TSM beat Team Liquid during the regular season but were unable to repeat their success in the Mid-Season Showdown semi-finals when Liquid won 3-1. Will TSM be able to avoid suffering another loss this weekend, or will Liquid prevent them from chasing the organization’s eighth League of Legends Championship Series (LCS) title?
Team Liquid vs TSM
Saturday, April 10 at 13:00 PST
Team Liquid’s Shock Loss to Cloud9
Many people, us included, expected Team Liquid to take the series against Cloud9, however, they ended up losing 1-3 in what was arguably one of the biggest surprises of the LCS Mid-Season Showdown. Even after that series, it’s still hard to say Liquid are worse than Cloud9.
Even though Liquid suffered a tough loss, it seemed more like they had an off-day rather than anything else. Although that might sound like a very poor excuse, you can go back and watch Liquid’s series before that and compare that to what they showed last week.
Cloud9 were still the better team that day and deserved to win, but that result does not convince me that Liquid are as weak as they looked.
Although there is no denying that Team Liquid are one of the strongest teams in the LCS, it’s also very clear that most of the players are not playing at their peak form. The most notable being ADC Edward “Tactical” Ra, who is having an off-split, and while he is still doing relatively well, he is nowhere near as good as he was in 2020.
Much of the same holds true for jungler Lucas “Santorn” Tao Kilmer Larsen and to some lesser degree also for Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen and Jo “CoreJJ” Yong-in. Liquid are still much better than most of the league, but we have to keep in mind most of their squad is not playing as well as they should have.
Liquid’s Strengths and Weaknesses
Liquid like to take full advantage of their players’ individual quality and they do so by working around winning their 1v1 matchups. That approach might not be too effective when Liquid face tougher opponents in international events, but since they have the most stacked roster in the LCS, this style should – and already has – proven to be effective.
That approach has made Team Liquid the most dangerous early-game team in the league. Even though they’re not the most aggressive team in the LCS (3rd in kills @15), they lead the league in Team CS @15 and boast by far the highest first turret rate (81%) out of all NA LoL squads. What’s more, Liquid have the highest Rift Herald control in the league (69%) and are 2nd in the first dragon rate.
All that can be countered, if TSM approaches the series the right way. Picking a safe, scaling composition that will allow TSM to survive early-game and focus on late-game dragon fights is a way to stand a chance against Liquid. Another thing TSM will need to put some thought into is how to stop Barney “Alphari” Morris in the top lane, yet even that can be dealt with roaming mid laner and smart pathing from their jungler – like Cloud9 did last week.
TSM Are On a Roll
After dropping their opening match of the Mid-Season Showdown against Liquid (1-3), TSM found their stride and cruised by Evil Geniuses (3-1), and 100 Thieves (3-1). Although neither of these sides is as strong as Team Liquid, TSM at least have the momentum on their side, which can help you go a long way in the playoffs.
Even during the regular season, TSM did not look all that shabby, finishing the split with 12-6. What is perhaps even more impressive is that they only lost only one game against Cloud9 and have beaten Team Liquid twice throughout the split.
Those results didn’t really translate well into their Bo5 series with Liquid in March, but it’s still worth remembering that TSM beat Liquid twice before, so they should have a general idea of how to approach this match.
TSM as Heavy Outsiders
TSM enter this match as heavy underdogs, which does not surprise me. Although Team Liquid are not a perfect team, nor are their players performing at the level they could have, Liquid still play much cleaner LoL. TSM might have finished the regular season in a very respectable place and have won both of their lower bracket bouts, but they did not look all that good in those wins.
Then there is also the stylistic difference between the teams, where Liquid are a very strong early-game team, whereas TSM seem very vulnerable to early aggression. This should in theory make this match a stylistic nightmare for TSM, unless if they find a way to draft safe and scaling composition and play into the strengths of that style.
TSM’s Strengths and Weaknesses
As mentioned above, TSM are most vulnerable in the early game, more specifically, they’re not equipped to deal with quick and aggressive teams. That was fairly obvious in their series against 100T, which TSM should have perhaps lost had 100T played only slightly better in the mid-late game.
Then there’s also an obvious lack of coordination between Mingyi “Spica” Lu and Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage. That might not seem like a big deal considering the current meta is no longer all about the mid 2v2, but it does become a problem if the synergy is as bad as it is between these two.
This is also very easily exploitable by other teams, who need to get their hands on strong 2v2 mid and jungle champions and fight Spica and PowerOfEvil as often as possible.
What TSM lack in the early game, they more than make up with their Baron control, which is by far the highest in the league. TSM have a 77% Baron Control, which is 14% higher than the second-best team in CLoud9 and a whole 20% better than Team Liquid. Their ability to efficiently secure Barons is also why TSM won so many games where they were trailing in the early game.
That number, however, might be a bit misleading, since they got away with a robbery a few too many times for me to praise them too much. Numerous times have we seen TSM’s opponents run into the Baron pit without any plan, which allowed TSM to not only secure the Baron, but also kill a few members of the opposing team and sail to a victory.
Preventing TSM from getting the hands-on Baron buff will require Liquid to do one simple thing – discipline. And we know Liquid are one of the most disciplined teams in the league.
Betting Tips for Team Liquid and TSM
I’ve spent way too much time explaining the teams’ strengths and weaknesses, so I’ll keep this part very short. Team Liquid might have disappointed against C9, but as noted they play uncharacteristically poorly and I don’t expect another such performance this weekend.
As long as Liquid play relatively well, they should have an edge over TSM, and not necessarily because they field better players in almost all positions, but largely because their style is exactly what TSM don’t know how to play against. Liquid essentially don’t need to enter this match with any special strategy, but instead play like they usually do, as it will be TSM who will need to adapt and change a few things.
Are TSM capable of change and are they capable of playing safe, scaling compositions against Liquid?
Perhaps, but their series with EG and 100T leave me very sceptical about this squad.
** UPDATE **
Santorin will (likely) not be starting for Team Liquid for this match due to illness and will be replaced by academy jungler Jonathan “Armao” Armao (formerly Grig), who has already played four games for Liquid during the LCS Play-In. That, however, doesn’t mean he is a good replacement.
Santorin’s stats are a combination of his performances during the LCS Spring regular season and the Mid-Season Invitational, whereas Armao’s numbers are a combination of his NA Academy Spring regular season, Arena of Legends, and LCS Proving Grounds. This change can have a rather big impact on how the game will go, as it allows TSM to gain huge edges by exploiting Liquid’s jungle.
Without Santorin, Liquid will also not be as potent in the early game, effectively harming their biggest strength, which works directly into TSM’s win condition i.e survive early game, scale, contest Baron and win. Since we don’t know whether Santorin will start, you should wait for the game to start before placing a bet, however, if Liquid replace him with Armao, we might be in for a much closer series.
Prediction: TSM +1.5 maps – 1.694 Pinnacle
Prediction: TSM to win – 2.54 Pinnacle