Previewing the New-Look NA LCS
With the spring split of the 2017 North American League Championship series beginning soon on Jan. 20, now is a good time to look through the teams, the moves they made during the season, and where they now stack with the rest of the league. I will be splitting the teams into three tiers. A team's position within a tier relative to other teams within the same tier does not matter. The only ranking system is the three tiers.
These teams are the top teams going into the season and will likely be fighting to win the split.
- Meteos > Contractz
- Top - Jung "Impact" Eon-yeong
- Jungle - Juan "Contractz" Arturo Garcia
- Mid - Nicolaj "Jensen" Jensen
- ADC - Zachary "Sneaky" Scuderi
- Support - Andy "Smoothie" Ta
Cloud9 had a respectable showing at the 2016 World Championship, making it to the quarterfinals and losing to the eventual finalists in Samsung Galaxy. Cloud9 come in to the season with a change in the jungle, as they bring in Contractz from their former challenger team in place of Meteos, who now moves to being a substitute. Along with that, Cloud9 signed former Apex top laner Ray as the substitute for Impact. While Ray will likely not see much play, adding Contractz into the starting fold was a great move because he is a young, up-and-coming player who could easily become a top jungler in North America if given the proper training. With a clear upgrade in their weakest position, Cloud9 will be coming into the spring split as a clear favorite to win it all.
Key player to watch - Contractz: This will be Contractz’s first split in the LCS, after dominating the Challenger Series and proving how good he is as a jungler. As such, this split will be a test for him, as he must perform at a high level against other veteran junglers such as Xmithie and Reignover for Cloud9 to win the championship.
- Doublelift > Wildturtle
- Top - Kevin "Hauntzer" Yarnell
- Jungle - Dennis "Svenskeren" Johnsen
- Mid - Søren "Bjergsen" Bjerg
- ADC - Jason "WildTurtle" Tran
- Support - Vincent "Biofrost" Wang
After a disappointing World Championship in which Team SoloMid was once again eliminated in the group stages, Doublelift shocked the world by announcing his intention to take a break from professional play. Taking Doublelift's place for the spring split will be the AD carry that Doublelift initially replaced on TSM, Wildturtle. While Wildturtle will be a decent replacement for Doublelift in terms of mechanics, it will be interesting to see how the team will take the responsibility of shotcalling that Doublelift provided. Bjergsen could go back to being completely in control of shot calling, or a player like Svenskeren could step up and help shoulder the burden. Additionally, after a less than stellar performance at Worlds, Hauntzer needs to return to his summer split form if he wants to be able to compete with the world-class top laners that have made their way to North America. Along with that, Biofrost's improvement as a player will be crucial, especially since he will be playing without the guidance of Doublelift. While the loss of Doublelift for this split will be a hit, Team SoloMid will likely still be a top team in the NA LCS and has a great chance to win the spring split.
Key player to watch - Biofrost: While Biofrost had a great rookie season, there are still a few holes in his overall game. With a new AD carry to work with, his development this split will be very important if TSM wants to succeed.
- Ray > Ssumday
- Shrimp > Chaser
- Apollo > LOD
- Top - Kim "Ssumday" Chan-ho
- Jungle - Lee "Chaser" Sang-hyun
- Mid - Jang "Keane" Lae-young
- ADC - Benjamin "LOD" deMunck
- Support - Alex "Xpecial" Chu
After a season away from the LCS, Dignitas is back and their team is better than ever. On paper, Dignitas has the best top/jungle duo in the LCS this season with former KT Rolster top laner Ssumday and former Longzhu Gaming jungler Chaser. With a serviceable mid laner that doesn’t need a lot of pressure in Keane, and a solid duo lane in LOD and Xpecial, Chaser will be able to snowball Ssumday and help him out if they can develop synergy quickly. If the other lanes can stay relevant throughout the game and stay alive in lane, this team is in a good position. An issue with this team may come from their shot calling. Last season, Apex took some time to find its main shot caller. If this happens again, Dignitas will likely struggle for the first few weeks. Regardless, after leaving the LCS at the lowest point Dignitas was ever in, they now return to the LCS as one of the strongest teams in the league. Welcome back Dignitas.
Key player to watch - LOD: While LOD had a great season and has proven that he is one of the up-and-coming AD carry talents in North America, this will be the season that he must prove his status as one of the top AD carries in North America. Coming into this season, LOD has Xpecial as a support, a huge upgrade from Hakuho. He needs to show his true potential, because on paper, LOD is the weakest link in this team. If LOD can keep up, Dignitas shouldn’t have a problem reaching the finals.
These teams will likely make playoffs with ease, but they all have a few issues preventing them from challenging for the title.
Counter Logic Gaming
- Top - Darshan "Darshan" Upadhyaya
- Jungle - Jake "Xmithie" Puchero
- Mid - Choi "Huhi" Jae-hyun
- ADC - Trevor "Stixxay" Hayes
- Support - Zaqueri "Aphromoo" Black
Counter Logic Gaming come into this season after one of the best seasons in the organization's history. While they retain the same roster, this team will have a large hill to climb if they want to reach the level of success they reached last season. For starters, the implementation of 10 bans will affect Huhi, who has a small pool of champions that he can play at a professional level. Additionally, with the importance of the top lane increasing, Darshan's skill comes into question since he was falling off at the end of last season. Despite these issues that Counter Logic Gaming may face, their macro play will still take them pretty far and will likely land them a spot in the playoffs.
Key player to watch - Darshan: With the arrival of some of the best top laners in history and the importance of the top lane rising, Darshan needs to become the capable carry top laner that he once was. If Darshan can return to form, Counter Logic Gaming will be even closer to getting back into the finals.
- Huni > Flame
- Reignover > Dardoch
- Wildturtle > Cody Sun
- Adrian > Olleh
- Top - Lee "Flame" Ho-jong
- Jungle - Joshua "Dardoch" Hartnett
- Mid - Eugene "Pobelter" Park
- ADC - Cody "Cody Sun" Sun
- Support - Kim "Olleh" Joo-sung
After a mostly successful season, though dissapointing in the end due to missing Worlds, Immortals went through an almost complete roster overhaul in the offseason. Legendary top laner Flame is replacing Huni, while local North American talents Dardoch and Cody Sun are replacing Reignover and Wildturtle. At support, Olleh is replacing Adrian. This is a good roster on paper, however, it is important that these players find their synergy early if they do not want to fall to the bottom of the standings. While the Immortals have a consistent mid laner in Pobelter, their duo lane has quite a bit to prove against the rest of the region's bot lane duos. Additionally, the synergy between Flame and Dardoch needs to improve quickly, as those two players will likely be the carries of the team. If the synergy in the team can improve fast enough, Immortals will likely find a spot in the playoffs with their name on it.
Key player to watch - Cody Sun: Coming into this season, Cody Sun is likely the biggest question mark on this team. While we have seen all the other players compete at the highest level and we know what they’re capable of, Cody is still mostly a mystery outside of the Challenger Series. If he can perform at the level that fans are expecting him to, Immortals will once again be a huge threat in the LCS.
- Dardoch > Reignover
- FeniX > GoldenGlue & Link
- Fabbbyyy/Jynthe > Piglet
- Top - Samson "Lourlo" Jackson
- Jungle - Kim "Reignover" Yeu-jin
- Mid - Greyson "Goldenglue" Gilmer and Austin "Link" Shin
- ADC - Chae "Piglet" Gwang-jin
- Support - Matthew "Matt" Elento
After a dramatic summer split, Team Liquid comes into this season with a solid team. Returning from last split's roster are Piglet, Matt, and Lourlo. Reignover joins as one of the best junglers in the west, and the mid lane will be shared by GoldenGlue and Link. This team has a solid carry in Piglet, and a serviceable secondary carry in GoldenGlue or Link. Along with that, the team will be able to make more plays on the map thanks to the pressure that Reignover provides. Reignover dictates the flow of the game and calls all the shots for his team, freeing up Piglet to focus on the game and his play. As long as this team stays on the same page, they should see a huge improvement in their placing in the league.
Key players to watch - GoldenGlue & Link: This will be one of the interesting stories to watch out for throughout the season. While it is confirmed that two will start off the season by splitting games, it will be interesting to see which player earns the consistent starting spot. Personally, I believe Link will end up winning the fight. As long as these two players play to their full potential, however, Team Liquid will end up in a good position no matter what.
- Pirean > Ryu
- Mash > Arrow
- Gate > Adrian
- Top - Derek "zig" Shao
- Jungle - Rami "Inori" Charagh
- Mid - Yoo "Ryu" Sang-ook
- ADC - Noh "Arrow" Dong-hyeon
- Support - Adrian "Adrian" Ma
Fan favorites Phoenix1 come into this season with huge improvements in the mid and bot lane, while keeping their up-and-coming top laner and jungler. With these improvements, Phoenix1 has one of the best rosters in the league. As long as zig and Inori continue to improve as a top/jumgle duo and individually, this team could easily make a deep run in the playoffs. Ryu and Arrow are both solid Korean imports that never fail to live up to expectations, and Adrian’s flexibility in champion picks will allow the team to play any style they need to. Overall, the improvements that Phoenix1 made to their roster will allow them to compete with the rest of the league and even potentially make a deep run in playoffs.
Key player to watch - Inori: Despite only being able to play in the last few series of the season last year, Inori was in the conversation to be the rookie of the split. Inori will play a huge role in determining the success of this team. If he can continue to be a constant threat and provide pressure across the map, Phoenix1 will be a huge contender. However, if last split was a fluke, Phoenix1 will struggle to make it very far.
These teams will have a hard time against the other teams. While they have a chance to make the playoffs, their main goal will be to avoid the relegation tournament.
- Contractz > Moon
- Top - An "BalIs" Van Le
- Jungle - Galen "Moon" Holgate
- Mid - Hai "Hai" Du Lam
- ADC - Johnny "Altec" Ru
- Support - Daerek "LemonNation" Hart
FlyQuest, the former Cloud9.Challenger team, enters the LCS even weaker than they were in the Challenger Series. The team's jungler, Contractz, was promoted to the main Cloud9 roster before the team was sold. This team will likely have a hard time against most teams in terms of pure skill. Balls was dropping off as a top laner before he was moved to the Challenger team, Moon was unimpressive during his time on Team Liquid, Hai was never known as a mechanical god, and their bot lane will have a hard time against the top tier and mid tier teams as well. However, this team has the Hai factor on their side. With great shot calling coming from one of the best strategic minds that the west has ever known, this team can still pull off some upsets and just might make an impact on the playoff picture.
Key player to watch - Altec: On paper, it’s clear that Altec will need to be the primary carry for the team. However, in his recent stints in the LCS, Altec seemed like a mid tier AD carry at best. If Altec can improve, FlyQuest may have a carry threat. This will likely decide whether FlyQuest a team on its way to the playoffs, or on its way to the relegation tournament.
- kfo > Looper
- Hard > Akaadian
- Big > Gate
- Top - Jang "Looper" Hyeong-seok
- Jungle - Matthew "Akaadian" Higginbotham
- Mid - Henrik "Froggen" Hansen
- ADC - Yuri "KEITH" Jew
- Support - Austin "Gate" Yu
After a nail-biting series of games to stay in the LCS, Echo Fox made necessary changes to their team. The jungler and support were both replaced, and a former world champion was brought into the top lane. However, compared to the rest of the league, Echo Fox will still have a tough task ahead of them if they want to avoid a repeat appearance in the relegation tournament. If this team can work together and play a proactive style, as opposed to the reactive style that Echo Fox used last year, they can still have a chance at avoiding the relegation tournament.
Key player to watch - Akaadian: If Echo Fox is going to change their style of play to become proactive, it’s up to Akaadian to start that during the early game. A huge issue with Hard in the jungle last season was his lack of presence on the map. If Akaadian can make plays, Echo Fox will become a better team.
- Procxin > LirA
- LOD > Apollo
- Top - Shin "Seraph" Woo-yeong
- Jungle - Nam "LirA" Tae-yoo
- Mid - Noh "Ninja" Geon-woo
- ADC - Apollo "Apollo" Price
- Support - Nickolas "Hakuho" Surgent
Team EnVyUs comes into this split after a respectable sixth place finish during the summer split. However, this season, the players are going to need to perform much better if they want to improve that result. While picking up LirA in the jungle was an improvement, Apollo is a slight downgrade at AD carry compared to LOD, and mid laner Ninja’s skills diminished during the summer split. With all this, EnVyUs will have a tough climb ahead of them if they want to make playoffs.
Key player to watch - Seraph: With the resurgence of top lane carries, this season will be Seraph's chance to show what made him the hyped top laner when he originally signed with Counter Logic Gaming. If EnVyUs wants to win games, Seraph will have a lot to do with the results, as Apollo has never been a carry AD carry and Ninja has been unreliable..
With the spring split approaching, these teams have a lot of League of Legends ahead of them. Who do you think will win it all? Let us know in the comments below or tweet us @GAMURScom.