The road to Worlds continues with the NA LCS Summer 2018 Semifinals, where every team proved that they deserved spots at the top of the NA LCS.
Unfortunately, despite great showings from each team, only two of them will be playing in the Grand Finals, while the others will be left to fight each other in the third-place decider match.
Below are our thoughts on the matches of the NA LCS Summer 2018 Semifinals:
North American Teams Need a Reality Check
The entirety of the playoffs is in patch 8.16, but we really are not seeing much difference in the pick and ban phase aside from the fact that the usual bans of Aatrox, Taliyah, and Nocturne have been dropped altogether.
In Europe we have been seeing the decline of the priority in Tahm Kench because of the immense nerfs on his Devour. The ability now has an almost thirty-second cooldown. This means that players can only use it approximately once per minion wave. Despite that, North American teams still pick Tahm Kench for some reason. Sure, it’s nice to have the ability to save your teammates, but the fact that the champion still gets picked a lot is indicative of something else: teams may not be punishing the Tahm Kench pick as hard as they possibly could.
In general, no one seems to want to explore the new things in 8.16. Although we have seen Ornn getting more priority this week. Possessing one of the best long-range initiation tools in the game, the only downside to Ornn is his slightly weak laning phase. This gives Gangplanks and Gnars a chance to take advantage against an over-aggressive Ornn during the laning stage.
Additionally, from what we’ve seen during the NA LCS Summer 2018 Semifinals, teams seem to be focusing too much on this patch having a 1-3-1 meta.
NA LCS Summer 2018 Semifinals Match Recap
Cloud9 vs Team SoloMid
Result: Cloud9 3-2
TSM’s winning streak against C9 ends
Team SoloMid almost always seems like the team to have Cloud9’s number in a best of five scenario. The last time Cloud9 was able to take down TSM in a playoff series was in 2014 spring, back in the days of Cloud9’s original roster. Since then, TSM has had a five-series winning streak against Cloud9 in a best of five.
This weekend, the streak against Cloud9 has finally been broken. After the third game, the series was 2-1 in favor of TSM but Cloud9 was able to net the wins in the last two games, and was able to turn the series into their favor.
Some jitters on Blaber?
Robert “Blaber” Huang, the rookie of the split, is famous for being aggressive and for being able to rally the team into saving him in most scenarios. He has mostly been on aggressive junglers such as Nocturne, Kindred, or even a Trundle, and is able to create situations wherein his team could turn the entire game around.
However, Cloud9’s rookie jungler seemed to have underperformed in this series, losing massive leads and making mistakes that could have been avoided. He seemed to be one-dimensional with the champions he was assigned with as well: he was on Nocturne the first game, which had a 1 kill and 5 deaths by the end of the game, and then on a Camille. The Camille seemed to be the better option overall as it had decent crowd control and target selection capabilities even from behind, whereas the Nocturne usually struggles when put behind.
Blaber has shown already that he could play a Trundle or even a Sejuani, and it raises some questions about how the team wants to play around him when they always give him champions that engage and go all-in. It could have simply been an issue of nerves as well, as it was Blaber’s first best of five, but it was not their first time to face TSM.
Hopefully, in the final, Blaber plays in the level that got him awarded Rookie of the Split.
Team SoloMid’s macro and decision-making
Macro and objective-focused play was TSM’s bread and butter. Emphasis on the was, though. In this particular series, TSM was anything but focused and instead was a bit too loose with their play. Even with a lead, they often found themselves trading one objective for another.
This is particularly alarming as it seems that they have no cognizance of where the minion waves were at, and where the enemy champions could have been in the map. If there was a rotation from the opponent they could have matched it while also pushing for an objective.
In addition, they seemed to depend on Soren “Bjergsen” Bjerg to secure leads for the team and build off of the said lead. In his matchup against Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen, this did not happen. Bjergsen was kept in check by Jensen in the three games the Cloud9 Danish mid laner was in. One could not hope Bjergsen to have the same amount of impact in a game where he had an opponent that could match him in lane and would give him no chance to go to a side lane.
While playing through the middle lane is a viable strategy, in my opinion, the amount of resources poured into him needs to be greater if they wish to have a greater advantage in the later stages of the game. Letting the enemy get access to gold and resources does not seem to be an optimal strategy as well.
Cloud9’s seven-man roster comes through
Having substitutes ready to go anytime was one of Cloud9’s advantages heading into the NA LCS Summer 2018 Semifinals. In games four and five, Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen and Greyson “Goldenglue” Gilmer played in place of Blaber and Jensen respectively.
There was not much change in terms of strategy even when the jungler and the mid laner changed. The mid lane still exhibited a rather supportive mid lane champion, and the jungler was still an invading, skirmish-heavy, carry-type jungler. Svenskeren and Goldenglue played Graves and Malzahar in the last two games of the series.
We can say a lot about the substitution. You could say that it helped energize the team, as players claimed in interviews. The addition of new players in the middle of the series apparently helped provide a fresh perspective on how to play the remaining games. In addition, it throws a curveball into the enemy team by raising questions of what they should ban or what champions they should prepare for to come from the substitutes.
Nevertheless we have to admit the fact that this series has been the redemption story of Svenskeren and Goldenglue. Both players have been in the professional scene for a long time and have met a lot of criticisms over the years, especially recently. Goldenglue has not quite been successful in his stint in the LCS so far, and Svenskeren has always been the recipient of the blame when he was on TSM, and when Cloud9 started losing. This series enabled them to overturn the negative notions that followers of the LCS have of them, and are now on the way to further “redeem” themselves as they look to obtain the championship.
Team Liquid vs 100 Thieves
Result: Team Liquid 3-1
The Cody Sun predicament
This NA LCS Summer 2018 Semifinals matchup is a rempatch of the last Spring Split’s finals. However, one thing is different this time — 100 Thieves have decided to sub out Cody “Cody Sun” Sun for Richard “Rikara” Samuel. Even weirded is that the team decided to do this, not just for a single game, but for the entire series.
Then again, you can’t exactly blame them. It’s no secret that Cody Sun struggles against Doublelift in the Lane. Theoretically, with Cody Sun out, 100 Thieves could pour their resources into another member of the team.
With the move, many initially thought that the team would now start playing around Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho. This was true. At least, for the first game. The team put him on a blind picked Gangplank. They didn’t do it for the rest of the series though.
Another thing worth noting is that in all the games that he played, Rikara consistently lost his lane against Doublelift. By a wide margin, at that.
This, then, begs the question: is it worth subbing Cody Sun out? After all, he is the best player of the team, and the team has always played around him. It’s clear that the coaching staff made some pretty questionable choices during the NA LCS Summer 2018 Semifinals.
Unfortunately, we don’t know the full picture so we can’t exactly make an informed judgement.
AnDa might be better on carry junglers after all
In the single game that 100 Thieves won in the NA LCS Summer 2018 Semifinals, Andy “AnDa” Hoang was on the Kindred, and was able to get three marks before the tenth minute. AnDa’s playstyle seems to thrive on powerfarming and taking resources from the enemy jungler, which means that in a team fighting or skirmishing scenario, AnDa would be several levels ahead of his opponents.
However later on in the series, AnDa was put on a Poppy, a Skarner, and then eventually the Sejuani. He looked worse on picks where he was forced to do more for his laners and for the rest of his team. This means that the team should have looked to empower him more than he should assist his teammates. This did not happen, and as we know, 100 Thieves fell in a decisive fashion.
Ryu did not perform as well
Ryu “Ryu” Sang-wook and stability. Name a more iconic duo. 100 Thieves often relies on Ryu to influence the side lines and be that stable rock for them. However, in this series, he was put on champions that could have more impact on the game, but even then he did not perform well.
In particular, the team put Ryu on LeBlance, Cassiopeia, and the Malhazar. Still, despite the consistent minion wave clearing abilities of the said champions, Ryu often found himself behind in the lane. Even worse, his lane opponent wasn’t even pressuring the lane that hard either. His enemy, Eugene “Pobelter” Park, is a player known for holding the lane and defending the turret instead of pressuring his lane matchup.
Ryu’s generally safe playstyle could also signal another problem in the 100 Thieves’ playstyle in general: without Cody Sun, and Ssumday on a tank, where would the lane pressure come from? Which lane could they play towards getting an early objective? If they could have pressured the outer turrets better in the laning phase, they could have obtained so much more gold early. The lack of resources obtained in the early stages of the game seemed to have hurt 100 Thieves’ mid game, and did not put them in a good position to pick fights even in the later stages of the game.
100 Thieves will need to draft even a single lane which could pressure an objective in the laning phase.
Team Liquid goes to Worlds
With their NA LCS Summer 2018 Semifinals victory, Team Liquid clinches its spot at Worlds. This is the organization’s first time to do so, although their members have gone to the World Championship Tournament before, albeit under a different banner.
Team Liquid has been generally consistent all year, and hopefully they have a great showing in South Korea.
The third place match will be between Team SoloMid and 100 Thieves, and the finals will be a match between Cloud9 and Team Liquid. These teams are the best of North America, and all matches still have great implications towards the rest of the teams that will make it to the World Championship. We have yet to find out who will join Team Liquid in Korea, but we have to hope that they represent the region well.
What did you think of all the action that happened during NA LCS Summer 2018 Semifinals? Who do you think will emerge at first place in the playoffs? Let us know in the comment section below!