Photos: Riot Games

With the regular season behind us, there is only one thing left to find out. Which team is going to be North America’s third seed at this year’s World Championship in China. For the four teams in the regional qualifier, there is no time to take a breather. This is their last and final chance for redemption and their potential ticket to Worlds so expect every team to give it their all.

Cloud9 await in the final day of qualifiers, with CLG being locked in a day earlier. FlyQuest and Team Dignitas will duke it out this Friday for a chance to go farther up the qualifier bracket.

As the gauntlet is played over three days, we will cover each day individually in this post and update it as the games are played.

Let’s take a closer look at the first series!

FlyQuest vs. Team Dignitas

It is almost surprising to see FlyQuest’s name pop up even after the regular season has ended. They failed to reach playoffs or even achieve any kind of noticeable success over the course of the Summer Split – and yet here they are, actually fighting to reach Worlds! How is that possible? Due to their fourth ranking in Spring, and Phoenix1 and Envy failing to achieve any success in playoffs, FlyQuest get to be North America’s fourth team fighting in the gauntlet.

The biggest question people have is – do they have a chance to make it? Plain and simple – no. Even though they managed to win two clutch series in the last week of the regular season, they’re still the exact same team that barely managed to cling onto seventh place. While they’re all great players, they’re heavily mismatched in terms of individual skill and performance. Almost every other NA team developed better synergy between the Spring and Summer splits, and FlyQuest simply couldn’t compete. While they still had standout moments, they lasted long enough for them to take a game, but almost never the series. Their creativity in-game and their boldness to go for objectives or unexpected plays only got them to the seventh place. Novelty is a rare commodity in League of Legends, and as with most things it weakens over time.

Team Dignitas played a relatively abysmal series against TSM just a couple of weeks ago in the Semifinals. Much like CLG, when you expect them to do well they fall flat almost immediately. When their level one strategy went awry in game one, somehow they thought it would be great if they would repeat it for game two. After their game two was essentially lost in the first couple of minutes due to the exact same mistake – they decided to repeat it for game three. What we witnessed was a farce, not high quality League of Legends. You could almost question how they even got to playoffs in the first place, however that would be wrong. It was simply a clash between two teams that belong in two distinct tiers. Nothing more, nothing less, people just thought that maybe they had the tools to contend for a higher spot – and what we saw was that they don’t, not yet at least.

As anyone who had the privilege to watch the old Cloud9’s gauntlet run in 2015 will tell you, whenever Hai is in the regional qualifier things get complicated really quickly. They did have a lot of time to recuperate and watch their opponents, and they will surely come into their series on Friday with a lot of strategy, however it’s simply hard to envision them beating Team Dignitas.

If Dignitas manages to contain Shrimp to his own jungle, and maybe even defend him from Moon’s early aggression, and if they come out the gates with a somewhat different strategy and approach from the one they had in the semifinals, they shouldn’t have too much trouble taking FlyQuest down.

Winner: Team Dignitas, 1.30 (odds @ Betway)

FlyQuest vs. Counter Logic Gaming

No one expected the ferocity that FlyQuest would come out with in their series against Team Dignitas. No one expected an abysmal, out of sync Team Dignitas to show up either. FlyQuest were constantly moving, always more proactive with a clearer idea on what they wanted to do on the Rift. During the entirety of the series they were able to force the fights when and how they wanted. Dignitas didn’t draft too well, nor did they itemize intelligently and they’re only partly to blame for that. FlyQuest always had a great deal of both physical and magic damage, and they always drafted a great frontline as well. Their game one comp consisting of Rumble, Jarvan IV and Galio was a thing of beauty. They were able to CC and endure everything Dignitas had in store, while WildTurtle dished out insane amounts of damage.

They also showed great resilience and mental fortitude as they went to invade Dignitas’ jungle at the very beginning of game two. Things couldn’t have gone worse as they gave two kills and used both flashes in an attempt to escape. However their bottom lane smashes Altec and Adrian and Balls managed to be more effective as a completely shutdown Maokai than a fed Ssumday who tried his hardest to make the game-winning plays but was essentially unable to do so.

FlyQuest arguably overperformed, and Dignitas underperformed by a wide margin. While WildTurtle (along with LemonNation) had an insane series, it’s also worth mentioning that this has been the absolute worst we have seen of the Altec and Adrian bottom lane. They were Dignitas’ biggest strength when they joined the team and became their starting duo down bot, however last night we saw a mere shadow of what they were able to do against even the best North American bottom lanes.

Looking ahead at their next opponent, it’s hard giving any prediction with a lot of confidence.

Aphromoo himself said how complex and frustrating it is when playing against Hai. When FlyQuest go out of the base they have a very clear idea of what they want to do. It’s not always the best plan, and it doesn’t always go their way however they’re always on the same page and that does wonders for them. However CLG put on a clinic against Team Dignitas in the third place match, and they outclassed them a lot harder than FlyQuest did. They’re used to playing with OmarGod, and they’re used to him having a target on his back.

Now playing against an aggressive, playmaking jungler like Moon is a lot harder than playing against an underperforming Shrimp, however CLG should have this. They have threats in every lane, and with Huhi performing so extremely well they have the tools to win without a doubt, however the number of games is up in the air. They have the experience and the mental fortitude to survive the early onslaught, and they even did so both times when they played against FlyQuest during the regular season.

Winner: CLG, 1.33 (odds @ Betway)

Cloud9 vs. CLG

Photo: Riot Games

While FlyQuest’s resurgence did surprise a lot of people, the “final” we will have the opportunity to see did not. Everyone expected Cloud9 and Counter Logic Gaming to clash for one last time in 2017, and this time there is a lot on the line. Winner goes directly to the Play-In stage of this year’s World Championship, in hopes to qualify for the main shebang. Loser on the other hand ends their regular season, and waits until January to play in the Spring Split.

CLG had to fight a lot harder than they expected to. In fact, they could have very well lost the series, as FlyQuest outplayed them for the majority of the second game. We saw the problems that plagued CLG over the regular season, and they were in full effect. Not always that decisive, not always on the same page, and prone to illogically go for trades that end up bad for them.

Cloud9, even though they lost in the quarterfinals, are still a phenomenal team. They had an abysmal showing, and that happens. They’re still arguably the third strongest North American team, and they will surely show it tomorrow. They have the individual talent, and the quality shotcalling to take CLG down. They had a couple of weeks to prepare, recuperate and come up with a solid gameplan.

That said, matches between these two teams always go the distance, and they leave every part at least partially satisfied. They’re prone to teamfight non-stop, so we are surely in for an action packed five game series.

Winner: Cloud9, 1.72 (odds @ Betway)