Moving Forward: NA LCS (Semi Finals)
The quarter finals of the North American League Championship Series have concluded leaving the matchups decided for the semi finals at Madison Square Garden. The competition is more fierce than ever as teams look to secure all-important championship points and the ever sought-after 1st place which would guarantee the winner a spot at the season five world championships.
Ragnarok awaits: Team Solomid
TSM enter the Semi finals off the back of a resounding 3-1 victory over Gravity. As mentioned in the article regarding quarter finals, their ability to prepare effectively in the face of a best of five matchup clearly shone through during this performance as they managed to out maneuver Gravity within champion select on multiple occasions. Even at times causing their opponents to falter in their own picks with a dubious Ashe selection into Dyrus' Olaf. Exhibiting an early game straight out of the CLG school of laneswap TSM managed to create an environment for Dyrus to succeed and carry in, with Bjergsen on more utility based mid laners such as Lulu and Orianna. In this series Santorin's power farming playstyle wasn't properly punished by Gravity jungler Move and they faltered as a result of it. On the whole, Move appeared to struggle during the series even getting solo killed by Bjergsen's Lulu.
Having seemingly returned to form after two weeks of preparation, Solomid now look to take the victory over a first seed Team Liquid.
Polar opposites: Team Liquid
After a strong showing near the end of the regular split, Team Liquid found themselves atop the ever-changing landscape of the North American LCS. Their primary strength being their consistent performance over time. Even when struggling, Team Liquid found themselves getting mixed results during the season-with a surging Fenix leading the charge on his now signature Azir. Unlike their upcoming opponents TL have a storied history of struggling in playoffs, the most recent example of this being the 2-3 reverse sweep against the original Cloud 9 roster in the 2015 spring playoffs. In this sense, they face their direct counter in their opponent TSM- who have historically excelled in best of five scenario.
The path to success for Team Liquid lies in surviving the strong early game of TSM and IWillDominate punishing the more passive playstyle of his Danish counterpart Santorin. A lot of pressure weighs on the shoulders of Team Liquid, if they pull out a victory in this series not only will they make finals but finally progress past a semi final exit in the playoffs.
3-2 in favor of Team Solomid. With their ability in best of fives still largely unrivaled by the rest of the North American LCS, TSM in my opinion look the favorites going into the semi finals. For the sake of my friends who support TL I hope that a reverse sweep is avoided, however from the last time of viewing, TL appeared to be a team that struggled with strategic direction in-game, especially once outside of laning phase. This results in a losing prediction on their side as the way to effectively beat out TSM is to exploit their shaky midgame which has admittedly been somewhat patched up. The result of this series hinges on each team's ability to prepare effectively and for that reason, advantage TSM.
Rolling with the punches: Team Impulse
Having fulfilled the prophecy found in my previous article of a 3-0 stomp over Dignitas, TIP look on to their next opponent CLG. Having been denied his favored Lee Sin all series, Rush managed to find success on the current jungle OP of the patch, Elise. While not facing the toughest opponents of the bracket in Team Dignitas, Impulse managed to put on a strong showing despite the recent substitution of Gate in the mid lane. With more time to gel with the altered roster, TIP are looking to enter the semi finals in a stronger position than they did into the quarters.
Given Rush's recent form, it looks to be an uphill struggle for Xmithie who has shown several glaring flaws in his play. If Rush can body Xmithie, Impulse can take the series.
A steadied ship: Counter Logic Gaming
CLG finished the regular split in the strong position of second behind their Kryptonite, Team Liquid. Although a largely consistent split from CLG with the new addition of Pobelter/Huhi in the mid lane, they did experience a slump in the middle of the season with a four game losing streak. Having solved their problems, CLG managed to grab their highest regular season finish in their entire history of LCS competition which ensured them at the very least a top four finish.
With Elise now being viable again and Gragas remaining still relatively strong, the jungle of CLG looks to be in good shape as they enter playoffs. That is of course, if they avoid shenanigans like QSS on Lee Sin.
3-1 in favor of CLG. With arguably the strongest early game in the entire NA LCS, CLG are the best equipped team to properly contain the aggressive play of Rush. Having won several games simply off the back of laneswaps CLG need to properly push their advantages during this series. Because, as we all saw in the TL vs TIP game at the end of the split, you give Impulse an inch and they take a mile. This victory largely is reliant on Xmithie's ability to not get his head caved in by Rush as that's CLG's main weakness. If Xiaoweixiao was still on the roster, it wouldn't be impossible to imagine TIP pulling out the victory here. However Gate is still relatively new to the role and has struggled to perform on any champion that isn't Azir.
Even though CLG has the notorious history of choking in playoffs, this is shaping up to be the year where they avoid that outcome. As they've recently acquired an in-house sports psychologist, which may at the very least help with their issues of playoff performance, or in general playing in high pressure situations.
The final edition will be released when the matchup has been decided.
Photos used are stills taken from this video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FyzOjL6ei8E&list=WL&index=295)