April was the month which culminated in the peak of the Spring split. After a long season weeding out the weak, finally, the playoffs arrived. The strongest teams of every region gathered to crown their champions, in one last hurdle before the first chance at international success of the year. Every team sought that opportunity, but only the select few found it. While in some regions the path to MSI was an easy one, in others it was a hard-fought battle.
Follow us on a recap for the weeks that have seen powerhouses like Ryze and Sylas demand respect in the draft phase. Heavily cherished picks like the Lissandra and Braum have had to share the spotlight with the new threat in the form of the Taric/Sona bot lane. As playoffs advanced, the drafts, as well as the mind games, have heavily revolved around creating openings to acquire or to counter those big picks. In this regard, there have been very creative answers across the globe.
Join us as we walk through the list of the best games of the month, have a look at the action provided by some of the contenders for MSI and some of the bodies that were left at the wayside. Did old legends make themselves felt, or was the new blood able to step up to the plate?
If you’d like to view the games without being spoilered, we’ve made a playlist for you to watch. Click here, then come back and read the analysis, and discuss the games!
Now, without further ado, let's get onto the list.
RNG vs JDG (Game 5)
Royal Never Give Up, the reigning champions of both MSI and the LPL, met one of the Four Emerging Generals in JDG, on their path to reclaim the LPL title. Despite JDG coming in as the 8th seed, this was not an easy opponent, as RNG would be pushed to a deciding Game 5 and for the first time since their creation, Royal Never Give Up would not make the LPL Finals. Instead, it was JDG who expertly played around the power of their top laner, Zoom, to emerge victorious in this bloodbath of a five-game quarterfinal.
Fnatic vs Origen (Game 2)
Fnatic, in a massive upswing ever since the second lap for the split started, faced off against an Origen team licking its wounds after being roughed up by eventual champions G2 in the so-called 'Juggernaut match.' OG came out with guns blazing in this set, with only a run back against the samurai in mind.
Check out the second game, in which Origen after a prompt defusing of Fnatic's take on the Taric/Sona strategy, show Fnatic how it's done on the new pairing..
LCS - Team SoloMid vs Cloud9 (Game 3)
The second semifinal of the LCS Spring split had TSM and C9 fighting for a spot in the finals. Even if during the regular season it was C9 who got the better of TSM, playoffs is a totally different beast, where nerves often make players fail to perform to their fullest. It is also in these situations where a career can be made as a clutch player that shines when the pressure is at its highest.
The series started heavily in C9’s favor, as they took the first two games on the back of standout performances by Svenskeren in the jungle. Shell-shocked, TSM didn’t have a lot of chances to turn around games that slipped out of their reach too quickly for them to react. It was looking like the regular season all over again, as Cloud9 dominated their opponents. So with their backs against the wall and their playoffs life on the line, TSM took to the rift to face the difficult task of reverse sweeping the semifinal.
It is in this time of need, when the team turns to their captain and leader, Bjergsen, looking for direction. For that purpose, he locked in Akali, a champion that had slowly been making a return into the meta. His teammates were put on comfort champions trying to stabilize the series but following a classic pattern for TSM this season: a passive bottom lane with Smoothie on his signature Alistar, a carry top in Jayce and maybe most surprisingly Gragas in the jungle.
Watch on as TSM fights for their lives in the game that would become the turning point in the series. A confidence booster for the ranks and a hard-carry performance by Bjergsen.
LCK - SK Telecom T1 vs Kingzone Dragon X (Game 1)
The stage was set for the LCK semifinal after Kingzone quickly disposed of DAMWON in a definitive 3-0. The team waiting for Kingzone was none other than SKT, an all-star team assembled to put the undesired results of 2018 behind and bring the organization back to its former glory days. During the split, these teams had to match up twice with SKT coming out victorious of both sets (4-1 in games).
The teams opened the first match with a fairly standard draft. Only a Vi pick for Cuzz popped out as an anomaly. In the top lane, Khan on Jayce felt the pressure pretty early on, when the level 6 Akali jumped and solo killed him for first blood. After that, she took command of the lane and would always be able to threaten an all-in. Even with Khan being unable to abuse the strong early game of Jayce, SKT were pulling slightly ahead elsewhere and used the map pressure to secure the first dragon.
It was in the next dragon, the second mountain of the game, where SKT fumbled when KZ not only punished a misposition by Khan, but they also stole the drake in a clean smite on Cuzz's part, crucially a level above the enemy Jarvan. The cherry on top was a kill on the Jarvan himself as SKT was retreating. The way the game had been, the third drake could only be a mountain, of course, and KZ was able to smartly secure it without having to fight. With every mountain drake taken, it was time for the teams to shift their eyes to Baron. And it was after a team fight at the 24-minute mark, where miraculously nobody fell, that KZ thought that the health advantage was enough to start the Baron. This wouldn't come for free, as SKT wiped them out in the pit, and almost stole Baron on the way, if not for a clutch smite from TusiN, who used Unsealed Spellbook to secure the Baron on Tahm Kench.
In the next full-blown team fights, Pawn was able to shine on Corki, but it seemed as though he was always a spell or two away from carrying the fights and winning the game for Kingzone. The next Baron would prove to be the downfall of KZ, as TusiN was unable to secure Baron for a second time, instead, it was Teddy who'd steal it away for SKT. And just like the SKT of old, once given a foothold into the game, SKT would cleanly close soon afterwards.
If you love mountain drakes, high-speed Barons, and back and forth late game team fights make sure you don't miss this one.
LPL - FunPlus Pheonix vs Jindong Gaming (Game 5)
Somewhen in between the quarterfinals and semifinals of LPL, Rasmus "Caps" Winther dreamt something seemingly ridiculous. While he was peacefully sleeping, the European MVP saw himself going up against JD Gaming's fellow mid, Zeng "YaGao" Qi at the 2019 Mid Season Invitational.
At the time, nobody thought of JD Gaming as a rightful contender for the LPL trophy. They had already surpassed both WE and Royal Never Give Up in surprising fashion, for sure, but the most demanding part of the journey was still laying ahead of them. Should they somehow defeat the number one seed from the regular season, FPX, in the semifinals, an equally scary opponent in IG would be waiting to beat them down in the last round.
In the end, they were not able to actualise Caps' dream, as we all know today, but they still got the upset against Kim "Doinb" Tae-sang's squad, delivering one of the best games of the month along the way.
After four nail-biting encounters which were not enough to bring a close to the series, everything was still up in the air before the start of game five. The winner would go on to compete for a spot at MSI and the national champions title. The loser, for its part, would be forced to compete for a bittersweet third place.
As soon as the game started, FPX took the lead. JD's jungler, Sung "Flawless" Jeong-jun tried to kill Gao "Tian" Tian-Liang, who was shamelessly invading his blue buff. The situation, however, would end up immensely beneficial for FPX, as they somehow managed to pick up three very welcomed kills.
JDG, however, slowly but surely came back into the game, using his three pressuring lanes to rotate and secure neutral objectives. Once the mid-game came around, they were down in kills but still controlling the game. FPX suddenly started looking dangerous in team fights and, around the 36 and a half minutes mark, it seemed clear that everything would come down to the very last fight, which would take place near the Elder Dragon pit.
Zhag "Zoom" Xing-Ran's Gangplank had not been the highlight of the game at all so far but heading into the late game, it was his time to be a hero. In a tremendously intelligent, must watch play, he decimated his opponents, deciding the game for JD. When the nexus exploded, little did they know they would not even represent a challenge for Invictus Gaming in the finals.
At that moment, they were the impersonation of a miracle run and the happiest men alive. They had just made LPL history, going from 8th place all the way to the finals and they had also gifted us one of the best plays of the year while doing so.
LCS - Team Liquid vs Team SoloMid (Game 5)
The new and old kings of North America went up against each other in the LCS final in St. Louis. A lot was at stake in the best of five series between TeamLiquid and Team SoloMid. The day before, team owners Steve "LiQuiD112" Arhancet and Andy "Reginald" Dinh had agreed that the losing team owner would have to hand in $100,000 to the winner. Additionally, either Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng or Søren "Bjergsen" Bjerg would go to sleep knowing that they would be the first player ever to lift six regional championships trophies.
TSM looked dominant throughout the first two games, with rookie top laner Sergen "BrokenBlade" Çelik performing a level above Jung "Impact" Eon-yeong up in the top-lane. A quick 2-0 start seemed to mean victory for Bjergsen and co. but Team Liquid did not allow themselves to hesitate. With similar dominance, they came ahead in the next couple of games, taking the series to a deciding game five in the Chaifetz Arena.
For the occasion, TL drafted a very strong five-versus-five composition, with the likes of Kai'Sa and Vladimir ready to take over team-fights if the opportunity arose. TSM, however, managed to pull ahead in the early game. It seemed as if Team Liquid's dominance of NA was coming to an end and that Jensen would once again fall agonizingly short of achieving his goal of winning an LCS title.
Liquid were up against the wall, not knowing what to do in order to deny their rivals from taking over the game completely. In the end, it was a complete brain fade from Zven at Baron which brought them back into the game, and once they had that foothold, they were determined to win.
Some minutes later, as TL marched on to the nexus, neither Zven nor his teammates could believe what was happening. The comeback had been completed, Doublelift was now alone at the pinnacle of the LCS and Jensen had achieved his first ever LCS trophy. With three consecutive titles now under their belt, Team Liquid had demonstrated that, if there was any team capable of bringing back international success, it certainly had to be them. Their appearance at MSI is right around the corner but, for now, watching this legendary game five should be enough to inspire hope into NA fans' hearts.
LEC - G2 Esports vs Origen (Game 2/3)
This series all but confirmed that G2 were by far the best roster Europe had ever seen. Coming into the series, Origen fans were expecting to at least enjoy a closer affair than in their previous encounter against Carlos "Ocelote" Rodríguez's boys. After having defeated Fnatic the day before, Origen had proven that they were deserving of the chance to challenge G2 once again.
The series, however, would not be hardly fought nor would it leave room for excitement. The only feeling anybody watching could experience as the games rolled on was that of complete bewilderment. It did not matter what the conditions were, G2 could play anything they wanted and still take the game, or at least that was the impression they gave. After a somewhat contested map one win in which G2 had managed to take advantage of their Sona and Taric picks for the bot-lane, they switched roles for the second game of the series.
This time, Origen had made sure to obtain the popular bot-lane combo for themselves, forcing G2 to look for some way to counter it. Caps and company, however, had it all under control. They hovered Pyke as their last pick and, a few moments later, they picked it. They had three possible different supports and, apparently, no jungler. Among all the confusion, shoutcaster Andy "Vedius" Day was the first to realize what was happening: "Wait, that is a smile on Perkz. I think they may be doing a funnel, ladies and gentlemen."
"What? How is that going to work with this comp?" answered colleague Trevor "Quickshot" Henry in awe. Well, it definitely did. In one of the funniest games in the history of LoL esports, G2 decimated their opponents with a strategy that had apparently been outdated many months ago.
Heading into the last game, there was no hope left for Origen. This sentiment materialized on the Summoners Rift as well. This time, there were no tricky compositions, but rather a good old Neeko for Luka "Perkz" Perkovic in the AD Carry role accompanied by an aggressive pick in Jayce for the prodigy itself, Caps in the mid lane.
The game started with a one-for-one trade in the bot-lane, but it was not too long until a minute 5 gank from Origen ended up in two kills for their opponents, who were quick to channel their teleport in response. From that point on, the game went south for Alfonso "Mithy" Aguirre's guys.
In fact, they were not able to even try to reach mid-game. G2 closed out the series in an astonishing 18:31 minutes which marked the fastest game ever in the history of EU LCS. That day, G2 would lift the trophy after putting up one of the most one-sided performances the world of competitive League of Legends has ever witnessed.
Fans from other regions definitely have to keep an eye on this bunch of beasts. They are no more a 'risky experiment', as many analysts thought at the beginning of the season. Now, they stand as the team with the most potential the old continent has produced since the game exists. Taiwan, thus, will act as the proving ground for a roster that is already seeking world domination.