How Cloud9 Took The Crown At The MSS Finals Over Team Liquid
Cloud9 topped off their impressive 2021 League of Legends Championship Series (LCS) spring with a win over their now rivals, Team Liquid, in the Mid Season Showdown (MSS) finals. The series had both of the teams trade the first three games culminating with two straight Cloud9 victories in game four and five, crowning them the MSS Champions.
Team Liquid and Cloud9 were both pound for pound the best two teams in the league going into the 2021 season on paper, and it showed. Although Team Liquid had a shaky regular season that culminated with them at third place, they still took victories over the contrasting Cloud9, who were always in first place. It was known that Team Liquid had the chops to perform well and go deep; the Lock In tournament proved that. It was just a matter of time before they ramped up to their normal level. Compare this with Cloud9, and Cloud9 took all of the experience from the Lock In tournament and rolled with it. They also had the blueprint from last year’s historic Spring domination. This time around, they had what many tout as the best Western player of all time, Luka “Perkz” Perkovic and an aspiring top laner in Ibrahim “Fudge” Allami.
In the earlier parts of the 2021 season, Team Liquid finished with the upper hand, starting with the LCS Lock In tournament earlier in the year through to the two regular-season games in spring. Even with Cloud9 holding first place for all of the regular season, they still couldn’t quite get past an unstable Team Liquid.
It’s about whoever plays the best in the moment.
- Team Liquid’s strategic coach, Konas “Kold” Andersen
Once the regular season ended, and the MSS tournament began, everything started to change. It all started with a dominant 3-1 Cloud9 victory in Round 2 of the Upper Bracket over Team Liquid. To many, this was an underperforming Team Liquid; this was not the Team Liquid that had won Lock In nor the one that won two regular-season games. This forced Team Liquid down to the lower bracket in which they handily took care of Team SoloMid even with substitute jungler, Jonathan “Armao” Armao taking over for starting jungler, Lucas “Santorin” Larsen, as he was out due to migraines - giving Team Liquid the awaited rematch against Cloud9 in the finals.
Apart from Team Liquid not having Santorin, there wasn’t much else to ask for from this series. It was the culmination of each team’s hard work, all presented in one final series in which the winner got to represent the North American region at the Mid-Season Invitational (MSI). Many had this as another easy win for Cloud9, seeing as Team Liquid didn’t have their starting jungler, but Team Liquid came to play. They knew their performance earlier in the bracket wasn’t indicative of their strengths, and they rectified it as much as they could.
“It’s kind of funny, yesterday we were watching the TSM series; I actually thought the level of play wasn’t super great. I think, generally speaking, we have the players to be able to play at a super high level. I think what we kind of need to do more is be better as a team,” Team Liquid’s strategic coach, Konas “Kold” Andersen, said in the post-match press conference. “In the first best-of series against Cloud9, I thought we lost because we didn’t play as a team. And we got into positions where we could win the game, and then it’s about whoever plays the best in the moment — they were just more clutch than we were. I could see the improvement from the first series against Cloud9 but generally speaking; it’s just cohesion. This is what, our third month with the team? We just need to work on our team play, that’s what’s going to drive us towards being good at Worlds, and that’s what we wanna do.”
Although Team Liquid showed more fight than expected, Cloud9 still went through the motions. The first three games were in clear control in the early game for Cloud9, but costly mistakes would bring Team Liquid back. This led to a trade of games all the way to the fourth game. In contrast to the first three games, the fourth game took its time, having both of the teams pace themselves. A highly contested game became one-sided after a Perkz Zoe bubble slipped through the Team Liquid cracks giving them the elder and eventually the game.
Team Liquid set themselves up nicely going into the fifth and final game of the season after their pick and ban phase. In response to this, Cloud9 initiated a lane swap between their top and bottom lanes. Not expecting this, Barney “Alphari” Morris pushed up his lane, which led to Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen and Philippe “Vulcan” Laflamme being behind him and First Blooding him. This also allowed for Robert “Blaber” Huang to take Armao’s blue buff. To add to this, Cloud9 had Fudge start on their blue buff and utilising Sion’s passive to take it and keep him in the game.
After this play, Team Liquid could never record. Cloud9 smelled blood in the water and took immediate control, dominating every single minute of the game.
Although this team was incredibly dominant, they still showed immense improvement on all fronts. One front more than the others in the form of Fudge. This season started with Fudge being dominated in the top lane by everyone he faced, especially in the finals of the Lock In tournament in which Alphari took complete advantage. Fudge slowly levelled up as the season went on, and it culminated with the team putting full faith in him and playing through him in the early game. They continued the top lane aggression they adopted in their previous series and took it to new heights.
“After playing in the Lock In tournament, obviously a big weakness of mine was that I didn’t really communicate well to help me around top lane. But I think that during the entire split, we worked really well to improve on me and Blaber, specifically also me and Luka, and I guess sometimes Vulcan to gank top a lot. And I think that Blaber has also become really aware about top waves and when to gank and the timings that the enemy top laner has to be vulnerable. And I think that [that] obviously it showed really well in this series, Alphari by the end of the series, got really scared every single time I pulled a wave because he was scared that Blaber would come from behind him and kill him. The progress has been really good,” Fudge stated in the post-match press conference.
With another Team Liquid and Cloud9 match in the books, the head to head still remains on Team Liquid’s side with a 3-2. Cloud9 will represent the North American region at MSI, while Team Liquid will have time to work on what went wrong during the series. Only time will tell how much each team has elevated come summer.
Images via Riot Games