're just as likely to bomb in the playoffs and go out in the first round 0-3 as they are of actually winning the entire season.
Who better than Impulse to win the championship in a season that has been all about chaos and teams imploding every week? Impulse thrive in pandemonium, and they're loving how this season is playing out.
Team Liquid: 12-5
Fan Mindset: Confident.
Liquid fans should be going into Sunday believing their team won't only beat Impulse, but that they'll destroy a team playing with a makeshift roster that has barely played together. TL's biggest crux this season has come in the form of Gravity, and while their former Curse kin are Liquid's worst match-up in the playoffs, they should be counting on Worlds or bust.
They have the third most circuit points, and that is even more crucial with the fact that Cloud9 are on the verge of losing all of theirs and that Team SoloMid could very well be knocked out in the first round if things don't change. Piglet has gone from looking like he would never be a part of Liquid's family to becoming a true ace this season, and TL's star AD Carry can cap off an amazing regular season with a final day that will lead his team directly into the semifinals.
Team SoloMid: 11-6
Fan Mindset: Worried, sweating a bit, and clutching onto their Bjergsen poster while praying that he can be the best player in the league this next month to carry TSM back to Worlds.
SoloMid were able to defeat the ninth placed Enemy to give them a slight chance at grabbing one of the byes in the postseason, but it didn't come easily and they didn't look nice doing it. It was a game that they frankly would have lost if Enemy played the final moments a bit better or if they were playing one of the five other playoff squads.
Still, even with Locodoco being benched as a coach, and a down season for most of the roster, they still have Bjergsen. He's the best player in the league and can take over games like no one else in the NA LCS when he is playing well. TSM always find a way to get to the Grand Finals, and even if they finish fifth and need three best-of-five victories to make it to the New York City finals.
Team Dignitas: 9-8
Fan Mindset: Chill.
They're already confirmed as the sixth seed in the playoffs after a tough loss yesterday. Dignitas weren't even supposed to make the postseason this summer and have defied all odds from going from the brink of Challenger to now getting extra games in the playoffs. Even if they go into the playoffs and get crushed 3-0, it's alright for Dignitas. They grew a lot this season, the team grew closer together, and they proved their criticizers wrong by not only staying in the league, but still having a chance for the NA LCS title when Cloud9 is already eliminated.
Team 8: 6-11
Fan Mindset: One victory to safety. All they need is one win.
If T8 can't beat CLG in their final regular season, they can still clinch seventh place with a win over TSM. Even if T8 loses their final game and C9 upsets TSM in the their regular season finale, Team 8 will still have one last shot in a tiebreaker against Cloud9 to keep their assured spot in the LCS.
They won't make the postseason this split like last, but they can overwrite the story that happened last campaign. They held on to a playoff spot on the final day of the season, TL ended up tied with T8 in the standings, and then Liquid won the tiebreak match to get the final playoff seed and knock their opponents out. With a possible repeat of T8 needing to play another tiebreaker to end the season on a good note, all their fans should be hoping for just one more win or a C9 loss to breathe easy the rest of the year.
Fan Mindset: For one last time: believe.
Believe in Hai, the shot-caller.
Believe in LemonNation, the notebook analyst.
Believe in Sneaky and his ability to be the best ADC in North America.
Believe in Balls to come up big for his team when his friends need him the most.
Believe in Incarnati0n to cement his place in Cloud9 by taking over on the final day and being the hero his team needs to have a shot in the North American Regional Finals.
It's been an awful season with tons of changes, the team fighting at the bottom of the table, and the team losing heartbreaking games over and over again. But, through all that, they still have one more day to turn everything around and keep the hope alive for a few more weeks heading into the Regional Finals.
So, with their backs against the wall, and little chance of saving their season, Cloud9 fans need to stand behind their team who've come through for them countless times the past two years and believe in one more C9 miracle.
Enemy eSports: 4-13
Fan Mindset: They're out of auto-relegation danger but confirmed to play in the promotional matches later in the year. Enemy fans can sit back, try to forget about a rough first season, and watch the rest of the fan bases go crazy on the final day while they play Dignitas in the least important match on Sunda.
Team (Zombie) Dragon Knights: 2-15
Fan Mindset: Hey, remember yesterday when we made C9 fans feel terrible about their team? Let's do that again against Gravity and ruin their season, too!
Watch out, Rocket Boys, the Zombie Knights are coming for you.
Tyler "Fionn" Erzberger is a staff writer for theScore eSports who covers the North American LCS and Korea's Champions. You can follow him on Twitter.