After several long months of waiting, the LCS starts again on Saturday. It’s one of the final regions to begin play in 2019, and that means we’ve saved the best for last, right?
North American fans can sure hope so. The best case scenario for the region as a whole is that it builds on Cloud9’s success at Worlds last year and breaks through at international events. Maybe that’s why Riot delayed things.
But what about the individual teams? As usual, big changes hit nearly every LCS squad last offseason. Here are the best and worst case scenarios for all 10 of them heading into the 2019 Spring Split.
Best Case: 100 Thieves surprised a lot of people last year when they qualified for Worlds. But a veteran-laden team coached by Neil “pr0lly” Hammad should have been expected to do well. This year, it’s time to do better. The roster is stronger and is positioned to win the region and make a run at MSI or Worlds. Avoiding the turmoil that plagued the team at the end of 2018 would help as well.
Worst Case: There are real concerns over the team’s ability to integrate three native Korean speakers in Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho, Choi “Huhi” Jay-hyun, and Bae “Bang” Jun-sik. They are too talented to crash and burn, but there’s a risk things don’t fall into place as fast as the team’s fans hope. And a lot rides on Huhi’s ability to hold things together and pressure mid lane enough for the Thieves to capitalize on their strong side lanes. Huhi has not been on a championship-level team for a long time, but that’s what 100 Thieves signed him for.
Best Case: It’s hard to put a ceiling on these guys after they knocked off Afreeca Freecs in the quarterfinals last year at Worlds. They became one of the first NA teams in a long time to qualify for the semifinals. But after losing star mid laner Nicolaj Jensen, repeating that feat and reaching the semifinals at MSI would be a massive bounce-back for Cloud9.
Worst Case: Yasin “Nisqy” Dinçer had a great year for Splyce last year and is expected to step into Jensen’s seat without a beat. But it might be the rest of the roster that is the issue. Last year wasn’t all great for Cloud9—they were in last place early in the summer. If the weakness around mid lane persists and Nisqy can’t live up to expectations, there’s a chance Cloud9 falls out of the first round of the playoffs.
Best Case: Clutch Gaming remade nearly the entirety of last year’s roster, and for good reason. They unexpectedly won a playoff series in the Spring Split but then crashed back to earth in the summer. They have some talent, especially if bot laner Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin proves he has something left in the tank. Another playoff win would be big for Clutch this split.
Worst Case: Clutch need a lot to go well for them. Top laner Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon and jungler Nam “LirA” Tae-yoo need to prove that having two Koreans in positions of proximity is good for team synergy. The other two lanes can’t fall apart, especially the new bot lane. If more than one thing goes wrong, Clutch could fail to make playoffs at all.
Best Case: Analyst opinions are split on CLG—they’ve clearly improved by adding mid laner Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage, one of the best in the region last year. The question is how much that one player matters. With six out of 10 teams making the playoffs, CLG should have a good shot at making the postseason. A series win seems to be their ceiling, however.
Worst Case: It’s been a long time since the core of CLG has been relevant in the region. That MSI finals run from 2016 feels like it was ages away. If CLG can’t give PowerOfEvil some side lane support, they will face another split out of contention.
Best Case: Echo Fox have a completely new roster coming in. The problem is, none of the players they’ve signed have been relevant for some time. If Fox can be competitive for sixth place and the final playoff spot for most of the split, that would already surpass our expectations for this team.
Worst Case: There is risk that this is a last-place team. It should still be fun to watch, especially with popular jungler Lee “Rush” Yoon-jae back in the region. But it’s hard to look at this roster and identify another player who could turn into a star. Echo Fox could be looking at last place and another roster blowup.
Best Case: FlyQuest actually have built a sneaky solid roster. Nobody jumps out at you, but they’re not likely to collapse either. Veteran laners Eugene “Pobelter” Park and Jason “WildTurtle” Tran should keep things calm and stable. Again, more than half the league makes playoffs each split. Why couldn’t FlyQuest get lucky and sneak in?
Worst Case: The big question mark for this team is top laner Omran “V1per” Shoura. FlyQuest are hoping he resembles Korean standout Park “Viper” Do-hyeon, who plays bot lane for Griffin, in more than just name. If V1per falls flat, this team still shouldn’t be last, but it may not be much higher.
Best Case: There is a lot of hype for this team heading into next year. Coach Nick “Inero” Smith has a lot of confidence in his squad. This team has the potential to win a series or even two come playoff time.
Worst Case: In order for that to happen, the team has to come together and focus on improving. A lot is riding on young players Juan “Contractz” Garcia and Matthew “Deftly” Chen to step up. If they regress and the veterans look washed up, the team could slide to the bottom of the league table.
Best Case: The best case is that OpTic do one better than they could last summer and sneak into the playoffs. Nobody expected them to do it then, and few expect it now. But that doesn’t bother OpTic one bit.
Worst Case: OpTic have invested a lot in some veteran players. Coach Thomas “Zaboutine” Si-hassen is not shy about using all 10 players on both LCS and Academy rosters. If the team slides to the bottom of the table, we could see him put some youngsters in and play for next split. And Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett waits in the wings as the Academy jungler.
Best Case: Making the final at MSI. This would slay a lot of demons that have haunted the region’s best teams and players, Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng in particular.
Worst Case: Exiting in the group stage at MSI. Honestly that’s probably worse for their psyches than losing in the LCS playoffs.
Best Case: Survive the group stage at MSI. Expectations are lower for TSM than Liquid, but not that much lower. That doesn’t mean they’re the second-best team in the region as much as it hints at how their fan base views their chances.
Worst Case: TSM don’t survive the first round of the LCS playoffs. This isn’t the TSM of old that could be counted to make playoff finals every split. They lost in the first round of the playoffs last spring, after all.