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TL vs. CLG: A Deep Dive Into What Went Wrong

Team Liquid and CLG draft from Spring Split Week 5.

Team Liquid actually lost to CLG in their Week 5 matchup of 2021 Spring Split. This loss continues TL’s trend of decimating some teams throughout the standings, then losing in a head-scratcher. CLG came into Week 5 tied for ninth with Golden Guardians with a 2-10 record. Leading up to the face-off, CLG beat Immortals and lost to FlyQuest, while Team Liquid beat Golden Guardians and Cloud9. All signs pointed towards TL handily taking this match, so what went wrong?

TL vs. CLG — The Draft

Team Liquid and CLG draft from Spring Split Week 5.

Team Liquid and CLG draft from Spring Split Week 5.

Looking at the draft, the first thing that stands out is Team Liquid’s comfort picks. Gangplank-Hecarim-Syndra-Tristana-Nautilus looks like the perfect composition for TL’s playstyle. Meanwhile, CLG’s draft included Cho’Gath, Lucian and Xayah.

Cho’Gath has not seen much gameplay globally in Spring Split, but FlyQuest actually beat CLG with Cho’Gath into Gangplank top back in Week 2. While Lucian is a strong champion in-and-of-himself, Pobelter had a miserable game on him just one day prior to this matchup. Xayah has proven to be the sixth most popular bot lane champion, with a 27 percent win rate prior to this match.

Team Liquid’s composition looks like it scales harder, but CLG does have quite a bit of scaling also. The Nautilus-Hecarim-Tristana brings quite a bit of guaranteed engage and escape, while CLG’s focused a bit more on peeling and zone control. Gangplank brings the only global presence and more split pressure, but Cho’Gath brings more to a teamfight and objective secure. Based on player strengths, team strengths, power rankings, win rates and everything else, Team Liquid should have won this game.

The Early Game

While TL and CLG have two of the strongest early games in the LCS, Liquid had the upper hand in this one. Tacticore engaged onto Wildturtle and Smoothie to come away with First Blood. Wildturtle wasted Exhaust on CoreJJ instead of Tactical and this was the first time CLG gave away First Blood in Spring Split.

Meanwhile, Alphari quickly gained a 20 cs lead by seven minutes and Jensen held his own in the mid lane. Broxah gained a small farm lead in the jungle, but TL’s bot priority granted an uncontested Infernal Drake. Broxah tried to make a play on Tactical, but Tristana’s Rocket Jump, Flash and Cleanse allowed him to escape.

CLG struck again in the river near mid lane, with Broxah trading ultimates with Santorin. CoreJJ tries to re-initiate, but Smoothie hooked onto Jensen and locked him down long enough for Pobelter to get the kill. Alphari unfortunately Teleported behind CLG to join the fight, but ends up dying for free. Despite the lost fight, TL still secured Cloud Drake. At 15 minutes, TL had a 1,000 gold lead.

Broxah and Pobelter cleaned up a fight near Ocean Drake.
Broxah and Pobelter cleaned up a fight near Ocean Drake.

The Crescendo

The game entered a lull state for the next several minutes, with both teams farming waves and trading turrets. CLG made a quick play top to kill Jensen by chaining Broxah and Smoothie’s crowd control abilities. From there, both teams moved towards Ocean Drake. TL had first control of the river, and picked Smoothie, but Broxah and Pobelter cleaned everything up for the Ace.

Shortly thereafter, CLG committed to taking Baron. Team Liquid had no answer, as the Smite-Feast combination virtually guaranteed the Baron to CLG. The Baron Power Play racked up a +2,700 gold differential, alongside picking off Alphari and Tactical, securing a second Ocean Drake, and several turrets.

The Close-Out

From there, Team Liquid felt pretty check-mated. With Ocean Soul on the board, CLG was content to simply clear waves, clear camps, and clear vision in constant preparation for neutral objectives. Because of the nature of these compositions, Team Liquid needed to all-in Pobelter and Wildturtle, but their repositioning and invulnerability combined with Finn and Smoothie’s tankiness to make it very difficult. Broxah landed another Flash-Lilting Lullaby-Zhonya’s to force TL off of Baron and secure it.

Pobelter did end up overextending in the push, and TL shut him down. Later, CoreJJ made the same mistake. CLG secured the Ocean Soul uncontested, while Team Liquid committed to controlling Baron pit. TL tried to hold on, but another overextended Tactical fell asleep, then he was run down by a Homeguarding Cho’Gath. CLG closed the game in 38 minutes.

TL vs. CLG — Conclusion

Overall, this was a strange game from Team Liquid. The draft dropped many of their favorite champions into their lap. CLG had a narrower win condition, but once they reached a certain control level they would just win the game, and that’s exactly what happened. They made the call to rush down Baron while TL lacked vision, and once they took it they pretty much took the game.

It was a beautiful tragedy that CLG lost First Blood to TL’s bottom lane, but Pobelter bounced back on the Lucian pick, and Broxah repeatedly hit multi-man sleeps at the perfect times. Teams will probably continue to allow Tristana through the draft, knowing Jensen probably will not play her and Tactical continues to over-extend with her. Alphari continues to force Teleports into losing situations, so Team Liquid needs to revisit whatever communication is happening in those moments. CLG was already locked out of the Mid Season Showdown, but every win counts towards Worlds qualifications. This was a strong win for them, and a questionable loss for TL. They were so close to an actual 3-0 weekend.

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