Echo Fox’s untimely Week 2 forfeit against NRG eSports was accompanied by a myriad of substitutions across nearly the North American League Championship Series. Rife with player substitutions due to visa issues, performance issues, or – in the specific case of Team Liquid – the retirement of their starting jungler, teams took to the rift with patched-together lineups in the hopes that a few changes would still bring victory.
TiP vs. Cloud9: Your subs sink them instead
Following last week’s sub-20-minute drubbing of Team Impulse at the hands of Immortals, one wouldn’t be blamed in thinking that a TiP win would come at the hands of a tremendous mistake from their opponents, likely coupled with fielding their intended starting roster.
According to Riot Games’ initial roster announcement, Team Impulse's lineup included top laner Wang “Feng” Xiaofeng, jungler Kim “Procxin” Seyoung, mid laner Choi “Pirean” Junsik, AD carry Brandon “Mash” Phan, and support Austin “Gate” Yu. Unfortunately due to visa issues, TiP's starting roster has yet to enter the LCS in-game lobby together. Gate, a former mid laner, has been swapped back into the mid lane in the interim, allowing substitute Kenneth “Ken” Tang to fill in at support. Additionally, Meng “beibei” Zhang has been holding down the jungle position as they wait for Procxin to arrive in North America. As previously mentioned, this hasn’t led to a particularly good product from Team Impulse, with two disorganized and fairly disastrous Week 1 performances. In spite of starting support Michael “Bunny FuFuu” Kurylo over lauded veteran Hai “Hai” Du Lam, hardly anyone expected TiP to take down Cloud9.
Cloud9 has a significant history in North America. They were the region's great international hope for a long time, and stood well above their closest domestic competition in Seasons 3 and 4. Many fans still wax poetic on Cloud9’s 2014 World Championship quarterfinals loss to Samsung Galaxy Blue, highlighting it as the best international performance from a North American team. This perception of Cloud9 as “America’s Team” lingers, perpetuated by a miraculous 2015 Regional Qualifier Gauntlet run and the continued growth of Hai’s legacy as a shotcaller.
Hai is decisive, a somewhat elusive trait among North American teams, and Cloud9’s dependency on him is an understandable security blanket that will have to be discarded in order for the team to move forward. Unfortunately, the team looks woefully lost without him, explaining their hesitation to do something aside from using his presence as a bandaid when needed. Team Impulse looked surprisingly more coordinated than Cloud9 today, this time with another substitute: Team Dragon Knights top laner Shin “Seraph” Wooyeong. Seraph’s Lissandra flanks and Teleports organized TiP enough to dismantle C9 in fights, providing an unexpected catalyst that led TiP to victory. Team Impulse will be without Seraph tomorrow, so it remains to be seen as to whether they can bring any semblance of the same cohesion to their match with Renegades on Sunday.
2. Team SoloMid vs. Immortals: What's a sub?
The only game on Saturday that didn’t involve substitutes was a headlining match between Team SoloMid and Immortals, two teams that made significant efforts to stack talented players on their respective lineups prior to the season.
Piggybacking on their performances from last week, Team SoloMid continued to show a complete lack of understanding regarding the lane swap, once again setting top laner Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell significantly behind early in the game. This is a position that Hauntzer is well-accustomed to from his previous time on Gravity, so it should come as no surprise that Hauntzer managed to not only dig himself out of the hole he was unceremoniously dumped into, but contributed to TSM’s teamfighting in the mid game. He ended the day with strong 92 percent kill participation on Poppy, almost always in the thick of things. Even with the loss, Hauntzer’s presence should never be underestimated, especially with TSM looking much-improved from last week in this match.
Meanwhile, Immortals support Adrian “Adrian” Ma sustained his impressive deathless streak on Janna, boasting an 89 percent kill participation and showing off more than a few key Howling Gales that saved teammates from almost-certain death. With their superior map play and willingness to press their advantages, Immortals’ imminent clash with NRG eSports Sunday should be the best game of this week.
3. Team Liquid vs. Counter Logic Gaming: Superior map movement
Chae “Piglet” Gwangjin is likely still shaking his head over what more he could have done to carry his team last week. After two individually impressive but ultimately losing Lucian performances, he’s only been outdone in misfortune by SBENU Sonicboom’s Sin “Nuclear” Jeonghyeon, who boasted an 11/0/10 scoreline earlier today in Korea as SBENU fell to e-mFire.
Steadfastly committed to playing around Piglet’s carry potential, Team Liquid looks far better with new jungler Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett and Matthew “Matt” Elento, two players who are willing to make proactive plays. Sadly, towards the end of their match against Counter Logic Gaming, it was top laner Samson “Lourlo” Jackson who couldn’t keep up, missing a key Flash-Taunt in a teamfight that would have likely tipped the scales solely in Team Liquid’s favor.
Although Team Liquid was outdone today by CLG's better understanding of the map, their coordination was significantly more cohesive with their supposed substitutes than it was with former starting jungler Christian “IWillDominate” Rivera – who retired this past week. It might take a bit more time, but Dardoch and Matt look to be good choices for Team Liquid moving forward.
4. Renegades vs. Team Dignitas: Learn to take a Baron
Choosing to sit starting top laner Lennart “SmittyJ” Warkus in favor of substitute Billy “BillyBoss” Yu worked in Dignitas’ favor Saturday, as the team closed out the day with a 2-1 record following a close match against Renegades. Renegades also took to the Rift with a substitute, AD carry Benjamin “LOD” deMunck starting in place of Aleš "Freeze" Kněžínek. Both performed fairly well, but neither were a deciding factor in why their respective teams won or lost.
Finally leveraging a Baron instead of allowing it to control them, Dignitas eventually lured Renegades AD push and poke comp to the Baron area where an engage and knockup from Alan “KiWiKiD” Nguyen’s Alistar turned the tide for Dignitas. BillyBoss looks to be a more stable option for Dignitas in the top lane; however, it's unclear as to whether he's a long term option for the team.
Emily Rand is a staff writer for theScore esports. Her love for the 2013 KT Rolster Bullets will never die. You can follow her on Twitter.