To some League of Legends fans, the global competitive offseason is just as exciting as the gameplay on Summoner’s Rift—and the 2021 free agency period certainly didn’t disappoint. Multiple stars have taken their talents to new teams and several big names even moved to completely new regions.
In classic fashion, North America was a hotspot for offseason news, with various organizations loading up and rebuilding their teams with fresh talent and familiar faces alike. The LCS will look completely different from what the fan base has seen and should bring more fire and brimstone than ever before.
But as always, there are winners and losers in every free agency period. Some teams pass with flying colors, others barely reach the bar, while some squads fail to move the needle for next season. Ten teams are waiting for their report cards and the day has come where they discover their grades from this tumultuous offseason.
Top of the class
Team Liquid: A+ | – Alphari, Jenkins, Jensen, Tactical | + Bwipo, Bjergsen, Hans sama
Throughout the history of the LCS, “the rich get richer” is a statement that’s usually stood the test of time. Over the course of the past few years, Team Liquid’s League department has become the gift that keeps on giving for their fans, with multiple superteams having been formed since 2018 during the organization’s Doublelift era.
Next year, however, we might witness the birth of not only the best lineup in Liquid’s history, but one of the strongest we’ve seen in North America. In 2021, Bwipo was the face of Fnatic, Hans sama was one of the best AD carries in Europe, Santorin was one of the most reliable junglers in the LCS when he got stage time, and CoreJJ is still a top-five player in the league.
Now add the greatest player in LCS history to the mix in Bjergsen and it feels like Liquid is the rich, smart kid who will definitely make it into any college of their choice when it comes to graduation time.
Evil Geniuses: A | – Svenskeren, Jiizuke, IgNar | + Inspired, Jojopyun, Vulcan
Peter Dun and the rest of Evil Geniuses’ staff must be cackling with glee in their supervillain lair due to how successful this recent offseason went for them. OK, maybe they aren’t in a lair somewhere, but they can still be extremely proud of the decisions they’ve made.
EG has the best combination of potential and stability on its roster. First, the org acquired an LEC MVP in Inspired, as well as one of the best resident NA players in former Cloud9 support Vulcan. That core, combined with veteran top lane star Impact, should help secure them a top-three spot in the league while also providing a great foundation for their newly promoted mid laner, Jojopyun.
In fact, Inspired might be one of the keys to activating this roster’s potential. He was the driving force of Rogue last year and was also the best jungler in Europe. He played a plethora of different champions like Viego, Fiddlesticks, Xin Zhao, and Kindred, while also sporting the highest KDA among LEC junglers during the 2021 LEC Summer Split, according to pro League stats aggregate Oracle’s Elixir.
Now, Jojopyun and Danny—who are both only 17 years old—are two of the most hyped NA prospects. Jojopyun boasts a deep champion pool and an aggressive playstyle, while Danny has shown enough poise and skill in one season of play to earn himself the 2021 LCS Rookie of the Year award. They both have some of the best players in the region to learn from and grow. The near and immediate future looks bright for EG in 2022.
100 Thieves: A- | + Tenacity
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” This is a saying that many people take to heart across the world, including the defending LCS champions, 100 Thieves. NA’s beloved “hoodie org” has decided to skip the free agency shuffle and stick to the guns they won the trophy with—and for good reason.
For one, 100T were a deadly early-game team in 2021 with the second-highest average gold differential at 15 minutes in the LCS, according to Oracle’s Elixir. Closer quickly became a superstar, leading the league’s junglers with the most kills in the role with a leading 5.2 KDA. FBI maintained his place among the best ADCs in the league and was in the top three for damage, KDA, and kill participation percentage. Abbedagge was the perfect addition in the mid lane, providing stability in the early game and strong late-game decision-making.
The intriguing part of this team now lies in their potential six-man roster with rookie top laner Tenacity. He could be the ideal way to push Ssumday to new heights as a challenger for the starting position, while also giving the team another option to rely on whenever the latter is underperforming.
Time to hit the books
TSM: B | – Bjergsen, PowerOfEvil, Lost, SwordArt | + Keaiduo, Tactical, Shenyi
This offseason was earth-shattering for most TSM fans following the departure of the team’s iconic mid laner and head coach, Bjergsen. But there wasn’t enough time for the team’s staff to mourn since they still needed to put together a competitive LCS team for next year.
Similar to the next team on this list, TSM has plenty of question marks that could spark some doubt in their run to a regional championship. Their “new” AD carry Tactical makes his return after an explosive one-and-a-half years with Liquid. He had the second-most kills in the 2021 LCS Summer Split regular season and the highest kill participation percentage in the league, according to Oracle’s Elixir.
The major question marks lie with TSM’s new mid-support duo in Keaiduo and Shenyi, though. These young upstarts are only 20 and 19 years old, respectively, and have barely scraped competitive play. In fact, Keaiduo only started his career last year with ThunderTalk Gaming’s Academy team.
This is a huge step up since they’ll now be playing against some of the best players in the world, while also moving into a new region with a new culture to adjust to. There are plenty of obstacles that they’ll need to face, but luckily, they’ll have the defending LCS MVP and one of the best veteran top laners to guide them.
Cloud9: B– | – Perkz, Zven, Vulcan | + Fudge (role swap), Summit, Berserker, Winsome, Isles
Here come the boys in blue. But compared to past seasons, there are plenty of question marks surrounding C9’s revamped LCS roster. The team’s starting roster no longer features recognizable superstars like Zven, Perkz, or Vulcan. C9 will have a whole slew of new, rookie talent that will make their debuts in 2022 and is also moving star top laner Fudge to a new role in the mid lane.
The first thing to note is that Berserker is only 18 years old and Winsome is 19. Similar to TSM’s new imports, this young bottom lane core hasn’t seen much top-tier competition either, with the former having only started his career in 2020 with T1’s Academy team. Winsome also started his career in 2020 and only played on Korean amateur teams until now. They’ll need as much practice as they can muster, especially against C9’s Academy squad, since they have Zven, K1ng, and Isles ready to help them grow. Their development is an exciting story that could lead to even more young talent growing into the region.
But even though the potential is tantalizing, skepticism is still warranted for a roster that has two rookies who need to get acclimated to the LCS and North American life, a role swapped Fudge who will need to adjust his playstyle to the mid lane, and the many ideas and strategies of newly-appointed head coach LS. There are many different aspects that need to fit into place for C9 and that might take a bit of time to accomplish.
Immortals: C+ | – Insanity, Raes | + PowerOfEvil, WildTurtle
On the surface, PowerOfEvil and WildTurtle look like solid additions to Immortals’ war chest. POE had the highest KDA of any LCS mid laner this past summer and even had the highest kill participation percentage and the second-most damage in his role, according to Oracle’s Elixir.
WildTurtle is one of the most experienced players in the league. Even though he had a rough 2021 season with CLG, he can still be a fine marksman for a squad needing some consistent firepower. But ultimately, the sum of Immortals’ parts doesn’t look like a group that can make a deep push into the playoffs and beyond.
Immortals has picked up players with decent floors but predictable and relatively lower ceilings. We’ve gotten at least a taste of all these members in action and they’ve never truly proven to be the person to push their respective team to the next level. With the amount of star power and sky-high potential on some of these other rosters, that lack of an X-factor could relegate Immortals to becoming the new gatekeeper to the upper echelon of the LCS instead of a challenger for the top.
CLG: C | – Finn, Broxah, Damonte, Pobelter, WildTurtle, Smoothie | + Jenkins, Contractz, Palafox, Luger, Poome
If there was one team that needed to hit the reset button, it was CLG. This storied organization has been one of the worst teams in the league for over four seasons, having last reached the LCS Finals back in 2016 when they won the Summer Split against TSM. So in response to the constant disappointment, CLG wiped the slate clean this offseason, dropped its entire roster, and even replaced a majority of its staff.
With the organization’s full focus set on rebuilding and developing young talent, this past offseason represented CLG’s long-awaited first steps into the future. There are a few players to focus on next season, including former 100 Thieves Academy AD carry Luger, who was one of the best in his role in the league this past summer. He had destructive early-game numbers and dealt the fourth-highest average damage to champions in the LCS Academy, according to Oracle’s Elixir.
Even Contractz is getting another shot at being a starting jungler after showing up big for EG as a substitute during the regular season and LCS Championship. But now, he’ll need to maintain that same confidence, hunger, and early-game aggression that we saw in 2021.
Long shots and Hail Marys
FlyQuest: C- | – Palafox, Tomo, Diamond | + toucouille, Johnsun, aphromoo
Unfortunately for the last three teams on this list, it simply doesn’t feel like they’ve made any major improvements to their team for the now or the future. FlyQuest lies in an odd spot where it lost multiple up-and-coming prospects like Nxi and Palafox and also brought in a trio comprised of two safe, experienced LCS residents and a relatively unknown mid laner from Europe.
Aphromoo is a good pickup to help guide the team with his many years in the league, producing mid-tier stats among LCS supports during the 2021 Summer Split, according to Oracle’s Elixir. Good, stable supports are relatively in demand and the 29-year-old has remained one of the more consistent players in the league. His KDA remains steady around the 3.0 mark and he hovers around the same average share of his team’s total deaths year after year. Pairing him up with a familiar face in Johnsun could also work well since they’re familiar with each other’s playstyle from their days on Dignitas.
But was this the play for an organization that’s positioned for a sixth or seventh-place finish next season? Kumo and Josedeodo are both coming back as the two players from FlyQuest’s 2021 roster. As a whole, though, FlyQuest likely won’t challenge the top dogs of the region.
Dignitas: D+ | – Akaadian, Yusui, aphromoo | + River, Blue, Biofrost
If we look at the new names joining Dignitas for 2022, the general feeling that you might get from fans is confusion. Most League fans will recognize River from his time with PSG Talon, where he was the most dominant jungler in the PCS with the most kills, the third-highest KDA, and the best early-game stats of any player in the league this past summer, according to Oracle’s Elixir. That can seem exciting, but not so much when you consider the fact that PSG Talon were overwhelmingly dominant over a weaker region combined with their floundering at Worlds 2021.
Blue, on the other hand, is a 21-year-old Belgian mid laner who struggled in his big-time debut with SK Gaming. He was one of the worst early-game players in his role last summer and also had the fewest kills among LEC mid laners, according to Oracle’s. Biofrost is also coming off a year-long break. The last time he played professionally was back when TSM went 0-6 at Worlds 2020.
If Dignitas couldn’t make a splash for any big-name free agents, it could have possibly built up a strong catalog of young prospects. But instead, the org opted for a melange of different players at very different moments in their careers. This mixture might end up like oil and water, leading to a slippery slope to the bottom of the standings in 2022.
Golden Guardians: D | – Solo, Iconic, Stixxay, Chime | + Pridestalkr, Lost, Olleh
Golden Guardians finishes off this trio of teams that have created a curious collection of players with lackluster ceilings. Pridestalkr has jumped around multiple teams in Europe over his six-year career that included a year-long break in 2020. He last played in a top-tier league in 2018 with Schalke 04 when the LEC was known as the EU LCS and has played for GamersOrigin and Mousesports in the LFL and Prime League.
Lost last played with TSM during their tumultuous 2021 campaign and wasn’t the most active or involved marksman during his stint with the team. He had the fourth-lowest kill participation percentage and the lowest damage numbers in his role, according to Oracle’s. And Olleh hasn’t played professionally in over a year and a half. The expectations for Golden Guardians in 2022 are reasonably low—and for good reason.
Make sure to follow us on YouTube for more esports news and analysis.