As fans held their breath to see who would be crowned NA LCS champion after Game 5 of the series finale between Cloud9 and Team SoloMid, the stakes were far higher than just the Spring Split crown. Although Cloud9 has proven themselves to be a top team, North America is better off as a region with TSM as their representative at the Mid Season Invitational.
With the Mid-Season Invitational fast approaching, the winner of the NA LCS playoff final would be invited to represent the region at a tournament filled with the champions from across the globe. With NA’s international reputation and a preferential seeding at the World Championships on the line, CLICKON eSports provides a breakdown of why the Team SoloMid squad serve as better ambassadors for the North American region than their rivals, Cloud9.
Top Lane Superiority
One advantage that TSM hold over Cloud9 is the play of top laner Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell, who finished second in the NA LCS MVP voting this split. Hauntzer has been the best top laner in NA throughout the split, and in the series against Cloud9 he showed his prowess earning player of the series. In multiple games, Hauntzer dominated the pair of Cloud 9 top laners and created significant pressure advantages.
Hauntzer is expected to match-up well against many international competition, capable of creating the same type of advantages he demonstrated throughout the playoffs. When examining the rosters of the other attendees, on multiple teams the top lane is highlighted as a point of potential weakness within their rosters.
Two examples of match-ups where Hauntzer may be able to create a significant advantage for TSM are G2 eSport’s Daehan “Expect” Ki and Flash Wolves’ Yau “MMD” Li-Hung: the match up against Expect could potentially be decisive, as G2 and TSM are likely to be fighting for the invaluable final place in the top four.
Mid Lane Consistency
Team SoloMid’s poster boy Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg is one of the most consistent players in North America, where by contrast, Cloud9’s Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen has faltered in crucial, high-pressure situations. The Cloud9 mid laner has historically seen his play slip on the international stage.
In a tournament loaded with mid lane talent, you cannot afford to have your mid laner dominated like Jensen was by SK Telecom T1’s Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok at Worlds last season.
Experience in the Jungle
The youth and inexperience of Cloud9 jungler Juan Arturo “Contractz” Garcia would have been a cause for concern when looking at his first international tournament. Contractz has experienced an inconsistent first split, despite claiming the Rookie of the Split title, comprehensively outclassed by his opponent during the final.
Often, Contractz is able to build an early lead, but finds himself unable to translate that lead into convincingly victory, failing to influence the game as much as he needs to with an established advantage. TSM jungler Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen looked at his best on the international stage at Worlds, and although he has also had his own ups-and-downs this season, he is the safer choice to perform well at MSI and the more desirable jungler at this point in the season.
Teams’ Speed off the Mark
Where Cloud9 have struggled in the early game this season and failed to create leads for their team, Team SoloMid have been largely consistent (despite notoriously providing false hope by conceding Game 1 of their best of 3’s). At the 15 minute mark, Cloud9 typically find themselves behind by an average 85 gold, a troubling trend for any team competing to be the top in their region.
At a tournament such as MSI, this could potentially have disastrous results, as there will be multiple teams who pose an aggressive threat early game that could put Cloud9 at an insurmountable deficit. When you are competing against the best teams in the world, early disadvantages are that much more difficult to recover from. Flash Wolves (up by 2270 gold at 15 minutes on average) would likely be able to snowball their early leads and never allow Cloud9 an opportunity to find their feet.
With dominant and consistent laners in Hauntzer and Bjergsen, and a more experienced jungler in Svenskeren, Team SoloMid present a better option for NA if they hope to retain their top four placing and secure a preferential seed for the World Championships. While Cloud9 has the potential to grow over the next split and possibly overtake TSM, right now NA fans should be ecstatic their best hope for international success was able to narrowly pull out a game five victory.
Team SoloMid’s Dynasty Of Nine Consecutive Playoff Finals