The North American League Championship Series Quarterfinals went off without a hitch, and I don’t just mean in terms of avoiding disastrous audio issues. Cloud9 took care of business against EnVyUs, with Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen in particular putting out some devastating games on Syndra and LeBlanc, further cementing his spot as one of the best mid laners in North America. Meanwhile, Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett and the rest of Team Liquid opted not to show up to their quarterfinals match, ensuring the coordinated Counter Logic Gaming attack went even more smoothly than one could have imagined. Both winners left their series with a very comfortable hold on where they stand and have given themselves a fighting chance at a worlds berth.
Unfortunately, the two stand juxtaposed to the two giants that have been slaughtering every enemy that has come into their path. Both Team SoloMid and Immortals combined to lose 16 games over the course of the split. Cloud9, the third place team, has 16 losses on its own. It’s a whole other level of competition, and the All Pro votes, as flawed as the voting system was, illustrates that point quite nicely. Both Cloud9 and Counter Logic Gaming will have to make leaps as both teams and individuals if they are going to compete.
In the first semifinal series, the path to victory for Cloud9 comes from being able to punish Immortals’ insanely aggressive play style. The team simply doesn’t have an off switch, trusting Adrian “Adrian” Ma to keep his teammates alive while Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon and Kim “Reignover” Ui-jin chase down their opponents like wolves hunting whatever prey they can find. Cloud9 is a tempo oriented team, focused on making efficient trades that end up creating larger and larger leads. Immortals rarely gives its opponents time for that, making its way through important objectives with brute force and ensuring the towers are sufficiently pillaged before the enemy can react. If Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong and William “Meteos” Hartman cannot keep the roaming duo in place, this series could really get out of hand fast.
In the other match, we have a classic matchup with a very different spin: Team SoloMid vs. Counter Logic Gaming. We’ve seen these teams in many eras throughout the years. We’ve seen TSM beat CLG in increasingly heartbreaking fashions to the point where players like Zachary “Nien” Malhas were traumatized before the losses even came. We’ve seen CLG finally reach its dream last summer by defeating the ghosts of their past with Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng, and then seen them beat the spectre of Doublelift the very next split, with Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black’s trash talking ensuring the rivalry never dies. Now, we see a CLG squad clawing its way back into relevance after a terrible start to the split against what might be the most dominant North American team since Cloud9 first entered the league in the summer of Season 3.
Sure, there are match-ups to be broken down. Darshan “Darshan” Upadhyaya will either come out of his season long slump or find himself on the wrong side of Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell’s Transcendent Blades (10-2 on Irelia this split). Choi “Huhi” Jae-hyun’s recent growth from “absolute disaster” to “very strong mid laner” is certainly impressive, but he’ll be matched up against Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg, perhaps the most dominant mid laner the West has ever seen. If it comes down to team play, TSM has looked more consistent as a unit than any team in the West this split. Its rotations and understanding of win conditions are strong, as is its ability to turn almost everyone on the team into a significant carry threat if the game calls for it.
There might not be a lot of reasons on paper for these series to be close, but we’ve been surprised before. Rivals like TSM and CLG always seem to bring out the best in each other, and Immortals still hasn’t shown it can handle massive meta changes heading into the playoffs after last split’s debacle. Certainly, there’s a lot to break down, and Walter “Ceades” Fedczuk and I are here to do just that.
Today on the Rough Drafts Guess the Lines Podcast, Chase “RedShirtKing” Wassenar and Walter “Ceades” Fedczuk try to find some hope in two of the most lopsided semifinal series on paper that North America has ever produced. Together, they discuss whether Cloud9’s loss to EnVyUs tells us more about C9 team its series win, if Huhi has grown into the top-tier mid laner CLG needs, and why Immortals and Team SoloMid will remain heavy favorites. They close with their new segment, “Stats with Steve” with Steve Caffmeyer from eSportsfanz, who helps them get a handle on their smart money bets.
Special thanks to Steve Caffmeyer from eSportsfanz for coming on to the show.
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