Is the new 2020 LCS Summer Playoff format working?

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17 August 2020

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LCS Summer Playoff Format.
Image via Riot Games.

To give an answer quickly, no, it’s not. The premise of the new LCS Summer Playoff format sort of makes sense, it gives more teams a chance at Worlds. It also replaces the gauntlet format, one which was dominated by Cloud9 throughout recent memory.

The new LCS playoff format allowed for two more teams to be allowed into playoffs, the seven and eight seeds. The new system also let the one and two seeds have a bye week, which in this case is Cloud9 and Team Liquid. The seven and eight seeds from this past split were 100 Thieves and Dignitas, respectively. Both rosters finished the split under .500, with 100 Thieves having a respectable 7-11 record considering the amount of turmoil within the roster. Dignitas finished at 5-13, by far the worst record for a playoff team in any region.

100 Thieves and Dignitas were seeded instantly into the lower bracket, as they finished in the final two spots of playoffs. This means all of their series would be in a win-or-go-home format, where teams in the upper bracket have two chances throughout playoffs.

This past weekend, Dignitas faced TSM, who lost a convincing series to Golden Guardians, and 100 Thieves went up against Evil Geniuses. Both TSM and EG dropped to the round one lower bracket, giving them one more shot at moving forward in playoffs. Now, if the fourth seeded LCS team (TSM) going up against the eighth seeded LCS team (Dignitas) in a best-of-five format sounds exciting, there’s inherently some issues there. As a surprise to almost no one, TSM zipped past Dignitas in a convincing 3-0 series. It wasn’t competitive too, barring great play from Dignitas mid-laner Fenix on Zoe.

In the other series featuring a team that was instantly seeded into the lower bracket, 100 Thieves faced EG. EG had just come off a 3-2 series loss to top contender FlyQuest, which was surprisingly competitive given EG’s form coming into playoffs. In this series, the EG Swole Bros reigned supreme. EG, the sixth seeded team in playoffs, swept 100 Thieves in, once again, a series which wasn’t that competitive outside of game two.

After those two series, the new format came under criticism by the League community, and it’s deserved. With an eight team playoff format in a ten team league, you’re rewarding two below average teams with a playoff spot. In the case of Dignitas specifically, having to play a tiebreaker with the raging dumpster fire that is CLG for that eight seed is so bad.

With the normal six team playoff format, below average teams won’t make the cut, where teams that are average will. A six team format saves us, the viewers, from having to watch two series which aren’t competitive and don’t offer a narrative. In a six team format, the one and two seeds also play in that first week of playoffs, giving more competitive games and driving viewership numbers up.

The LEC has adopted the six team playoff format with a lower bracket as their format permanently. Whether or not the LCS will follow in their Western counterparts footsteps is yet to be seen, but it became evident this past weekend that their experiment didn’t pay off.

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