In the middle of season 3, hope was waning for most western teams. Although Gambit still salvaged a few wins off the Korean teams, even managing a first place finish in a tournament featuring both Azubu (now CJ Entus) teams, it was beginning to look bleak for the hopes of a western team truly contending at a World Championship in their states at the time. Any team that had players that could contend with top Korean and Chinese (mostly World Elite at the time) also had players that were significantly behind their eastern counterparts. Although teams like Fnatic had Xpeke and Soaz performing at a high level at the time, they also fielded YellowStar as an AD Carry, nRated as their support, and Cyanide as their jungler.
Despite all the individual talent already spread out within the LCS, there was no attempt to consolidate them all into one single entity. Instead, new teams that joined the scene built rosters off solo queue all stars or neglected talents that ended up being fairly strong. Alternate and Lemondogs joined the scene and each made a large impact. Alternate came with a strong start to their season but struggled afterwards and Lemondogs reignited with the addition of Mithy to become the number 1 team in the regular season. The reason these teams had success for a large period was that they had strong talent in every lane. However, their failures also had similarities where the lack of experience and strategic depth made them not as strong as they may have first seemed.
When assessing Lemondogs, we find a team that’s largely focused around the mid laner, Nukeduck. At the time he could’ve been in an argument for best mid in Europe especially within the meta game at the time which was heavily assassin focused. Even in games where Nukeduck wasn’t getting significantly far ahead, he didn’t fall to large deficits and meanwhile, any team that could handle Nukeduck in mid was not able to also handle Mithy and Tabzz in bottom as well as Zorozero in top and keep up with Dexter’s pressure from the jungle because these teams could not match up the talent in every lane.
Meanwhile, despite seeing that they were not going to keep up with the international scene, teams like Evil Geniuses, SK Gaming, Fnatic, Ninjas in Pyjamas remained struggling to even maintain their standings in Europe, let alone make a significant impact at worlds. Evil Geniuses finished the full season with Snoopeh, Yellowpete, and Krepo who were, at the time, clearly struggling to keep up. Ninjas in Pyjamas had a superstar in Bjergsen, had a decent second carry in Freeze, but around them were nothing notable. SK had CandyPanda, Nyph, and Kevin who were all having decent performances but they were gated by a struggling mid and jungle duo. Fnatic held onto great solo laners in xPeke and Soaz but held onto a mediocre bottom lane because they planned on picking up Rekkles eventually anyway. Even Gambit, which went from a top team to a team that was struggling and losing players still had Diamondprox, Alex Ich, and Edward who were all considered great players at the time. If any of these organizations stepped up and made the right offers we could have seen powerhouses form with a potential roster of: Soaz, Diamondprox, Froggen, Freeze, and Nyph.
Although I’ve mostly talked about Europe, North American talents could also become involved and the teams could play in either region. On top of the potential superteam in Europe that was mentioned, a similar one could’ve been created in North America featuring Kevin, Xmithie, Bjergsen, Doublelift, and Xpecial. Instead, North America’s lack of a strong team was exposed as Cloud 9 joined the LCS and went on a tear through the standings, easily securing first seed for the region. Although Cloud 9 was a great team in shot calling and team play, their individual talent was their biggest weakness. Although they had Meteos, none of their other players would have been as good as what could’ve been through either of the superteams previously listed.
Organizations aren’t the only ones at fault, however. There is a strong possibility that some of these potential dream teams have been stopped by the egos of the players or personal differences. In order to be a real threat, these players need to set aside their differences, forget their egos, and realize that within their standing at the time, they weren’t winning anything internationally outside of a wild upset. If a coach was allowed with the talent on these teams, they could have become a true force to be reckoned with on an international scene. Almost undoubtedly, this became a key issue when Lemondogs split apart. Somehow, a team so talented had only one player remaining on an EU LCS team in Tabzz and Dexter was moved to an NA team. Zorozero, Nukeduck, and Mithy all elected to initially play in the challenger scene before eventually two of them earned a ban.
It was only after season 3 that Europe began to develop a “Superteam” and the final product turned into a mockery of the term. Alliance arose out of the shambles of Evil Geniuses. What should’ve been Froggen’s superteam somehow managed to feature Wickd, Nyph, Shook, and Tabzz with only the last of the 4 to be worth a spot on the team and he also somehow managed to become the first to be removed from the roster. Wickd in season 3 showed a lack of adapting to the meta being slow to pick up new champions and being set in his ways. Although he was still a fairly good European top laner within that time period, Zorozero and Kevin probably should’ve both held a higher priority at the time. Nyph was still a decent player at the time but his style of play did not fit at all with Tabzz. Instead, Alliance should have looked at making an offer to Xpecial from North America or requesting Mithy who had proven synergy and success with Tabzz in Lemondogs or even ask nRated who, although mechanically probably is worse than Nyph, had built a reputation for shotcalling and game knowledge. Shook was an unknown quantity at the time, he was fairly untested and going for a known quality player could have turned into a much better success.
Even in China, the thought of a superteam has been neglected for so long. It’s just now that OMG have banded together an all-star line-up. Even after importing several Korean players into the region, the OMG superteam featuring Gogoing, Loveling, Cool, Uzi, and Cloud was able to put up a top 3 finish in the regular season. Although they did not live up to it within the playoff, if given another season to develop together and especially develop better strategy, they could easily be a contender for the World Championship.
With rumors of Forgiven wanting to leave SK Gaming having been built up for a while, another opportunity has risen for multiple top western teams. Fnatic and Team SoloMid have both risen to top of their region with lackluster AD Carries compared to the international standard. Taking an upgrade in Forgiven could prove to make these teams not just regional powerhouses but real threats in the international scene. H2K, who have been a quick and rising force in Europe could come over the edge if Forgiven joined this roster. Although Impulse is another team on this list, regional restrictions will likely make this impossible. If it is in fact possible, Impulse should also look to import Forgiven. If none of these teams consider a sizable offer to Forgiven, it will show another lack of commitment to building a truly strong international threat and provide further reason to believe that teams are just content to be strong in their weak region.
It’s been two years since the fact started becoming obvious. It’s past time for teams and organizations to spend the money to recruit the big stars that actually can stand up to the rising forces of Korea and China if they still want to claim they are looking to perform and contend for a World Championship.