Every game of League of Legends is vastly different. While games feel similar, no two games are exactly alike. The differences of each game become even more noticeable when it comes to pro play. The only thing that does happen in every match is the small play that ends up changing the course of the entire game. There is always one moment where people can see the tides turning, and the scale tipping irreversibly in one team’s favor.
In Week 5, Cloud9 was the unfortunate recipient of two heartbreaking losses. Both games had Cloud9 create an advantage early on, only to have it all slip away right through their fingers. TSM and TL found that one small play that got them back into the match. They both found the one opportunity to capitalize on a Cloud9 mistake and proceeded to snowball the game to victory. Here’s where it all went wrong for Cloud9 this last weekend.
The Play Where Team Liquid Took Over
As TL and C9 faced off in Week 5, there were plenty of viewers thinking this would easily go in Cloud9’s favor. C9 easily has been the best team in the league, while TL has struggled to keep up consistent play through the Spring Split. The one thing Team Liquid does do well is find a way to beat Cloud9. The first time these two teams met in the regular season, they duked it out in a tightly contested game that eventually went the way of TL.
Overall, the matchup between these two teams is incredibly even, with both teams having different advantages across the lanes. Most of the time the focus is put on the top side with Alphari and the mid lane with Perkz. As luck would have it, these two would be a part of the play that eventually decided the game.
Here’s the situation – Cloud9 is up 4 to 1 in kills with a 2k gold lead right around the 25 minute mark. There are three minutes until the next dragon, and both teams are postering around Baron wit the exception of Alphari and Perkz pushing out the bot lane. Both players have TP, but Perkz does small gold lead ahead of TL’s Gnar. All Perkz needs to do is push the wave and look for a TP if a full fight does break out. Instead, Perkz takes Gromp while Alphari chases him down in order to check for a potential Teleport play. All Perkz needs to do simply survive so that he can help the team in a moments notice. Sadly Perkz’s hubris gets the best of him and attempts to fight Alphari.
Perkz Underestimates Alphari
While Perkz did have a gold lead, Alphari is still a two item Gnar with a full Mega-Gnar bar. It’s an easy 1v1 for the tanky top laner once Azir decides to stay and battle. The moment Perkz dies in this lane, any advantage Cloud9 had in the game disappeared. As TL notices their man advantage, they sprint straight to Baron to force Cloud9 to follow or even team fight down a member. Team Liquid kills three members of Cloud9 when all is said and done at the Baron fight. They don’t mind not even grabbing the Baron buff, because the damage had been done.
From the 28 minute mark on, Cloud9 must play incredibly passive. They know they lost every advantage they had, and are playing like a team behind just trying to find any gold they can. Cloud9 is too scared to take a team fight because they know they lose any engagement that isn’t prepared with Caitlyn traps. C9 looks to continue their split pushing strategy, except they send Gangplank instead of Azir to follow Alphari’s Gnar. They do try and sneak a Baron after seeing Jensen in the bot lane, but the sheer existence of Gnar forces the team off of the objective. Team Liquid just has a complete stranglehold on every main objective.
As the time comes to fight for Baron once again, it’s another side lane death that secures the game for TL. Alphari is able to solo-kill Fudge and teleport back to his team in order to clean up the fight. The Baron-buffed TL roster finishes out the game with one last pick onto Perkz. In a match this close between two great teams, it makes sense that a death that seems so insignificant could completely change the trajectory of the game.
A Six Million Dollar Play
If someone had just watched the first ten minutes of the Cloud9 vs TSM match in Week 5, they would be convinced there was no way Cloud9 could possibly lose with that type of lead. Blaber and company put TSM behind with a massive three thousand gold lead at 10 minutes. Spica was a full two levels behind Blaber, and Cloud9 was cruising to an easy victory as long as they continued pressuring TSM everywhere. After knocking down the bottom first-tier tower, Zven and Vulcan set their sights onto the top lane.
As Cloud9 worked to shove down the first outer turret in the top lane, TSM knew they had to make some sort of play. Swordart knew that if he could force out the Black Shield from Vulcan, TSM would have a shot at taking down the C9 carry. Meanwhile Vulcan is thinking that he can potentially get both players out alive if he protects himself. When Swordart sends out his anchor, he creates the momentum for Team SoloMid to steal this game away from Cloud9.
TSM goes on to win this engagement coming out with three kills to Cloud9’s two. Both Huni and POE receive bounty gold from kills, and both Perkz and Fudge burn their Teleport just to die.
With the majority of the gold going to Huni on the Renekton, Cloud9 once again loses any shot at a successful team fight. At the time of the fight, Huni was already out farming Fudge and looking to continue to be that rock that TSM would build their comeback off of. The double kill for Renekton puts him incredibly far ahead of Gnar, and now Gnar can no longer even attempt to try and face him in the side lane. In fact, both Spica and Huni hunt down Fudge for the remainder of the game in order to keep him underleveled and underfarmed. Without any front line for C9, they were relegated to a poke and pick type of team.
Was it the Right Black Shield?
When Vulcan uses the Black Shield on himself, he creates an opportunity for TSM to fully engage onto this skirmish. Once the shield is cast, Caitlyn becomes a perfect target for the Nautilus ultimate. Then as Cait is CC’d, Kai’sa now has the ability to catch up after .90 Caliber net. This fight causes both teams to use two teleports in order to help out their respective bot laners. Because Cloud9 actually loses this engagement, they toss away their massive gold lead as well as any momentum they had building up to this moment.
It’s tough to say things would have been different if Vulcan protects Zven instead of himself, but it is worth seeing what could have been the other option. If Vulcan is the only one that dies there, it would mean there would have been less gold to go to other members of TSM. For example if Morgana is the only fatality for Cloud9, there is a lot less for either team to gain from sending more bodies to the top lane. Maybe Morgana dies and Caitlyn lives to farm under the turret for a moment. Either way, Cloud9 will certainly be taking a long look at how this play – and this past weekend – could have gone differently.
Featured image courtesy of Riot Games
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