North America post-worlds
Worlds for the North Americans was bittersweet. While they managed to get to outlast the Europeans, a feat which has never been accomplished in previous Worlds tournaments, the 2 teams that qualified for the next round, Team Solomid and Cloud 9, were instantly knocked out by Samsung White and Blue respectively. While the Samsung teams were arguably the best 2 teams in the tournament, with Samsung White eventually winning it, North American fans remain hungry for the Worlds trophy which has eluded them for the past 4 seasons.
Players out: Amazing
Players in: Santorin
AD Carry: Wildturtle
Predicted finish: 3
Swapping Amazing for Santorin may seem like TSM are swapping out an average European jungler for another average European jungler. However, this is Santorin’s first split in the LCS and it’s with arguably the most cutthroat team in the LCS. Whether he will blossom or crumble under the pressure has yet to be seen. TSM looks to keep their spot as the number 1 team in the NA LCS, but with a new jungler, will they be able to keep the throne from the ever-dominant Cloud 9 and the up-and-coming Team Curse?
Key player: Bjergsen
Players to watch: Santorin, Wildturtle
From the time Bjergsen has been on TSM, he has always been a monumental figure in deciding TSM’s success. While he is undoubtedly the best midlaner in NA, his shotcalling can be improved. If Bjergsen plays like how he has shown he is capable of, the Dane will remain a premier midlaner and TSM will continue their dominance over NA.
Wildturtle’s first split was incredible. Fans touted him to challenge even Doublelift, who at the time was undoubtedly the best AD Carry in NA. However, in subsequent splits, Wildturtle’s impact has decreased. In the last split he looked extremely mediocre, which could have been because of the instability of his support. This split he would have had adequate time to mesh with Lustboy, and his return to form could be what brings TSM to a higher place finish.
After Amazing announced his departure from the team, TSM found themselves in a tough situation. Bjergsen and Lustboy already hold the 2 foreign player spots, so TSM were unable to look abroad for a jungler. However, NA’s jungle talent is incredibly limited. In the end, TSM found an exempt non-resident in the challenger scene – Santorin – and immediately picked him up. While Santorin is a fairly untested jumgler in the LCS stage, his experience in the Challenger scene should be enough for him to overcome any LAN jitters. However, Santorin has big shoes to fill. Will he evolve as a player or will he remain the same player that we saw in IEM San Jose – mediocre?
AD Carry: Sneaky
Predicted finish: 1
After losing to TSM in the Summer Split Playoffs, Cloud 9 went to the World Championships, got out of the group stages and lost 3-1 to arguably the second best team in the world in Samsung Blue. While the score may look like a stomp in Samsung Blue’s favour, Cloud 9 put up a strong fight and some players even suggested that the series could have gone either way. Following their Worlds defeat, Cloud 9 dominated IEM San Jose, only dropping a game to European giants Alliance. There is no reason to believe that Cloud 9 will not remain dominant over the next split.
Key player: Sneaky
Players to watch: Hai, Lemonnation
Sneaky has been considered by many to be the best AD Carry in NA. Crucially, even when Cloud 9 was in a slump during the regular season of the 2014 Summer Split, Sneaky was still performing very well. Not only does this show that Sneaky is incredibly consistent, this also shows that he is able to step up and be the main carry of the team now that Hai is on the decline.
Hai’s place as one of the best midlaners in NA has been in question since the start of Cloud 9’s slump in the summer split of 2014. His poor champion pool has been exploited numerable times, which cannot be tolerated for a team with high goals like Cloud 9. Usually the solution would be simple – replace the weak link. The hard part is: Hai is Cloud 9’s main voice. All the strategic manipulations, all the mindgames: Hai has been a big part of it. Removing Hai could be the start of something disastrous for Cloud 9. The next split will tell whether Hai is capable of expanding his champion pool and keeping Cloud 9 in contention for one of the top teams in the world.
While Sneaky is doing wonders in the AD Carry role, his laning partner, Lemonnation, has been struggling to make much of an impact in the support role. While Lemonnation is not as much of a detriment to the team as Hai is, there are definitely areas he can improve on to refine his skills and be a worthy laning partner for Sneaky. Look for Lemonnation to improve his already good vision control and refine his sharp strategic sense.
Players out: Ackerman, NoName, Vasilli, Mor
Players in: Rush, Adrian, Impact, WizFujiin
AD Carry: WizFujiin
Predicted finish: 6
LMQ found themselves in an awkward position when 4 out of 5 staring players left the team, leaving the Chinese team in shambles. However, Alex Gu, General Manager of LMQ, found himself a ray of hope as midlaner and star player XiaoWeiXiao decided to remain. Now, with a new name, a world champion toplaner and untested solo queue players, Team Impulse hope to remain as one of the top teams in the NA LCS.
Key Player: XiaoWeiXiao
Players to watch: Everyone else
XiaoWeiXiao has been one of two hard carries for the Chinese team, the other being former AD Carry Vasilli. Now, with possibly 4 inexperienced players joining his side, he needs to be able to carry harder than he ever did. This split will be a huge test for XiaoWeiXiao, and his play will possibly mean the difference between relegations and a mid-table finish.
SKT T1 K’s fall from grace showed weaknesses to all players within the legendary team. Impact was no exception, and considering he was not a top level toplaner in Korea even when SKT was doing well, he remained a mediocre toplaner in Korea until he was eventually dropped by the organisation following MaRin’s outstanding performances in the preseason. Now, in a region with weaker toplaners overall, Impact has a chance to prove that he is still a solid player and can compete with the best.
The upcoming split will be Rush and Adrian’s first. Both are untested solo queue players, with Rush being exceptionally high in the Korean solo queue ladder. The upcoming split will show just how ready they are for LCS, against high level competition from Meteos, I Will Dominate, Xpecial and Aphromoo.
WizFujiin was in the LCS in the Spring Split of 2014 under Team Coast, where his play was severely lacking compared to teammates Shiphtur and ZionSpartan. TiP fans can hope that he has overcome his LAN jitters and plays better than he did at Coast, especially since his laning partner is new to the LCS.
Team Liquid/Team Curse
Players out: Cop, Voyboy
Players in: Piglet, FeniX
Jungle: I Will Dominate
AD Carry: Piglet
Predicted finish: 2
After the benching of middle of the pack AD Carry Cop to Curse Academy, Team Liquid looked for a signing that would make them a contender for the best team in NA. With Piglet, a former world champion and arguably the Best AD Carry in the world at one point, they found it. Swapping Voyboy for FeniX, formerly known as Miso from the Jin Air Falcons could be good for Liquid, as not only does he provide Piglet with someone to speak Korean to within the team, he could also be a better prospect than Voyboy, with many high profile players already hyping his play up. The “forever fourth” Team Liquid might see themselves go higher up the ladder and possibly contest Team Solomid and Cloud 9 as the best team in NA.
Key player: Xpecial
Players to watch: FeniX, Piglet
The superstar support finally has his chance to shine in this iteration of Team Liquid. With a star studded lineup and a World Champion AD Carry by his side, this is it for Xpecial to prove once again that he is the best support in NA.
Piglet to Team Liquid is arguably one of the most hyped transfer moves in the offseason. However, the transition to life in NA has not been easy for the former SKT man. How quickly he adapts to life in NA and to Xpecial’s style might prove the difference between a top placing in the bracket or another mid-table finish for Team Curse.
Players out: ZionSpartan, Imaqtpie
Players in: Gamsu, CoreJJ
AD Carry: CoreJJ
Predicted finish: 8
Not long after the fan favourite scarra announced his departure from Team Dignitas, long standing AD Carry Imaqtpie announced his retirement, which only served to add salt to the wound of Team Dignitas fans. Team Dignitas’ situation seemed to further deteriorate as one of their bright spots, ZionSpartan, also announced his departure. Team owner Michael O’Dell left the building of the team to captain Crumbzz, who elected to keep star midlaner Shiphtur and lackluster support Kiwikid, along with bringing former Bigfile Miracle AD Carry CoreJJ and former Samsung substitute and Alienware Arena toplaner Gamsu. Their recent performances in IEM Cologne have shown that they have definite areas to improve on. Should they iron out those mistakes, Team Dignitas could aim for higher up the bracket.
Key player: Shiphtur
Players to watch: Kiwikid, Core JJ
Shiphtur has proven to be a strong force in the midlane. Him and Zionspartan were undoubtedly the best players on Team Coast, and arguably even the best players on Dignitas. However, teams that Shiphtur has been on have never been exceptional enough to get the results to prove that Shiphtur has what it takes to be a premier midlane talent. Fresh faces in this new lineup and a bit of time to sort out their very apparent communication issues could see Shiphtur finally being on a team competent enough to match his own prowess.
After being replaced in toplane by then toplaner Cruzerthebruzer, Kiwikid transitioned to the support role to partner with Imaqtpie, a good friend on the team. The idea was that since Imaqtpie and Kiwikid were such good friends in real life, that would transition to the game. Unfortunately, that did not work out, and Kiwikid was viewed by many to be one of NA’s worst supports. Kiwikid is given another chance to prove his worth – but this time, with a complete stranger. Will Kiwikid step up his game and match the level of other NA supports or will he remain a lackluster support?
Unlike his compatriot teammate, Gamsu, Core JJ did not perform well at IEM Cologne. In fact, him and Kiwikid lost lane in most of the games they played in the tournament, even straight up getting killed 2 on 2 a few times. If Kiwikid’s support play does not improve, Core JJ will have to improve to not only match the competition in NA but also improve to bring the combined level of the Dignitas botlane up to par. The next split could be crucial for Core JJ as he will either flop under the immense pressure or work something out with Kiwikid to bring the Dignitas botlane comparable to their solid solo laners.
Counter Logic Gaming
Players out: Dexter, Seraph
Players in: Xmithie, ZionSpartan
AD Carry: Doublelift
Predicted finish: 5
CLG fans were thoroughly disappointed yet again as CLG fell from the top of the table to a bitter 6th place. In order to realise the glory that CLG once had, team owner George Georgallidis brought over coach and legendary midlaner of Team Dignitas to coach CLG, who brought in ZionSpartan and Xmithie to replace Seraph and Dexter respectively. While ZionSpartan is a definite improvement to Seraph, bringing the “carry toplane” style that has eluded CLG ever since HotshotGG’s first stint as a toplaner, CLG fans raised their eyebrows at replacing Dexter with Xmithie and keeping lackluster midlaner Link. After CLG’s somewhat disappointing result at IEM Cologne, criticisms of Link remain as fans hope that Xmithie will return to his dominant season 3 form.
Key player: Doublelift
Players to watch: Link, Xmithie
Doublelift’s recent performances at IEM Cologne have been delightful to watch. Playing his signature Vayne and Caitlyn, the superstar AD Carry looks to have regained his season 2 form. If he continues playing like he did at IEM Cologne, the future is bright for CLG.
To much controversy, CLG has opted to remain with Link in the midlane for the next split of the LCS. If Link doesn’t step up this split, it is almost certain that he will be dropped. Will Link step up to be the player CLG thinks he can be? Or will he falter and crumble under the pressure like he always has?
The decision to replace one of their better performers for the most of the season in Dexter for a player who has not had a good game in a year in Xmithie is a decision of good faith by CLG. If Xmithie returns to his Season 3 form, CLG could very well be a a good team. If he doesn’t, it is likely that CLG remain a mediocre team.
Players out: Krepo, Innox
Players in: –
AD Carry: Altec
Predicted finish: 4
After only 1 season in the NA LCS, the 3 players whom the team had been made for have all left or retired. However, this leaves EG with a talented lineup with a lot of potential depending on who they sign as their toplaner and support. The Evil Geniuses already field one of the better NA LCS junglers in Helios, solo queue god Pobelter and prodigy AD Carry Altec. Fans of the team can look forward to what seems to be a promising split for the Evil Geniuses as they hope to break out of the relegation zone.
Key player: Helios
Players to watch: Pobelter, Altec
While Helios is certainly not a superstar jungler, he brings a level of experience and consistency that the other two lack. If Helios steps up and leads the young, inexperienced team, depending on who they sign for their remaining roles, the Evil Geniuses could be a force to be reckoned with.
Pobelter has always been a solo queue star, and has received praise from many experienced players even before he joined the LCS. However, the last two splits have shown that while he is a good player, his inconsistency and nerve issues have held his team back. The upcoming split is Pobelter’s third split of LCS. Will he have solved his inconsistency and nerve issues or will he struggle to find form much like his fellow midlaner, Link?
Altec, much like Pobelter, has been a solo queue star for a long while before being picked up by the Evil Geniuses. His strong first split in the LCS brought a lot of attention to him, with some fans and players alike placing him above the likes of Doublelift. The upcoming split will be Altec’s second, and he will be looking to cement his place as one of NA’s best.
AD Carry: frommaplestreet
Predicted finish: 10
After strong performances in the Challenger scene, Team 8 have qualified for the NA LCS after beating 8th place Complexity. Team 8 are the only team to have qualified for the upcoming split by beating an actual LCS team as opposed to getting in through the expansion. Crucially, Team 8 is a team without actual star names. A wildcard team. They may be the next Cloud 9 and dominate the NA scene or falter like frommaplestreet’s previous team, Velocity esports, and crash out of the LCS after just 1 split.
Key player: frommaplestreet
Players to watch: Calitrlolz
AD Carry frommaplestreet finds himself in the LCS again after Velocity’s dabble in the summer split of 2013. As the only player in the team who has played in the LCS, frommaplestreet’s experience should equate to solid performances in the LCS, especially since he has exponentially stronger teammates. Look for frommaplestreet to be Team 8’s main carry.
Calitrlolz’s story is an inspirational one. Calitrlolz was signed to Team 8 knowing that he would likely leave at the end of the year to pursue his pharmaceutical studies. When the team made it to LCS, he petitioned on the League of Legends subreddit for him to receive a deferment so that he could pursue his dream to play in the LCS. While this is his first split in the LCS, it may also be his only split in the LCS, so watch for him to play like his heart out and potentially remain as one of Team 8’s best players.
AD Carry: Cop
Predicted finish: 7
With 3 ex-LCS players and having taken CLG to 5 games, the impressive Curse Academy has finally made it into the LCS through the expansion tournament. While Curse Academy may not be poised to dominate the NA scene, they look to be a solid middle-of-the-pack team that may surprise the giants of the scene in some games.
Key player: Saintvicious
Players to watch: Keane, BunnyFuFuu
In his prime, Saintvicious was undoubtedly one of the world’s best junglers, and was right up there with Diamondprox. While he may have declined from that level, he is still a good player and with the jungle meta going back to Saintvicious’ style, he looks to be a strong player going into the next split, and at the very least will remain in the top half of LCS junglers.
After dominating CLG midlaner Link in the relegations, Keane has been hyped as a strong midlaner with a lot of growth. While Keane may not meet people’s expectations of him, he is, without a doubt, a very strong player. His first split in the LCS will prove whether he can cope with the pressure and succeed or crumble and fall like many before him.
BunnyFufuu’s impressive performances on signature champion Thresh has many a times wowed players and fans alike. Jungler Saintvicious has even commented that BunnyFuFuu will grow to be better than veteran NA support Xpecial. However, with BunnyFuFuu’s mastery of Thresh comes his ineptness on other supports. The next split will prove whether or not BunnyFuFuu has worked to increase his champion pool or not, and in the event where he has not, there is no doubt that Curse Academy’s botlane will be a weak link.
AD Carry: Mash
Predicted finish: 9
After a gruelling 5 game series against Team Fusion, Coast and their team of ex-LCS players made it back into the LCS. With decent to strong players across the board, Team Coast looks to challenge for a mid-table finish.
Key player: Impaler
Players to watch: Mash, Jesiz
In the expansion tournament, Impaler was Team Coast’s standout player and carried them to 3 back-to-back victories against Team Fusion, winning them the series. Not only did he outjungle one of the strongest Challenger scene junglers, NintendudeX, he also carried from a role that usually does not have the resources to. Impaler looks to be in the top half of NA’s junglers and could even contest to be one of the best.
Jesiz has never been the star player when he was in SK Gaming. When the team went to the World Championships, not only was he not winning lane, he was flat out losing and was a clear detriment to the team. His play against Team Fusion was not anything to brag about either. Jesiz has to step it up this split, or players like TSM’s Bjergsen and TiP’s XiaoWeiXiao will take advantage of his poor play, and Team Coast will suffer as a result.
Mash is labelled by the League of Legends community as a player that is “good enough for challenger scene, but not good enough for LCS”. Now, Mash is given a chance to prove himself, with a competent laning partner in Sheep and a star jungler in Impaler. Look for Mash to synergise with Sheep and grow to be a solid AD Carry in NA.