NA LCS Week 1: Matches to Watch, Headlined by TSM vs. C9
We're just over a week before the NA LCS begins. With the schedule already released, I'll go over a few of the more interesting matches to look out for in the first week.
Team SoloMid vs. Cloud9
Team SoloMid vs Cloud9 is a match-up with a lot of history. With TSM making every single final of LCS, and Cloud9 being their opponent in 5/8 of those finals, we've seen these two teams time and time again fight for the top spot. Each team is going to the split with a single roster move, Jason "WildTurtle" Tran replacing Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng on TSM, and Juan "Contractz" Arturo Garcia replacing William "Meteos" Hartman for Cloud9. Let's compare the individuals and see how they stack up.
Hauntzer vs. Impact
While this split will surely be a challenge for Jung "Impact" Eon-yeong to retain his spot as the number one top laner of NA, the 2016 Summer Finals showed Impact looking better than Kevin "Hauntzer" Yarnell, despite being on the losing team. Hauntzer certainly has time to grow, but for now it's safe to give Cloud9 a decent edge in the top lane.
Svenskeren vs. Contractz
Contractz is a new player to the LCS, and as such is of course the biggest question mark for Cloud9. In last split's finals, even a seasoned veteran like Meteos was having trouble keeping up with Dennis "Svenskeren" Johnsen, so this will be a tough test for his first LCS game. Edge here is given to TSM.
Bjergsen vs. Jensen
As tiring as comparisons of Søren "Bjergsen" Bjerg to Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok may be, I think the story between these two has actually been fairly similar to Faker vs Lee "Kuro" Seo-haeng. While Nicolaj "Jensen" Jensen tends to display a level of play comparable to Bjergsen against the field, it seems his usual style of play is easily exploited by the likes of Bjergsen. No surprises here, the edge goes to TSM.
WildTurtle vs. Sneaky
For the ADC position, we have WildTurtle who has always been a bit of up and down in terms of performance. On the other hand, we have Zachary "Sneaky" Scuderi who is someone that's often praised for his consistency. Recently, even at his best, I don't think WildTurtle has been on the same level as Sneaky so I'm giving Cloud9 the edge on this one.
Biofrost vs. Smoothie
These two players are going to be the toughest match-up to call. While both of them were certainly serviceable players, they both had some of the top adc talent NA had to offer. I'd say Andy "Smoothie" Ta was on the bigger upswing towards the end of the season, so considering that as well as Vincent "Biofrost" Wang having to get used to a new duo parter, I'll give a slight edge to Cloud9.
Despite giving 3/5 of the players on Cloud 9 an edge individually, I have TSM winning this one. I think the gap between the mid laners and junglers will be enough to cover up what could be some weakness in the side lanes. Slotting in a new ADC has historically been a much easier transition than replacing a jungler, especially when replacing that player with a rookie. While WildTurtle may not be up to par with Doublelift, he's been around for a while and has enough history with Bjergsen that I think we'll see TSM not looking too much worse from where they left off.
Counter Logic Gaming vs. Team Liquid
Counter Logic Gaming and Team Liquid are two of the teams that have been competing in LCS since it's existence (with Liquid previously as Team Curse). These two teams have had their fare share of playoff bouts against each other. Neither team had the end they wanted for Season 6, so they're both looking to prove something in their first match of the season. That being said, let's look at the rosters.
Darshan vs. Lourlo
Despite the success of CLG, 2016 certainly wasn't the greatest year for Darshan "Darshan" Upadhyaya. Samson "Lourlo" Jackson has been showing some improvement, but still needs a good bit of work to become a top tier player. I'd give CLG a slight edge, but this will be a match-up that we could easily see go in favor of Liquid depending on what champions are drafted.
Xmithie vs. Reignover
We got to see this match-up for a full five game series in the 2016 Summer 3rd place match. Despite Kim "Reignover" Yeu-jin being considered a favorite, Jake "Xmithie" Puchero showed no issue keeping up with him in every single game. I think Reignover is still going to have to adapt to an entirely new team, and likely a new style of play revolving more around bot lane instead of the top lane. With that in mind I'd give a small edge to CLG.
Huhi vs. Goldenglue/Link
Choi "Huhi" Jae-hyun has been often cited as a liability for CLG, but Greyson "Goldenglue" Gilmer has had a similar portrayal in his previous LCS performances. Austin "Link" Shin on the other hand had been a high caliber NA mid laner previously, but it's been a while since we've seen him play. I think that Huhi vs Goldenglue is a bit of a wash, but if Liquid has Link in the game I think we'll see him taking control of that lane. Edge here to Team Liquid with Link in the game, but not expecting much from either team with Goldenglue in the game.
Stixxay vs. Piglet
Trevor "Stixxay" Hayes in 2016 had a fantastic rookie year. He started off a bit rough around the edges, but it seems with the help of teammate Zaqueri "Aphromoo" Black, Stixxay has begun to shape up into a top NA talent. However, Chae "Piglet" Gwang-jin has been a bit ahead of his peers since coming to NA, and Stixxay isn't quite there yet. Edge here to Team Liquid.
Aphromoo vs. Matt
Aphromoo is someone who was really the heart of CLG for 2016. Matthew "Matt" Elento has had some pretty good performances, but a lot of his best work has been off the back of Piglet. With Piglet back in the picture Matt will likely look much better than he did at the end of 2016. I still give the edge to CLG, as Matt has been a very similar player to Aphromoo, only not quite at the same caliber just yet.
Overall, I think this should be a match where CLG takes the win. I wouldn't expect a dominant laning phase coming out of either team, and this CLG lineup has had some of the best macro play NA has ever seen. With Aphromoo leading the charge I think we'll see CLG taking control of the mid game for a victory.
Team Dignitas vs. Phoenix1
Here we have two of the bottom LCS teams from last split that took full advantage of the off season to use their import slots. Dignitas purchased the spot from Apex, and recruited Kim "Ssumday" Chan-ho and Lee "Chaser" Sang-hyun. Meanwhile, Phoenix1 was able to pick up Yoo "Ryu" Sang-ook and Noh "Arrow" Dong-hyeon. Both of these teams got some solid upgrades where they needed them, so let's see how their new rosters compare to each other.
Ssumday vs. Zig
For me, Ssumday coming over to North America was the biggest surprise we had this off-season. While Derek "Zig" Shaohad been improving as the split went on, especially once Inori was in the picture, Ssumday will probably be the toughest match for him thus far. Edge here to Dignitas, as Ssumday will likely be the best top laner in the region for this split.
Chaser vs. Inori
Rami "Inori" Charagh had a fantastic rookie split, and was a primary reason Phoenix1 was able to pick up some victories on the back half of 2016. Then we look at Chaser, considered one of the best junglers in the world despite his team not even making it to the 2016 World Championship. Edge here to Dignitas, with Chaser looking like he'll be a scary force for any NA opponent.
Keane vs. Ryu
Back on Gravity, Jang "Keane" Lae-young had some pretty good performances often on strange mid lane picks such as Rumble, Malphite and Hecarim. Ryu was at one point one of the best mid laners in the world, and despite never getting quite back to that level, he did fairly well vs his European competition while on H2K. I'm giving the edge here to Ryu, as Keane often struggled vs top tier players where he wasn't able to take off with his strange picks.
LOD vs. Arrow
While EnVyUs wasn't a great team to be on, Benjamin "LOD" deMunck was a fairly average player. Arrow had a good year in Korea, and was definitely in the top tier of ADC's for his region. I'll give a pretty big edge to Phoenix1 here, as I think Arrow shouldn't really have any trouble against a player like LOD.
Xpecial vs. Adrian
Alex "Xpecial" Chu on TSM was the best support North America had ever seen. Since his departure Xpecial hasn't exactly been a bad player, but isn't really at the top level either. Adrian "Adrian" Ma will be interesting to see now that he's no longer with Immortals. Adrian had a much different job than most supports in the region on that team, as he was simply peeling for WildTurtle. Xpecial has historically been a better player, but I think Adrian's style will be just fine for Arrow. Edge to Phoenix1.
Phoenix1 should be looking to play off of their bottom side of the map, but I don't think they'll be able to overcome the disadvantage that their top side has. Chaser and Ssumday were two of the best players at their respective positions in 2016, and I think they'll be able to take that power to carry Dignitas to a victory.
Image Credit: Riot Flickr