NA LCS Finals Recap
Team Liquid narrowly made it out of a very close series against Clutch Gaming with their infamous and terrifying Sona and Taric bottom lane duo. Following this they battled it out against a Cloud9 that had looked rather dominant against Counter Logic Gaming. This recently-concluded LCS Summer Finals was a rematch of the 2018 Summer Finals, which, as people may remember, was a rather decisive 3-0 for Liquid. Team Liquid had won the last three North American championships, and the fourth one was a historic one: not because of Team Liquid and the number four being a reoccurring joke, but because no team has ever had four championships in the history of this league.
There were several worries about Team Liquid going into the series: after all, Team Liquid once in a while fell into bad habits of playing a slower and more controlled style of play. Sometimes, they get sucked into a skirmish-heavy opponents’ pace, and they sometimes take fights at times when they are not capable of doing so yet.
Game 1 was a rather straightforward game: Cloud9 went for a more difficult to execute composition, going for a Karma in the top lane, a Xin Zhao in the jungle, and a Veigar in the mid lane. Team Liquid got some of the best picks for patch 9.15: they got Aatrox, Sejuani, Azir, Xayah, and Rakan. Cloud9’s Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen did not exactly get the most done in the early game as a Xin Zhao, and Cloud9’s Sivir and their Veigar were not able to scale into the late game. It was a quick and decisive Team Liquid victory.
Game 2 was a bit closer, but Cloud9 had a composition with clearer win conditions. First, they were able to secure a counter pick for Eric “Licorice” Ritchie: Licorice was able to pick up a Kled against Team Liquid Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong’s Vladimir – a matchup heavily favouring Kled. Team Liquid’s bottom lane was forced into a more defensive position with a Tahm Kench and Varus. However, Team Liquid Svenskeren’s Sejuani was able to get a lot done in the earlier stages of the game with his teammates Licorice’s Kled and Yasin “Nisqy” Dinçer’s Irelia. This composition from Cloud9 was able to force several fights, and despite Team Liquid Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng’s best efforts to keep his team in the game with a quadra kill, Cloud9 were able to win the game from grouping as a team and taking the opponent by surprise with their team fighting.
Cloud9 got a similar composition in the next game: they got Aatrox for Licorice, Sylas for Nisqy, and a Sejuani for Svenskeren that can work well with both solo laners due to the capacity to stack Sejuani’s stuns. Cloud9 Tristan “Zeyzal” Stidam was a playmaker on Alistar, and Cloud9
Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi was on a reliable and safe marksman, Xayah. Team Liquid seemed to have less resistance in this game, especially since Cloud9 Licorice seemed to have a good grasp of his matchup against Impact despite the Team Liquid top laner having a lane-dominant pick in this game. Third game to Cloud9, making the score 2-1 in their favour.
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This game was domination from the entire Cloud9 in the early game. Licorice’s Poppy pick against Impact’s Aatrox was in Licorice’s hands the entire laning phase. The problem was in the middle lane. Cloud9 Nisqy was already in a disadvantageous matchup against Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen’s LeBlanc, and he roamed to the top lane and lost even more minions than he already had. Team Liquid played around their item spikes better, and was able to emerge victorious in several fights in a row, eventually taking the game despite a tough start. The score has returned to even, at 2-2.
The last game of the series was overall the least competitive game in the series. After some questionable picks from the side of Cloud9 in Jarvan IV for Svenskeren and Vladimir for Licorice, an early Aatrox pick was flexed into the mid lane for Cloud9 Nisqy. Team Liquid responded with a Shen pick for Impact, which he has historically performed excellently on. Team Liquid was simply in control of the game from start to finish, and they ran through Cloud9 in order to be the first ever team to get four consecutive titles in a row in North American history.
On to Worlds
Cloud9 and Team Liquid have already been confirmed for Worlds so far, so the Finals was a competition for seeding for Worlds (aside from the actual glory of victory and bragging rights!). Both Team Liquid and Cloud9 will have to face an even higher level of competition against some of the world’s best teams. In the other major regions, only a few teams have been confirmed so far: SK Telecom T1 and Team Griffin from the LCK, G2 Esports from the LEC, and J-Team and ahq e-Sports Club from the LMS. No teams are even confirmed from the LPL yet!
The LCS Final showcased a lot of staying around the middle lane in the mid game. This is something that North American teams have been prone to doing for most of the season—this might be exploited by international competition. In addition, some players had shown a bit of a lack of flexibility with their champion pool, and might prove detrimental against teams that can take advantage of that kind of situation.
There is, however, still a month left before Worlds starts. The meta could still shift towards a different direction and our North American representatives still have time to be able to shore up their weaknesses and be able to be competitive against the best teams in the world. By October, the North American teams might already be the among the best of the best in the world— Cloud9 made it to the Worlds semifinals last year, and Team Liquid made it to the MSI final just last May. The days of North American fans getting disappointed in international tournaments may be well behind all of us.