TSM vs C9: NA LCS Spring Split w3 d1 preview

The NA LCS rages on to week 3 where one of its biggest and oldest rivalries comes to blows. Who survives?


(Image Credit: Riot Games)

Team SoloMid is not the same old organization you’d expect to see in 2019. Despite a history of passive jungle play and an emphasis on bot and middle lanes, TSM seems to be re-gearing their toolkit with rookie top laner Broken Blade and aggressive jungler Akaadian. Can this new setup bring TSM back to the top of the league they’ve run for years?

Cloud9 are coming off the most successful international year in NA LCS history, and they did it despite falling to 10th place domestically for a period in the 2018 Spring Split. But this isn’t quite the same 5. Losing MVP mid laner Jensen is something few teams can bounce back from, but Cloud9 is fighting that very fight with the promising 20-year-old Nisqy stepping up. Can they rally their way back to the international field?

One of the oldest rivalries in the NA LCS will decide the momentum of two of the league’s biggest orgs. So who takes it home?

Let’s take a look at the lineups.

Top lane

TSM have one of the most promising top laners to enter the NA LCS since, coincidentally, their opponent Licorice. Broken Blade is a 19-year-old import from Germany with all the promise in the world. Thus far in 2019, he's proven himself across four different important champions for the meta today, including Sion, Urgot, Irelia, and Aatrox.  This echoes the insane versatility Broken Blade showed throughout his TCL tenure, playing picks anywhere from Kennen to Dr. Mundo to success. With his team dedicating more resources to the top of the map than they have in a long time, Broken Blade has all the ingredients he needs to succeed. 

C9 have one of the most talented top laners to ever debut in the NA LCS, 21-year-young Licorice, to fight the German rookie across from him. Licorice stunned the world with his powerful performances in Worlds 2018, bringing teams from the LCK, EU LCS, and LPL alike to task. Often the most dangerous weapon Cloud9 have on the Rift, Licorice has had to deal with all the pressures that come with the target on his back. Even still, he's proven he can take the heat. Despite his team putting him on the statistically frail Viktor for half of his games in 2019, Licorice has salvaged his stats with 2 very strong showings on top lane classic Urgot. Lacking the versatility of his opponent, Licorice might have his champion pool challenged in picks and bans. But that doesn't mean he should be counted out.

Verdict: In what will undoubtedly be the most exciting clash in this storied rivalry, we edge the top lane battle to the more experienced and established C9 Licorice. 

Jungle

TSM are perhaps the most critiqued organization in the history of League of Legends when it comes to the jungle position. TSM are often accused of shackling their jungles to a passive playstyle where helping teammates and warding is a priority over everything else. While there's some truth to this, it's not quite the story in 2019. TSM picked up a new addition in the jungle in Akaadian, and the young prospect has absolutely held his own. Even better, in aggressive fashion. Thus far in 2019 Akaadian has played Nocturne, Camille, and Gragas. He's kept up a roughly 20% share of his team's gold across the split, something that previous TSM junglers struggle with. He's been a dangerous presence on the Rift that can snowball just as hard as the lanes he visits. With that, TSM have a new dynamic they want to take over the NA LCS with.

C9 have quite a different story in their own jungler, veteran Svenskeren. Svenskeren actually spent some time on TSM, time he largely spent as a defensive warder for his teammates. On Cloud9, however, things are different. Svenskeren still enjoys playing around his teammates, but he's become one of the most threatening members of his team on the Rift. Looking past his 1/7 disaster on Nunu, Svenskeren has been consistent, and has been an important part of his team's dynamic. With a veteran cool about him, Svenskeren has proven untiltable. But can he keep up with his more aggressive competition?

Verdict: Despite Svenskeren's experience, Akaadian is simply too strong and too hungry to fall short. TSM Akaadian takes the lead in the jungle.

Mid lane

TSM have the most iconic mid laner in the NA LCS. Bjergsen has been the face of this franchise since his debut for them all the way back in 2013, and no one could ask for a better person for the job. Consistent, cool, and collected, Bjergsen is always a force to be reckoned with and represents his team to the fullest. With just 7 deaths in the entirety of 2019, Bjergsen can be relied on to be a weapon for his team, and is never a liability. He also does it across a varied champion pool, which has included Syndra, Zilean, Urgot, and Lissandra in 2019. He looks to lead his new members to a very important victory for TSM's domestic momentum.

C9 have the biggest question mark of this match entering the mid lane, 20-year-old Nisqy. This young player has some incredibly large shoes to fill with Jensen's departure, but mechanically you can see he has the potential. With just 6 deaths in 2019, even less than his veteran opponent, Nisqy rarely puts his team behind with any mistakes. While he has the most narrow champion pool of any player entering the rift in this match (2 games on Zoe, 2 on Aatrox,) Nisqy has a history of picks like Cassiopeia that can show up anytime. Perhaps the most impressive of his teammates so far this year, look for Nisqy to make a big impact on this match. But will that impact be enough?

Verdict: In a very close chess match between two tactical mid laners, we have to give the edge to C9 Nisqy who has outperformed the Danish legend so far this year.

Bot lane

TSM got a lot of critiques for their bot lane in 2018, bringing G2's combo of Zven and Mithy over the ocean, things looked promising. Until they hit the Rift, that is. After disappointing for the entirety of the year, TSM made a change and a stand to where they want their bot lane to be in 2019. TSM bring to this matchup the returning mechanical threat Zven with new support Smoothie. Smoothie comes to TSM after putting plenty of time in as a part of Cloud9's own bottom lane. With this inside information and the dominating presence of Zven so far in 2019 (the highest kda of his team,) this bot lane is one of the most threatening in the league. 

C9 bring back the returning bottom lane duo of ad carry Sneaky and support Zeyzal. With Jensen gone, Sneaky is the undisputed face of Cloud9, much like Bjergsen for TSM. He's been an important presence for the team from the bottom lane since 2013. In 2019, Sneaky has become somewhat chained to the Ezreal pick he's played in 3 of 4 games to varying degrees of success, and it's almost always been paired with Zeyzal's Braum which the team has also picked in 3 of their 4 games so far. Perhaps the most predictable duo in the entire league, expect TSM to attack these picks in picks and bans if they fear them at all. 

Verdict: With their cards on the table, we can't help but think Cloud9 are a bit vulnerable. Pair this with Zven's absolute tear so far, and the result speaks for itself. TSM Zven and Smoothie outgun the bottom lane.

Prediction

With the position battle neck and neck down the line, this matchup will likely be the most exciting of the week. It also helps it's one of NA's most important rivalries.

But while both teams have similar stories of hungry rookies and established veterans, we have to edge this match one way. 

This time around, that edge goes just barely to C9

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Brandon Ridgely

I'm the League of Legends Editor for RealSport, and a longtime competitive League of Legends fan. I focus most on the NA LCS but watch a bit of everything. Notable C9 bias. I'm probably the only person that misses Team Vulcun.

Well met.

Tips/story ideas? Let me know at [email protected]

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