TSM vs Cloud 9 has become a staple matchup of heavyweights in the North American scene since Cloud 9’s promotion into the LCS, featuring true curveball picks like Teemo and being the final of the league over the past four splits. In the Season 5 Summer Split, TSM unseated Cloud 9 as champions for the first time since their promotion. However, despite the significant roster change Cloud 9 made in the offseason, trading mid laner Hai for European solo queue star Incarnati0n, in their first matchup of the season, Cloud 9 was able to replicate their former success and once again beat TSM. This article will examine the impact that the draft phase had upon the match.
The bans in this game were fairly standard. C9 began by banning out Leblanc, a Bjergsen staple champion. This represents a fairly expected ban, as Bjergsen has proven himself to be more than proficient on Leblanc as a champion, and has solo killed other laners in the past with it fairly easily. As C9 picked a siege composition featuring a Kog’Maw mid lane, this ban makes even more sense as Leblanc has extreme lane and kill pressure on the squishy Kog, and can abuse this throughout the laning phase.
TSM responded by banning Alistar. This doesn’t give away much, as LemonNation is not especially known for his Alistar play, though he has been practicing it a large amount in solo queue. Alistar has proven to be a strong pick, and this was strongly supported by picks in the LCK and EULCS in the beginning of their seasons. If TSM went into the game hoping to pick the Urgot, Alistar may have presented a bit of an issue in lane for it, as his heal can negate some of the poke that Urgot deals onto the opposing AD Carry, but this is likely simply to take away a strong pick from C9.
The rest of the bans seem to follow the pattern of taking away the strongest picks available in the meta currently, with C9 taking away the Hecarim and Kalista picks, two champions Dyrus and WildTurtle have proven their strength on, and TSM banning the Sejuani and Ashe picks away from Meteos and Sneaky respectively.
Cloud 9 begins the pick phase by taking Rumble for Balls. Rumble has become Balls’ signature throughout his time in the LCS, with him having a 16-0 record in the LCS with the champion going into this game. This pick gives Cloud 9 a number of important factors. For one, it takes away a champion that Dyrus has shown his effectiveness on. However, it also gives Cloud 9 powerful zone control in teamfights, strong objective control, and a significant damage source in the top lane. This pick gives Balls his most comfortable, and widely regarded best, champion, and allows Cloud 9 the zone control to win teamfights in small chokes later in the game. It also presents a pick that shows very little about the potential composition that they will be building, as it gives Cloud 9 the option to run an AD mid laner and still bring AP damage, and fits into almost any composition that Cloud 9 might want to build. Rumble has very few bad matchups in lane and can therefore be picked freely without Cloud 9 having too much of a worry upon it being countered in lane. The negative to Cloud 9 taking this pick is the lack of tank that will be run from the top lane. While this presents a downside to the pick, it can be worked around by bringing a long range kite composition, or a composition that does not require too much peel to be effective.
In response, TSM picks Urgot and Thresh. These are the two picks that I feel lost TSM the pick ban phase. Urgot can act as a flex pick for TSM, allowing them strategic diversity if they choose to take it to the middle lane, and revealing less about their composition than a non-flex pick would have. While Urgot is a strong champion, who wins most matchups in the bottom lane, deals lots of long range poke damage, and can get tanky into the late game whilst still providing damage, and Thresh is the support who is the jack of all trades of utility, disengage and pick potential, neither of these picks should have been prioritized by TSM. The Urgot pick for one, was already effectively put into danger by the Rumble pick. This is due to Urgot’s low mobility, and the fact that one good Rumble ultimate would effectively decimate Urgot, and remove him from the fight. Couple this with the fact that Urgot’s ultimate will likely put him close to Rumble, where he can use his Flamespitter to further cut through his health bar. Because of Urgot’s low waveclear and low range, the Urgot pick also pigeon holes TSM into laning 2v2, something that TSM did not do when they had their success in the Spring Split Playoffs. The Urgot is also being picked into a situation in which Sneaky has picks that can be used effectively against it. With Sivir being able to spell shield some of the poke that Urgot can bring out or Jinx having the option to outrange the Urgot poke and farm effectively, Sneaky wasn’t lacking in responses to this pick. Finally, Urgot brings relatively lower damage in comparison to other AD Carry champions. Because of TSM running only two main damage sources, with Viktor and Urgot, they suffered from a lack of damage in teamfights. I would have prefered to have seen a Sivir pick from WildTurtle here, as it is a champion that he has proven to be very good on, would have done fine against Urgot had Cloud 9 decided to pick it, and would have left the option open for TSM to 2v1 if they wished.
The Thresh pick was not as bad, as it is a champion that Lustboy has been extremely effective on, and gives TSM a little bit of everything from the support role. However, I feel that it didn’t need to be prioritized for TSM to take it in their first rotation of picks, as there were still support options like Nautilus open if they Cloud 9 were to take the Thresh. From TSM it may have been better to take the Gragas away from Meteos in this situation. TSM knew that Rumble wouldn’t have given Cloud 9 the tank that they would need in the game, and they would likely need to get it from the Jungle pick. Had they taken away the Gragas, they would have forced Meteos onto a pick like Rek’sai, would wouldn’t be as effective of a tank as Gragas. Therefore, while the pick wasn’t necessarily bad, I feel that TSM incorrectly prioritized the importance of the pick, and could have gotten it or a suitable replacement pick later in the draft.
Cloud 9 responds by taking Gragas and Kog’Maw. The Kog can be used as a flex pick, going into either the middle lane as a mage or the bottom lane as an AD Carry, revealing little about the Cloud 9 composition. The Gragas represents a fairly obvious pick, being one of the strongest junglers left along with Rek’sai and dishing out large Area of Effect damage, with lots of displacement. It gives Cloud 9 the tank that they needed on a strong jungler that can create early game pressure. The Kog’maw pick is a little more strange, as it gives a strong poke mage in the mid lane, but one that can be exploited easily by different matchups. With TSM holding the last pick, they can save it for their mid lane, and determine where the Kog is going, allowing them to easily counterpick it. The Kog is used by Cloud 9 as a siege cannon, poking down enemies around towers and allowing Cloud 9 to pick up objectives, but also as a main damage source in the back line. TSM exploits the pick to a great effect, but ultimately, the pick is effective. That said, another pick such as Xerath or Ziggs would have provided the same poke while not being as easily crushed in lane, and an Azir could have provided the large damage and zone control while being better in lane. While the Kog wasn’t the best pick for the lane, it was effective in the composition, and it is then defensible, and not necessarily bad that Cloud 9 chose to pick it.
TSM then takes Maokai for the top lane, and Rek’sai for the jungle. Both of these represent fairly standard picks, with Rek’sai being the third of the “big three” junglers along with Gragas and Sejuani, and Maokai being a top laner that is strong throughout most of the game. Both picks are fairly even with their opposing matchups, with Rek’sai being able to provide similar early game pressure to Gragas, and Maokai going relatively even in lane with Rumble. However, the thing that again interests me about the Maokai selection is its proficiency in the 2v1. Had TSM decided to pick an AD Carry that was better in a 2v1 situation, the Maokai could have operated within the double jungle or lane swap situation better than the Rumble. So while neither pick was bad, it seems like TSM missed an opportunity to employ a strategy that would have been very effective in this match.
To round out their composition, Cloud 9 selects Sivir and Nautilus as their bottom lane. Sivir is an extremely important selection within this phase as it stops TSM from flexing Urgot to the middle lane, and taking the Sivir for themselves in the bottom lane. Had TSM gotten the Sivir and was able to pair it with the Maokai and Rek’sai, this could have given TSM a very strong dive composition onto the Cloud 9 back line with the Sivir ultimate providing the move speed to prevent any kiting from Cloud 9. It would also have allowed the now mid lane Urgot to kite more effectively, and stay safer while dealing damage. Sivir also gives Cloud 9 easier kiting for the Kog’maw, and therefore stops the back line from requiring as much peel as it would have needed without the Sivir. The Nautilus pick is fairly standard, bringing more crowd control and pick potential into the composition, and acts as a lower economy tank that the composition required.
With Sivir picked, TSM could have chosen to take another AD Carry into the bottom lane and flex the Urgot to the middle lane. However, TSM chose to take Viktor for Bjergsen. I feel that this was a genius pick from TSM, as it gave the composition what it lacked, waveclear and more damage, and allowed Bjergsen to completely dominate the Kog’maw in lane. The composition of Cloud 9 also wasn’t able to take advantage of the weakness Viktor has in killing tanks, as Cloud 9 ran a composition with a Rumble top lane, and tanks in generally lower economy positions of the jungle and support. This allowed Viktor to bring significant area of effect damage across the team of Cloud 9, and gave TSM another strong damage source.
Cloud 9’s composition provided them with strong teamfighting and zone control, as well as poke from the Kog’maw, kiting ability from the Sivir, and crowd control from the Nautilus. Ultimately, strength of Cloud 9’s composition allowed them to best TSM in teamfights with well placed Rumble ultimates, and good positioning from both Kog’maw and Sivir allowing them to deal maximum damage to the TSM members.