Dignitas look great—but can they improve enough to take down TSM?
Everyone loves a good underdog story.
Everyone also loves TSM—the team with perhaps the largest fan base in the NA LCS. That's why fans are hyped as hell heading into the semifinals this weekend where Team Dignitas will square up against the defending North American champions.
This is the first time since 2013 that Dignitas has made it to the semifinals. And if they manage to beat TSM and make it to the finals, it'll be the first time in LCS history they've made it that far. Dig has never seen much success, and that's why it's so thrilling to witness the best run they've potentially ever had, and the further they climb, the more exciting it gets.
TSM, on the other hand, are no strangers to success. They've been in every single NA LCS split finals since the NA LCS officially began in 2013. Since then they've won five championships, making picking a favorite this weekend very easy. Dignitas is looking great—better than they ever have. But even at their best, can they bring down the reigning champs?
If the planets align in just the right way, there is a possible future in which Dignitas defeats them and moves on to the finals. But if it's to happen, it's going to be the hardest fought victory that the Dignitas team has earned all summer.
Battle of the bot lane titans
Dig's new bot lane duo has a ton of synergy. Johnny "Altec" Ru and Adrian Ma have both had relatively mediocre careers in the NA LCS, but for some reason, this split they've absolutely popped off. They appear to be in total unison when it comes to making plays and proactively setting up big objectives for the rest of their squad. They exude confidence. Altec is the team's shotcaller, and although that's rare in the LCS it's been working very well for Dig so far this split.
TSM's bot lane of Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng and Vincent "Biofrost" Wang is known as the confident bot lane duo, though. Even with Adrian and Altec's confidence soaring, it's still hard to challenge the kings of confidence on TSM. TSM also happens to be one of the only other teams in the league with an ADC shotcaller. With most of both teams' productivity emanating from the bot lane, it doesn't take much brain power to make the connection that this will be the most important lane in the series.
Dig has a lot to prove here. If they can outmaneuver TSM's all star bot lane with their own shotcalling bot lane, they stand a chance. Dig looked very, very good last weekend, especially Altec and Adrian, so it may be more realistic than we first thought. Still, though, Doublelift and Biofrost might be the best bot duo in the league. They're at least contenders for that title, and that means Altec and Adrian are really going to have to pop off for this to even be possible.
Build the team around Ssumday
Kim "Ssumday" Chan-ho might just be the best top laner in North America. He also might be Dig's best hope at overthrowing TSM and advancing to the finals. TSM's own top laner, Kevin "Hauntzer" Yarnell, is also very good. He might even be the second best top laner in the league—but even he can't hold a candle to Ssumday.
When you see Ssumday play, you can't help but be impressed. He draws more pressure to his lane than any other top laner, and he often walks out of two-on-ones and three-on-ones unscathed or even with a couple of kills in his pocket. He's incredible, and if Dig wants to win, they need to repeat exactly what they did against Cloud9 last week. Get him Maokai, Shen, or another beefy tank that can force fights and peel, because no one forces fights better than Ssumday.
TSM knows this, however, and that's why a lot of their drafts may be focused around keeping him off of those tanks. This would give Dig the advantage for picks in the bot lane, but TSM is probably more trusting in their bot lane to deal with a losing matchup than they would be with Hauntzer in the top lane. Again though, Hauntzer is still a very good player, he just can't hold a candle to Ssumday. It's possible Hauntzer pops off and ends up obliterating his veteran lane opponent, it's just not that likely.
TSM's Achilles' Heel is their jungle
TSM's all-star lineup is downright scary to square up against, and for good reason. They win so often that it's intimidating—but they're not without weakness. Their jungler, Dennis "Svenskeren" Johnsen, is that weakness. He's a good jungler, but he doesn't quite hold up to the rest of the team's top tier players. Often times his shortcoming is his early game invades, which either end up paying off and get him wildly ahead—or they end in tragedy and stiff him for the rest of the game.
Some of these invades seem totally unnecessary to begin with, and for that reason, Svenskeren is TSM's wild card. If Dig can force enough pressure on his jungle to keep him out of the way in early brawls in the mid lane, they might be able to keep Søren "Bjergsen" Bjerg pinned down as well.
Bjergsen's greatest strength is his team synergy. He roams and creates macro pressure so well that he's undeniably invaluable to the rest of TSM, and even when he loses matchups in mid due to mechanical skill, which admittedly doesn't often happen, he still brings endless usefulness to his squad. Svenskeren tends to spend a lot of time helping Bjergsen mid to allow him to roam and create big plays for the team, so if Dig can hamstring that strategy by shutting down Svenskeren the potential for victory is suddenly a lot closer.