Tensions were running extremely high in the final day of the PAX Prime North American LCS Regional Tournament. The third day of the tournament featured the finals in the Challenger Series between Cognitive Gaming and Complexity followed by Vulcan taking on Dignitas for the third place spot and their final chance to represent North America in the World Championship. The final match of the day was of course Team SoloMid (TSM) vs Cloud 9 (C9) for the $50,000 prize pool as well as the right to claim the number one spot in the North American LCS. It was very much a battle of the old and the new, with TSM dominating the North American scene for much of the past two years, but falling terribly short of C9’s impressive 25-3 record in the Summer Split. But first, Complexity sought to prove that they deserved the spot in the LCS that they had lost by taking on Cognitive Gaming in the Challenger Series Finals. As always, spoilers will follow, so if you’d like to watch the games for yourself, you can check out the tournament VOD here.
The Challenger Series guarantees the winning team a seeded spot in the qualifiers for the 2014 LCS Spring Split. Complexity had taken a spot in the 2013 Spring Split Qualifiers, but had been forced out of the tournament when they failed to re-qualify in the Summer. They sought to earn another chance and prove that they deserved to be in the LCS, but standing in their way was Cognitive Gaming, who have never been in the LCS and were looking to make a name for themselves. Both junglers made their presence felt early in Game 1, as both made successful ganks with Complexity’s jungler securing an early dragon. Unfortunately for Cognitive Gaming, they got a bit too aggressive in the bottom lane, expecting a bit more damage from Karthus, and ended up giving the Complexity top laner a double kill. With a hectic dragon fight, and the following dragon, COG managed to equalize the gold. Complexity made a gutsy play when they forced a fight in the COG jungle, but COG turned the fight completely around to win the battle two for five. After making a few more good picks, COG overstepped themselves a bit with a dragon play that cost them three kills. A back and forth fight at Baron led to a small victory for Complexity, who walked away with a four for three win. Despite all the action, the gold was still only about 200 for COG, who made a huge dive under the Complexity turret and gave up two free kills and the gold lead. Complexity kept the push going and rode the momentum right into a Game 1 victory. Game 2 saw an early lead for Complexity with some successful jungle pressure in the bottom lane. An early dragon gave Complexity a healthy gold lead, and COG made their situation worse when they tried to force a situation with a risky dive in the top lane. Despite the kills being 7-9 in favor of Complexity, they were ahead by over 500 gold because of global objectives. After forcing down the middle inhibitor turret, the two junglers shared an awkward moment of trolling by backing right next to each other in the middle of the map. The sense was that COG gaming had all but given up hope, especially when Complexity secured a baron and a 15,000 gold lead. After that, it was only a matter of time until Complexity crushed the COG line-up and their Nexus shortly after.
The second set was for more than just third place in the tournament: it was for the final chance to represent North America in the World Championships. The set featured second place Summer Split team, Vulcan, taking on perennial favorites, Dignitas. Some early aggression by the Dignitas jungler led to a fight breaking out in the Vulcan jungle. Despite Dignitas initiating the action, the fight ended up going even with both teams walking away with two kills. Vulcan exerted their global map pressure to gain early dominance with some crazy turret dives and extremely aggressive ganks. A well-timed dragon and another kill gave Vulcan an early 4,000 gold advantage, and they continued to push their advantage with the map pressure awarded by their Shen and Twisted Fate ultimates. The Vulcan support managed to catch out two members of Dignitas, leading to another teamfight win and a baron afterwards. With Baron Buff and a 10,000 gold lead, Vulcan was poised to topple the Dignitas base. However, Dignitas was not ready to taste defeat yet, mounting an impressive defense and forcing Vulcan to regroup and take a second baron. Despite their best efforts, the gold lead finally caught up with Dignitas as Vulcan pushed in and secured the Game 1 victory. Dignitas wanted to establish dominance early, picking up the first blood with a good gank in the midlane, but they paid for their aggression when the Vulcan support joined the fight and cost them two kills in return. Vulcan secured the first dragon of the game, but Dignitas collapsed on them and managed to take four kills in return. After trading turrets back and forth, Dignitas managed to take the kill lead with some minor skirmishes, but still found themselves behind in gold as Vulcan secured yet another dragon. Dignitas’s greed got the better of them as they tried too hard to force down the middle turret, but it ended up costing them two kills and a baron. Much like Game 1, Vulcan contended themselves to sacrifice kills for global objectives, maintaining the gold lead even as they were behind in kills. Eventually, the gold deficit caught up with Dignitas as the Vulcan team pulled ahead in kills 17-12 and took the Dignitas inhibitor. With a 12,000 gold advantage and two dead inhibitors, the Vulcan team just had too much pressure across the map for Dignitas to handle. After a final baron push, Vulcan managed to clean up the Dignitas team as well as the Dignitas base.
The final set was as much of a battle for first place as it was a battle between the old and the new. Despite having never been in a major tournament before, C9 were on an absolute tear in the Summer Split, turning skeptics into believers after every single game. However, for many fans of the North American scene, TSM was, is, and always will be the greatest team in the region. The question on everyone’s mind was who would emerge the top team after the titans clashed face to face on the grandest stage of the North American LCS. TSM tried to gain an early advantage by sneaking dragon, but C9 collapsed beautifully and managed to go one for one in the fight, securing first blood in the process. C9 then displayed their trademark aggression with a flash in turret dive from the C9 midlaner, gaining the kill lead and the gold lead. Despite being on the backfoot, TSM did a great job of taking turrets and minimizing the gold gap, bringing it to a 3,000 gold game despite being behind 2 kills and a dragon. TSM tried to make a huge play by collapsing on the C9 top lane, but committed too heavily to the fight and ended up losing it three for two. C9 sought to press their advantage into turret kills, but TSM’s crowd control proved too dangerous, forcing C9 to back off and regroup. After making a risky baron call, C9 paid for their hubris and had to run away with their tails between their legs. However, they still had the gold advantage, and the used it to forced down TSM’s middle inhibitor turret and extend their gold lead to almost 10,000. TSM got caught on their way to baron and lost the final fight four for two, allowing C9 to push in and take the Nexus for a Game 1 victory. Game 2 began with some back and forth aggression by both teams, with ganks and counter-ganks happening all over the mid lane, but despite being behind in kills, TSM had a 1,000 gold lead due to better last hitting and good lane mechanics. Unfortunately, TSM’s bottom lane got a bit too aggressive trying to push their advantage, and found themselves ganked by a flying Nocturne. C9 capitalized on the gank by snagging themselves a dragon and taking the gold lead for the first time. TSM’s bottom lane quickly took their enemies’ turret and equalized the gold lead, but paid for their aggression after giving up another kill while trying to invade the C9 jungle. A poorly executed fight in the bottom lane cost TSM two more kills and three turrets, tipping the gold vastly in C9’s favor. Both teams were walking on eggshells in the midgame, with neither wanting to force a fight that might cost them the game. The breaking point came in a dragon fight that saw C9 walk away with a huge five for one victory and a follow-up baron, extending their gold lead to 7,000. C9 pushed their advantage with a massive turret dive that gave them another teamfight victory, which allowed them to take down the first inhibitor of the game. Things looked grim for TSM as they fell further and further down behind in gold and objectives, but they continued to fight valiantly and trade kills in fights. Unfortunately for TSM, the trades were never in their favor, and the 13,000 gold deficit proved to be too much, as C9 pulled off a clean five for zero ace and go up 2-0 in the best of three set. TSM were noticeably more trepid in Game 3, realizing that their tournament life was on the line. The timid playstyle may have been a mistake, however, as C9’s aggression went unchecked, allowing them to pick up the first three kills and a dragon with almost no response from TSM. Even though TSM managed to take down the first turret of the game, they were at a sizable gold disadvantage almost out of the gate. TSM tried to muster up a defense for the second dragon, but to no avail as C9 netted themselves not only the dragon, but three more kills at the cost of one. C9 continued forcing things with their aggressive dives and extended their kill advantage to 9-2, their gold advantage to 7,000. Hoping to relieve some of the map pressure, TSM split their team in an effort to keep the lanes pushed in their favor, but C9 capitalized on the numbers advantage by diving and picking up three kills in the middle of the TSM base. Seeing the writing on the wall, TSM attempted a last ditch effort suicide dive into the C9 lineup, but it ended in disaster as TSM was almost completely cleaned up and lost their two nexus turrets. A desperate baron attempt gave TSM a glimmer of hope, but C9 was undeterred and forced the fight, destroying the entire TSM lineup and regrouping for a final push. Fourteen killls and over 10,000 gold behind, TSM couldn’t manage to stop the Cloud 9 juggernaut, who won the series emphatically with a 3-0 victory, and securing their place as the most dominant team in North America.
The action was fast and furious in the final day of the PAX Prime LCS Regional Qualifier, but in the end, Cloud 9 took home the ultimate victory with their first place finish. Vulcan managed to knock off Dignitas and earn the right to compete in the World Championship, but TSM proved that they’re still a strong team despite age and recent infighting. Be sure to tune into the World Championships, which will be held in the Staples Center at Los Angeles, California, beginning September 15th. And check back at MMOKnight.com for a recap of all the action.