Walking to the TD Gardens for the NA LCS 3rd Place Series feels surreal. As a Canadian, the TD Gardens, and the Boston Bruins, are familiar names, even to someone who admittedly knows very little about hockey. But today, it’s a different black and yellow jersey that takes to the stage: Dignitas. Across from them sit one of the oldest names in League of Legends history, Counter Logic Gaming. A rollercoaster of a team, standing before the scrappy underdogs of the regular split, Dignitas.
As is par for the course, EU LCS goes first. The NA LCS fans eagerly await for their own 3/4th place games to begin. But the crowd isn’t silent, as the fans slowly filter in, the audience comes alive, cheering on their fellow western league in a riveting series. As the series wraps up, the crowd grows bigger and louder.
One wouldn’t be too hard pressed to imagine that CLG, with it’s longer continuous history in the league, would win the jersey war, but Dignitas’s new and old fans are out in force, as an equal amount of yellow and black are in the crowd as the many colors of CLG jersey’s.
The stadium may not be full, but the eruption from the crowd fills the TD Gardens. As the roar dims slightly, James “Dash” Patterson, saluting the local storied sports franchises in the Bruins and the Celtics, is met with a deafening reply.
Dignitas is the first team to be introduced, and as the yellow and black walk up to the stadium, the crowd is alive. The obvious fan favorite Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho unsurprisingly receives the loudest cheers, but the notorious Double A bot lane are no strangers to the crowd.
As David “Cop” Robertson, the ever stylish coach for Dignitas, is finished being introduced, Counter Logic Gaming enter the fray. The Pocket Pick Prone mid laner Choi “HuHi” Jae-hyun receives a lot of love, rocking the black hair again. The “B Tier” ADC Trevor “Stixxay” Hayes is met with similar fanfare, but the star Support Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black steals the show.
The games begin, with Game 1 a testament to the series. Everyone is locked onto the screen, and as if we were watching the LPL instead, the opening minutes are action packed, with CLG’s Omar and Darshan creating a very strange, yet favorable, top side engagement. The composition is all out aggression. CLG are like a train and DIG quickly become someone strapped to the tracks, as none stop, in your face engagements from CLG pummel the caster voted favorites of the series.
It’s a statement game from CLG: We are not the team who almost lost to EnVyUs. We are not the team who lost to Immortals handily. They looked confident, they looked on the same page. And most importantly, they didn’t give up the lead.
If Game 1 felt like a statement from CLG, Game 2 was the exclamation mark. CLG again came out of the gates swinging, securing another first blood, this time before the minions even spawned. CLG’s composition, similar to Game 1, are a non-stop aggression of multiple skirmishes and engages going their way. Aphromoo’s Rakan is a tyrant on the Rift, and Dignitas are left dancing to the beat that CLG is playing. Game 2 is almost handed to CLG by the 15 minute mark, and the score goes 2-0 in favor of CLG.
Dignitas look reactive and lost. Some questionable macro plays, and honestly some very unlucky plays, have the underdogs looking like a different roster than the upstarts who took down Cloud 9 no more than a few games back.
Counter Logic Gaming, on the other side of the Rift, look entirely different from their near loss to EnVyUs. They look like a team with a purpose, a team with a concrete win condition, and honestly, a team that understands their identity.
Huhi drew a consistent two bans to non-meta champions each game. Vel Koz and Aurlion Sol are too much to give away to the once criticized Huhi. Darshan, too, was too much of a threat in the series, and banning champions against him would’ve been useless: he looked strong on three separate champs.
Game three starts, and everyone in the stadium is tense. CLG’s no stranger to being reverse swept, but Dignitas desperately need to shore up some of their shortcomings if they want to stay alive in the series. As the Pick and Bans come to a close, the crowd loses their mind upon seeing the Jax locked in for ZionSpartan– I mean, Darshan. The aggression, and identity, of CLG in this series carries on.
CLG secures the first blood again, off of a counter invade from CLG, Stixxay, on the Tristana, instantly rocket jumping in for the kill. The communication and confidence from CLG is astounding, and Dignitas are again knocked off balance in the opening minutes of play. Fate seems cruel to Dignitas, as multiple occasions a cocoon out of Lee “Shrimp” Byeong-hoon barely misses and CLG narrowly escaping with flashing health bars. This was unfortunate to the many good macro plays out of Dignitas.
A great play from Ssumday’s Jarvan, ultimately resulting in a 4 for 5 trade for a very behind Dignitas, breathes some life back into the game, but ultimately CLG’s pressure and control over the map wins out. While the game’s results aren’t overly impactful for either team, both having secured the gauntlet already, just fighting over who would face FlyQuest and who would wait for the results of that.
If there is one way to summarize the series overall, it’s that CLG looked almost like an LPL squad. If there was a chance to fight, a chance to throw down, CLG were there. Even though the games felt short, they were bloody. They didn’t look like the CLG of the EnVyUs or Immortals series. They looked decisive, confident, in the face of competition many had heavily favored going into their confrontation.
Dignitas, bloodied but not broken, are looking to prove themselves to not just be upstarts, but real contenders to represent NA at Worlds. They’ll have to go through FlyQuest first, and then face off against first CLG in the second round of the gauntlet, and Cloud 9 as the final boss. Dignitas have to pull a CLG in this series, coming back from a tough loss stronger for it.
It was the story of redemption for the top side of CLG that dominated the narrative though. Darshan hasn’t seemed as strong in the post-split push centric metas, and Omargod was promoted trying to fill the big shoes left by Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett. This series, though, showed that both are still starter material. The real crucible for these two teams will be the gauntlet, and whether they can perform there and possibly at Worlds.
For Dignitas, it’s a hard pill to swallow. Their win over Cloud 9 started the giant slayer narrative, but ultimately against CLG it was difficult to find much silver lining. Still, Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho’s performance, even when behind, was of the caliber one would expect. Dignitas need to review the VODs, reflect on their early game, and ultimately shore up some of the micro, mechanical errors that cost them compounding issues throughout the series.\