Next week, four teams will compete in the League Championship Series (LCS) Summer promotion tournament, two best-of-five series that will decide which two teams will play in the next season of the biggest competition in League of Legends.
Team Dragon Knights placed second in the Challenger Series, earning them a shot at winning a spot in the world’s top professional league. But they’ll have to beat Winterfox on April 25 to get there. And they’re calling on an LCS legend to do so.
The legendary 23-year-old mid laner left the LCS in May of last year when he decided to seek greener pastures than a declining Gambit Gaming. But his journey back to the LCS has been fraught with strife. At the start of 2015, Ichetovkin turned up in North America, attempting to do what players like Lucas “Santorin” Tao Kilmer Larsen did before him: Immigrate to the American challenger scene and reach the LCS.
Of course, even if Ichetovkin helps Dragon Knights into the LCS, he won’t be staying with the team. He’s currently a member of Misfits, a team built around Ichetovkin and former Dignitas jungler Alberto “Crumbzz” Rengifo, and is planning to stay with that side even if Dragon Knights qualifies for the big dance; he’s still contracted for the Summer season. But it’s still the perfect stage to show that Ichetovkin still has what it takes to be an LCS caliber player: a best-of-five series against Winterfox and mid laner Eugene “Pobelter” Park.
Ichetovkin replaces Korean mid laner Seo “Narakyle” Ji-sun, who is reportedly heading home and ending his professional League career. The player came to America with a lot of promise, legendary for his play on the champion Jayce. But he never succeeded in expanding his pool beyond that champion, a weakness exploited by his foes on the professional level.
Narakyle’s performance in the Challenger Series finals against Enemy Esports was lackluster at best. With his Jayce and Zed banned every game, he played all four games of the series on Lissandra, posting a 9/20/28 KDA line. Winterfox will likely find it harder to shut down Ichetovkin.
Pulling in a substitute player before such an important series may seem like a major gamble for a squad like Team Dragon Knights, but they’ve already played with Ichetovkin before. In week five of the Challenger Series, Ichetovkin, along with Misfits teammates Maria “Yuno” Creveling and Oleksii “RF Legendary” Kuziuta, filled in on Team Dragon Knights. The team posted a 2-0 record, beating Counter Logic Gaming Black twice.
“It was important to me and Alex that this was all done as fairly and with as much integrity as possible,” Misfits owner Chris Badawi told the Daily Dot. “Even before TDK approached asking Alex to sub, we were aware Kyle’s status was less than concrete.”
Misfits informed the Dragon Knights that Ichetovkin would be available to substitute, should his services be required. He was already a substitute on their roster, and Badawi wanted to make sure Dragon Knights knew of the option in advance.
This may not be the return of Ichetovkin to the LCS like many fans are hoping for, but it’s the perfect stage for him to show that he’s still LCS quality after a full year outside the league, and half of it spent wallowing outside even the Challenger Series. A return to his former glory as one of the best mid laners in the world may not be in the cards, but Ichetovkin is still a force, one capable of taking his own team to the LCS. And the promotion tournament is the perfect chance for him to show it.
Update 9pm CT 4/16: Added statement from Misfits owner Chris Badawi.
H/T First World Picture