Following another turbulent off season and plethora of roster swaps, North America’s LCS Lock In tournament has given fans their first glimpse at the strength of the regions’ top sides.
Following another turbulent off season and plethora of roster swaps, North America’s LCS Lock In tournament has given fans their first glimpse at the strength of the regions’ top sides. Kicking off the season with the first iteration of the tournament, the Lock In has proven to be an exciting start to the year and a great chance for teams to pick up early silverware.
For a side that finished reasonably strongly in 2020, Team Liquid surprised with two roster changes in Alphari and Santorin. Their new-look lineup could not begin the tournament in its entirety as Santorin’s inclusion was delayed due to VISA issues. Instead, he was replaced by Armao (formerly Grig) for their opening three matches which saw group stage wins against CLG and Golden Guardians as well as a loss to 100 Thieves.
Santorin’s return was subsequently met with a victory over TSM, after which TL headed into the knockout stage of the tournament. First up in the knockouts was Flyquest, who Team Liquid made light work of in a 2-0 win before heading into the best-of-five semi-finals.
On the other side of the rift was Evil Geniuses, whose own off season changes saw them start strongly in the group stage and easily eliminate GG in a 2-0 quarter-final clash. Team Liquid once again flexed their muscles, coming out on top in an unexpected 3-0 sweep where a much closer series was forecast.
Against Team Liquid in the grand final was Perkz’ Cloud9, who despite not starting all guns blazing was still a dangerous opponent with a veteran mid laner who has shown his ability to carry series almost single-handedly in the past.
TL began in perfect fashion, dominating the opening two games to put the series at a 2-0 match point, before Cloud9 fought back in games three and four to level the proceedings. While most 2-0 to 2-2 series are eventually won by the team coming back, Team Liquid did well to show no signs of tilting and managed to close out the series with a rapid game five victory. In doing so, they picked up the first-ever LCS Lock In trophy and stamped their authority on the league ahead of the start of the Spring regular season.
When it comes to tournament finals, many one-sided 3-0 stomps have left viewers feeling somewhat unsatisfied. Seeing the top two teams take down all other contenders can lead to an expectation that they’re evenly matched and seeing the opposite when they finally do go head-to-head can be underwhelming.
Cloud9 and Team Liquid were arguably the top two teams coming into the LCS Lock In, and so their grand final matchup came with this expectation. However, the opening two matches looked more along the lines of the G2 vs TL MSI 2019 final as the latter took a quick 2-0 lead.
Alphari continued to show his proficiency in the top lane, swiftly making name for himself as the best in his role throughout the whole region, while Santorin managed to win both with and against the jungle’s current menace Udyr.
Cloud9 were not done. Having already won a reverse sweep against 100 Thieves in the semi-finals, they came out swinging against TL in a game 3 where ADC Zven did not give up a single death. Game 4 was another Zven masterclass as the Dane showed why he and support Vulcan are considered one of the best bot lanes in North America (arguably only behind their final opponents Tactical/CoreJJ) as they levelled the series at 2-2.
With Silver Scapes playing and another reverse sweep on the horizon, Cloud9 looked to be in pole position to take the first Lock In crown heading into the final game of the tournament. Rarely does a team squander a 2-0 lead and then manage to change course to win game 5, instead usually succumbing to the mental tilt and seeing the ‘comeback’ side complete the sweep.
However, with veteran players in almost all positions, Team Liquid were perfectly equipped to stop the C9 resurgence and fought their way back in the final match. One of the best jungle/support duos in the league, Santorin and CoreJJ’s experience came in vital in what was a game of mental strength, with the former having a huge influence on the match with involvement in 17 of the 18 kills throughout.
Ending up one of the shortest games in the series, the final match was over within 26 minutes as Team Liquid ended C9’s comeback hopes, cementing their place as NA’s top dogs heading into the Spring split and picking up the first piece of 2021 silverware in the process.
Team Liquid’s South Korean superstar has long been considered the best player on his team, and often argued as the best in the entire region. The former World Champion has managed to avoid the drop in skill level often seen with money-driven imports, giving strong evidence that he fully invested in the side’s success and has kept his efforts up as a result.
It comes as no surprise then to see CoreJJ’s impact in Team Liquid’s Lock In success, picking up the most Player of the Game awards of any player ahead of the likes of Closer, Blaber and Impact.
Not only did he finish up with the highest KDA (5.31) and lowest average deaths (2.07) of anyone in his role, but the two-time LCS winner even managed the greatest gold share percentage across all supports with an unusually high 13.3% having had a contribution in a huge amount of his team’s play (as well as favouring Steel Shoulderguards champions).
Team Liquid to win the LCS Lock In
Despite having a strong roster on paper, Team Liquid’s eventual title win was anything but obvious ahead of the tournament given the strength of the likes of Cloud9, Evil Geniuses and even 100 Thieves and TSM.
Add to that the fact that TL started without main jungler Santorin and their success is even more impressive. The Dane was only a single game away from winning all of his matches in the tournament before Cloud9’s 2-0 to 2-2 comeback in the final, however the former Flyquest man was able to help his team to clinch the crucial fifth game.
Any fans who had the faith to take a punt on Team Liquid ahead of the tournament will now be celebrating along with the players themselves, whose victory in the inaugural Lock In will set a strong precedent for their upcoming Spring split form.