Round 1 of the Spring Proving Grounds is over, and the Amateur teams have made their mark. The 16 teams in the tournament are made up of ten Academy teams and six Amateur teams; the Winners’ bracket is now made up of four Academy teams and four Amateur teams. Out of the six series that included Amateur teams, Academy teams only won two.
Just let that sink in.
Sure, it’s only the first round, and the lower seeds are facing higher seeds etc. But, Academy only have a 33% win rate against Amateur teams in this event.
Like has been pointed out by numerous people, most notably by CUP’s Perchance recently, instead of going down the narrative of ‘Academy is bad and lost to Amateur’, we should be focusing more on how good Amateur talent is in North America and how it should be developed further.
With that said where has this success come from? Is it pure individual prowess? Was it just a bad day from the Academy teams? Did they come ill prepared? That is what I want to dive into this article.
Team Liquid Academy vs Barrage.NA was perhaps the biggest form of upset we’ve had in Round 1. While Barrage.NA had had strong showings, they come into the LCS Proving Grounds as the 15th seed; although they missed out on a higher seeding due to forced forfeits. Team Liquid Academy are 2nd seed, and were one of the favorites to win the event; at the top of most people’s tier lists.
Barrage.NA, the 15th seed, 2-0’d Team Liquid Academy, the 2nd seed. Made all the more sweeter after saying Amateur’s egos are too big and they were going to show how ‘big the gap is’.
First off is draft. Normally when upsets happen, it starts here. Was the lower team able to find a cheese pick? No. If anything, I’d question the Samira pick for Team Liquid’s Yeon. He had only played three games on it the entire LCS Academy Spring Split, and only won one of those games. Was this a sign of disrespect? Did Yeon think he could Style all over Barrage.NA? With only one marksman ban (plus Tristana but she’s more likely found Mid nowadays), it feels weird to see Yeon fall this far down his Champion pool.
It was by no means a clean game from Barrage, they made mistakes and Team Liquid were able to punish and capitalize; something you’d expect top tier teams to be able to do.
However, disrespect comes back into it in my opinion. Barrage found a pick that they maybe shouldn’t have been able to find, either a good play from Barrage to find it or a mistake and lack of respect from Team Liquid. In the 4v4, however, Team Liquid still showed no respect and tried to force another fight without their Midlaner. Resulting in a free Baron being handed over to Barrage due to Team Liquid’s sloppiness and lack of respect.
While Barrage played quite a straight forward composition with clear win conditions and an easy to execute playstyle, it was Team Liquid’s mistakes that gave the win; and I believe the mistakes came from disrespecting their opponents. Not expecting them to play at a high level, and therefore be unable to punish and react effectively.
Similar things happened in the following game. Win conditions from the casters were for Yeon to get an aggressive Champion that he could carry on, with Eyla getting a Support to compliment. Kai’Sa was let through bans, Team Liquid didn’t First Pick it, Barrage.NA didn’t pick it to take it away, Team Liquid then picked Senna; paired with a Tahm Kench. Kai’Sa is not only strong, but one of Yeon’s best Champions, and it was completely ignored. Barrage were able to find larger leads this game, playing more proactively, instead of capitalizing on Team Liquid’s mistakes.
While I do not want to take away from Barrage.NA’s wins, it does feel like it stemmed more from Team Liquid Academy’s mistakes than anything. However, Barrage stood up to the test, they matched Team Liquid in individual talents, and were able to take the 2-0.
In the words of Cubby ‘this is not the TL that we saw at Northern Arena’.
I guess Barrage.NA just showed how big the gap is.
Another pretty large upset was Immortals Academy vs Evil Geniuses Prodigies. While Team Liquid Academy vs Barrage.NA could be put down to TL.A’s poor play and drafts (however I want to reinforce how well Barrage did play), Evil Geniuses Prodigies simply were the better team.
Immortals didn’t just roll over, it wasn’t a complete domination, but EGP found leads in the top side of the map, and were able to snowball that around in Game 1. Immortals found success on the bot side, but a teamfight went the way of EGP and that was game, basically.
Immortals then came back in Game 2, and in general the series went a little clown fiesta, but Evil Geniuses Prodigies controlled Game 3 for the series win.
So where are we at?
Cloud9 Academy beat Dignitas Mirage to proceed to face Zoos Gaming in Round 2, Zoos had 2-1’d TSM Academy to get there. C9A are strong, and are the first seed coming from Academy, but Zoos aren’t exactly slouches.
Unfortunately we have an Academy matchup and a Amateur matchup, with Evil Geniuses Academy facing 100 Thieves Academy after taking down Flyquest Academy and CLG Academy respectively. No Org and Barrage.NA, two of Amateur’s strongest teams, are being forced to face each other in Round 2 too. With Evil Geniuses Prodigies facing Dignitas Academy to round out the Winners’ Bracket matches.
We should see C9A and 100A win their matches, and will face each other in their next rounds. The toss up then comes to the other half of the bracket. Will No Org continue their domination? Or will Barrage.NA put up a fight? Dignitas Academy is Academy’s fourth seed, but Evil Geniuses Prodigies just had a fair showing against the fifth seed, so can they take the series? It should be noted that Dignitas dropped a game to Wildcard, so there are definite cracks in the armor. I also don't want to count Zoos Gaming out either. If they're going to put on a show, now is the time to do it against C9A.
The losers all go to the Losers’ Bracket, which is where it gets spicy.
These are the last chances for the teams, a loss and they go home. Dignitas Mirage face TSM Academy, might be tough but it is doable. Wildcard take on Immortals Academy, again tough for the Amateur team but still winnable.
FlyQuest Academy should be expected to win their series over CLG Academy, and Team Liquid Academy should beat Golden Guardians Academy; although after the series against Barrage.NA, I wouldn’t hold my breath.
For me, it gets interesting going into Round 2 of the Losers’ Bracket. I’m drawing conclusions from how the bracket is laid out, but if Team Liquid Academy do win then they will have to face the loser of No Org vs Barrage.NA. Bearing in mind Barrage have just beaten them, could that be the end of Team Liquid’s Proving Grounds run?
This week's matches should be fun, with a Winners' Bracket and Losers' Bracket match every night!
Tuesday (April 6)
Cloud 9 Academy vs Zoos Gaming - 6pm EST
Golden Guardians Academy vs Team Liquid Academy - 8pm EST
Wednesday (April 7)
Evil Geniuses Academy vs 100 Thieves Academy - 6pm EST
FlyQuest Academy vs CLG Academy - 8pm EST
Thursday (April 8)
Dignitas Academy vs Evil Geniuses Prodigies - 6pm EST
Dignitas Mirage vs TSM Academy - 8pm EST
Friday (April 9)
No Org vs Barrage.NA - 6pm EST
Wildcard Gaming vs Immortals Academy - 8pm EST
In general, its sad to see so many Amateur teams put in matches together, where they will be forced to take each other out of the tournament and we can’t see how they truly match up against Academy teams. But, the Amateur win dream still lives on.
So far the conversation has been around Academy’s performance and how it might be lackluster, but the narrative needs rewriting to Amateur is exceeding expectations and are actually good..
It should also not be seen as a negative that Amateur teams win. As Akaadian says, ‘the exact same conversation would happen when (some) academy teams manage to take wins vs lcs teams’ if LCS vs Academy games were to happen. Amateur teams are right below Academy, it shouldn’t be seen as that much of a gap. Academy shouldn’t be expected to stomp them. I am simply happy that the Amateur scene has shown its strength, they’ve gone into the spotlight and shone.
I would like to end on a comment by Sabe, rather than calling them Amateurs, which instantly places negative connotations around them, we should refer ‘to players and teams that are playing in T2 and T1 tournaments as "Semi-pros." If we want to bring legitimacy to the scene it starts with our language.’ Simply, this is something I agree with. Writing articles like this, talking about how good these players are but having to brand them as Amateurs just feels hurtful. These players are on the cusp of being professional athletes, the LCS Proving Grounds is the place for them to prove that they deserve to become professionals. They should be treated as such.