Projected Record: 6 wins 12 losses
The anchor of TiP’s roster and sole remaining holdover from LMQ is their Mid Laner XiaoWeiXiao. XWX burst into the LCS as a member of an LMQ roster that caught everyone off guard by staying in the top two of the standings for almost the entire split. By the end of the split, XWX had turned in a performance for the ages, leading all Mid Laners in kills and the entire league in Gold Per Minute thanks to his prolific farming abilities (He has the 2nd and 4th shortest times to 300 CS in the history of competitive League of Legends and holds the LPL record) on the way to earning MVP honors for the Summer Split. Yet, somehow, he’s still under-rated. XWX has one of the largest champion pools in the LCS, performing equally well on support-oriented, wave clear mages and Assassins alike. He is also a true carry in every sense of the word, combining tactical aggression with fantastic game sense to lead his team to victory and/or perform impossible feats of skill. TSM fans will remember his famed Yasuo turnaround Penta-Kill in the Summer Regionals. TiP fans can only hope that we’ve seen just the tip of the iceberg of what XiaoWeiXiao has to offer.
While no North American Team has ever won a World Championship, the region can at least lay claim to having two World Champions in residence. One of them is TiP’s new Top Lane, Impact, formerly of SKT T1 K. In his prime, Impact was essentially a better version of Dyrus, able to play a wide variety of Champions at an above-average level while impacting team fights with a disruptive play style focused on causing mayhem like a wolf diving into a flock of sheep. Even if his skills have diminished slightly since SKT T1 K’s run to the World Championship, Impact should enter the Spring Split at the very top of the Top Lane pecking order.
The great mystery of TiP’s new lineup is their jungler Rush, a solo que god from Korea who achieved rank 1 on the ladder this past season. The move was without a doubt brought upon by desperation caused by the lingering doubt about the status of their now former players forcing TiP to sit out the initial rush of player signings. Rush has never played a single competitive game and looks to wet his feet in a league that features a few standout players at his position but little depth. While this is likely rushing to conclusions, you can’t help but wonder if TiP’s management saw in Rush flashes of another solo que god turned pro player, Faker.
TiP’s new bot lane is comprised of former Coast ADC, Apollo, and Adrian, formerly of Robert Morris University. Apollo joins the team with a single split of LCS experience under his belt as a member of a Coast roster that finished 6th in the Spring Split of the 2014 Season. During that season, Apollo accumulated the most deaths of any players in his role , the fewest assists, the second fewest kills and had the lowest gold per minute while forming what was arguably the worst bot lane in the LCS with daydreamin. Adrian spent short stints on a few Challenger teams before accepting a scholarship to Robert Morris University where he was a part of their undefeated Collegiate Series roster. His success would go a long way towards validating a program that has experienced more than its fair share of derision since the RMU announced that it would start offering scholarships to gamers. However, from a game play perspective it’s hard to find a reason to rank this pairing as anything more than one of the worst in the LCS. This may be one of those cases where the tip of the Iceberg is really all there is. It’ll be up to them to prove us wrong.
How they got here:
The original story of LMQ was a heart-warming tale of a bunch of players just trying to escape an unstable Chinese region prone to backroom deals and fools gold. The tale blossomed into a full blown Hollywood movie as LMQ stormed their way through the Challenger scene and into the LCS, endearing themselves to the community with their obvious love for the game, exciting no holds barred play style and comedic vods. But the dream began to collapse shortly into the Summer Split as rumors of a power struggle between a variety of parties claiming ownership of the team led to an obvious drop in performance in the middle of the split. While things seemed to go quiet towards the end of the season, LMQ quickly fell apart after the World Championship as Ackerman, Noname, Vasilli and Mor all left the roster and returned to China. When LMQ reformed under TiP, the only player left standing was XiaoWeiXiao. As LMQ’s players left of their own volition, TiP was able to retain their spot rather than being disqualified due to the 3/5ths rule.
Biggest Headline: Can LMQ recapture their old magic?
TiP’s stated motto is “Play Fierce, Play Reckless, Play Impulsive.” That pretty well sums up LMQ’s play style in the 2014 Summer Split. But one other component of that team was its decisiveness. A key factor that could be missing in a team that is likely to experience at least temporary struggles with communication as they try incorporate players with three different native languages. In such cases, it’s been absolutely necessary for the players involved to share a similar proclivity for aggression otherwise the difference in play styles leads to players being caught out of position and dead. The big X factor in this regard is Wiz Fujin, who was more of a supportive, back line ADC than an aggressive play-maker during his time with Coast. Whether he is able to adapt or not will make or break TiP’s season.
TiP is the first in a series of teams in this rankings that could finish much higher than predicted if a few things fall into place. A defining characteristic of these teams is the presence of a few veritable stars at their positions and a few players that could feasibly be the worst. XiaoWeiXiao is the reigning MVP, one of the best players in the LCS and a threat to solo carry his team each and every game. If not for Piglet, Impact would easily be the most blockbuster signing of any western team this off-season. He should enter the seasons as, at worst, the third best top laner in a league that suddenly looks strong at the position and will likely be much better than that. Rush is an unknown quality, but as a player who fought his way past the likes of Faker, Deft and Dade for the #1 spot on the Korean Solo Que ladder, there’s a lot to be hopeful for. A brief glance at the Challenger ladders of each major region shows a veritable who’s who of the very best players in competitive LoL. It’s gotta mean something that Rush was able to achieve the #1 spot. Counter-balancing these positives are two things: A decidedly weak looking bot lane and a team with five players speaking three different languages. The latter could feasibly fix itself with time, and may be overstated depending on how well the play styles of the various players are able to mesh. But the former seems unlikely to change unless Apollo has improved drastically in the past six months or proves that it was daydreamin holding back their bot lane when they were both on Coast. Rush proving to be a special player would go a long way towards fixing this weakness, as a dominant jungler can make even a sub par bot lane look great
It’s not that hard to see a future where TiP finishes in the top four of the spring split. Cloud 9 is the only team without any real questions. The rest of the supposed top teams in the LCS are dealing with their own issues. TSM is incorporating a new jungler and hoping Wildturtle just had a bad split. Curse is incorporating two Korean imports, one a former World Champion and the other a player who has never won a competitive League of Legends match. Every team in between has their own flaws to sort out, and in Impact and XwX, TiP has a strong foundation to build upon. So while we are tentatively ranking TiP as the 7th best team in the NA LCS, note that the middle four teams could literally finish in any order and it wouldn’t surprise us. Taking it further, I wouldn’t be surprised if TiP returned to their place near the top of the NA LCS towards the end of the Summer Split as they gain more and more experience playing together. In short, I could not feel less confident in this ranking, wouldn’t be surprised if their projected record was flip flopped to 12 wins and 6 losses, and am prepared to look a fool.
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XiaoWeiXiao graded out as the 2nd best Mid Laner in North America. Panelists looked highly on his ability to carry on a wide range of champions and dominate his lane opponents. Impact graded out as the 2nd best Top Laner (tied with Dyrus). Panelists cited his experience, wide champion pool and world class pedigree as reasons for the ranking. Rush graded out as the 9th best Jungler. Panelists were hesitant due to his lack of competitive experience and cited the vast differences between solo que and competitive at the jungle position. Wiz Fujin and Adrian graded out as the 2nd worst bot lane due to Adrian’s lack of competitive experience and Wiz Fujin’s poor performance in the 2014 Spring Split.
While some may rush to conclusions and say the impact of adding a player as skilled and experienced as SKT T1 K’s former top laner tips the scales in their favor, I remain hesitant about TiP’s chances of overcoming their flaws fast enough to finish in the top half of the standings. Watch out for the Summer Split though.
#9: Team Coast
#10: Team 8
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