The game of the week. C9 need to stay in 2nd place while Liquid would love to knock off one of the top teams and show they belong. Crucial to this matchup: can Lourlo get a tank that he feels comfortable enough taking it into Balls? TL are one of the few teams that can feel good about the duo lane into Sneaky/Hai (in fact, I have C9’s duo over IMT’s in my secret rankings that I’ll reveal tomorrow). But C9 are so balanced – Balls, Rush, and Jensen have taken turns straight carrying. I think this means more for C9 and will go #C9Win
Picks and Bans – TL target Hai with Soraka/Morgana bans; I’ve never been a fan of support bans. There are so many good supports in this meta and while Hai’s champion pool has been questioned, it’s unlikely you’re going to take them all away with Janna, Alistar, Braum, Trundle still available. C9 go straight for Jhin/Lee Sin after TL first-pick Corki. TL respond with Poppy/Janna instead of Nautilus – interesting. C9 get Azir/Trundle and last-pick Alistar around TL’s Zed/Rek’Sai. I like this for TL – I like the Zed into Azir matchup and Rek’Sai remains one of my favorite junglers to play with despite the prevalence of other junglers in the meta. TL need Fenix to win his lane, a tough task against Jensen, and influence plays around the map, notably for the duo lane.
Early Game – TL swap lanes and Balls tries to soak some xp at the top but TL dive and kill him. On its face not a big deal. TL have a tempo advantage though, and smartly, on the second half of the turret trade, shove the wave to the bot lane tier 2, laying some damage on that turret, and denying CS to Balls. Then, on the back, Lourlo and Dardoch collapse on Jensen, who’s ultimate cannot stop Zed and get a kill in midlane. That small early misstep has ballooned into gold lead that will only grow.
15:15 – After the mid lane kill, TL rotate to Rift Herald and then send 4 members to the top lane. These quick rotations are what’s required to take advantage of early leads, and C9 are playing completely reactionary. TL get a kill on Hai, whose Alistar has been neutralized by the fast pace of the game, and Balls goes down as well, ceding the top lane tier 2. C9’s only hope is that Sneaky has been left alone in lane and Azir is hard to close against. But Liquid look like the much sharper team even though C9 still have a shot at the 2 seed.
19:30 – TL dive mid and it’s a tricky fight around two turrets, but Fenix is FED. They get Piglet on the way out but Matt is executed by the turret, so no gold for that. Lourlo did a good job focusing down Sneaky since the Jhin can turn a fight at any time from long range. Normally, it’s dicey to target switch without your team but this was a good call and good execution on the limits of his champion. Nobody can stop Zed 1v1, and that’s a problem for C9. He picks up a solo kill on a ward-sweeping Sneaky a few minutes later and is just a monster.
28:20 – C9 sacrifice Balls under the top line tier 2 and make a Baron call? C9 don’t have control of their jungle or the Baron Pitt and this feels like desperation. They get Nash but a fantastic Janna ult splits up the team. Hai was already low and is popped, the attention turns to Sneaky, and Jensen is stuck in the pit. At least Rush gets out with the buff? On the face, this isn’t a terrible call from C9 – they are being run around the map, have a significant gold deficit, and have no answer for Zed. They need a Hail Mary and this is not a team afraid to smite fight. At the same time though, the lead was only ~5k before the fight, they still have Azir who is very good at turtling, and if you can funnel TL into one bad fight, there’s still a good chance for them to hold the base. To me, this is them telling me they don’t trust their teamfight against TL and that is very worrying. To call for this play without Balls seems too desperate.
32:20 – C9 pull the trigger after Jhin ult, but nobody’s bound so Sneaky is left behind a bit (though all 4 hits, they hit different targets). Lourlo gets a great ult onto Balls and all of a sudden, Jensen and Hai are left out to dry. TL get a 3-0 and the top inhibitor. The game is pretty elementary from here. They take the bottom inhibitor, bait Baron, kill a couple, and take Baron. That’s the game.
TL played a crisper lane swap and smartly took advantage of a small C9 mistake to balloon the lead. That is what good teams are supposed to do. C9 though, this is a surprise with second place still available. It’s not like they haven’t come back from big deficits before – Balls’ ridiculous GP game against TSM comes to mind – but they didn’t play their comp correctly and were punished as TL’s split push was much more threatening than their own.