Introduction: “This is where we make history.”
The elevators in TD Garden proudly proclaim, “This is where we make history,” with a Boston Bruins player, Boston’s storied hockey team, displayed. The NA LCS Finals, regardless of the actual results, was just that. Immortals, the first non-C9/TSM/CLG team to make it to the NA LCS Finals since Good Game University. Team SoloMid, the undisputed fan favorites, poised to make history with the first three-peat [edited: Thank you ProArsonist93] in NA LCS history, that would permanently place them as legends. There was no way that fans would be disappointed with either team winning.
With the pre-show done, the teams were brought in. To the excitement of music fans, and Boston locals too, “Shipping up to Boston” by Dropkick Murphys was the pump up song of choice. The crowd went wild, and many followed along.
Immortals are called first, the new kids on the block, hoping to upset the favorites in TSM and secure themselves a spot at the elite club of NA LCS winners. A mixture of faces new and old, with the legendary Lee “Flame” Ho-jong in the top lane, the longest tenured jungler in NA LCS Jake “Xmithie” Puchero, the 200 IQ Eugene “Pobelter” Park, their ADC who really likes his own name Cody “Cody Sun” Sun, and the NA LCS All Pro Team Support in Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung.
Then it’s TSM’s turn to take to the stage, the obvious fan favorites, as they walk with confidence to a stage they’ve always found their way to, the NA LCS Finals. The all American top laner of Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell, the Dane in the jungle, Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen, ace and MVP for the Summer Split Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg, the trash talking Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng flanked by his lane-mate and eventual MVP of the series, Vincent “Biofrost” Wang.
Game 1 to 3: Ask me about my macro boys
Game one is, in a lot of ways, a testament to many about how the series will go. It can tilt players and entire teams, it can give confidence, or it can mean barely anything at all. The one theme for the rest of the series was the heavy showing of macro play from both teams, and this was on display throughout the series. When TSM made one great macro move, Immortals matched them in kind. Ultimately, Immortals’ draft lost them the game, as they had no damage to close things out, and TSM executed their win conditions exceptionally. The first game goes to TSM, and the excitement of the fans echoes throughout the stadium.
Immortals, undaunted, go into game two with a bold direction: Kill the Bjerg. The total bans reach seven towards mid lane, five of which came directly from the Immortals side. For Doublelift and Biofrost, the Xayah and Rakan are the big takeaways from the draft phase. At the 15 minute mark in the game, both squads are even, but ultimately the ‘keep Bjergsen down’ strat works.
Overall, Immortals controls the tempo, with a tower advantage and a decisive Baron take. With the score evened out, Immortals eventually swing the game in their favor and close the game out off of not just strong macro play, but also understanding and reading the team fights well. Bjergsen wasn’t able to do what he wanted to do on Kassadin, which is scale and then jump on a target. By keeping TSM’s ace down they even up the score 1-1.
Game three brings in a mix up in ADCs for Cody Sun, rocking the Jinx; the game goes a whole 13 minutes before even a single kill is had. Immortals look to be in control of things, but never cementing a lead too crazily. But all it takes is one misstep, Cody Sun being evaporated by Bjergsen’s Oriana, or TSM to bring the fumbling Immortals down around the Elder Dragon. The unchecked Cho’Gath from Hauntzer, and Bjergsen’s strong Oriana, lead to Immortals’ Nexus falling. The pressure is on, as TSM stand at match point.
The series was, from this point on, basically two things: Immortals looking great in the early half of the game, and TSM pulling off the insane comebacks again and again. Immortals looked in control in the macro points of the early game, making the right moves to get ahead. However, TSM executed something important for Worlds: knowing exactly how to play when behind and how to take the fights to come back.
Game Four: The game that history won’t forget
Game four is one of the most insane games I’ve ever seen. I have to confess, half way through, I forgot to keep taking notes, so I had to review the VOD afterward to make sure I had remembered it right. For the first twenty minutes of that historic game, the map, and by all rights the victory itself, belonged to Immortals. They were 7-0, they had taken Baron practically as it spawned, and then proceeded to destroy an inhib moments after. It was all but locked up, we were going to game five… Right?
I have never been so wrong. TSM pulled off the impossible, they took a team fight from being massively behind. Biofrost, with the heroic play on Rakan, got the perfect engagement, and without any hint of hesitation, TSM jumps onto Immortals like a pack of wolves. It’s a slaughter, and TSM handily win the team fight. And then they took the next one. And the next one. Immortals went from being in the drivers seat to trying to look like a team with the advantage. TSM, fueled by the chants and energy of the crowd, kept pushing, kept pummeling. TSM somehow managed to overcome a massive disadvantage, making attack after attack in a tense tactical battle.
I managed to ask Biofrost what was going through his mind during the fated Rakan engage at the post game press conference. “Those engage timings, I didn’t really think about, ‘if I mess this up we’re going to lose the game,’… If I don’t do this right now, then we lose anyways, and this is the only shot we have. If I do, then we’re going to come back.”
As the final fight begins, the silence and tension of the crowd leading up to it is gone. Instead, the stadium practically shakes, as TSM do what seemed impossible merely minutes prior: win the game when they hadn’t even managed to get on the board with kills. The crowd, and even the relatively more modest and quiet press area is a clamor of cheers and roars. While the Immortal fans, or even those who just root for the underdogs, were crushed, the winning-est team in NA LCS history walks once again to their trophy. And they looked good doing it too.
So what now?: A new NA or the same old narrative?
TSM, the obvious victors of the night, have a lot to look forward to as they march onward to Worlds. The team looked tight, with clean macro play and a kind of trust that will go a long way. They fought when they could win the fight, even when behind 10K. Not only did they play smart, but methodical too. They looked, in a lot of ways, like a team that could be a real contender to make a decent run in Worlds.
But we say that every year. TSM, in the press conference, mentioned their hopes going forward into Worlds that they could shake that curse. Doublelift stated that Worlds last year, they went in overconfident, feeling like they already were a top four team. They weren’t. This year, they plan to go in humble and let their play speak for itself.
For Immortals, it’s a bitter pill to swallow. Game four was heartbreaking, and while TSM made the insane comeback a reality, it’ll be in the back of their minds that they managed to lose a game where they were up 10K with one inhib down by 20 minutes.
But Immortals should still walk away with their heads held high. They looked strong throughout the series, and had some insane early game, with their macro play keeping them going toe to toe with TSM. That’s nothing to scoff at, too, for a team to reach Finals in any event. Many fans and pundits agree that TSM and Immortals look like the strongest teams NA could’ve sent. And their meeting had to be a titanic affair.
While the CLG vs. Dignitas game looked like a hyper aggressive, non stop action fest, TSM vs. Immortals turned out to be more like a chess game. Macro play was king, and ultimately both teams seemed to have answers to the other team’s plan. Execution of win conditions was the deciding factor in these games. With both teams guaranteed Worlds spots, the results only having implications for seeding, it was a pride match. But it wasn’t just for pride, or for who got to hang their banner amongst the teams who have won the NA LCS. It was to instill hope into NA fans. To show fans they are ready to face every League of Legends teams’ toughest challenge: showing up at international events.
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