NA LCS Power Ranking - Spring Split 2016
With the 2016 North American League of Legends Championship Series starting up very soon - January 16th, to be exact - I thought it would be fun to put together my own Power Ranking for the spring split. We’ve seen the addition of new organizations such as Echo Fox, Immortals, and NRG eSports, who purchased Gravity, Team 8, and Team Coast, respectively. We’ve also seen roster moves that no one would've dared to dream of. Seung-hoon “Huni” Heo and Yeu-jin “Reignover” Kim to Immortals, Yoon-jae “Rush” Lee to Cloud 9, Henrik “Froggen” Hansen to Echo Fox, and of course, the shocking move of Counter Logic Gaming’s face, Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng to long time rival, Team Solomid. We could not of asked for a more exciting off-season.
As the title would imply, I will be going over my personal power ranking of the teams going into the NA LCS this year, along with my reasons for the ranking and how the team’s offseason affected them. Without further ado, here are my 2016 NA LCS Power Rankings.
10) Team Impulse
Team Impulse’s suffered quite a bit of bad luck in 2015. The team tried to replace support player Adrian "Adrian" Ma with Austin "Gate" Yu. After a disappointing week with the new support, Mid laner Yu "XiaoWeiXiao" Xian was banned for elo boosting. Adrian was called back, and Gate was placed back into his former home, the mid lane. The weakened Team Impulse would still manage to end in third place during the regular split, but would fall to Team Solomid and Team Liquid in the playoffs, ending in fourth. They would later lose in the regional gauntlet to a revived Cloud 9, crushing all chances of them going to the 2015 World Championship.
The misfortune would not stop there. Impulse's owner, Alex Gu, would try to sell his team's LCS spot. He would lose four players, including star duo Eon-young "Impact" Jeong and Yoon-jae “Rush” Lee. The only returning player would be Gate, and he would migrate back to the support position. Impulse looked to North American Challenger Wang "Feng" Xiao Feng and Challenger Korean turned LJL player Jun-sik "Procxin" Choi to fill the void left by their top and jungle duo. However, most would agree they won't fill the hole left by Impact and Rush. How could a North American Top Laner with no competitive experience and a Jungler from a wildcard region ever match up to a World Champion and a solo queue god? Well known ADC Brandon "Mash" Phan and Kim "Pirean" Seyoung, a relatively unknown Korean solo queue player who specializes in assassins, have also joined the squad. Mash has not seen success since his miracle run to the finals of the NA LCS Spring Playoffs in 2013 with Team Coast and has looked rather mediocre since then. However, Pirean could shine considering we'll be heading into a meta with very strong AD Carries, and what better to counter that than a strong assassin player?
Despite my high hopes for Pirean, I doubt Team Impulse will see any success this split. They'll nab a win here or there off the lower tier teams, and they may show a glimmer of hope, but they will not place higher than tenth and they will, sadly, be auto-relegated.
9) Team Dignitas
Team Dignitas is a long standing organization within the North American League of Legends scene. They purchased Rock Solid, a team with many memorable players, such as William "scarra" Li and Michael "imaqtpie" Santana. But that time has long passed, and Dignitas has been rather uninteresting ever since.
The remaining members of the 2015 roster are support Alan "KiWiKiD" Nguyen and mid Danny "Shipthur" Le. KiWiKiD has had problems with his consistency and general level of play while Shipthur's performance has spiraled downwards since the end of the 2014 Summer Split. If this team had any drive to make it to Worlds, or even Playoffs, they would of dropped both players. Despite, my harsh words, the team isn't all bad. Dignitas managed to pick up Apollo "Apollo" Price, a player who has done nothing but improve since he was relegated with Team Coast back in 2014. They also imported Lennart "Smittyj" Warkus, a solid German top laner and Thomas "Kirei" Yuen, a star jungler who showed he was a player deserving of a much better team at IEM Cologne in December.
This team displayed a lack of good decision making at Cologne and I honestly just don't like the line up. The only player I feel can be compared to top players in the NA LCS would be Kirei, and he just isn't enough to get the team into the top 5. However, as a viewer and fan of the LCS, I wouldn't count Dignitas out yet. Many thought they would be relegated last year, and yet here they stand.
8) Echo Fox
Oh, my love, how far you have fallen. From OGN Finals to fighting to stay out of the relegation tournament. Henrik "Froggen" Hansen is one of the most legendary players to ever touch League of Legends, he was the best mid laner in the world during Season 2, and he was almost one the first foreigners to win OGN Champions Korea. He spent Season 3 being held back by his teammates whose performance had dropped immensely. Season 4 saw Froggen winning his first EU LCS Championship with Alliance, however, his team would later fall to Brazilian Wildcard, KaBuM eSports at the World Championship, stopping any hopes to get into the Playoffs. He would then spend Season 5 fighting to stay out of the relegation tournament with the newly branded Elements. During this time, Froggen would sport stats equivalent of a top 3 mid in Europe, and he most surely would be one had he not migrated to North America this season. Instead of being held back by his teammates in EU, Froggen chose to be held back by his teammates in NA while being paid significantly higher.
Surrounding our Danish all-star, we have the likes of Jeong-hun "kfo" Park, a well known Korean streamer with no competitive experience, Anthony "Hard" Barkhovtsev, a well known North American jungler with shot calling experience, Terry "Big" Chuong, formerly known as "BabyEator," a support who has been floating around challenger in NA for some time, and everyone's favorite "motivator," Yuri "KEITH" Jew. The clear weak links here are kfo, who is untested in competitive waters, and Big, who is clearly in contention for the worst support in the North American LCS. Why you would pick them up for your team when you can get the likes of Billy "BillyBoss" Yu and Alex "Xpecial" Chu, for example, is a mystery to me.
A brighter point of this roster would be KEITH, who everyone has been expecting to get a starting position soon. KEITH has been used by the likes of Team Liquid and Team Solomid to motivate their starting AD Carries to improve, and it has worked well. They would start KEITH over them for a game or two, to see if he could be a better fit for the team, and the starting players would improve immensely after seeing their spot on the team could be at risk. This was most noticeable in Jason "Wildturtle" Tran, who was Solomid's best performer during the playoffs. However, the fact that KEITH has not been a starter for a LCS team before should not make you think less of him, as he has been the best challenger AD Carry for quite some time and, as mentioned before, is very strong at getting and maintaining a gold lead. Hard is someone else I would of thought to be looked at by more LCS teams sooner. He has shot called for Cloud 9 Tempest is a strong rookie, the problem is that Froggen is another player with a strong voice within his teams, and that could cause conflict when working as a team. Hard also does not stack very well against the other junglers in the LCS. He'll have trouble against the likes of Cloud 9's Rush, Liquid's IWDominate and Dardoch, as well as Team Solomid's Svenskeren, to name a few.
Another point to touch on, is that Echo Fox sports not one, but two strong European mid laners. Marcin "SELFIE" Wolski will be acting as a sub for the mid lane. However, I highly doubt SELFIE will see any starting time over Froggen, considering that he is the star of the team. So congratulations, Echo Fox, you will be wasting two insanely talented mid laners instead of one.
Well, the more the merrier, I always say.
7) Team Liquid
Team Liquid is one of the most prestigious brands in eSports, and they lived up to that name last year by breaking their 4th place curse and ending 3rd in both splits. However, I don't think they'll replicate their success this split. They decided to bench well known support Alex "Xpecial" Chu in favor of Andy "Smoothie" Ta, a player whose most remarkable feat was spending a split on a team missing half of it's roster for the first four weeks of the Summer Split and then being relegated. Now, Xpecial wasn't exactly performing at his best, but Smoothie is in no way an upgrade to the veteran player. They also suffered the loss of Diego "Quas" Ruiz, who retired after fighting depression and decided to pursue interests other than eSports. He was replaced by former CLG Black top laner Sam "Lourlo" Jackson, who has performed admirably in the past.
The real question regarding Team Liquid is if Christian "IWDominate" Rivera and Jae-hoon "FeniX" Kim will perform up to LCS standards. Dominate has been plagued with consistency issues and poor decision making, while FeniX has recieved quite a lot of criticism regarding his champion pool. Many argue he has only shown proficiency on Azir, and other control mages, such as Viktor and Lulu. Luckily, if these players falter on stage, Team Liquid can make use of it's new 10 man squad and sub in rookies Joshua "Dardoch" Hartnett and Young-bin "Youngbin" Chung. Youngbin is a solid korean mid laner and he could definitely beat out FeniX for a starting position, however, I'm much more interested in Dardoch. You see, Dardoch is a very rare thing. He's an actual North American talent. A player, from North America, who developed his skill in North America, who could actually grow to be one of the best in the region. It's an exciting thing, truly.
The last point to touch on is Gwang-jin "Piglet" Chae, a world champion and the star player of Team Liquid. Piglet has had attitude problems in the past, but seems to have improved immensely in that regard. He sported the highest KDA last split, a 9.9. He was a top performer, however, according to the Daily Dot's Jacob Wolf's very own Power Ranking, Piglet, along has been under performing in scrims. This could spell dark times for Team Liquid considering he was key to their success last split.
6) LA Renegades
The LA Renegades are a newer brand in eSports that have garnered much attention due to the controversy surrounding Co-Owner Chris Badawi and his ban from owning and operating a team during the 2016 season and of course, because of their popular Counter-Strike: Global Offensive team.
The Renegades are a team with a quite a few familiar faces. Agressive jungler, Alberto "Crumbzz" Rengifo, former star of the Copenhagagn Wolves, Aleš “Freeze” Kn?žínek, and of course, legendary former Moscow 5 and Gambit Gaming mid laner, Alexey "Alex Ich" Ichetovkin. The Renegades also bring forth two new faces to the LCS, longtime challenger scene support, Maria "Remi" Crevilia and challenger player Oleksii "RF Legendary" Kuziuta.
Much like Echo Fox's Froggen, Alex Ich is considered one of the best players to grace competitive League of Legends. He was once apart of Moscow 5, Kings of the Intel Extreme Masters, and the Korean Slayers. The team would continue to be showered with success until mid-Season 4, when Alex Ich left the team to pursue better opportunities and a better team environment. Freeze is also a player to keep an eye on, as he was considered one of the best European AD Carries last year and is most definitely deserving of the title, seeing as he carried the Copenhagen Wolves to Playoffs in Spring 2015, however, the team saw relegation during Summer 2015 due to a poor team environment which resulted in many members leaving mid-split. Luckily, Freeze will be well supported by Remi, a player with strong mechanical ability and years of experience in the North American Challenger scene. She has also been called "Madwife" due to her impeccable ability on the champion Thresh, much like the legendary support Min-gi "Madlife" Hong.
Now, after having a look at those promising players, let's dive into the question marks of the Renegades. Crumbzz has been criticized due to his inconsistency caused by his agression. As a viewer, I have seen him go from possibly the best jungler in North America to one of the worst within a matter of weeks. However, when he does play at his highest level, he is a great jungler, who can perform internationally. Now, we move on to RF Legendary, I'll get to straight to the point. He is the worst top laner in the North American LCS. But that's okay, all he needs to do is not die, get farm, let the Europeans carry him, and pray Crumbzz is having a good day, and I'm sure Renegades can do well. However, I don't like liabilities, that's why I place the LA Renegades at number six on my power ranking.
5) Counter Logic Gaming
Counter Logic Gaming are the oldest competitive League of Legends team and the current champions of the NA LCS. Their off season was something many fans would call questionable. The team decided to bench both Eugene "Pobelter" Park and long time star player Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng, who would join rival Team Solomid as soon as he was benched. Replacing them are former Bigfile Miracle and Team Fusion mid laner, Jae-hyun "Huhi" Choi and rookie Trevor "Stixxay" Hayes. We had the pleasure of seeing this team play during IEM San Jose, where they made the finals. During the tournament, Stixxay looked like he could actually be a fine replacement for Doublelift. Sadly, Huhi did not show the same promise. He was rather underwhelming throughout the tournament. Hopefully, Huhi has improved since then, because if he has, the likes of Stixxay, along with his bot lane partner, Zaqueri "aphromoo" Black, who is one of the best laners in the support role, and top lane carry Darshan "Darshan" Upadhyaha, formerly known as "ZionSpartan," can bring this team to victory.
Another point to touch on, is jungler Jake "Xmithie" Puchero, who was criticized heavily last year for missing quite a few crucial ultimate abilities at key moments. It has something that has been stuck to his name since the middle of the season. However, he has improved immensely and is one of the best supportive junglers in the LCS. He is by no means a weakness in this team, and will continue to be a consistent role player within the team.
4) NRG eSports
NRG is a new team that bought out Team Coast's recently earned LCS spot. They recruited former SKT and Impulse top laner Eon-young "Impact" Jeong and former CJ Entus and Jin Air Greenwings mid Chang-suk "GBM" Lee. These two players are some of the best in their position currently and truly make this team what it is. Backing up the team's star solo laners are rookie jungler Galen "Moon" Holgate, support, Kevin "KonKwon" Kwon. KonKwon had a short stint in the LCS on Team Coast while Moon only has experience in challenger. KonKwon is a player who is rather unnoticeable. He is not very impressive, nor is he as bad as some would say. Moon, however, has been showered with praise as a part of a new generation of North American Junglers. As long as he is prepared for the LCS stage, he should live up to the hype.
Rounding out the roster is AD Carry Johnny "Altec" Ru. Altec has consistently been a top AD Carry in the NA LCS, even on teams that have ended up in the relegation tournament multiple times. During last split, Altec earned the 2nd highest gold per minute at 425 and second highest average gold per game at 16k. He was behind only Doublelift and Bjergsen on those statistics, respectively.
Overall, this roster is strong. NRG spots two impeccable solo laners and an efficient ADC player. However, they may suffer from inferior jungle pressure and ward control due their relatively new jungler and support.
3) Cloud 9
Cloud 9 is a fan favorite among viewers due to their amazing run during Summer 2013, which resulted in a 21-3 record and an NA LCS Championship title. They continued to display dominance in the region until last split Summer 2015, where they ended 7th and only made worlds due their miracle run through the Gauntlet.
Leading this new Cloud 9 is Hai "Hai" Lam, not in the mid lane, or the jungle, but as the new support for Cloud 9. This allows for Hai to continue to shot call and lead the team. Michael "BunnyFuFuu" Kurylo will be acting as a sub for Hai and will help him grow as a support player, while Hai teaches Bunny how to shot call for the team.
Something even more interesting than Hai swapping roles again, is the acquisition of Yoon-jae "Rush" Lee, former jungler for Team Impulse. Being known for his aggression and mechanical ability, Rush is considered the best jungler in North America by many. However, sometimes his aggression can be what costs his team the game. Why Rush is considered better than someone like Crumbzz or Dominate, is that his aggression usually works. His execution of the style is superior to theirs, and he boasts a higher skill ceiling. Speaking of skill ceiling, An "Balls" Le isn't exactly a top laner I would say has a high one. His performance has dropped from being to the best top laner in NA, to being mediocre at best. He rarely ever wins a 1v1 lane and only seems proficient on Rumble.
Topping off this roster are Nicolaj "Jensen" Jensen and Zachary "Sneaky" Scuderi, two very talented carries. Jensen has shown that he has the potential to be one of the best while Sneaky has consistently been one of the best at his position. Sneaky is strong at gaining a gold lead and maintaining it. He has a strong knack for positioning as well, which makes him a consistent damage dealer for his team.
Immortals is venture capitalist funded organization with a quite the large sum of capital to spend. They've imported former Fnatic star's Seung-hoon "Huni" Heo and Yeu-jin "Reignover" Kim to provide their team with a strong top lane and jungle duo, and they've also set up a rather strong supporting cast. Former CLG Mid Eugene "Pobelter" Park is a consistent player who can carry when given the tools to do so. He also takes up very little gold, which results in a strong and efficient player. In the bottom lane, Immortals have recruited former Team Solomid AD Carry, Jason "Wildturtle" Tran and former Team Impulse Adrian "Adrian" Ma. Adrian is one the strongest supports in NA, sporting the highest total assists at 239 and the highest wards placed per minute at 1.44. Hopefully, some of Adrian's consistency will rub off on his bot lane partner. Wildturtle had a 3.4 KDA, and a 24.2% damage percentage, the some of lowest stats among starting AD Carries. Hopefully, he can shape up, because if he does, this roster might just look immortal.
1) Team Solomid
Team Solomid. A team that has always been on top in North America, and doesn't seem to be coming down anytime soon. The only remaining member of last year's squad is Danish mid laner, Søren "Bjergsen" Bjerg, but, if history tells us anything, he's all TSM needs. Bjergsen sported a solid 4.3 KDA, the highest creep score differential at 10 with an average of 8.2, and the highest average gold differential at 10 with 160.6 of all NA LCS mid laners last year.
Sadly, Solomid cannot field Bjergsen in all five positions, however, it's not as saddening once you see the team that now surrounds the Dane. The likes of star players Dennis "Svenskeren" Johnsen and Kevin "Hauntzer" Yarnell, along with the guidance of former Fnatic Captain and support, Bora "YellOwStaR" Kim, and of course, formal rival and CLG's all-star AD Carry Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng.
Hauntzer is a top laner you could compare to the likes of Marcus "Dyrus" Hill during his prime. He is a mechanically strong solo laner who knows how to stay alive and how to snowball his lead. Svenskeren is a name many of heard before, and one that played with Bjergsen back in 2013 on Ninjas in Pyjamas. He is an aggressive and mechanically strong jungler. The difference between him and Cloud 9's Rush would be that Svenskeren's aggression is more controlled and reliable. I'm sure that Svenskeren will be able to mesh well with his solo laners and help snow ball their lanes. The one thing he must desperately work on is his positioning in teamfights, as shown during IEM San Jose. Other than that, he will most definitely be a top jungler by the end of the Spring Split.
Rounding the bottom lane is truly something out of a drooling TSM fan's dreams, the bot lane pairing of Doublelift, who led the league in total season kills, and YellOwStaR, a leader who can control Doublelift much like Steve "Chauster" Chau, the man who made Doublelift, once did.
Overall, Team Solomid's one weakness is their lack of practice time together. They likely won't look like a championship team going into LCS, but with a roster with this much pure talent, they most definitely will be champions by the end of it.
Derrick "Deressi" Wood is an eSports enthusiast who has no idea what he is doing. His twitter can be found here.