LCS power rankings: 2021 Lock In tournament

After a groundbreaking preseason tournament, the stage is set for an LCS season unlike any other.

Photo via Riot Games

The 2021 LCS season kicked off unlike any other. This year’s LCS Lock In tournament gave players and teams an opportunity to get a glimpse at each other earlier than normal. Now, heading into the first official week of the new year, every team in the LCS is sufficiently warmed up and ready to hit the ground running. 

Headline offseason acquisitions like Alphari, SwordArt, Perkz, and so many more are ready to start making noise on a larger scale. While the Lock In tournament served as an efficient way to introduce a new age of the LCS, the regular season is where everything truly counts. The stakes are higher, every game matters, and every result brings teams closer and closer to a North American title.  

With that in mind, our League of Legends experts ranked the LCS’ 10 teams heading into the 2021 regular season based on their general strengths and weaknesses, as well as their respective performances in this year’s Lock In tournament. Here are our power rankings before the 2021 LCS Spring Split officially kicks off later today.

RankTeamRank change
1)Team Liquid+1
3)100 Thieves+1
4)Evil Geniuses+3
9)Golden Guardians

Strap in for a long season: Dignitas, Golden Guardians, Immortals

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Poor Lock In performances from these three teams were capped off with early exits from the group stage for all of these squads. 

Dignitas and Golden Guardians are two teams that largely resemble each other by way of a composite formula featuring a scattering of young, developing players and a splash of veteran presence thrown into the mix. Players like Aphromoo and Stixxay should expect to do their fair share of torch-passing this season while experimental roster moves surrounding names such as Neo, Niles, and Iconic make the majority of waves. 

But of these three teams, Immortals appears to be in the weakest state moving into the 2021 season. And mainly, that’s because the team’s full roster was prevented from playing in the Lock In event due to visa issues. Only two of the team’s five starters, Revenge and Insanity, got to play on the LCS stage during last month’s tournament. The waters got so muddy at one point that Immortals threw caution to the wind and subbed in its Academy roster for the final weekend of the Lock In group stage. Without the extra warm-up period that every other team in the league got to experience, an already weak on paper Immortals squad is going to be jumping feet first into the fire to kick of the LCS season. 

In need of some juice: TSM, FlyQuest, CLG

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TSM has the most to lose and the fan base with the least amount of patience, especially given that $6 million SwordArt contract. There’s a lot of individual talent on this roster, and if it hits its ceiling, TSM are a top-three squad in the LCS. But that’s where the aforementioned lack of patience stems from.

As a mechanically gifted rookie ADC alongside a world finalist, Lost and SwordArt could become the next Tactical and CoreJJ. But in the face of a suddenly formidable pool of NA ADCs, Lost will have his work cut out for him. One thing to watch is how often Lost is left under his own tower to farm and play weak side while SwordArt roams with Spica, who’s looked more and more every day like the most consistent piece on this roster. Speaking of consistency, PowerOfEvil is a strong, known commodity in the LCS. But TSM’s success will come down to how long it takes for Bjergsen, and SwordArt to a degree, to shape these five talented fingers into a fist capable of challenging for a Worlds spot.

Last year, FlyQuest were your favorite team’s favorite team. This year, they’re still that and have added to their fan adoration capital by signing LLA golden boy Josedeodo and pairing him and Licorice with three rookies (fine, two rookies and a sophomore) on the bottom side of the map. Although they’re not the only team in the LCS with this two-three split roster model, they certainly seem like the ones with the highest floor.

Licorice is an outspoken leader and still one of the best top laners in North America. Johnsun was undoubtedly good last season alongside a veteran support in Aphromoo, but now he’s the “veteran” in the pairing with Diamond, which could take some time to click. But Palafox in the mid lane showed extremely exciting moments of confident fearlessness against some of the best mid laners in the region. If his raw talent can be channeled by the people around him via the good mental he’s shown, Palafox could become a top-five mid laner in the LCS by the end of the split.

If FlyQuest have the highest floor, CLG have the highest variance, but also the highest ceiling outside of the top four. This would need to be reached purely on the back of experience. Between Broxah, Pobelter, WildTurtle, and Smoothie, CLG has a combined 29 years of experience at the highest level and a lot of international experience. Finn in the top lane is the “rookie” since he’s only in his second year, but even he’s already been to Worlds. As controversial as he might have been in Europe, Finn’s talent is undeniable. His champion pool and macro will be tested against the likes of Alphari, Ssumday, Licorice, and Impact, but the pieces around him are solid. Pobelter’s recent “benching” raises some early concerns for a team that’s going to have to rely on synergy rather than pop-off-the-screen talent, but even at their worst, CLG will be a thorn in the side of top-half LCS teams all year long.

Making some early-season moves: 100 Thieves, Evil Geniuses

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Throughout the 2021 LCS Lock In, both 100 Thieves and Evil Geniuses impressed fans and analysts alike with their strong play in the group stage of the tournament.

100 Thieves, for example, showed explosive team chemistry and cohesion right off the bat, possibly due to the fact that four of the five players on the team played with each other last year on Golden Guardians. With the firepower of Ssumday coming from the top lane, this team has the potential to be scary as the season moves forward.

Most eyes will be on FBI and Huhi, who will be battling for the title of best bottom lane duo in the region. Tthe talented ADC had the third-most kills in the Lock In tournament, according to Oracle’s Elixir, and the duo’s focus on early-game domination was seen in FBI’s average gold difference of 219 at 10 minutes.

EG, on the other hand, had some shining moments in many of their games over the past couple of weeks. Veteran top laner Impact, for example, had a 60.3-percent kill participation percentage, which was the highest of any top laner in the Lock In.

Across the board, EG showed that they had the potential to become a title contender, especially with their decent early-game plays. They also had good neutral objective control, sitting at the top of the league with a 64-percent dragon control rate and a 67-percent Rift Herald control rate.

There’s still some work left to do for both of these teams, though, especially in late-game decision making and teamfighting. Both teams are great early but have stumbled a bit more past 20 minutes against top squads like Team Liquid and Cloud9. Many eyes will be on how they adapt as the meta shifts away from certain champions in the coming weeks.

Sure-shot title contenders: Team Liquid, Cloud9

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The fact that Liquid and C9 fought each other tooth and nail in a grueling five-game set this past weekend—all for first place in an exhibition tournament—should show fans just how desperate these two squads are to outdo each other.

C9 and Liquid spent the offseason bulking up their rosters with talent across the board. Some of the biggest names in the world came flocking to these two organizations. And during the Lock In tournament, those names threw their cards down on the table. 

Alphari and Perkz, among others, gave fans a humble appetizer throughout the Lock In event—and it wouldn’t be surprising to see them continue to serve up meaty entrées of talent, flair, and raw ability throughout the 2021 season. When the LCS’ kitchen doors swing open on Feb. 5, expect C9 and Liquid to be dishing out pain to the rest of the league. 

The offseason arms race that brewed between these two teams is only beginning to erupt into full-blown conflict, and as the season goes on, things are only going to get more intense. It wouldn’t be stunning in the slightest if this past weekend’s Lock In finals was a mere preview of the 2021 LCS grand finals that we’re bound to see down the stretch of the season. Liquid and C9, as of right now, look to be the only teams in the LCS that any fan can slot into a potential finals matchup without any questions or reservations. The two squads have enough proven exposure and mechanical ability in all departments to be considered rock-solid picks to make a genuine run at the LCS title this season. 

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