(Image courtesy of Riot Games)
If you had to pick two of the top star power organizations in the NA LCS, you'd be hard pressed to find better candidates than Team Liquid and Team SoloMid.
Team Liquid enter this week 9 matchup as the undisputed champion of the Summer Split, and look to enter the NA LCS Summer Playoffs as the highest seed. They have been on a tear as of late taking victories over 100 Thieves, Echo Fox, FlyQuest, and Optic among others. But in that run, they also dropped a game to Cloud9. There's plenty for the top dogs to defend, and their next opponent has been in that spot plenty before.
Team SoloMid have the greatest history out of any North American League of Legends organization ever. That doesn't mean they're living up to the image though. Despite the numerous TSM banners flying high, the team playing underneath them has certainly had a rocky Summer Split. The good news however? They've torn right through this phase. TSM have managed to climb back up from the depths this split and get some good wins in later weeks. Looking more threatening than ever this summer, can they make their mark against the champions?
Let's break down this historic matchup.
Team Liquid are decorated with many All-Stars up and down their roster, but only one of them is a former World Champion. Impact moved to TL from Cloud9 and has only gotten stronger since. He's been one of the most dangerous top laners in the North American region and is playing exceptionally against anyone not named Licorice. Impact is a reliable laner that plays any meta champion that pops up.
Team SoloMid have always been known for having incredibly strong laners, and that includes the top of the rift. Hauntzer has been the best top laner in the region plenty of times in the past, and looked unbeatable just as often. While that may not be true for him right now, he's still above average. Never straying too far from the meta, TSM can also rely on Hauntzer with consistent champions like Gnar. Unfortunately for him, this just makes him a worse version of his opponent at the moment.
Verdict: Impact controls things in the top lane for Team Liquid.
If you went to sleep right now and woke up in 3 years, one thing you could be sure of is that Xmithie is somewhere in the jungle being really good. The jungle All-Star that excels at making his teammates shine with a supportive playstyle has also honed his other side of the coin this split, succeeding with some aggression. He's seen better stat lines, but that doesn't mean you can doubt him when it matters most.
Here's something I didn't think I'd say late in 2018: Grig has been a threat in the NA LCS jungles, and shows more promise than MikeYeung. Wow. TSM have a history of giving little strength to their jungler role, and often use it more as a security guard that gives out his camps on demand. But Grig has changed things up and shined more than he ever has this split, proving a weapon for his team it isn't so used to having. He isn't quite running the show, but he's tearing things up with his team on their recent win streaks, and freeing up his lanes even further as a result.
Verdict: In what is surprisingly not the closest lane matchup of this clash, Grig is the unlikely jungle favorite for TSM.
Boy is Pobelter a fun mid laner to watch. In the past, his play has been most notable for its feast or famine results. Thankfully for Pob, it's been feast for a long time now. The defending champion mid laner has proven himself ahead of his domestic mid lane competition, and done it all from a homegrown slot. Pobelter has put on a clinic this summer with top 20 stats across the board and the 9th best cs/min in the league. While he's previously been a potential weak point for Team Liquid, those days are long gone, and he's become a reliable weapon.
A franchise couldn't ask for a better face than Danish mid lane sensation Bjergsen. Calm, collected, intelligent, and above all else capable, Bjerg is everything you want in your most influential role on Summoner's Rift. He's also been a champion plenty at the helm of this org, and he's always ready to bring them back to those winning ways. Bjergsen may not be the most dangerous carry on TSM, but he's by far the most dependable. He may not be running laps sitting at roughly 20th across his stats this split, but he probably has the highest skill ceiling other than one particular teammate in the bottom lane. But we'll get to him.
Verdict: In this absurdly close matchup, Pobelter just edges it out for Team Liquid in the mid lane.
Team Liquid has had the best North American bottom lane for a year, and it's not really even close. Doublelift might have competition as the best of the adc position with Deftly this split, but it's beyond doubt that his duo with support Olleh has been the most fearsome in the NA LCS ever since their championship victory, and they continue to prove this through their defense of the title this summer. With Olleh making dangerous plays and Doublelift able to snowball even the tiniest advantage, it's safe to say Team Liquid have broken open plenty of their victories from their bottom lane leads.
TSM made a blockbuster move bringing in G2's dynamic duo adc Zven and support Mithy as imports to the NA LCS. Wow has this move proved uneventful in practice. For all of their dominant success in Europe, Zven and Mithy have just managed to carve themselves an above average spot in the NA LCS bottom lane scene, falling far below TSM's historic standards. Zven has been the only shining light, and hasn't been enough to keep TSM at the top of the leaderboards. While TSM climbed back up late in the split, this duo still aren't where the world expected them to be by now.
Verdict: Doublelift and Olleh pack too much firepower; they take clear advantage in the bottom lane for Team Liquid.
TSM might be riding a wave of momentum, but that wave is about to be surfed by Team Liquid all the way to the Summer Playoffs. Team Liquid simply have too many threats for TSM to deal with, and barring a quick snowball of Doublelift or Bjergsen, this one's going to be a bloodbath.
Team Liquid takes it home with a comfortable domination of TSM, symbolically passing the torch to the reigning kings of North America.
Who do you think will win this major week 9 Summer Split clash between Team Liquid and Team SoloMid?