Cloud9 continued its miracle run after a dismal start to the North American League of Legends Championship Series Summer Split, dispatching storied rival Team SoloMid in dramatic, 3-2 fashion Saturday in Los Angeles.
These two NA LCS titans are familiar foes in the postseason. After the first two games, it looked to be another classic, thanks to TSM ace mid laner Soren "Bjergsen" Bjerg getting Akali two games in a row. In Game 1, TSM's superior teamfighting composition survived a strong early game from C9 to come back around the 23-minute mark, seize control of the game through strong objective control and take out Cloud9's Nexus in 40 minutes. In stark contrast, Cloud9's insistence on putting mid laner Nicolaj "Jensen" Jensen on Zilean to counter Bjergsen's assassin paid off in Game 2, as C9 seized control around 20 minutes and used its momentum to decimate TSM in just 26 minutes. While both vaunted mid laners took turns carrying their respective teams early in the series, things ultimately came down to both teams' supporting casts.
Game 3 was dominated by TSM in the draft, countering C9's short range by putting AD carry Jesper "Zven" Svenningsen on Swain, allowing him to dominate teamfights while going relatively untouched. Picking up a quadra kill in a crucial 5-for-3 teamfight for TSM at 14 minutes, Zven, along with TSM top laner Kevin "Hauntzer" Yarnell's Gangplank, delivered a crucial Game 3 win, but Cloud9 still had one final option. Subbing out Jensen and its jungler, Rookie of the Split Robert "Blaber" Huang, for the C9 Academy duo of mid laner Greyson "Goldenglue" Gilmer and jungler Dennis "Svenskeren" Johnsen, C9 looked like a completely new team in Games 4 and 5. Despite playing in his first-ever postseason matches, Goldenglue looked like a veteran against the four-time NA LCS MVP, matching Bjergsen's pressure across the map while providing strong pick potential in two Malzahar games. Meanwhile, Svenskeren got revenge on his former team by keeping TSM's Jonathan "Grig" Armao from snowballing the early game, fighting well in midgame skirmishes to give Cloud9 the edge it needed.
At the end of the day, this series came down to teamfighting, but the accomplishments of Cloud9 are the bigger story. Even when Cloud9 sat in last place in the NA LCS standings, enduring criticism from fans and analysts alike, this team stayed true to itself and now enters the NA LCS finals riding a tidal wave of momentum. Gone are the days when Cloud9 is defined by its stars, namely Jensen and AD carry Zachary "Sneaky" Scuderi, as it now boasts a plethora of domestic talent across the board. The emergence of players like Blaber and top laner Eric "Licorice" Ritchie, coupled with the rise of Goldenglue, paid off as Cloud9 blasted through TSM in just under 24 minutes in Game 5 to advance to the finals in Oakland next weekend.
Team SoloMid will still make the trip to Oakland to participate in the third-place match, which takes place at 5 p.m. ET on Saturday, while Cloud9 awaits the winner of 100 Thieves/Team Liquid in the finals at 5 p.m. ET the next day. All games are on ESPN+.