The top of the 2016 North American League Championship Series Spring standings are still in flux. Despite knowing who will be competing in the postseason, the only team guaranteed a semifinals bye is first-place Immortals. Even sixth place NRG can still place as high as fourth in the standings if things go their way.
Other known quantities following Saturday’s matches are the bottom three teams: Renegades, Team Impulse and Team Dignitas. Like the Top 6, the final placement of these three teams is yet to be determined. If Team Impulse lose to Immortals but Renegades and Dignitas both win their matches against Echo Fox and Counter Logic Gaming respectively, the three will tie at 5-13, forcing a single-round robin tie-breaker and potential tournament bracket.
First-place challenger team Apex Gaming look dominant following their 3-1 Challenger Series Spring Finals win over Team Dragon Knights, and will face the ninth place NA LCS team in the Promotion Tournament. An elimination round precedes the qualifying round with the last place NA LCS team facing off against Team Dragon Knights for the chance to qualify for 2016 NA LCS Summer Promotion bracket. This makes tenth place a particularly undesirable position, as the aforementioned worst three of 2016 NA LCS Spring will all be fighting on Sunday to avoid coming in last place.
Current record: 4-13
Remaining opponent: Echo Fox (6-11)
The bottom three NA LCS teams have had significant roster changes, but none were as remarkable as Renegades’ Week 8 acquisition of top laner Shin “Seraph” Woo-yeong and mid laner Noh “Ninja” Geon-woo from Team Dragon Knights in exchange for struggling top laner Oleksii “RF Legendary” Kuziuta, top laner Cuong "Flaresz" Ta, and mid laner Alexey “Alex Ich” Ichetovkin. This was well after the team had gone without starting AD carry Aleš "Freeze" Kněžínek for three games in Weeks 2 and 3, along with the resignation of starting support Maria “Remi” Creveling between Weeks 3 and 4. With all of these changes, the Renegades have started 11 members in the 17 games they've played this split — the most of any North American team. Naturally, this has made it difficult for them to find any kind of stride or synergy, although their fortunes have looked brighter since Ninja and Seraph became starters.
Seraph in particular is an interesting case, as he statistically was one of the worst top laners in the 2016 North American Challenger Series while with TDK. Of all NA CS top laners, Seraph had the lowest KDA (1.3), the lowest kill participation (47.9 percent), and the highest percentage of his team’s deaths (38.7 percent). This was all while receiving the largest gold share from his team of any NA CS top laner with 21.9 percent of TDK’s total gold.
Now, he owns the two highest KDAs of all top laners in the 2016 NA LCS Spring Split from his time substituting and subsequently starting for Renegades (10.8 KDA) in addition to the three games he played with Team Impulse (7.8 KDA). His five games with Renegades also netted him the highest kill participation (83.1 percent), and the second highest damage percentage (25.9 percent) of all top laners in the region, which makes the fact that he receives the highest gold share of any NA top (23.6 percent) more acceptable than his performances on TDK. Perhaps the most shocking Seraph statistic when comparing his CS to LCS numbers is the fact that the percentage of his team’s deaths drops from worst in the league to best. Seraph accounts for the smallest percentage of both Renegades (9.3 percent) and Team Impulse’s (16 percent) total deaths.
The team is 3-2 with Seraph – who started as a substitute in Week 7 – and has looked even better with the addition of Ninja. Unfortunately, the they still struggle with how to apply pressure or press their early advantages, wasting precious time in the mid game with disadvantageous skirmishes, ill-timed recalls, and a general lack of focus. Their upcoming match against Echo Fox could easily send them back to tenth place, as Froggen and co. thrive off their opponents' mistakes and often patiently play the long game.
Current record: 5-12
Remaining opponent: Immortals (16-1)
Prior to the season’s start, Team Impulse’s chances at anything but tenth place were widely disregarded due to their seemingly slapped-together roster. Top laner Wang “Feng” Xiaofeng and Korean solo queue mid laner Choi “Pirean” Jun-sik were unknown entities, while jungler Kim “Procxin” Se-young had most recently left Japanese team DetonatioN FocusMe after only two games. Support Austin “Gate” Yu was known for stepping into TIP's mid lane when Yu “XiaoWeiXiao” Xian was banned last summer, while AD carry Brandon “Mash” Phan had bounced around the North American scene since 2011.
This roster didn’t play together until Week 4, although both Pirean and Procxin appeared late in Week 2 for a surprising victory that came off of Gate’s Gangplank and the support’s one-game role-swap into the top lane. While other NA LCS teams were still developing their synergy, TIP seemingly didn’t need synergy, thriving with their lack of a starting roster until Week 4. Even with their subsequent 2-10 record, TiP remain one of the bloodier teams in North America with 0.71 combined kills per minute thanks to their insistence on choosing fights and skirmishes often to their detriment.
Perhaps Team Impulse should have attempted to woo Seraph away from TDK and Renegades, as the team had a 67 percent winrate with the substitute top laner – part of a 3-1 record over two weeks that had many wondering about their potential playoff chances. Currently, the team lives and dies by Procxin, who often over-aggresses on opponents without his teammates and makes crucial mechanical misplays. Their final match is against first-place Immortals, who have only lost one game all season, and sport the best jungler in the region in Kim “Reignover” Yeu-jin. It’s highly improbable that TIP will pull off the upset — although 4-13 Dignitas nearly did it last week — and far more likely that they’ll drop to 5-13, possibly facing Dignitas or Renegades for a higher seed in next week’s Promotion Tournament.
Current record: 4-13
Remaining opponent: Counter Logic Gaming (12-5)
It should come as no surprise to anyone who has watched this past split that Dignitas has the longest average game time of any North American team (tied for first at 37.7 minutes with Echo Fox). If Dignitas were to be assigned any sort of catchphrase for 2016 Spring, “almost doesn’t count” would be under heavy consideration. Week 8 was heart breaking for this team as both of their games against Echo Fox and Immortals were lost after a succession of small mistakes that accumulated over time. Even with Aspect of the Dragon, multiple Zz’rot Portals, and Baron, Dignitas found themselves unable to recognize when to sit back, allowing their champion poke and minion damage to do the work for them, and when to fight. In choosing to fight, they allowed both Echo Fox and Immortals to come back from downed inhibitors as Dignitas crashed against their opponents’ bases only to fall in teamfights.
Dignitas are often active in the early game, largely due to jungler Thomas “Kirei” Yuen. They have a 65 percent First Blood participation, second only to Immortals for the highest in North America. Unfortunately their overall jungle control (44 percent of the available jungle resources) and first Dragon rate (24 percent) are worst in the region. Combined with their long game times, the lack of jungle farm is fairly telling as Dignitas fail to gather available resources even when they control the majority of the map. The team’s famous Baron woes plagued them throughout the early part of the season, and they have the second-worst first Baron rate at 31 percent. Dignitas shows signs that they’re aware of how to win, and their coordination has improved by the week. However, they inevitably bungle their execution one way or another, even when they appear to have the upper hand. Against Counter Logic Gaming, a team known for their map control and 1-3-1 split-push to spread opponents across the Rift, Dignitas has the most difficult road of all three bottom teams to avoid the dreaded tenth-place spot. Unlike Team Impulse, they have only won four games total and have no room for another loss.
Emily Rand is a staff writer for theScore esports. She is still in awe at the statistics behind "The Seraph Effect." You can follow her on Twitter.