The 2018 Summer Split of the North American League of Legends Championship Series was nine weeks of improbability. But this weekend’s semifinal matches played out more or less as expected, despite some dramatic lineup changes in both series.
Cloud9 (C9) vs. Team SoloMid (TSM)
C9 kept its incinerating hot streak alive this weekend, beating TSM, 3-2, in a nail-biting five-game series.
The first two games were not particularly close. In Game 1, TSM ran away with a lead gained by the jungling of Jonathan “Grig” Armao and ended with five dragons, one Baron and one Elder Dragon. C9 bounced back in Game 2 for a clean win.
The third game of the series was the closest of the five. C9 kicked it off by first picking Leona for Tristan “Zeyzal” Stidam. The pick didn’t seem to be worth the priority, as C9 got none of the in-lane kills that the champion is known for.
Control of the game changed hands multiple times. But just as C9 was pulling ahead, jungler Robert “Blaber” Huang was caught without vision and fell victim to the enclosing enemy team.
With the threat of an enemy smite removed, TSM zeroed in on Baron. TSM ADC Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen held a score of 8/2/4 and was dealing massive damage in every fight as Swain. It was impossible for C9 to neutralize TSM’s late-game threats before it mowed down the entire team, giving TSM a 2-1 lead in the series.
At match point, C9 subbed out its starting mid-jungle duo, Huang and Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen, for Academy players Greyson “Goldenglue” Gilmer and Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen.
On paper, calling on your Academy players on the verge of elimination in the NA LCS Semifinals is a bold move, but coach Bok “Reapered” Han-gyu clearly believes in his players, having used them in key matches during the regular season.
Game 4 began with a pick on TSM’s support and a free dragon for C9. Abusing its lead, C9 choked TSM’s vision out of the red side jungle.
Catches by Gilmer’s Malzahar and Eric “Licorice” Ritchie’s Ornn led to an easy Baron for C9. In two final sieges, C9 flooded the enemy base with super minions and tied up the series.
With “Silver Scrapes” ringing through the studio, the teams advanced to a sudden death match. Once again, C9 outpushed TSM, placing deep wards as it took down four turrets to TSM’s zero at 20 minutes.
As the gold difference climbed, TSM’s chance at the final suddenly disappeared. With a blink-and-you-missed-it Malzahar flash-ult from Gilmer onto Svenningsen, C9 broke the game open and rolled over the last teamfight of the series.
Gilmer, a player who has been known to choke on stage in the past, finally proved that he can succeed under pressure. Ritchie, who joined the NA LCS just this year, won “Player of the Series” in his first semifinals match. The former has managed to redefine his legacy while the latter is just getting started.
C9 will go to the final match for the first time in four long years, and the formerly last place team could blaze its way to the ultimate miracle run.
Team Liquid vs. 100 Thieves
In this Spring Finals rematch, TL left 100T in the dust once again, 3-1.
To the surprise of many fans, 100T decided to sub out Cody “Cody Sun” Sun, the team’s starting ADC who has struggled against TL’s star ADC Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng in the past, in favor of of Academy ADC Richard “Rikara” Samuel Oh, who had never played in an NA LCS game before.
100 Thieves briefly broke its curse in Game 1, defeating TL for the first time since January of 2018. 100T jungler Andy “AnDa” Hoang racked up marks on Kindred, applying pressure mostly on the top half of the map and securing an early Baron, something that previous 100T jungler William “Meteos” Hartman failed to do in the Spring Finals.
Skirmishes went further and further in the way of 100T, and a three-man flash-pulverize from Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black led to another Baron buff and a successful fight for Elder Dragon, clearing the path to TL’s base.
In Game 2, the two teams remained neck and neck for more than 25 minutes. The slowness of the game allowed Peng to farm up, and he gained a significant advantage over Oh.
After four dragons, TL’s creeping lead became too much. With Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung’s Tahm Kench protecting Peng, 100T couldn’t stand up to TL in a single fight beyond 30 minutes.
100T didn’t hold out for long in Game 3. Joo-sung on Thresh was king of the early game, hooking enemies left and right to secure kills and enable his team’s jungle plays.
Although 100T top laner Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho was nearly unstoppable on Dr. Mundo, every one of 100T’s DPS threats was behind, and there was no way for them to get back into the game.
At this point, one would consider 100T’s lineup experiment a failure. Oh was unable to show any impact in the first three games, including the Game 1 victory. Nevertheless, coach Neil “pr0lly” Hammad continued to play Oh, as Sun had been told to watch the game from home.
Game 4 ended up being more of the same. 100T’s bot lane and mid lane fell behind early, giving TL freedom to push out and farm.
TL snuck a Baron uncontested while 100T had no vision, then surged down the middle and bottom lanes to take turrets and several kills. One last Thresh hook in the mid lane sealed 100T’s fate and stamped TL’s ticket to the finals event.
Peng won Player of the Series for this matchup, as he consistently overpowered his lane opponent and dealt an average of more than 30 percent of his team’s damage.
100T fans can’t help but wonder: why sub out starting ADC Sun for Oh? The organization has been tight-lipped about the decision, with only Sun himself confirming that he did not have a personal reason for sitting out of the semifinal.
Win or lose in the final match, TL is now locked in for the World Championship for the first time ever. Defending its 2018 Spring NA LCS championship title would be the icing on the cake.