On Saturday, April 10, North America’s League of Legends Championship Series will cap off its 2021 Spring Season with the Mid-Season Showdown finals. All eyes are on the 2021 Mid-Season Invitational and, with the voracious Cloud9 as NA’s final boss, Team Liquid and TSM will clash for the chance to upset the domestic and international hopes of the league frontrunners in the Grand Finals on April 11.
Cloud9 on top
Cloud9 barreled into 2021 with a fat wallet and even bigger mouths; so far, they’ve backed it up. With their mid lane superstar Perkz finally settled in, Cloud9 looks like the world-class roster that fans had hoped to see perform at MSI in 2020. Their competition is Team Liquid and TSM. Their dismantling of TL in the second round of the MSS means it will likely be an uphill battle for the challengers.
When Cloud9 are online, they look to be a clear tier above their opponents in terms of teamplay and individual performance. Even the team’s “weakest” link, Ibrahim “Fudge” Allami, has played well as a pressure gauge for the team. Despite being a major point of focus that enemy teams try to exploit, he’s still raking in about 254 earned gold per minute, tying him for third out of all top laners in the stat. Despite his inexperience, his teammates view him as an invaluable asset to the squad.
C9 sport arguably the two best duos in the league to enable their snowball-y playstyle. Perkz and jungler Robert “Blaber” Huang are able to consistently outperform their LCS counterparts in the early and mid games through individual skill alone, but especially when it comes to making plays around neutral objectives. Their bot laners, Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen and Philippe “Vulcan” Laflamme, rarely fumble in lane and routinely transition whatever early advantages they get to accelerate the pace of the game.
C9 are the clear favorites to win it all, but they’re not without weaknesses. Their affinity for risks, and their own cockiness, can sometimes translate into over-aggression, leading to random deaths on their carries or overzealous plays. Both TSM and Team Liquid have shown their ability to take advantage of this during the regular season, but whether or not they can replicate that success in a best-of-five series remains to be seen.
TSM vs. Team Liquid: rematch from the upper bracket
Losers Finals between TSM and TL kick off on April 10, and the winner will move on to the main event. TL handily defeated TSM in the first round of the MSS upper bracket, and they’re primed and ready to repeat that success on their journey to Finals.
As the saying goes, “slow and steady wins the race,” and Team Liquid have definitely hit their stride in playoffs after a rocky split. Yes, they lost to C9 in round two of playoffs, but they showed a much stronger foundation to build off of in both draft and individual play. ADC Edward “Tactical” Ra, who’d been struggling for most of the year, looked much better than he had in previous games, and MVP-caliber top laner Barney “Alphari” Morris has been as dominant as ever. He still holds the highest creep score differential at 10 minutes out of all top laners in the LCS; his being 12.5 and the next highest being 3.6. As TL’s most powerful weapon, he’s a player that can never be counted out.
While TSM were in close contention with TL during their games in the regular season, LCS caster Isaac “Azael” Cummings-Bentley called out that TSM will have to clean up their play in order to stand a chance against TL.
“They showed a lot of holes against 100 Thieves which is a weaker team,” Cummings-Bentley said. “We already saw how this went the first time around where it was quite TL favored, so it does require some pretty exceptional performances from these guys.”
Individual play and decision-making in the mid and late games have carried TSM’s success this year, and it will be their saving grace against TL and potentially C9. The problem is, they have to make it to that point in the game.
At times during the regular season, TSM has looked like a top two team overall and maybe the best mid-late game team in the LCS. Some of their biggest wins, especially against top teams, were achieved through creative shotcalling from behind and a quick trigger finger to capitalize on enemy mistakes. During the MSS, however, their teamplay left a whole lot to be desired and their early game has looked worse than ever.
Top laner Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon has been TSM’s anchor in even the direst of situations. His newly honed weakside play enables the team to draft for comfort and feel more confident in trading the map. But, it may not be enough against a player like Alphari who excels in both tank and carry matchups.
Hu “SwordArt” Shuo-Chieh and Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage must have an excellent series for this rematch to go in TSM’s favor; otherwise, it’s looking like another easy 3-1 for Liquid.
When and where to watch the Mid Season Showdown Finals
The Mid-Season Showdown Finals weekend opens with TSM vs. TL on Saturday, April 10 at 1 p.m. Pacific Standard Time. The headliner between C9 and the winner of Saturday’s match will take place on Sunday, April 11 at 1 p.m. Pacific Standard Time.
For the first time since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the LCS will be returning to its live event roots, albeit without an audience. Both of the weekend’s matches will host players on stage at the Greek Theatre, an outdoor arena in Los Angeles, California.