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Putting A Lense Into The 2021 LCS Summer Playoffs

Riot Games

Written by 

André González Rodríguez

Posted 

20th Sep 2021 17:31

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The League of Legends Championship Series (LCS) 2021 season was one for the history books. New format changes introducing three tournaments throughout the year, a historic number of player turnover resulting in one of the biggest offseasons yet, new and old players making a name for themselves, and more. It all helped bring into fruition a type of League of Legends play yet to be seen in North America.

Format changes were made all across the board with one best the most important at all, the new format. Three new tournaments for each section of the LCS were introduced coming into the 2021 season. The LCS Lock In tournament brought forth a sort of a warm-up stage for teams and players to begin getting synergised with their new teammates and coaches as well as shake off some offseason rust. The Mid-Season Showdown was the league’s first taste of playoff and series play this year with a Mid-Season Invitational (MSI) ticket for the winner. And the LCS Championship took all that the teams had learned and put it into a bracket similar to what was done in last year’s summer playoffs in which three Worlds representatives came out.

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All of this begs to have a lens put on it as it brought forth multiple things, be it the newfound rivalry between Cloud9 and Team Liquid, 100 Thieves finally stealing the big one or the rise of new players. 

The newfound rivalry between Cloud9 and Team Liquid

As two of the winners of what was a historic offseason for the LCS, both Cloud9 and Team Liquid were looking like the clear frontrunners to be atop of the tables. It wasn’t one of the classic rivalries either. It wasn’t the antiquated Team SoloMid versus Counter Logic Gaming or hype-inducing Team SoloMid versus Cloud9, it was brand-new—seemingly a result of both of the organisations’ moves in the offseason.

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It all started with the LCS Lock In tournament finals in which Cloud9 and Team Liquid got to face off against each other to see who would crown themselves the first-ever LCS Lock In champions.

Image via Riot Games
Image via Riot Games

Although they had to play with substitute jungler, Jonathan “Armao” Armao, for the first week of the tournament, Team Liquid looked expectedly dominant. Contrast this with a Cloud9 who suffered early on and looked vulnerable through their new top laner, Ibahim “Fudge” Allami, things got really interesting to kick off the 2021 season. Team Liquid did end up beating Cloud9 in the finals after thwarting what would have been Cloud9’s second reverse sweep of the tournament and looked great going into spring. While Cloud9, even though they took the loss to heart, they still were able to keep their heads high. In this tournament Cloud9 underwent an astonishing number of games to get to the finals, 17 to be exact—almost a regular split’s worth—that helped them moving forward.

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After this, both of the teams faced off against each other two more times in the regular season in which Team Liquid took each victory. This was a surprise as, during the spring, Cloud9 looked like the most dominant team while Team Liquid looked like they celebrated their first championship victory for too long, as they were very inconsistent.

Team Liquid’s inconsistencies were thrown out the window for their first playoff match garnering some much-needed confidence for themselves but Cloud9 were there to quickly put a stop to it. This led to Cloud9 punching themselves a ticket to the finals early while Team Liquid had to play a loser’s match to get there. Unfortunately for Team Liquid, they once again had to call for the services of Armao after unexpected health issues occurred to starting jungler, Lucas “Santorin” Larsen, for that loser’s match but he exceeded expectations and nearly helped them take a victory over Cloud9 in the finals. This near-victory sent Cloud9 to their first-ever MSI trip, a first for the organisation as they weren’t able to attend last year’s tournament due to its cancellation.

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Colin Young-Wolff / Riot Games via ESPAT
Colin Young-Wolff / Riot Games via ESPAT

Post-MSI, the rivalry began to fizzle out with the teams trading blows during the summer until they met one final time in the LCS Championship playoffs. Here, an inconsistent Team Liquid completely dominated a Cloud9 that were never able to pick themselves up after a disappointing MSI performance—add a victory over Team SoloMid and 100 Thieves and Team Liquid qualified for Worlds.

100 Thieves finally take the big one 

As probably the biggest storyline since the Thieves joined the league, 100 Thieves winning their first-ever LCS title will be memorable for years to come. Starting off their inaugural season with a bang—perhaps one of the best ever for a new organisation—the organisation was able to reach the playoffs in their first split. Unfortunately for them they were swept by the soon-to-be dynasty, Team Liquid, in historic fashion but were still able to make Worlds; not bad for their first LCS season.

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Past that first season, the organisation struggled and went through various trials and tribulations, roster changes, staff changes and more—this led to several inconsistencies across the years. But in true thief fashion, they never quit, they never stopped looking for the big one—the LCS championship trophy. After a start to the 2021 season that left themselves and fans yearning for more, they made the appropriate midseason changes by bringing in mid-laner Felix “Abbedagge” Braun and long-time head coach, Bok “Reapered” Hang-gyu. This is what put them in the position they ever so craved to be. 

OSHIN TUDAYAN/RIOT GAMES VIA ESPAT
OSHIN TUDAYAN/RIOT GAMES VIA ESPAT

During the summer they looked like one of the teams to beat, finishing in second place during the regular season and giving themselves a bye. Looking at the league as a whole, they had arguably some of the league’s best players in each role. But once in playoffs, the Thieves didn’t look as dominant but still pulled through surprising everybody and everyone in their path. This led to them taking their first big heist and a second Worlds trip.

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The exchange of batons leading to a rise of new talent

The offseason leading up to the 2021 season was one for the history books. Not only did it have a historic amount of player turnover as the LCS fielded less than half of the returning players dating back to the 2019 LCS Spring Split, but it also had two of the most important players ever to grace the league retire, Soren “Bjergsen” Bjerg and Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng. This meant that the league would be devoid of significant faces, and it was not an easy transition. Having Doublelift, the best player North America has ever produced and Bjergsen the best mid-laner who has represented the region with pride leave at the same time was a lot of cause for concern.

This cause for concern was handled well though as due to the historic player turnover that occurred, new players were able to show face and begin to give themselves a name. Players like Cloud9’s Fudge, Evil Geniuses’ Kyle “Danny” Sakamaki, Ian Victor “FBI” Huang and others were able to show that the new blood can hang.

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Colin Young-Wolff / Riot Games via ESPAT
Colin Young-Wolff / Riot Games via ESPAT

On top of the new players joining the league, some players that didn’t quite get their proper shot or didn’t perform well their first time around were able to prove themselves once again. Players like Aaron “FakeGod” Lee, Max “Soligo” Soong, Toàn “Neo” Trần and others were able to show their worth.

All of this made the exchange of batons between old and new guards easy and something to look forward to moving into the future. Combine this with a newfound Team Liquid and Cloud9 rivalry and 100 Thieves breaking into the sort of “legacy teams” group, the LCS is in good hands. 

 

 

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Running It Back - Team Liquid

Photo via Riot Game/Getty Images

Written by 

André González Rodríguez

Posted 

22nd Oct 2021 16:51

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