NA Finals: Team Solomid vs. Counter Logic Gaming
The rivalry between TSM and CLG is the most well known and longest running rivalry in the history of competitive League of Legends. Doublelift, CLG’s ADC, said it best when he stated, “It’s pretty rare that CLG vs TSM is super one sided.” Despite the truth in that statement, the official record between them is 16–9, in TSM’s favor. In fact, TSM has won the last 5 matches between the two teams, because, as they always seem to do, TSM has shown up in playoffs. Team Solo Mid convincingly beat Gravity and Team Liquid; however, CLG also looks the best they have in recent memory. They were finally able to come back from their mid season slump, which has always been a big part of their downfall in the past, and swept Team Impulse 3–0. Is this the beginning of the CLG golden age, or will TSM continue to dominate the NA scene?
Since the beginning of season 2, Doublelift has been carrying CLG from the bot lane. His mechanical brilliance in the ADC position has led to him being considered one of the best ADC’s in the world. Unfortunately for him, CLG hasn’t won anything since he joined the team. Due to the lack of awards, many have questioned if he is the root of CLG’s issues. Despite these doubts, he’s continued to produce fantastic results, with this split being no different. Doublelift is undefeated on Tristana (6–0) this split, but so is his counterpart WildTurtle (3–0). Both players have been focusing on late game scaling ADC’s, such as Jinx and Tristana, during playoffs. This trend is likely to continue, as it’s what the two are most successful with. Kalista’s 100% ban rate is also expected to continue. Turtle is generally considered the weaker ADC in this matchup, but TSM hasn’t had any issues so far against other bot lanes, including ones that are considered stronger, due to them utilizing lane swaps and map movements well. I don’t foresee TSM opting into standard lanes often in this series.
On the contrary, CLG would definitely prefer standard lanes. Not only would their stronger duo lane be in a good position, it would allow ZionSpartan to get the resources he needs to help carry his team. Zion will want to take aways Dyrus’ Olaf, which currently has a 100% pick/ban rate in TSM playoff games. Currently 3–0 on Olaf himself, Zion won’t have trouble carrying from the top lane if he can get his hands on The Berserker. Another contested pick will be Gnar, who is both top laners’ most played and most successful champion this split. Unless Zion or Dyrus feels like channeling their inner Smeb, whoever doesn’t get Gnar will probably be playing Maokai, who has a rough matchup against Gnar.
If the top lane ends up as Gnar vs. Maokai, jungle pressure will be needed to help the Maokai. However, sadly for CLG, Xmithie has really only shown proficiency on Gragas and Ekko this split. It’s very likely TSM will ban Gragas and then pick Ekko to prevent Xmithie from having much impact on the game. In this series, there is a good chance that CLG will live or die based on how well Xmithie does. When on a comfort pick, he’s easily more effective than Santorin; however, when he’s forced onto a different champ he can be a liability. Hopefully, Xmithie has been practicing other junglers in the last two weeks to prevent him from being the weak link on the team. Another question is how well Santorin will allocate his focus to TSM’s lanes. If he focuses on one lane too much, they could repeat their MSI performance, which would be less than desirable for TSM.
Azir is currently the emperor of the mid lane. Bjergsen is 6–0 on him, and Pobelter is no slouch either at 3–1. Currently Azir has an 83% winrate (5–1) during playoffs, yet CLG banned him in all 3 games against Team Impulse. If Pobelter isn’t willing to play this champ, CLG needs to ban him. If they don’t, Bjergsen will easily take over the game and carry TSM to a victory. Don’t expect any other mid lane bans from CLG, though. Bjergsen has played ten different champs this split and is proficient on many more. With Azir off the table, Orianna will be the contested pick between both mid laners because of her reliability. Another control mage that will likely see play is Viktor. Even with the recent changes to his passive, he still has some of the best AoE burst damage. Which will be immensely effective in the team fights that are bound to break out. Both midlaners are mechanically gifted, so the battles in mid will be entertaining to watch. If either player can get an advantage over the other, look for them to roam in order to affect the rest of the map.
Speaking of roams, LustBoy and Aphromoo both love to affect other areas of the map. LustBoy will often go on solo ward missions that can greatly benefit, or occasionally hurt, TSM. The deep vision LustBoy acquires helps TSM track the movements of the jungler and can act as a great way for Dyrus to get a teleport behind the enemy team. Unfortunately, this also sometimes leads to LustBoy getting caught alone, which gives the enemy team an easy kill. On the other hand, Aphromoo is one of CLG’s shot callers. When he roams, it’s more often to gank a lane to help get it ahead. Both supports have only played Alistar, Braum, and Thresh during playoffs. It would be interesting to see one of them forced onto someone else, but if TSM continues to ban Janna, it’s unlikely. Alistar is Aphro’s most played champion this split, so TSM will likely try to take that away from CLG.
Since there is so much history between TSM and CLG, this could be the most epic NA LCS final yet. This is also the best CLG has ever placed in the LCS, leading many to think it’s finally their year to win. With how well both teams have looked lately, it’s reasonable to believe this series will go to 5 games. As for who wins, it’s much more difficult to predict. TSM has so much experience in best of 5 format that at first look it would be easy to say they’ll take the win. In spite of this, CLG feels it’s finally time for them to take first place, and have taken huge strides to make that happen. TSM and CLG have been scrim partners for much of the playoffs, meaning they’ll likely know many of each others strategies. Winning the final would also guarantee CLG a spot at Worlds, while TSM already has that locked in. Regardless of who wins, this will be some of the best League of Legends we’ll see this year.