Back to Back Champions: CLG Defeats Rivals TSM 3-2

Apr 19, 2016

Riot sure wrote a beautiful script for this one.

After a disappointing spring split for the newly formed TSM super team, the team found themselves in the grand finals of the NA LCS playoffs, head-to-head with longtime rivals CLG. This time around the rivalry meant more than ever.

TSM Doublelift was a massive surprise to everybody in the League of Legends community.

CLG made the single biggest, most surprising roster change in NA LCS history this past off-season by kicking longtime AD carry and face of the franchise Doublelift. Doublelift wasn’t left team-less for long. Only hours after CLG announced they would be removing Doublelift from their team, TSM owner Reginald swooped in and signed him.

TSM had been looking for a potential WildTurtle replacement for a while, even temporarily subbing him out for KeithMcBrief. The sudden and unexpected opportunity to sign one of the best ever North American AD carries wasn’t one TSM was going to pass up. TSM would build their team around Doublelift and mid laner Bjergsen; adding European jungler Svenskeren, North American top laner Hauntzer, and topping things off with legendary European support player YellowStar. TSM was stacked.

CLG Roster
CLG would enter the 2016 NA LCS Spring split with two new rookies: Stixxay (center) on AD carry, and HuHi (second from the right) playing mid lane. Photo via CLG Gaming.

Meanwhile, CLG, now without Doublelift and Pobelter, would enter the spring split with two rookies in their place. The general consensus was that the CLG roster changes were a downgrade. The changes confused even the most hardcore CLG fans who were concerned about fielding two rookies instead of the veterans that won them the NA LCS title in Season 5.

Then the 2016 NA LCS Spring split began. The opening game? TSM versus CLG. CLG won, and they didn’t stop there. They would go on to finish the spring split in second place, with a 13-5 record. Meanwhile, the super team, TSM, ended the spring split down in sixth place, with a 9-9 record.

TSM finished the split in a much better position than they started it, though. The first three quarters were miserable for TSM fans. There appeared to be negative synergy between bottom lane duo Doubelift and YellowStar, and jungler Svenkeren was severely under performing on a regular basis. With exception to the solid consistency from top laner Hauntzer, it looked like Bjergsen was stuck on another roster in which he would have to carry game in and game out for his team to have a chance at succeeding.

Finally, with only a few weeks left in the regular season, TSM started to get it together. You can credit it to Reginald stepping in, Weldon, the sports psychology trainer, or just forced synergy finally forming after so many reps, but TSM started looking like how everyone imagined them to at the start of the season. They won just enough games to enter the playoffs as the 6th seed.

NA LCS Playoffs 2016
The regular season no longer matters once playoffs begin. Win to move on, or lose to be eliminated from contention. Photo via Riot Games/Flickr.

The Playoffs

Securing second place meant CLG would earn a buy into the second round of the 2016 NA LCS spring split playoffs, while TSM would face off against C9; another storied rival. Despite being the underdog, and losing the first game in the best of 5 series, TSM defeated Cloud 9 3-1.

Immortals, the team that had only dropped a single game all season long, were next for TSM. TSM completed the upset again. In a series that featured puzzling champion selections by Immortals, like Lucian top, and Urgot mid, TSM held strong and swept Immortals clean. 3-0 for TSM. The ugly disjointed games from earlier in the season were nothing but bad memories at this point. TSM would be playing for the NA LCS championship.

CLG’s game winning teleport play made by Darshan and HuHi.

It wouldn’t quite as easy for CLG. Thanks to the buy, only 1 opponent stood in the way of CLG’s path to the grand finals: Team Liquid. Despite finishing ahead of Liquid in the regular season, many considered this series to be a coin flip. Team Liquid was on fire, coming off a convincing 3-0 over NRG Esports. CLG’s team coordination proved too strong for Team Liquid, squeaking out a Game 5 victory in an insane game-winning double teleport play made by Darshan and HuHi.

CLG and TSM would face off in the NA LCS Grand Finals, yet again.

TSM vs CLG NA LCS Spring Split Finals
Despite TSM’s inconsistency throughout Spring, the NA LCS finals still came down to CLG and TSM. Photo via Riot Games/Flickr.

Spring Split Grand Finals: TSM versus CLG

It all came down to this. The final best of 5 that would decide the 2016 NA LCS Spring champion.

Game 1 set the tone for the entire series. It started off well for TSM. First blood went to Doublelift’s Kalista after a successful roam to the mid lane resulted in HuHi’s (Ekko) death. TSM found another kill after poking down Stixxay (Caitlyn) with Corki missiles and Nidalee spears. That one went to Bjergsen.

12 minutes into the game Bjergsen was up 18cs over HuHi and Svenskeren was up 2 levels over Xmithie. Only Doublelift found himself behind CS to his counterpart Stixxay.

Then CLG pulled out their signature move: the double TP. TSM was pushing down mid lane, looking to siege the tier 2 tower. Just as they started to damage the turret, both Darshan (Poppy) and HuHi (Ekko) teleported to the same ward in the mid lane brush and sandwiched the fleeing TSM squad. CLG earned 4 kills and a Baron on this play, losing NOTHING in return.

Then it was TSM’s turn… As CLG pushed the top lane inhibitor turret with the Baron buff, TSM pulled out a teleport flank of their own.  Hauntzer (Gragas) teleported behind CLG, all while Bjergsen (Corki) split the CLG team with the package. TSM killed 4 CLG members, only losing 1 of their own. TSM found themselves ahead by 1.5k gold after this play.

TSM decided to try out the teleport flank for themselves. Here’s how it worked out.

Then the momentum swung back in CLG’s favor once again. After winning more fights because of good teleport usage CLG had used their advantage to destroy 2 inhibitors. CLG started Baron, forcing TSM to contest. Super minions had already taken down a single Nexus turret at this point, forcing Hauntzer to recall to save the second one. As soon as the minions were cleared, Haunter teleported to the Baron.

CLG immediately disengaged. 10 seconds later, a fight breaks out. Both teams are trading kills evenly until Bjergsen (Corki) flanks CLG’s back line, killing both carries. Just as Bjergsen is finishing off the sub-100HP Poppy, the game ends. The super minions (winions?) kill the TSM Nexus, and CLG takes the game.

This was just a taste of how tense this championship series would get. 1-0 CLG.

Game 2: The Reset

TSM almost always loses the first game in a best of series. The team clearly came into Game 2 with confidence, because they really showed up. Doublelift was out farming Stixxay (standard lanes) in a losing matchup. Svenskeren and Bjergsen turned CLG’s first blood into an advantageous 2 for 1. Things just clicked for TSM this game.

TSM showcased how well they can team fight during Game 2.

TSM won every single team fight this game. Bjergsen heavily enabled his team on Lulu, and TSM won convincingly. This was the most dominating game of the entire series.

Game 3: Caitlyn

TSM had another good early game in game 3, with Doublelift and Bjergsen earning the first two kills of the game again. This time, however, TSM was unable to win enough team fights to snowball their advantage.

After just the first team fight which CLG earned one more kill than TSM did, CLG ran away with the game. They instantly secured the Baron and edged out TSM in the following team fight, thanks to an Ace in the Hole by Stixxay’s Caitlyn.

TSM fought back by stopping CLG’s Baron push, and Bjergsen made some flashy LeBlanc plays, but CLG controlled the tempo all game long. TSM made it real close after acing CLG and picking off an inhibitor turret, but the next fight sealed the game.

Stixxay put in serious work on his Caitlyn this game. 

TSM started Baron to force a fight, then chased CLG back into the mid lane. The fight started off well for TSM. Aphromoo died. Then Xmithie died. Then HuHi died. Then Stixxay killed EVERYONE! Well, almost everyone. Darshan secured one kill to his name, but Stixxay’s Caitlyn won the game. The two survivors pushed down the mid lane and ended the game.

2-1 CLG.

Game 4: Protect the Doublelift

TSM always rebound strong after a loss, and game 4 was no exception. First blood to Svenskeren (Nidalee) on a 2v1 dive in the top lane, then TSM turns a 4v2 around, only losing 1 teammate themselves, thanks to a roaming Bjergsen (Lulu) and a well placed Caitlyn (Doublelift) trap.

CLG had been utilizing double teleport strategies all series long, but this time it was TSM making use of two teleport summoners. They frequently used teleport to thwart odd man situations forced by CLG. Then Baron happened.

With Darshan pushing bottom lane, TSM decided to force Baron. They went for the 50/50 smite – and Xmithie stole the Baron! He died in the process, and HuHi was also killed trying to escape. The remaining CLG members didn’t want to let TSM base. CLG wanted to buy enough time for HuHi to respawn so that he could teleport with the team and force a fight on the low HP TSM members.

This video should start right at the point where CLG decide to not let TSM recall. Watch as TSM manages to turn the fight after walking across the entire map.

Well, CLG got their fight. HuHi (Twisted Fate) teleported to a nearby ward as soon as he respawned, but then he walked (instead of ulting) into the fight where TSM had already been laying a beat down on Darshan. TSM bursted Aphromoo, slayed Darshan, then proceeded to ace the rest of CLG.

2-2. We’re going to game 5!

Game 5: Winner Takes All

When CLG faced TL, nobody could figure out why TL banned Tristana in the first few games of the series. Then Stixxay broke it out: Guinsoo’s Rageblade Tristana. In game 5 of the grand finals, Stixxay brought it out again against TSM.

Aphromoo and Stixxay were able to setup a kill by pretending to base, then surprising the TSM bot lane.

CLG came out of the gates swinging. First blood to Stixxay after a flash combo by Aphromoo (Alistar). Moments later Darshan picks up a kill on Svenskeren, who found himself behind enemy lines. Then CLG’s bot lane duo feigned a recall, hides in the bush, then jumps on the unsuspecting TSM bot lane duo. That’s 2 more kills for CLG!

8 minutes into the deciding game of the series, and CLG found themselves ahead by 2K gold. The score 4-0 in favor of CLG, and Darshan had 3 kills to his name. CLG fans couldn’t have asked for a better start.

But TSM picked a scaling team composition, and it scaled. CLG maintained their gold lead, but the game grew incredibly tense as it passed the 30 minute mark. TSM earned a few kills of their own, but still, the game grew longer and it appeared to be anyone’s game.

Another Baron fight: Svenskeren throws down a great Kindred ultimate. Aphromoo dies. YellowStar dies. Bjergsen kills Stixxay, then Darshan! TSM’s wins the fight 5-3, and all their remaining members are Marksmen. They decide trying to end the game is too risky, and instead burn down Baron. The score is now 7-7, 41 minutes in, only 500 gold separating both teams. THIS IS A CLOSE ONE!

It’s worth watching this entire video if you missed the game, but I’ve queued it up right before the final team fight for you.

TSM then pushed down mid lane with Baron buff. The casters pointed out that CLG can’t use their patented double teleport flank in this situation because HuHi is on Lulu – he must be near Stixxay’s Tristana for the shields and speed ups. Instead, TSM rotates bottom and CLG follows. TSM knocks down the tier 2 tower before rotating to the Dragon.

Both teams posture around Dragon. TSM secures it. Then the game deciding team fight takes place. Hauntzer attempts an engage, but it doesn’t spark much. Haunter re-engages, and both teams begin to square off. Svenskeren throws down the Kindred ultimate as YellowStar (Braum) ults into CLG. Stixxay goes OFF. He gets reset after reset. First Hauntzer goes down, then YellowStar, then Bjergsen – all claimed by Stixxay on his Rageblade Tristana. Xmithie earns the finishing blows on Doublelift and Svenskeren, and CLG end the game.

CLG wins the 2016 NA LCS Spring Championship, their second consecutive NA LCS championship.

Parting Shots?

The action didn’t end when the TSM’s Nexus exploded in game 5. In the post-victory interview both Aphromoo, and CLG coach Zikz, appeared to fire some shots towards ex-teammate Doublelift.

When asked what’s different about this year’s roster, Zikz had this to say: “None of us are selflish, at all. We all focus on teamwork..”. When Doublelift was kicked from CLG, the organization stressed this was because of the negative effect Doublelift had on the team environment.

Aphromoo also seemed to have something to say about his former bot lane partner in his post-game interview on-stage:

“In my opinion, this iteration of the roster is just… infinitely better. Mindset is a lot better. Everyone is willing to accept critisim, and there’s not really, uh… People feeling afraid to have a voice on the team, I would say. Especially bringing in the 2 rookies, uh, it was important for us to have a very good environment that they could feel like, you know, contribute to our playstyle, or whatever, because when I first came on CLG as a rookie, that wasn’t happening. I was.. played protect the AD carry the whole time.

But.. I wanna give a special shut out to Nientonsoh, Seraph, Dexter, and Link for this series. And uh, I did it for you guys, so uh, thanks.

Doublelift hasn’t commented on either of these comments from his former teammates yet, but he’s never been one to stay away from the spotlight. He appears a little shaken up from the loss, and understandably so. The TSM AD Carry shared these two tweets after the final match:

There’s no question TSM will look to start off the 2016 NA LCS Summer split with all the momentum they earned at the tail end of Spring. At the end of the day, TSM finished the regular season in 6th place, and earned a 2nd place finish. That’s not too bad!

Congratulations to CLG for defending their NA LCS title. Their rookies have earned valuable experience, and the entire team will look to defend their title for a third time in the Summer split. CLG has also earned a spot at the Mid Season Invitational to represent North America with their win today.

GG, WP to TSM and CLG.

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Jamie Jacobs is a bot lane main who once won 17 consecutive Janna games. His favorite champions are Thresh, Kalista, and Bard. Jamie writes about competitive League of Legends and the professional gaming scene every week at Esports Edition.
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