On the Shoulders of Giants

Picture courtesy of lolesports Flickr

“If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” — Isaac Newton.

Counter Logic Gaming. Cloud 9. Team SoloMid. Long ago, the three champions coexisted in (relative) harmony. Then, everything changed when franchising was introduced. If someone from 2016 were to look at the semifinalists in the 2018 NA LCS Spring Playoffs right now, they’d probably think they were getting punked. In 2016 Summer — the last time Team Liquid made playoffs — it was a .500 team, and Echo Fox went 1–17 in regular season play. Now, Echo Fox has a playoff bye — along with 100 Thieves? — Team Liquid has an all-star lineup that includes Doublelift and Impact, and 3/5 of EnVyUs is playing with FNC Febiven on…Clutch Gaming? And neither CLG, nor C9, nor TSM are anywhere to be seen? Preposterous.

Picture courtesy of lolesports Flickr

And yet, here we are. For the first time in CLG’s history, they failed to qualify for playoffs. For the first time in TSM’s history, they’ve been knocked out of playoffs before Finals. Along with Cloud 9’s early departure in quarterfinals, this split marks the end of an era previously dominated by just three teams. For the first time since the League Championship Series was introduced, someone other than TSM, CLG, or C9 will be crowned NA LCS Champions.

Picture courtesy of lolesports Flickr

The concept of franchising for LCS was always interesting — and, in my opinion, necessary — but it wasn’t until now that we could see its benefits come to fruition. No more relegation means teams can invest more in long-term prosperity rather than short-term success. It also opens the door for new investors, however, because the once-predictable scene has now had new life breathed into it. For the last five seasons — 10 splits — the Finals have been TSM v. CLG/C9, bookended by TSM v. Good Game University in 2013 Spring and TSM v. Immortals in 2017 Summer. For a growing esports scene looking to flourish, how can that be beneficial? The Green Bay Packers won Super Bowl I and Super Bowl II, when there were only 14 teams in the league. Can you imagine if they proceeded to make a Super Bowl appearance for the next 10 years and win half of them? Who would be interested in joining a competitive sport where one team has dominated the league since it began? Obviously, the NFL is different from the NA LCS, but the idea is the same.

Picture courtesy of lolesports Flickr

Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. Maybe this is a fluke split, and we’ll be seeing another TSM v. CLG/C9 final come Summer. Maybe the Riot Scriptwriters and Space Planners saw the 10 Champion banners and 10 team banners in the Battle Arena and thought, “It’s past the time for a new chapter; it’s time for a new book.” Whatever the reason for this upheaval of tradition is, I welcome it. The scene has been staling, and we’re finally getting something fresh. 100 Thieves, Echo Fox, Team Liquid, and Clutch Gaming have crushed — rather than stood on — the shoulders of the LCS giants, and they’re out to stake their own claim in the annals of LCS history.