Something always feels uneasy about the calm before the storm. It’s that feeling of everything being “too quiet” that keeps one wondering what is going to go disastrously wrong. After all, the North American League Championship Series can’t be as simple as it looks on paper. According to Unikrn, seven of the 10 games this week are essentially a lock, with expected win rates ranging from 79 to a staggering 96 percent. If everything goes chalk, there are at most three games over the next two weeks with actual playoff implications. It’s hard to tell if it’s Murphy’s Law or a sheer desire for an upset to come through so things can get interesting, but I find it difficult to believe that it will be so simple.
Those who wish to believe the status quo is not set in stone have a few obvious teams to look towards in these closing weeks. First up is the recently resurgent Counter Logic Gaming, which found a badly-needed win against Cloud9 last week and even managed to grab a map off (the nearly) Immortals. While it’s easy to point to the rise in play from Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black, who seems to have returned from playing the first half of the split on autopilot, the true definer of this team’s potential comes down to Choi “Huhi” Jae-hyun, for better and for worse. His previous struggles this split have led teams to underestimate him, leaving him with more of his power picks and on the receiving end of far fewer ganks, in no small part due to Jake “Xmithie” Puchero realizing that defending his mid laner was far more important to his team’s overall success than trying to get Darshan “Darshan” Upadhyaya back to form. It’s hard to say whether their success will be sustainable now that teams have gotten more film of what a good version of CLG looks like, but this weekend’s match against Team Liquid will be telling as to how the playoffs might shake up once the regular season is laid to bed.
On the other end of the spectrum, NRG has found its shining jewel amid a sea of disappointment in Lucas “Santorin” Larsen. It’s always hard to judge a jungler in isolation from the laning talent around him, but in Santorin’s case, it feels like we have to give him a bump when considering his success despite the lack of talent that has ultimately doomed this team to relegation barring an act of God. Despite having to drag around the corpse of Lee “GBM” Chang-seok, the one trick Diego “Quas” Ruiz, and the ghost of Alan “KiWiKiD” Nguyen, none of whom provide a clear and reliable ganking target, Santorin has managed to find a way to stand out in almost every advanced metric. He’s been the only real initiation for his team, managing to set his team up consistently while escaping with his life, leaving him with the highest KDA among junglers in the league. His ability to control dragons and barons, including quite a few steals, makes him an incredibly lucrative talent once the offseason rolls around. There is little hope for NRG to make headway up the standings, but the rest of this season is likely a tryout for the big contract he will try to land this offseason.
There may not be many games that appear close on paper, but that’s why the Rough Drafts Podcast are here to help you find value in these dark times.
On today’s episode of the Guess the Lines Podcast, Chase “RedShirtKing” Wassenar and Walter “Ceades” Fedczuk try to wring out the most interesting storylines they can out of a region that has mostly settled itself into position barring some major upsets. Together, they discuss whether Counter Logic Gaming has what it takes to still make it to Worlds, if Dardoch’s statements on Liquid’s future mean anything to the season at hand, and where Santorin fits on the current jungler scale. They close with their smart money bets of the week.
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