Fresh off a season in which the LCS sent a team to the top eight at the World Championship for the first time in three years, North American League of Legends is back. And frankly, the scene is looking stronger than ever. With plenty of imported stars arriving from overseas and another generation of young up-and-comers set to make their long-awaited debuts, the LCS is in prime position to bring forth yet another season of fiery play on the domestic stage, while capitalizing further on last year’s stellar international results.
Before the regular season officially kicks off, though, the LCS will hold a preseason tournament to prepare both fans and players for the year to come. The Lock In tournament, which returns after making its debut in 2021, is set to ring in the new year, giving fans a taste of competitive North American League in some capacity, even though the games don’t count towards regular season standings.
In the three weeks prior to the start of the regular season, the Lock In tournament should give teams enough time to solidify their rosters and prepare for the 2022 season. To prepare for the season on our end of things, we asked our team of League writers to rank the teams of the LCS from first to worst as the season gets underway. Here are our LCS power rankings ahead of the 2022 Lock In tournament.
Still growing: CLG, FlyQuest
For Counter Logic Gaming, there is absolutely nowhere to go but up after the unmitigated disaster that was 2021. The org took five veterans who at one point were at worst the third-best players on their teams, stirred it all together, and out of the blender came a ninth and 10th-place finish in the Spring and Summer Splits, after finishing 10th and ninth in 2020—and that’s not even mentioning the off-the-Rift drama. So, under new management, CLG has entered a top-down rebuild and embraced the youth movement slowly making its way through North American League.
Top laner Jenkins filled in for Alphari on Team Liquid and did an admirable job considering the circumstances and the size of the shoes he had to fill, and jungler Contractz has LCS and Worlds experience and landed on CLG off the back of a year in which he took playing time off former LCS MVP Svenskeren on an impressive Evil Geniuses squad.
Palafox in the mid lane has yet to find his footing in the LCS, but, like many guys on this roster, is looking to be one of the young players that stick for CLG as it retools for the future. While inconsistent, he didn’t earn the nickname “Palafaker” for nothing. In the bottom lane, Luger and Poome have pre-existing synergy from a 100 Thieves Academy team that won proving grounds last year. If you’re a neutral and want to root for a team of domestic young players (and Luger) to succeed, forget what you heard about CLG in years past. This is the year you should absolutely jump on the bandwagon.
FlyQuest convinced jungler Josedeodo to stay when it looked like he was out the door after a brutal first year in the LCS. Additionally, it brought in veteran support aphromoo and reunited him with former Dignitas teammate Johnsun. Aphromoo has a proven track record at the highest level and is the poster child for what a veteran support can do for their younger lane partner in raising their skills. In the top lane, Kumo is trying to find a roster to stick on after fluctuating between Academy and the LCS in the last few years.
Toucouille in the mid lane is the question mark for many LCS and FlyQuest fans alike, and rightfully so. The 20-year-old Frenchman will be making his debut at the highest level in the LCS in 2022. He and his GamersOrigin teammates steamrolled the LFL in 2020, but he couldn’t replicate that success in 2021 with GameWard. The LFL is not the LCS, let’s be clear, but it’s one of if not the best second-division leagues in the West. And with a relatively weak mid lane pool in the LCS, tocouille and his control-mage-centric style could find him knocking on the door of the top five at the position before too long.
Parts of a whole: Dignitas
Dignitas put together one of the most intriguing offseason heel-turns in professional League ahead of 2022. By holding onto only two players in top laner FakeGod and AD carry Neo, Dignitas made it clear it’s charting a new course in 2022, one that embraces players of diverse backgrounds and experiences.
The two most noteworthy additions to Dignitas’ roster this season stand in its mid-jungle pairing, with former PSG Talon jungler River and former SK Gaming mid laner Blue taking up the team’s import slots this season. Last year, Dignitas was the only team in North America to sport five domestic players, opting to use none of its allotted import slots. This year, the team changed its tune immensely, adopting the internationally focused free agency strategies of other North American teams. Additionally, Dignitas recruited former LCS All Pro Biofrost, bringing the veteran support out of retirement after he took 2021 off.
Dignitas’ roster might just be the LCS’ “great experiment” ahead of 2022. With a lineup of one-time LCS stars, flourishing pieces of young talent, and international transfers, Dignitas will surely have to build chemistry and cohesion throughout the course of the season. But if this low-end roster can turn into something more valuable than the sum of its individual parts, Dignitas might just have what it takes to climb up the playoff table.
On the borderline: Immortals, Golden Guardians
On the fringes of the LCS stand Immortals and Golden Guardians, hoping to build upon the small, albeit meaningful, strides both teams made in the previous year. Both teams retained their respective core players while attempting to patch up particular weak points. While making marginal improvements on paper, Immortals and Golden Guardians are still dark horses in the LCS. Should these new rosters synergize quickly, this pair of teams have the potential to punch above their weight class.
Immortals suffered from weak early games and poor laning phases. In the 2021 Summer Split regular season, Immortals averaged the third lowest gold difference at 15 minutes (-481), had abysmal early objective control, and largely failed to find proactive early games. While not all of Immortal’s ails came from the mid lane, PowerOfEvil will be a stabilizing force. One of the most consistent and lane-focused mid lanes in the LCS, PowerOfEvil’s presence will also provide the surging jungler Xerxe another strong lane to play off of.
Immortals will reunite former FlyQuest teammates PowerOfEvil and WildTurtle. While giving the two new additions some inherent synergy, WildTurtle provides a carry potential the 2021 iteration of Immortals severely lacked. Immortals’ success is most contingent on how it develops its young talent in the top lane, Revenge. The top laner’s potential was apparent from the 2021 LCS Lock In but struggled throughout the following splits. Immortals have a tall task before them, though seemingly all the tools to put together a respectable team.
Golden Guardians has had a tumultuous history in the LCS. The team has almost as many 10th-place finishes as playoff appearances, though there is always a promise for improvement. Pridestalker is the most significant and potentially impactful signing going into 2022. The Dutch jungler dominated his domestic league and has long been considered one of the most promising ERL players. Pridestalker provides a significant carry threat for Golden Guardians to play around.
The team’s new bottom lane, on the other hand, is far more volatile. Lost showed improvement during his time with TSM though was clearly the squad’s weakest link. Paired with former LCS champion support player Olleh, who has taken a two-year hiatus from professional play, this bottom lane is nearly unpredictable in how they will perform together.
Both squads have signed promising rosters with equal amounts of potential and risk. While both teams have improved on paper, they will have to contend with teams who have similarly consolidated talent. These teams are far from LCS favorites but stand to make waves in 2022.
New year, new looks: Cloud9, TSM
Cloud9 and TSM have flipped the script on the past few seasons and have gone with a very different approach for 2022. Instead of relying on familiar superstars from Europe and North America, both teams shook up their rosters with a handful of up-and-coming prospects from Korea and China. The potential for greatness is tantalizing, but it’s hard to set expectations for what they’ll be able to accomplish in their first year.
C9 has made a battalion’s worth of changes, including a role swap for the young star top laner Fudge into the mid lane. The org picked up three new players: former Liiv Sandbox top laner Summit, former T1 Challengers AD carry Berserker, and amateur support Winsome. It’s also giving a shot to one of the most well-known minds in League, Nick “LS” De Cesare, who finally gets a chance to apply his philosophies towards the game at the highest level.
TSM, on the other hand, is bringing a similar collection to its battlefront with two fresh rookies that have under three years of competitive experience combined with former ThunderTalk Young mid laner Keaiduo and former FunPlus Blaze support Shenyi. The team also picked up Wong “Chawy” Xing Lei as head coach, who is making his Western debut after coaching teams like HKA, AHQ, and Taipei Assassins.
There are still solid cores that should keep each roster hovering near the top half of the standings, whether you’ve got Fudge and Blaber, or Huni, Tactical, and Spica for TSM. There are so many different pieces that need to fall into place for them to challenge the top of the standings, however. At their peak, these teams could win the LCS. But it will probably take them more time than just a season to get there—if they even get there at all.
Proven commodities: Team Liquid, 100 Thieves, Evil Geniuses
At the top of the LCS heading into the start of the 2022 Spring Split are three teams that triumphed through the 2021 season, two of which ended their seasons with Worlds qualification. Between Liquid, 100 Thieves, and Evil Geniuses, a lot has changed in just a few months, but what remains the same is the potential each of them have to once more stand out among the North American competition, likely competing against each other for that top spot.
100 Thieves, the 2021 LCS champions, opted to not change its roster heading into the Spring Split, bringing in only Tenacity from its Academy team to share the top lane spot with Ssumday. This commitment to maintaining its roster is a move not often utilized by LCS teams, but one that shows trust in their synergy and potential.
Evil Geniuses is aiming to finally grasp that top spot with Inspired, jojopyun, and Vulcan joining the team, bringing together three players known for their play-making abilities to one of the most aggressive teams in the LCS. Last year the team struggled to maintain a hold in the top three of the LCS, but this combination of old and new opens the door for the team to “live evil” to the fullest extent.
Liquid is radiating dominance following major preseason moves. Bwipo and Hans sama are making their LCS debuts with this team, bringing their individual success in the LEC to the North American scene for the first time. They’re accompanied by the returning Bjergsen, who is stepping out of retirement and years on TSM after rediscovering that competitive itch.
Yet the question isn’t if these teams will make it to the top of the LCS—it’s what order in which they’ll do so. The rosters of these three LCS behemoths fail to disappoint on paper, though proving themselves against a field of fresh faces will be where Liquid, Evil Geniuses, and 100T can truly define their legacies in the LCS.