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Cloud9 have won each of their last three games and are challenging for top spot
Liquid have stumbled and stuttered to slip out of the playoffs periphery
Fudge puts behind poor previous season to make big impact for Cloud9
Cloud9 have had a joyride like no other. Big kills, easy wins, pentakills, chills by last-placed Dignitas … essentially everything the league phase has had to offer so far. Well into the second half of the split, they’re pretty much smiling from where they are: second and a win off leaders FlyQuest, and in a fantastic position to defend their LCS title.
Team Liquid are currently struggling to make the playoffs. At eighth, they have more losses than wins (5-8) and need to virtually go on a bull run from here on to stand a chance of finishing in the top six. They need more than just good strategy and precise planning to get there. The luck of the draw hasn’t made it easier for them as they run into a red-hot opponent that has turned its game up by several notches in recent times. There’s little doubt then as to why Cloud9 have the aces.
AD Carry Kim “Berserker” Min-cheol and support Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen have had prolific seasons so far. Their red-hot form that began during the course of their magical run to the LCS championship last summer has extended to this year’s spring season too. And as much as individual brilliance can only get a team so far, this kind of sustained dominance over a period of time in unison is rare. It meant double the trouble for their opponents.
So far this split, Berserker has landed 4.23 kills on an average, the best for Cloud9. This matched with a supremely impressive death rate of 0.69 makes him a handful. He also has a very high kill participation rate of 6, for a creep score of 308.92. Zven has been prolific with his assists, an average of 10.08, which is among the best so far this split.
It takes two to tango, sure. What happens when teams run into a third lynchpin? Ibrahim “Fudge” Allami has had an equally prolific impact, having landed the most kills among top laners this split apart from being in the top three of the assists charts. He’s not someone who had a particularly impressive Worlds last year, so coming into this split, there was plenty to prove.
His manner of domination this time has lent an air of invincibility to Cloud9. At a very basic level, he attributes this success to renewed focus. Fudge lands 3.69 kills, 1.54 deaths, and 6.15 assists, along with a KDA of 6.4 and creep score of 250.15. What makes Fudge’s role that much more impactful is the clarity. After middling success in the mid-lane, clarity and communication from the team that he’s best suited to the top lane has worked in his favor.
Liquid’s fall has been alarming as it has been predictable. On the lines of how Team Vitality have folded, Liquid haven’t looked even challenging for the title. A chance at Worlds 2022 went begging after their horror run last year, and everything that could have gone wrong so far has gone wrong for them. At stake now is the playoff berth, which looks far-fetched.
Man to man, this is a supremely talented roster, but lack of role clarity, a penchant to go big on Korean talent and little sync with the playing group during a longish off-season without a domestic or international title has led to them being in a state of flux to begin this season, with team play and fundamentals being in question, like issues in the bot lane, their manner of playing out team fights, etc.
Team Liquid have lost two of their last three games. Their most recent outing was a loss to TSM, who are one of their nearest competitors when it comes to playoff qualification. Which is why the loss would have been particularly hard to digest. TSM opened up a gold surge to finally end a lead of nearly 11k.
They also landed 13 kills to Liquid’s three, and captured 10 towers to Liquid’s 2. CoreJJ struggled, managing no kills, but 2 deaths and 3 assists. Pyosik’s fate wasn’t too different: he landed 0 kills, 3 deaths, and 1 assist. Player-to-player, a competent outfit was stymied by clinically set plans. This in a nutshell has been the story of their season.
Cloud9 were run ragged by last-placed Dignitas for a second time running, and like in their first outing, they got their act together to eventually squeeze out a narrow victory. Cloud9 managed to land that one extra kill to upstage Dignitas, apart from clinching the game with a near 8k gold lead that didn’t look possible at one stage. Their other two wins were a lot more straightforward and on predictable lines.
On the form, approach, player strategies, and recent history of turning up in big games, wholeheartedly put your money on Cloud9 to win.
Teams: Team Liquid vs Cloud9
Location: North America
Time: Friday, March 10 at 3 PM ET onwards
How to watch: LCS Twitch channel
With an interest in strategy and mathematics, applying that to sports writing was the natural progression. A writer at night and the founder of a gaming company, Nikhil’s previous experience includes working with ESPN for five years. His specialization includes soccer, basketball, tennis, and esports betting. Email: [email protected]More info on Nikhil Kalro
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