This article is part of our The Big Game series.
The third of September 2017 will go down as a seminal day in the history of the North American League of Legends Championship Series. Not only is it the last NA LCS final that will take place in the current unfranchised format, it's also a final that will showcase a great rivalry that's sure to persist into the franchise era. Enter Team SoloMid vs. Immortals.
It's an odd proclamation to pose, particularly because Immortals have yet to win a championship, something primary rivals Counter Logic Gaming and Cloud9 have done twice. Simply put, it comes down to the rivalry that the two have built up over the four regular season splits they've faced each other, seasons in which the two have fought tooth and nail for the right to take the first seed into the playoffs. The fact that the Immortals had a sad and, at times, almost comical ability to self-destruct once they made it to the playoffs didn't make the rivalry any less intense. Blunders such as the now legendary top lane Lucian from Heo "Huni" Seung-hoon during the 2016 NA LCS Spring Split semifinals ensured that Immortals were cut out of the playoffs time and again.
Its obliteration of Counter Logic Gaming in the semifinals helped turn a new page for Immortals who, amazingly, had never won a single playoffs series prior. What this new Immortals roster lacked compared to past rosters in explosiveness it more than made up for in a crucial attribute the team had been lacking all along: stability. No one has ever questioned the ability of Immortals to smash any of its domestic competitors on the Rift in single games, but its staying power always left something to be desired, especially when the team relied on firebrands like Huni, Kim "Reignover" Yeu-jin, and Joshua "Dardoch" Hartnett to carry them to victory. Replacing those emotional players with veterans like Jake "Xmithie" Puchero may have been the best move Immortals have made in its history as an organization, matched only by its decision to put faith into Eugene "Pobelter" Park, a once middling player that has emerged as one of the best in NA. The Immortals that will take to the Rift against TSM this weekend are a far cry from the loose cannons TSM easily dismantled back in 2016 Spring, and will prove to be one of the greatest challenges to Team SoloMid's supremacy of the NA LCS to date.
The most obvious selling point for this series is simply the player matchups, which are some of the greatest of the modern era. Two years ago analysts would have scoffed at the idea of Soren "Bjergsen" Bjerg vs. Pobelter being a headlining lane matchup, and yet the latter has proven himself to be a preeminent threat in the league. Bjergsen remains the best player to grace the NA LCS simply by nature of his long track record of success, but he also didn't spit out near four-digit damage per minute numbers at any point during the split (hint: Pobelter's Corki has). Bjergsen still comes away with the overall higher damage and gold numbers, though.
The mid lane isn't the only lane to watch, however. The top lane is also sure to put on a show. Kevin "Hauntzer" Yarnell has been argued as one of the best top laner in the NA LCS for a little over a year now (if not the best, depending on who you ask), but Ho-jong "Flame" Lee is quite frankly on another level at the moment. He's good enough that the phrase for obliterating a lane opponent in the early game literally bears his name. When these two faced off earlier this year during the Spring Split it was a close matchup, which is saying something considering the chronic jungle issues that plagued Immortals with Dardoch on the roster. While the matchup might be less interesting than it could be thanks to the preeminence of top lane tanks in the current meta, it's worth noting that the champions of the League of Legends Champion Korea, Longzhu, just took that title by eschewing the tank meta entirely, instead running picks like Jayce and Jax with success. Will we see a return of Flame's famous Fiora or Hauntzer's Kennen? It's hard to tell, but there's certainly a chance, and that chance is enough to keep eyes glued to the screen.
It's ironic that this matchup is set to end the current LCS system, as the whole of the open LCS era has been dominated by one name in North America: TSM. This series will dictate which of these two teams will enter the next phase in the LCS' lifecycle on the front foot. Just because TSM has been the dominant team in North America for the last four years doesn't mean it will do the same for the next four years, and a win here for Immortals -- which is certainly within reach -- might be the first crack in the greatest dynasty that has ever graced the LCS era, regardless of what side of the Atlantic you're on.