The quarterfinals have ended and the winners have booked their tickets to Oakland. TSM, C9, 100 Thieves, and Team Liquid will all duke it out to prove why they are the best in their region. I covered 100 Thieves and TSM in last weeks article. You can find that here —> Quarterfinals Predictions, Strengths, and Weaknesses
Team liquid finished in the top spot of a tight bracket at 12-6. With a strong spring split, it is no surprise they made it back into playoffs. Picking 100 Thieves was surprising. Since Echo Fox vs TSM had the potential to go either way, TL might have realized that it was safer to start practicing for 100 Thieves. If this is the case, They had a solid 2 weeks to analyze 100 Thieves play style. Expect that to give them a tremendous advantage in the upcoming semifinal.
Liquid is the best team in the NALCS for a reason. Their decision-making skills are extraordinary. They understand what needs to be done in order to take a small advantage and push it all the way to the nexus. On top of this, each player is exceptionally skilled in their role. They frequently show why they are still playing league after many years of pro play. Pobelters’ ability to use his support middle lane presence to threaten big plays, with champions like Malzahar Taliyah and Azir, perfectly complement his teammate’s play styles. While Pobelter tends to take a support role, Each player on the team is willing to carry their team to victory. Xmithe will choose more damage oriented jungles and leave the tanking for his support or top lane. It’s fair to say Xmithe was one of the most underrated players in the league and reciently got the respect he deserved. Other than his 2 showings on Vladimir, Doublelift has proven his worth as the best ADC in NA. He is absolutely the center point of their team. He, however, is prone to fall with a weak showing from the rest of his team.
While every team will have some off games, Liquid will still look sharp in most of their lost games. Taking an early game lead against Liquid can throw their whole dynamic off. In the case of the Week 7 Day 1 game against 100 Thieves, Xmithe fell behind so dramatically that AnDa was 2 levels up at one point, leaving Xmithe at level 1 with 0 cs at 3 minutes in the game. They had weak early game lanes which were abused by 100 thieves. The only issue was they had late game champions in Cho’Gath, Malzahar, and Kindred. Banning against Xmithe and Pobelter might be the way that 100 Thieves can seal a win against the returning champs. Forcing Xmithe on a tank and Pobelter on a carry could lead them to change their typical gameplan. Add this with a priority pick/ban on Rakan and counter pick against Impact and Pobelter and 100 thieves could easily win the drafting phase. Doublelift, with Olleh at his side, will most likely win out in a lane. However, having Cody Sun on a utility bot lane to aid in a middle lane or jungle gank could lead to an advantage in all 3 lanes. Even with these weaknesses, it could be impossible to secure a counter pick or a straight ban on any of these players because of their experience playing many champions over the previous season.
Cloud 9 Finished second at a strong 11-7. After Patch 8.14, Cloud 9 found themselves 8-0 and revived their season to take them into playoffs with a bye. With exceptional lane dominance and map control, C9 are taking this momentum into the semifinals and facing the comeback kings, TSM. With the 2 “rookies”, Blaber and Zeyzal, Cloud 9 will look to take down one of League of Legends most notable teams on the big stage.
C9 are bringing so much momentum into the playoffs that They have the potential to win with confidence alone. On top of this, they have adaptability and strong coaching to back it up. Using Goldenglue and Svenskeren as a threat to specific matchups will make it near impossible for TSM to prepare for C9 in only a weeks time. Their picks, post patch 8.14, are unpredictable and abusive. For example, Sneaky’s Quinn was a destructive force in the bottom lane and left teams scratching their heads after a defeat. After teams realized the threat of Quinn and prepared for it, Jensen picked up Zilean. The unusual picks make the 10 bans almost useless against the C9 squad. Not to mention, the playoffs are a best of 5. This means that if a successful strategy comes on game one and TSM has no answer to counter it, they will have to use a precious ban, giving C9 the advantage. Mind Games!
Within the last 8 games of the season, only 1 team gave them a really tough time, 100 Thieves. Typically, 100 Thieves has a defensive early game, then a scale into late game with strong shot-calling. They forced Blaber and Jensen off of their comfort picks giving them a slight advantage. The only issue is that C9 prioritize a play style rather than a champion pool. Taking control in the early game and making sure neutral objectives are warded can lead to picks and a solid lane phase. This might be a way TSM get into the late game, but the issue is that C9 are playing smart. With the addition of Zeyzal, another voice is in the mix. He keeps track of a lot on the field while also keeping players safe. They use a teams lack of knowledge as bait. Playing too aggressive will lead to a loss. Once again, pointing to that 100 Thieves game, the lead that 100 Thieves had created was demolished through strategic planning. They understood what they needed to do to win against one of the most methodical teams in the league. Playing passive with disengage champions and forcing fights at objectives could prove to be an effective strategy for TSM this weekend.
Team Liquid 3 – 1 100 Thieves
Team Liquid got a choice of who they would play in the semifinals. Even though TSM almost lost last week, Liquid decided on 100 Thieves. The fact of the matter is that Team Liquid chose 100 Thieves last week. 100 Thieves were poised to beat Flyquest and if they didn’t, Team Liquid would pick Flyquest. The TSM and Echo Fox game was a flip of the coin, so TL decided to prepare for 100 Thieves and use the extra week to their advantage. According to Doublelift, They will always win the bottom match up, and I don’t disagree. While Cody Sun has his moments, Doublelift is a far superior bottom lane threat. On top of this, Liquid hasn’t dropped a game to 100 Thieves since week 2 of the spring split. That is including their 3-0 victory in the spring split finals. TL will take it on game 4.
Cloud 9 3 – 2 Team Solo Mid
Last week, Team Solo Mid took game 5 by storm and sealed the deal against Echo Fox. TSM abused a flu-plagued Huni to gain an overwhelming lead in their games. Bjergsen went off in the victorious games having a combined KDA of 22/2/12 over the 3 wins. While TSM looked strong in the quarterfinals, I don’t expect C9 to make as many mistakes as Echo Fox. Grig has shown a weakness to Kindred and Blaber is 4-0 on that champion. With Grig’s lack of play time on Kindred, they will have to ban it. C9 could also swap in Svenskeren if Blaber can’t secure the kindred pick. The top lane matchup will be very important in this game. Unlike Huni, Licorice will play DPS tops. I expect him to win out against Hauntzer with the help of his jungle pressure. Most of Hauntzer’s big plays were on Gnar and Rumble. If Licorice doesn’t decide to play Kennen top in game 5 he should be fine. Keeping Bjergsen humble will lead to a strong victory for Cloud 9. That being said, Bjergsen is not an easy player to keep down. TSM might steal a win or 2, but Cloud 9 will take it all the way after a deciding game 5.