This article is part of our The Big Game series.
As we approach one of the final playoff matches in the North American League Championship Series before the league turns to a franchising model, the stakes are high for both Team Dignitas and Counter Logic Gaming. Each will compete for bragging rights as well as a first-round bye in the 2017 Regional Qualifiers for the World Championships. With both teams fresh off disappointing losses in their semifinal matches, each will need to make improvements (some more drastic than others) in order to pose a threat to the other in Saturday's third-place series.
Counter Logic Gaming appears to be the underdog after putting together a dreadful semifinal performance against Immortals. Couple that with Team Dignitas' surprisingly gritty match against TSM, and at first glance this bout could be an easy affair if CLG's performance isn't up to snuff. Although it had moments of hope on Saturday, a practically blind insistence of relying on rookie jungler Omar "OmarGod" Amin's was CLG's major downfall. With OmarGod struggling to keep up with Jake "Xmithie" Puchero in his team's loss to Immortals, it is clear that Dignitas can -- and likely will -- isolate the newcomer to find an early advantage. The main problem behind OmarGod's performance was his lack of objective control, an Achilles' heel for a team like CLG that tends to place utmost importance on lane matchups. By giving up numerous dragons and Barons to Immortals, OmarGod effectively handed over free stats, mitigating any advantage that favorable lane matchups would have made. Despite that obvious weakness, there is a glimmer of hope in the form of CLG's mid laner Choi "Huhi" Jae-hyun, who had a strong showing throughout the semifinals, picking up advantages for himself despite the rest of his team falling behind. Earning an impressive 14/7/21 KDA (kills/deaths/assists) in his team's 3-0 defeat, Huhi showed he has the ability to create an opening even when far behind. Should CLG be able to repeat its mid lane performance while simultaneously improving its jungle priority, the team may have what it takes to dismantle Dignitas.
Opposite of CLG, Dignitas has to be feeling pleased with itself after going toe-to-toe with the North American giants of Team SoloMid during their semifinal bout, before eventually losing 3-1. After several lackluster splits, Dignitas has made a recent resurgence, making its way into playoffs and even dismantling Cloud9 in the process. What puts Team Dignitas in the driver's seat going into the match is exactly what brought them to this situation in the first place; a tendency to adapt to any given situation. Despite the loss, Saturday's semifinal was a perfect showcase of its tenacity, utilizing a variety of different styles to catch its opposition off guard. In particular, the move to place top laner Kim "Ssumday" Chan-ho on a carry rather than a tank was a stroke of genius, as he managed to dominate the competition. Simultaneously, the rest of the team put on a clinic in teamfighting, resulting in a convincing game victory. With the ability to adapt and the team's emerging bottom lane in the form of Johnny "Altec" Ru and Adrian "Adrian" Ma, the team's ability to create leads and create multiple threats makes Dignitas the favorite going into the match.
Although neither team can qualify for the 2017 World Championship based off circuit points alone, the prize for this series is much more than bragging rights. With both teams sitting at 10 circuit points, third place will automatically earn the highest points of the remaining teams that has not already qualified for Worlds, placing it directly into the second-round match of the 2017 Regional Qualifiers. Allowing the winner of the series to skip a step in its quest to Worlds is not a trifling matter and will give whichever team can walk away with the victory a massive leg up in the race for Worlds. As such, this series will certainly be hard-fought, with Counter Logic Gaming looking to salvage a rough end to what started as a promising split while Team Dignitas will look to secure its highest placement in the organization's LCS history.