The Spring Split Final between TSM and CLG was one of the most impressive series in NALCS history. The nailbiter had me glued to the screen, cursing when Stixxay started jumping around on his Tristana, whining on Reddit that the only reason why CLG won was that they put their all into holding Stixxay’s hand and helping him to get fed. Since then, the player proved himself in international competition, getting to the finals of MSI. I was very interested to see this match between old rivals. This is, after all, the El Classico of League of Legends.
On Blue side, TSM banned out Kindred, Ekko, and Vladimir, surprising exactly nobody, because these champions appear to almost be the default bans against anyone. Then, they predictably picked up Maokai Top. Gragas Jungle, Zilean Mid, Lucian ADC, and Karma Support followed. While Graves and Lucian were almost expected, Karma was surprising, Zilean… weird if not surprising, because it seems to have fallen out of favor. Double bomb stun is still as good as it ever was, though.
Red-sided CLG banned Nidalee (duh), Ryze, and Zed, as a nod to Bjergsen’s prowess at the champion. They got Trundle for Darshan, Rek’Sai for Xmithie, Viktor for Huhi, Stixxay played Ezreal, while Aphromoo chose to sling bubbles and tides with Nami.
Going from the bottom to the top, Nami was a good idea against the poke support, and the most popular ADC in the game right now. Bjergsen straight up countered Huhi’s Viktor with Zilean, while also getting a revive ultimate for team fights. The rest of the lineups weren’t too interesting, with Rek’Sai and Gragas being tanky junglers with good ganking potential and the stat-stealer Trundle going up against the tank Maokai. Keeping in mind Gragas and Maokai’s engage potential, when sped up by Karma and Zilean, Nami was a great pick to disengage fights or just help Ezreal kite back. Unfortunately for CLG, however, TSM no longer had the teamwork problems plaguing them during the summer split. They played their game very well, winning the first match against the CLG squad with a 10k gold advantage.
Taking the opportunity to remove the most dangerous parts of the TSM team comp from game one, CLG banned Zilean, Karma, and Graves. I imagine that CLG wanted to say, “Okay, you can play Karma, what else have you got, Biofrost?” The Zilean ban wasn’t an attempt to ban out Bjergsen, as the guy’s been playing in LCS for years, his champ pool is massive. It’s much more likely that they simply didn’t want to deal with the annoying champion altogether.
On the TSM side, they banned Nidalee (duh), Ryze (duh), and Kindred (duh). Not much to say, just standard bans for red side, with no special adaptations, though, to be fair, TSM didn’t really need to adapt, as they were actually ahead in the match.
With their Zilean and Karma bans, CLG left Ekko open and picked Rek’Sai as their first pick. TSM didn’t hesitate, snapping up Ekko immediately, together with Lucian for Doublelift. The Ekko pick turned out to be a flex in the later part of the picks and bans, because Huhi had to choose his champion with a possible Ekko mid in mind. In the end, Huhi went for Vladimir and Bjergsen got Viktor, with Svenskeren answering Xmithie’s Rek’Sai with Elise.
The second game of the match was very close for most of it, with TSM having a small lead that was getting constantly nipped at by their Counter Logic Gaming opponents. The split push Fiora didn’t work out at all for Darshan, because Aphromoo on his Bard had more kills than Darshan, while his lane opponent practically straight up carried the game on Ekko. With that in mind, I would like to propose that CLG should have banned Ekko instead of Zilean. That champion was a response to CLG’s Viktor pick, not some essential part of TSM’s strategy. Also, trying to ban out players of Bjergsen’s calibre and experience is foolish. Especially when it’s Bjergsen, known to be able to play almost everything.
Whatever the case may be, the match ended with TSM stopping CLG in their tracks, winning two games and securing the best of three series. Looking at the matches, TSM, while by no means perfect, looked way better than they did during the last split as a whole. It looks as if Team SoloMid is a team once more.