It’s Mag1c: A New Home for Meteos?

It's Magic is Tim "Mag1c" Sevenhuysen's opinion series, coveringvarious topics on the North American and European League Championship Series.

It’s Magic is Tim “Mag1c” Sevenhuysen’s opinion series, covering various topics on the North American and European League Championship Series.

It hit hard, unexpectedly, like a sucker punch in a badminton match: yesterday morning, Cloud9 announced that Meteos—arguably the best North American Jungler over the past two years—has stepped down as Cloud9’s Jungler and shot caller. Hai will be temporarily coming out of retirement to fill the void until a permanent replacement can be found.

Cloud9’s fans found themselves gasping for breath.

Meanwhile, the fans of every other North American team found their mouths watering. The maybes and what-ifs are flying fast and furious. Meteos has said he plans to take another role in the Cloud9 organization, but that won’t slow down the fan speculation:

Will he join my team?
Could he be just the player we need?
What if?

Indeed, what team wouldn’t be interested in recruiting Meteos? On top of his skill and experience, Meteos is a local North American player. That means he keeps an import slot open, which could be very important to some squads who are already at their limit with Korean, European, or Chinese players. Put Meteos up against any current NA Jungler, head to head, and you could make an argument that almost any team would see him as an upgrade.

With all of those attributes put together, Meteos seems, at face value, like an impressive catch. Who’s ready to go fishing?

But despite all of those arguments in his favor, the list of teams who might actually take a run at signing Meteos is very short, and the list of teams who should try to sign him comes down to one shaky “maybe”.

That’s right: there isn’t a single NA LCS team that would clearly benefit from adding Meteos to their roster right now.

Dignitas and Gravity are both working with new Junglers already this split, and are having success with their current rosters. Both Helios and Move function well with fewer resources, providing a ton of vision control as their main contribution—they have the two highest average wards placed per minute numbers among NA LCS Junglers. That utility role would be a very different look for Meteos, and would require some adaptation from his teammates. Even so, Gravity in particular is a very young squad after losing their core veterans, and might see some value in adding experience back into their roster. But there’s much to be said for “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”—or in Dignitas’s case, if you’ve already fixed it once, you don’t need to fix it again!

For Team Liquid, IWDominate is Liquid’s main shot caller, and has converted himself into an effective supportive Jungler who thrives on low-resource tanks like Sejuani and Cinderhulk Rek’Sai. Meteos’s carry jungling style is the way Dominate used to play, before the team shifted its priority more heavily onto Piglet. Adding Meteos would be a stylistic step backwards, to say nothing of disrupting the team’s hard-won synergy this late in the split. Meteos would likely have to take up some of the shot calling slack left by Dominate’s departure, and if Meteos’s work as shot caller for Cloud9 is anything to judge by, he wouldn’t be an upgrade in that capacity.

Rush has had an up and down split, like the rest of Team Impulse. But despite some issues with his play, it’s hard to see TiP replacing him with someone like Meteos. Rush and Meteos are polar opposites in play style. Meteos is measured, calculated, and farm-oriented, while Rush is aggressive, reckless, even—dare I say it?—impulsive. Slotting Meteos into this team would be like mixing oil and vinegar. It just wouldn’t work, at least not without a lengthy adaptation period.

Like Gravity, Enemy is mostly working with young, inexperienced players. They could certainly use some kind of boost to get them going. But Enemy is very high on Trashy’s potential, as are many others who have watched his development. If Enemy makes a change, it likely won’t be in the jungle.

Team Dragon Knights has only played one game with their full roster so far this split, and they won that game. They have a long way to go to avoid auto-relegation, but you have to think they’ll cling to their newfound roster stability as a key part of that process. TDK should be fed up with change at this point. And putting everything else aside, how likely is it that Meteos would be willing to join the team at the absolute bottom of the LCS standings?

This leaves only three LCS teams that could realistically have an interest in acquiring Meteos: Team SoloMid, Team 8, and Counter Logic Gaming. Santorin was rookie of the split in Spring, but hasn’t been quite as impressive in Summer, while both Porpoise and Xmithie are mid-tier Junglers, not standouts but not dead weight, either (Sejuani ult memes aside). These three teams could realistically be bidders for Meteos’s services.

But should they?

Fan criticisms of Santorin aside, Team SoloMid should be fairly happy with their current Jungler. Santorin has the second best KDA in the NA LCS (14.7), having died only 9 times in 10 games. His play on Gragas has been excellent, and he’s been a key part of getting Bjergsen the leads he needs to take over games. Stylistically, Meteos wouldn’t be a significant change from Santorin: both prefer to farm more than they gank in the early game, which is the attribute Santorin has been most criticized for. The difference is that Meteos has historically played more of a carry style in team fights compared to Santorin’s supportive play, but in the current tank Jungler meta, that is not the most desirable attribute.

Overall, it’s possible Meteos could be an upgrade over Santorin, but the improvement would not be astronomical: Meteos is not that much better, and not that different, from Santorin. The minor upgrade potential has to be weighed against the negative effects of further disrupting their roster and having to rebuild TSM’s team synergy that much more. They’re already in flux with the addition of Keith and benching of WildTurtle. How much change is too much? All things considered, Meteos would be a risk for TSM, especially at Week 6 of the Summer Split, and the potential rewards are not as significant as you might think.

That brings us, then, to the other two teams on this list. What would be Team 8’s and CLG’s rationale for trying to sign Meteos?

Team 8 needs a kick in the pants, and replacing Meteos with Porpoise would certainly deliver that message. For a team at the bottom of the heap, it’s really as simple as that.

CLG is another candidate for “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it”, but past playoff disappointments suggest that they’re not prepared to be satisfied with strong regular season results: they’re going to do everything they can to load up for the playoffs. They might look to make Jungle the third position where they have two players under contract, providing internal competition, to go with their second-string Mid laner, Huhi, and AD Carry, Stixxay. You’d expect Meteos to slot in as the new starter, with Xmithie riding the bench.

The big problem with pursuing Meteos is the same for both of these teams: his play style doesn’t fit the composition of their rosters.

Team 8 and CLG have been most successful when it’s very clear who their core carry is in any given game. For Team 8, that alternated between Calitrlolz and Slooshi last split, with Maplestreet playing third fiddle. For CLG, the core carry was historically Doublelift, for better or worse, but Pobelter has now taken on more of that role, with additional help from ZionSpartan thanks to the current Top lane-friendly meta.

Wherever the main carry threat came from for T8 or CLG, there was one common thread: it was almost never the Jungler.

Granted, Porpoise really stepped up for Team 8 in mid-Spring, combining with Slooshi to earn some wins with carry performances like his Warrior’s enchantment Rek’Sai. But that was when Maplestreet was still with the team, absorbing the second smallest average gold share of any North American AD Carry, leaving more priority open for his teammates.

This split, with Maplestreet gone, Team 8 is showing us what happens when a team can’t identify its core carry. Nien is averaging 2.3 percentage points more gold share than Maplestreet did (26.8% for Nien in Summer vs 24.5% for Maplestreet in Spring), but Calitrlolz is only taking 0.5 percentage points less (21.5% in Summer vs 21.9% in Spring). Nien’s gold is coming out of Porpoise’s pockets: he’s averaging only 16.2% gold share in Summer, compared to 18.4% in Spring.

When Nien is given the carry priority he wants, Calitrlolz is pushed onto a tank or utility champion, and he seems to flounder. And when Nien is put into more of a utility role, his impact on the game all but disappears. Team 8 needs their Jungler to function better with less gold; they don’t need a Jungler who’s used to keeping all of the jungle camps to himself!

CLG, on the other hand, is an example of a team that knows exactly where it wants the gold to go: to Doublelift. The man of nine-fingered pentakills is averaging 28.0% gold share this split, third highest in the league behind Altec’s 29.3% and Emperor’s single-game number of 28.8%. Xmithie, meanwhile, is enjoying only a 17.4% average gold share this split, one of the smallest for NA LCS Junglers. That clear understanding of the team’s priorities has contributed to their strong performance this split.

If you try to slot Meteos, a player who was used to a 20.6% average gold share in the Spring split, into CLG’s current lineup, you can imagine the knock-on effect for the rest of the roster. And for Meteos’s part, his game impact has severely dipped this split with his much smaller average 18.0% gold share, a gold share that CLG would want to diminish even further

It’s hard to imagine Meteos sacrificing his jungle farm to Nien or Doublelift and still having the level of impact he was accustomed to in the past. He is not going to transform himself overnight into a gank-first carnivore Jungler like Rush, or a low-farm, low-damage utility player like Xmithie or IWDominate who works hard to get his laners fed rather than himself. It’s equally difficult to imagine Nien or Doublelift, or the solo laners on their teams, easily adapting to letting their Jungler keep all the farm to himself.

That’s not to say Meteos couldn’t change: IWDominate underwent this type of transformation last split, and though the transition was painful, the results have been fairly positive in the end. But CLG doesn’t have a full split to adapt; they only have four more weeks before playoffs arrive. Team 8, meanwhile, is already on the outside of the playoffs picture. They can’t afford to sacrifice even a single weekend of games in the name of long-term gain, or they might find themselves falling into auto-relegation, especially now that TDK is playing with their full roster.

Where does that leave us?

At least six of the teams in the NA LCS—Dignitas, Enemy, Gravity, Team Dragon Knights, Team Liquid, and Team Impulse—will quickly rule out Meteos as an option this split. TSM might consider him, but it would be a high risk, low reward proposition. Team 8 and CLG might consider adding Meteos, but based on the way their rosters are constructed, they really shouldn’t if they know what’s good for them.

If Meteos is open to joining another team this split—and that’s not a given, by any means—he isn’t likely to end up on another NA LCS team. It’s probably too late in the split to seriously think about making a move to Europe, too, though there are definitely teams in the EU LCS that could use him, more so than in North America.

When the offseason hits, all bets are off. At that point, Meteos could end up on almost any team that’s prepared to build around him. He might even consider taking a page out of xPeke’s book and starting up a brand new Challenger team.

But for now, if you’re an NA LCS fan, don’t get your hopes up: outside of a return to Cloud9’s starting five, we won’t—or at least shouldn’t—be seeing Meteos on stage again for quite a while.

Tim “Mag1c” Sevenhuysen is a Willump main. His toddlers play Nunu.
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