In the LCS, the top four teams of the preseason spent the weekend going head-to-head in the finals of the Lock In tournament to determine which team would win a monetary prize and money for a charity of their choice.
The semifinals took place on Friday and Saturday and the finals were on Sunday. All three series were best-of-fives, the first of the season for the LCS, as the quarterfinals were best-of-threes. Cloud9 faced off against 100 Thieves, while Evil Geniuses battled against Team Liquid.
The Cloud9 vs. 100 Thieves series was a close one. It began with two impressive wins by the Thieves, supported by impressive performances by toplaner Ssumday and jungler Closer, leaving Cloud9 in an 0-2 hole.
Cloud9, though, fought back in the last three games, relying on their botlane of Zven and Vulcan, who both put up strong performances on champions like Miss Fortune and Tahm Kench. Zven was crowned as the player of the game in that series after two impressive Miss Fortune games back-to-back in games 4 and 5, where he had a combined KDA of 19-1-12 and earned two pentakills.
In an interview after the series, Zven discussed the rocky start to the series, saying “I think we just played worse and they executed really well.”
“Overall happy we won, but there’s so much to work on before we play against TL…or, the winner of TL/EG. Which is TL,” said Zven in the same interview, a prediction that would prove very accurate on Saturday.
The match between Team Liquid and Evil Geniuses was not, in any way, a close affair. Team Liquid won in a dominating 3-0 fashion, proving that Zven was pretty correct when saying he thought that it’d be them that Cloud9 was facing on Sunday.
Jensen’s impressive performance in the midlane was a large factor in TL’s victory, and despite the kill scores being close in Game 1, it ended up 13 to 15 in TL’s favor. TL got every dragon, had a 10 to 1 turret lead over EG by the end of the game and played well around their carries in order to secure the dominant win.
On Sunday, Team Liquid once again leapt out to an early 0-2 lead in the series. They rode on champions like CoreJJ’s Leona or Santorin’s Udyr enroute to two strong wins and a dominating lead going into game three.
However, once again, Cloud9 seemed to find their footing in game three. They fought back, drafting a powerful jungler in Olaf and giving Vulcan his Tahm Kench alongside Zven’s Senna. The botlane and jungle combination made up for midlaner Perkz going 5-5-8 on his Zoe, as toplaner Fudge put on one of his best performances of the tournament on Malphite.
Game four was more of the same; Zven and Vulcan performed well in the bot lane, this time on Kaisa and Leona, and Blaber brought out Udyr, a powerful champion in the meta right now, to help guide Cloud9 to their second game five after being down 0-2 in three days.
Game five was the one that would decide it all. While the series and the tournament have no bearing on the rest of the season, starting off your season with a victory can be a big motivator, especially a victory in such a hard-fought series over the team that is expected to be right there at the top with you.
And yet in game five, Cloud9 couldn’t finish the reverse sweep. Team Liquid came back with a bang, finally finding the form they’d been missing in games three and four. They secured the Udyr this time, part of a strong draft that found Alphari a gangplank for the toplane and gave CoreJJ his very, very good Nautilus.
Team Liquid dominated game five, securing themselves first place in the Lock In tournament and probably first spot in everyone’s rankings going into the start of the true LCS season.
Team Liquid’s botlaner, Tactical, remarked after the series that he “didn’t expect the first two games to be as one-sided as they ended up.”
Perhaps that’s what cost Cloud9 the series, those first two games that they couldn’t get back no matter how well they played in three and four. Or maybe, on Sunday, Team Liquid was just the better team. Either way, they’ll start the spring split as the team whom everyone wants to knock off their pedestal.