The NA LCS Spring Split has come to a close and that means playoffs are finally here. Kicking off the slate of North American games this year are quarterfinal match ups of Team Liquid up against Cloud9 and TSM taking on Clutch Gaming.
While playoffs is a very familiar spot for most of these teams, this is the first NA LCS split for Clutch Gaming, and thus their first playoff appearance. As for the other teams, this is the first time in three splits that TSM will have to play a quarterfinal match, rather than receiving an automatic bid to the semis. This is also the first playoff appearance from Team Liquid since the Summer Split of 2016, where they were eliminated in the first round.
Both of this week’s quarterfinal playoff matches will be broadcast on Riot Games Twitch channel and YouTube channel, as well as on LoL Esports. The series will be best of fives and will be proceeded by the NA LCS Countdown.
Team Liquid vs. Cloud9 (3/24, 5 p.m. ET/2 p.m. PT)
by Pete Volk
The landscape of North American League of Legends has changed drastically over the past few years with new money, new talent, and new teams making their marks on the scene. But among all the upheaval, a few things have remained constant: TSM and mid laner Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg keep winning titles and MVP trophies, and Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng and Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi keep jockeying for position as the best AD Carry in North America.
This Saturday, we’ll get yet another referendum on the latter debate, as Team Liquid and Cloud9 face off in the first quarterfinal of the NA LCS Spring Playoffs. Two of the oldest and most successful franchises in North America will look to rebound from slightly disappointing 11-7 regular seasons by taking the best of five and moving on to take on playoff newcomers Echo Fox or 100 Thieves in the semifinals.
Both Peng and Scuderi have been playing professional essentially since the dawn of professional League (Peng since 2011, Scuderi since 2012), and have been NA LCS mainstays since 2013. Both have played more than 450 professional games (Peng 481, Scuderi 464), and both have averaged at least four kills per game (Peng 4.46, Scuderi 4.0).
But you already know about their extensive pedigrees — that’s the past. What about the present?
Team Liquid took the season series 2-1, dropping the teams’ first matchup in Week 4 before beating Cloud9 twice in Week 9 (the second was a tiebreaker match). The nature of those victories are pretty instructive: in both Team Liquid wins, Peng led the way as the primary damage dealer on his team. In Cloud9’s win all those weaks ago, Scuderi played an excellent 1/0/6 game on Ezreal, but it was top laner Eric “Licorice” Ritchie’s Vladimir and mid laner Nicolaj Jensen’s Corki who led the way in damage and kills.
The stats reflect this divide in the teams’ playing styles around bottom lane — Team Liquid is definitely more focused on that side of the map, but both teams can succeed there. In 20 games this season, here’s how they stack up (thanks, Oracle’s Elixir!):
Peng: 60/22/83 (6.5 KDA), 75.3 KP%, 13.3 DP%, 20 FB%, 30 GD10, 3.6 CSD10, 10.5 CSPM (#1), 527 DPM, 309.1 EGPM
Scuderi: 52/37/105 (4.2 KDA), 70.4 KP%, 17.7 DP%, 15 FB%, 102 GD10, 2.0 CSD10, 10.2 CSPM, 645 DPM, 301.9 EGPM
Peng has a significantly higher KDA, with more kills and (many) less deaths, and leads all NA ADCs in CS per minute. But Scuderi has significantly more assists, deals much more damage per minute, and has been able to keep up in farm, quieting (temporarily, at least) the “Sneaky in lane” meme.
Peng and Scuderi are among the most celebrated and successful players in North American League of Legends history. Ditto with their two franchises. Saturday’s going to be fun.
TSM vs Clutch Gaming (3/25, 3 p.m. ET/12 p.m. PT)
by Austen Goslin
The second match up of the week, TSM vs Clutch Gaming is perhaps the less predictable of the two. While Cloud9 and Team Liquid may have played each other recently, TSM looked like an entirely different team back in weeks four and five when they faced off against Clutch and lost in both games. The one thing that certainly hasn’t changed since those matches is where both teams will be putting their focus: the jungle.
TSM jungle Mike Yeung might just be the most improved player from one half of the Spring Split to the other. Over the course of just one week, between five and six, he went from looking lost in his own jungle to taking over games completely turning TSM into one of the most dominant teams in the NA LCS. While Yeung’s play from the second half of the split has been incredible, this will be his first ever appearance in an NA LCS playoff match, which leaves a lot of questions about how he’ll play in a five game series against a jungler as experienced as Clutch’s Nam “Lira” Taeyou.
Nam hasn’t had his best split, but even that hasn’t kept him from being one of North America’s most impressive junglers. His ability to apply pressure to an enemy jungler is one of his core strengths with pathing that’s always carefully planned around his enemy’s strengths and habits. Add onto this the fact that Clutch Gaming’s mid laner Fabian “Febiven” Diepstraten has a habit of dominating his lane and giving Clutch some extra vision of the enemy’s jungle and Nam should have the perfect recipe for success against Mike Yeung.
To take advantage of this, Nam is likely to focus his picks on champions like Kha’Zix, Olaf, or maybe even a surprise Nidalee, that can help him establish early dominance over Yeung and possible grab an early solo kill. Meanwhile, Diepstraten will likely be trying to keep his lane pushed on a champion like Taliyah so he can give Nam as much information as possible as to Yeung’s whereabouts in the TSM jungle.
Based on the way the two teams have been playing for the last several weeks, TSM is without a doubt the favorite for this match up. But it’s entirely possible that Clutch Gaming come out and, on the strength of Nam alone, completely run over TSM in game one. If that happens, then we’ll get our first real look at just how much Yeung has improved this split.
Nam will bring a different game plan to every match the two teams play, but his aggression towards Yeung is likely to be a constant in the series. If TSM are going to come out on top of this match, it’s going to be because Mike Yeung too has learned to adapt to the changes of a series. To learn from his opponent and quickly develop strategies to counter Nam’s plays in order to put his team in the best place to win.