This past week in the North American League Championship Series has been extreme. Last weekend’s matches were as explosive as you’d expect for four teams battling to secure semi-final positions. Cloud9 and Team Dignitas faced off while Counter Logic Gaming and Team Envy squared away, and the plays were incredible. If you managed to watch all nine games I applaud your commitment and apologize for my incoming recap, but the rest of the masses need to know what they missed. My hope is that it motivates them to watch this weekends matches, but optimism is fleeting as you’ll soon find out.
In a huge upset on Saturday, Team Dignitas defeated Cloud9 3-1, locking them in for a semi-final match against Team Solo Mid this Sunday at 3:00PM EST. Cloud9 were the higher seeded team, with 71% of viewers voting in favor of them to win. They possessed arguably the best mid laner in North America and had a stronger record coming out of the summer season, but none of that mattered on Saturday. Team Dignitas showed everyone how prepared they were to win.
Game 1 set the tone for the entirety of the series. Team Dignitas’s jungler Shrimp locked in Jarvan 4 in champ select and immediately went to work. After securing a first blood and double kill, simultaneously stripping Cloud9’s jungler Contractz of his red buff in the opening minutes of the match, Shrimp proceeded to show his force and pressure the whole map. The game ended 23-15 Team Dignitas, with a 7-1 Syndra and 4-4-14 Jarvan. It was a well fought win that Cloud9 couldn’t mentally shake.
Game 2 didn’t fair much better for Cloud9. Although Cloud9’s support managed to snag first blood, the game fell apart for them after the laning phase ended. Dignitas had superior rotations and moved as a group, constantly keeping Cloud9 on the defensive. That oppression created panic within the ranks of Cloud9, and in that panic the team ran to stop a second Team Dignitas baron only to find themselves punished for face checking bushes (rookie mistake for those who don’t know). The game ended 17-12 Team Dignitas. Cloud9 now had their backs against the walls.
Game 3 was where Cloud9 finally showed signs of life. At 3:19 Contractz flashed into enemy jungler territory and took down Shrimp for first blood. Contractz clearly was disappointed in his previous performances and he took it upon himself to guide his team. Cloud9 roamed a lot more as a group, picking off members of TD one by one while Cloud9’s mid laner Jenson steadily gained ground. Watch the baron bush bait (say that three times fast) at 23:22! With Contractz constantly applying pressure to the bottom side of the map, Team Dignitas’s bot lane never never had the opportunity to disrupt Jenson, and as a result Cloud9 won the match 15-3. It’s a shame they couldn’t maintain these suppressive plays throughout the rest of the series however. It was all about to end for Cloud9.
Game 4 was….a surprise. Both teams initially were playing cautiously and with early advantages Cloud9 was in the drivers seat for victory. Contractz earned an unassisted first blood on an unsuspecting Taliyah in the mid lane, Cloud9’s ADC Sneaky got an early triple kill with Tristana in a ragged team fight, they secured the first Baron Buff at 24:57 and had two inhibitors down at 34:45. This isn’t bronze level solo q! As professional players they should have been able to march through Team Dignitas’s base and end the game, but that never happened. After being utterly Rejected from TD’s base, Cloud9 regrouped only to lose multiple consecutive late-game team fights. Team Dignitas walked through the front doors of Cloud9’s base, after securing Baron and an ace, to won their quarter final series.
Now Team Dignitas is gearing up to face Team Solo Mid in their semi final match. If I were TSM, I’d be worried. In the summer season Team Dignitas cleanly beat TSM 2-0. In Game 1 TSM punished an over eager Shrimp and out rotated Team Dignitas for the majority of the match, but small victories from Team Dignitas turned into late game gains. With a few cleverly used teleports Team DIG was able to turn around the important team fights and scrape themselves out a win. Game 2 was much slower paced, with no towers falling until 11:03 and Bjergson finally breaking the first blood seal at 18:27. TSM had superior team fighting and gold all game, but Team Dignitas’s slow and methodical approach once again won out. Team Dignitas continues to demonstrate that their experience and shot calling shouldn’t be underestimated, and even a titan like TSM will lose if they don’t show proper respect in this weekends series.
The other team who earned a semi-final spot is Counter Logic Gaming. They battled Team Envy in a series spanning all five matches and it was incredibly exciting to watch. Team Envy is relatively new to the professional scene. In addition, they had a few roster adjustments in the spring. Sure, they weren’t expected to win against a seasoned CLG force featuring support carry ‘aphromoo'(yes he likes it lower case), but they didn’t make it easy. This was the more exciting of the two matches to spectate.
Game 1 featured CLG’s midlaner Huhi playing a champion relatively rare in the pro circuit, Vel’koz, and CLG’s jungle Omargod playing Zac. The duo snagged a great kill on Team Envy’s top Seraph, and from that first blood Vel’koz spiraled out of control. Omargod lived up to his name sake with two infernal drakes, a vicious baron steal at 23:40, and a second baron at 32:23. CLG’s ADC Stixxay played Tristana and became a late game monster, leaving Team Envy’s turrets with little hope of surviving. The game ended in a victory for CLG and things weren’t optimistic for NV fans.
Game 2 surprised everyone except Team Envy. Their jungler LirA popped off after a first blood on aphroomoo at 8:01. With the added gold and confidence coming from the knowledge that even gods can bleed first, LirA maintained objective control and exceeded in team fights. Constantly targeting enemies carries, LirA provided his team with opportunities, his modus operandi. Team Envy’s other players were able to capitalize and the game ended with a commanding 14-6 score.
Game 3 was NV’s chance to showcase their mental toughness. Changing their team fighting dynamic, Top Seraph whipped out his Trundle and showed it to everyone. Although he gave up first blood to a triple gank at 5:46, his aggressive split push forced CLG to make risky and often compromising decisions on how to deal with him . At 33:06 he had 343 CS and was so strong he proceeded to solo a base tower and inhibitor, all the while ignoring enemy fire and officially achieving “Raid Boss” status. A truly terrifying spectacle. After a 36:45 baron and devestating tower control all game, Team Envy ended the game with their ADC Nisqy earning a ‘godlike’ kill status. The score was now 2-1 and the tension was palpable. One more loss would send CLG home.
Game 4 featured some of the most impressive summoner spell work I’d ever witnessed. CLG’s mid lane Huhi brought Galio with teleport to the party. With first blood secured after an excellent roam at 4:45, he proceeded to shepherd the rest of his squad. By juggling his ultimate and his teleport, he turned fights and saved his team mates on more than one occasion. Although Team Envy’s bot lane popped off, they couldn’t use their strength effectively in team fights. After two specific clashes over ocean drake and baron at 26:30, their advantage was lost. Team Envy failed to collectively focus and had their ranks split during team fights. A 29 minute ace by CLG led to a 29:32 baron. Although NV survived the baron buff they couldn’t stop the onslaught of their objectives. CLG won the match 19-9 at the 35 minute mark.
In the last match of the NA LCS Quarter finals, CLG focused Team Envy strongest link, LirA. Both teams played the landing phase cautiously, but that changed when Stixxay scored first blood on Seraph at 11:16. Seraph proceeded to get bullied and he’s never given the opportunity to carry like he did in his previous Gnar game. While LirA continued to be dangerous in team fights, CLG focused on locking him down to prevent any set ups or plays and it was incredibly effective. While CLG’s Impact split pushed, Team Envy was forced to make a baron attempt at 34:38 and fight the four CLG players within striking distance. LirA was focused and burst down before he could cause any disruption. After he fell, the rest of Team Envy retreated, albeit unsuccessfully. CLG ended up securing the baron, and attacked all three lanes at once. Team Envy couldn’t rotate fast enough as they had to helplessly watch their nexus, and their dreams of being NA champions, crumble under the hands and feet of CLG.
With their semi-final slot secured, CLG now faces Immortals on Saturday. When the two teams clashed back in the summer season, IMT swept the series 2-0. While the first game was a blow out, game two was fairly neck and neck. CLG’s mid Huhi is going to be the make or break player. While many consider him the weakest link in CLG’s chain, I disagree. His consistency has improved dramatically in this tournament alone. His unique champ pool incorporating a permanently banned Aurelion Sol and a glass cannon like Vel’koz also forces the enemy team to use bans on these esoteric champs, opening up potential game changing champions for his own team to select. If he can reliably put down damage the way he did in the quarterfinals, I think CLG stands a chance. Immortals is one of the scariest teams in the NA league, if he’s not prepared to bring his best into the semi-finals I can guarantee he’s not going to get his shot at the ‘ship, along with the rest of his hopeful team mates.