The NA LCS spring 2018 playoffs transitioned into the semifinals over the weekend, and boy howdy was it a treat for League of Legends fans. While the quarterfinals were a light simmer, the semifinals proved to be a boiling pot of tasty action and strategy that satisfied my palate and left me wanting more.
Bloodthirsty would be the word to describe the first match of the semifinals, as both Team Liquid and Echo Fox put the pedal to the metal. Each game featured non-stop skirmishing and multiple back-and-forth kills that made it extremely fun to watch. Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett and Jake “Xmithie” Puchero playing Trundle and Olaf meant that the early game was a lot faster paced and a guaranteed presence whenever a fight were to break out. These picks also enabled the respective top lane players, Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon and Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong, to play big tanks for continuous playmaking and sustained team fighting.
What really impressed me in this series was Team Liquid’s ability turn around multiple fights and ganks that Echo Fox initiated. Xmithie’s ability to control the map mixed well with Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung’s roaming initiations to make it almost impossible for Echo Fox to establish any permanent foothold in the game. What has been so refreshing to see out of this Team Liquid squad is that they operate like a well-oiled machine, showing patience and strategy in the face of bloody, tit-for-tat games. It seems like nothing is able to phase them regardless of how chaotic a situation becomes. Conversely, Echo Fox’s play, while very ambitious, lacked some coordination.
Many of Echo Fox’s plays centered on Dardoch and/or Huni leading the charge through engages that would net quick advantages. Unfortunately, their plays sometimes ended as duds due to a lack of coordination with their mid laner, Kim “Fenix” Jae-hun.
At the end of it all, the battle was won. With a 3-1 victory for Team Liquid, the team was the first to advance to the final match.
Slow and steady wins the race
For those that put strategy and Baron control ahead of non-stop brawls, the match between 100 Thieves and Clutch Gaming is right up your alley. Unlike the previous match, this one contained a heavy emphasis on strategy and controlling the area around Baron. On the side of 100 Thieves, top laner, Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho, and jungler, William “Meteos” Hartman, seemed to be perfectly in-sync as they helped control a slow and steady pace. Meanwhile, Clutch Gaming’s Nam “Lira” Tae-yoo and Fabian “Febiven” Diepstraten looked to speed things up through snowballing picks.
While this match was a bit different than the other matches of the spring playoffs, the slower pacing was a welcome change of scenery. The cerebral side of League of Legends has sometimes been overshadowed by the glitz and glamour of big plays and high octane team fighting, so seeing more of how a team behaves as a strategic unit was an interesting experience.
Probably the biggest focus of this match was the play around Baron, and both 100 Thieves and Clutch Gaming did not take the threat of it lightly. While most teams would immediately leap at the chance of taking Baron, 100 Thieves and Clutch Gaming held firm and waited for their opportune moment. Clutch especially showed a lot of tenacity, as they would constantly turn off Baron to try and gain a more favorable numbers advantage in the ensuing fight.
While this sometimes didn’t work out as well as they would have hoped, it was definitely a clever way of trying to force 100 Thieves to panic and potentially make a mistake. The play in this series was often reminiscent of a soccer match in this regard. Both teams would constantly jockey for proper positioning and strike only when it was appropriate to do so. The constant trading of damage made Baron takes tense affairs with no clear outcome until the final second that it was secured.
If you are strapped for time and are looking to only watch one game in this marathon series, I would suggest Game 5. The play in Game 5 was methodical to a fault. There are definitely moments in this particular game where you can feel the weight of the situation. No one dared overstep and throw away their chance at the finals. Every move was well reserved and made with the utmost caution.
The tension was palpable with each passing second whenever the two teams began to circle around the Baron pit. Due to the unkillable nature of the two frontlines, these Baron moments became staring contests with everyone waiting to see who would blink first. While all the tank play and the regeneration from Warmog’s Armor seemed a bit overwhelming (not to mention annoying at times), it was worth it to see 100 Thieves find their finishing blow and close out the extremely tense game for a spot at the spring finals.
With the semifinals completed, we now know who will be competing in the finals in Miami. Through all the spills, chills and thrills of the playoffs so far, both Team Liquid and 100 Thieves have undoubtedly proven their worth for a title shot. The question will, of course, be who will come out on top? Team Liquid and 100 Thieves have both displayed a good amount of strategic patience in their playoff victories, so it will no doubt come down to who is able to more effectively execute their game plan. It will all come to a head this Sunday, so be sure your schedule is clear so you can catch all the action.
Featured Image courtesy of LoL Esports
Images courtesy of LoL Esports Flickr