In what was perhaps the most epic LCS Spring Final in North American history, TSM defeated Cloud9 in a five game rollercoaster of a series that featured a tremor-inducing misplay from Nicolaj "Jensen" Jensen and a live 'Silver Scrapes' performance from Mark "MarkZ" Zimmerman.
Road to the Finals
The 2017 NA LCS Spring Finals was a microcosm of the entire split, which was a two-horse race between Cloud9 and TSM. Cloud9 dominated North America for the majority of spring, holding onto first place until the very end of the split, settling for 2nd place at 14-4 behind a surging 15-3 TSM.
The spring of 2017 was highlighted by Cloud9's Sword/Shield experiment in the Top Lane with Jeong "Impact" Eon-yeong holding down the experienced Tank play and Jeon "Ray" Ji-won's explosive capabilities on carry Top Laners. TSM had also retained its previous season's roster with the exception of Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng, who took the 2017 NA LCS Spring Split off aside from a quick lease to Team Liquid to save them from relegations.
With Jason "Wildturtle" Tran returning to the squad after a stint on Immortals to duo with Vincent "Biofrost" Wang, TSM played primarily around Top Laner Kevin "Hauntzer" Yarnell. Hauntzer was particularly responsive to the laser focus of being TSM's primary lane to play through and had the best split of his career to date, making the 2017 NA LCS Spring Split All-Pro Team.
TSM and Cloud9 both got through the Quarterfinals on a playoff bye to face 4th seed FlyQuest and 3rd seed Phoenix1, respectively. Both Semifinal challengers were eliminated in 3-0 sweeps to set the stage for the showdown everyone had been waiting for — the LCS Spring Final showdown at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver, British Columbia; Canada.
Cloud9 was considered the best team in North America coming into the 2017 NA LCS Spring Split, and that remained true until just before the playoffs. TSM came into the playoffs looking like the strongest team, hitting its stride at just the right time with a powerful solo lane pair in Hauntzer and perennial star Mid Laner Soren "Bjergsen" Bjerg.
Cloud9's rookie Jungler Juan "Contractz" Garcia's ability to play around the top side of the map was subject of criticism compared to Dennis "Svenskeren" Johnsen's ability to unlock Hauntzer as TSM's primary threat. Impact was great at soaking up pressure, but he was in the middle of the worst slump of his career. Ray ended up starting all blue side games for Cloud9, with Impact starting on the red side in games 2 and 4 of the series.
The carry Top Laner face-off i n game 1 was a sign of things to come — TSM took the first slash into Cloud9, dominating in 28 minutes behind a 9/0/1 Camille performance from Hauntzer. Zachary "Sneaky" Scuderi and Andy "Smoothie" Ta tried to dust off an old Cloud9 special with an Ashe/Zyra duo for game 2, but to no avail. TSM won game 2 even more convincingly, steamrolling C9 in 22 minutes behind a 9/1/4 performance from Bjergsen on his signature Syndra pick.
Things looked dire for Cloud9, but down 0-2 the team was able to secure one of its most dangerous flex picks in Fizz for Ray. While the pick did not end up being the point of strength as expected, Cloud9 managed to hang on to barely edge out a 47-minute victory to stay alive in the series.
A shift of tides occurred when Impact stepped back in for Ray in game 4 and locked in his world-renowned Shen. Impact looked every bit the SK Telecom T1 season 3 World Champion on the Eye of Twilight, enabling aggressive play by Contractz and Jensen as Cloud9 rampaged across Summoner's Rift. A 31 minute victory had the series all tied up for the game 5 tradition of Danny McCarthy's Silver Scrapes, but this time, the LoL Esports warsong was led by a new voice:
Originating from a pre-break joke from earlier in the playoffs, MarkZ led the Vancouver crowd in a hilarious, intentionally off-key rendition of Silver Scrapes ahead of the final game in the series. Unfortunately for MarkZ, his in-ear monitor's timing was hideously delayed, leading to more dissonance than originally intended, causing great confusion and more hilarity to ensue.
The awkward moment brought a unique, organic wave of levity across viewers both in the arena and at home; a calm before the storm of the gut-wrenching game 5 that was to come.
A Matter of Seconds
Ray and Hauntzer faced off on signature champions in Kled and Camille, but the previous marquee matchup was an afterthought to the Mid Lane matchup after the draft. Bjergsen had gone back to comfort on his Syndra, and with Fizz banned, Jensen put all of his hopes on Ekko. Not only was Ekko the best counterpick to Syndra after the Tidal Trickster, Jensen was definitively the best Ekko in North America, if not the entire Western hemisphere.
Jensen played phenomenally throughout the majority of the 42 minutes, providing more impact than Bjergsen despite the latter having an impressive performance of his own. However, the entire game, series, and up until recently, career of Jensen came down to this moment:
In a crucial drake fight, Jensen was stunned by Bjergsen before being able to use his Zhonya's Hourglass stasis active, an integral facet to Ekko's impact in late game teamfights. The nerves had clearly gotten to Jensen, as his hands were shown shaking after the mistake.
It is because of this that Jensen's first LCS title in the 2019 LCS Spring Final was so monumental: it had eluded him for years, just teasing him before he came up short with a single individual misplay. No matter how well Jensen played, he was never quite able to make it all the way through and open his own LCS trophy case. Years later, the Ekko play is something that Jensen is still teased about:
When Team Liquid reverse swept TSM in the 2019 LCS Spring Finals at the Chaifetz Arena in St. Louis, Missouri, the win meant more to Jensen than anyone else:
It's an amazing feeling. It's obviously a little bit different, but international play has never been super
hard for me. Obviously, it's tough, but I've never been able to win an LCS Final. For some reason, Finals has always seemed harder to me than international play, so I would put it up there.