After handing TSM their first ever playoff loss outside of the finals in 2019 Spring and denying them a chance at qualifying for Worlds in 2019 Summer, Damonte returned under a new banner to continue his dominance against the TSM organisation desperately trying to return to former glory. What many thought was going to be a swift victory for TSM ended up going quite poorly for the boys in black and white.
The first game opened with a pretty standard draft by TSM, but Golden Guardians opted into a buffed 10.16 pick in Ziggs. To many fans’ expectations, TSM took an early lead and ran with it. It was a pretty standard game from TSM’s side that was looking like a slow, but steady win. However, at 0:29:05, Golden Guardians managed to find a fight that would end in their favour. Piloting Mordekaiser, Hauntzer recognized Doublelift had yet to buy a Quicksilver Sash and aggressively engaged on a helpless Doublelift unable to cleanse himself out of Mordekaiser’s Realm of Death. Alone with no way out, Doublelift was met with a death that left TSM without their consistent and long-range poke that would deter Golden Guardians from further pursuing the fight. No longer having to consider the threat of Caitlyn, Golden Guardians–especially FBI–aggressively pressed on. Presented with an opportunity to put his team in the driver’s seat, FBI didn’t stop for a second to think about it and confidently flashed forward, making a statement play to deal with TSM’s two remaining backliners.
After gaining control in a game that they were starting to lose grasp on, they shut down the scaling advantage TSM had and secured a Baron that would be used to close out the game shortly after.
Photo via Golden Guardians
Game two started off quite well for Golden Guardians. To everyone’s surprise, Doublelift and Treatz lost out in a 2v2 fight against FBI and Huhi, adding onto Golden Guardian’s bottom lane already growing CS advantage. Against a Caitlyn lane, this is not something that should be happening. This loss in lane is where it became apparent in the series that TSM had no idea how to handle Huhi’s Morgana pick. Though Golden Guardians were finding wins in the bottom and middle lane, TSM’s Spica took it upon himself to bully out Hauntzer’s scaling Gangplank to stop some of the bleeding. Hauntzer continued to disrespect the ganks and would give TSM windows to begin their comeback–a theme that would persist for the majority of the game.
The top side of TSM’s map was putting up a good performance, but with the bottom lane losing out and Golden Guardians having exceptional siege and teamfight potential, they were able to keep the game even and ended up closing the game out with a three-man teleport backdoor while the rest of the team denied the backs of TSM at the dragon pit.
Photo via Golden Guardians
What would be the third and final game of the series was one full of mistakes from TSM. Golden Guardians showed up to play, that is without doubt, but it seemed like some of the TSM members were mentally defeated before the series ended–something you don’t expect from some of the game’s longest standing veterans.
With no answer to Huhi’s Morgana, TSM banned it out in the third game and swapped the ADC matchup, this time playing Ashe into Caitlyn. Once again, Golden Guardian’s underrated bottom lane showed up and played the Caitlyn lane the way it was intended to be played. Doublelift has made a few mistakes in his career that people will never forget, and in this series he added another to the list. At 0:06:30, Doublelift backs with two-thousand gold and teleports back to lane without buying BF Sword. To top it off, Doublelift attempted to back after pushing one wave in to try and dig himself out of the hole he put himself into but was denied by Huhi and was forced to lane for another minute without being able to match FBI’s BF Sword. Already being down twenty CS, this was a catastrophic error.
The deficit TSM had dug themselves into continued to grow as Golden Guardians started to win small fights that allowed them to gain river control. The control they gained over the map lead to securing the first three dragons. At 0:22:30, a dance around the fourth dragon and potential Cloud Soul for Golden Guardians began. With a two for nothing teamfight win for TSM, the dance for the dragon continued despite the numbers advantage TSM had. Golden Guardians showed no sign of conceding the dragon, and with good reason. Closer managed to steal the dragon from Spica and secured the Cloud Soul. They lost the fight that ensued afterwards, but not without taking three of TSM’s members with them. Three minutes later, Golden Guardians caught Bjergsen out on top lane while Doublelift and Broken Blade opted into trying to kill Hauntzer in the bottom river. Hauntzer takes Doublelift down with him and leaves TSM in a 3v4 situation at their base that resulted in Golden Guardians closing out the 3-0 sweep against TSM.
Photo via Riot Games
Making quick and convincing work of TSM means Golden Guardians win their first ever playoff series as a franchise. A monumental win like this is a much needed mental boost as they face off against Team Liquid next week. CoreJJ and Tactical have been shown little opposition this split and will be the main lane to attack for Golden Guardians. With FBI continuing to display dominance this split and Huhi finally coming into his own after role swapping from middle to support, Golden Guardians are looking competent enough to do battle with a Team Liquid that is hungry to lay claim to their fifth North American trophy.
TSM continues their losing streak to Damonte as Doublelift is dealt his first playoffs loss in four years. With players like Bjergsen and Doublelift on a team, you don’t expect tilt to play a deciding factor in a series. They are mainstays of the playoff stage and the winningest players in LCS history. While they aren’t disqualified yet, their future is looking quite grim if this is the level of play we are to expect from them. It’s hard to count them out though, precisely due to the history and experience their players bring. Their veterans have been down before, only to bring the trophy home. TSM faces off against Dignitas and their former jungler Dardoch next in the lower bracket–a match that holds more than face value for both sides. Even though TSM is favoured, the level of play displayed against Golden Guardians won’t be enough if they want to make the lower-bracket run.
Photo via Riot Games