We’ll quickly recap how both of these teams arrived here and then provide our in-depth analysis on how these two squads will face up against each other, plus some esports betting picks for the punters out there.
Team SoloMid defies all odds
It was a little over three months ago that TSM completely revamped their roster. The only player returning from their disappointing finish at the 2015 World Championship was longtime TSM mid laner, Bjergsen.
Fan favorite Dyrus retired, leading way to the introduction of Hauntzer in the top lane. Fnatic great, YellowStar, would be imported from EU to replace a retiring Lustboy as support. Svenskeren was brought in to replace a struggling Santorin in the jungle.
It was the acquisition of Doublelift that would truly send shockwaves throughout the eSports community after Counter Logic Gaming (coincidentally the same team he will face in the finals) decided to release him from his contract. TSM immediately jumped at the opportunity to replace WildTurtle (who had a rough season in 2015) and bolster a bottom lane that now featured two superstars.
It was no surprise that Team SoloMid would struggle at the beginning of the split. The team had a mere 15 days to practice together before the regular season started. Finding the right team synergy and learning to communicate amongst each other in that timeframe is nearly impossible.
I say nearly impossible, because we essentially just saw Immortals do just that this Spring Split. Immortals is the outlier in this situation though, as we saw Team SoloMid, Echo Fox, and Team Liquid, all essentially breaking in a new roster of players, struggled early in the Spring Split.
Speaking of Immortals, the way that team started out so strong this Spring Split was unfairly compared to TSM’s early struggles. Both Immortals and TSM were pegged at the beginning of the split to be Team 1A and 1B, but only Immortals was able to live up to the hype (until last week, that is).
Despite this, there were multiple games that TSM looked broken, only to pull out a crucial win when they needed it most.
Inconsistencies have plagued this team the entire split, leading to a sixth seed in this year’s Spring Split Playoffs. They dropped the first game to Cloud 9 in the quarterfinals before going on a roll and pulling out three straight wins. That was the most complete performance we have seen from TSM all year long and it came at the most crucial moment.
For those who have followed Team SoloMid throughout the history of this organization, we’re used to seeing a dominating performance. This is the team that has been in every split playoff final. Getting to another final would require a monumental upset of the same Immortals team that set the record for most games won in a row in the North American LCS.
TSM entered their semifinal matchup against a 17-1 Immortals squad as severe underdogs. The Fnatic import duo of Huni and Reignover proved to be an insurmountable force during the regular season for the Immortals. Could TSM overcome that obstacle as well as oppress their own mistakes?
Game one started out phenomenally well for Immortals. They drafted an early aggression team composition, picking three AD carries. Huni played Lucian in the top lane, something we’ve seen Team Vitality do during the Spring Split in the European LCS.
Through the first 20 minutes, Huni was able to help Immortals get off to a 7-0 start and secure a 6,000 gold lead. The game would turn in TSM’s favor though on one of the most daunting plays of League of Legends – the bush camp.
TSM was able to catch WildTurtle and Adrian out of position with this move. Immortals attempted to respond by pushing down the exposed inhibitor in the top lane, but TSM was ready. They collapsed on Immortals in the jungle, securing a huge team fight win. TSM controlled the rest of the game from that point onwards.
Mistakes were made by Immortals during the pick and ban phase for game 2. Svenskeren has struggled this split on certain champions, but his Nidalee has been respectable all split long. He was able to apply plenty of early pressure for TSM as well as out farm Reignover’s Gragas. Svenskeren was always a few rotations faster than Reignover in game 2, and it allowed Bjergsen to roam on Zed and find key assassination kills.
Game two was never close, with TSM clinching a 2-0 series lead.
Game three we saw Immortals go with their bread and butter. Reignover went with Rek’Sai and Huni went with his comfort pick in Graves top lane. While Immortals focused bottom lane heavily this game, which led to an early lead, they had no answer for Hauntzer’s Maokai. As the game progressed, Maokai became harder and harder to deal with.
It inevitably was the reason for TSM finishing off game three and completing the 3-0 series sweep.
Counter Logic Gaming goes the distance
Counter Logic Gaming entered the 2016 Spring Split as the reigning North American champions after finally breaking through in 2015.
They were widely considered underdogs after losing both of their carries – Doublelift was released from his contract for team reasons and Pobelter refused to share time with Huhi in the mid lane. The roster changes left Huhi with a permanent starting position in the mid lane and rookie Stixxay being promoted from the Challenger Series.
Early in the year, CLG found success by repeatedly winning the split pushing meta. Darshan’s Jax and Fiora were close to unstoppable, and that strategy proved to be the only way to beat Immortals during the regular split.
Aphromoo is still an elite support whose experience and just pure brilliance helped bring Stixxay along. While Darshan remains the CLG catalyst, Xmithie has helped initiate his style of play all season long. It earned them the second seed in this split’s playoffs and a great chance to retain their title.
Team Liquid stood in the way first.
Both teams drafted disengage compositions in game one. The game centered around objective control, with the only kill in the early game going to TL after Darshan overextended. A drawn out game ultimately favored TL as well, with Dardoch’s Kindred and Piglet’s Caitlyn being super late game carries. CLG bounced back in the mid game though, securing the first Baron of the game.
The next big team fight occurred around dragon, with TL catching CLG’s Huhi out of position. When CLG rushed in to bail him out, TL was ready. Piglet secured a quadrakill, which ultimately propelled TL to a game one victory.
CLG looked to create some early game pressure in game two by going with the popular double teleport meta. Aphromoo also had an extraordinary game on Soraka, making numerous plays throughout game two. Game two was all CLG, with Darshan quickly building a huge lead on Ekko.
His split pushing proved to be too much for TL to overcome.
Game three was much like game two, with CLG dominating from the very beginning. A botched TL invade led to Matt giving first blood to CLG’s Huhi. Darshan also was able to quickly gain an early lead, thanks to a timely gank from Xmithie.
Dardoch was nonexistent for TL once again, with Kindred having little to no impact on this game. CLG was able to rotate around the map cleanly, taking turret after turret. With CLG’s vast map control, TL was essentially starved out of their side of the map. After a few baited Baron team fights that all went in CLG’s favor, TL was ultimately too far behind to win game three.
CLG now had a 2-1 game advantage in this best of five series.
In game four, TL made it a priority to take Ekko out of the hands of Darshan. It proved to be a huge advantage, as Lourlo proved he was just as capable of an Ekko player as Darshan. Dardoch also switched it up, going with a much earlier game jungler in Rek’Sai. A lot of the action would occur in the mid lane during game four, with multiple ganks from the junglers and teleports from top lane.
A huge 4vs5 victory in the mid game, thanks to some brilliant moves by Matt on Bard, led to Fenix getting a quadrakill for TL. TL was able to take that advantage and push down multiple lanes, securing a must-have game four win.
Everything was on the line heading into a decisive game five. Game five also proved to be one of the most exciting games of the playoffs. Fighting occurred early and often, with both teams trading kills back and forth.
TL was able to secure a mid-game lead after Darshan was caught out multiple times in the top lane. TL tried to use their lead to bait CLG into a bad team fight around Baron, but CLG was able to maintain their vision just enough to not be fooled.
CLG was content to drag out the mid game, knowing that Huhi’s Ryze would scale infinitely into the late game. Team fights were starting to be won by the slightest of margins, most in favor of CLG thanks to Ryze’s ramping damage. CLG was finally able to use that power in the late game to secure a crucial team fight, proceeded by a Baron kill.
A double teleport mid lane proved to be the deciding factor, as CLG was able to catch TL’s Piglet out of position. CLG pushed up the mid lane to secure the game five win and take their spot in the finals once again.
Team SoloMid (1.86) vs Counter Logic Gaming (1.96)
As we head towards the indulgent city of Las Vegas, two familiar faces in the North American LCS face off against each other once again. On the line is first place in the North American Spring Split Playoffs.
Bjergsen and TSM are also looking for revenge after CLG swept them last split in the finals at Madison Square Garden. CLG is looking to prove they are contenders in North America for the foreseeable future.
TSM is coming together at the right time after going a mere .500 in during the Spring Split. They’ve showed glimmers of promise through the playoffs, culminating in a sweep of Immortals last week. When the lights are the brightest, this teams seems to put it all together.
They’re starting to trust each other and play off one another, but are they better than CLG at this point?
It’s hard to see where TSM has a clear advantage in this series. Hauntzer had a consistent spring split replacing Dyrus for TSM, but he’s not on the level of Darshan. Doublelift and YellowStar have the higher ceiling in the bottom lane, but look for Aphromoo to pull out a few vintage games to keep that lane relatively even.
You would think TSM has a clear advantage in the mid lane, but Huhi has played relatively well this split. Bjergsen had 8.4 CS per minute compared to Huhi’s 8.1 and their kill participation is within 2 percent of each other. Both of these teams junglers have had inconsistent performances all split, and they’re relatively even in skill.
Both of these teams split the regular season series 1-1 and both teams come in with some momentum. TSM just cruised by an Immortals team that only dropped one game all split. Meanwhile, CLG had to go five games against a resilient and surging TL squad.
I want to pick TSM here because it’s Las Vegas and to see them come from sixth place to playoff winners would be fitting. But the practical side of this wager favors the more consistent team, which has been CLG. It should be a great series regardless, and I’m predicting a 3-2 CLG win. CLG has proven they can adapt to the meta quickly.
It’s been a great run for TSM, but they’re going to fall again to CLG here.
Image credit: EQRoy / Shutterstock.com