LCS Playoffs: Revamping the LCS Playoff Format for 2021

League of Legends/Riot Games
League of Legends/Riot Games /

There have been a lot of criticisms levied at the playoff format for LCS, so here’s a way to fix that for next year.

Among all the hype surrounding the first round of the LCS playoffs, there was also a great deal of criticism aimed not at any one player or team but at the format. Many fans felt that the games were anticlimactic because the 7th and 8th place teams – 100 Thieves and Dignitas – were basically roadblocks in the way of TSM and Evil Geniuses as they smashed through the loser’s bracket.

While the criticisms of the fans are certainly understandable, especially given how poorly 100 Thieves and Dignitas did in the loser’s bracket, I also understand why Riot made the decision to give those 7th and 8th teams a spot in the loser’s bracket. In years past, the battle for playoffs would have been almost entirely decided before Week 9 even started. This year, though, there was still some intrigue to see if 100 Thieves would have clinched a spot in the upper bracket and which of CLG, Dignitas, and Immortals would claim the final playoff spot. From an entertainment perspective, it makes sense.

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However, fans complain that this waters down the talent pool of the LCS playoffs and makes the series unbalanced. There is also the complaint that a team can lose a playoff series and still win the championship through the loser’s bracket, even if the team they defeated was perfect in the playoffs. These are both valid criticisms of the current playoff system, which is why I would like to propose a solution to both issues.

This format would be a hybrid of the existing playoff structure and also the Regional Qualifier that we had in the LCS just last year, but a bit more palatable. Here is how it would work.

First, we get rid of the loser’s bracket and replace it with the Gauntlet. Each team that falls out of the bracket drops to the Gauntlet. That means you lose one round, you lose your chance to go to Worlds (sorry TSM and EG in this case).

The bottom two playoff teams (100T and DIG) would be at the start of the Gauntlet bracket and would play in tandem with the “upper” bracket. This means that last weekend, we would not only have gotten GGS taking down TSM and FLY taking down EG, but we would have seen 100T and DIG face each other in the first round of the Gauntlet. The winner advances, the loser is eliminated.

Next weekend, the matchups in the upper bracket would still be the same except we have the winner of the first round of the Gauntlet (let’s say 100T won) play one of the losers from the first round. To determine who goes first, I’d propose we solve it the same way we solve tiebreakers for the postseason: wins and losses, head to head matchup, and a tiebreaker game if neither team wins out on the first two.

In the new format, EG had the worse record so they go first. So we’d kick off the weekend with TL/GGS and C9/FLY then we’d have 100T go against EG, with the winner facing TSM.

Then, we re-seed the second round of the Gauntlet the exact same way and have those last three teams who didn’t make the final battle for the final Worlds spot. The finals will play out, but the winner and loser will already be guaranteed a shot at Worlds.

So let’s assume the favorites (TL and C9) win in the semifinals. They’re both going to Worlds and they play for the LCS championship.

By the same token, FLY and GGS will still have to win out to get the final Worlds spot. Let’s say EG upsets TSM, they would then face Golden Guardians (who had the worse record compared to FlyQuest) and then the winner of that match would face FlyQuest for the final spot.

This would add an extra level of competition to the regular split because it matters more where you place should you get knocked out (TSM and FlyQuest both benefitted from having better regular seasons and FlyQuest benefitted even more from getting knocked out a round later). In addition, it makes the games at the beginning of the loser’s bracket more competitive (we don’t get to see both TSM and EG beat up on DIG/100T, EG has to play one and if they win they play TSM) and makes winning those early rounds much more meaningful.

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Finally, it removes us from getting a team playing for the LCS Championship who lost already and beating a team for their first win. In this layout, if you lose you are not getting the championship and you’re playing for one Worlds spot at the end.

So what do you think? Do you prefer this new structure to the current playoff structure? Let us know in the comments!