By Petar Vukobrat
August 28, 2019
Let’s do a somewhat quick 2019 LCS Summer Split finals recap in order to see how the North American playoffs finally resolved. The conclusion we just witnessed left no one indifferent. While the regular portion of the split had its ups and downs, the playoffs delivered — and then some. It’s hard not to be satisfied with the level of play we saw throughout the playoffs. While the outcome didn’t exactly surprise anyone, the path towards it did. If we had to describe the final couple of Best of 5s in a single word, it would have to be “competitive.”
And that’s a new one, basically. The North American playoffs are rarely this competitive; we are rarely sitting on the edge of our seats. Ever since Liquid took control of the LCS throne, we’ve only seen one-sided beatdowns and 3:0 shellackings. They were that dominant, which made things stale. Soon enough, the only question remaining was “how big of a fight will X contender put up before ultimately succumbing?”
This time, however, there was uncertainty. Their regular season run wasn’t exceedingly dominant. Instead, they were vulnerable; they bled. That one fact got everyone thinking — is there an upset on the horizon? After all, they nearly lost to Team SoloMid just a couple of months prior. Maybe the Liquid dynasty isn’t as strong and infallible as everyone thought.
In the end, we all know how things resolved. It was a cliché denouement, although it happened in an exciting and nerve-wracking way.
But before we delve deeper into Liquid and Cloud9’s fight for the ages, let’s take a closer look at the third-place match between Counter Logic Gaming and Clutch Gaming in the first part of our LCS Summer Split finals recap!
When these two dark horses stepped foot on stage, it was hard not to feel a bit sour — but not because of any allegiance. Clutch Gaming were entering their third-place decider after nearly upsetting the reigning champions. They showed immense grit and determination; they showed the heart of a true challenger worthy of being considered a threat. By the same token, Counter Logic Gaming showed a metric ton of potential on multiple occasions, but they just couldn’t maintain a good enough level of play in order to go the distance.
Both teams earned our respect and benefit of the doubt, although the fact that they were fighting for scraps was lingering in the air. Sure, winning would provide them with a better position in the gauntlet, but it’s a relatively negligible benefit in the grand scheme of things. If they wanted to lock down a ticket for the World Championship, they truly had to be the third best team in the region, and it didn’t matter if they played one Best of 5 in order to prove it.
This clash was, in many ways, a consolation prize. At the very least, they had the opportunity to prove their worth in front of thousands of roaring fans. Not exactly as thrilling as lifting the LCS trophy, but at least it’s something.
Game one started off with a fantastic team comp for Counter Logic Gaming, spearheaded by Aatrox in the top lane and Qiyana in mid. It was a highly competitive game that was filled with non-stop action. Heck, we even saw a five-man group on mid just three minutes into the game. Both teams wanted to get the win and set the tempo of the series.
Sometimes when players step foot on such a big stage nerves tend to take over — they tend to be afraid of making the first move. This was no such case.
But even though Counter Logic Gaming had more than just a few priority picks in their team comp, it was Clutch who was able to dictate the pace. Their dominant early game gave them a solid lear quickly. They were always one step ahead, always making their opponents react and play second fiddle.
Counter Logic Gaming, on the other hand, just didn’t have a good read on what they could do and when. As a result, they contested plays without any business doing so. Once the 20-minute mark came around, they were at a six thousand gold deficit. They still tried to contest which meant absolute insanity ensued quickly, but they were too much behind to actually stand a chance.
Other than a single Clutch Gaming mistake in the mid game, they were pretty much perfect; a statement game in every regard. Everyone carried their share of the weight which resulted in a pretty one-sided shellacking.
Coming into the second game, Clutch had a metric ton of momentum and they capitalized fully. Even though they had a draft many would deem inferior, they still found an avenue towards success. With a ten thousand gold lead at the 20-minute mark, closing the game out was basically a formality.
Game three, then, seemed like a no-brainer. Clutch did more, they were better both individually as well as a five-man unit. Conversely, Counter Logic Gaming looked lost and out of sorts.
But as fate would have it, Counter Logic Gaming fought back. And then some. They were aggressive, they reverted to their strengths and drafted what they’re actually great at. They clawed back in the game and eventually scaled into the late game. They played as a team and — for the first time in series — played to their strong suits which paid dividends immediately.
Because of this, game four was wide open, at least on paper. Clutch once again started strong but they showed signs of tilt. Mistakes were lining up, whereas Counter Logic Gaming assumed full control and never let go. With a stellar frontline and ample damage output, they were able to completely neutralize their opponents and force a game five.
All signs were pointing towards a reverse sweep. Once again, much like in their series against Team Liquid, Clutch Gaming opted for a rather uneven (to put it mildly) draft — Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon had the last counter pick on Red side and yet once again opted for Karma, a pick he didn’t exactly excel at.
On the other hand, Counter Logic Gaming secured a stellar team comp with ample engage and crowd control. Fifteen minutes into the game, they were in full control of the game. In fact, it felt like they were just getting started as they completely outclassed Clutch across the map. They were one kill away from securing a perfect game. It was a spotless performance which left no doubt in anyone’s mind — Counter Logic Gaming really is the third best team in the region.
In just that one Best of 5, they adapted and grew far beyond what anyone expected. They adapted, and it was a season’s worth of evolution in just a couple of games. They experimented, failed, and still had enough fortitude to bounce back and complete the reverse sweep.
Next stop in our LCS Summer Split Finals recap is the absolute barn burner of a match between Liquid and Cloud9!
Considering just how insane and action-packed the series preceding it was, it kind of felt like the Liquid vs. Cloud9 match-up was bound to disappoint, at least ever so slightly. That’s not to say that an upset couldn’t have happened, but rather that a somewhat one-sided series was mostly going to happen. Even though Cloud9 got the better of Liquid throughout the Summer Split, it was hard to erase history — the last time these two teams clashed in an LCS finals, Liquid was able to get the win in clean 3:0 fashion.
Game one started off in the best possible way for the defending champions. While both teams traded heavy blows, it was Liquid that was able to emerge victorious on multiple fronts. Simply put, they destroyed Cloud9 from the very get-go and were better both individually as well as a five-man unit.
But Cloud9 came back with a vengeance in game two. They were far more synergized and played around their teleports flawlessly. They dictated the pace of the game and had a mind-blowing four thousand gold lead before the ten-minute mark. It was an absolute masterclass in mechanical prowess and team play, and even though Liquid fought back in the late game there was no coming back — they were at a too big of a deficit.
Game three was much of the same. While Liquid did win early on, they also made numerous mistakes in the mid game which allowed Cloud9 to bounce back in style. They had the better draft and executed it perfectly as well.
For a moment, it felt like Cloud9 was about to reclaim their long-lost LCS throne. Game four started badly for Liquid as Eric “Licorice” Ritchie solo killed Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong without breaking a sweat. But even though things looked dire for the defending champions, they were able to play through Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen’s individual lead and completely outclass Cloud9 when it mattered the most. Much like Counter Logic Gaming before them, Liquid forced game five when their backs were against the wall.
The parallel between Counter Logic Gaming doesn’t end there either, as the defending champs played their best in the fifth and final game of the series. It was a resounding win highlighted by Jensen’s spectacular play (and 11/0/5 KDA) along with Impact’s unexpected Shen pocket pick. It was the kind of showing we expected from a team of their caliber. In the end, the playoffs concluded with a thrilling Best of 5 where both teams showed what they’re made of. Fortunately, both Team Liquid and Cloud9 already booked their tickets to the upcoming World Championship. Whether or not they’ll make their region proud remains to be seen, but the odds are in their favor.
That’s it for our LCS Summer split finals recap! The region is currently on a one-week hiatus, but don’t fret — the gauntlet will commence on September 6th with Clutch Gaming taking on FlyQuest! The winner of that Best of 5 then faces Counter Logic Gaming in the second round, before finally clashing against Team SoloMid. Tune in on Twitch or YouTube to find out which team will lock down a ticket to the 2019 World Championship as North America’s third seed.