NALCS 2016 Spring Split Preseason Power Rankings
While all of the rosters for the Season 6 Spring Split of the NALCS have yet to be announced in an official capacity, we finally more or less have a good idea about what all of the rosters for the upcoming NALCS split will look like. With all of these rosters, we can at last begin discussions on how the league will end up shaking out, and how all these shiny new rosters will fare once they actually hit the rift. And if there's anything I'm good at, its speculating on roster strength with little available meaningful data to work from. So; without further ado, let's begin the 2016 NALCS Preseason Power Rankings!
1. Team SoloMid (TSM)
TSM have put together a roster that is incredibly stacked with individual talent, with each of their players, save Hauntzer, being a superstar player of their previous teams. And even Hauntzer was one of the better players on Gravity, where he managed to be able to provide good carry threat with virtually no jungle support.
YellOwStaR, however, is the most important addition to this new TSM lineup. YellOwStaR is exactly what the doctor ordered to remedy TSM's lategame shotcalling and macrogame issues that have plagued them for so long. In addition, freeing Bjergsen of this responsibility will allow him to focus solely on his own game, and has the potential to allow TSM's star midlaner to put up even better performances than he already has.
The only real question marks come from the fact that none of these players have played on a team together before (for a very long time, at least.) Doublelift and YellOwStaR played the laning phase at different speeds on their previous teams, and Svenskeren will likely have to re-adjust his gank priority to fit the demands of his new carries. Even so, the individual talent alone is enough to rank TSM as the standout team from North America.
2. Cloud 9 (C9)
The addition of Rush is a massive boon to Cloud 9. Stylistically, he's a perfect fit. While Rush's aggressive counterjungling style isn't the same as Meteos' and Hai's farm-heavy carry style, the way they affect the lanes is, both having relatively low impact on the laning phase early on. The level of talent Rush brings to Cloud 9 is going to be a massive advantage in a region with a relatively limited jungle talent pool.
Hai's move to the support role with BunnyFuFu as the sub is, one would guess, a long term strategy. You can expect Hai to likely start the majority of the games this split, while mentoring BunnyFuFu to be the shotcaller and ingame leader that Cloud 9 is so dependent on. If it works, and works in a timely manner, it will pay off massively.
The only big concern is their toplane mainstay, Balls. Balls' performance has left much to be desired this last year, and is likely the weak link of this team. However, Balls' performance might not matter as much this season. With the Last Whisper nerfs, and several high-damage junglers coming into popularity, the tank toplaner is stronger than ever. This meta is perfect to suit Balls' champion pool, and will help immensely in covering up their biggest weakness.
3. NRG eSports (NRG)
NRG's carry threat rivals that of TSM when it comes to their 3 carry roles. Impact, GBM, and Altec were all phenomenal players last split, with GBM especially being the crown jewel of this lineup. GBM was considered one of the best midlaners in Korea last split; he's not unproven or towards the back end of his career. He's coming to North America at his peak, and you can expect it to yield great results this split.
Moon and Konkwon were both serviceable but otherwise unremarkable players this last Challenger Split; not amazing, but not completely abysmal either. I don't expect either of them to be a detriment to the success of the team; but the fact that they are both relatively inexperienced is enough to knock NRG down to #3 in the ranking.
4. Immortals (IMT)
Immortals is coming into the season with one of the most hyped lineups yet. Every player on this team has played at least 2 splits in LCS, all of them at one point or another being at the top of their league (with the exception being Adrian.)
Immortals carry threat is going to come almost entirely from the top lane. Huni was by far the best toplaner in the west last split, and stands to put on a repeat performance this time around. Acquiring Reignover as the jungler is a great advantage, as Huni and Reignover's synergy is already great.
The concern comes from the rest of the lineup. When Immortals wins, expect it to be the Huni show. However, if Huni gets behind, tilts, or otherwise can't carry, Immortals has questions of where their other carry threat can come from. Pobelter had some very good performances last season, but played a very backline supportive role, almost exclusively playing control mages and supportive champions such as Lulu. Wildturtle has had a lot of problems, especially this last split, and is going to need to get back to his previous top-level form if Immortals are really going to challenge the top 3 ranked teams. Overall though, their roster is quite experienced and has enough skill that I expect them to finish in the top half of the table.
5. Counter Logic Gaming (CLG)
CLG has been the topic of a lot of offseason drama, not all of it without reason. As of now, it appears that CLG has massively downgraded at 2 positions, losing star ADC Doublelift and former midlaner Pobelter. Stixxay and Huhi's performances at IEM San Jose left much to be desired, but that's not saying they won't improve give time; they are both rookies after all.
They did, however, manage to retain their star toplaner and support, who in addition to both being phenomenal players, also made up the shotcalling on CLG. As a result, you can expect CLG to come into the Spring Split with the strongest macrogame in the league, which alone might be enough to take games off of the teams listed above. As the other teams catch up with them in terms of synergy, however, I expect CLG to lack firepower with only Darshan as a real carry threat. And, much like Immortals, if their star toplaner can't get ahead, they won't have much else up their sleeve.
6. Team Liquid (TL)
While Team Liquid's 10 man roster plans for the Spring Split sound interesting, I'm not sold on the hype. Rosters with more than 5 players make sense in a region like Korea, where there is a lot of diverse player talent. However, in North America, I'm of the opinion that a 10 man roster will split scrim time, slow the speed at which the team builds synergy, and won't provide enough positives to make it worthwhile.
But in terms of their starting roster, the loss of Quas is a big blow to TL, and in a region of limited top lane talent, losing a great player in Quas is going to have a substantial negative impact on Liquid's performance. That being said, they retained their strong carry threats in Piglet and Fenix, as well as their team captain in IWillDominate, all 3 of whom are some of the best in their positions.
However, one of Liquid's biggest weaknesses last split was their lack of macrogame proficiency and lategame shotcalling. As of now, there seems to be no indication this issue will be fixed. Dominate will still be the shotcaller, and their new coach, Locodoco, was unable to fix the shotcalling issues of the former team he coached for several splits. I expect Piglet and Fenix to be able to keep this team afloat at the very least, but I don't have high hopes for Liquid's success this coming split.
7. Renegades (RNG)
Top: RF Legendary
Mid: Alex Ich
Much like Immortals, Renegades is coming into the LCS with a large amount of hype surrounding them. Alex Ich, Crumbzz, and Freeze were all good players in the LCS, and in theory would provide and strong base from which to build a team from. The issue is Renegades' performance in the challenger scene wasn't nearly as dominate as you'd expect it to be, just barely beating out Coast to come in as the #1 spot. Alex Ich and Crumbzz might be able to turn it back up to eleven when they finally start the season, but right now it seems too good to be true. Granted, Freeze replacing Maplestreet is a large upgrade, and Freeze will most likely take over as the main carry threat on this team.
Another issue comes in the form of Renegades' rookie members. Remilia, while showing LCS-level performances with Thresh and Morgana, has had questions raised about her effective champion pool. Several times in the NACS, Renegades first picked Thresh, giving up power picks because of the level of importance they placed in getting Remilia onto one of her comfort picks. With new supports such as Trundle gaining popularity due to the aforementioned Last Whisper changes, whether she will be to adapt or not will be a key factor in Renegades' performance. RF Legendary was a decent challenger toplaner, but will most likely find himself outmatched by the majority of other toplaners in the league.
On the whole, Renegades is a team that certainly has a lot of potential, and you can expect Renegades to get some upset wins throughout the course of the split. If there's any team to boldly gamble on, this is the one. However, I'm not a bold person, and I simply don't think RNG's core of LCS veterans will be as impactful as it needs to be to jockey for a spot in the top half of the NALCS.
8. Echo Fox (EF)
Rick Fox's new team is one with one of the more hilarious imbalances in terms of roster strength. Froggen is the best player on this team by a pretty absurd margin, and while Froggen will most likely continue to put up good individual performances, as of now he appears to once again be stuck in professional elo hell.
Hard and Baby are both relatively decent challenger players from C9T and Imagine, respectively. KEITH is the only player on this team besides Froggen that has shown he can at least play at an LCS level. However, that still isn't good enough to contest the likes of Sneaky, Piglet, Doublelift, or Altec.
kfo has the potential to randomly surprise people, being an unknown Korean soloqueue talent, but soloqueue talent rarely is able to immediately translate to good professional performance. If Echo Fox manages to scrape together some wins this split, you can expect the majority of the heavy lifting to be done by Froggen.
9. Dignitas (d)
Dignitas' new roster simply lacks carry threat in every lane. Shiphtur is well known for being a passive laner and risk-adverse player, Apollo was a strictly average ADC on his previous team, and KiWiKiD has recently had a lot of performance issues, especially in the last NALCS split.
Combined with their two relatively unknown EU imports, this roster seems to be one that is really going to struggle in LCS. For what its worth, Kirei did have a good showing at IEM Cologne, but the sample size is simply too small to draw any major conclusions from. Even still, it wouldn't fix the issue of simply lacking firepower in any of the carry positions on this team.
Dignitas' ability to win any games this split is going to come, pretty exclusively, from their bottom lane, which is already a worrying sign. The complete overhaul of their coaching staff may help, but they're going to need to hire kkOma himself to really have a chance at this split.
10. Team Impulse (TiP)
Yes, unfortunately Team Impulse wasn't able to find a buyer for their LCS spot before the roster lock. That has lead to a roster that can only be described as a throwaway lineup. Featuring 3 unknown players, and 2 unfortunately known ones, almost no one has high hopes for this team.
Feng is an unknown NA soloqueue talent, Pirean is an unknown KR soloqueue talent, and Procxin had a very (very) brief stint on a Japanese (IWC) team, which is the entirety of his competitive experience.
The two players I do know, DontMasheMe and Gate, don't inspire much confidence. MashMe was a fine challenger ADC, but his ability as it stands right now simply doesn't come close to stacking up to the top LCS ADCs. Gate, while his debut as a midlaner was abysmal, might actually turn out to be a decent support. After all, this was the player that TiP was looking to replace Adrian with towards the end of last split. But, as it stands, I find it incredibly unlikely that TiP will take a single game off of any roster in the North American LCS.