10 Summer Players to Watch - NA LCS
Roster swaps, big changes, and the internet being on fire, it's that time of the in between seasons has teams ramp up for the start of the season. With the season being only just over a week away, I want to spend time to break down some of the players I will be personally watching, and why I am.
Because of the time I am writing this, we only know so much about the full rosters for each time, and although there is still time for teams to make big changes and switch around players, we have a pretty good idea of what the teams are going to look like. For some clarity, and talk about what qualifies for my list, I'm stating right now that this is not a list of who I think the best players will be of the split, or for that matter this doesn't give to much insight into what my predictions for the split are. What I was looking for were things like game and team impact, what that player is and how he plays, what the greater story is when it comes to the player and what is around them. To be frank some of the players on this list are on here for non-positive reasons. For me though, that is still something worth bringing up and having a discussion about.
With foreshadowing with what I just said, here we have my first candidate;
10 - TSM Dyrus
It's not a huge leap to say that Dyrus has had a rough last split, arguably the "worst" split of his career. I say worst in quotes because this was the season that teams and individual players put more pressure on Dyrus and more resources into keeping him down than any other top laner of the split, and maybe more pressure than at any point in his historical career.
The way TSM usually plays is mid focused, with having a super star of a player carry the team, and Dyrus's role on that team was to be the brick wall, the rock that would not shatter or lose lane, something that could always hold his own. But this split we've come out of the dark ages of trying to split the rock with a sword, teams have now discovered the drill, and they are breaking through. Especially towards the end of the season we would see so many teams camp Dyrus, switching focus on trying to keep Bjergsen down, and instead getting their top lane player ahead, and keep the wall from ever being built. Now in NA we only saw a few teams really exploit that, but this past MSI tournament, the cracks seemed deeper and wider than ever.
I don't doubt that Dyrus will make it to words, or that he still has a career ahead of him, but for how much longer, and can he step up his game? This summer split going into words I think will be really telling about what direction Dyrus and TSM take for the future. I want to see Dyrus adapt and get stronger, and no longer having to be the liability of the team. If Dyrus can turn from being the Achilles heel of the team, to once again being one of their best strengths.
9 - Dignitas Azingy
Dignitas is still in the LCS, and even without Crumbz, they soldered on with Azingy, beating Team Fusion in a 3-2 relegation match. Yeah ok that's all good, but why do I have this guy on my list? Mostly I have him on here because I'm ready to see if Azingy is more than a solo queue jungler with a strange champion pool, I want to see if he really is someone who can play at a pro level. To be honest, I'm both worried for him, and for Dignitas.
What really worries me is that if you look at what he is known for, and his statistics, it raises many red flags about bringing him onto a pro team. Starting off, his most picked champion, Zac, only has a 25% win rate from his recent performances. For the last few seasons it has been like watching a car crash in slow motion with Dignitas. If you expect me saying that Azingy will be the great hope that will turn Dignitas around, well no, I don't think it will help them at all.
What I will actually be looking for is that if Azingy will actually fill in the role as a jungler, and be more than just a niche player where he can win if he get's a jungle Karthus. I also want to see how much this changes the face of Dignitas, where the leadership and the carry/play making comes from. Again, do I think it will be Azingy? Probably not, but I think Dignitas as an overall team is going through a very long rebuilding process and we'll know if this team and players will be around for longer, come the end of the season.
8 - TDK Seraph
I know we just did a bunch of negative reasons why I'll be watching players, but now let's go into something a bit more on the upside. Seraph as a player had very little chance to try and shine when he was on CLG, but now with the new powered up TDK, I feel we can actually now take time to judge how good Seraph is. When he originally was brought on to CLG he was this super hyped mega top lane carry, but when put out to the masses, he was put on very supportive role, and was given a title of being a mediocre player.
I brought up the powered up TDK, and I mean that, because the newest roster includes 2 more Korean imports, and whatever you want to say about their indivdual skills, they are both veteran players who most importantly have experience playing in a different region. Emperor had been playing in Brazil, and Ninja in China, so the challenges of adjusting to a new location should be mitigated since they both have that experience.
Going back to Seraph, I think the meta for the start of the split should be going into his favor a bit more, putting more of the carry role into the top lane, and hopefully he'll be able to bust out more damage heavy champions. We'll see if he can step up and live up to the original hype he had, and also if he can grow into more of his own.
7 - Gravity Keane
With the recent change up of the Gravity roster, with Saintvicious leaving. Move is the jungler that is going to replace him, but the person on the Gravity roster I care the most about is Keane. Personally I feel like Gravity beat my expectations during both the regular season and during playoffs, and Keane after Saintvicious is the big carry on the team.
Keane has already proven himself over the season and I actually expect him to turn into a very prominent new face of the NA scene, as we are starting to see much of the old guard starting to bow out. Keane I would say goes beyond being that niche pick only player, because the picks that he brings out are more than just random, they have some thought and even a few times he is the one to bring some of the new Korean picks to the NA scene.
I hope for a long career from him, and I think with some smart changes to the Gravity line up, he can come even more into his own and cement himself as an NA force.
6 - CLG Pobelter
The young man who comes into every season being both young and having potential is back, and now he is again given another chance. With long time Mid lane player Link leaving the roster, I think CLG could use this opportunity to be primed and actually make huge shifts into being a team that isn't just a "CLG Golden Age" team that creates memes of shitting in the playoffs, what I want to see is them shifting into being something more than that, a good team.
Now before all the CLG fans jump up and scream this down, this is what I mean by a good team. Going to the absolute extreme let's take a team like EDward gaming, a team that has always been at the top since they entered the LPL in 2014. Always finishing at the top and although the performance at worlds last year is a large blight, if you take the breath of work and consistent play, hands down you can't say anything except they are a good team.
Going to ClG it's always a caveat when you want to talk about them being a good team. The memes about how the season goes are almost always the same, and speak truth when talking about how CLG plays. I don't want to put all that at one roster swap, but this can be an opportunity for real change. CLG does have a lot of talent on the team, and I would like to see them turn into a team that has real quality and can be looked at on an international stage, instead of just a team that has hyped peaks during the regular season, but deep valleys during the playoffs.
5 - TDK Ninja/Emperor
This is one of the weirdest acquisitions I've seen in a while, but the challenger team that has just entered the LCS, picked up 2 Korean players who had been playing in other regions. Just from browsing Reddit and forums, the amount of hype surrounding this, makes it sound like people are expecting TDK to finish in the top 2. Let's take a minute and actually talk about these 2 players, and what we should actually expect from them.
Starting with Ninja he was previously the mid lane for WE, but this is not the WE who surprised everyone at IEM, no this is the Ninja who played on the 7th-5th place WE team of the past year. Ninja as a player I would compare to someone like, well Link. A player who would have a great game every 3-4 games, but for the most part is at best a passable player for the team. What does that mean for TDK, honestly I don't frackin know at all. China is a much stronger region than NA, but I don't think we'll suddenly see the rise of Ninja into being a Mid Lane God, but he does have some mechanical skill.
Emperor on the other hand I have a much higher opinion of. Having played for Keyd Stars in Brazil for the past year, he is arguablly known more for being on that old school CJ Blaze team with Ambition and Flame. Although he may not be the person you talk about when you bring up the top ADC's of all time, when looking at his breath of skill, he will be a massive upgrade for the team and could be a reason to actually have TDK being a team we talk about.
4 - NME Innox
Either the biggest carry or the biggest boon of EG, depending on who you ask, is back in the LCS with the recently qualified team Enemy E-sports, and in what people would argue a more appropriate position, we'll see if this guy is really all the hype that originally surrounded him almost a year ago. If I'm speaking in honest truth, Enemy E-sports is a giant question mark for how I think they will match up.
Looking at the play from challenger they were a great and very dominate play, and although I think they could even make it to the upper mid level of the ladder, I also think that they could fall down to the bottom, because we see this from challenger teams. The reason I have Innox so high is because I think he can be a good player and even if Enemy goes low or out, I think he is a player that we will see around the LCS for a while.
3 - CLG Doublelift
Most of what I want to say about CLG in this portion, can be found lower on the lift when I talked about Pobelter, but the reason I have Doublelift at number 3, is similar to what I talked about for Dyrus.
The different being is that he is both, and more than the other two. Doublelift as a player is inarguable one of the best ADC players to ever play, above the NA vs the world argument. If you looked at just his results, and his play in the past split you wouldn't think that, but he is a player that has in many ways withstood the test of time, and I still consider him to be a fantastic player.
Again, the reason he is number three is because I think CLG is in a position to make big changes and be a team that can go to worlds with Champion points, and show up in international competition. For me the reason I want to watch Doublelift have a shot in going to international competition and see what he can do in a world competition.
2 - Gravity Altec
One of the biggest heart breakers that could have happened in this off season was to see Altec not have more time in the LCS, he is a player that I think will rise to be the next amazing player from NA, and a player I think is someone I want to see on the world stage eventually. But thanks to Gravity and Cop retiring, Altec is now on a team, and a team that I think is shaping up to make some big moves in the NA LCS.
Gravity is a team that is slowly accumulating, maybe top the tier 1 God level talent, but taking all the players that are right below that level, and in doing so, creating a team that when you look at it first glace, makes a lot of sense and has a damn good star power. I'm still not sure if Gravity will make it all the way to worlds this coming year, but Altec and Gravity is a team that I think will be leading the charge of the new guard, and is primed to shake up teams who had always been high on the pyramid of TSM and Cloud 9.
1 - C9 Incarnati0n
Although we all saw this coming, this is probably the biggest roster shake up of the the off season, long time shot caller, captain, carry, mid lane player Hai, has stepped down and is being replaced by solo queue legend, Europe's Incatnati0n.
This being the first and only roster change since Cloud 9 qualified for the LCS back in Season 3, and although Incatnati0n is probably an upgrade in terms of mechanical talent, there was a special secret sauce that C9 had that always kept them at the top of the NA scene for so many years, and Hai was one o those key components. Cloud 9 was a team that won with the power of friendship, with Hai being one of the best shot callers in the history of the game, and was so good at the role that it made up for some of his mechanical game play deficiencies.
When looking at this trade for me it can go one of 2 ways. Because Incarnati0n is a better play than Hai, and if we see other players on the roster, step up and fill the shot calling hole that Hai left, we could see C9 hit a whole other level of skill and see them be primed to take back first place and even have a showing at Worlds.
On the other hand, we don't know how much Cloud 9 relied on that shot calling, and without that, this could be a team that struggles to find an identity, and even if they can outplay and brute force lower level teams, against TSM, or TiP, and internationally, SKT, LGD, and other teams that are so good at rotational and intellectual play, this could be a team that is cracked open easily.