The fifth week of the NA LCS featured a rematch of the NA LCS Spring Split Playoff finals between Cloud9 and TSM.
This was a wild series with plenty of twists and turns, incredible outplays and back-breaking mistakes and a 100% win rate on Fervor of Battle Rumble. But the biggest takeaway here isn't found in the performances or the highlight reels. It's the long-term effects this series could hold for both Cloud9 (6-3, 14-8) and Team Solo Mid (6-3, 14-7). It may end up being the critical point that makes or breaks TSM's chances at a first-round bye in the regional playoffs.
Here are a few other takeaways from this entertaining series:
1) C9 needed this win. They now have a chance to be in control of their destiny and be in a position to secure a first-round bye - provided they can take the rematch against Counter Logic Gaming tomorrow. Beating a long-time rival should be a huge confidence boost heading into this high-stakes grudge match. TSM, on the other hand, now has to shake off the disappointing loss to face the red-hot Immortals tomorrow afternoon in a must-win series.
2) The best and worst sides of TSM were on display over all three games. In Game 1, TSM cruised to a 32-minute victory by simply outplaying C9 on every level. Their picks on C9 were more effective while their secured objectives were more valuable in the long run. This is the mark of a team that would be successful on the international stage. However, any progress made here comes undone in the following two games. TSM routinely got caught with their pants down in several teamfights, courtesy of C9 substitute top laner Ray's incredible engages (more on Ray's performance below).
If TSM expects to get over the hump and perform on the international stage, it can't be done by Bjergsen's star effort alone. Svenskeren's numbers are misleading for the impact he had in Game 1, but the overall numbers - a 6/12/14 stat line, ending with a paltry 1.7 KDA - don't paint a pretty picture. Avoiding the spotlight has been Hauntzer's declining performance.
After an incredible spring split where he finished near the top of the league in several categories, Hauntzer has not looked like the same dominant top laner in summer. He was instrumental in Game 1 with strong initiations that helped set up crucial picks, but his next two games were forgettable after laning phase. Doublelift may be an improvement over WildTurtle, but he hasn't magically fixed all of TSM's problems. These are not good signs for a team who routinely disappoints internationally with battles against Europe's G2 Esports, Unicorns of Love, and Fnatic on the horizon at the inaugural Rift Rivals.
3) All hail Jensen! The mid lane prodigy should be considered a frontrunner in the MVP race, continuing the momentum from an incredible 33/3/17 stat line last week with a solid 13/7/21 performance against TSM. If you haven't seen his two solo kills against Bjergsen, you should find the highlights on Reddit or YouTube. After a shaky start, Jensen found his rhythm and thoroughly clapped Bjergsen the next two games. These are the kind of performances you expect from a star mid laner.
The jury's out on Jensen delivering in the clutch given his last two appearances in the regional finals, but there's no question he's playing like a man determined not to let his team down a third time. He's making a case to be known as NA's best mid laner and will be a lot of fun to watch against three of Europe's best mid laners.
4) Jensen aside, the biggest reason for C9's success comes with the perfect blend of youth and experience. C9 arguably possesses the best roster in the LCS and will be dangerous if they keep this young, talented core of players. At some point, the team will look to replace long-time veteran Sneaky and finally put the chapter of the original C9 roster to a fitting close.
C9 fans should appreciate that the rest of the roster is already in good hands with Contractz, Jensen, and Smoothie performing at a high level and the potential top laner of the future, Ray, learning under former World champion Impact. C9 may not be seen as a leader amongst LCS organizations in innovation or scouting, but its starting roster should be seen as the gold standard to strive for. This is a roster primed for long-term success.
5) Let's talk about Ray. Impact took the start today against TSM and played his best game of the split, putting the clown suit on Hauntzer in laning phase. Although it didn't end with a victory, C9 curiously decided to put Ray in for the rest of the series. Ray deserves credit for being the reason C9 ultimately won the series, consistently finding great flanks or game-changing engages in pivotal teamfights that snowballed into the reverse sweep. But Ray also left a lot to be desired with his Game 2 performance.
Ray couldn't get ahead with his signature Jarvan IV against Hauntzer, finding himself down 40 CS at one point and making mistakes that made Silver players look Diamond. It only looked to get worse after mistakenly taking Fervor of Battle instead of Deathfire Touch as Rumble in Game 3, but credit Ray for rising above adversity and delivering in the defining moments. If Ray improves his consistency in lane and matches it with how well he played in teamfights today, no one will sleep on this squad again. Ray has made his case for more playing time and should earn more chances to play.
Image credit: Riot Games via Flickr