With the removal of separated Spring and Summer splits in favour of a year-long regular season, the LCS’ Mid-Season Showdown was introduced to still allow silverware to be won earlier in the calendar.
With the removal of separated Spring and Summer splits in favour of a year-long regular season, the LCS’ Mid-Season Showdown was introduced to still allow silverware to be won earlier in the calendar as well as being a means to grant one side Mid-Season Invitational qualification. With an off season seeing much of the league’s veteran talent moving on, replaced by both rookie talent and big-name imports alike, ten organisations began the year hopeful of making a push to the top of North American League of Legends.
Cloud9’s off season changes were surprising, to say the least. Despite vowing to keep an unchanged roster from 2020, top laner Licorice and mid laner Nisqy both made way for previous academy top Fudge and ex-G2, LEC legend Perkz; the latter move reportedly set to cost the team more than $11m over the duration of the player’s contract.
It came as little surprise to then later see the side top the Spring regular season table, only finishing with a single win more than TSM and Team Liquid, to earn their spot in the Mid-Season Showdown upper bracket.
First up in the winner’s bracket was 100 Thieves, a side whose roster swaps were still gelling but had still managed to grab 4th seed. Despite only being a couple of wins away from Cloud9 before the MSS, 100T weren’t able to get any in the best-of-series between the teams as C9 progressed as decisive 3-0 winners.
Next was a rematch of January’s LCS Lock-In final with Team Liquid, who themselves had made serious moves in the off season to bring in former Origen top laner Alphari as well as ex-Flyquest jungler Santorin.
Able to exact revenge for the loss last time around, Cloud9 took a 1-0 series lead before TL struck back in game 2 to level things at 1-1. However, C9 stepped up in games 3 and 4 to secure a victory and book their place in the grand final.
Losing to C9 put Team Liquid into the lower bracket against TSM and another 3-1 performance, this time in TL’s favour, set up yet another best-of-five against C9. If the narratives hadn’t already written themselves by now, the added drama of Santorin’s late illness meant that Team Liquid also entered the final with substitute jungler Armao (formerly Grig) filling in.
Armao helped his side make the perfect start in the final taking a 1-0 lead after a whopping 49-minute game before a further 41-minute late-game affair saw C9 level at 1-1. The series continued to go back and forth with each team taking another win, setting up a game 5 decider, though one thankfully not introduced by MarkZ’s Silver Scrapes cover!
After a nail-biting series seeing each side clinch drawn out, tense matches, the last game of the tournament turned out to be the final’s fastest. Leading the matchup since a Perkz solokill on Armao in the fourth minute, Cloud9 managed to take a hold of the game and refused to let go before finally clinching the match, series and title before the 28-minute mark.
Heading into their third best-of-five already this season, the grand final between veteran North American staple organisations Cloud9 and Team Liquid was sure to be a thrilling encounter in what was set to crown the first-ever Mid-Season Showdown champion.
Starting fairly tentatively, the first match began with only 5 kills in the opening 18 minutes as these all went Cloud9’s way to accrue a 3.5k lead. Team Liquid fought back, however, winning successive teamfights, a baron and their first dragon (stopping Cloud9 at soul-point).
Just as TL looked to be taking control of the game, the pendulum swung once again as a baron teamfight win for C9 saw them barrel down towards TL’s nexus, only to be delayed enough by Armao to put them off a final push.
This back and forth continued well past the 45-minute mark, where won fights seemed likely to end the match only for the remaining players to successfully defend time and time again. Finally, and elder dragon fight won by TL was enough to end the match and give them the lead in the series.
Game 2 looked to see Team Liquid begin to gain momentum as the first 27 minutes saw kills and turret advantages net them a 6.5k lead. However, the next 10 minutes saw this slip away with Cloud9 suddenly picking up kill after kill and earning a 2k gold lead of their own.
Fitting for the series so far, a 41-minute teamfight appeared to be putting things back in Team Liquids favour before an eventual baron secure for Cloud9 allowed them to clean up TL and grab their first win in the final.
Just as the games themselves, the series score was set to continue going side to side as game 3 was once again Team Liquid’s turn to clinch a match. A Nocturne pick for C9’s Blaber wasn’t able to successfully dive in on TL targets as intended and their carries were still able to sway teamfights in their favour.
Finally, another subdued engage from Blaber wasn’t enough to take down the key carries, and despite Jensen dying, Tactical’s Aphelios made it out alive to clean up the fight and put Team Liquid at series-point with a 2-1 lead.
Perhaps the most timid match of the final, game 4 saw only a single kill in the first 10 minutes while the gold lead stood at a modest 500 in Team Liquid’s favour. Rather than opting for teamfights, the sides instead tried to play the map to their advantage as each team looked to trade objectives throughout the early to mid game.
As Team Liquid made a move for Cloud9’s all-important mid lane outer turret a fight finally broke out. A feisty, segmented scrap saw players dropped on each side but ultimately allowed Cloud9 to earn a huge mountain dragon soul, crucial in allowing their members to stay alive against the burst from the likes of Jensen’s Viktor.
Eventually, a baron and elder dragon pickup for Cloud9 gave them enough of a buff, along with their 5k gold lead, to decisively win the ensuing teamfights and take down every one of TL’s structures before exploding the nexus just after the 39-minute mark and setting up a Silver Scrapes-led game 5.
Closing out the series was the bloodiest game of the lot, with almost a kill per minute across the board seeing Cloud9 earn an impressive 8k lead within 22 minutes as Perkz’ Sylas tormented Team Liquid. An early baron meant that C9 could quickly crack TL’s base heading into the mid game, and a subsequent 24-minute infernal soul was the last thing Team Liquid wanted C9 to gain with the likes of Udyr, Sylas and Tristana in their composition.
While likely fatigued by the length of the series, Team Liquid looked to snatch at any opportunity to claw the game back from the jaws of defeat. Ironically for TL, and sadly for their substitute jungler, it was a slipup from Armao, in which a facecheck near baron saw him caught by Perkz and Fudge, that was the final nail in the coffin for his side.
Cloud9 cleaned up the ensuing battle, picked up the baron and finally closed out the series in what was one of the most exciting grand finals in LCS history.
One of Cloud9’s staples in their two most recent LCS titles, it’s little surprise that jungler Robert “Blaber” Huang has earned the honour of split MVP once again.
In his role he topped the league in both average kills (3.78) and kill share (23.9%) while also coming in second in kill participation (72.2%), demonstrating his huge involvement in Cloud9’s activity throughout games and doing so with the second-largest jungle pool of any jungler.
Cloud9 to win the Mid-Season Showdown
Despite their signings putting Cloud9 amongst the favourites heading into the split, it was Team Liquid who were crowned Lock-In champions earlier in the year and would’ve been seen as the most likely to take the Mid-Season Showdown. Add to that list a TSM side who also spent big during the off season and Cloud9’s win was anything but a formality.
Scraping through the nail-biting final was ultimately a huge win for C9 that will now see them off to Iceland for the Mid-Season Invitational, and any fans that had bet in their favour before the season had begun will be celebrating right alongside them.