Yesterday, we ranked the bottom half of the North American League Championship Series and discussed why each team landed in their respective rank. Today, we take on the top half. If you missed part one, check it out here.
These rankings will provide a much more in-depth look than our typical weekly rankings, and the normal set will resume when the league starts. For this article, however, it felt necessary to explain things a little bit more thoroughly and give background information on the teams. Because of all of the extra information, this article is being split into two.
Without further ado, here are the final five teams in our preseason power rankings for the 2017 NA LCS spring split.
NA LCS Power Rankings – Preseason (Spring Split 2017: No. 5 to 1)
5. Team Liquid (56 points total – One first place vote)
- Top – Samson “Lourlo” Jackson
- Jungle – Kim “Reignover” Yeu-jin
- Mid – Greyson “Goldenglue” Gilmer and Austin “Link” Shin
- ADC – Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin
- Support – Matthew “Matt” Elento
- Coach – David Lim
At least we kept them out of the No. 4 spot and spared them from the meme. However, someone on staff (*cough* Managing Editor Justin Binkowski *cough*) put Team Liquid in first place. Why? “Liquid has the best lineup just looking at the individual players” and “Reignover and Piglet will carry.” I would call him crazy, but he is my boss and I like my job.
Team Liquid spent the entirety of last year’s summer split imploding, and making quite the scene. The team even made a documentary about their internal issues, titled “Breaking Point.” Looking behind the scenes, Liquid was a mess. Players made major mistakes, as well as members of the coaching staff, so it was no surprise when the team appeared to completely split and be rebuilt. It turns out, though, not much was changed. Lourlo, Piglet (one of the main aggressors last split), and Matt are all still on the starting roster. Lim and Goldenglue were only added from Liquid’s Challenger roster. The only two members of this squad coming from a completely different team are Reignover and Link.
Now that he does not need to fight with Dardoch about everything, maybe Piglet can keep himself under control. And if he does act up, maybe Lim can be a bit better at keeping him in line than previous coach Choi “Locodoco” Yoon-seop was. Outside of the possible attitude problems from Piglet, this is one of the most interesting rosters in the league.
Lourlo, Goldenglue, Link, and Matt are all homegrown North American talent. Lourlo and Matt both had relatively successful rookie seasons, and hopes are high for the two coming into this year. Goldenglue has been playing League of Legends for a while now, but has just never really put it together to be a consistent starter for an LCS team. Is this his year? We are not sure, and neither is the Liquid coaching staff, which is where Link comes in. After spending the 2015 spring season with CLG, Link retired from playing and wrote an 18-page donezo manifesto discussing his experiences with CLG and opinions on the team. Link went back to school, but here he is again. Goldenglue and Link are supposedly going to split time in the mid lane at the beginning of the split, but it can be safely assumed that a decision will have to be made. Which player earns the spot? Will it be Goldenglue, finally proving his worth? Or will it be Link, coming out of retirement and back into the spotlight? For now, no one knows, but it is one story that we are all keeping an eye on.
Reignover is probably the best jungler in the west, so he should provide a major boost to this team. On Immortals, Reignover was the glue that held the team together and kept them in competition to be the best team in North America. The Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon and Reignover duo was practically unmatched, but now that same synergy must be found between Lourlo and Reignover. Lourlo is a more disciplined player than Huni ever was, but Huni was certainly a stronger player. If Reignover can help mould Lourlo and all of the young talent on this team, while keeping Piglet in check, Liquid has a shot at being one of the best rosters in the league.
Player to watch – Lourlo: This homegrown talent is about to face the strongest crop of top laners that he has ever seen. Some of the most infamous top laners in the world are now in North America. Impact, Flame, Ssumday, Looper… you get the idea. And don’t forget, Hauntzer, Seraph, and Darshan are still around. Lourlo also has to deal with a new jungler and two new rotating mid laners. The young North American player will need to dial in, pick up his play, and get synergy with his new teammates. He’s in for a bumpy ride.
4. Immortals (64 total points)
- Top – Lee “Flame” Ho-jong
- Jungle – Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett
- Mid – Eugene “Pobelter” Park
- ADC – Cody “Cody Sun” Sun
- Support – Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung
- Coach – Robert Yip
If you don’t follow League of Legends during the offseason, this roster must be pretty confusing. With a new head coach, top laner, jungler, and duo lane, the Immortals only have Pobelter left from last year’s team.
Gone is the beloved top/jungle duo of Huni and Reignover. In Huni’s place stands Flame, one of the most famous top laners in the world, though he has struggled lately to find his footing. In Reignover’s place stands Dardoch, North America’s rebellious teenager, who just may find solid ground and a clear head with his new squad. The duo lane now features rookie talent Cody Sun and world traveler Olleh. This team looked solid enough at IEM Gyeonggi, knocking J Team down twice and putting up a fight against Korea’s Samsung Galaxy and Kongdoo Monster.
Similar to the issue that people have with Cloud9, most people’s main problem with this team is the pure rookie: Cody Sun. Though the team looked good for the most part at Gyeonggi, Cody Sun did not. The young gun had one of the worst performances of the event, and was without a doubt the weakest player on the team. Since this was his debut outside of the Challenger Series, it is understandable that Cody Sun may have been off his game a bit. He was debuting on the world stage, playing with Flame, and playing against teams like Samsung Galaxy. The amount of pressure he likely felt is unimaginable. Cody Sun showed promise in the NA CS, but he will need to get over the nerves, step it up, and show that he is ready for the LCS.
Luckily for Immortals, the bottom side of the map is nowhere near as important as it once was, and the team can have faith in Flame, Dardoch, and Pobelter. Flame still has something to prove, though, since he has been off his game for some time. Dardoch needs to move past the toxic attitude that plagued him last season, and work with his new team and coaching staff. This team has a good bit of upside, with a catastrophic downside, but we are betting on the former.
Player to watch – Cody Sun: I was tempted to pick Dardoch because of his attitude problems and how necessary it is for him to develop synergy with Flame and Pobelter, but Cody Sun has this spot locked down. The rookie was undoubtedly the worst player for Immortals at IEM Gyeonggi. Cody Sun has the potential, but playing on the big stage seemed to get to him and he needs to work past his nerves if this team wants to succeed.
3. Counter Logic Gaming (66 total points)
- Top – Darshan “Darshan” Upadhyaya
- Jungle – Jake “Xmithie” Puchero
- Mid – Choi “Huhi” Jae-hyun
- ADC – Trevor “Stixxay” Hayes
- Support – Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black
- Coach – Tony “Zikzlol” Gray
Counter Logic Gaming is a squad with unrivaled resilience. Despite just having an okay, mediocre performance in the regular season of the summer split, CLG finished No. 4. In the playoffs, more mediocrity saw the team beat an already broken Team Liquid, get swept by TSM, and somehow push Immortals to a fifth game in the fight for third place. CLG lost that series, but still qualified for Worlds with North America’s No. 2 seed because of their championship in the spring split. At Worlds, despite relatively mediocre performances once again, the team almost succeeded. If not for an upstart Albus NoX Luna squad, CLG would have advanced out of the group stage. All of this, without looking like a particularly strong team.
And yet, no one was ever really surprised.
There is just a certain something about CLG, a je ne sais quoi if you will, that makes people expect good things. Not great, but good enough. Darshan in a slump? Huhi looking like one of the worst mid laners in the league? Stixxay seemingly losing his rookie star quality? Doesn’t matter. The team works. Individually, the players are okay. Well, Aphromoo is great. Actually, every player on this team has had a moment or two of greatness. And that is exactly the point. They make it work. Somehow, despite the individual struggles, the team as a whole always makes it work. Whether that is through amazing teamwork and macro play, one or two players stepping it up and carrying the team, or something else, CLG always makes it work.
Eventually, though, individual talent could bite them. Darshan is not the top laner that he once was. Huhi, despite some of his valiant efforts, is not the consistently strong mid laner that he needs to be. Xmithie has his moments, and is a serviceable jungler for the most part. Stixxay has the potential to be great, we have all seen it, and CLG could easily have the best duo lane in the league when he and Aphromoo are clicking. At some point, though, other teams could catch this squad. Superior overall strategy, from drafting to in-game decisions and macro play, holds this team together, but that may not be enough forever.
For now, though, it is. Teamwork has always trumped individual skill, and CLG just loves to remind us of that fact. The synergy and ability to strategically play the game of League of Legends will put CLG above many of the new lineups this split. Their teamwork and coordination will be the keys to victory, and no one would be surprised to see this team at the top of the standings when the split comes to an end.
Player to watch – Darshan: A flood of top lane talent has entered the NA LCS, and Darshan is about to be tested in likely the hardest split of his career. When discussing Lourlo as Team Liquid’s player to watch, I already mentioned all of this, but how about we go through it again. Darshan is going to have to face Impact, Flame, Ssumday, Looper, and more this split. This is easily the strongest group of top laners that he has ever faced in the NA LCS. CLG is going to need Darshan to put up a fight in the top lane every week, and that is a tall order.
2. Cloud9 (80 total points – Six first place votes)
- Top – Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong
- Jungle – Juan “Contractz” Arturo Garcia
- Mid – Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen
- ADC – Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi
- Support – Andy “Smoothie” Ta
- Coach – Bok “Reapered” Han-gyu
On all accounts, Cloud9’s summer split was fantastic for the team. A solid regular season ended with a relatively close loss in the finals to TSM, securing second place for the split. The team then went into the regional qualifiers for Worlds on a mission, and dispatched both Team EnVyUs and Immortals with ease to claim North America’s third and final seed at Worlds. From there, the team advanced out of a group that saw Flash Wolves and I May go home. In the quarterfinals, Cloud9 was paired against the eventual finalists of Samsung Galaxy, and got promptly sent home.
With one move in the offseason, Contractz moving up from the Challenger Series team to replace William “Meteos” Hartman as the starting jungler, hopes are high for Cloud9. How did they get six first place votes out of a possible nine and end up in second place? Some of the members on staff have major reservations and have the team pretty far down on their list. For one, not everyone is sold on Contractz. Cloud9 needs a strong jungler with good pathing, and Contractz may not be quite at that level yet after coming up from the Challenger Series.
Consistency can be a good thing, but not if it becomes predictable. Another reservation regarding this roster is the fact that its strategies are, for the most part, known. Sticking together was probably the right move, but the team will definitely need to change its plans up a bit to keep other teams guessing.
Most analysts, and most members here on staff, consider Cloud9 to be the best team in the NA LCS. The team performed very well last split, and may have made an upgrade in the jungle. Most naysayers point to Contractz as the questionable entity and say the move was a downgrade, so it is up to the young jungler to prove his worth and show that his team is the best in the league.
Player to watch – Contractz: Obviously, the young jungler is the biggest question mark on Cloud9’s roster. If Contractz can live up to expectations, Cloud9 could easily be the best team in North America. If he fails, there is no telling where this team will end up. Contractz gets two big challenges in his first week in the LCS, facing off against Svenskeren and Chaser. Other junglers in the league, such as Dardoch and Reignover, also pose a major threat to this young player. Contractz goes into this split with pressure, and quite a bit of Cloud9’s success will depend on whether or not he can perform on the big stage.
1. Team SoloMid (82 total points – Two first place votes)
- Top – Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell
- Jungle – Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen
- Mid – Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg
- ADC – Jason “WildTurtle” Tran
- Support – Vincent “Biofrost” Wang
- Coach – Parth “Parth” Naidu
We all know the story of TSM’s last split. The team dominated the NA LCS. No one could stand in its way. TSM was supposed to be the west’s greatest chance at winning Worlds. The hype was real. Then the team got knocked out in the group stage, Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng decided to take a hiatus from competitive League of Legends, and the organization brought in WildTurtle, ex-TSM AD carry and Immortals AD carry for 2016, to replace him.
Hopes were still high going into IEM Oakland, where the team was expected by many fans to win the tournament with ease. Experts said otherwise, but fans were stalwart in their faith. TSM lost its first series of the event to the Unicorns of Love from the EU LCS, and exited quietly. WildTurtle’s return did not go very well.
Svenskeren’s job in the jungle is a little bit harder than it was last year. Dardoch has seemingly come into his own, Reignover and Xmithie are still here, Chaser joined Dignitas, Inori ended the split looking strong, and LirA joined Team EnVyUs. Svenskeren should still be able to handle most of this opposition as long as he plays his game, but it will not be easy.
The duo lane could be a major issue. WildTurtle seems to be just as reckless as he once was, and Biofrost may not be able to save him. Doublelift played a major part in teaching Biofrost and keeping him mentally focused and in the game. WildTurtle likely does not have that same teaching mentality. If the sophomore can build off of his strong rookie season and show that he has an identity outside of being Doublelift’s student support, Biofrost can keep this duo lane alive. If he struggles, TSM could have some problems this split.
Regardless, mainly because of faith in the mid/jungle synergy between Bjergsen and Svenskeren, most people still hold TSM in high regard. It also helps that WildTurtle probably will not be doing much damage to the team, since AD carries are not very impactful in the current meta. The team has had time to mesh and figure out the new meta together since their bad showing at IEM, and each player is very talented individually. We all know, however, that teamwork and macro play are far more important than individual skill. If TSM’s players can bring the same level of macro play that they had last split, the squad should be able to stay in control above a tumultuous NA LCS filled with new rosters.
Player to watch – Hauntzer: The top lane talent in North America is at a new level, but you have read that multiple times already if you made it this far into the article, so let’s just talk about Hauntzer. The top laner looked good last split, but this split is a different game. If TSM wants to really succeed and keep its crown, Hauntzer will need to battle some of the best top laners that the world has ever seen.
What do you think about our preseason power rankings? Are there any teams that you would rank higher or lower? Let us know by commenting below or tweeting us @GAMURScom.
Photos via Immortals/Riot Games