LCS Spring 2023: Best teams, players and more midway through the split

by Brian Bencomo

Halfway through the League Championship Series 2023 spring split, it’s pretty clear who the contenders and pretenders are this season. Some of the teams that experts thought would be good have shown this to be true, while other teams with high expectations have disappointed. The MVP front-runners also have started to separate themselves. With Week 5 set to kick off Thursday, here’s a look back on some of the key takeaways from the first half of the LCS spring split.

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North America’s contenders for the Mid-Season Invitational

We’re still a little over two months away from the start of the Mid-Season Invitational, and over one month away from finding out which North American teams will go to MSI. However, there’s a clear favorite to represent the region: FlyQuest.

Often when a team makes major changes in the offseason (Flyquest has a completely new starting five), they need some time to adjust to play well together, but not FlyQuest, who are off to a flying start at 8-1. Until they lost to TSM, they looked like they might cruise undefeated through the split and into the playoffs. They did bounce back from the loss and still look like the best team in the LCS. Lee "Prince" Chae-hwan has arrived in North America from Korea and looks like a star, while LCS veteran zoomer Mingyi "Spica" Lu has been cooking. And they’ve gotten off to a hot start with Kim "Winsome" Dong-keon starting at support rather than Bill "Eyla" Nguyen, who has had visa issues. Eyla was the best support at the academy level last year and, based on a recent tweet, is potentially joining the team this week.

Photo credit: Riot Games

Unlike in previous years where only one team per region went to MSI, two teams from each of the major regions will head to the first international League of Legends tournament of the year. While FlyQuest look like a lock, the other contenders to represent NA at MSI are Evil Geniuses and Cloud9. Both teams are 7-2 and sit two games ahead of the next group of teams in the standings. C9 have looked impressive at times, with Ibrahim "Fudge" Allami dominating in the top lane and Kim "Berserker" Min-cheol being one of the best AD carries in the league. Evil Geniuses have been more inconsistent, starting games strong and fading late. They have one of the most talented starting fives from top to support and one of the most internationally experienced lineups, which will be critical during close playoff matchups. Both teams have lost to FlyQuest, and EG won the head-to-head vs. C9.

Read more: Who are the LCS import players in 2023?

Other teams like 100 Thieves and Counter Logic Gaming and even Golden Guardians or TSM are in position to make the playoffs and could get hot in the postseason. However, at this point, one of FlyQuest, Evil Geniuses and Cloud9 should win the LCS this spring and two of those will likely represent NA at MSI.

Surprisingly good

Looking at the LCS standings right now compared to multiple preseason power rankings, including one compiled by Nerd Street, there are two teams that stand out in a positive way: TSM and Golden Guardians.

I’ll start with TSM. They not only handed FlyQuest their only loss this season so far, they’re 5-4. That’s already as many wins as they had last spring and one fewer than they had last summer. Barring a collapse, TSM should finish among the top six and make the playoffs. Behind the veteran leadership of Colin “Solo” Earnest, this team appears to be having a lot of fun defying the expectations.

Photo credit: Riot Games

Golden Guardians don’t get the same attention as TSM, but they might be even better than TSM. After starting 0-4, they have quietly won five games in a row, including wins over TSM, CLG and 100 Thieves. Three of their four losses were to the top three teams in the standings, so they have only one loss to a team below them. It bodes well for their ability to beat the teams at their level and stay in the top six. Golden Guardians’ bot lane of Trevor "Stixxay" Hayes and Choi "huhi" Jae-hyun has been a strength, with both players ranking among the top four at their position in KDA.

Surprisingly bad

There are two teams that are much lower in the standings relative to their place in multiple preseason power rankings. Dignitas were not projected to be one of the top teams in the LCS, but nobody thought they would be this bad. At 0-9 they’re the only winless team in the league. Most of their games haven’t even been close. It’s shocking given how much success Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen, Lucas "Santorin" Tao Kilmer Larsen and İrfan Berk "Armut" Tükek have enjoyed in their careers.

Read more: Jensen will put his Worlds streak to the test this year with Dignitas

Photo credit: Riot Games

As for Team Liquid, they have fallen short of high expectations set for a team filled with young talent and two previous world champions. Despite being touted as potentially a top-four team in the league, they’re mid tier at best right now. At 3-6, they can still make the playoffs, but they don’t look like a team that could win a series against the better teams in the league. Despite having the second-best early-game rating in the league, they have the second-worst mid/late game rating. The team plays very aggressively, which is why they’re in the top half of the league in terms of both kills and deaths. Unlike Dignitas, Team Liquid look like they could be much better in the summer if they can clean up some aspects of their gameplay.

Best players so far

There are two players who still have a double digit KDA: Berserker and Prince. Berserker leads the league at 13.6 and Prince sits at second with a KDA of 12.1. Not only have both players racked up kills and assists, they’re the only players in the league who have died fewer times than games they’ve played. Both players have elite carry potential and are the leading MVP candidates at this point.

Photo credit: Riot Games

Two other AD carries have stood out, though to a lesser degree. Coming back from a two-year retirement, Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng is still one of the best ADCs. He’s second in the league to Prince in terms of kill share and fifth in gold difference at 10 minutes. Unlike Prince and Berserker who are surrounded by teammates who have also been popping off, Doublelift has been shouldering more of the load for 100 Thieves. Ian Victor “FBI” Huang has fit in well at ADC for Evil Geniuses this year. He’s fourth in the league in KDA and alongside Philippe “Vulcan” Laflamme (who’s third in KDA) forms one of the best bot lanes in the LCS.

Viewership verdict

There was a lot of concern heading into the season about how the LCS gameday and gametime changes would affect viewership. With games being played on Thursday and Friday afternoons rather than Saturdays and Sundays, would there be a viewership drop? Viewership typically peaks in the playoffs, but according to Esports Charts, there has been a drop relative to the early part of the season compared to last year.

Photo credit: Riot Games

The peak LCS viewership last spring was 387,000 for the spring final. However, during Week 1 last spring, viewership climbed to 243,000. Average viewership during the spring was 123,000. The peak so far this year occurred in Week 1 but was only 178,000. Average viewership has been 106,000.

Last summer, peak viewership reached 370,000, while average viewership was 115,000. We’ll have to wait until this year’s spring final to see how high viewership will climb, but based on results so far, this year’s spring final peak viewership might not be as high.

Critical matchups in the second half of the split

Looking at the standings, there are a few key matchups that stand out. The first is Cloud9’s matchup with Evil Geniuses on March 9. With FlyQuest looking so strong, there’s no margin for error among these two teams if either hopes to overtake FlyQuest in the standings. It’s also a good test to see which team is stronger heading into the playoffs. EG won the first matchup.

Photo credit: Riot Games

The other matchups to watch are those involving TSM, Golden Guardians, 100 Thieves and Counter Logic Gaming because all of these teams are either 5-4 or 4-5 and sit on the edge of making the playoffs or just missing out. Week 7 will be critical for Golden Guardians because they play 100 Thieves on March 9 and TSM on March 10. The first day of the final week of the split, March 15, will be critical for all four teams as CLG faces Golden Guardians and TSM take on 100 Thieves.

Lead photo credit: Riot Games

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