Two of the most successful franchises in the history of North American League of Legends met on the rift with huge stakes Saturday night, as 8-0 Cloud9 brought its undefeated record up against 6-2 Team SoloMid. TSM entered the match in second place but has still been struggling compared to expectations for the defending North American champions, recently coming off a surprise sweep at the hands of Echo Fox.
Team SoloMid emerged victorious Saturday in a surprise performance only marred by an inability to close out a large Game 2 lead. TSM won the series 2-1 and moves to 7-2 in on the season, taking sole possession of second place. Cloud9 drops to 8-1, but holds onto first place through the halfway point of its season.
Back in Week 1, Cloud9 kicked off its prospective undefeated campaign with a surprise 2-0 sweep of TSM. TSM defeated C9 in the 2016 Summer Finals in a dramatic 3-2 series.
In Game 1 of this week’s series, Cloud9 jumped out to an early lead with a strong composition featuring top-tier picks Shen, Graves and Varus. C9 was aided by a bewildering mistake from TSM AD Carry Jason “WildTurtle” Tran, who seemingly flashed forward at random in the 2 vs. 2 matchup in the bottom lane and died for First Blood.
Down 3-1, TSM started grouping as a five-man unit early with a composition focused on team fighting (featuring Maokai and Orianna). At 23 minutes, TSM picked up three crucial unanswered kills thanks to a deep Maokai initation from Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell followed up by a massive Orianna Shockwave from Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg.
With that advantage secured, TSM was able to control the rest of the game. With Hauntzer’s massive Maokai in the way and shields and heals galore from Orianna and Vincent “Biofrost” Wang’s Nami, C9’s triple marksman composition was unable to burst its targets down.
With the game firmly in TSM’s control and a fight erupting around Baron, Bjergsen delivered the final blow to C9 with the first pentakill of the LCS season.
It was an especially strong series for Bjergsen, who excelled on three different champions in the three-game series. He followed up his 8/0/2 Pentakill-fueled Orianna performance with a 5/3/2 Jayce game and a dominating 9/1/6 Zed game to finish it out.
The start of Game 2 made it look like TSM would complete exacting its revenge with a 2-0 sweep of its own, building up a gigantic early lead through a fed Jayce for Bjergsen and a 5-0 tower lead. But Cloud9 kept fighting, keeping the kill score close even when the gold lead wasn’t, and building up a monster tank in top laner Eon-yeong “Impact” Jung’s Nautilus.
Even with TSM’s massive early lead, it could not deal with C9’s tank in the late game, without a tank of its own to frontline in fights. Instead of relying on strong poke from Jayce and Ashe, TSM took unwise turret dives without anyone to tank the damage that comes with that choice. At 29 minutes, such a play resulted in a 5-1 ace for Cloud9, turning the game on its head.
C9 took Baron off of that play, and nearly ten minutes later a 4-0 team fight in its favor resulted in another Baron. By 40 minutes, C9 was taking the fight to TSM’s base, ending the game 24-11 and sending the series to a third and final game.
Game 3 started with a slower early game and a slight C9 lead off the back of two solo kills in the jungle, but TSM slowly brought the lead back with a vicious Shen+Zed combination from its solo laners. Still slightly trailing, TSM broke the game open at 22 minutes with an ace near Baron.
TSM nearly threw the game when a 27-minute Baron attempt was stolen by Juan “Contractz” Arturo Garcia and resulted in a 3-1 C9 fight, but TSM won a series of fights in the following minutes and own the game 20-10 in 39 minutes.