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Team SoloMid: Nothing Less Than Being The Best
Cloud9: The Phoenix Rises
Versus: Head-to-Head and Predictions
There’s never been a team quite as dominant as the Team SoloMid Summer 2016 roster. This isn’t hyperbole; this is just fact. After Immortals’ 17-1 regular season performance in the Spring split, TSM one-upped them with their own 17-1 record, this time in a Bo3 format. Perhaps most importantly, their game record against the other playoffs teams was an astonishing 20 wins and two losses.
Unlike Immortals, TSM managed to back up their regular season performance with a dismantling of reigning champions, CLG. Their roster makes up four-fifths of the NA LCS All Star team and they have the rookie and MVP of the split titles in their trophy cabinet. All that’s missing for this all-conquering roster is an NA LCS Summer Final win.
At the start of the year, Biofrost was a little known Challenger support main. Playing in the LCS was just a dream, let alone playing on the biggest team in North America alongside the best AD Carry in North America. He watched the bigger name European star, Yellowstar, falter alongside Doublelift in a pairing that never quite clicked, all the while, biding his time in the Challenger scene.
When it became clear that TSM and Yellowstar would part ways; bigger names than his were brought up for his replacement. There was the everlasting shadow of former KT Rolster support Picaboo hanging over the support tryouts, former G2 support, Hybrid, and another former KT Rolster support, Ignar. To everyone’s surprise, TSM decided to pick up Biofrost, and the rest was, as they say, history.
Many doubted whether Doublelift would ever build up a synergy like the one he had with Aphromoo, but his pairing with Biofrost has removed all of those doubts. Whether it be tanks or mages, on the front foot or the back, he’s been the perfect support both for Doublelift and for the whole of TSM.
This will be the first time Biofrost plays in front of a massive capacity crowd at Air Canada Centre, and while he performed in the semifinals, whether he can do the same on a much bigger stage is yet to be seen.
Ever since he came to the NA LCS, Bjergsen has been the undisputed king of the mid lane. Slowly but surely, his rivals began to climb the summit towards challenging him, and the Spring split was arguably the most competitive in terms of mid laners. North American stalwart, Pobelter, was relishing his position on Immortals and fellow Dane, Jensen, had begun to flourish after a great Worlds performance.
Bjergsen was still the best mind you, but he certainly wasn’t unchallenged. There was always the question of whether Bjergsen had another gear that could be unlocked if he was relieved of his duties as the main shot caller on TSM. Unfortunately, Yellowstar was not the answer to TSM’s shot calling woes, and instead, it was Doublelift, long maligned as an all brawn no brain player, who took on the burden of the main shot caller.
Finally, Bjergsen would be able to focus on his gameplay, and we saw that next gear in his play. His incredibly strong laning remains a key point, but he’s also improved his team fighting to become a well-rounded player who leads his team in all facets of the game. This might just be the prime of Bjergsen’s career as he looks to compliment his third NA LCS MVP with a record third NA LCS championship.
Nothing Less Than Being The Best!
TSM and their fans have never accepted mediocrity. They’ve always wanted to not only be the best NA LCS team but also finally be the first NA LCS team to lift the Summoner's Cup. After several roster changes, they might be North America’s best chance yet. But before that, they have to carve their names into the NA LCS title to enter Worlds as the undisputed best team in North America. An old enemy awaits them, but nothing will stop TSM on their date with destiny.
After two years and four straight finals, the NA LCS Final would not feature Team SoloMid and Cloud9. It was the end of an era as Hai retired at the end of the Spring split in 2015. For the next year, Cloud9 would be noticeable absentees as TSM traded blows with CLG in what looked to be the new clash of NA LCS titans.
Cloud9 waited patiently, biding their time and slowly rebuilt their roster. They first brought in Jensen and after trialing former Team Impulse jungler, Rush, they brought back a refreshed Meteos. They completed the new roster with veteran top laner, Impact, and former Team Liquid support, Smoothie. That left Sneaky as the only member of Cloud9 to play in every single split of their LCS history. It was also the roster that would return them to their former glory. Cloud9 is back in the NA LCS Final, and they're up against their old enemy, Team SoloMid.
Top Lane - Who's Island Is This?
Both Hauntzer and Impact play a similar style. Both of them play a variety of meta champions, don't take many resources, and don't get much jungle pressure. If this were the regular season, it would be easy to give this matchup to Hauntzer, but Impact's incredible performance against Huni has him catapulting back into contention.
But even with Impact coming off of the series of his life, I still have to give it to Hauntzer. Not only has he been the more consistent top laner, but he's not going to be coming at Impact in the same manner as Huni. Impact might have been able to soak up the pressure of Huni and Reignover in the semifinal, but TSM won't be sending any pressure top. This is going to be a farm lane, and the real difference will come in the team fights, which is where both TSM and Hauntzer have succeeded.
Jungle - Under Pressure
Svenskeren's long been pointed to as the single weak link left on an incredible TSM roster. It's not completely unfair criticism, either. TSM's only series loss in the regular season came to a fired up Pheonix1 who's jungler, Inori, got up in Sven's face, and Sven floundered.
Neither of these junglers enjoys being pressured. Meteos was the original NA LCS farm jungler, while Sven was the aggressive perma-invading European jungler. Both of them have had to tone down the play that they debuted with, primarily playing Rek'sai and Gragas. Sven might have given up his infamous Lee Sin, but he still has his often banned Nidalee which is a champion Meteos doesn't play. It's a champion that can constantly invade the enemy jungle and put a wrench in the works for Meteos and Cloud9. Again, it's a close matchup, but once again I have to give the nod to Svenskeren.
Mid Lane - The Clash of the Danes
When Jensen first came to the NA LCS, his matchup against Bjergsen was pointed to as a must-see and even though Jensen didn't have the same debut season as Bjergsen he eventually reached the heights that he was famed for.
The start of the Summer split was the Jensen Show. It was seemingly impossible to hit Jensen with a skill shot as he dominated mid laner after mid laner with his mechanical prowess. Gradually, however, teams began to pick on the little mistakes he made. It appeared as though he was a little too easy to gank and teams took that opportunity. Sure, he managed to make it out of most of the ganks, but eventually some stuck and that led to some problems for Cloud9. Jensen reminds me of a young Bjergsen. He's a little brash, aggressive and always trusts in his mechanical ability to get him out of sticky situations. That results in some new episodes of the Jensen Show like his performance against Team EnVyUs where he racked up 20 kills on Leblanc but can also lead to his downfall.
This year Bjergsen has matured into the player he was destined to become. No longer the primary shot caller on TSM, he's had the time to refine his play towards a state of near perfection. His laning, skirmishing, and team fighting are all exemplary, and he leads all mid layers with a 7.1 KDA. In nearly every statistic he either leads or is in the top 3, and he does all of this with the second lowest gold share of all mid laners. This is Bjergsen like you've never seen him before. He's a lean, mean, fighting machine and despite Jensen's abilities, he's no match for the best mid laner in North America.
AD Carry - Are You A Laner Or A Team Fighter?
Doublelift and Sneaky have both taken turns at being the best AD Carry in North America, and they come into this final as the top two AD Carries in the region. Doublelift has always considered himself the best laning ADC in North America, while Sneaky -- his Lucian performance against Samsung Blue excluded -- has always been seen as more of a team fighting ADC.
Sneaky was the original Jhin player and a well renowned Ashe player, whereas Doublelift has favored more damage oriented carries like Lucian and Sivir. Doublelift has only played one game of Jhin and four games of Ashe while Sneaky has played Ashe and Jhin a total of 28 times. With standard lanes prevalent, Doublelift has the edge there while if Sneaky gets one of his favored champions, he'll be a threat in the team fights.
Support - Let Me Tell You About My Lord and Saviour, Bard.
Biofrost has had one of the most incredible rookie splits in North American history as he paired with Doublelift to make the most fearsome bot lane in the league. Smoothie spent the beginning of the split sharing time with Bunny FuFuu, but he eventually secured the starter spot and tried to grow a synergy with Sneaky.
Both these players are incredible Bard players. Biofrost is undefeated with eight wins and zero losses, while Smoothie has only dropped one game in seven games. Biofrost has shown a higher proficiency on the other meta supports, however. He has an 83.3% win rate in 18 games on Karma, while Smoothie has a much more pedestrian 37.5% win rate in eight games. Both Biofrost and Smoothie are new to the big stage, though, and it will be interesting to see how both fair.
Honestly, it's going to be hard for Cloud9 to pull off an upset against TSM. TSM have slight leads in every position, but at their best Cloud9's players can match them. An even bigger concern for Cloud9 is that even outside of their matchups as players, they are also a weaker macro team.
If Cloud9 have any chance of winning it'll be with Sneaky on either Ashe or Jhin and Jensen on Taliyah or Syndra. These champs will let them create picks and try and drag TSM into small skirmishes. If they let TSM just play the map, however, they will have next to no chance. My prediction is a 3-0 for TSM. It might seem harsh, but there's a reason TSM have been so dominant this split, and I'm going to back them to lift the NA LCS trophy for a record fourth time.
Cloud9’s postseason success comes as a bit of a surprise. After a wavering performance against EnVyUs, the team struck back in a big way taking down Immortals. Over the course of 2 weeks we’ve seen performances that have far exceeded expectations and with a daunting match against TSM this weekend such improvements are the base of any chance the team has at pulling off another miracle upset.
The Return of SKT T1 K Impact
Despite spending two years in NA, Impact has been rather inconspicuous. While his synergy with Rush on Team Impulse was something to behold he failed to create that same bond with Moon or Meteos and was mostly relied on as a pillar of stability rather than a playmaking star. However, with his matchup against Huni and Reignover, he showed the skill that earned him a world championship title.
Despite all the camping by Reignover and every attempt to get Huni snowballing, Impact remained an immovable object in the top lane with strong performances on Gangplank that would carry him past Huni’s Riven in game 2. However, it was his performance on Gnar that was the real show stopper crushing Huni in the counter matchup even when Reignover was present for the ganks. It was so shocking that it forced a ban towards the pick at which point Impact switched to Ekko and still went about crushing Huni in lane.
After several splits of mediocrity, Impact has finally awoken from his slumber, and the results so far have been incredible. Whether he can continue the form shown in the semifinal is another question entirely.
By the Book
The other major strength of C9 in playoffs has been their ability to read their opponent's moves and counter them with their own. While Impact was soaking pressure in the top lane, Meteos was able to get his bot lane ahead with constant tower dives. Playing around their bot lane has allowed Sneaky to take over and become the shining carry in their team fights.
What they struggled with is the textbook problems of Cloud9 this split; once in an all-out fight they often come out short against top teams. Their response to this was running pick comps for most of the game with champions like Ashe and Syndra. They relied on these long range stuns to be able to quickly burst out high-value carries they found out of position. When it worked it worked, incredibly well but in even skirmishes, Cloud9 would often come up short. If the team wants to win the finals, they need to fix this weakness because TSM looks untouchable in terms of both skirmishing and all-out team fighting.
Cloud9 is coming in as the underdogs, and their journey to the top has been far from flawless. Still with their individual skill they have what it takes to put a dent in TSM’s playoff run and if they can step up their skirmishing and team fighting they can win the whole thing. Their destiny is in their hands and with a win meaning much more for them than to TSM in terms of qualifying for worlds it's clear that Cloud9 is going to come out swinging.