Cloud9 taking on TSM is always a premier matchup in the North American League Championship Series. The two teams have combined to dominate the league table and playoffs for the last several years. After Cloud9 beat TSM to start the 2017 Spring Split, TSM were eager to exercise revenge in their second meeting.
In one of the best played series of the split as the teams traded advantages, TSM consistently controlled the map and the nature of fights. Cloud9 had gone undefeated in 2017 by transitioning strong lane play into unstoppable snowballs. But TSM was able to stop the snowball by fighting together as a team.
TSM revealed their thoughts around teamfighting by picking Maokai in their first rotation in the game one draft. Maokai has been great for top laner Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell and TSM, notably in their 2016 Spring Playoff win against Immortals, and showed up big again in game one against Cloud9. Cloud9 got a lead and built a huge advantage in the bot lane, but it didn’t matter. They had no answer for the tree.
Cloud9 put a lot of faith in Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong’s Shen, but he just wasn’t as tanky or effective, not when Hauntzer benefited from Soren “Bjergsen” Bjerg’s Orianna shields and initiation. By the end of the game the only real question was whether Bjergsen would get a Pentakill.
On blue side for game two, TSM banned Maokai and put Hauntzer on Rumble. It made for a less-effective teamfight composition, but one with wave clear in all three lanes. TSM jungler Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen heavily prioritized Bjergsen’s mid lane, getting his Jayce a big lead. With mid lane shoved in, the two combined to roam around the map for turret after turret.
Eventually, TSM pushed all the way to the Cloud9 base, where they promptly threw the game.
This time, it was Cloud9’s top lane tank that was unkillable as TSM dove way too far. The Ace gave Cloud9 control of the map, allowing them to take a couple free Barons and tie the series at two.
In the final game, Cloud9 grabbed an early lead through heady play from rookie jungler Juan “Contractz” Arturo Garcia. Reading Svenskeren’s path, he twice surprised the TSM jungler by jumping out of a bush and both times, got the solo kill.
But like they’ve done in multiple games this split, Cloud9 looked indecisive with the lead, unsure of how to push things. A lane swap got them top tower, but it was answered on the other side by TSM. Meanwhile, Svenskeren continued to scale on the high-damage graves while Hauntzer’s Shen approached that dangerous two-item tank power spike. Despite the lead, the best Cloud9 could do was trade objectives.
But none of this was Cloud9’s biggest problem. That would be Bjergsen’s Zed.
Cloud9 mid laner Nicolaj Jensen had a decent series and performed well on Ekko in game three, but Bjergsen was unmatched as a solo pusher and that made it nearly impossible for Cloud9 to control the side lanes. After combining with Hauntzer so effectively in game one, they did the same, with Zed and Shen ults both giving them access to the Cloud9 back line.
That Zed was a monster. TSM defended well and teamfought better and took down Cloud9. They still have things to work out—in addition to the throw that handed C9 game two, they threw at the Baron pit in game three on a split call. But just as in the past, when this team is together and fighting as a unit they are nearly impossible to stop.
Cloud9 still sit atop the standings, and most teams can’t push them the way TSM did. But they have to do a better job of moving around the map after the lane phase has ended. Multiple times, they make proactive plays to end laning but then find themselves without an objective to take. They need better map and objective control if they want their reign to continue.