Golden Guardians vs Cloud9
Betting against Cloud9 still feels as ill-advised as ever — they're the defending champions, after all. Still, they haven't looked all that great ever since the Summer Split began and, frankly, they've have done very little to warrant our benefit of the doubt. Now sure, we're talking about a veteran line-up here, a team that is packed to the brim with talent and mechanical prowess, but all of these virtues mean next to nothing if they cannot get on the same page and execute as a unit — and that, for reasons that still elude us, seldom happens.
They've regressed beyond measure, and it's truly hard to understand why. Nothing concrete transpired, nothing to our knowledge at least. The meta didn't shift all that much, the LCS didn't get any more competitive than it was back in Spring (quite the contrary), so what's really at play here is anyone's guess. It's still not time to sound the alarms, but we're not far off either — they still have room to maneuver and correct course, but they are no longer favored to go the distance and defend their throne. There are other teams, seemingly more cohesive and willing, that have taken their spot and are all but waiting to etch their names in history. We're talking about 100 Thieves and Team SoloMid here. Heck, maybe even Team Liquid, should they diversify their arsenal of weapons and incorporate Santorin back into the line-up (once his health issues are appropriately dealt with).
Golden Guardians, on the other hand, are surging, and have looked better than ever once Licorice was brought in. They're now on a three-game win streak (the longest streak in the LCS at the time of this writing), and have taken down Dignitas, Evil Geniuses, and Team Liquid in succession. Now, that's by no means a negligible list of foes. Far from it, in fact. We're talking two exceptional line-ups (and front-runners to leave a mark in the impending playoffs), and one mid-tier gatekeeper that's currently ranked above GGS (and is every bit as dangerous as the LCS cream of the croup, albeit wholly inconsistent). In fact, GGS are just a single win away from securing eighth place and, by proxy, a spot in the playoffs. Now sure, there's still a million ways in which things could go awry, but they've made their case and have looked downright incredible throughout the last few days.
They're not exactly favored to beat Cloud9 (as evidenced by the less-than-stellar odds), but have obviously subverted our expectations in the most impressive of ways, so who's to say they can't do it again? We'll go with the underdogs on this one as the potential reward far outweighs the risk!