The Cloud9-TSM rivalry has been one of the deepest and exciting rivalries in NA LCS history. Whether it be for a championship or sheer honor, both teams bring out something in the other that pushes the players to their absolute limit. Over the weekend, the two titans clashed once again, this time in the semifinals, to determine who would participate in the upcoming finals in Oakland.
Despite the match not being the final bout, the narratives driving both teams made it feel like a championship battle for the ages. Both teams experienced struggles throughout the season.
For TSM, their story centers around star midlaner, Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg. Bjergsen has participated in many finals and has won several mvp awards. The 2018 season has been his most challenging yet due to the problems created by a retooled roster.
Through this new TSM lineup, Bjergsen once again found himself shouldering the responsibility of team leader. While it is no surprise that TSM would enter playoffs, the prospect of a TSM finals was not guaranteed. If Bjergsen is able to lead his team to victory when they are at their weakest, his legacy will once again be cemented as one of the greats.
From Last to First
If this was a contest of narratives, Cloud9 may have TSM beat. Things looked grim for C9, as they were in last place at one point, seeming to have no clue what direction to take their roster. Luckily, C9 experienced a great resurgence thanks to the addition of rookies Robert “Blaber” Huang and Tristan “Zeyzal” Stidam.
With each win, these two young guns seemed to play better and better. Before too long, C9 became a team to be feared through a combination of raw individual talent and machine like team synergy. Combined with the added layer of a second jungle-mid duo, C9 seemed to have a dominant strategy for any occasion.
The series itself was a story all its own. Each game in the five match series was fraught with dramatic tension as players on both sides pushed themselves to their limit in an attempt to redeem themselves.
While TSM managed to win out against C9 in games 1 and 3, it was not without displaying several struggles. In every game, Cloud9 would gain a heavy turret advantage, forcing TSM to play on the backfoot. TSM’s counter was through their drafting, taking advantage of C9’s low damage compositions. Through some great team fighting (and a lot of Bjergsen being Bjergsen), TSM managed to gain a lead and put things to match point.
Flipping the Script
From a historical standpoint, this is most likely where we would have seen C9 narrowly lose to their bitter rival in another playoff encounter. C9’s Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen would have yet another loss against Bjergsen and cement his legacy as second best.
Luckily, Cloud9 overcame the odds yet again and pushed their ticket to the finals.
Surprisingly, their victory was not on the back of Jensen carrying his team across the finish line. Instead, their big win came through two players seeking their own redemption: Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen and Greyson “Goldenglue” Gilmer. By substituting in their alternate jungle-mid duo at a crucial point, it completely changed how both teams approached the game. Through this competitive edge, C9 was able to draft more favorably and play in a more controlled fashion. C9’s play proved too hot to handle and allowed them to walk away as NA LCS 2018 finalists
While C9 has managed to cross one big challenge off their list, they are not out of the woods yet. Team Liquid made easy work of 100 Thieves in their respective semifinals match. Team Liquid features their own roster of high end talent and looks to make a repeat of their championship victory in spring.
If C9 is to become the champions, they will need to pull out all of the stops. This Sunday, be sure to keep your eyes on the sky.
Featured Image courtesy of Riot Games. Images courtesy of LoL Esports Flickr