NA LCS summer playoffs: Finals weekend

Jess Carruthers Roar Pro

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    The NA LCS is heating up as it nears a conclusion.

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    Last weekend’s matches in the North American LCS delivered far fewer upsets than the week prior, and both of the wins were delivered in fairly dominant fashion.

    With their 3-0 win over CounterLogic Gaming (CLG), Immortals (IMT) punched their ticket to worlds. The only team left that could beat them on championship points is Team SoloMid (TSM) who beat Team Dignitas (DIG) 3-1 to meet IMT in the finals.

    If TSM win the finals, it will be the first time in LCS history that a team has won three splits in a row. If IMT win the finals, they will be only the fourth team to do so and the first new team in two years.

    We’ve got two matches left in playoffs, – for third place and for the championship – both of which will be this weekend. I reckon we’re in for some exciting League of Legends!

    CLG versus DIG: 5am AEST Sunday
    First Match: DIG Win, 2-0 (Week 6, Day 2)
    Second Match: CLG Win, 2-1 (W9D1)
    All-time Head-to-Head (matches): 17-10

    While the finals are going to be very hyped up, the third-place match has quite a lot riding on the outcome. The winner of this match-up will gain 70 championship points, making them the second seed in the regional qualifier, where they will need to play only two matches to qualify for worlds. The loser, however, will have to win all three rounds of the regional qualifier if they want to get through.

    Things were rough in CLG’s semifinal. Aphromoo and Stixxay were crushed pretty handily by Olleh and Cody Sun – I feel like by game three it would have made sense for CLG to at least try to play against the perma-banned Kallista instead of taking on the Kog’maw yet again – while OmarGod got a meagre two kills all series.

    Although they were beaten down in the semi-finals, CLG had two bright spots: Huhi and Darshan. Gone should be the days that Huhi is considered an Aurelion Sol one-trick; he really did everything he could for his team. Darshan wasn’t quite as convincing, but in a meta like this he traditionally plays more splitpush-focused champions anyway, which just aren’t as flashy.

    For DIG’s part, they played quite well, but I have to question their pick-and-ban strategy; the bans were stale by game two. They also picked the Thresh away from Biofrost in games two through four. I get that they won in Game 3, with at least some of these strategies carrying over through the whole series, but they played blue side in three of four matches. You have to wonder what might have been if they changed the strategy up.

    Still, they did win a game, which is more than CLG managed. For all they fell to TSM, so have most teams over time, and DIG’s strengths from last week still stand. Ssumday is still fantastic, even with his Maokai being countered pretty hard, and the rest of the team played well as a unit. They were only truly stomped in one game, and things could have gone very different against any other opponent.

    Having watched these two teams play a couple of times in playoffs, I’ve gotta give the advantage to DIG in this. They’ve just looked more cohesive and overall seem to have more consistent players. I’m not convinced that CLG’s bot lane can deal their share of the damage they would need to in order to win this series. DIG should be able to win this 3-0 or 3-1; my money’s on a 3-1, but I could still see CLG taking a game if Huhi carries hard enough.

    IMT versus TSM: 5am Monday
    First Match: IMT Win, 2-0 (W1D3)
    Second Match: TSM Win, 2-0 (W5D2)
    All-time Head-to-Head (matches): 3-6

    Although there are certainly reasons both teams will want to win, there are no international stakes riding on the outcome of this – after MSI, both teams will be treated like a second seed, so winning NA or not won’t have an impact on the worlds seeding.

    I’m sure both teams will take this seriously, but I’m hoping that the comparatively low stakes mean we might get some interesting approaches. Biofrost mentioned earlier in the week that we might see some “cheese”; I’m definitely crossing my fingers for it!

    This is a tougher match to look at each side independently. These are two teams looking fantastic, and undoubtedly they’re the two teams that deserve to be in the finals. I would even argue that they have fairly evenly matched players: Doublelift and Bjergsen are better in their roles, Olleh and Xmithie are better in theirs, and Hauntzer and Flame are pretty much even.

    That said, Bjergsen looked uncharacteristically mediocre in the semis – he wasn’t bad, but he was not the carry that we would usually expect. Still, his lane opponent, Pobelter, did make a few mistakes, and while CLG were not able to take advantage of them, TSM probably can.

    The biggest differentiator between the two teams was one of timing. IMT tripped a little in some their timing, and although they tidied it up as the series progressed, they often weren’t going for fights at the same time as spikes. Again, this didn’t hinder them much against CLG, but TSM is a very different team.

    I want to bet against TSM, I really do – I want to see IMT’s banner up on the walls of the studio and I want to see Doublelift beaten by half of his old teammates from CLG – but I just can’t bet against them. They often stumble in playoffs and give their fans a scare, but they are just so good at clutch plays and making the games that matter count. I think they will win this – narrowly – in a 3-2 victory.

    This weekend has two series that I just cannot wait to see. Both should be entertaining for very different reasons. Is your team playing this weekend? Do you think they’ll win?