LIQUID, CLUTCH ADVANCE TO NA LCS PLAYOFF SEMIFINALS
Cloud 9 vs Team Liquid
After a generally successful season and a very contested fight for the 3-6th place, Cloud9 unexpectedly flopped in their first playoff round, losing 0-3 to Team Liquid.
In both of the first two games, Cloud9 were the first team to amass an early advantage, but they were outmatched in the midgame teamfights, and Team Liquid managed to catch up and eventually rout their opponents. In Game 1, it was a good baron fight and a backdoor during an elder drake standoff that did it; in Game 2 it was C9 misjudging their chances to punish Liquid after they had just taken baron that cost them several kills and allowed TL to push into the base and drop the nexus before the baron buff expired.
Game 3 had a more even start with a small early lead for Team liquid, but C9 actually got ahead in the midgame after routing TL just after they had taken the baron, getting a solid 4-0 fight. However, they would not be able to press their advantage, and in the next big teamfight a clutch Pobelter play gave Team Liquid two kills, and set them for the baron. With the baron and elder drake buffs, TL were able to crack the C9 base and sweep their opponents, as Sneaky's fed Ezreal could only watch.
All that remains to be seen is whether TL will manage to stick to their legendary fourth place or go forward – but after what they did to C9, Echo Fox are not likely to find their April 1st semifinal a laughing matter.
Clutch Gaming vs Team Solo Mid
After rallying at the end of the season winning the four-way tie for the third place, TSM – North America's most decorated team and an organization that had never missed playoff finals in North America since the creation of the NA LCS - had some reason to be confident going into the playoffs. As it turns out, however, Team Liquid's sweep was not going to be the biggest shocker of the weekend and unlike the last week of the regular split, this time it was Clutch Gaming's time to shine.
Team Solo Mid started with a solid win after MikeYeung's early ganks put his mid lane and bot lane ahead, and while they gave a few kills, TSM got early tower kills and the first baron. They continued their advantage and after an uncontested second baron, got a dominant win just past the 30th minute.
Game 2 started well for them too, as an early tower dive killed CG's bot lane. Clutch was eventually able to equalize with a botlane gank of their own, and the game stayed fairly equal until Clutch was able to get two kills after baiting baron, then finish the big purple worm off. With a baron buff and a banner used on a cannon minion, they took two inhibitors. In the decisive fight near the elder drake, TSM got two early kills at the cost of their ADC and a large part of their life bars, and they retreated – only for Bjergsen and later MikeYeung's to be caught and shredded by CG's Thresh-Kog'maw duo, which let CG take equalize the series.
Game 3 saw Clutch take the early lead with more active ganks and an early tower. To make things even worse, Zven's Kog'Maw was caught several times and CG picked up three fairly early infernal drakes and, after a good baron bait, the baron itself. TSM attempted to counterattack at their midlane inhibitor, but poor coordination left them scattered and saw MikeYeung's, Hauntzer and Zven dead, and Bjergsen and Mithy with no way to defend the nexus.
Game 4 was when TSM had to bring it all back, and an early gank looked to give them a big advantage – until they were unable to secure a second kill and escape; after it was all over Clutch had 4 kills to TSM's 2. Clutch solidified their advantage with picking up extra kills in the following fights with both better coordination and outplays in the top lane. This lead helped them secure a baron despite a Mikeyoung attempt to steal, and they picked 2 extra kills to go with it; with the baron buff, they took the mid and bot inhibitors as well. While TSM tried to defend, the nearly 10K gold lead and extra experience proved too much – Clutch aced them in the next teamfight despite losing their support at the start, and that was that for TSM's playoff finals streak. Clutch Gaming had triumphed, leaving TSM and their fans stunned as they wrote their own history.
This Saturday, Clutch Gaming face 100 Thieves, another new organisation that was assembled after the franchising changes. One of these rookie organisations will go to its first final on their first NA LCS split. 100 Thieves had looked a lot better in the regular season – but as this series just proved, that does not necessarily mean anything.