North American League Championship Series, the region know for having more drama than skill, definitely had an exciting off season. Between player trades and fights over players souls fans are starting the season emotionally drained.
Fan favorites Team Solo Mid started things off early, releasing 80% of its roster, ironically only keeping the mid laner Bjergsen. Fan theories ran wild trying to figure out the players Regi would deem worthy to compliment the danish prodigy. A falling out in the Counter Logic house and a messy break up lead to front man Doublelift being on the streets once again. In a move no one would ever expect, the once goldenboy of CLG would then become the next marksmen to try and get TSM a world title. The next act in the drama of NALCS would be for SK gaming’s Svenskaren’s soul. H2K thought they would have the monetary advantage by offering a huge sum for Sven but in the end the call of NA could not be ignored. From there the pieces seemed to fall into place. Hauntzer from Gravity and Kasing from H2k joined the squad for IEM San Jose but the team bowed out early in a 0-3 bout with Origen. With Kasing choosing to go back home to EU fans foamed at the mouth to find out the Spring split starting support. In probably the 2nd biggest surprise of the off season, after an outstanding 18-0 season and a strong semi final finish at Worlds, Fnatic’s own Yellowstar would make his way across the Atlantic to create the DoubleStar bot lane. With powerhouse players in every position, anything but first place for this team is an utter disappointment.
With Coast making the LCS for seemingly the millionth time, fans everywhere let out a collective groan. Coast showed that they might have learned from their previous failures and decided to cash out early and sell their spot. From the ruined remains of Coast sprung NRG, NA’s newest top 2 hopeful. With Impact and GBM as this teams backbone they are starting strong on the road to success. With Moon supporting from the jungle with strong solos looking to run away with games. In the bot lane KonKwon and Altec will be pitted against some outstanding opponents and it will be interesting how the match ups play out. When this team works out the kinks and manages to blend it will be a fantastic thing to watch.
After Team 8’s best play Calitrolz stepped down for school the rest of the team decided to disband and sell the spot. A new org by the name Immortals, not yet seen in the NA LCS, managed to stay under the radar and pick up some high profile players right under fans noses. After a long 3 years and 6 top 2 LCS playoff finishes with TSM Wildturtle was cast aside for NA’s favorite trash talker. Landing on his feet however he looks to start again and continue his tradition of getting to the world championships. Huni and Reignover will always be remembered as part of the Fnatic that perfected the LCS in an exciting 18-0 split. After a strong showing at worlds and finishing in the semi finals they decided to take their talents to the sunny shores of California. This deadly combo will try to put another title on their mantle. Pobelter seemed to be the missing link that CLG needed to finally succeed. After adding him they managed to find their first LCS trophy. In brilliant CLG fashion they decided they hate winning and cut the PoB from the roster, and he slid his way into a starting position on Immortals. Adrian was yo-yo’d back and forth in the midst of the Impulse Xiao Wei Xiao drama. Even then he managed to consistently show time and again that he is a top support. After rinsing his hands of TIP he found himself in possibly a playoff team. This is team that could shake up every part of the table.
Beginning to bridge the gap between main stream sports and eSports, the legendary Rick Fox is looking to continue his success in the LCS. Importing some top talent from the EU LCS and Korean soloQ. Echo is looking to be the next team to make top 2 in its first LCS split. Froggen is looking to jump ship the the flailing Elements and join his old friend Alex Ich in the NA rift. With a fresh set of infrastructure behind him Froggen is looking to capitalize on his world class talent and make a couple more Championship runs before considering retirement. With KFO coming over from Rank One in Korean soloQ looking to dominate the top lane and Keith Toucan staying strong in the bot lane this team has its eyes set on the playoffs.
Cloud9 had gone into last season looking strong with a new danish mid laner filling in Hai’s shoes. Disappointingly they quickly made their way to the bottom of the table. Fans thought they were a shoe in for Auto Relagtion. After a mid season audible replacing Meteos for old man Hai the team managed to rally its way into 7th place. The hype train continued and they managed to qualify for Worlds. After trying to retire in the off season once again, the team dragged him back in and are having him train his shotcalling replacement Bunnyfufu. Deciding to go else where for a jungler the addition of Rush will add some early game pressure that Incarnation will look to take advantage of. This new cloud will be looking to make up for its disappointing season and make the playoffs once again.
Withing winning their first title in recent memory Counter Logic Gaming’s future seemed bright. After an unfortunate World’s showing things took a turn for the worst. Incident after incident led to CLG losing not only their poster child marksmen but the midlaner that supported the team in every way and the coach that finally brought them a trophy. Many thought they would trade Doublelift for Wildturtle and salvage a bad situation but that would have made too much sense. With all the sought after marksmen being signed already they had to look to their challenger team and pick up Stixxay. While definitely a downgrade Aphromoo will be looking to take control of the team now and play it his way. Whether this is a step in the right direction is yet to be seen and this could be a poor follow up to such a successful season for CLG.
Team Liquid looked fantastic for most of last split only failing when it came to late game shot calling. Being a split long down fall it finally bit them in the ass when it came to the Summer playoffs where they failed to qualify for Worlds after working so hard. Behind closed doors, events set in motion would result in them losing their coach and fan favorite Quas to retirement. With Xpecial being cut from the team as well things looked rough for this split. Liquid decided to be the first team to have a full double roster. Fielding 10 players and adding Smoothie and Lourlo to the starting roster things look interesting for TL. Smoothie being a consistent factor in the Dragon Knights game plans he should be a good compliment to Piglet. Lourlo will be making his debut on stage this weekend but it is hard to see him being out to out put the pressure that Quas brought to the top lane. I imagine it will take a few weeks for Liquid to completely work out the kinks and begin to climb the ranks.
Renegades were quick to become fan favorites with early pick ups of Gambits Alex Ich and Dignitas’s Crumbzz. Rounding their challenger squad out with the adorable Maplestreet, top lane heart throb RF and the tresh queen Remi, they were neck and neck the entire time with the Coast squad. After a close 3-2 Renegades managed to auto qualify for the LCS over Coast. In their time off Maple decided to step down while Remi choose to stay with the team for the LCS split. A last minute addition of Freeze to the roster restarted the hype train many have in their hearts for this group of misfits. Prophet Crumbzz is looking to bring his prediction skills to the rift and make a name for his new found home.
Dignitas has always had a rough career. They always seem to explode out of the gate and start the first couple weeks at the top of the ladder. And that is when something usually snaps. Late season Dig is usually a completely different animal than what we see in week 1. This year however that early season breakout seems unlikely. Holding onto a mediocre midlaner and picking up a bad marksman, the carry potential in this team is severely lacking. Jungler Kirei after failing to qualify for the EU LCS he is deciding to try his hand in the NA rift. In a fairly stacked jungle line up Kirei will be hard pressed to break out a spot for himself. Once again Dig’s top laner is looking to be the shining light in the darkness. SmittyJ qualified for the EU LCS with Gamers 2 before being dropped and making his way across the pond. Dig is looking like the late season slump is going to be extended for the whole season, while they fight to avoid 10th place.
After a series of managerial problems fans were shocked in the face of the Xiao Wei Xiao boosting scandal. Impulse was forced to scramble for a mid lane replacement after just losing Adrian to Gate. By convincing Adrian to finish the split they were able to hold onto 3rd place with Gate as a substitute mid laner. After some unlucky series in the playoffs they failed to qualify for Worlds and the players chose to take their talents elsewhere. Impulse tried to sell the LCS spot but just like their Worlds dream they fell short in this department as well. Some last minute soloQ pickups round out the roster and join Gate and the infamous Mashme in red. I hope the faith that Impulse is putting in these players pays off but with Dontmashme in the bot lane it might not matter in the end. Gate really has his work cut out for him in he wants to continue his stint in the LCS.
At the end of the day this is looking to be one of the most competitive splits in NA LCS history. The top of the table could realistically go in any direction. The same could be said of the bottom. No one wants to be in that dreaded relagation zone. I’m excited to see how everything plays out.
1. TSM 2. NRG 3. IMT 4. FOX 5. C9 6. CLG 7. TL 8. RNG 9. DIG 10. TIP