The LCS has just finished, with the Mid Season Showdown having just ended, now the spotlight can fully fall on the new and developing talent in the region.
The LCS Proving Grounds field is narrowing. At the start of the Proving Grounds Circuit, we saw 32 teams. We are now at our final 12 teams, four of which are in the Winners Bracket while the rest fight for survival in the Losers' Bracket.
These teams have climbed to the peak of the mountain, here is the journey they took to get here as well as what still stands in their way.
C9.A have dominated the Academy scene for a while. Since Summer 2018, the team has not finished in first twice. This year has been no different. A 7-2 record in the Round Robin put them as the first seed coming from the Academy Regular Season.
Remember, the LCS Proving essentially replaces the Academy Playoffs, so if Cloud9 Academy want the back-to-back-to-back titles, they have to claim first here. While they’re still favourites to one, the road isn’t clear for them. So far they’ve only had to play Amateur teams, including Dignitas Mirage who were the lowest seed coming in; they then dropped a game to Zoos Gaming in Round 2. Their next opponent, Evil Geniuses Academy, are yet to drop a game this event; even after only facing Academy teams so far.
Evil Geniuses Academy
EG.A haven’t had the strongest run so far the year, finishing the Academy Regular Season in 10th. However, they played through the Giant Slayer Spring Gauntlet and placed second, falling to Golden Guardians Academy in a five game finals. While their most recent result, from the Northern Arena, isn’t the best and they were again knocked out by GG.A, they come into the LCS Proving Grounds feeling like a new team.
EG.A had fallen to FlyQuest Academy continuously this Spring, but then took them down in a dominant 2-0 fashion in the first round of the LCS Proving Grounds.
With another 2-0 over 100 Thieves Academy, Evil Geniuses Academy are now coming to challenge Cloud9 Academy, will they be able to hand them their first loss? Or will C9.A continue their winning run? You can catch this series on Thursday, April 15th at 6pm EST.
Evil Geniuses Prodigies
EG.P mirror their Academy sisters in a number of ways. Through the Tier 2 Tournaments, Evil Geniuses Prodigies rose to be one of the more dominant teams. A 4-0 record in the Risen Champions League Round Robin, and a second place finish in the Playoffs; losing 2-3 to SolaFide. They finished at the top of their group in BIG League with a 5-0 record but then started to stumble. CUP saw them go 3-1 in the Round Robin, even 2-0ing GG.A, but were forced to FF their Playoffs series against SolaFide and finish fourth.
By no means were these bad performances, but going from that to a 9-12 finish in the first Tier 1 Tournament never felt good; although they pulled it back for a podium finish in the Giant Slayer Spring Gauntlet.
For reference, Evil Geniuses Prodigies are the second Top Amateur team according to Mobalytics, and their Botlaner, Shiro, and Jungler, Tomio, are among the top 5 Top Prospects; a true showcase of talent.
So far in the LCS Proving Grounds, EG.P have overcome some strong opponents; beating both Academy teams they’ve faced so far. Now, however, is another hurdle. They face No Org, one of the most dominant Amateur teams.
While the Evil Geniuses organization has poured time and love into developing new talent, now comes the real test. Both these teams are facing up against powerhouses from their own scene, and the Evil Geniuses are searching for wins across the two series to allow their sister teams to meet for Civil War Pt II.
No Org come in after dominating the Amateur scene. Formerly ANEW Esports, the team has placed first in every event they’ve taken part in this year, bar the Risen Champions League. As a team, they have made their mark, and the individual players should be familiar names for viewers: V1per, AnDa, Value, Big, with 5Fire leading the helm; and coaching staff that includes Stunt and zig.
5Fire has a history of success, coming into the Proving Grounds Circuit he has not seen a sub-second place finish in any event since Summer 2020; even claiming first at the Scout Grounds Circuit.
No Org have been a favourite throughout the tournament, and I can’t wait to see the challenge they could pose to the likes of Cloud9 Academy. They sit at the top of the list of Top Amateur teams, and rightly so. 5Fire is seen as the Top Prospect, and their Botlaner, Value, sits fourth on that same list.
You can catch Evil Geniuses Prodigies vs No Org on Thursday, after the C9.A vs EG.A series, from 8om EST. No Org has won every game against EG.P so far, is this the time for that to change?
The Losers’ Bracket is filled with talent fighting for that last hope. With so many incredible teams, it is tough to see them go; especially after following them for months. Seeing the likes of Barrage.NA and Zoos Gaming drop down, knowing that only one can come out of it at most, is painful. Especially with the loser of EG.P vs No Org joining them too. The LCS Proving Grounds feels tight now, with so much talent clashing, but the Losers’ Bracket feels all the more competitive as there is no room for error. A win is a must, a loss is unforgiving.
Barrage are a sob story, one of the best social media games out there, and they’ve earned my support. But it hasn’t been plain sailing for them, waves of issues hit the roster causing forfeits. They definitely were not deserving of their seeding, and could have qualified much sooner.
That being said, Barrage.NA are here to compete. As a team, they sit third on Mobalytic’s list of Top Amateur Teams with a 21-10 record. Their Jungler, Fanatiik, and Midlaner, APA, sit amongst the Top Prospects too.
This roster was put together for this Proving Grounds Circuit, but all the players have taken part in the NA Scouting Grounds at some point in their past; some even playing on Academy teams.
Placing in the top four for all of the T2 Tournaments shows how well they stack amongst the rest of the Amateur teams. They came into the LCS Proving Grounds and were matched against Team Liquid Academy for their first series. TL.A were among the favorites to win after their recent performances; while they didn’t live up to that standard on the day, you can’t take the 2-0 win away from Barrage.
Barrage.NA have been an incredible team, and is made up of incredible talent. Now they have to stand and fight, or they will sink. They don’t get any more second chances.
TSM is a staple of the LCS, but their Academy team isn’t quite living up to that standard. Last year, they ended NA Academy 2020 Summer in second, with a 12-6 record in the regular season. This year, they ended NA Academy 2021 Spring in seventh, with a 3-6 record. Even with big names like Hauntzer and Cody Sun, the team hasn’t quite hit expectations that might have been on them.
They fell to No Org in the Unified Grand Prix, and now they find themselves in the Losers’ Bracket with a match against Barrage.NA. TSM.A fell in the first round of the LCS Proving Grounds, defeated by Zoos Gaming 1-2. They found their comeback, beating Dignitas Mirage to keep their hopes alive.
Now they face Barrage.NA, a team that has been a dominant force. Barrage.NA have previously taken down Academy’s second seed, so the seventh seed of TSM.A should be no problem, right? Find out at 6pm EST on Tuesday, April 13th.
Both Dignitas Academy and FlyQuest Academy qualified straight into the LCS Proving Grounds, being the fourth and sixth Academy seeds respectively.
DIG.A passed the first test, beating Wildcard 2-1 to start off the LCS Proving Grounds, only to then fall to Evil Geniuses Prodigies. With names like Lourlo and Akaadian on the roster, it is easy to see why Dignitas performed so well within the Academy scene, so why have the fallen short in the LCS Proving Grounds?
FLY.A found themselves on the other side of the bracket, and were immediately knocked to the Losers’ Bracket after a 0-2 defeat against EG.A. This doesn’t match with their recent appearance, however, as they slammed their way through the Arena of Legends event in March; coming second after losing to a dominant Team Liquid Academy in the finals.
Dignitas Academy has won this matchup every time these teams have played each other over the past year- since NA Academy 2020 Spring, inclusive. Will this be just another win the in the books, or can FlyQuest revive their recent strong performances? Find out after the Barrage.NA vs TSM.A series, on Tuesday at 8pm EST.
100 Thieves Academy
100 Thieves are another organization that have put time into developing their next generation of talent. While 100 Next didn’t quite hit the mark, they are a developmental team that should come back swinging in Summer.
100 Thieves Academy, however, are a different story; ending the Academy regular season in third. They finished the Arena of Legends in third too, which sets their trend. They no longer have to overcome Team Liquid, but FLY.A is fighting to meet them in later rounds.
They had passed CLG Academy in Round 1, before falling to EG.A. One more loss and they’re out of the LCS Proving Grounds.
IMT.A haven't had the cleanest run this Spring. First, they finish fifth in NA Academy 2021 Spring, not bad but not great. This did give them the ticket through to the LCS Proving Grounds without having to match up against the Amateur teams, however.
Now they’re here, and they fell in their first series to an Amateur team; EG.P. They picked themselves back up, taking down Wildcard to get to their series against 100.A, but will it be enough? Their recent performance at the Arena of Legends left something to be desired, losing both series they played. They don’t have room for error here, they lose the series and they’re out of the LCS Proving Grounds too.
Both teams are fighting for their lives, and the ability to continue their run in the Losers’ Bracket. You can catch the series on Wednesday, April 14th, at 6pm EST.
Zoos have been an incredible team to watch, and have consistently been in the conversation.
As ANEW Blaze, they made a strong case for themselves in the CUP New Years Showdown, which featured a lot of the teams we’ve seen throughout the T2’s and T1’s. They then took fourth place in the first Tier 2 Tournament, a 4-1 record in BIG League’s groups stage, and a third place finish in the first Tier 1 Tournament.
With the likes of Allorim and one of Mobalytic’s Top Prospects, DarkWings, the team has put on a strong showing so far in this event too. They took out TSM Academy in Round 1, and put up a fight against Cloud9 Academy in Round 2. While their opponent is here to say differently, I believe the Losers’ Bracket currently belongs to Zoos Gaming and Barrage.NA.
Golden Guardians Academy
GG.A have spent more time facing the Amateur teams, as they took part in a Tier 2 Tournament out of choice. An average performance, however, left something to be desired; or in my opinion showed the strength of the Amateur teams.
But then Golden Guardians Academy came back with a vengeance. Coming from NA Academy 2021 Spring as the ninth seed, they stormed through the Giant Slayer Spring Gauntlet; taking first after an incredible run. They dismantled multiple teams, both Academy and Amateur, as they ran through to qualify for the LCS Proving Grounds. The only team that beat them in the event was EG.P, which put them into the Losers’ Bracket. GG.A got their rematch, and revenge, defeating not only Evil Geniuses Prodigies but also their sister team in the finals.
Coming into the LCS Proving Grounds, they were matched against No Org in Round 1. After a 0-2 defeat, they were placed into the Losers’ Bracket where they then had to face TL.A. Any other time and this would be seen as a loss, Academy's #2 seed facing the #9 seed. But GG.A performed and found a 2-0.
Is this the start of another Golden Guardians Academy Miracle Run through the Losers’ Bracket? Are we going to see a repeat of the GSSG, with GG.A finding first place at the end of it all? Or will Zoos Gaming live up to the hype that has been surrounding them? I guess we’ll find out on Wednesday, after the 100.A vs IMT.A match, at 8pm EST.