As we enter the new year, we approach the start of the fifth competitive League of Legends season. 2014 was filled with enticing storylines across the world; from the success of Edward Gaming to the mid-split collapse of CLG. Although the Samsung teams proved to be a step ahead of the competition throughout this past year, 2015 provides a new start for teams looking to make a splash in the new year.
SK Telecom T1
Returning to dominance
Mid: Faker / Easyhoon
Support: Wolf / Piccaboo
After winning the Season 3 World Championship and OGN Champions Winter, SK Telecom T1 K began to decline. The end of the winter season saw K’s support player, PoohManDu, take a break. This short-notice roster change and the poor performances of jungler bengi and toplaner Impact led to a conundrum within the team; Faker continued to perform, while the rest of the team could not play at the level they had in previous seasons of OGN.
Despite the fact that SKT K was able to win the 2014 International All-Star Tournament, the team was unable to surpass the strength of the Samsung teams and climb back upon the throne as the best team in Korea. After missing worlds, the botlane of SKT K was released as the rosters of SKT K and SKT S merged into one for the 2015 season. Impact left after the OGN Spring Preseason tournament.
The mass exodus of Korean talent into China, including the entirety of both Samsung rosters, puts SKT in a great position for the upcoming OGN Champions Spring split. SK Telecom only lost a single game to KT throughout the preseason tournament, potentially foreshadowing SKT’s strength throughout the next few months in the Korean scene. In addition, the team’s ability to swap between players at the midlane and support position can be used to create strategic advantages. OGN Champions Spring should see the return of SKT dominance.
Vici Stand Gaming
The Dark Horse in the LPL
Mid: Zun / Hetong
ADC: Vasilii / Skatch
Support: Mata / Heart / Yh
Although there are still roster disputes to be settled, the addition of four Korean players and former LMQ ADC Vasilii drew a lot of attention towards Vici Gaming. The “second evolution” of last year’s Samsung teams, Vici Stand Gaming brought coach Homme, Samsung White jungler DanDy, substitute ADC Skatch, and supports Mata and Heart.
Vici comes from a large eSports background in StarCraft and DOTA 2. Taking second at The International 2014, VSG reportedly paid large sums to acquire members of the defending world championship team. While the addition of multiple Korean players brings up the communication problem that many other Chinese teams will also have to solve, the amount of talent on this team puts Vici in the running for a top spot in the LPL.
Roster changes will have to be made to appease the recent region transfer rule that was adopted by the LPL; however the depth within Vici’s roster has potential to grow into a World Championship contender by the end of this season.
Where communication will define success
Despite starting the initial season of the LCS with a bang, Team Curse has not been able to find success in the NA LCS past 4th place. Alongside the announcement that Voyboy would be leaving and that Cop would be dropped to the Curse Academy lineup, the team revealed that they would be re-branding for the 2015 season. To fill the gaps, the team chose to bring in Korean players FeniX and Piglet.
It is debateable that Voyboy and Cop were the two weakest players on the team; making the additions of former-OGN players FeniX and Piglet substantial upgrades. Across the board, Curse now has incredibly strong lanes. Quas has taken multiple accounts into Challenger over the offseason, while FeniX was apparently signed because of his laning skills. Curse’s new botlane matches North America’s best support with Korea’s best AD Carry from Season 3.
On paper, Team Curse is in a great position to rise to the top of the North American LCS. However, the success of Curse depends on how well Curse can communicate with an international roster. Although worlds-finalist Starhorn Royal Club found success without strong communication, North American teams have had problems in the past when adding foreign speakers to their lineup (EG and CLG). If Piglet and FeniX become comfortable communicating with the team in English, Curse could quickly become a contender for the top spot in North America. However, communication within the team will define how far Curse can go this year.
The playmaking powerhouse
ROCCAT’s announcement that toplaner Xaxus and ADC Celaver would be released at the end of the 2014 season pleased many fans. Despite strong performances from Jankos and Vander throughout the year, ROCCAT continued to be a “middle of the pack” team. In anticipation for IEM Cologne, ROCCAT revealed their new lineup. Overpow would move to toplane, Woolite would be added as AD Carry, and Ryu would sub in for mid. While the team lost in the semifinals to Counter Logic Gaming, many were impressed by the team’s solid performance and decision making throughout their sets. Ryu had been added as a last-minute addition, and with limited English skills, the team was unable to make the finals.
The former midlaner for Lemondogs and NiP, Erlend “Nukeduck” Holm, has been rumored to fill the midlane role permanently. In an interview, Jankos said, “When we have an English speaking midlaner, we can compete for 1st place [in the LCS].” With Nukeduck in mid, ROCCAT would receive a playmaker that could work incredibly well with Jankos in the jungle.
If ROCCAT signs Nukeduck, they would arguably have a lineup where three of their players are ranked top three in all of Europe (Jankos, Nukeduck, and Vander). Paired alongside Overpow and Woolite, ROCCAT would become a mechanically strong team that could look to pull off difficult team compositions and strategies. The recent announcement that Titus “Ducky” Hafner would be joining as coach strengthened the team’s already solid infrastructure. Look out for ROCCAT throughout the next two splits of LCS: their games will almost certainly be exciting.
The All-Star Chinese Roster
Jungle: LoveLing / Pomelo
ADC: Uzi / San
Support: Luo / DaDa7
While many might say that Vici Stand Gaming’s offseason moves were the most significant in the LPL, OMG’s moves might be the most significant come finals. December of 2014 saw OMG sign Jian “Uzi” Zihao, former ADC for Starhorn Royal Club. Referred to as a “phenom” by analysts and his peers, Alliance Rekkles believes that Uzi has been the best ADC of the past two years.
The botlane of OMG has been under fire recently, due to poor performances from San and DaDa7 at Worlds. This acquisition of Uzi adds another carry to a team that already had a world class toplaner, jungler, and mid laner. The additionof Zihao completes an all-Chinese team in a league that is now filled with teams of Korean and Chinese players. OMG will not have to deal with communication issues that will likely plague many other teams in the league; possibly making OMG the “team to beat” in China this season.
[Photo Credit: LoL eSports, Team Curse, 52pk]