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LCS 2021 Championship Preview: Cloud9 vs Team Liquid

Zakaria Almughrabi

The LCS Summer Split Playoffs, also known as the 2021 Championships, are set to begin on August 7. TSM and 100 Thieves are currently sitting in the Upper Bracket Semifinals, while Immortals and Golden Guardians will be starting in the Lower Bracket. That leaves Evil Geniuses vs Dignitas and Cloud9 vs Team Liquid with the first matches of playoffs.

LCS Cloud9 Team Liquid

Cloud9 and Team Liquid will be facing off in an all-important first round playoffs match. Which team can overcome their regular season issues? (Image Credit LoL Esports)

Cloud9 and Team Liquid and two of the winningest organizations in LCS history. Both of their rosters on paper should be competing for the title this year, so their regular season finishes of fourth and fifth came as a bit of a surprise. Veteran players are known to kick things up a notch come playoffs time, so a strong start here is crucial to either of these teams’ potential runs.

Previous Matchups

Cloud9 and Team Liquid have played three times throughout the Summer Split. Despite their shakier-looking Summer form, Cloud9 managed to win all three of these matchups. This immediately points out C9 to be the favorites, however, Liquid do have some excuses here. All three of their matches against Cloud9 were played with a different full roster. With Alphari, Jenkins, Santorin, and Armao all sharing time in Summer, TL has had some trouble maintaining their form. It now looks like Liquid have settled on their theoretical best roster of Alphari, Santorin, Jensen, Tactical, and CoreJJ for playoffs.

Additionally, every game these two have played has gotten progressively closer. Their most recent matchup in Week 9 saw both teams within 350 gold of each other at the 22-minute mark. From there, Cloud9 took advantage of bad positioning from Liquid to get Baron. Their split push composition was then able to choke Liquid out of the game.

Their second matchup was the game with Jenkins and Armao starting. Jenkins was relentless targeted as the weak link and ended up 0/6/0 on Nocturne top. A supporting composition of Trundle, Azir, Aphelios, and Braum was not able to stop Cloud9 from rolling through fights with the sheer power of Viego and Diana. This match was pretty much an exception.

Week one is also hardly worth talking about now. The first C9 vs TL match of the season was nearly four months ago and still featured Udyr Hecarim Chemtank meta and Sion vs Cho’gath top lane. That said, we can still take a look at other preferences that have remained constant since then.

Jensen vs Perkz

The biggest stylistic discrepancy between the two squads comes in the mid lane. Jensen is historically much more comfortable on ranged picks. Control mages like Azir and Orianna and even ADC picks like Lucian and Tristana are some of his most powerful champions. Jensen did try to adapt to the more brawler-focused mid lane meta present this split, but he was not the most proficient. His Lee Sin and Viego accounted for eight total games with three wins earned.

On the other side, Perkz has a champion ocean in mid for Cloud9. He leads the way in unique champions played at 16 in Summer. His repertoire includes mages, ADCs, brawlers, and even melee carries like Yone and Yasuo. The flexibility that Perkz affords C9 in the pick/ban phase allows them to frequently get a draft advantage. Even with these stylistic differences, neither European mid laner has been consistently outperforming the other.

Jensen is second in the LCS in cs/minute and gold/minute for mid laners. This means that he can find tons of effectiveness in the mid to late game with his ranged picks. Perkz by comparison is fourth in this metric. However, Perkz makes advantages in different ways. He is number two overall in gold difference at 10 minutes due to his 30 percent first blood participation, Jensen only having 15 percent. Mid lane will truly be a clash of styles in this match.

Bot Lane Discrepancy

The biggest performance gap between these two rosters throughout Summer has been the bot lane. Cloud9’s duo of Zven and Vulcan has undoubtedly been one of the best performing bot lanes of the Split. Vulcan boasts an incredible 44 percent first blood participation rate, tying him for first in the LCS. CoreJJ on the other hand is second to last in this metric at 19 percent. CoreJJ is also second to last in the wards placed/minute metric, yet he’s tied for first in wards cleared/minute. This implies Liquid’s vision game is more frequently on the defensive side.

As for ADC’s Zven is topping the charts in many important stats. He is first in KDA at 7.8, first in cs/minute at 9.7, and second in first blood participation. Zven is very easily able to accrue a gold lead and keep it into the later stages of the game. He is a rock for C9 who will always be useful. Tactical is no slouch in cs/minute, coming in at second overall. His DPM and damage share is much higher than Zven’s, making him a crucial carry for Liquid. The problem is that Tactical leads the league in ADC death share with a bottom half KDA. When a player is as crucial to a team’s success as Tactical is for Liquid, any mistakes in his play get amplified.

Alphari vs Fudge

In the top lane we have a very interesting matchup between two of the best in the LCS. Alphari’s skill and effectiveness need no introduction. He is number one in gold difference, XP difference, and CS difference at 10 minutes through sheer lane prowess. Using that lead, Alphari leads the league in DPM and damage share for top laners. There are few players who could ever hope to match Alphari at his own game.

Fortunately for C9, Fudge might be the best choice for this humongous task. Fudge has the lowest counter-pick rate among top laners at just 26 percent. Cloud9 are extremely willing to just stick him with whatever champion they want early and let him do the rest. With this mindset, Fudge still manages to be first in KDA, beating Alphari 5.5 to 3.8. Fudge also tops the chart in first blood participation and is second overall in cs/minute despite being down an average of 2.9 at 10 minutes. If you want to see the best top lane matchup LCS has to offer, pay special attention to Alphari vs Fudge this weekend.

C9 Fudge

Fudge will need to withstand the enormous pressure of Alphari for C9 to win. (Image Credit LCS)

Making a Statement

Cloud9 and Team Liquid’s upcoming best-of-three will test these squads in all the crucial ways. If either team wants to make a run to the finals from fourth/fifth seed, they need to show that they’ve shored up their apparent weaknesses from the regular season. With Santorin back in the lineup full time, some main calling weight might be taken off CoreJJ’s shoulders. The former LCS MVP will need to reclaim some of his previous form to be able to keep up with Vulcan. Tactical also needs to show that he has what it takes to be a truly reliable carry threat. If he has untimely deaths yet again, Zven will end up eclipsing him without breaking a sweat.

In the top side, Blaber needs to help his squad get going early. His insane 67 percent first blood rate needs to continue for Perkz and Fudge to hold strong against the scaling threats of Jensen and Alphari. This match is also a chance for Alphari to solidify his top lane kingdom moving into the rest of playoffs. If he is able to dismantle Fudge, it will be clear that no one can even think of stopping him.

Cloud9 vs Team Liquid kicks off on August 8 at 4 P.M. EST.