NA LCS Playoffs Preview: Semifinals
Immortals (#2) vs. Cloud 9 (#3)
Date: August 20th, 3:00 PM EDT
Records: IMT: 16-2, C9: 12-6
Season Series: 2-0 (4-1), in favor of Immortals
After finishing their rookie split an improbable 17-1 this past spring, Immortals famously faltered in the playoffs, despite being the overwhelming favorites to take first. Their inexperience together was on display as the vaunted lineup overextended, reeled, even tilted its way to a 0-3 exit at the hands of Team SoloMid. With that being Immortals’ very first best-of-five series, it became easy to question the team’s poise and unity in high-pressure scenarios. Equally questioned were their picks, specifically Huni’s refusal to play the tank champions that were so dominant at the time. They marginally redeemed themselves, in the third-place match, stomping Team Liquid 3-0 in dominating fashion. Third-place won’t be good enough this time; however, as Immortals seek to take out Cloud 9 and reach their first ever NA LCS final.
In the quarterfinal match against Team EnVyUs last weekend, Cloud 9 looked as clean as it had all season, recording a comfortable 3-1 victory. Mid-laner Jensen picked up right where he left off in the regular season, recording 47 kills while dying just seven times. The summer split kill leader capped off the performance with a record-setting 20-kill game 4 on LeBlanc. C9 seemed to grow stronger as the series went on, closing out games three and four in less than 27 minutes. They held gold leads for virtually the entirety of both games, steamrolling a hapless and overmatched NV squad. This weekend; however, Cloud 9’s opponents will be much more formidable.
Immortals has a great deal to prove this playoffs, and it starts this Saturday against C9, a team they beat twice during the regular season. Although they went 16-2, this split was a far cry from the dominance Immortals achieved in the spring. For example, Immortals players littered the KDA leaders for much of last season, but only two (Adrian, Reignover) find themselves in the top 10 in that statistic this season. Huni, in particular, is near the bottom when it comes to top-laners, sporting a 2.9 KDA. As a result, do not expect them to come into this series with the same pretension and hubris they had against TSM last season.
After defeating them twice during the regular season, Immortals has the mental edge over C9 going into this weekend’s critical series. In their most recent matchup in week 5, neither match reached 35 minutes in a comfortable Immortals sweep. Despite seemingly getting everything they wanted in the draft, C9 could not contend with the map pressure and aggression exhibited by Immortals. One pick they did not get; however, was Jhin, who has become one of the most popular AD Carry champions in professional play. In two games on the champion, Wildturtle combined to go 12/1/11 for Immortals and set up numerous plays for the rest of the team. Sneaky, who is a unanimous Jhin player with a penta-kill on the champion this split, will undoubtedly look to snatch that away from Immortals in this series. Another champion C9 will have to consider, whether ban or pick, is Soraka. In an interview with Scarra, C9 jungler Meteos pointed out his disdain for Soraka’s healing capabilities, and the difficulties and frustrations they present. Considering she is also the most played (12 games) champion for Immortals support Adrian, expect it to be a contested pick. This is an explosive series riddled with players capable of going off at any moment. It may come down to keep their composure better, or just whether Huni or Jensen is able to get more fed.
Prediction: 3-2 Immortals
Team SoloMid (#1) vs. Counter Logic Gaming (#4)
Date: August 21st, 3:00 PM EDT
Records: TSM 17-1, CLG 10-8
Season Series: 2-0 (4-0), in favor of TSM
This one is the rematch of the rematch, the third straight split where Team SoloMid and Counter Logic Gaming will meet late in the NA LCS playoffs. This time; however, it is a trip to the final, not a championship, on the line. In the Spring Split, it was a single team-fight that ultimately decided the five game series that sent CLG to MSI.
A lot has changed since that devastating fight for TSM, especially the play of top-laner Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell. It’s hard to believe that Hauntzer was the Gragas we saw flounder around that deciding team-fight and throw out an ill-advised explosive cask. While he played fairly well in the series overall, the TSM top-laner royally botched that final battle, there is no denying it. This split; however, Hauntzer has transformed from an inconsistent entity to arguably the best top-laner in the region. His KDA (4.2) is the highest among his position, and his deaths (89) are the fewest. The survivability is particularly impressive considering the extent to which teams pick have historically picked on TSM’s top-laner. Hauntzer’s counterpart, Darshan, is coming off one of the worst splits of his career statistically. He finished only ahead of Echo Fox’s KFO in kill participation (55.3%), and posted a measly 2.3 KDA. That being said, we’ve witnessed Darshan’s capabilities in the past and at the Mid-Season Invitational. If he plays smart and plays up to his potential, his vaunted split pushing can create chaos for TSM. It may be one of CLG’s only win conditions this series.
The only player from either team who did not compete in last split’s final is Vincent “Biofrost” Wang, the rookie support who has fit seamlessly into TSM’s roster. Not only has Biofrost undoubtedly earned the rookie of the split honors, but he even has a case for one of the league’s most valuable players. His 8.3 KDA not only thrashes all other support players, but is actually the best in the entire league. He also has the highest kill participation (75.7%) and lowest deaths (55) of any support playing at least 40 games. With his aggressive playmaking style, Biofrost has allowed AD Carry Doublelift to return to superstar form, to the point where there is little doubt who the region’s best marksmen player is.
Similarly, to Cloud 9, Counter Logic Gaming seemed to grow stronger throughout the duration of their quarterfinal matchup against Team Liquid. In the series’ final game, CLG dismantled TL in just 26 minutes on the back of Stixxay’s 10/0/4 Sivir. Stixxay, who became renowned at MSI as primarily a Caitlyn and Lucian player, is beginning to find his niche on the popular utility AD Carries. On a team so oriented on team-play and map movement, using this utility at the right time could prove to be paramount for CLG. Speaking of map movements, all of the North American casters found themselves particularly impressed with the way CLG was able to adjust to the recent patch (6.15) changes. Most point to the team’s leader, Aphromoo, as the catalyst for these sharp, cohesive movements, but Jungler Xmithie continues to be underrated for being in the right place at the right time. The most glaring change is the 400 team gold awarded for destroying the game’s first turret. This presumably means more standard lanes, which would presumably play to TSM’s favor. As well as CLG played against Team Liquid, I just don’t see them having closed the gap against a team that topped them four consecutive games during the regular season.
Prediction: 3-1 Team SoloMid
Written by Thomas Liljedahl
Edited by Williaf
Featured Image provided by Riot Games