After nine weeks of regular season play, and a handful of playoff matches, the NA LCS Summer 2018 season has finally concluded. At one side of the stage, Team Liquid, the super-group who looked to make a repeat of their Spring Championship victory. On the other side was Cloud9, a team who experienced a Cinderella like story from last place to the finals. Two teams entered Oracle Arena, but only one would leave a champion.
Wave of miracles
C9 came into the finals off a miraculous run. Many fans, myself included, casted doubt over Cloud9’s ability to even salvage their season, let alone play on the big stage. During the first moments of the split, things seemed to constantly go from bad to worse for the embattled organization. The roster never saw any positive consistency, as players were always being rotated out or, in the case of Andy “Smoothie” Ta, traded to another team. Their luck would eventually change with the introduction of their academy rookies Robert “Blaber” Huang and Tristan “Zeyzal”.
Very quickly the team saw improvement through these new faces and became a team feared by many. Against all odds, the team was able to lead a roster of rookies, outcasts and old veterans to the finals. The only thing standing in C9’s way of a storybook ending was one more win.
Turning into a pumpkin
Sadly their miracle-drawn carriage turned back into a pumpkin in Oakland. The team seemed severely off their game against a Team Liquid that was not about to pull any punches.
In draft, Cloud9 confused ambition with respective caution, being a large part in their undoing. In both Game 1 and 2, C9 allowed Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng to take Kai’Sa, one of the strongest ADC’s in the game. C9’s attempted game plan was to shutdown the MVP by drafting things like Twitch, Hecarim and Malzahar. This plan actually backfired, as it allowed TL to better focus counter strategies for their four remaining roles. Due to so much counter play, C9 was not able to successfully kill Doublelift in the early game, allowing him to take over the later portions as a super strong Kai’Sa.
Another drafting bungle came at the constant frustration of leaving Sion open. Sion can be extremely hard to deal with due to just how much punishment he can absorb. C9’s constant lack of tank killers made it very difficult to punch through the one man army. While this was not the only deciding factor in C9’s loss, this was definitely one that was a massive difference maker.
Eyes in the sky
Team Liquid’s biggest edge in netting them their second championship was their suffocating vision control. Throughout the series, it seemed like they knew precisely where all the C9 members were and what they were doing. This made it twice as hard for Cloud9 to really make plays, as Team Liquid was usually one or two steps ahead.
This effort came off the backs of Jake “Xmithe” Puchero and Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung. The jungle-support duo put on a masterclass at controlling enemy positioning. C9 always seemed to be corralled and struggling to find a way to opening the game. Through this suffocating performance, Team Liquid could basically do what they wanted, and that meant taking the championship.
Looking forward: The Gauntlet
While C9 has, once again, lost out in a finals match, their year is not over yet. Cloud9 has one last shot at qualifying for worlds by winning the NA Regional Qualifiers, better known as the Gauntlet. The Gauntlet has always been C9’s place of power, as they have never been defeated during a run through the treacherous tournament. This year may be the team’s toughest yet, as they sit as the final boss and have tough competition. TSM, Echo Fox and Clutch Gaming form the list of potential suitors for Sunday evening, and each one brings their own unique challenges.
Can C9 snap the competition in the Gauntlet and book their flight to Korea? You’ll have to tune in next time to find out! Until then, keep those eyes on the sky!
Featured Image courtesy of Riot Games. Images courtesy of LoL Esports Flickr