Team SoloMid and Counter Logic Gaming is the classic rivalry of North America. Two of the oldest professional Western League of Legends teams with fanatical fan-bases and a plethora of notable players that have influenced the NA region throughout the years. The games are hyped up, bets are made and the fans overemphasize each victory as if the winner is the best team ever and the loser should quit playing the game.
The history of TSM vs. Cloud9 is something different altogether than the one the defending NA LCS champions have with CLG. While TSM were going through the first season of the LCS that they would eventually win with a victory over Good Game University, C9 were nothing more than a team of solo queue stars that had failed to get into the first Spring season.
In the promotional tournament for the first NA LCS, Cloud9 didn't even make it into the league. With a radically different roster than the one they would become known for — WildTurtle on the team, three of the current members not on the team Hai as a jungler — C9 were taken out in the group stages that were conducted in a Bo1 format. With losses to Team MRN and Azure Gaming, the team that would one day become the most dominant squad in LCS history was eliminated by teams that a newer fan would never be able to name.
C9 would become Quantic, bringing in Sneaky, Meteos and Balls to strengthen their roster. They did well in solo queue, all five players reaching the echelon of players in Challenger and looking like they would be a force in the Summer qualifiers. The second time around Hai and company wouldn't be denied, thrashing through the promotional tournament and then rolling over then-LCS team Complexity 3-0 to knock them out of the league and take their spot. This would then them quickly moving back to the C9 organization shortly after their win.
There was cause for expectations with C9. They looked utterly unstoppable in their games against Complexity and were made up of five talented players who were making waves online. Still, when the Summer season began with TSM as the first ever champions, no one could see the future that the newcomers and the old guard would create over the next two years.
Game 1: June 12th, 2013 (Week 1 Summer LCS 2013)
Although Cloud 9 will all have five members from their first meeting with TSM in the upcoming NA LCS Grand Final, only two members remain for SoloMid: WildTurtle and Dyrus. Turtle, a former C9 member who played during their failed first attempt to get into the LCS, had been brought into replace Chaox during the middle of the first season and became the permanent starter.
The first game would be highlighted by Sneaky's Draven and Meteos' Zac, a champion he would become famous for through his early days in the LCS. Dyrus played a tank Renekton in the top lane, going 0/3/3 by the time the game ended, and only TSM's bottom lane of Turtle and Xpecial had a gigantic impact in the rivalry's first meeting. C9 secured the victory after a tightly contested game, showcasing their superb team fighting in the closing seconds by taking out TSM in the middle lane with a perfectly timed flank.
Game Length: 41:25
Top Performer: Sneaky (7/0/9 on Draven)
Rivalry Record: 1-0 Cloud9
Game 2: July 18th, 2013 (Week 6 Summer LCS 2013)
By this point in the season, C9 were in the middle of destroying everyone in the league. TSM were not the exception to the 'C9 Destroys Everyone' rule in the second game between the two teams. The first game wasn't the best showing of the defending champions, but at least the game was close in gold for most of it and the game lasted over forty minutes.
This one? Yeah, not a lot to talk about. C9 only died four times in the entire game and Meteos walked through everyone with Nasus. It also featured Sneaky and Lemon's Ashe/Zyra combo in the bottom lane that they would become famous for during C9's rolling through of the NA competition.
Game Length: 25:22
Top Performer: Meteos (6/0/10 on Nasus)
Rivalry Record: 2-0 Cloud9
Game 3: July 26th, 2013 (Week 7 Summer LCS 2013)
Well, TSM didn't get crushed as hard this game, but it still wasn't pretty. The most notable thing we can bring up about this game is the fact this was during the time Dyrus and Reginald sat in different positions whilst they played. Reginald would still play mid (Orianna) and Dyrus would still play a tank in top (Renekton), but they would switch seats.
...Yeah, super exciting, right?
Cloud9 continued their one-way trip in killing everyone in North America.
Game Length: 32:45
Top Performer: Meteos (4/1/15 on Zac)
Rivalry Record: 3-0 Cloud9
Game 4: August 16th, 2013 (Week 9 Summer LCS 2013)
I think the C9 stats can sum up this game more than two paragraphs from me could:
Balls 6/0/17 on Shen. Meteos 2/1/18 on Zac. Hai 7/4/21 on Kassadin. Sneaky 15/3/11 on Ashe. LemonNation 1/3/19 on Zyra.
...Wow, what an awful game, Lemon!
Game Length: 37:13
Top Performer: Meteos (2/1/18 on Zac)
Rivalry Record: 4-0 Cloud9
Games 5, 6 and 7: September 2nd, 2013 (NA LCS Summer 2013 Grand Finals)
Cloud9 finished their first season going 25-3, setting a record for regular season superiority that hasn't been touched since in either Europe or North America. TSM, who you might have forgotten were the defending champions with all their losses to C9, didn't have the best regular season. They placed an admirable third place but turned it on in the postseason, sweeping through both Counter Logic Gaming and the second-seeded Vulcun Gaming to have another shot at their new kryptonite.
The finals were more of the same from the regular season. This was C9's season of unquestionable dominance and no team, even TSM, were going to stop them. Meteos was the star of the finals like he was for most of the season for C9, only dying once throughout the entire three game series.
Karthus in the top lane, stealing away Zac from Meteos, and everything TSM tried didn't matter. The first season of this rivalry would end with the old kings not only vanquished but embarrassed. It looked more likely that this was the beginning of the end for TSM and more of a coronation for C9 than any sort of rivalry between the two organizations.
Games Length: 31:25, 33:16, 31:07
Top Performers: Sneaky (9/1/6 on Varus), Meteos (9/0/13 on Nocturne), Hai (7/1/11 on Zed)
Rivalry Record: 7-0 Cloud9
Game 8: January 17th, 2014 (Week 1 LCS Spring 2014)
If the NA LCS was a television show, the season finale of the past season was Cloud9 punching TSM repeatedly for an hour until they let them on some deserted mountain top left to die. It was a one-sided season that got more lopsided as the games went on, the first game between the two being only the real time the teams had a competitive game.
The season premiere for Spring 2014 had the half-dead former champions retooling their arsenal with long-time captain and face of the team Reginald moving to a management role. His replacement was Bjergsen, a young and up-and-coming Danish mid-laner from the European LCS, having led the Ninja in Pyjamas to the playoffs in his first season as a pro.
His debut for TSM wasn't an awful one, being the only player on his team with more kills than deaths by the game ended, but it was another loss in the strings of defeats to the new conquerors of NA. Another TSM vs. C9 game and another performance from a C9 member with zero deaths at the end. Balls had a classic game on Renekton, finishing the game with 70 more CS than his top lane opponent Dyrus and a clean 4/0/7 stat-line.
Oh, and Hai played Teemo.
Yeah, this wasn't a rivalry at this point. It was a young upstart making fools of the former champions. TSM did better but anything would have been better after their disaster of a finale the season before.
Game Length: 47:25
Top Performer: Balls (4/0/7)
Rivalry Record: 8-0 Cloud9
Game 9: February 2nd, 2014 (Week 3 Spring LCS 2014)
They win! TSM win! Bjergsen is the hero SoloMid needs! After eight soul crushing losses that resembled more of a dark comedy film than an actual competitive rivalry, TSM grabbed a bit of their respect back with a win in the third week of 2014 Spring against C9.
After eight games where it felt like they couldn't stop him, TSM finally held down Meteos' Fiddlesticks and kept him to a meager 1/4/4 score. Everything went TSM's way, Bjergsen breathing new life into the old guard of North America and helping them draw first blood in the series against C9.
Game Length: 37:05
Top Performer: Bjergsen (6/0/6)
Rivalry Record: 8-1 Cloud9
Game 10: March 2nd, 2014 (Week 7 Spring LCS 2014)
...TSM's short-lived foothold back into the rivalry is cut off in a mere 27 minutes. Visa issues left TSM without the player that helped them get their first LCS win over C9, their former mid-laner and owner Reginald taking his place while he was out. Regi's LeBlanc didn't have the nearly the same effect Bjergsen's did, Dyrus went 0/4/0 in another loss to Balls in the top lane, and Meteos returned to being the arch nemesis of all TSM fans with a big game on Kha'zix.
Game Length: 27:56
Top Performer: Sneaky (4/1/8 on Caitlyn)
Rivalry Record: 9-1 Cloud9
Game 11: April 5th, 2014 (Week 7 Spring LCS 2014)
C9 won again.
Bjergsen had another decent game on Gragas (the champion he made his NA LCS debut with) but OddOne went 0/6/4 on Elise and Dyrus had another game in the top lane where he had no kills or assists. C9 won top lane and bottom lane like they had countless times against TSM and closed out the game in under 35 minutes.
I can't tell if I'm writing a history of these teams or a Cloud9 fanfiction at this point.
Game Length: 32:36
Top Performer: Sneaky (5/1/5 on Corki)
Rivalry Record: 10-1 Cloud9
Games 12, 13 and 14: April 20th, 2014 (NA LCS Spring 2014 Grand Finals)
Albeit still getting beat three to one against C9 in the regular season series, TSM still had a better regular season. Looking past their three losses to C9, they went 21-3 against the rest of the league and dominated. It was only against the best NA had to offer that the new Bjergsen-led TSM couldn't get the job done.
Game one of the Spring Grand Finals was a mess for SoloMid. The game last 38 minutes but it wasn't because of how close it was. C9 ended the game at 18 kills to TSM's one, strengthening the grip C9 had on the series between the two teams. Bjergsen brought a bit back of life to TSM and made them more competitive than the season before, giving them one of the best regular seasons they've ever had, yet it didn't matter when C9 was still waltzing to the title.
The second game was a bit better, TSM being able to kill Cloud9 four times before stalling out a painful death that came around 40 minutes.
This is the part where I wish I could tell you TSM made a heroic comeback or made it close, but C9 just shrugged, walked over them in the final game and for the second time in the series only died once.
All that hope that Bjergsen brought? Gone. Three losses with only six kills against the winners. TSM were a good team and had little problem beating the teams below them in the NA LCS, but C9 were a different story. TSM could win as much as they wanted over CLG, it didn't matter — Cloud9 owned them.
Game Lengths: 38:36, 39:58, 36:02
Top Performers: LemonNation (0/0/15 on Morgana), Sneaky (10/0/7 on Graves), Hai (4/0/9 on Twisted Fate)
Rivalry Record: 13-1
Part 2 coming tomorrow featuring TSM's rejuvenation and counterattack on Cloud9 through the 2014 Summer and 2015 Spring LCS Seasons.
Tyler "Fionn" Erzberger is a staff writer for The Score eSports, and he recaps each week's EU LCS and NA LCS. He thinks Cloud9 are pretty good at League of Legends. You can follow him on Twitter.