Ryan Tang's All-LCS Teams
With Riot recently announced their All-LCS teams for the split (both NA and EU), which was voted on by media members, LCS players, and the studio broadcast. As a very minor journalist, I wasn’t invited to vote on the broadcast, but I’m a lifelong NBA fan who loves the idea of end of season awards. I agreed with some of the decisions on the final LCS ballots, but I also had several disagreements. I wanted to write an article (in a more informal, conversational style) that goes over my choices for this split’s best players.
Before we begin, I wanted to set up my specific criteria. I view the All-League teams as an individual award (the award for best teamplay is, naturally, the championship) that places a very high value on how well a player has played in this specific split. A player’s history should be used to add context into this award, but seeing as all-split teams are announced twice a year, gameplay in this specific split should take precedent. Finally, I want to place a high emphasis on carry potential. If two players are playing comparably, but one has far inferior teammates, I tend to favor the one with weaker teammates, especially because of how global gold generation works in League. In the NBA, playing well might lead to double teams (the equivalent of jungle camps or excessive teamfight focus in League) but scoring more points doesn’t help teammates jump higher or shoot better, but taking towers or shutting down killing sprees boost their teammate’s stats.
I will only cover NA as I don’t believe I know Europe at a level high enough to comment. I would recommend looking at other people’s lists for EU. Although I watch a good number of the games I only want to give my opinion if I am 100% confident in it, otherwise I feel like it is a disservice to my admittedly few fans.
I’m going to divide my reasoning up by each role so that I can compare why I ranked players in certain positions. Each role will also include honorable mentions for players who either I considered or who were awarded the spot by the LCS official teams.
For top lane, I think I’ve surprised many analysts and fans by choosing Darshan for the first-team over Huni, who is the primary carry player on a 17-1 team, and Hauntzer, a player who I’m a well-known fan of and who has found himself on many personal all-LCS second teams (even though he didn’t make the Riot ballot.) I'm going to give this decision it's own paragraph since thereis a lot to be said. The reason Darshan is my number 1 top laner is because I don’t think people realize the extreme burden he carries for CLG. This season, he’s received a very unfair reputation for being one-dimensional. One last year’s CLG, when he had Doublelift and Pobelter (historically a very underrated teamfighter in terms of providing damage) to shoulder the carry burden. As a result, he was able to find success on champions like Gnar, Rumble, and Sion, among others. This season, he’s been pidgeonholed into a split-pushing role not by his skill set but by the limitations of his teammates. Darshan critics need to realize that there is literally no other way that CLG is going to win games. Every team goes into the game knowing that they need to shut down Darshan to shut down CLG, and while the continual support of his teammates is a definite benefit, his opponents are also doing everything in their power to counter him. Hauntzer is a much more diverse player than Darshan and he has done more with less considering TSM’s terrible lane swaps. Huni has an even higher carry ceiling than Darshan and plays on the league’s best team. But both players are prone to the kind of mental lapses that Darshan has mostly alleviated from his game. It would be fascinating to see either player on CLG. Huni commands even more of a global presence in spite of his better teammates, and Hauntzer’s teams have lane swapped around him so poorly that it seems like they are deliberately trying to set him behind. However, I truly can’t say for certain if CLG would be a better team with Huni or Hauntzer. Darshan consistently brings the goods every game without making the notable mistakes that Huni and Hauntzer do.
Meanwhile, Huni’s primary carry status and higher ceiling causes him to beat out Hauntzer. Hauntzer takes the third slot by virtue of being the highest level utility top lane player in the league. Unlike even teams in the bottom of the standings, like Renegades or Team Impulse, TSM still does not know how to operate a basic lane swap. Much like on Gravity, Hauntzer consistently sees himself falling down by waves of CS and multiple levels before the 5 minute mark.
For my top lane honorable mention, I feel like Seraph had a strong season on both TiP and Renegades. The fan-favorite Korean top laner has greatly improved his game by moving away from his sub-optimal carry champion picks and focusing on a Teleport-oriented game. To make things better, Seraph has also shown a willingness to take a supportive role when the other carry positions are better players than he is (as they are on the current Renegades team) while still retaining the ability to shift into a primary carry situation when he is faced with a weak lane opponent. Cloud9 top laner Balls has undergone a similar transformation. After a truly pungent Summer Split, Balls has rounded back into form and seems to have become comfortable as a utility top laner. However, his spot on the LCS team seems like overcompensation for Jatt’s criticism of Balls at worlds (which shouldn’t even be compensated at all, as it was a just criticism.) Both Seraph and Balls basically play as worse versions of Hauntzer even though they play on much better rotation teams, meaning that they enter the early-mid game with notably higher advantages. As a result, I can’t put either of them on my all-league team. Impact has played a very mediocre season by his standards. While he is still better than either Balls or Seraph, his inability to shift into a carry role puts him in 4th place behind Hauntzer in my top lane selections.
For jungler, the top spot should be no surprise. This section will be notably shorter than the others because there is virtually no disagreement behind who should occupy the top 3 spots. ReignOver is easily the best jungler in the LCS. He should also be the consensus MVP. His improvement from Europe has been magnificent, and he was already one of the top jungle players in Europe in the first place. His map pressure and warding have been top of his class, and his otherworldly synergy with Huni has helped devastate another region after the duo-Korean act played a large part in Fnatic’s successes last season. Meanwhile, Dardoch has simply been a revelation in the jungle. C9 fans might call for Rush in this spot, but Rush still has had some trouble coordinating with teammates. Meanwhile, Dardoch is TL’s entire early game system. His ability to find picks and sabotage lane swaps has been critical to TL’s early game and he has played a large role as TL’s shotcaller this season, something C9 fans should be very ready to rate highly. Meanwhile, Rush’s mechanics and early-game pressure keep him firmly head and shoulders above the rest of the region.
For my jungler honorable mention, no name comes close to the top 3. However, Xmithie’s strong play in the jungle should receive some narrative points if WildTurtle and Balls are to get any. Xmithie was criticized far more harshly than either player but closed out Season 5 much stronger than either player did. In Season 6, Xmithie has continued to impress and his synergy with Darshan and eclectic champion choices (mostly just Udyr) make him something of a very poor man’s ReignOver.
Mid lane is one of the most highly contested positions in the LCS. There are 4 worthy candidates (unfortunately all imports) for this role (Froggen, GBM, Bjergsen, and Jensen) but only 3 available slots. I elected to leave GBM out and rank Bjergsen as the top mid laner of the LCS, a decision that should surely receive criticism, but one which I will explain here. Heading into the season, Bjergsen and GBM were expected to battle between each other for the best mid lane role, with Jensen continuing to develop. During the actual season, the story has been quite different. Jensen has played the best league of his career, while Bjergsen has struggled on his new TSM superteam. Meanwhile, Froggen, a player many considered to be “finished” has consistently brought up big carry performances, showing that his passive lane style is still a force to be reckoned with 5 years after he pioneered it. Finally, GBM has struggled in lane even against opponents who are notably weaker than his LCK opponents, but he has made up for it with dominant teamfighting and a continued mastery of pocket picks. (As a side note, lolesport’s writer ch0c0br0’s vendetta against GBM has to be one of the most bizarre storylines of the season. It’s hard to imagine a Riot-employed writer keeping his job if he criticized a more popular player like that, considering Jatt had to apologize for criticizing Balls last season.) The primary reason I have ranked Bjergsen first is because his performances when he is given carry picks still ranks as the best of all of NA’s mid laners. It’s not Bjergsen’s fault his team’s mess of a strategy has his working as a waveclear bot for 80% of the game. It’s also not solely Bjergsen’s fault that his team’s communications are poor. While there is some evidence that Bjergsen’s poor shotcalling has derailed the team on some occasions, he also isn’t asking his teammates to continually mess up their lane swaps or commit basic errors. It’s easy for fans to go overboard criticizing a player and assuming he will never win but Bjergsen has won 2 LCS championships. His equally criticized teammate Doublelift won a championship just last split. It’s not good to take too much of the past into determining split-by-split awards but it’s also ridiculous to call two of the region’s finest players perennial losers for the sake of narrative. Jensen plays the opposite situation of Bjergsen. While Jensen’s team rarely commits mental lapses and always plays around him, Jensen himself is still working on bringing a 100% consistent effort. When TSM plays around Bjergsen, which they don’t always do, they win or come close. When C9 plays around Jensen, which they always do, they usually win but sometimes get blown out when he doesn’t deliver. However, I think this season has shown that Jensen may have a higher ceiling than Bjergsen. It’s scary to think that Jensen is still improving but he is. Finally, Froggen brings the consistent effort of Bjergsen but at a lower level. The legendary Danish mid laner is still a force to be reckoned with but his level has noticeably fallen.
For honorable mention mid laners, the aforementioned GBM has the weakest laning phase of the group, but possibly the best teamfighting. The issue is that considering GBM’s poor teammates, his team needs someone who can seize the reigns of the game as soon as possible. While it’s unfair to penalize GBM, his different skillset makes him harder to build around so I have relegated him to 4th place just because of the ballot situation. He is just as good as the others on that list. The same cannot be said for Riot Games selection Pobelter. Pobelter brings relatively little playmaking to the table but he brings very consistent backline damage. This is also in part due to his champion pool. Although he is known for his assassins he is pretty much a mage only player at this point. Ninja deserves a mention here because he is basically the CN Pobelter. He brings massive damage while requiring role player level resources. This is a good look because it fits on many teams, but the lack of playmaking puts him behind the top class. His ability to take fewer creeps while being an excellent teamfighter is the perfect complement to Seraph, who demands a lot of resources and jungler attention while being a mediocre teamfighter who prefers to split push.
For ADC, my choices may be controversial. I’ve removed Riot first-team selection WildTurtle while placing his replacement, the much criticized Doublelift, on the third team. For my explanation on WildTurtle, consult my honorable mention section for AD Carries as well as the next paragraph. Among most deep thinkers of the game, Piglet is clearly the consensus best AD Carry in North America, but the reasons may seem confusing to the casual fan. Simply put, Piglet is acting as the team’s primary carry player while receiving inconsistent early game gank support from his support/jungle and also inconsistent peel support in the late game. His ability to consistently deal damage while not receiving resources is incredible and a big part of TL’s season turnaround. What a lot of fans don’t realize is that AD Carry is a relatively easy position to play professionally with a strong frontline and support. Piglet’s frontline and support are all rookies who don’t consistently focus on helping him in teamfights. Piglet’s teamfighting, never his forte, has improved notably, and he has also taken a much more notable role as a splitpusher and duelist in TL’s system. In second place is Sneaky. Although Sneaky vs. Doublelift might seem like a no-brainer argument to some, this isn’t exactly the case. In fact, Doublelift was probably a better player than Sneaky for the vast majority of their shared careers. What’s bumped Sneaky to the top this season is his safe play and reliability. While Doublelift’s damage may have pushed his teams over the edge in previous season, this season’s death timer changes means that having the AD Carry survive is one of the most important aspects of teamfighting, as living AD Carries can take towers and teams whose AD Carries were caught out basically have to stall until they are back up again to fight. This plays much more into Sneaky’s strengths than Doublelift. Laning and teamfight damage matter a lot less than survivability right now.
Doublelift vs. WildTurtle deserves it’s own paragraph because there is just so many misconceptions about DL and his season. Doublelift beats out WildTurtle because he is doing more with less, in spite of popular belief. Somehow, Doublelift finds himself on the losing end of every single Riot narrative. Because Doublelift got caught split pushing a few times in Seasons 1&2 and because Seraph complained about him taking his farm Doublelift is a terrible overrated player who keeps costing his team the game. (Somehow, people don’t remember that Seraph feuded with everyone but aphromoo on that CLG team and was also just a terrible player. CLG specifically said they were looking for a utility top laner and this kid comes in asking to play his mediocre Nidalee and cries when the team asks him to do the job he signed up for.) This trope is still brought up on Riot broadcasts several years later even though he was the best/second best player on a champion team last year. For some reason, Doublelift is one of the only players whose negative game history gets piled up on top of him. If he was GBM the casters would probably wonder if he is going to miss his shadow every single time he presses W, even if he isn't playing Zed. Once again this year Riot is once again pushing a storyline that Doublelift is on the losing side of. TSM kicked WildTurtle, a great player, and brought in the overrated Doublelift. On the broadcast, they even mentioned that WildTurtle was doing more damage than Doublelift this season, so this meant TSM made a bad choice. Riot even put out an infographic (https://twitter.com/RiotJatt/status/711300015302402048) with their stats and the stats for TSM DL vs. TSM WT aren’t even close. (This is especially bad since TSM used to freeze the wave for 10+ minutes to let Turtle farm, and they don’t do this for Doublelift.) In fact, it’s a problem for WT how close the stats are this season when DL is playing with S6 Svenskeren + S6 YellowStar while Turtle has S6 ReignOver + S6 Adrian. It seems like the most vocal members of the Reddit community right now shriek with triumph every single time that Doublelift gets caught but they applaud and even drool whenever WildTurtle valks forward (some have even gone so far as to call these plays “engages” even though they don’t lock down any enemy champions.) The truth is that Turtle could be doing just as much damage shooting out autos/skillshots from outside of melee range, and the only reason he is getting away with frontlining is because he has the best frontline in the LCS, a support whose job is to keep him alive, and the freedom to build items like Maw of Malmortious and Sterak’s Gage because he has so many other threats on his team. These frontlining decisions clearly aren’t strategic and the idea that TSM should have kept him and “played around it” is ridiculous. None of the things that helped Turtle jump forward even existed until near the end of Season 5, and even then there are better ways for teams to start fights than having an AD Carry blow all their escapes followed by the support blowing all of their cooldowns to save him. I’m not sure at all what WildTurtle is like as a person and he seems like a positive and happy guy who cares a lot about his fans. But playing the way he does is extremely selfish and there is no real reward for the team. Almost all of his fans would start crying if one of their solo queue AD Carries just started randomly frontlining and asking people to play around his engage. Meanwhile, Doublelift’s mistakes look 500x more apparent because he can’t afford to make a single one. His team is not playing around him correctly but they also don’t do damage so he needs to step in, especially when TSM foolishly places Bjergsen on Lulu while giving Doublelift a character who doesn’t truly benefit from her, such as Ezreal.
For my AD Carry Honorable Mentions, both WildTurtle and Freeze deserve nods. I just spent 500+ in words going on Turtle vs Doublelift but that doesn’t mean Turtle is a bad player by any means, unlike last season. Turtle has greatly improved, and his teamfighting is much better. He still goes in too often but he has done a great job of cleaning up teamfights and taking advantage of the chaos that Huni/ReignOver strew through the other team’s backline. Yes Turtle’s fans and the LCS broadcast have greatly overrated him (why are they praising him for putting his teammates in a position where they have to play perfectly around him instead of just praising his teammates?) but his improvement is notable. Meanwhile, Freeze is stuck is hopefully going to break out of elo-hell with his all-new team. It’s hard to give Freeze credit for the same reason as GBM. His laning hasn’t been as good this season when it’s what his team needs. However, neither Remi nor Hakuho have been great supports so it isn’t 100% fair to criticize him for this. I would happily give Freeze a slot on the 3rd team, he’s had a great season and probably ranks ahead of Turtle still.
For support, I gave my first team slot to Adrian, my second team slot to aphromoo, and left my last slot blank. I truly feel like there have only been 2 particularly noteworthy supports this season. There have been others who were good and deserve honorable mentions but they were very close to both each other and to the other honorable mentions in other positions (rather than other award winners) in skill. If I had to fill in my last slot, I would probably cheat with a role swap like some NBA ballots do and just give the last spot to GBM. (I will discuss the players who could have been third spot contenders in my honorable mentions section.) Adrian is far and away the best support in the league. His time on TiP shows that he can easily play engage supports like Alistar, Bruam, Nautilus, and Leona at a very high level but chooses to play peel supports to help his team’s system. There’s a reason few people play these supports and part of the problem is they are easy to punish in the early game. Adrian is playing them very well (though it’s possible higher level competition could test him.) His ability to keep Huni and WildTurtle alive off of their gambles is immense and his warding, roaming, and laning remain very potent. Aphromoo’s role as the shotcaller and chief “early game disruptor” has keyed CLG’s nature as the lane swap team for years. The reason I cannot stick him ahead of Adrian is because both are so core to their team’s identities (scrappy mid game fights vs. strategic rotations with picks) but Adrian’s team is winning more with an equal contribution from both players to the aforementioned identities.
For support honorable mentions, Hai, Matt, and KonKwon all deserve recognition. Hai is still an integral part of C9 due to his leadership although his shotcalling has taken a pretty notable dip this season, especially as of late. Most of his decisions seem to just be desperation Barons nowadays. However, his adjustment to the support role and strong play on Morgana and Alistar deserve credit. Matt is similar to Hai. Both players are shotcallers with fairly limited champion pools. However, Matt brings much more playmaking while also bringing high ban pressure (his Alistar and Bard draw frequent bans). If I had to pick a third support for the role I would pick Matt. Finally, KonKwon has been a very reliable support for NRG. He rarely makes mistakes and his warding is spectacular. Under a higher role and more experience, he is my pick to make an Adrian-like leap in the next split or maybe the next season.
These are my thoughts on all-LCS teams for NA this season. I hope you guys enjoyed it and I am open to any debate/discussion on my Twitter handle, @Ryantang20.