In a season that's second half was all about chaos and drama, it is no wonder why Team Impulse only lost a single game during that span. Amidst all of the distractions off the rift that affected their roster, starting mid laner XiaoWeiXiao being suspended for ELO boosting and Adrian saying he would step down as the team's starting support, Impulse were able to adapt by moving newly acquired support Gate to his natural mid lane position and bringing back Adrian. They did lose their final regular season game against Team Liquid which would have put them in a position to take home the regular season championship, but Impulse did bounce back with a resounding victory in the third place tiebreak against Gravity.
Dignitas waltzed through the chaos all season long, running like the Cinderella story they are all the way to the regular season finish line before their carriage to the postseason turned into a pumpkin. When you talk about teams not expected to do much this season, Dignitas were a prime candidate to face auto-relegation following their sub-par spring split and nearly getting eliminated from the LCS against Team Fusion in the promotional series. It took them all five games against Fusion to secure their spot and sneak their way back into the tournament.
They went from the relegation rounds to the playoffs this season off the back of a stellar first half that put them in a comfortable position in case of a fall in the split's latter stages. That buffer in the standings would come in handy by the end of the split, as Dignitas fell from a Top 2 spot to the final playoff seed by the regular season's end. A few more weeks of play and the surging, reconstructed Cloud9 might have had a chance to usurp the underdogs to retake their spot in the playoffs.
All in all, following a season that almost saw them fall into Challenger, Dignitas will be playing with nothing to lose when they take on Impulse in the first round.
Team Impulse: Seek and Destroy Everything
Not much has changed in the land of Impulse since XWX was suspended for ELO boosting and went back to his homeland of China. Adrian is back as the team's starting support and has returned to his role of gaining vision for the team. Meanwhile, Gate has taken over XWX's role of playing third wheel next to Rush and Impact's buddy cop movie that plays in all Impulse games.
Impulse are a team that live and die by bloodshed. They are led by their Korean duo of Impact and Rush in the top lane and jungle, the two players holding the best synergy of any combo at this positions in the league. No matter if it's five minutes into the game or 55 minutes, the duo have little issue roaming the map, picking up kills, and tower diving anything that has a pulse under it.
The transition from XWX to Gate on paper looked like a downgrade, but it could help Impulse when all things are said and done. Although XWX is currently the better player and was one of the most talented mid laners in the region when it came to mechanics, he was lost in the shuffle over the past year due to TiP's changing of philosophies from their former LMQ days. XWX went from being the star carry of the team to being an add-on to the Rush and Impact show.
Gate, as seen in his few games as a mid laner, hasn't done much but farm, do his job as needed, and follow his bloodthirsty Korean leaders into battle when they need him. Against teams that don't have a topflight mid laner, like Bjergsen or Fenix, that can punish Gate's inferior lane phase, Impulse can still win games through their aggressive map movements, superior team skirmishing, and the playmaking styles of their Korean leaders.
Team Dignitas: Casino Royale
What can you do to a team that have no shackles to hold them down?
Dignitas can enter this series with a clear mind and a sense of accomplishment following a disastrous spring split. Gamsu has emerged as one of the region's premiere top laners, putting himself right along Impulse's Impact. CoreJJ, who also had a shaky first season with the team, came into his own this summer, started to become his own player with his new team and create a stable partnership with Kiwikid in the bottom lane. Helios got a second chance at being a pro in North America, Shiphtur took on his diminished role in the mid lane like a professional, and Kiwi continued to unmercifully roam the map looking for any opponent he could engage upon for a kill.
That's the good side of the story. The other side contains how they fell off in the second half of the season and finished with one of the league's worst records in the final nine games. Their early season surge was strong enough to get them over the Cloud9's and Team 8's of the league, but it landed them in the sixth place spot and a date with a team who won their quarter-final series last season, Team Impulse.
For Dignitas to continue their Cinderella run going, their biggest chance might come in the form of Gate. Shiphtur, a player once known for hard carrying and being one of the best mechanical players in the league, has taken a step back with the emergence of Gamsu and CoreJJ, sharing the gold around and primarily playing long-poking casters instead of assassins. If there was ever a series for the old Shiphtur to come back and be the old Dignitas ace of old, this would be the series against the inexperienced and newly signed Gate.
To punish Gate and make sure he becomes a detriment to Impulse instead of utility, Helios will also need to step up his game as well. The former CJ Entus Blaze and Winterfox jungler has a losing record since joining Dignitas a few weeks into the season, and he's the most passive jungler in the league when it comes to fighting with the team and early pressure. Compared to Rush, who will pepper the map with ganks from the first second of the game, Helios is a player that likes to play from the shadows, mostly putting down wards for his team to gain vision in the early-game.
As weird as it sounds, Dignitas' best strategy against Impulse might just be forcing the action on the team that loves to fight all across the map. Gamsu is an aggressive player that has little issue roaming down and going for kills, and Gate is the one player on the Impulse roster that might be the key to breaking open the game for Dignitas through constant pressure and making sure the new member of TiP is nothing more than a greyed out screen for the entire series.
Dignitas are one of the best stories of the season. They were on the brink of elimination, fought back in the promotional matches, and came roaring back to make the playoffs the very next season. Gamsu is a great player. Kiwikid has grown as a leader. CoreJJ is one of the most exciting ADC's to watch in the league. Shiphtur has transformed himself into an entirely new player over the past year. Helios is good at granting vision for his team and was a strong voice Dig needed when it came to shot-calling.
Still, I don't think they have the arsenal to match-up with Impulse's firepower. They can come at Gate all they like and most likely bring down XWX's replacement, but the series will come down to if Gamsu can stop Impact and if anyone on Dignitas can neutralize Rush before he runs laps around the map.
Dig should be proud of their season and could give Impulse a run for their money if things break their way or Shiphtur transforms back to his assassin carrying self. Unfortunately for them and their fans, Impulse were the best team in the second half of the season and they were one of the worst, and it looks about time for Cinderella to meet her end before she can take a trip to New York City.
Prediction: Team Impulse 3 - 1 Team Dignitas
Tyler "Fionn" Erzberger is a staff writer for theScore eSports who covers the North American LCS and Korea's Champions. You can follow him on Twitter.