League of Legends Team Liquid shows promise as NA front runners

The League of Legends Championship Series Finals took place on Apr. 13 between Team SoloMid and Team Liquid to determine who would go to the Mid-Season Invitational Tournament coming up in the coming weeks. The two teams battled it out in a full five-game series in St. Louis to decide who would ultimately be the best representative of North America.

Team SoloMid (TSM) came into this series with a chip on their shoulder. After a rough start to the season, they were still the only team who held a winning record against Liquid over the regular season. They brought in Sergen “Broken Blade” Celik, a player from the Turkish League, and, combined with their new replacement jungler of Matthew “Akaadian” Higginbotham, their expectations were scattered. Still, they were able to prove they could run with the best. Largely off of Broken Blade’s Vladimir pick, TSM was able to bring a 3.1 thousand gold deficit to win in 40 minutes. Game two was another victory by TSM, this time in 35 minutes.

Liquid bit back in game three, with a 40 minute victory. Yongin “CoreJJ” Jo was put on Tahm Kench this game, where he really shined. His title of world champion did not go to waste, as he was able to protect and enable his lane partner in Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng to carry the game. Jake “Xmithie” Puchero also showed great proficiency on another niche pick in Skarner, which helped further allow Doublelift to safely deal damage from the back line.

It felt like Liquid finally looked comfortable as they went into game four. CoreJJ, Doublelift and Xmithie both stuck with their champions, and they took a dominant 25 minute win. They even outkilled TSM 15-3, with three members of Liquid never dying. Going into game five, things were going to be intense.

Intense they were, this game lasted the longest out of the entire series. TSM banned Tahm Kench this time around, forcing CoreJJ onto Braum instead. Xmithie still got Skarner and Liquid heavily invested in late-game champions with Kai’Sa and Vladimir. On the other side, Akaadian got Rek’Sai for the fourth time this series, with Andy “Smoothie” Ta’s Galio support.

For the first 40 minutes, TSM held a solid lead. Akaadian secured several neutral objectives early on. However, the tides changed quickly around the 40-minute mark. CoreJJ succeeded as Braum in neutralizing Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen’s Ezreal and Jensen was able to play the assassin in LeBlanc expertly. His key picks on every member of TSM prevented them from ever securing a big objective and allowed Liquid to stall for time. In the end, the scaling nature of Kai’Sa and Vladimir was too much to overcome, and Liquid managed to complete the reverse sweep and take the series over TSM. Liquid is looking like the easy candidate for the strongest team North America has had to offer in a long time, and they will have to prove it against some of the best teams in the world starting May 1 in Ho Chi Minh City.