Wins across Rift lead Liquid to championship

Team Liquid celebrates its second straight North American League of Legends Championship Series championship. Provided by Riot Games

Team Liquid swept Cloud9 in a playoff series for the second straight time en route to its second straight North American League Championship Series title. Team Liquid also claims the North American No. 1 seed at the World Championship in South Korea next month.

It was Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng's fifth NA LCS Championship, which ties him with former teammate Soren "Bjergsen" Bjerg for the most all time. Saturday, Doublelift won the Summer Split MVP award and followed that win with three straight games with a kills/deaths/assists average of 9 or better. He finished the playoffs with a total KDA of 11, second only to his 35.3 KDA performance in the Spring Split earlier this year.

Perhaps the biggest key to the series was Cloud9 allowing Team Liquid's top laner Jeong "Impact" Eon-Yeong to play Sion in each of the three games. Impact was the tankiest individual on Summoner's Rift in every game, and he used Sion to simply smother one of the best top laners in North America in Eric "Licorice" Ritchie. Impact died only once in each of the three games, leading to a 10.1 playoff KDA, the best by a top laner in NA LCS history.

No individual really had a bad game for Team Liquid. Mid-laner Eugene "Pobelter" Park had two deathless games on Ryze, and in Game 2, he managed two early kills against Greyson "Goldenglue" Gilmer's Malzahar. Those two kills led to a 8/3/13 performance on Irelia. His 21 kills and assists in that game were the most he has recorded in an NA LCS game in the past three years.

Support Kim "Olleh" Joo-sung had great games on less traditional picks. Support mainstays Braum, Tahm Kench and Alistar were available every game, but Olleh chose to go with playmakers Morgana and Thresh. With only four deaths over the series, he managed to stay alive despite not having the health pool of a more traditional support.

The finals MVP was awarded to Liquid jungler Jake "Xmithie" Puchero, who found success on three different champions and amassed a 6.63 playoff KDA in the process, the highest at his position since the 2016 Summer Split playoffs (7, Dennis "Svenskeren" Johnsen).

A key reason Xmithie won MVP was his tracking and dominance of the opposing jungler. Cloud9 pulled off only one successful gank in the entire series, a bot lane bait of Doublelift in Game 2, in which Svenskeren simply cleaned up a kill on Lee Sin. Every other attempted gank was either thwarted by information from Xmithie's tracking or by Xmithie shutting down the attempt himself and turning it in Team Liquid's favor.

Cloud9 never seemed settled the entire series. Every game featured Cloud9 attempting something new or even drastic. Zachary "Sneaky" Scuderi picked up Twitch in Games 1 and 2, a champion played only once in the entirety of 2018. Robert "Blaber" Huang also attempted his own pocket pick in Hecarim, a champion that hasn't seen Summoner's Rift in pro play since 2016. Substitutes entered the fray in Games 2 and 3 with Nicolaj "Jensen" Jensen and Goldenglue rotating in and out throughout the series. Cloud9 simply couldn't find a strategy that actually worked.

With the loss, Cloud9 is relegated to play in the regional qualifiers in two weeks for its last shot at the League of Legends World Championship. Championship Points put 100 Thieves into Worlds as the other North American automatic qualifier. Cloud9's second-place finish means it will be the No. 1 seed in the regional gauntlet and will have to win only one series to make Worlds, and, as in 2017, the team will have to qualify for groups at Worlds via the Play-In Stage.