LoL Week in Review: Cloud9 Finally Beat Team Liquid
As the Spring Split gets closer to its conclusion, we have our first confirmed Finalists in the major regions. Cloud9 took that honor in North America after finally getting the best of Team Liquid, while MAD Lions’ second consecutive upset secured their spot. In the LCK, Gen.G’s surprising sweep of T1 set them up for a date with DAMWON KIA. We look at the top news and storylines across the LEC, LCS, LPL, and LCK.
CLOUD9 FINALLY GET THE BEST OF TEAM LIQUID
For what was expected to become the big rivalry of the 2021 LCS year, the early results between Team Liquid and Cloud9 were surprisingly one-sided. TL won the inaugural Lock-In tournament by beating Cloud9 3-2 before then winning both regular-season matchups. However, this time was a different story. Cloud9 easily dispatched Team Liquid 3-1 to advance to the LCS Spring Finals.
This series was Luka “Perkz” Perković’s first real statement match for Cloud9. Whereas counterpart Barney “Alphari” Morris dominated NA top laners upon his arrival, Perkz took more time to get comfortable on his new team. After handling his mid lane matchup against Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen, it looks like Perkz is finally settled in.
The interesting part about Perkz’ performance is that it didn’t come in the way we’d expect. Perkz played for lane kingdom as a mid laner in his time with G2 Esports, even if the bulk of that data is more than two years old. In this series, Perkz generated his advantages by roaming. Part of it was surely by design, as Perkz played picks like Sylas and Ryze. Maybe Rasmus “Caps” Winther’s roaming style rubbed off on Perkz.
Perkz combined to go 20/10/15 in the series, giving him a 77.78% kill participation. That percentage would have topped the LCS mid laners in the 2021 regular season and is an 11% improvement on Perkz’ Spring Split numbers.
Cloud9 didn’t just win because Perkz was a beast, though. The other key to their series was finally finding a way to slow down Alphari. After Alphari crushed Ibrahim “Fudge” Allami in Lock In, Fudge steadily improved throughout the season. That work culminated in Fudge holding his own in this series, despite having difficult lane matchups in all four games. It obviously helped that Robert “Blaber” Huang and Perkz had mid priority to gank for Fudge, but the days of Alphari just “top gapping” Fudge already seem to be over.
Finding ways to allow Lucas “Santorin” Tao Kilmer Larsen more agency in the jungle matchup should be first on the list of fixes for Team Liquid. TL can’t use the advantages Alphari can generate if Santorin and Jensen are always second to move.
With all that said, Team Liquid still have time to regroup and get a rematch with Cloud9. If TSM’s match against 100 Thieves was any indication, TL should have no problem dispatching TSM in the Lower Bracket to join Cloud9 in the Finals. The winner would take the season lead in head-to-head matches and, more importantly, qualify for MSI.
MAD LIONS SECOND STRAIGHT UPSET SEND G2 TO LOWER BRACKET
In the LEC Spring regular season, two teams stood above the rest: G2 Esports and Rogue. MAD Lions defeated Rogue in their first playoff series, beating them in four games. They then made it two-for-two in upsetting G2 Esports to clinch their spot in the Spring Finals. MAD also beat G2 by the same 3-1 score.
The victories are a triumph for an organization that made a pair of changes after a disappointing 2020 Worlds performance. It was no secret that top laner Andrei “Orome” Popa would be replaced. That has definitely worked out, as İrfan “Armut” Berk Tükek has been exactly what MAD hoped for in a replacement. But the decision to remove Zhiqiang “Shad0w” Zhao in favor of Javier “Elyoya” Prades Batalla took much more courage. The rookie jungler’s second consecutive strong playoff series has made MAD look like geniuses in the area of roster construction.
These additions strengthened what was already a great core on MAD Lions. Marek “Humanoid” Brázda and Matyáš “Carzzy” Orság are both capable of carrying the team, while Norman “Kaiser” Kaiser sets everyone else up for success. Kaiser’s efforts in the series did not go unnoticed, as he was named match MVP.
On the other side, G2 Esports are not exactly in an unfamiliar spot with the loss. They dropped to the Lower Bracket in both 2020 Spring and Summer before ultimately winning both championships. However, G2 Esports appears ready to flip the proverbial switch after their latest loss.
Jungler Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski revealed on his stream that G2 had lacked leadership this split, presumably in reference to Perkz’ departure. On leading talks with the team, Jankos said: “someone has to take the lead and no one has been doing it, so I’ll do it.” Jankos certainly has the veteran status to take on that role, but this is another glimpse into how roster changes affect more than just gameplay.
Another change coming to G2 is how often their top laner plays Solo Queue. Martin “Wunder” Nordahl Hansen tweeted that he’ll uninstall WoW as he prepares for next weekend. Whether or not he does, Wunder has already committed himself to playing more League of Legends. This reddit thread highlights Wunder’s recent uptick in Solo Queue games after his subpar performance against MAD. We’ll see if that helps to get him out of his recent slump.
FNATIC GET SWEPT BY FC SCHALKE 04
Fnaitc’s 9-9 season didn’t leave them much margin for error in the playoffs. Europe’s fifth-seed opened with a win over SK Gaming in the Lower Bracket, but didn’t last any longer. FC Schalke 04 swept Fnatic 3-0 to give Fnatic their worst finish in the LEC since 2016 Summer.
So, what went wrong? The first place you would think to start is with the departure of Martin “Rekkles” Larsson. Few, if any teams would willingly go from Rekkles to Elias “Upset” Lipp. However, that doesn’t mean Upset is the problem. If anything, he has been one of Fnatic’s best and most consistent players throughout the split. As an ADC, you often are at the mercy of the rest of your team. In this series, Upset was often let down by his teammates.
When Fnatic struggled last year, the team often cited their different views on how to play the game as a major problem. With Rekkles and Tim “Nemesis” Lipovšek leaving, Fnatic got a chance to commit to Gabriël “Bwipo” Rau and Zdravets “Hylissang” Iliev Galabov’s preferred aggressive style. While Fnatic might be on the same page on how to play, the execution of that style is still lacking.
Fnatic played this series like they did the rest of the Spring Split — out of control. You could see the skill and the willingness to commit to plays. Unfortunately, Fnatic’s play selection was a problem. That was never more apparent than their failed dive of Felix “Abbedagge” Braun’s Corki in game three. That three kill swing snowballed into three more at the next dragon, turning a 1.6k Fnatic gold lead into a 2.6k lead for S04.
Fnatic might be missing some of the restraint that Nemesis and Rekkles preached. It’s not always the worst thing to have teammates who see the game in different ways. As long as there is mutual respect, disagreements don’t have to be problematic.
Whatever the case, Fnatic couldn’t wipe away a poor regular season performance with a deep playoff run this time. Fnatic still look like a team whose whole is less than the sum of its parts. Coach Jakob “YamatoCannon” Mebdi has his work cut out for him going into Summer.
BDD, GEN.G DOMINATE T1 TO REACH FINALS VS. DAMWON KIA
Gen.G’s recent history against T1 has been bleak. T1 owned the Gen.G from 2019 to the end of 2020, when Gen.G finally swept a broken T1 roster in the Regional Finals to qualify for Worlds. Gen.G took advantage of T1’s slow start to 2021 to take their first regular-season meeting, but T1 bounced back to sweep the second. With T1 now committed to their 2020 lineup (plus Ryu “Keria” Min-seok), it looked like Gen.G would once again be a stepping stone for T1 in the playoffs.
Instead, Gen.G put together perhaps their best performance in years to sweep T1 3-0 in the LCK semifinals. The second seed in the LCK will advance to play overwhelming favorites DAMWON KIA in the Finals.
For Gen.G, Gwak “Bdd” Bo-seong’s stellar play in a big moment was a welcome sight. Bdd has long stood alongside Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok, Jeong “Chovy” Ji-hoonm, and Heo “ShowMaker” Su in the elite class of mid laners in the LCK, but he has often shrunk under pressure. That wasn’t the case at all in this series.
Playing against the best player of all time, Bdd was nearly flawless. He combined to go 8/2/19 in the low-scoring series and led his team in damage dealt in games two and three. Bdd even had an incredible save of Kim “Clid” Tae-min in game two. He flashed in front of Faker’s Zoe Paddle Star to tank the damage, allowing Clid to survive on low health. It’s the type of play that Bdd has always had the mechanics to make, but has often failed while on the big stage.
Gen.G will enter the Finals as heavy underdogs, but they already proved they can beat DK in week nine. If this version of Bdd shows up again, DK may have a harder time claiming the LCK title now than they did in 2020 Summer.
For T1, they have plenty of roster decisions to make going into Summer. They looked like they finally found their groove heading into the playoffs, but a swift 3-0 from Gen.G may have changed things. Their wealth of talent is the envy of every team globally, but only five players can play at a time. It will be up to the coaching staff to strike the balance between the best-performing individual players and the most cohesive five-man unit. You don’t often win matches when the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Just ask Fnatic.
As the early-round matches wrap up, we finally get to the meat of the schedule in the LPL. Royal Never Give Up (1) will take on FunPlus Phoenix (5) in round four of the playoffs on Wednesday, April 7. FPX are coming off 3-1 wins over Rare Atom and JD Gaming. Meanwhile, RNG will be playing their first match of the playoffs.
The other three leagues will wrap up their championships this weekend. In the LCK, it will be the aforementioned matchup between DAMWON KIA (1) and Gen.G (2) on Saturday, April 10. In the LEC and LCS, there is still one Lower Bracket match to go before the Finals.
Rogue (2) and G2 Esports (1) will battle it out on Saturday for the chance to take on MAD Lions (3) in the Finals on Sunday, April 11. The LCS has the exact same schedule, with Team Liquid (3) and TSM (2) fighting for the right to face Cloud9 (1). The winner of every championship will look forward to playing in the Mid-Season Invitational.