When Cloud9 and Team Dignitas face off in a playoff match, Cloud9 aren’t supposed to be the underdogs. But, when the two teams square off for the first match of North America’s Summer Split playoffs, that’s exactly the position they’ll be in.
During the Summer Split, Cloud9 was one of the least consistent teams in the league, veering radically from good to terrible, with the only bright spot in the lineup being All-Pro midlaner Nicolaj Jensen, who seemed to be the only player able to consistently do well in two back to back games.
Team Dignitas, on the other hand, seemed to be the perfect picture of consistency. They could always be trusted to put up a good fight against the top teams, and even take them down now and again, and rarely faltered against the league’s mid table rosters. And heading into playoffs, mid table seems like exactly the right description for Cloud9.
But if Cloud9 are going to make it through to the next round of the playoffs, and continue their quest to qualify for worlds, here are the points that the series is going to come down to.
The battle of the carries: Ssumday vs Jensen
It’s always interesting in a series when both teams have a star player. In the case of Cloud9 and Team Dignitas, those players are midlaner Jensen and All-Pro top laner Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho, respectively. Each player has been instrumental in their team’s wins so far in the Summer Split, and both tend to be the focal point when things get rough and the pressure is on.
For Jensen, this has led to his strongest split ever, he is playing incredibly well and has, more than a few times, solo carried Cloud9 to victory. With the highest average kills per game and the lowest average deaths, Jensen had an unbelievable split, and managed to sustain it for all nine weeks. The only question is, can he do it over the course of a five-game series? Because Kim doesn’t exactly have to.
While both of these players are the standout carry on their team, Kim’s ability to push his team to victory this split have frequently come from him simply putting his team in a place to succeed. Pulling off incredible teleports that help them win impossible fights, or dominating his lane to a 1k gold difference he and his opponent before team fights even start. Kim hasn’t just helped his team win, he has had the kind of split where he makes everyone around him better, and it’s hard not to see that as a leg up over Jensen’s incredible split of carries.
The Altec factor
One of the players that has benefited most from Kim’s play is Johnny “Altec” Ru. The Team Dignitas AD Carry has been playing in the North American LCS for a little over three years now, but it wasn’t until 2017 that he really came into his own.
During his time on FlyQuest, where he played with former members of Cloud9, Ru got used to a team that played around him and helped put him in a place where he could safely carry the team’s damage.
This split, when he moved to Team Dignitas, not only did that trend continue, he got an even better supporting cast. As Dignitas opponents have discovered, it’s incredibly difficult to deal with an AD Carry when the best top laner in the league is trying to protect him.
This is one of the things that makes Team Dignitas so strong, and what separates them from Cloud9. Kim has an entirely different gear that we have never seen Jensen reach. Not only can he carry with his damage alone, but he can switch things up and carry with his utility as well, and Ru is the perfect person to protect in that situation.
The mid-lane champion pool
The one complete X-Factor in the series comes in the fact that we don’t really know which champions will be most dominant. In no role is this more true than midlane. Among the picks that might have grown more contested since the final week of the NA LCS is Dignitas midlaner Jang “Keane” Lae-young’s signature Azir pick, one that Jensen has proven himself to be solid on as well.
Also possibilities are the likes of Fizz and Viktor, who could both open Jensen up to a much stronger chance of carrying his team than the more traditional picks from the regular split like Orianna. With both midlaners in the series priding themselves on their ability to play a variety of champions, expect picks to get strange once we reach games three, four and five.
For a full look at the North American LCS 2017 Summer Split Playoffs, you can check out our schedule and results page here.