With one week remaining in the regular season of the LCS’s spring split, the playoff race is slowly coming into its final form.
Cloud9 still dominates the top of the rankings, currently sitting at a 11-4 rating after a rather bad week in which they lost games to both TSM and Team Liquid. In a split that, until last week, had had only two losses for the Cloud9 roster, these two losses so near playoffs were a bad sign for the team.
With a position in the Mid-Season Showdown, the system that has replaced the playoffs since the LCS’s format change this year, already secured there is only so far that Cloud9 could fall before the postseason begins. They are the only team that has locked in that playoff position, although they have yet to secure a spot in the upper bracket, and so to some extent the worst they can do is give themselves a worse seed.
And yet after dominance for most of the split, this weekend was a reminder of just how close the standings really are. Cloud9 fell to the current tied-for-second and tied-for-fourth teams of TSM and Team Liquid. They beat FlyQuest, currently in eighth and locked out of the playoffs, but the weekend still was far from victorious.
On the other side of the rift there was the other team tied for second place, Dignitas. Dignitas is very far from what Cloud9 is both as a team and as an organization; Cloud9 has three players from outside North America, though a player from Australia Fudge does have residency in North America now. Dignitas has five Americans, several of whom have limited experience.
Soligo, Neo and FakeGod have all played very little time in the LCS; FakeGod and Soligo got time starting on 100 Thieves back in 2019, while Neo has only ever played in the tier-two scene and the Academy division. On the other hand there’s Aphromoo and Dardoch, two of the most experienced players in the LCS. It’s an odd combination; Aphro is the oldest of the old guards, the only one left of the era that included Bjergsen, Doublelift and himself as the top players in North America playing in a lane with a player in his first split.
And yet, it’s worked. Dignitas is sitting just a game behind Cloud9 and tied with TSM, at a 10-5 record that includes a 2-0 head-to-head record versus TSM which sets them up very well if the split ends in a tie. Dignitas has also beaten the likes of sixth-ranked Evil Geniuses, though they dropped the one game each they’ve played so far this split against Team Liquid and Cloud9.
Going into the final week of play, however, records are only going to tell half the story. The rest is the story told in blood, in matchups, in every CS that is gotten, every drake that is taken, every victory or defeat that these teams are fighting tooth and nail for. Dignitas will have perhaps the hardest week of their season so far this weekend; they will face Team Liquid, Cloud9 and FlyQuest in three days. On the other hand, TSM has the much easier matchups of Evil Geniuses, Immortals and Golden Guardians, currently ranked sixth, seventh and tenth respectively.
This is the week where Dignitas, and the rest of the top seven teams who are still vying for playoff berths, will have to show once and for all if this improbable run that they’ve managed for the last five weeks can continue through into cementing both a playoff spot and then a good seed.
Rounding out the teams still in the contention for playoffs are Immortals and 100 Thieves, in seventh and fourth place. Immortals is clinging to their chances, a game below Evil Geniuses but with a 2-0 record against that team which means that, if they’re able to haul themselves back up and have a decent weekend, they’ll have a good chance to sneak in.
For all seven teams who remain in the running, this weekend is their final chance to prove that they deserve a spot in the playoffs, a chance to play at the Midseason Invitation in Iceland this year and a better record going into Summer. With the new LCS format meaning that Spring record is carried through and Summer adds to it but doesn’t replace it, every single win or loss now will be crucial for teams who want any chance of qualifying for Worlds in a few months.