NA LCS Summer playoffs: Why do Immortals keep losing in the playoffs?


Three reasons why Immortals lost to Cloud9 in the NA LCS Summer playoffs.

Immortals vs. C9 was a barnburner.

Playoff series in League of Legends are a finicky thing. From the patch timings to the prevalence of reverse sweeps, playoff series can take on a life of their own and are generally more volatile than what is seen in other sports.

None of that explains why, for the second straight split, Immortals dominated the regular season and fell short in their first playoff round. Is it the players? The coaches? The patches? The time off? A combination of all of that? Or is Cloud9 (and in Spring, Team SoloMid), really just better?

How we got here: What happened in the regular season

I’ve written numerous times over the last two splits that I believe Cloud9 has one of the most balanced rosters in the league. They may not be as talented as other teams, as you can see from my

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, but I didn’t see a prevailing weakness, either. Of course, William “Meteos” Hartman and Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong had a rough acclim

C9 Reapered
C9 Reapered /

ation to the team, and they didn’t decide on Andy “Smoothie” Ta at support until halfway through the split. However, through all that, this is a team that has learned how to play together.

That is an area where coach Bok “Reapered” Han-gyu has had an impact, helping them understand how their actions affect their teammates. Previous criticism of C9 was that they could look like a solo queue team, constantly fighting everywhere. It hasn’t been easy, but overall, the team looked much more in tune over the second half of the split.

Still, none of that would have led many to believe they’d beat Immortals.

Immortals looked strong all split as the team with the best pace and lane pressure. Those two are related — their wave timing/management allows them to group often while not sacrificing CS.

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Of course, Immortals has weaknesses: they can be baited into fights, and skirmishing can diminish their strategy. They were the top warding team in NA, but they lost vision in both losses to TSM. It sometimes feels like their neutral objective control comes as an afterthought after shoving waves and winning fights; maybe a team that focused more on Drakes could sneak some. But I didn’t believe Meteos would be the jungler to set up those skirmishes and objective fights, not into Kim “Reignover” Yeu-jin.

Problem 1: The draft phase (again)

Everyone knows about the infamous Lucian top game from Spring 2016. Never mind that Immortals was leading for much of that game and threw by teamfighting against Maokai. They learned their lesson, right?

Well, take a look at their drafts from this series. In five games, Huni played five different champions:

  1. Rumble: strong in lane and better in fights, great counter to Impact’s Gangplank
  2. Riven: stronger in lane and weaker in fights, poor counter to Impact’s Gangplank
  3. Kennen: weak in lane and great in fights, shut down by Impact’s Gnar
  4. Gangplank: okay in lane and fantastic in fights, destroyed Impact’s Ekko
  5. Lissandra: weak in lane, okay in fights, dismantled by Imapct’s Ekko

A few notes: after Game 1, Cloud9 recognized their gaffe and banned Rumble (almost a perma-ban against Huni at this point), and on red side, C9 banned Gangplank in games three and five as well.

It’s hard to figure out what is going on with these picks, namely Kennen and Lissandra. Are they trying to win lane? Win fights? Win lane and then win fights? Counter-picking? Making adjustments mid-match is important in a best-of series, but this looks a little like lunacy.

And it wasn’t just the Huni picks, either. Who let mid laner Eugene “Pobelter” Park play LeBlanc in

sneaaky /

Game 2, a game where you had Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi on Sivir and Impact on Gangplank? Immortals drafted almost no teamfight potential against a comp that scales hard into late-game fights. Sneaky was a monster fon Sivir, going 14/6/28 on the champion through three games before Immortals started banning her in Game 4. That leads into the next Immortals problem:

Problem 2: A poor understanding of their opponent

My scouting report against C9 would consist of

one sentence

four words: get to late game — and here’s why.

C9 is exceptionally strong in lane. Sneaky and Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng are the two strongest lane-phase ADCs in NA. Mid laner Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen had a bad series vs. Liquid a while back, but he is also very mechanically gifted. Impact is great at soaking pressure and not falling behind.

Late game is where their problems begin. Jensen and Sneaky are hypercarries, but usually it’s only them — with a bit of Impact sprinkled in from time to time. Immortals, who play three carries nearly every game, should have a damage advantage every time — as long as they are patient. In fact, mid-game fights, where tank itemization is cheaper than that for carries, is the most dangerous time to fight C9.

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The other problem with C9’s late-game: questionable calls. Meteos hasn’t thrown in a while, but this is still a team that struggles to set up sieges and pull the other team around the map. In Game 3, facing that impotent Kennen, C9 still threw a series of teamfights with a massive gold lead because they just aren’t that good at slamming the door closed on their opponents.

But instead of attacking C9’s weak late game, Immortals drafted early game comps again and again, trying to win a phase that C9 is generally good at. The problem really came to bear in Game 2: Immortals started off strong but C9 turtled and hung around. Impact built a tanky Gangplank while Meteos camped Sneaky’s Sivir lane.

With no hope of out-scaling C9, IMT was forced into an incredibly predictable playstyle: all aggressive, all the time. A disastrous Baron, a series of poorly executed flank TPs, and fatefully, a base race with Huni racing against nearly the entire C9 team. #ClownFiesta

On the other side, C9 seemed like they knew exactly what Immortals wanted to do and how to counter it. Not banning Rumble was an oversight in Game 1, but they did two things especially well. First, they focused on vision in the Immortals jungle, with Meteos buying early sightstones and Jensen taking a blue trinket in one game. They wanted to see the Immortals roam before it happened. Second, they brought strong disengage to deter Immortals dives, with And “Smoothie” Ta’s Tahm Kench having a huge impact in the last two games.

Problem 3: Invisible Immortals

Throughout this piece, we’ve mentioned almost every player from both sides except two: the Immortals duo lane of Jason “WildTurtle” Tran and Adrian “Adrian” Ma.

Adrian was actually good! He showed proficiency on tank/melee supports, something he’s been criticized for not playing, and his Taric play in Games 3/4 was very strong.

But WildTurtle? He was absent. Playing into Sneaky is tough. Playing into Sneaky with Meteos constantly roaming into your quadrant and putting pressure on the turret is tougher. But you just cannot lose lane in the Jhin into Sivir matchup and expect to not be criticized!

Things came to a boil in Game 5, and this is where some of the stats are misleading. Turtle actually led both teams in total damage to champions, an impressive feat. However, a lot of that damage was long range via curtain call, and on the tape, he just wasn’t pumping out useful DPS. At the same time, Sneaky had him shoved to turret constantly, forcing Immortals to respond. That left Impact alone and gave C9 three winning lanes — the opposite of Immortals’ typical macro game.

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That was the most surprising part of this series: C9 figured out the Immortals macro game. The could respond with objectives after kills because of those pushing waves. It wasn’t Turtle’s fault that Impact TP’ed behind him in a bush at 23 minutes and blew him up in the game’s pivotal teamfight. But he has to play better to not put his team in the situations where they have no pressure and one teamfight can swing an entire series.

That’s the unique thing about League, at least compared to traditional sports. Yes, throws do happen, but one bad ult, one TP that the enemy doesn’t see, one missed skillshot can really turn a fight, a game, a series. All year, Immortals have been the aggressive ones in those situations and even when they lose a fight, they force so many advantageous fights that one eventually breaks their way.

Two lost playoff series is an extremely small sample, especially when the margin for error is this small. Maybe Immortals has just gotten unlucky. I’m not of that opinion. For whatever reason, their preparation for these series has been lackluster, and that’s incredibly disappointing to see from such a great regular season team.

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