As we delved into yesterday, the first year of the Team SoloMid vs. Cloud9 rivalry was less a heated competition between North America's Top 2 teams and more so Cloud9 killing TSM's legacy. With one win in 14 games staring them in the face, the 2014 Summer season was the time for TSM's counterattack on their conquerors.
Game 15: May 23rd, 2014 (Week 1 Summer LCS 2014)
Leaving our former heroes, TSM, dead and buried last season, they returned for the Summer 2014 season with more rosters changes, while C9 stayed the same. Their legendary jungler, OddOne, retired to become a streamer, and Amazing, another Copenhagen Wolves prospect coming over from Europe, became TSM's new jungler. That was not the only change, as Xpecial was taken off the squad and replaced after open try-outs by American rookie Gleebglarbu.
C9 were 13-1 against their biggest threat in the NA LCS and had only lost seven games in their first two seasons, so why would they change anything?
No matter the change of characters, the script was the same: Meteos didn't die, Sneaky led his team in kills, and the rest of the team followed up with another spotless performance to start the season as they left it — in their complete and unmitigated control.
Game Length: 40:11
Top Performer: Meteos (4/0/7 on Lee Sin)
Rivalry Record: 14-1 Cloud9
Game 16: June 14th, 2014 (Week 4 Summer LCS 2014)
This is the game where TSM finally started to gain some respect against Cloud9. It had been 15 straight games of C9 one-sided blow outs — excluding the single victory secured by TSM through Bjergsen's Leblanc — and this 'rivalry,' while definitely between the two best teams in NA, was more of the new champions making an example of the old veterans.
Bjergsen, who had been the best player in the NA LCS outside of his games against C9, finally started to gain advantage in his matches against Hai. The Danish mid-laner controlled the map with his Twisted Fate pick, never letting Hai's Fizz get going and become an end-game juggernaut. Most importantly, Dyrus ultimately was able to have a good game against C9. Balls had bullied around Dyrus for the past year but the veteran player put up a big score of 2/1/13 on Renekton.
One win didn't wipe away the massive advantage and champions C9 had won over TSM, yet it was a game that shifted optimism back into TSM. The back-to-back champions were still the best in North America, but they were shown they could bleed in the LCS for one of the first times.
Game Length: 36:50
Top Performer: WildTurtle (13/1/5 on Corki)
Rivalry Record: 14-2 Cloud9
Game 17: July 13th, 2014 (Week 8 Summer LCS 2014)
This was the first time TSM won two games in a row against C9 in their over one year long history. It was the first game between TSM and C9 where Dyrus thoroughly beat down Balls, almost slaying over 100 more minions than his C9 counterpart and watching his rival struggle all game long on Dr. Mundo.
C9 were finally starting to show some weaknesses at this point. After two seasons of only losing seven games in the regular season and playoffs combined, their third season was more of a slog. Yes, they would eventually end up where they always were at the top of the standings, but it wasn't a seemingly waltz to the championship like the previous seasons. With the retooled TSM, a strong rookie team from China with LMQ, and the other NA LCS teams picking up their games, Cloud9 dropped a game to each of the seven other teams in the league during the regular season.
Game Length: 40:14
Top Performer: WildTurtle (10/1/2 on Tristana)
Rivalry Record: 14-3
Game 18: July 13th, 2014 (Week 11 Summer LCS 2014)
Cloud9 might not have been unbeatable any longer, but they were still the best team in North America. TSM had a chance to take out C9 and grab the first seed in NA for the first time in three seasons in the team's final meeting of the season.
Bjergsen played Ziggs, more of a poking and zoning champion than the assassins that he had used to great effect earlier in the season against C9. The biggest storyline of the game came from the duel in the bottom lane; Turtle, who was the top performer and destroyed Sneaky in the past two meetings against their rivals, had one of his weaker games of the season on Tristana. Sneaky and LemonNation grabbed a bit of revenge for their lackluster showings in the past two games, C9's AD carry slicing through the TSM lineup with a fed Kog'maw aided by Lemon's signature Morgana.
Another note to this game is that it was Lustboy's first game as TSM's starting support. Gleeb was replaced by the former Champions Korea winner, leaving the C9 vs. TSM rivalry with a positive record of 2-1. Lustboy didn't have the strongest first game, getting rocked by the experienced C9 bot-lane.
Game Length: 36:29
Top Performer: Sneaky (3/0/7 on Kog'maw)
Record Rivalry: 15-3 Cloud9
Games 19, 20, 21, 22 and 23: September 1st, 2014 (NA LCS Summer 2014 Grand Finals)
This was the series that made this a true rivalry.
TSM held up against C9 for the first time in a LCS regular season, going 2-2 and barely missing the first seed in the playoffs. Both teams got through the semifinals, C9 having an easy time against the fourth placed-cursed Curse and TSM having a much tougher time against the Chinese rookies from LMQ and Summer MVP XiaoWeiXiao.
The first game went the same as they did in the early days between these two teams: TSM barely got any kills on C9, Meteos manhandled the jungle with his Elise, and Dyrus finished the game with zero kills. Bjergsen wasn't the game-breaker his team needed with him on the mobile Fizz, letting Hai's assassin Zed take prominence and help his team power through the first map.
TSM's next game was more like they had played recently against C9. Hai had one of the worst games of his professional career, grabbing one kill on Yasuo but dying nine times in the process. Dyrus was able to make himself known in the series with a solid game on Alistar, allowing the two carries of the team in Bjegsen and WildTurtle have a big game and tie the series up for the team.
Hai made up for his paper thin Yasuo in Game 2 with a huge performance on the third map, locking in Zed for a second time and carrying the game on his back with six kills in a 38 minute game.
In the next game, Hai threw that all back with an 0/6/3 game on Orianna while getting crushed by Bjergsen's Xerath. Dyrus was the star of Game 4, having his best showing in the entire C9 vs. TSM rivalry when his organization needed the veteran the most. His Ryze didn't die once, finishing the game with four kills and nine assists as C9's Nexus died to take the finals to a fifth game to crown the Summer champion.
With everything on the line, TSM pulled through when it mattered the most. It was more of a five-man win than one person carrying the team on his back. Cloud9 felt the sting of elimination for the first time in NA LCS history, having to watch a team they constantly slapped around for almost three seasons finally get it together when they needed it the most. Lustboy was finally starting to come into his own, evolving from his shaky first games with TSM and starting to gain a bit of chemistry with WildTurtle in the bottom lane.
Game Lengths: 34:44, 34:39, 38:46, 37:11, 38:52
Top Performers: Meteos (4/1/7 on Elise), Lustboy (0/1/14 on Thresh), Hai (6/0/1 on Zed), Dyrus (4/0/9 on Ryze), WildTurtle (5/2/2 on Tristana)
Rivalry Record: 17-6
Game 24: January 24th, 2015 (Week 1 Spring LCS 2015)
A year-and-a-half of authority seemingly erased in one game. The 2015 season has been a trading of sorts between the C9 and TSM personalities. While TSM has gone on to win the IEM World Championship and eventually win the regular season title from C9 for the first time, this first game loss to TSM was a long and strange season for C9. Instead of cruising through the season with little to no turbulence, the screams of change in the background echoed as each week the once unflappable champions switched from playing well to looking like an inexperienced rookie squad.
The only roster change from either side was the dropping of another TSM jungler with Amazing moving back to Europe as Santorin became the new starter. He had a good first game, supporting Bjergsen in the mid lane and the top two carries of TSM coming up big to take a route against Cloud9 in their first game since the Summer LCS finals. The former MVP mid-laner and his carry partner WildTurtle capped off the victory with a combined stat line of 13/0/18 on Ahri and Jinx respectively.
Game Length: 39:30
Top Performer: Bjergsen (8/0/8 on Ahri)
Rivalry Record: 17-7
Game 25: March 28th, 2015 (Week 9 LCS Spring 2015)
In the most recent match-up between these two teams, the outcome of the match tells the story of the two sides. C9 had to fight at the end of the season to get their fourth straight Top 2 seed in the regular season, wanting the all important first-round bye to get a guaranteed spot in the semi-finals. They finally were turning around the flimsy play that haunted them throughout the first three-quarters of the season, making a late run and needing a win against TSM to push CLG into a tiebreak match for the second seed.
TSM were already locked into the first seed. For the first time since C9 came into the league, TSM could take a deep breath and not worry on the final day of the regular season. They didn't run through the league like C9 did in their first two seasons, but it was a businesslike deconstruction of their opponents and comfortably cruising into the top spot with an IEM championship in their back pocket.
The game itself went to the more hungry C9, who needed the win much more than their rivals. TSM played around with their lineup more than usual, putting Dyrus on a more carry-oriented champion with Kennen and Bjergsen pulling out the Cho'gath that had started to make waves in the Asian regions. These decisions didn't work out against the more standard C9, the the men in blue getting the win they needed and then taking out CLG in the tiebreak to make sure they would dodge the first round of the playoffs.
Game Length: 39:38
Top Performer: Balls (5/0/8 on Maokai)
Rivalry Record: 18-7
The rivalry that has defined the past four seasons of NA LCS will write another entry into their history this Sunday as TSM take on C9 in their fourth consecutive NA LCS Grand Finals together. Cloud9 were all but untouched in the first 15 games of the series, winning 14 and only dropping a single game through the heroics of Bjergsen. Since, the rivalry has become tilted to the side of TSM, the former kings gaining the respect that they had lost through the first two seasons of C9's reign.
Whatever the outcome on Sunday in Los Angeles, the pages will continue to flip in this long-running story between two Western giants who would have no other rival for the championship if the other didn't stand in their way.
Longest TSM vs. C9 Game: 47:25, January 17th, 2014 (Week 1 LCS Spring 2014) - Cloud 9 victory
Shortest TSM vs. C9 Game: 25:22, July 18th, 2013 (Week 6 Summer LCS 2013) - Cloud 9 victory
C9 members with winning records vs. TSM: Balls, Meteos, Hai, Sneaky, LemonNation (18-7)
TSM members with winning records vs. C9: Amazing (5-4), Gleebglarbu (2-1)
Tyler "Fionn" Erzberger is a staff writer for The Score eSports, and he recaps each week's EU LCS and NA LCS. He thinks TSM are pretty good at League of Legends. You can follow him on Twitter.