With the League Championship Series (LCS) playoffs behind us, all eyes now turn towards the Challenger Promotional matches, where the best semi-pro League of Legends teams face off against the bottom teams from the Spring season. This week, twelve teams will battle to determine who gets to play in the LCS for the summer, and who has some serious thinking to do as they wait for next year.
Here are our picks.
Millenium vs. Ninjas in PyjamasPhoto via NiP
The first match will be one of the closer ones. Millenium had some serious struggles throughout the spring, most notably the departure of their jungler, Alvar “Araneae” Martin Aleñar. In his place steps Markus “Kottenx” Tingvall. While his performance has been mediocre so far, that’s not too concerning for a player who just got a huge promotion into the big leagues. Millenium’s ability to get back into the LCS may very well depend on how well Tingvall and his new teammates have managed to get used to each other.
Their opponents, Ninjas in Pyjamas, won’t make it easy. NiP, an esports organization so established they’ve had a cheeseburger named after them in their native Sweden, return to the LCS after being relegated last year. Their rebuilt roster features many players from the now-defunct Lemondogs, who also disappeared from the pro levels last year. This new squad is quickly making a name for themselves, especially after an almost flawless run through the second qualifier.
Predicted Winner: Ninjas in Pyjamas.
In the end, NiP’s advantage is is that they’ve seen what it’s like to go a season on the B-list. They’ll be fighting with a little extra fuel in the tank to avoid a repeat.
Supa Hot Crew vs. Cloud 9 EclipsePhoto via Riot Games
The Supa Hot Crew, one of the rookie teams at the start of last season, quickly hit the scene with flashy plays and outstanding performances by their marksman, Rasmus “MrRalleZ” Skinneholm. But despite some very obvious skill, the team couldn’t put together a winning record. Consistency was a huge problem—Skinneholm couldn’t carry the team all by himself. Like Millenium, the Crew had a late-season replacement, and new mid laner Marcin “Selfie” Wolski has yet to really make a statement. This might end up being his last chance.
Cloud 9 Eclipse are an enigma of a team. They came from seemingly nowhere, and quickly swept through the qualifiers to take first place in the Challenger Playoffs. But they have their own challenge after losing 16-year-old jungler Tri Tin “k0u” Lam to the age restrictions of the LCS. Newcomer Lucas “Santorin” Tao Kilmer Larsen has only been with the team for a few weeks. Can Eclipse bring it together in time to land in the LCS?
Predicted Winner: Supa Hot Crew
With both teams suffering from recent replacements, this might just come down to a battle of individual performances. Supa Hot Crew’s Skinneholm stands alone as the most talented and should be able to bring down Eclipse, even without the help of a fully-experienced team behind him.
Copenhagen Wolves vs. Denial EsportsPhoto via Riot Games
Let’s not beat around the bush. The Copenhagen Wolves, at times last year, threatened to upset the delicate power balance in the LCS. A few late season losses and the Wolves got an unfavorable seed into playoffs, which sent them to face Gambit Gaming in the fifth place match. They came up with an early lead and appeared to be ahead of the well-established European powerhouse, but Gambit quickly set the scales right and pulled out the win. So yes, the Wolves are out of the LCS. But it’ll take a massive effort to keep them out of it.
Can Denial Esports deliver that kind of upset? They’re the third in a series of all-Polish teams that have risen over the last few years, the previous being the indomitable ROCCAT who took third in their first LCS season. In fact, both teams’ roots can be traced back to the dissolved GF-Gaming. Will Denial be able to live up to the expectations that ROCCAT have set before them?
Predicted Winner: Copenhagen Wolves
The answer to that question is “No.” Denial aren’t bad, that’s for certain, but they’re far behind the type of play that ROCCAT displayed to get into the LCS in January. Give them another six months of training, then we’ll get a better idea of what these rookies are capable of.
Ex Duris Gloria (XDG) vs. LMQPhoto via Riot Games
The biggest disappointment of the year was XDG’s horrible mismanagement over the last three months. Toss in allegations of nepotism with poor game performances and what appeared to be a game of musical chairs on the roster, and it seemed the team had all but thrown in the towel. The most painful part is that these players aren’t really that bad. The problem lies in the management’s constant tweaking of the roster, which has led to consistent uncertainty about who is doing what.
LMQ, on the other hand, have been the most talked about challenger team of the season. Originally the training squad of the Chinese Royal Club Huang Zu, the team packed up and moved from China to California to compete in the North American Challenger League. They’ve performed exactly as one would expect, sweeping through the qualifiers and playoffs. They now sit as a virtual lock for LCS entry.
Predicted Winner: LMQ
XDG’s only chance for staying afloat will be how well their newest acquisition, support Jamie “Sheep” Gallagher, has fit in. Based on their dismal 4-10 performance since his introduction to the roster, things are looking grim.
Evil Geniuses vs. Cloud 9 Tempest
Photo via Riot Games
When Evil Geniuses moved from Europe to North America in the offseason, many fans were hoping they would reach the same levels of success they had last year. Unfortunately, they didn’t. In fact, their brightest member in the latter part of the season, Tyson “Innox” Kapler, was seen as more of a bench-warmer back in January. With some of the oldest players in the league, and support Mitch “Krepo” Voorspoels seeming more suited towards a commentating job, questions have to be asked about whether this team is taking the game seriously.
Back in January, a team known as The Walking Zed took Team Coast to the final game in a match to determine who would be in the LCS that split. They lost, but now return under a new banner. And with the support of an organization like Cloud 9, whose primary team just took the North American crown, there isn’t much not to like here.
Predicted Winner: Cloud 9 Tempest
For Tempest, not much more is needed for all the stars to align. They have great momentum coming out the Challenger Playoffs, they have drive from their previous near-miss, and they have the resources of a top-level pro team. All they need to do now is pull the trigger.
Team Coast vs. CompLexity BlackImage via CompLexity
After almost losing their LCS spot last offseason, not much has changed for Team Coast. They still play with hot and cold streaks, sometimes appearing as the team that almost took the crown last Spring, and sometimes more like a damp rice cake. Team captain, Darshan “ZionSpartan” Upadhyaha, is one of the biggest culprits. Perhaps Dignitas coach/mid laner, William “Scarra” Li, put it best: “Up until they lose the game, they’re winning.”
CompLexity Black, on the other hand, have a lot of history coming into this match. CompLexity has been fielding LCS teams for a while now, but none of them have stuck around long enough to become a fixture in the scene. Now, the rebranded Determined Gaming are here for one more go. They are a solid squad, especially their ex-Dragonborns jungler, Ram “Brokenshard” Djemal. It will all come down to whether or not they can harness their potential.
Predicted Winner: Flip a coin.
Does “Good Coast” show up or “Bad Coast?” Either way, this will be a one-sided matchup.
Photo via Riot Games