The NALCS is back for the 2016 Summer Split with a new format. The NA League went to a best of three series for every matchup which will surely create a more competitive and dramatic atmosphere. The new schedule hoists the defending champions, Counter Logic Gaming, against runners-up Team SoloMid in the opening night. Matchups will take place Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, ensuring League of Legends will span the entire weekend.

Team SoloMid vs. Counter Logic Gaming – Winner: Team Solomid (2-0)

Team SoloMid began their march towards worlds with an impressive 2-0 victory over archrivals Counter Logic Gaming. Their new starting support Vincent “Biofrost” Wang impressed in his first LCS series. He went 1-3-27 overall on Karma and Braum. Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng, his duo in Team SoloMid’s bottom lane, commented on how much of a hard worker he’s been since his tryout.

Game one went heavily in Team SoloMid’s favor. They came out of the gates strong through Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen constant pressure in the jungle. Counter Logic Gaming’s entire team struggled immensely. Their ADC Trevor “Stixxay” Hayes had no impact on the game despite his promising performance at MSI. He was often caught out of position in skirmishes, something that Ezreal needs to perfect to get damage done to opponents.

The second game looked the polar opposite of the opener. Counter Logic Gaming was able to grab Vladimir, whom Team SoloMid banned out in game one, for Choi “HuHi” Jae-hyun which appeared to have tilted the game into their advantage. Team SoloMid would not give up and adapted to the change in strategy of Counter Logic Gaming as the game continued. Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell dictated the pace of the game on Ekko. His team fighting was immaculate, constantly pressuring Stixxay and hindering Ezreal’s ability to do damage. Eventually Counter Logic Gaming was caught out of position and Team SoloMid was able to complete the sweep and improve to 1-0 on the season.

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Team Envy vs. NRG eSports – Winner: Team Envy (2-1)

The benefits of switching to a best of three were put on display in this matchup. Team Envy won games one and three whilst NRG eSports took game two in an hour long battle. NRG eSports looked completely different from last split retaining only Lee “GBM” Chang-suk from the start of their Spring season. Team Envy is a newly formed LCS organization that has been around for years in other video games.

Team Envy looked strong in the opener, nearly pulling a perfect game out on their opponents. The game was incredibly tedious as there were only six kills throughout the game. First blood was picked up late as well and Team Envy was forced to build their massive gold lead solely through farming and objective control. A mistake from NRG eSports bottom lane heading to lane forced them far behind and ultimately served as the main catalyst to their lack of control of the game. Team Envy won methodically and looked far superior to NRG eSports.

However, the beauty of adaptation was shown in the last two games. Game two was one by NRG eSports after over an hour. The game was extremely competitive, but it did lack clean and crisp play. Both teams threw leads away throughout the game showing that nerves and lack of synergy will play a part at the beginning of the season. Eventually GBM’s Vladimir became too strong for Team Envy to deal with and he served as the deciding factor in the final few team fights. A semi-backdoor ended the game and forced the first game three of the new format.

Team Envy made sure to take Vladimir with their first pick and it proved vital to their victory. They gave it to their top laner Shin “Seraph” Wu-Yeong who split pushed with the champion earning his team vital map position. The game played out in similar fashion to game one in that it was a methodical victory for Team Envy. It was a closer battle but Team Envy was in control for the majority of the encounter. Team Envy improves to 1-0 and begins the split positively whereas NRG eSports continues their form from last split with another loss.

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Cloud9 vs. Immortals – Winner: Immortals (2-1)

If there was one team that was most looking forward to the best of three format, it would be Immortals. They laid an egg in last splits’ playoffs and were desperate to get more practice in series. They redeemed themselves massively in their 2-1 victory against Cloud9 showing that they do indeed have the ability to adapt, even if they refuse to play the meta.

Immortals took game one from Cloud9 after a highly contested affair. Both teams looked extremely close in skill and macro-play. Immortals simply performed better in the last few team fights which allowed them to take Cloud9’s base. Jason “WildTurtle” Tran’s massive farm lead over Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi accounted for the majority of gold differential. The strength of Ekko being able to single out opponents was once again highlighted.

Game two was a game that Cloud9 should have won quicker. They had a massive gold lead but sloppy plays from William “Meteos” Hartman losing some smite battles extended Immortals’ life. The difference maker in this matchup was clearly Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen and his Fizz. He was able to kill members of Immortals almost on sight and constantly got into the backline erasing his opponents.

In similar fashion to game two, where Cloud9 showed growth in their adaptability, Immortals finally showed their fans their ability to evolve into a series. The pocket Riven pick from Seong “Huni” Hoon Heo (who still refuses to play the meta) worked out marvelously as he destroyed his lane opponent and was constantly a nuisance to Cloud9’s damage dealers in team fights. His split pushing shaped the map into a version that allowed Immortals to take numerous dragons throughout the matchup. The final team fight was a clean ace in Immortals’ favor and took the extremely competitive series for their own.

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Echo Fox vs. Phoenix1 – Winner: Echo Fox (2-0)

Newly formed Phoenix1 looked weak against a lineup from Echo Fox that remained the same as last split. The entirety of Echo Fox boasted incredible KDAs throughout the series.

Game one saw Swain brought back to the NA LCS thanks to Henrik “Froggen” Hansen’s massive champion pool. The recent rework to that champion created a juggernaut and the amount of influence Swain had on the game will certainly persuade other mid laners to play him in the future. Despite the massive kill defecit, Phoenix1 was able to keep the gold relatively close due to impressive farm from their top and mid laners. Echo Fox merely overpowered the rookies through shotcalling and objective control.

Game two had a similar story. The game was much bloodier than the series opener, but Phoenix1 never really looked in control of the game. It appeared only to be a matter of time before Park “kfo” Jeong-hun led Echo Fox to victory with his stellar performance on Fiora. Echo Fox was able to take their first win of the season cleanly and will hope that this performance was a sign of things to come for a roster desperately hoping to make the playoffs.

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Team Envy vs. Team Liquid – Winner: Team Envy (2-0)

Team Liquid made a drastic move days before the start of the split by benching star jungler Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett in favor of former NRG eSports starter Galen “Moon” Holgate. The move, as many expected, was detrimental to the team. Team Liquid looked completely lost without one of their best players. They lost 2-0 to Team Envy who has now improved to 2-0 and alone atop the standings.

Team Envy looked to have lost game one as they were behind for a large portion of the match. An incredibly poor play Nickolas “Hakuho” Surgent, where he almost gave up first blood before two minutes, set their bottom lane behind. However, smart itemization and patience from the duo let them get back into the game and their contribution, along with rising star Seraph, earned them the victory.

In game two, Team Envy looked much more impressive. The engages from Seraph’s Lissandra were nearly perfect and almost always forced Team Liquid to attempt to retreat after falling apart. However, Kassadin was able to catch all the stragglers and end the game rather quickly compared to most other games this weekend. Team Liquid was expected to challenge for the playoffs, but their choice to use Moon clearly backfired in this series.

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Apex vs. NRG eSports – Winner: Apex (2-0)

NRG eSports was once again 2-0d in their second series of the weekend. Most people believed the team would struggle to make the playoffs but their losses prove how far behind most of the NALCS teams truly are. Apex, a team made up of some LCS veterans, won their inaugural series and appear to be much stronger than people gave them credit for after their quick demolition of NRG eSports.

The first game started out heavily in favor of NRG eSports. They amassed an early lead but eventually fell apart once the middle game came around. Apex slowly erased the deficit and ultimately took completely control after a Baron play. Eventually the final fight broke out over Elder Dragon which Lae-Young “Keane” Jang dominated. His Vladimir was able to find the backline of NRG eSports and forced the team fight into his teams’ favor.

Game two was much more in favor of Apex. Their whole team dominated. The bottom lane duo was specifically impressive. Apollo “Apollo” Price and Alex “Xpecial” Chu have been around for years and it appears they still have plenty left to offer at the competitive level. Overall, NRG eSports played horribly and they will certainly need to reflect if some of their roster changes, such as Lucas “Santorin” Tao Kilmer Larsen and Alan “KiWiKiD” Nguyen were actually beneficial.

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Cover Photo by: Josh