TSM vs TL: LCS Spring Split Finals preview

Team SoloMid are coming off of a close 3-2 against Cloud9, and Team Liquid a dominant 3-0 over FlyQuest. Who takes the first LCS banner of 2019?


(Image Credit: Riot Games)

Team SoloMid ended spring on a 11-1 tear in the regular season, and while their one loss was to Cloud9 (the team they met in semifinals,) they rose above and moved on 3-2. 

After looking dominant for most of the Spring Split, Team Liquid ended the regular season looking shaky losing three straight matches to FlyQuest, Echo Fox, and TSM. TL looked more like their old selves in the semifinals where they dominated FlyQuest 3-0.

This North American rivalry runs deep, and this time they fight for the first LCS banner of 2019. Not only that, but both team’s owners, confident in their sides, have also bet $100k on this split finals. So who finishes strong in this best-of-five grudge match? 

Let’s break it down lane by lane. 

Top lane

Team SoloMid couldn't be happier with their roster moves in the top lane this year. Picking up rookie phenom Broken Blade was an ambitious decision that paid off wonderfully over the Spring Split. Stepping onto the rift as one of TSM's most dangerous players, Broken Blade has helped pioneer a new era in TSM gameplay, one focused more heavily on early aggression and putting on plenty of top lane pressure. With a deep champion pool and massive outplay potential, Broken Blade attacks teams from angles no other top laner in the LCS can, and that leaves TSM with plenty of breathing room for their other powerful lanes. But we'll get to those. Coming off a strong performance against LCS All-Star top laner Licorice, Broken Blade is looking more powerful than ever.

While their opponents took a risk in their 2019 top lane choice, Team Liquid retained their bread and butter, former world champion Impact. But while no one is more tried and tested than Impact, he has had somewhat of a spotty 2019 spring. Looking like one of the weakest players on the team late into the split, Impact became somewhat of a liability. The player we all know for a dominant tank presence has struggled to make the adjustment to more carry-oriented picks in late spring. The good news for TL? Impact cleaned things up in their semifinal victory. Impact was in fearsome form staring down V1per in their last series, with huge games on carries Viktor and Kennen with an average Jayce game in-between. Impact has gotten some pressure off his back with these performances, showing that his carry play can still be solid when he's on point, and the tanks are always something in his back pocket. His post-season form is deadly, and TL are banking on this to slow down one of TSM's most volatile threats.

Verdict:

This top lane matchup will be absolute fireworks, but only one player will take control. We edge this to the explosive rookie TSM Broken Blade.

Jungle

We spoke to the risky roster moves Team SoloMid made in 2019 with their top lane rookie, but that's not the only new weapon this roster brings to the table this year. TSM brought on jungler Akaadian, and while he's struggled on some other teams in his professional history, he's been a huge part of TSM's success in 2019. Broken Blade brought an aggressive tinge to a historically passive TSM, but the second punch to that one-two combination is the jungling presence of Akaadian. With the aggressive poise of a much more experienced veteran, Akaadian has turned the TSM ward robot jungler narrative on its head. As an absolute nightmare to opposing laners, Akaadian shows up early and often, opting for plenty of fights to put his team in position to snowball. While he's turned in some performances on TSM jungle staple Gragas late into spring, he's shown he can be the gas pedal TSM have sorely lacked in recent years.

Team Liquid bring to the table perhaps the strongest jungler in LCS history, repeat LCS All-Star Xmithie. Xmithie helped pioneer a supportive, defensive jungling presence that has succeeded time and time again for him. Putting more emphasis on his teammates than himself, Xmithie helps keep TL's weapons ahead while securing important vision control to transition leads to victories. In 2019, though, Xmithie added some teeth to his more passive playstyle. Ending spring with his most played champion as a seven-game, six-win Lee Sin is not quite what one would expect from this longtime veteran. But this new champion pool has helped TL look incredibly dominant for most of the 2019 spring. Xmithie looked quite weak in TL's late regular season slump, but like his teammates, he picked things back up in their semifinals victory, and in a best-of-five setting, he could very well be the most dangerous jungler around.

Verdict: 

Despite his opponent's resume and successes, we edge this contentious jungle matchup to TSM Akaadian for what he's been able to do incredible junglers this split.

Mid lane

No single lane clash has ever been more pivotal to North America than this historic rivalry between two dangerous Danes, a battle that TSM gotten the better of.

 Team SoloMid enter this matchup with longtime figurehead and soul of TSM, Bjergsen, at the helm of the ship. TSM owe much of their successes to this stable mid laner that is for all intents and purposes the LeBron James of the LCS. Consistently the best mid laner in the region, Bjergsen stands above all others as the most reliable and dominant player the league has ever seen. With new weapons around him, Bjergsen is more open than ever to take over games from the mid lane and lead his team to victory. After an impressive performance against Cloud9, dying six times in five games, Bjergsen is looking damn near untouchable. 

But while Bjergsen has been the best player in the LCS for years, there's always been a thorn in his side for the throne. That thorn is fellow Dane and Team Liquid newcomer, Jensen. Jensen left Cloud9 in 2019 to push the boundaries of post-season success. Now that TSM have dispatched of Jensen's former team in 2019 spring, he's in the position to prove this move was the right one. Team Liquid picked up Jensen to improve their mid lane presence on a roster set in stone with some of the best players in their roles around. With a roster filled across the board with former All-Stars, this is one of the most stacked lineups we've ever seen in the LCS. Jensen was the perfect addition, and perhaps the only player not named Bjergsen that could've improved on Team Liquid from last year. The experiment has been a success for all involved, at least until the late regular season. Kicking off spring with an absolute tear, Jensen has shown that he is just as dangerous in his new shade of blue. Largely sticking to his strengths with champions like Zoe, Syndra, Oriana, and Leblanc, but surrounded by a new team of threats, Jensen hopes to do what he's fallen just short of for years - takedown Bjergsen in the finals. 

Verdict:

While Jensen may have aligned himself with a better team on paper, Bjergsen is turning in one of the best splits of his 6-year reign on TSM. We edge this legendary clash to TSM Bjergsen.

Bot lane

Team SoloMid made their final roster change of the new year with a slight adjustment to their bottom lane. Originally imported from EU as part of an experienced duo with Mithy, ad carry Zven has stayed onboard with TSM, and has taken on a new support in LCS veteran Smoothie. This combination has proven quite potent, activating Zven who struggled with an under-performing support for all of 2018. While they aren't quite the heaviest hitters of this new TSM, they can shoot it out with the best bottom lanes around. This bottom lane took TSM's early spring struggles the hardest, but since these early weeks they've maintained as a reliable presence against opponents of all shapes and sizes. They now look to step up and bring home the first banner of 2019.

Team Liquid created an absolute machine with support pickup CoreJJ in 2019, already winning Spring Split MVP. The LCK veteran has brought a playmaking intuition unrivaled in LCS supports, and taken this right to the strongest ad carry in the history of North America, Doublelift. The 2019 Spring All-Star bot lane form perhaps the most fearsome domestic lane opponent not named Bjergsen, and they've made quick work of most of their opponents. Whether it's off the back of CoreJJ's sick roams and vision control or Doublelift's untouchable outplay potential and mechanics, this duo translates the most minor of opportunities to dominant victories for TL. They look to bring back the presence they had up until the end of the regular season where things momentarily fell apart around them. 

Verdict:

Team Liquid's All-Star duo are just too powerful to contend with in the bottom lane. We edge this matchup of new combinations to TL CoreJJ and TL Doublelift.

Prediction

While TSM take the lead in our lane by lane breakdown, Team Liquid is a strong group of players that have proven they have the potential to dominate domestically. This matchup will largely come down to which Team Liquid shows up, the one that took three of their four Spring Split losses in their last three regular season games, or the one that ran the league for the first 15. 

With that said, we expect TSM to take this series 3-1.

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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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