LCK Spring 2016 Preview
It looked as if Korean League of Legends was set for a fall in the year of 2015. Many of the region's big stars left, leaving their former teams to pick up the pieces and try assemble whatever roster they could. However, Korea proved itself infallible by such an exodus, and once again rose above every other region to dominate the 2015 World Championship. With less players looking to jump ship to China this offseason, the LCK is gearing up for what is set to be an exciting and unpredictable split of League of Legends. With almost every team making at least one significant roster change, and a few players returning from abroad, a lot is still up in the air. This article looks to break down all the changes and provide some insight on what to expect from the coming months in Korea.
The Anarchy lineup that won over fans with their plucky underdog performances has returned, this time sponsored by Korean streaming service Afreeca. The only team to seemingly retain their five starters from last summer, the lack of an upgrade at any position could be detrimental to their chances in the new season, especially as both their top laner and bottom lane make good candidates for replacement. Even so, this unproven team seemed to overperform last year, and will look for something similar, especially with Mickey still manning the middle lane.
Last split: 8th place in LCK, QF of Kespa Cup.
Odds to win: 40/1
Star player: Mickey, a huge threat on Zed and the player this team revolves around.
One to watch: Lira, will face sterner competition in the jungle this split, needs to perform.
PREDICTED FINISH: 7th. None of the teams around them in the league have made huge strides forward, so Freecs should be safe for the time being.
Nothing lasts forever, especially when CJ Entus is involved. Unable to retain star player CoCo, CJ find themselves in a tricky situation without any reliable way of reaching their heights of last season. As a result, they've assembled a roster that has potential to explode... if it develops as planned. With players like Kramer and Bdd in the future for CJ Entus, we could see them lay a foundation for a strong team over the next few years. This split, however, appears to only be turbulent.
Last split: 4th place in LCK, 3rd place in Korean Regionals, 2nd place in Kespa Cup.
Odds to win: 14/1
Star player: MadLife, not as mechanically skilled as before but a smarter support, his experience will be essential.
One to watch: Bdd, the hugely hyped mid talent will have to wait until his 17th birthday in May to debut.
PREDICTION: 6th. Now is not the time for CJ to make any real challenge for the championship, as the team appears to be in rebuild mode.
May we all take a moment to pay respects to, what once was, one of the greatest organisations in Korean LoL history. NaJin have never been a powerhouse, but always produced solid teams, picking up Worlds spots and a Champions trophy in their time in the league. They didn't launch a huge challenge in 2015, but were in the upper echelon of teams in the league. Now, with the "NaJin" missing from the team's name, as well as all of their players, we're looking at a team consisting mostly of rookies. If Samsung's 2015 is anything to go by, this can't end well.
Last split: 5th place in LCK, 4th place in Korean Regionals, RO14 in Kespa Cup.
Odds to win: 50/1
Star player: Edge, the only player on this side with notable LCK experience has a huge task ahead of him.
One to watch: GuGer, returning from Taiwan where he played at AD Carry for the Taipei Assassins.
Prediction: 10th. This team will need to prove themselves as another Anarchy, otherwise they are in trouble.
Last year appeared to be the chance for Jin Air to rise to the top of the Korean League of Legends scene. They assembled a solid roster, however could not maintain enough momentum at any point throughout the year to really challenge the top teams in the league. After narrowly missing out on a Worlds berth, they lost two of their stars in Chaser and GBM. Their replacements, while serviceable, can both be considered as downgrades for the team. While Jin Air will remain in flight, their chance to become a real contender may have passed for the time being.
Last split: 6th place in LCK, 2nd place in Korean Regionals, QF of Kespa Cup, SF of IEM San Jose.
Odds to win: 18/1
Star player: Pilot, one of the stronger AD Carries in the league last year, needs to maintain that form if his team are to succeed.
One to watch: Kuzan, filling the boots of GBM will be tough, but Jin Air's new mid has shown flashes of excellence.
PREDICTION: 5th. While not a weak team, Jin Air do not posess the talent to break into the Top 4, and will need new signings in order to change that.
It looked as if KT Rolster had struck gold with the pickup of Piccaboo in the middle of last year. The team's fortunes were turned around completely, from a mid-table team into a contender for the title. In the end, they were not able to overcome SK Telecom, and later fell to the KOO Tigers at Worlds. Now without their star support, KT still posess a strong roster on paper, including another talent at support in IgNar. Even so, they will need him or other new signing, Fly, to ignite the spark in a similar fashion to their old support if they want to go all the way.
Last split: 2nd place in LCK, 1st place in Korean Regionals, QF at World Championship, SF of Kespa Cup.
Odds to win: 11/2
Star player: Ssumday, coming off of a breakout performance in 2015, will look to cement his position as Korea's premier top laner.
One to watch: IgNar, had some strong showings on Incredible Miracle last split, now has the chance to really shine on KT.
PREDICTION: 4th. There is potential for this team to exceed expectations with a few unknowns, but right now looking like the weakest of the top 4.
|AD Carry||Cpt Jack||Fury|
The epitome of mediocrity for so long in Champions, Incredible Miracle could never seem to get anywhere near the top of the league, even when the top teams lost so many of their players to China at the beginning of last year. This year's iteration, now rebranded to Longzhu Gaming, is looking to change that. With a huge investment into the team, they put together a team packed with individual talent around the league, even recalling legendary top laner Flame from China. Hoping to make a splash this spring, we will see if Longzhu's gamble pays off.
Last split: 9th place in LCK, requalified for LCK with a win over Dark Wolves, RO14 in Kespa Cup.
Odds to win: 4/1
Star player: CoCo, talisman of the 2015 CJ Entus lineup, will look to take over the league with a stronger supporting cast.
One to watch: Flame, one of the greatest top laners of all-time, back in Korea after spending a season as a substitute for LGD.
PREDICTION: 3rd. Brand new lineup might have teething issues initially, however there's enough individual class here to ensure a strong placement.
One of the biggest success stories of 2015, the team initially known as "Smeb and the Najins" proved to be a force throughout the year, culminating in a finals appearance at the World Championship. Building off of that success, the ROX Tigers' roster for the new season remains mostly unchanged, the only switch being the introduction of Peanut at the jungle position. Given how they ended the year, and the hype around Peanut before and during his stint at NaJin, 2016 could look to be another great year for the Tigers.
Last split: 3rd place in LCK, 2nd place at World Championship, RO14 in Kespa Cup.
Star player: Smeb, one of the stars of the 2015 World Championship as a whole, now facing sterner competition in the top lane domestically.
One to watch: Peanut, failed to meet expectations that surrounded him on arrival at NaJin, has the chance to redeem himself.
PREDICTION: 2nd. We can expect the same old Tigers, even with new blood in the jungle. A definite contender for the championship.
Never have I seen a more abrupt fall from grace in League of Legends than that of Samsung. Going from possessing the two best teams in the world to having to scrape together a bottom-of-the-table lineup, 2015 was rough for Samsung. Throughout the year, they picked up a few diamonds in the rough, and finished the summer season respectably, looking to the future. Alas, the team may be shrouded in more uncertainty now, after losing star AD Carry Fury and jungler Eve. Even upon finding adequate replacements at both positions, this is a team that will need to continue the rebuilding process, and hope that the pickup of CoreJJ pays off down the line.
Last split: 7th place in LCK, RO14 in Kespa Cup.
Odds to win: 40/1
Star player: Wraith, the driving force behind the team early in 2015, will need to return to that form.
One to watch: CoreJJ, back from a year in the North American LCS, it will be interesting to see what level of play he brings with him.
PREDICTION: 8th. The team still seemingly lacks that star power it so desperately needs, and may take a while to get going while new signings integrate into the team.
Entering the league alongside Anarchy for Summer 2015, Sbenu didn't quite match Mickey's team, struggling to get anything from any team they played. A candidate for relegation, the addition of Flawless in the jungle before their series against Ever proved to be a massive upgrade over Catch, and with this the team are looking forward to what can only be a brighter 2016. There's still a long way to go for the young side, but with something to build off of, the only way is up.
Last split: 10th place in LCK, requalified for LCK with a win over Ever, QF in Kespa Cup.
Odds to win: 50/1
Star player: Flawless, immediately standing out as a mechanical talent in his debut for Sbenu, the team's hopes rest on him.
One to watch: Nuclear, occasionally a bright spot in a very dark split, can look forward with a split's experience under his belt.
PREDICTION: 9th. One can only go up from last place, and Sbenu now have the opportunity to make progress with their new jungler.
Following a rough 2014, the removal of sister teams from the Korean League of Legends scene proved to be of massive benefit to SK Telecom. Allowing them to cast out the underperforming players of the 2013 championship lineup, and mix Faker and Bengi in with players from the SKT S roster proved to be a winning formula, as the organisation took their second world championship. Losing their captain in top laner MaRin has to potential to really upset the team dynamic, but we've seen SKT come back from knocks like this before.
Last split: 1st place in LCK, 1st place at World Championship, SF of Kespa Cup
Odds to win: 20/21
Star player: Faker, the player needs no introduction, has remained world-class ever since his debut in 2013.
One to watch: Duke, the MVP of Spring 2015 has found himself on a lineup with a real chance at success.
PREDICTION: 1st. The hole that MaRin leaves seems big at first, but the structure KkOma and SKT have in place should account for that.