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3 Takeaways for Team Liquid from MSS Round 2

Cloud9 banned Gnar and picked Nidalee and Sylas throughout most drafts.

Team Liquid fell to Cloud9 in the winner’s bracket finals this past weekend, losing the series 1-3. Cloud9 moves on to the Mid Season Showdown finals, where they await the winner between Team Liquid and TSM. They face off this Saturday, April 10, at the Los Angeles Greek Theatre, and the winner continue to the finals the following day. If Team Liquid wants to not only beat TSM, but also stand a chance in the Cloud9 rematch, if they make it, they’re going to need to fix a few things. Here are three Takeaways for Team Liquid from MSS Round 2.

[Related: 3 Takeaways for Team Liquid from Mid Season Showdown Round 1]

Several Power Picks were Problematic for TL

From Game 1, it was apparent Team Liquid and Cloud9 came into the draft with different game plans. Cloud9 targeted Alphari and CoreJJ with several early bans, while early picking top-jungle themselves. Meanwhile, Team Liquid refused to let Tristana or Lucian through. TL predictably picked Hecarim-Seraphine in the first two games, which allowed Blaber to confidently pick Nidalee and take the early game in his hands. The Seraphine hindered CoreJJ in Game 1, while Jensen played it successfully in Game 2. Both games Perkz drafted Sylas, knowing Hecarim and Seraphine ultimates would be on the enemy team.

Cloud9 banned Gnar and picked Nidalee and Sylas throughout most drafts.

Cloud9 banned Gnar and picked Nidalee and Sylas throughout most drafts.

So in Game 3, Cloud9 changed the plan. They banned Seraphine and took the Hecarim themselves first pick, then locked in Jinx-Thresh. C9 rounded out the composition with Ryze-Sion, building a two-carry threat. Then for Game 4, when TL finally let Lucian through the draft, Cloud9 picked up Ashe-Braum to enable him. For the entire series, it truly felt like Cloud9 was a couple steps ahead of Team Liquid, forcing them to play away from their usual early game stomp strategy.

For most of the season, fans would consider Perkz the more flexible mid laner in this matchup, but Jensen has shown much more openness to unique picks over the past few weeks. Similarly, Tactical looked to be a pain point in the mid and late-game decision-making, but that was not a problem in this series. Most of the matches felt like draft differences that played out as expected. Blaber’s Nidalee took the reins of the early game. CoreJJ was playing baby-sitter on Seraphine and Tahm Kench, while Vulcan roamed and initiated on Thresh, Alistar and Rell. C9 targeting Alphari’s Gnar paid off much more than TL’s targeting Tristana.

Santorin had an Unusually Off Series

Part of Santorin’s issue in MSS Round 2 was Blaber drafting Nidalee and playing towards snowballing. But another part involved mechanical misplays and poor decision-making out of the jungler. These issues stood out even more for a couple of reasons. Firstly, Blaber is considered the strongest jungler in the LCS, so allowing him to pull ahead will make his opponent look worse than usual. Secondly, Santorin has historically been one of the most consistent players, so standing out with misplays looks unusually bad on him.

The very first First Blood gave Santorin an opportunity to answer, but he Devastating Charged the wrong opponent. He followed up with a dive on Perkz, but the Sylas Hijacked Onslaught of Shadows to keep it a 1-for-1. In Game 2, Santorin attempted a gank on Sion after he had level six, so Fudge went unstoppable to counter the Devastating Charge.

Cloud9 turned on Team Liquid after taking the Rift Herald in Game 4.
Cloud9 turned on Team Liquid after taking the Rift Herald in Game 4.

Game 3, Santorin pretty much just power-farmed the early game, but his first action was overcommitting to try and kill Vulcan’s Thresh. His next play was overcommitting to killing Zven’s Jinx.

In Game 4, Santorin almost died level one to Sion passive. Later in the match, he turns on a lost skirmish with Alphari to essentially sacrifice himself and let the top laner escape. Around Rift Herald at 16 minutes, Santorin again overcommitted to fighting Cloud9 after they already secured the objective, and baited his team into losing a pretty big fight. Who knows which team member is calling these engages, but Santorin was definitely on the losing end of most of these plays.

Team Liquid is No Longer a Favorite

The biggest and most straight-forward takeaway from MSS Round 2 is that TL is not a favorite to win anymore. Leading into this match-up most probably felt one way or the other about Cloud9 and Team Liquid being better. Some might see it 60-40 either way. However, Cloud9 exposed several weaknesses of Team Liquid that will come back to bite them if they cannot review properly.

On top of that, Team Liquid has to play TSM on Saturday. They will have to balance winning the series with keeping their hand close. If Team Liquid comes out the gate changing several aspects of their game, then Cloud9 gets that knowledge going into the finals. On the other hand, if TSM can take notes from this series and pick up on the draft strategy, then TL might not even make it to the finals.

PowerOfEvil has not shown Tristana, but Spica's Nidalee could make an appearance this weekend.
PowerOfEvil has not shown Tristana, but Spica’s Nidalee could make an appearance this weekend.

TSM has similar players to C9 in the top and support positions, so they could replicate some of these ideas from MSS Round 2. PowerOfEvil and Lost may play slightly different from Perkz, allowing TL to be more comfortable loosening their grip on the Tristana pick, but Spica is one of the best Nidalee players in North America. Watch for TSM and TL to adapt going into the weekend, and then hopefully Liquid gets their rematch versus C9 in the finals.


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