Cloud9 faces Team Liquid in the North American League of Legends Championship Series Summer Split finals at 5 p.m. ET Sunday on ESPN+. The winner of the series will claim a $100,000 prize and be awarded the North American No. 1 seed at the world championships.
Top things to know
Team Liquid aims to defend its spring title and would join Team SoloMid as the only team to complete a spring/summer championship sweep with a win.
Cloud9 is seeking its third NA LCS championship, which would only trail TSM's six as the most in NA LCS history. A second-place finish would be Cloud9's fifth, the most runner-up finishes in NA LCS history.
Team Liquid has already clinched a spot at worlds. Either Cloud9, with a win Sunday, or 100 Thieves, if Cloud9 loses, will clinch the second of three North American spots at worlds.
Why Team Liquid will win
Team Liquid is led by first-team NA LCS All-Pro Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng, who is seeking his fourth-straight and fifth overall North American championship. The Team Liquid AD carry always seems to find an extra level in the playoffs, as he has led the league in playoff KDA (kills/deaths/assists) in four of his five NA LCS championship runs.
This year, Doublelift has a playoff KDA of 24. In the 14 playoff games he has played in, he has died six times. In fact, his playoff kills-to-deaths ratio (no assists) is 12.33, better than any other player's KDA in the playoffs this year.
The Doublelift luster has concealed Team Liquid's other top performer in Jake "Xmithie" Puchero. Also a first-team NA LCS All-Pro, Xmithie has been a consistent and versatile jungler throughout the summer. In the regular season, Xmithie had wins on eight different champions, the most in the NA LCS.
Why Cloud9 will win
Even though Team Liquid beat Cloud9 in the spring quarterfinals, Cloud9 has history on its side. Cloud9 has faced Team Liquid three other times in the playoffs prior to this year, coming away with series wins each time. Two of those wins were series sweeps in 2014 when Team Liquid was known as Curse.
Cloud9 is also the hottest team in the league, ending the regular season with an eight-game win streak. The team is now 13-4, including two wins against Team Liquid, since starting the season 1-5.
Must of the recent success has come following the substitutions of Robert "Blaber" Huang and Nicolaj "Jensen" Jensen into Cloud9's main roster. The jungle-mid duo was 8-1 going into the playoffs, but the two subbed out in favor of Dennis "Svenskeren" Johnsen and Greyson "Goldenglue" Gilmer after falling behind 1-2 to Team SoloMid in the semifinals.
Cloud9 has a tough choice in picking a starting jungle-mid duo, but that choice may be one of the team's strengths. Cloud9 is 4-0 this split in its first game after substituting in a new jungle-mid duo. Perhaps the change of pace is what keeps teams off-balance.
Champions to watch
Sejuani (8-3, 4 bans): Sejuani has been the premium pick when teams have needed a tanky jungler with strong initiation. While Sejuani does not have the perma-ban status of fellow junglers Olaf and Kindred, the champion has the best win rate among champions with at least five games played.
Varus (3-0, 12 bans): Sneaky played Quinn twice in semifinal games against TSM, both of which ended in team losses. His victories came on more traditional marksmen like Varus, who he went 2-0 with in that semifinal. It will be interesting to see how much priority the teams will place on marksmen, especially with Sneaky facing Doublelift, who has already shown the ability to play a vast array of champions. Doublelift played four different marksmen last week against 100 Thieves.
Zilean (2-2, 2 bans): Jensen plays it, Zeyzal plays it, and even Pobelter has attempted to play Zilean, albeit unsuccessfully. The champion is certainly a Cloud9 special, as the team now has a 6-1 record with it in the lineup this split and has more games on the champion (seven) than the rest of the NA LCS combined (five). Will Team Liquid spend a ban early on this champion?
Gangplank (3-0, 11 bans): Theoretically, Gangplank should almost always be banned by Team Liquid, as it is commonly blind-picked into Liquid top laner Impact because of how often he plays tanks. However, if Team Liquid chooses not to ban it, the champion could be picked up by Impact himself. He had a 5/0/3 performance on Gangplank in Game 2 against 100 Thieves. Watch for Gangplank to command higher and higher priority as the series progresses.