Team Solo Mid
Team Solo Mid have made serious strides in the playoffs. Their shot calling has greatly improved from the regular season where they were constantly disjointed and split on decisions and engages. Before, Bora “YellOwStaR” Kim would often jump in to try to initiate team fights but his teammates would not follow up and he would end up dying for nothing. In their current iteration, when Yellowstar goes in, they all go in and it has led to much more productive and effective team fighting. It seems as though the team has finally decided to go all in on Yellowstar’s shot calling and it has benefited them greatly as they seem much more intelligent in their rotations and macro play.
The gold and damage distribution on the team has also shifted greatly from the regular season to the playoffs, as the current meta benefits carry junglers. In the regular season, most of TSM’s gold was funneled into Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng as he was leading the team in both damage per minute and percentage of team damage. The focus has now been shifted as Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg and Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen get much more gold. Svenskeren in particular has seen a large jump in gold and damage, as he went from 17.7% of the team’s gold in the regular season to 20.7% in the playoffs. The increase in resources has allowed him to carry from the jungle position as his damage percentage has increased from 18.3% to 25.4%. This jump in damage is due in part to his gold increase and the meta, but even on an individual and mechanical level Svenskeren has truly stepped up this postseason.
Along with these changes, the focus on Doublelift has been decreased enabling the rest of the team. In the regular season, TSM was very dominant in lane but was never able to transition those leads to a greater advantage. Doublelift was also very focused on laning with Yellowstar, which disallowed any support roaming. In the regular season TSM, nearly across the board, all had positive creep score differentials at ten minutes. Svenskeren was the only one who found himself behind. Now in the playoffs, only Bjergsen and Svenskeren average creep score leads at ten minutes. These are also the two main carries on the team currently and it is a result of the reduction of focus on Doublelift in lane. This has freed up YellOwStar to roam and impact other lanes.
The current meta is centered around more tanky top laners, and Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell has been the beneficiary of this change. Hauntzer was a rock in the top lane for TSM, taking up the mantle of Marcus “Dyrus” Hill. He has been very consistent and was a bright spot on TSM during their regular season troubles. He was already very proficient on Poppy, and now with the addition of champions like Maokai to the meta, he will be able to be more impactful.
Bjergsen has always been great in lane and has had a gigantic champion pool, but in the regular season he struggled in team fights. The meta shift to mid lane wave clear and control champions has seen his team fight impact and KDA rise rapidly. The double teleport compositions that are currently being used also allow Bjergsen to transition his mid lane leads into the other lanes. He has also been able to get back on Zed, a champion he is well known for, and has been able to dominate on it. He looks to be back on track as the best NA mid laner in these playoffs.
Counter Logic Gaming
Counter Logic Gaming has been successful in the playoffs the same way they were successful in the regular season, off the backs of Darshan “Darshan” Upadhyaya and Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black. Darshan was the second best top laner in NA in the regular season, behind Huni, and CLG played around him getting advantages. If Darshan was able to gain an advantage in the top lane, he would become a big split push threat and Aphromoo was able to shot call very well. He would play the map and rotate with the rest of the team to gain objectives in order to extend their leads and eventually snowball those leads into victories. CLG arguably had the best macro play in NA. In these playoffs, Darshan has been even more dominant in the top lane, as his creep score differential at ten minutes has increased from 0.9 to 8.4. He has manhandled opposing top laners, especially on his tank Ekko, which is incredibly powerful in the meta. Aphromoo has kept up his stellar shot calling and has continued to guide CLG to victories through smart macro play.
Choi “Huhi” Jae-hyun and Trevor “Stixxay” Hayes have also continued their steady play and have maintained their roles on the team. As the mid laner and AD carry, Huhi and Stixxay are not elite at their positions in NA. However, they know what their roles are on the team and they execute accordingly. They are not dominant in lane, but play well enough to not give up any significant leads. Huhi and Stixxay play for team fights and are the main damage dealers for the team. Huhi led the team in damage percentage in the regular season with 31.2% and Stixxay in second with 24.1%. That has switched now in the playoffs, with Stixxay leading the team in damage at 31.8% and Huhi second with 25%. Stixxay’s play has continued to improve over the course of the season as his positioning and decision making has gotten better with experience. His damage output increase goes right along with his improved positioning in team fights, and he was even able to outperform Piglet at times in the semifinal against Team Liquid. Also, as Darshan is often the focus of enemy teams, Stixxay is freed up to have a larger impact.
Although the current meta empowers damage carry junglers, Jake “Xmithie” Puchero has looked at his best during these playoffs on Elise. He has built some damage items on his Elise, but he also focuses on having some survivability and on obtaining vision. He built Sightstone on his Elise in the semifinal and was able to neutralize Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett, on Kindred, through superior vision. The superior vision also facilitated CLG’s macro play as they worked around the map. This was a unique approach to the current meta and he will have to prove that he can play the carry junglers with some efficiency; however, it did work to neutralize his opponent in the semifinal.
With the current meta enabling tank top lane champions, the effectiveness of great top laners should have been somewhat minimized. However, Darshan has found even more success in the current meta on his tank Ekko. Ekko should be a major priority in picks and bans, and TSM would be smart to keep Darshan away from it. On tanks, Hauntzer has been impactful despite finding himself behind in lane. If TSM can keep Darshan off of Ekko, he will probably still gain an advantage but we have seen in the semis against Liquid that his impact wasn’t as large, and his Maokai was underwhelming.
Svenskeren has been fantastic these playoffs on Graves and Nidalee, and while Xmithie was able to neutralize Dardoch’s Kindred it remains to be seen whether it will work against other carry junglers. Svenskeren has been more impactful in these playoffs then Xmithie, and if he keeps getting the resources he should be more impactful in the finals as well.
Bjergsen and Doublelift are much better than Huhi and Stixxay at their positions and should have the advantage. Although Doublelift has been known to get caught out in team fights and die, in these playoffs he has mostly played Kalista and been there to use his ultimate for initiation, leaving the damage output up to his teammates. It is difficult to see CLG gaining advantages in the mid lane against Bjergsen and Doublelift is known for his laning prowess, so Huhi and Stixxay may find themselves behind in standard lane match ups.
CLG should definitely have the advantage at the support position as Aphromoo has been the best support in NA and has also been the best shot caller this season as he worked with lesser talent and still got his team to the finals with the chance to repeat. Yellowstar has been much better in the playoffs, but mechanically he still cannot stand up to Aphromoo and his shot calling has just started to take effect while Aphromoo has done it all year.
TSM has had an incredibly talented line up all year and it looks as though they have finally been able to put it together. CLG has gotten by with smart play and leadership from their veteran players. I feel like TSM are on a roll and have the superior talent at more positions. Also, with the meta where it is, the advantages that CLG have will be less impactful. I have TSM winning the series in five games, 3-2.
Featured Image provided by loll games’ YouTube Channel
Other Images provided by Riot Games’ Flickr Page
Written by Oscar Left
Edited by Williaf