LCS Summer 2020 Playoff Preview: Cloud9 vs. TSM

League of Legends. Photo Courtesy of Riot Games.
League of Legends. Photo Courtesy of Riot Games. /

In the finals of the losers bracket of the LCS Summer 2020 playoffs, TSM and Cloud9 face off with a trip to Worlds on the line.

While we’re still a few playoff series away from crowning the LCS Champion for Summer 2020, but we are only hours away from perhaps the most important series in the playoffs other than the finals. Cloud9 versus TSM. A storied rivalry that has played out in the LCS playoffs for years in the past, for the first time the rivalry will have the wrinkle of a Worlds spot on the line. Beat your rival and not only do you guarantee a trip to Worlds, but you also end their Worlds dream as well.


Record: 13-5


Eric “Licorice” Ritchie
Robert “Blaber” Huang
Yasin “Nisqy” Dinçer
Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen
Philippe “Vulcan” Laflamme

Playoffs: Lost to FlyQuest (1-3), Defeated Evil Geniuses (3-0)

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Cloud9 came out mad after being knocked into the loser’s bracket by FlyQuest last week. They beat Evil Geniuses in a clean sweep, but the games were not nearly as clean as we would expect from the Spring Split champions.

In two of their three wins, C9 was down in gold at the 15-minute mark. None of the wins came in under 30 minutes, which is shocking for a team that was accustomed to winning so fast last split.

While the talent is still certainly there for Cloud9, this team continues to struggle in the early game (a phase in which they have traditionally been the best in the LCS) and are making some uncharacteristic draft mistakes. The draft, at least, seems to have been corrected based on the EG series, but we should still be cautious that they don’t revert to those mistakes against a team as potent as TSM.


Record: 12-6


Sergen “Broken Blade” Çelik
Mingyi “Spica” Lu
Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg
Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng
Vincent “Biofrost” Wang / Erik “Treatz” Wessén

Playoffs: Lost to Golden Guardians (0-3), defeated Dignitas (3-0), Defeated Golden Guardians (3-2)

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In their rematch against Golden Guardians, TSM managed to pull off a reverse-sweep GGS and get the win in a closely-contested five-game series. While that is certainly an improvement from the clean 3-0 sweep they suffered a few weeks back, it’s certainly not encouraging that TSM fell into an 0-2 hole so easily.

The team elected to swap back from Treatz to Biofrost as support and the bot lane definitely seemed to perform much better than they had in the first two playoff series. Biofrost also appears to have corrected the biggest mistake plaguing him before the substitution, giving away needless deaths. That’s encouraging as TSM’s bot lane is going to have to be a point of power against Cloud9’s incredible top side of the map.

Head to Head Matchups

Top Lane: Licorice vs. Broken Blade

Licorice is everything you want in a top laner. He’s solid, stable, and can play a variety of styles from carries to tanks. On the other hand, Broken Blade is the more explosive player, as evidenced by his massive games on Jax and Renekton in TSM’s wins last week. I expect and hope that TSM will give BB more of those carry picks, but I’m still confident that Licorice will be able to hold up to the pressure.

Advantage: Cloud9

Jungle: Blaber vs. Spica

This isn’t a hard choice at all, as Blaber isn’t just the best jungler in the LCS (in my opinion), he’s already one of the best players in the world. Even in that disappointing series loss to FlyQuest, Blaber wasn’t terrible (other than the Game 1 on Nocturne).

Spica, to his credit, has been playing above the level he showed during the regular season so far in the playoffs. I don’t think that, even at this elevated level of play, he can match Blaber even on his worst day.

Advantage: Cloud9

Mid Lane: Nisqy vs. Bjergsen

Nisqy is probably the best roaming mid laner in the LCS, but Bjergsen is certainly not far behind. The biggest difference in the playstyles of the two is that Nisqy is far more of an enabling mid laner, working with his carry jungler to get advantages around the map. That has worked in the past, but with his side lanes struggling a bit, Nisqy’s playstyle hasn’t yielded the same results.

On the other hand, Bjergsen has clearly been TSM’s MVP and their main carry. He’s having maybe the best split in the last three years at the same time that Nisqy is struggling. I think he wins out in this battle of heavyweights.

Advantage: TSM

ADC: Zven vs. Doublelift

Coming into this split, Zven looked like he was ready to cement himself as the best ADC in the LCS, while Doublelift was looking to prove that his career wasn’t over. Now, with their seasons on the brink, its clear that neither of those narratives is quite true and each needs to prove something and step up for their teams.

Zven has regressed markedly from his Spring Split form, partially due to poor performances and partially due to him being put on more utility carries. On the other hand, Doublelift has shown that spring was an abberration with improved play, but he hasn’t improved to the level we are used to seeing. Combined with his horrendous play in the first round of the playoffs, Double is certainly looking for redemption this series as he tries to pull TSM to Worlds. This matchup is very close, but I’ll give the edge to the player who’s been better of late.

Advantage: TSM

Support: Vulcan vs. Biofrost/Treatz

We’re assuming that it will be Biofrost starting in the support role for TSM, but in all honesty it doesn’t really matter if it’s him or Treatz. Vulcan has consistently been the best support in the LCS this year including being the best laning support in the Summer Split. Regardless of who TSM puts out to match him, I think Vulcan outclasses them.

Advantage: Cloud9

Keys to the Series

Think back to the end of the Spring Split, heck, the mid-point of the Summer Split. It seemed inconceivable that Cloud9, who looked like maybe the best team the LCS has ever seen, wouldn’t get to test their mettle against international competition. But after the cancellation of MSI due to COVID and their summer slump, they’re three losses away from that reality.

Frankly, though, I cannot conceive a world where C9 does not make it into Worlds. Like, legitimately, how is it possible for a team that lost two games over the first three-quarters of the season, won’t make it to Worlds? This team is simply too talented to not make it to Worlds and that’s why I think they will win this series.

TSM has the advantage in several lanes, yes, but those advantages are far slimmer than the ones C9 enjoys, particularly in jungle and support. Cloud9 has had shaky drafts, yes, but TSM has still not shown that they have a cohesive draft strategy for their team. Yes, they eventually started shifting Broken Blade to lane bullies and carries, but that was after suffering the two losses when he was on Vladimir, who wants to play passively in lane, and Ornn, a tank.

To me, TSM’s initial strategy in Games 1 and 2 against Golden Guardians shows that they still don’t have a great understanding of how their team needs to play together. For the rest of the series, they swung for the fences with the Jax top, finally putting Spica back on Sett, and making sure Bjergsen had the carry potential with his picks and that paid off, but my question will be why they didn’t identify this strategy going into the series or much earlier?

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Those bad draft tendencies combined with the overall talent deficit, make this an easy pick. I think TSM can take a game (maybe two) off Cloud9, but I would be floored if they actually manage to win this series.

Prediction: Cloud9 wins 3-1