The 50-minute affair featured both teams living on a razor’s edge, with only a thin margin between them as they clashed in massive teamfights that laid waste to both lineups time after time again.
The Chinese juggernaut LMQ wanted to prove their skill by beating America’s best team, and they got off to a strong start early, taking the first couple of dragons. They even took baron and two inhibitors, before Cloud9 turned the game on its head and stole the victory by winning two desperate team fights.
The game started poorly for Cloud9, in part due to a surprisingly suspect champion select. Usually Cloud9 gains an advantage in that portion of the game, but today they picked a Kha’Zix into Leblanc, a very poor matchup for their mid laner. That pick also forced the team to play Corki, a magic damage heavy marksman, instead of the powerful Twitch, due to the team’s reliance on attack damage.
“We’ve had better ideas,” said Cloud9 mid laner and captain Hai Lam, after the match. Lam struggled against LMQ’s superstar mid laner Yu “XiaoWeiXiao” Xian and his Leblanc, surrendering a huge lead in farm early in the game. “I didn’t have much fun in lane, personally. You can ask [Yu] how much fun he had bullying me the entire time.”
The picks and bans left Cloud9 behind early for a number of reasons. The LMQ Nunu jungle pick helped them control the jungle and take multiple early dragons. The mid lane matchup allowed Yu, already the top farming mid in the LCS, to take a huge lead against Lam. And Cloud9’s jungler, superstar William “Meteos” Hartman, couldn’t help his mid laner due to the jungle pressure coming from Nunu and company.
But Cloud9 bent, and did not break. The experienced LCS champions stalled the game until Lam could make an impact diving the LMQ back line and the Corki of Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi had a scary ability to poke the armor-heavy LMQ lineup.
Cloud9 engaged in a series of team fights where they dove LMQ’s back line to assassinate Li “Vasilii” Wei-Jun and his high damage Lucian. The Americans took Dragon at the 24 and 31 minute marks thanks to winning team fights, even rebuffing LMQ’s surprising counterattacks. With that advantage they secured a couple towers.
But LMQ wasn’t content to let Cloud9 outscale them, with Nunu and Leblanc losing power as the game time ticked longer. After losing their top tower to a lengthy period of Cloud9 pressure, LMQ knew Lam would need to back as his Kha’Zix was out of mana. They pushed to baron and took it quickly, keeping their back line safe from the Cloud9 response and seizing control of the game.
LMQ would eventually take two inhibitors, with Cloud9 questionably trading the second one for a dragon. But as LMQ fell back in the top lane after taking the second, Cloud9 would dive into them for a fateful team fight.
LMQ retreated in lane, taking damage and dealing it, until they had four extremely low health members left against Cloud9’s mid laner and support. Scuderi said that Lam called “I need a kill or we lose this fight” at that point, they got it as Daerek “LemonNation” Hart took down the LMQ marksman Li. That allowed the reset on Kha’Zix’s ult, and the rest was history.
“If [Li] didn’t die there we probably would have lost that fight,” said Lam. “So thank god for [Hart].”
It would take one more team fight for Cloud9, where they secured four straight kills, to push down the mid lane and win the game.
Scuderi had an MVP performance on Corki, posting a 7/2/7 KDA as he racked up the damage with his missiles. Lam’s Kha’Zix redeemed itself in the late game, as he finished with a 8/3/8 KDA after surrendering his lane to the dominant Yu.
The match ended with 18 kills for Cloud9 against 13 for LMQ. Both teams secured 9 towers and at least one inhibitor. LMQ took the only baron. It was an absolute bloodbath, but Cloud9’s experience seemed to carry them over the edge.
Still, the match showed that LMQ is a serious title contender. They didn’t just take advantage of a weak schedule last week; they have the firepower to best any team in the NA LCS, even if they looked outmatched by Dignitas yesterday.
Cloud9, though, looks like they are back. It’s going to be tough for anyone to beat them this season, just like in their past two dominating tours through the NA LCS. But there are more challengers than ever, and it’ll be hard for Cloud9 to avoid taking some blows along the way.