Meteos discusses the importance of their win over CLG, potential over-analysis and draft strategies


Hey guys, Meteos is a rock star jungler and a stellar interviewee. Unfortunately, my camera was still not functioning as intended this weekend, but I have done some troubleshooting and do not anticipate problems in the future. You can find the audio of our conversation below, and look out for other interviews on our YouTube Channel.


Image provided by LoL Esports Flickr

 


 

How important is this win for your morale on the team?

“For morale, this win is really important. There is a big difference between being 5-5 after a win and 4-6 after a five game losing streak. I’m more concerned with how we are playing as a team. We have had some struggles with that, but I think we are improving. It’s tough because each week there are only two games, and on the record it’s just a win or a loss. But yeah, I do think we are improving.”

 

How much of these recent losses to you attribute to the circumstance of the day in a best-of-one scenario, and how much is it indicative of larger issues on the team?

“I don’t think it’s too much the best-of-one since games are generally long enough that the strongest team comes out ahead – unless there were big mistakes in the draft. A lot of our losses are not being on the same page and having as good of teamwork as others.”

 

What are you as a team focusing on to put that back together to get back to how you started the split?

“There are a lot of things you have to juggle when coming together as a team and it’s hard to tackle it all at once. It’s almost cliche, but a big thing is communication. You have to know how to talk to your teammates, especially when giving feedback in scrims. Scrims have changed a lot in NA, whereas before we played more games, but had a lot less review. Now we play fewer games, but we sometimes have up to 30 minutes of review in between. But sometimes this extra review can be bad, we can sort of over-analyze what is going on. Like if we got behind making a certain play, we might have a conversation about the play and decide not to run it again, even though we shouldn’t expect to never do something similar in the future. There might be times when it’s good. So it’s a bit tough to figure out how to go through scrims.”

 

As a jungler, do you go in with a set gameplan and jungle route all very calculated, or do you try to stay flexible for whatever happens in the game?

“It really depends on each game. Some games have really volatile matchups like in C9 vs FOX with the Lucian vs. Gangplank. Controlling the top side of the map is obviously really important. What that means also varies player to player. Whatever it may be, it’s about accomplishing that goal and creating pressure. It isn’t super micro, though, like planning each camp and when you want to go for kills. There are just too many variables in the game and you need to be able to have a bit more flexibility in your play for when things change.”

 

Reignover talked about it being easier to play for the top side when on the blue side of the draft. Can you break that down a bit for me?

“Reignover likes to play Rengar on blue side a lot and Rengar is really really good at playing aggressively. So I imagine it is because he can go for early invades on the enemy red area and set up vision and force them out of their jungle. It isn’t necessarily better for everyone, partly just due to how Reignover likes to play.”

 

Why would someone pick red side when they have the choice?

“Well on Blue, you get first pick which is super valuable, but since the change in the draft phase, red side gets a lot of opportunity to gain an advantage as well. You can pick specific champions in your 3rd slot that have bad matchups and then ban two counters to it and then you get the next pick as well! You also always get the last pick, which can be useful for counters and mind games!”

 


William “Meteos” Hartman after defeating CLG – Week 5

 


 

Find Meteos on Twitter @MeteosLoL. Check back here for more content and our YouTube channel for my video interviews! If you’d like to contact me, go ahead and tweet @parkeso. For pictures and stories, follow my Insta @parqueso. If you’re not big into social media, email me at parkesotwo@gmail.com. =)

Cloud9 and Smoothie are doing very well with Alistar

The winningest player-champion combos in the NA LCS

*Presence of champion with specific team – Pick rate of champion with specific team – Win rate of champion with specific team (Presence of champion within the NA LCS – Win rate of champion within the NA LCS)

FOX Dardoch – Zac

Dardoch and Echo Fox have been very successful with Zac

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

80% PRESENCE – 50% PICK – 100% WIN (54% PRESENCE – 77% WIN)*

Since Echo Fox has a 90 percent overall win rate, it is easy to point out strong player-champion combos that exist on this team, but not others. Altec’s Kalista and Fenix’s Cassiopeia are good examples. However, it is clear that Dardoch’s Zac has been the most successful. FOX picked the blob in five of ten games, and teams banned him another three. Dardoch carries a 100 percent win rate, while the LCS holds 77 percent.

Echo Fox generally utilizes Zac to gank the mid and top lanes from fog-of-war, then engage and disrupt teamfights in the mid-late game. Dardoch clearly understands the limits of the champion, often peeling with a sliver of health, only to regenerate using Warmog’s. Even if the power picks of the jungle move away from tanky initiators (Sejuani, Jarvan IV, etc.), Echo Fox and Dardoch will probably keep Zac as a pocket pick.

C9 Smoothie – Alistar

Cloud9 and Smoothie have been very successful with Alistar

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

90% PRESENCE – 50% PICK – 60% WIN (66% PRESENCE – 40% WIN)*

Smoothie has been showing the power of the current support role. Constant engages and peeling, surprise roams and ganks, protecting and enabling carries–these are all characteristics of Cloud9’s support. Alistar seems like the perfect champion for Smoothie, which is why he is virtually pick or ban in Cloud9’s games. Most teams are able to snag Braum or Taric, the highest presence supports, but Smoothie sometimes prioritizes Alistar over them.

Alistar is a popular pick in most metas, because of his repertoire of crowd control and tankiness. In the hands of a team shot-caller, the minotaur can realize its true potential. GorillA, Mata, and Ming are also currently prioritizing Alistar in other regions. Smoothie’s mastery of this champion put Cloud9’s opponents in the difficult position of choosing whether or not to ban him out and give Jensen or Sneaky a power pick. Even if the meta shifts, Alistar will remain a pocket pick, and Smoothie has a diverse pool.

CG Lira – Skarner 

Clutch Gaming and Lira have been very successful with Skarner

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

40% PRESENCE – 30% PICK – 100% WIN (30% PRESENCE – 80% WIN)*

Skarner has spiked in priority in the NA LCS, since Riot introduced patch 8.3. Lira and Clutch Gaming are benefiting more from the champion, with a 100 percent win rate. Skarner’s versatility and powerful displacement potential allow the jungler to hard engage like no other. Globally, Skarner only has a 40 percent presence in professional play, but he has 100 percent presence for North America’s teams.

Clutch has had the most success with multi-initiation compositions, and Lira’s Skarner fits right in. Just like others on this list, Lira is a crucial shot-caller for his team. They rely on him to pull the trigger on plays, which makes Skarner even better than Sejuani, Zac, or Jarvan IV. Clutch has picked up three of its six wins with the pick, so they may suffer if Skarner gets nerfed.

TL Doublelift – Tristana 

Team Liquid and Doublelift have been very successful with Tristana

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

90% PRESENCE – 50% PICK – 60% WIN (66% PRESENCE – 55% WIN)*

While Tristana has been a top three priority AD carry, and rising, Team Liquid prioritizes her for Doublelift even more. They have only had one game in ten without Tristana picked or banned. She allows Doublelift to never truly have a weak point in the game. He can push waves easily, chip away turrets, and utilize Rocket Jump to get closer or farther from his opponents. When paired with Olleh’s top pick, Taric, Doublelift becomes an engage mechanism. He and Olleh work together to threaten stuns and kill pressure in lane.

Doublelift has shown mastery of nearly every marksman. He obviously enjoys high-skill options, like Lucian, but Tristana gives him versatility for his team. Doublelift has the fewest deaths per game and the highest CS per minute, due, in part, to his comfort with Tristana.

100 Cody Sun – Kog’Maw 

100 Thieves and Cody Sun have been very successful with Kog'Maw

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

70% PRESENCE – 30% PICK – 66.7% WIN (60% PRESENCE – 47% WIN)*

Kog’Maw is another marksman champion that has been popular this split. His Rageblade power spike, combined with the safety of the Relic Shield-Fleet Footwork bottom lane strategy, made him a prime option. While other North American AD Carries selected Kog’Maw for one game while he was meta, 100 Thieves locked him in three times. The team coordinated well with Cody Sun on an immobile, squishy champion, as they won two of those three games.

Cody Sun currently has the highest damage per minute and the highest damage share in the NA LCS. Kog’Maw, when played correctly, unlocks this potential. 100 Thieves scored wins against TSM and Team Liquid using this pick, which has allowed them to remain in the top five. With the meta shifting away from Kog’Maw, 100 Thieves have started a downward trend, even locking in a Jinx pick. Hopefully, they can click with other champions.

TSM Bjergsen – Taliyah

TSM and Bjergsen are doing very well with Taliyah

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

60% PRESENCE – 30% PICK – 66.7% WIN (42% PRESENCE – 40% WIN)*

TSM have three of their four wins with Bjergsen on semi-global champions, which is why Taliyah is a preferential choice. Her Weaver’s Wall allows Bjergsen to influence every phase of the game, from early roams to mid-game picks and late-game zoning. Champions like Taliyah put TSM’s steering wheel in Bjergsen’s hands, allowing him to directly control momentum. While TSM is having issues with coordination, it makes sense that they would pick Taliyah in three games, and other teams would ban her in another three.

Most professional mid laners have wide champion pools, rarely locking in the same one several times. With Zoe, Ryze, and Azir being nearly pick or ban for most of the split, NA mid laners go for Galio or a pocket pick if those three are banned out. Expect to see more mid laners picking or banning Taliyah, especially against TSM.

GG Hai – Orianna

Golden Guardians and Hai are doing very well with Orianna

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

40% PRESENCE – 30% PICK – 66.7% WIN (32% PRESENCE – 40% WIN)*

Orianna is to Hai what Taliyah is to Bjergsen. Zoning, shielding, slowing, hasting, stunning, and damaging–Orianna is the whole package. Hai is the central leader for Golden Guardians, so putting so much versatility and control into his hands makes sense. In their only two wins, Golden Guardians drafted Orianna for Hai, after Zoe, Azir, Ryze, and Galio were banned out.

With Lourlo and Contractz taking on initiation duty, and Matt playing more defensive options, Hai’s Orianna brings the necessary damage to stay relevant, while also boosting his teammates’ utility. He can put the ball onto Contractz’s Skarner or Camille for speedier engages. Lourlo’s Gnar or Illaoi can wombo combo with the Shockwave. Deftly can receive a large shield, if it comes to that. No one else in the NA LCS has played Orianna as often, or to as much success. Teams may start to let Hai have the power picks, instead.

credits

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr

Champion and Player Statistics: Games of Legends

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NALCS logo Doublelift Aphromoo

New homes for Doublelift and Aphromoo

The off-season saw Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black go from Counter Logic Gaming to 100 Thieves, and Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng move from Team SoloMid to Team Liquid. Since then there has been much speculation: How would the former members of the once famous “Rush Hour” duo fare? After an exciting Week 1, and several wins since, fans of both players can breathe a little easier.

Week 1

Team Liquid

Team Liquid Logo Doublelift

Courtesy of Team Liquid

Rejoining the organization he spent two months with last spring, Doublelift took on his former team and recent replacement, Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen in the first game of the season. Zven and his lane partner Alfonso “mithy” Aguirre Rodríguez have played together for several teams, starting with Origen in 2014. Since then they have been inseparable, moving first to G2 Esports and now to the NA LCS. The pair have produced consistently dominant performances, leading many to call them the “Best in the West.” This is a title that Doublelift referenced with a smirk in his post-game interview, after going 5/0/5 in Team Liquid’s 28 minute, 11-1 rout of the defending NA Champions.

After the typical early game spent farming and feeling each other out, Doublelift engaged aggressively onto the enemy bot lane. Timing Tristana’s Rocket Jump perfectly with Taric’s Dazzle, he stunned Zven’s Kalista long enough to get the kill and chunk mithy’s Alistar down to half of his health. Without hesitation, Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung used Taric’s Cosmic Radiance. This protected the members of Team Liquid as they rushed past the enemy tower in pursuit. A flash/stun combo from Olleh secured the double kill for Doublelift, and sparked “Let’s go Liquid” chants from the traditionally pro-TSM crowd.  Team liquid took this early lead and ran with it to secure a resounding victory to start off 2018.

100 Thieves

100 Thieves Logo Doublelift

Courtesy of 100 Thieves

 

While Doublelift came into Week 1 ready to prove himself to TSM, Aphromoo went into Sunday’s game against CLG with as much to prove to himself as anyone else. He made it clear in preseason interviews that while leaving CLG was one of the toughest decisions of his life, it was ultimately his choice. He had spent nearly 5 years with CLG, becoming the main shotcaller and a fan favorite. “…I thought that would be my home forever.” he said in a preseason interview with LoL Esports, “…but here we are.” Not only was Aphromoo leaving his longtime friends and teammates, he was also transitioning from an established team to one that was brand new to the NA LCS. He seemed apprehensive about the change, and maybe a little homesick.

If Aphromoo had any lingering loyalty for CLG and former lane partner Trevor “Stixxay” Hayes, it didn’t last long. By 4:30 into the game, he had already set up the perfect gank, flashing forward as Braum to get stacks of Concussive Blows onto both Stixxay and CLG’s new support, Vincent “Biofrost” Wang. The resulting stun secured a a kill on the latter for his ADC, Cody “Cody Sun” Sun. 100 Thieves steadily increased their lead as the game continued, and Aphromoo racked up eight more assists while only dying once by the time the CLG nexus fell. As he walked down the line, hugging old teammates, he looked perfectly content in his new home.

Continued success

Now, three weeks in, both Aphromoo and Doublelift are still going strong, and their new teams sit above their old in the NA LCS standings. Doublelift is playing as cleanly as ever with a league-best KDA of 19.3. This is more than double that of Altec, the ADC who is his closest competition with a 7.5 KDA. He is in good company, with a team of veterans and some former teammates that looks like they have been working together for years. They have dominated all but one of their opponents, racking up kills and objectives in a style that is simultaneously exciting and methodical. Now tied for first with five wins and one loss, Doublelift looks poised to lead Team Liquid to the postseason.

Sitting just behind them in the standings with a record of 4-2, 100 Thieves quickly made their mark. While they have faced criticism for barely securing victories in some close games, it may very well be this ability to close out tough contests that will carry them to success later in the season. Additionally, they are the only team to have defeated Team Liquid so far this split.

Arguably the biggest question mark on the team coming into the season was young ADC Cody Sun. He entered the NA LCS only last year, and seemed to struggle before finding his groove in the Summer Split. However, he has never looked better than he does with Aphromoo by his side. Currently boasting 742 Damage Per Minute and 39% of his team’s total damage, he is #1 in both among ADCs. Aphromoo’s team-high 38 assists is only a small part of his contribution to the success of both Cody Sun and 100 Thieves, as his shotcalling and positive energy are what have made him one of the top supports in the league.

As they head into Week 4, there is still a long way to go this split. Though it looks promising, it remains to be seen if these two veterans can lead their respective teams to the level of success they are each striving for. If they both continue to perform, it is possible that we will see them both at Worlds again in 2018.

 

 

If you would like to contact me or keep up with things I like, find me on Twitter: @buttsy11.  For more of the best esports news, follow The Game Haus on Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for reading!

 

Other photos courtesy of  comicbook.com

Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett on their victory over TSM, onstage intensity and words for MikeYeung

“I genuinely feel like I have a long term home here. I really love playing with my teammates.” – Dardoch on Echo Fox

Parqueso – What are the comms like when it gets into these really late game teamfights? How do you keep calm, how do you keep your composure? Especially as the only one who can get into the backline.

Dardoch – “Well I wouldn’t necessarily say I kept composure during the game. *laughs* I was screaming a lot, and I was really intense… Every time I would engage, I was screaming who I was going for. Like, “Kill Bjergsen! Please kill Malzahar, kill Ez!” That kind of stuff. But overall, when everything calms down and we need to talk about strategy, like after the teamfight disperses and we are clearing waves, everyone is really calmed down and we just get the concise plan out.”

Image provided by Riot Games

P – Everyone talks about 100 Thieves showing up and proving to not just be “pretenders,” but what about you guys on EchoFox? People talk about how you seem to have potential, but could easily fall apart. Any response to that?

D – “I wouldn’t say we have solidified ourselves as a top team yet but we are definitely on the right track. And I think if we have a couple more strong performances, we will definitely solidify ourselves as a top team.”

P – Does the memeing and flame from the community or whomever propel you forward or is it just something you want to die off?

D – “It is something I just wish would die off, but really I am numb to that banter already. It’s been going on for so long, but I know what is going on inside my organization and I know how my teammates feel about me, and I’m really happy about how they feel about me and our relationships. So I don’t really care about the public’s wrong perception of me.”

P – You present as a very emotional player, and I’d say a number of LCS pros are – you can just see the passion when they play. How do you use that emotion? And is it something you actually think about, or does it just exist?

D – “It’s 100% natural onstage. My adrenaline pumps so much in these really high intensity games, when it’s almost entirely on me to get the engage – especially in that game when legitimately no one else on the team could engage the fight – every time it goes correctly, my heart is just racing. It’s so fun! It’s really an awesome experience playing onstage.”

Image provided by Riot Games

P – What changes do you expect to happen in the jungle in competitive play going into patch 8.2?

D – “I mean, we are going to see a lot of Nunu bans. That is probably one of the dumbest balance changes I have ever seen come out of Riot games and it is just actually baffling that they haven’t reverted it yet. And I hope that is the quote of this interview, because it is absolutely ridiculous. It is absolutely ridiculous for them to buff Nunu that absurdly. The champion needs a rework. He is just boring. He needs a rework he doesn’t need a buff. I just needed to say my 2 cents on Nunu. But I think most changes are just from lane matchups. Targons gone from adcs, spellthief’s gone from other laners and junglers. We’ll see the most change in [lanes] due to the change in targeted spells changing minion aggro.”

P – Lastly, I’m starting up a segment called Everyone Else is Trash, where I encourage players to engage in some friendly banter with their opponents. Do you have anything fun you’d like to add?

D – “I actually don’t really want to bm, but I could give some words of encouragement to MikeYeung. Just directly to Mike, ‘Mike I think you’re a really good player and I think you have a lot of potential. You’re going to get a lot of hate because you are on TSM and you’re losing. But just keep your head down and keep working. You have really good players around you, and I think you guys will be fine.’”

Wholesome Dardoch provided by Riot Games

 



Thanks for reading! Shoutout to @Dardochlol for being an amazing interviewee. Stay tuned here for more interviews and content! If you’d like to contact me, go ahead and tweet @parkeso. For pictures and stories, follow my Insta @parqueso. If you’re not big into social media, email me at parkesotwo@gmail.com. =)

Cody Sun

Cody Sun on TL Snub: ‘If they’re going to pay so much money for Doublelift, then there’s nothing I can do about it’

Following a win against Team Liquid, 100 Thieves AD carry Cody Sun sat down with The Game Haus for a quick interview.

Talk to me about tonight’s game, how you think it went and give me some of your takeaways of the match.

“So since we’re playing against TL and they’re first place, it’s a pretty important match for us. And it was pretty important for me personally since they had three of my former teammates and I was supposed to start over Doublelift until they picked him up. I was kind of nervous going in.

cody sun

Photo courtesy of Riot Games.

I think our team played really well. I think our macro and communication was definitely on point. But for me, I played most of the team fights pretty poorly. I knew when Pobelter’s Azir ultimate was coming and I was like, ‘Be prepared for it,’ but somehow he still got me, like on the edge, or something. That was pretty sad. And the one around middle, we just didn’t know they were there. I should have still been more careful and back.

Overall, I really like how our team played today.”

Going back a bit, is there part of you that wishes you got to play with your Immortals teammates on Team Liquid?

“I’m still really good friends with all of my Immortals teammates, especially Olleh. It would have been great to play with them on Team Liquid, but I’m just enjoying my time on 100 Thieves. If they’re going to pay so much money for Doublelift, then there’s nothing I can do about it.”

Moments ago you claimed that you want this season to be “your year.” What kind of personal improvements do you feel like you need to make for this to come to fruition?

“It’s just to be constantly on the grind. I’ve been playing this game, not just professionally, for a really long time. To improve, you just have to constantly work on your gameplay and yourself, and do a lot of self-reflection during your off time. Nobody plays this game perfectly, there’s always things to improve.

cody sun

Cody Sun in his post game interview. Photo courtesy of Riot Games.

I think, especially in North America, no matter how much you achieve in our region, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. When you go to Worlds, you open your eyes to so many better teams and better players.

I know I’m not close to where I want to be, but just having a goal to constantly work towards everyday feels pretty nice.”

What has it been like laning with a veteran support like Aphromoo with the leadership, experience and championship pedigree he brings to the table?
cody sun

Cody Sun embraces Aphromoo. Photo courtesy of Riot Games.

“I think Aphromoo is a fantastic teammate, leader and support player. He does so much for me, actually. He probably actually did a lot for the previous AD’s he played with. I’m pretty sure any AD that plays with him will instantly look a lot better because he looks out for you in every aspect of the game. Since he played AD carry himself, he knows what your role wants and he just helps you out. I feel like I can do so much more when I play with him.”

Now you’ve played for coaches with two very different backgrounds. Tell me about how playing for Prolly has been and how it compares to SSONG from your time with Immortals.

“Compared to SSONG, I think they have polar opposite coaching styles. SSONG is a lot more assertive. I think, because he comes from Korea, he obviously brings in the Korean culture when it comes to coaching. He’ll just pick you your champion and won’t really ask your opinions that much on the picks. He’ll do an entire draft and everything.

For Prolly, he’s a lot more democratic with his coaching style. In review, we have a lot more discussions. Our reviews take a lot longer than on Immortals, which can be a good and bad thing. I think we’re still trying to figure out the best way to do reviews as a team. It’s just different.”

You’re now 3-0, coming off an impressive win against Team Liquid. How do you guys stay on top?

“It’s just the start of the season, I think with everyone, all the veterans on our team, nobody is getting really hyped or anything. We could have just as easily lost the three games that we won, and it’s not like we’re this super powerhouse team or anything.

The best part about this team is that nobody has an ego. Meteos, Aphromoo and even like Sssumday and Ryu, they’ve won really important matches and they got really far in playoffs. Everyone just understands the process and wants to get better week by week.”

What are your impressions of Cloud9 and how do you feel like you’ll match up against them tomorrow?

“For C9, I think they’re also trying to mesh with each other. They have Licorice, he’s a rookie, and I know how it is to play as a rookie. It takes a pretty long time to get used to everything. Even really veteran players, I’ve asked Aphromoo, and even he gets nervous on stage, sometimes.

We’re probably just going to try to play our game. Be really macro-focused and not do anything too crazy. I think C9 is just as strong as Team Liquid.”

Featured image: Riot Games

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NA LCS Week 1 overreactions

Week 1 of NA LCS is in the books and as always, teams don’t always seem too coordinated at the beginning of the split. The new meta has brought a lot of long games that has tested the shot calling and synergy of many of these newly formed rosters. Franchising seems to have upped the competition for sure as every team looked competitive in the first week. Here are some of the overreactions after week 1:

TSM will crash and burn

It’s no secret that Team SoloMid’s new roster debuted with a dud of a week. After being criticized heavily at last years world’s for the lack of early play making ability, the team went for a new look. They imported European duo laners Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen and Alfonso “mithy” Aguirre Rodríguez. They also brought in promising all star rookie jungler, Michael “MikeYeung” Yeung, to round out the roster.

TSM looked like a mirror image of their Worlds team during week 1. They were lacking in early game play making and reacting to the enemy team’s moves. Former coach of the split, Kim “Ssong” Sangso was supposed to help fix their issues, but the team looked unchanged.

Star mid laner Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg faced heavy criticism from Riot analysts for his passive play. Many players were quick to defend him. They came in ranked near the top for most of the preseason power rankings. Going 0-2 is a major disappointment for this new roster and they’ll need to fix their drafts and early game play making if they don’t want to fall too far behind.

Echo Fox can actually win na lcs

Huni

Source: Riot Games Flickr

Echo Fox came being ranked as one of the lower tier teams in the league. Many argued that the egos on the roster would not be able to mesh well together and the team would ultimately fail once they lost a few games. In their first two games, the team looked very good going 2-0. Echo Fox’s early game has been the best in the league. They averaged a gold difference @15 of 4,233 over the two games they played.

Top lane star Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon showed off his top Lucian pick as a counter to Gangplank. He would end the game with a 4-0-6 KDA and flame horizon the originator of the saying, Lee “Flame” Ho-jong.

Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett showed out well with two good Zac games and finishing with a 9.5 KDA. Echo Fox looked really strong, but we’ll need to see them stay consistent heading into week 2. They’ll be facing off against a struggling TSM and Cloud 9 this week. If they can pull out another 2-0, this team could be the real deal. This could possibly be the roster that finally gets Echo Fox to playoffs.

100 Thieves Might be the Strongest of all the New teams

With the NA LCS introducing four new teams into franchising, 100 Thieves looked to be the best of all the teams. Built with solid veterans in just about every role this team could be a sleeper team to look out for. They have two strong Korean solo laners in Yoo “Ryu” Sang-wook and Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho.

They have a strong core of North American players as well in veterans Zaqueri “aphromoo” Black and William “Meteos” Hartman. Along with rising young stud Cody “Cody Sun” Sun, their roster looks solid. They were able to pull off a really close win against Optic Gaming and dominated Counter Logic Gaming.

Lead by passionate owner, Matthew “Nadeshot” Haag, 100 Thieves could start gaining fans quickly if they keep their success up.

Licorice is the Next Great NA Talent

When Cloud 9 announced that rookie Eric “Licorice” Ritchie would be replacing Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong, many were quick to write them off as contenders. Licorice in particular had no LCS experience and hadn’t looked particularly strong against LCS competition. In their first match against CLG Licorice was a victim to camping by the enemy jungler, but was still able to deal the most damage in the game on Gangplank.

In his second game against Golden Guardians, he had an excellent Kled game going 7-0-6. Licorice has been a longtime solo queue stud, so if he can develop into a carry top lane he could be the next star from North America. Cloud 9 is known to be open to letting their players play what they think is strong so he’ll have a lot of freedom for champion choice.

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The 2018 North American Academy League starts soon.

Introducing the 2018 North American Academy League rules and rosters

Along with the franchising of the North American LCS, Riot is introducing an Academy League for the 2018 season. This league is replacing the North American Challenger Series of previous years. Each LCS organization is required to support an Academy roster alongside their primary team, which will compete in the “minor league.”

While this move is not a huge change for North American League of Legends, Riot has stated slightly different goals for this Academy League compared to the Challenger Series:

“At its core, Academy League is a service for organizations to develop in-house talent–unlike its high-stakes predecessor, the Challenger Series, whose focus was to promote new teams to the NA LCS.”

The Academy League is not necessarily designed to be competitive in the same way Challenger Series was. It is a space for organizations to focus on bringing in players and coaches to season them into LCS talents.

STRUCTURE and RULES

The 2018 Academy League Spring Split schedule is available online

Image from lolesports.com

The Academy League will run parallel to the NA LCS. For every Saturday and Sunday LCS match-up there will be a Thursday or Friday Academy match. For example, since TSM and Team Liquid’s LCS teams face off in week one, their Academy teams also face off in week one. Academy League is a best-of-one double round robin, just like the LCS. Riot will broadcast Friday’s Academy series, but Thursday’s will only be available as VODs. The entire schedule is published on their website.

In order to keep the Academy League true to its goals, Riot has implemented a few roster restrictions. Every organization has to lock in their active roster each Wednesday, then set starters by 1:00pm for Academy, and 12:00pm for LCS, each game day. Riot kept roster changes relatively flexible, because they “felt it would be detrimental for player development if it was difficult for players to move between the starting Academy and LCS rosters.”

In addition, Academy teams have veteran and import player limits. For the 2018 Spring Split, Academy teams can only start up to three veterans and one non-resident. Riot was torn between expanding North America’s rising stars and continuing to support established talents through the chaos of the franchising off-season. Moving forward, Academy teams will be restricted to two veterans.

They define a veteran as “if the player has started over 50% of eligible regular season games over the course of the last two splits of professional, Worlds-eligible League of Legends competition (i.e. NA LCS, EU LCS, etc).” Riot believes veterans bring several benefits to Academy teams. They allow LCS organizations to field a couple of solid substitutes for their bench. Veterans on Academy teams can also help influence young players in and out of the game. Import players can use the Academy to “get acclimated to NA esports, as well as learn English and deal with the transition of living in a new country.”

Academy Team Rosters (previous team-recent achievement)

OpTic Gaming joins the 2018 Academy League

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OpTic Academy (OPTA)

Dhokla – Sin Gaming – 4th place 2017 Oceanic Pro League Summer

Kadir – ÇİLEKLER – 8th place 2017 Turkish Championship League Summer

Palafox – Team Ocean – 1st place 2017 NA Scouting Grounds

Andy – Zenith eSports – 2nd place 2016 Carbon Winter Invitational

Winter – Team Mountain – 3rd place 2017 NA Scouting Grounds

OpTic’s roster-building strategy did not carry over as much from their LCS roster. While Dhokla most recently competed in Australia, he is North American, along with Palafox, Andy and Winter. Kadir, from the Netherlands, is the only technical non-resident.

This Academy squad seems to truly be about developing young talent, as these players have hardly anything on their resume coming into 2018. Hopefully the OpTic LCS team gels better than predicted, because none of these players appear ready to take the main stage just yet.

Team Liquid joins the 2018 Academy League

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TL Academy (TLA)

RepiV – NA Solo Queue – Challenger

Hard – Echo Fox – 10th place 2016 NA LCS Summer

Mickey – Team Liquid – 9th place 2017 NA LCS Summer

Shoryu – NA Solo Queue – Challenger

Joey – CLG sub- 3rd place 2017 NA LCS Summer

Liquid’s Academy team centers around Korean mid laner Mickey, who TL brought on towards the end of Summer Split. Hard has some LCS experience as a starter and substitute, while Joey was a substitute for CLG under Aphromoo. He did get to start a couple of times during the Spring Split.

RepiV (previously Viper) and Shoryu are essentially solo queue talents, although RepiV was Liquid’s top lane substitute for most of last year. This Academy roster provides Mickey, Hard and Joey as substitutes if Xmithie, Pobelter or Olleh do not pan out. However, it is mostly a testing ground for RepiV and Shoryu.

FlyQuest joins the 2018 Academy League

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FlyQuest Academy (FQA)

Ngo – University of Toronto – 2nd place 2017 uLoL Collegiate Series

Shrimp – Team Dignitas – 4th place 2017 NA LCS Summer

Keane – Team Dignitas – 4th place 2017 NA LCS Summer

Erry – University of Toronto – 2nd place 2017 uLoL Collegiate Series

JayJ – University of Toronto – 2nd place 2017 uLoL Collegiate Series

FlyQuest is the only Academy roster to bring on collegiate talent for Spring Split. Ngo (aka iMysterious or Gaow Gaiy), Erry and JayJ played together on the University of Toronto uLoL team last year. The team took second place in North America, but this will be their first test in the minor league.

Keane and Shrimp join FQA from a disbanded Team Dignitas, which took fourth place in the LCS last summer. They are, arguably, the strongest duo out of any Academy line-up. Their mid-jungle synergy should provide FlyQuest with a sturdy anchor to develop the Toronto trio.

TSM joins the 2018 Academy League

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TSM Academy (TSMA)

Brandini – Echo Fox – 8th place 2017 NA LCS Summer

Grig – Echo Fox sub- 8th place 2017 NA LCS Summer

Ablazeolive – Team Mountain – 3rd place 2017 NA Scouting Grounds

MrRalleZ – TSM sub – 1st place 2017 NA LCS Summer

Shady – Phoenix1 sub – 10th place 2017 NA LCS Summer

TSM’s Academy roster is not nearly as threatening as their LCS line-up. MrRalleZ carries over from last year as a tenured substitute AD Carry. Playing under Zven should expand the veteran’s repertoire even further, after training with Doublelift last year.

Brandini, Grig and Shady have each gotten a small share of LCS experience, but mostly acted as substitutes for their respective teams. Ablazeolive has played in the Challenger Series, but is mostly known as a versatile solo queue mid laner. These individuals should be able to go toe-to-toe with most in the Academy League, but synergy may take time to develop.

CLG joins the 2018 Academy League

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CLG Academy (CLGA)

Fallenbandit – CLG Academy – 5th place 2017 NA Challenger Summer

Omargod – CLG – 3rd place 2017 NA LCS Summer

Tuesday – CLG Academy – 5th place 2017 NA Challenger Summer

Zag – CLG Academy – 5th place 2017 NA Challenger Summer

Fill – CLG Academy – 5th place 2017 NA Challenger Summer

CLG is the only team that already had a reasonable sister team playing in the Challenger Series. They simply carried over their entire roster from Summer Split and re-added Omargod.

It is hard to say whether this line-up’s synergy will overcome the raw talent of some of these other rosters. Omargod is the closest to a veteran on the team, due to his LCS experience last split. Maybe he will be the leader to elevate the rest of CLGA into a threat.

100 Thieves joins the 2018 Academy League

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100 Academy (100A)

Kaizen – Team Ocean – 1st place 2017 NA Scouting Grounds

Levi – GIGABYTE Marines – 1st place 2017 Garena Premier League Summer

Linsanity – Team Cloud – 4th place 2017 NA Scouting Grounds

Rikara – Gold Coin United – 1st place 2017 NA Challenger Summer

Whyin – Gold Coin United sub – 1st place 2017 NA Challenger Summer

100 Thieves put together a creative Academy roster for 2018. Everyone will focus on Levi, the aggressive GPL superstar jungler, but there is more to 100A. Rikara and Whyin played together last summer on Gold Coin United. Linsanity has been a touted solo queue mid laner for years now.

Most importantly, Levi and Linsanity could be 100 Thieves’ answer to Meteos and Ryu’s retirement. With a split or two of experience together, Levi and Linsanity could fill Meteos and Ryu’s roles without needing to change out Ssumday, Cody Sun or Aphromoo.

Golden Guardians joins the 2018 Academy League

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GGS Academy (GGA)

Jenkins – NA Solo Queue – Challenger

Potluck – eUnited sub – 2nd place 2017 NA Challenger Summer

Bobqin – eUnited sub – 2nd place 2017 NA Challenger Summer

Jurassiq – NA Solo Queue – Challenger

Xpecial – Phoenix1 – 10th place 2017 NA LCS Summer

Golden Guardians used the same mentality to construct their Academy team as their LCS team. Xpecial acts as the long-term veteran shot-caller who will develop four young North American talents. Hai assumes that role on GG’s main line-up.

Jenkins, Potluck, Bobqin and Jurassiq are relatively unknown quantities. No one can really comment on how effective they may be. However, if Xpecial proves to be better than Matt, then he just may get the starting spot. It also might not be out of the question for Jenkins or Jurassiq to see some starts, depending on Lourlo and Deftly’s performances.

 

Cloud9 joins the 2018 Academy League

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C9 Academy (C9A)

League – Team Cloud – 4th place 2017 NA Scouting Grounds

Wiggily – Tempo Storm – 3rd/4th place 2017 NA Challenger Summer

Goldenglue – Team Liquid – 9th place 2017 NA LCS Summer

Keith – Echo Fox – 8th place 2017 NA LCS Summer

Zeyzal – eUnited – 2nd place 2017 NA Challenger Summer

Fans should be pleased with Cloud9’s Academy off-season, despite questionable LCS pick-ups. Goldenglue and Keith have previously had starting LCS roles, even if they were weak points for those teams. Wiggily and Zeyzal showed promise in last year’s Challenger Series.

League is the most questionable addition, but C9 worked with him at Scouting Grounds and obviously see something in him worth developing. As long as these personalities mix, C9 Academy should be fairly competitive. All of these players need a bit of development before promoting into the LCS.

Echo Fox joins the 2018 Academy League

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EF Academy (FOXA)

Allorim – Phoenix1 sub – 10th place 2017 NA LCS Summer

TheOddOrange – Team Gates – 6th place 2017 NA Challenger Spring

Damonte – Echo Fox sub – 8th place 2017 NA LCS Summer

Lost – Legacy Esports – 3rd place 2017 Oceanic Pro League Summer

Papa Chau – eUnited sub – 2nd place 2017 NA Challenger Summer

Echo Fox brings together five players with limited professional experience. Allorim and Damonte were substitutes for LCS teams, while Papa Chau subbed for eUnited. TheOddOrange has played in the NA Challenger Series, and Lost started in the OPL.

EF Academy is probably the weakest-looking out of the bunch. None of these players have much prior history or synergy together. Damonte previously played for Echo Fox, but he did not see many starting opportunities. Even parts of last year’s Delta Fox/Stream Dream Team might have been valuable for developing raw talent.

Clutch Gaming joins the 2018 Academy League

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Clutch Academy (CGA)

Maxtrobo – Tempo Storm sub – 3rd/4th place 2017 NA Challenger Summer

Moon – FlyQuest – 7th place 2017 NA LCS Summer

Sun – NA Solo Queue – Challenger

Piglet – Team Liquid – 9th place 2017 NA LCS Summer

Vulcan – Team Ocean – 1st place 2017 NA Scouting Grounds

Piglet returns to the minor league as part of Clutch Gaming Academy. He is joined by Moon and three rookies. Vulcan had a decent showcase at Scouting Grounds, and Maxtrobo and Sun have consistently maintained high Challenger solo queue rankings.

Clutch Gaming is smart to bring on Moon and Piglet as substitutes for LiRa and Apollo. These two duos would be interchangeable while still starting two or fewer non-residents. LiRa and Apollo were more consistent in Summer Split, but Moon and Piglet showed high ceilings in Spring Split. Hopefully, they are also able to lead this squad in the Academy League.

Expectations for 2018

Based on the rosters that these organizations have fielded, the 2018 Academy League should be much better for developing new North American players. Less than 10 percent of these players are imports. Close to 30 percent of these players have started in a major competitive league (LCS, LCK, etc.). Many of these players will have their professional debut in the Academy League, and others will finally get a chance to have a starting position in the minor league.

There are still a few players, such as Levi, Xpecial, Piglet and Keane, who have opportunities to rotate into the NA LCS this year. If they are able to prove themselves as leaders, and the rosters can conform to import limits, then they could be promoted. For now, though, they will need to focus on growth and development.

Academy League may not be as competitive as the Challenger Series was previously. It may be more of a training ground for players and coaches to condition and mature. Teams are going to have difficulty synergizing immediately. Some players may find they are unable to work well in a team environment. Nonetheless, 2018 will be full of growth, and the Academy League will be a huge part in continuing that growth for years to come.

credits

Featured Image: LoL Esports

Other Images: LoL Esports

Team and Player History and Achievements: LeaguepediaOP.GGuLoL

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Burning 5: LCS questions following roster mania

If you blinked, you may have been lapped by the quickest roster shuffle since the inception of the North American LCS.

It all unfolded quickly. Big names swapping teams, European stars plucked from over the Atlantic and near-blank checks were passed around to the region’s most talented players. With charter membership finally kicking off, roster building became an arms race that could have been missed in the blink of an eye.

Anyways, despite the snappy moves and high-prized free agents, questions remain.

What does Meteos have left in the tank?

LCS roster

Photo courtesy of Riot Games

On one hand, adding a popular two-time LCS champion to an organization in its infancy seems like a no-brainer.

On the other, it’s been a long minute since former Cloud9 star William “Meteos” Hartman has shown the willingness to be a long-term LCS starter.

Recently, he’s been more of a flash in the pan for teams in transition. Cloud9 penciled him back in mid-season for a run that culminated with a berth to the 2016 World Championship before he resurfaced the following spring jungling for Phoenix1. His time on P1 was flashy, brief and he made it abundantly clear that he wasn’t willing to commit long-term to professional play. And after a few forgetful performances, he was supplanted by then-rookie Mike Yeung.

While there is little question he is capable of being a rock for this star-studded 100 Thieves lineup, the comfortable life of a Twitch streamer and Gunnars spokesman will always loom around the corner for a jungler who hasn’t competed for an entire season since 2014.

What can we expect out of MikeYeung?

LCS roster

Photo courtesy of Riot Games

In a perfect world, Mike Yeung isn’t the one to take the mantle of Team SoloMid’s jungler; but absorbing the proven bottom lane of Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen and Alfonso “Mithy” Rodríguez was too good of an opportunity to pass on.

The young jungle main is quickly moving onto the biggest stage in Western League of Legends with little experience and heavy expectations. His four teammates have enough hardware to share and have all come together to perform on the international stage.

While he’s put together some nice highlights on the rift, the expectations to perform at the highest level with one of the best Western teams ever assembled won’t be easy. It’s international success or bust and plenty of that pressure rests on the shoulders of a flashy, but largely-unproven player.

How will CLG carry on without aphromoo?

LCS roster

Photo courtesy of Riot Games

The parting of Zaqueri “aphromoo” Black from Counter Logic Gaming is the biggest loss of the off-season no matter how you slice it.

The anchor for an organization plagued by years of instability, failures and 17-page manifestos, aphromoo not only became synonymous with CLG’s branding, but became their in-game leader as they won back-to-back LCS titles, twice qualified for Worlds and clawed their way to a runner-up finish at the 2016 Mid-Season Invitational. With a resume rivaled by few, his cool vibe and team-oriented approach were instrumental for CLG’s renaissance.

The move to former TSM support and three-time LCS champion Vincent “Biofrost” Wang isn’t necessarily a downgrade on the surface, but as we’ve seen from plenty of teams, you can never put a price on leadership.

Life without aphro will be a big transition. It’ll be interesting to see if Biofrost, new jungler Kim “Reignover” Yeu-jin and incumbent CLG members can fill that void.

Does Dardoch finally get it?

LCS roster

Photo courtesy of Riot Games

Rick Fox and company put together quite the boom-or-bust roster with the most boom-or-bust personality at jungle.

Joshua “Dardoch” Harnett has never been short of raw talent or passion, which we’ve known since his promotion to Team Liquid’s starting jungle position in 2016. Overshadowing his will, however, has always been the path of destruction his attitude has left along the way.

A year after Team Liquid’s infamous Breaking Point, the documentary that centered around the season-long stare down between Dardoch and then-coach Choi “Locodoco” Yoon-seop, the 19-year-old jungler is coming off a season where his attitude bounced him between three different organizations. And like his previous stops, he’s once again acknowledged his attitude problems weighed down his teams and seems determined to fix them.

“It has to get to a point where there’s a common denominator in all these teams,” he stated in his exit video with Team Liquid posted just over a month ago.

The acquisition of Dardoch is a risky move for a risky lineup, but if he can finally get it together, this team will be ready to compete for a title. If problems persist, it’ll be interesting to see what doors remain open for the controversial star.

Can we trust the Golden Guardians’ process?

LCS roster

Photo courtesy of Riot Games

Yeah, we know. The “trust the process” slogan is latched onto the LCS-exiled Philadelphia 76ers, but the Golden Stare Warriors-owned esports franchise is putting faith in the future.

Behind mid laner Hai “Hai” Lam are four players young, talented and local to North America. In fact, they’re the only team to recruit zero imports, while the rest of the league is carrying the maximum of two, regulated by the Interregional Movement Policy.

Known for his in-game leadership, the 25-year-old has tasked himself to help build a team organically for the long-term, akin to their NBA-counterpart. The Warriors have been perennial title contenders after stockpiling and developing talent over years. It’ll be fun to watch their esports division attempt to emulate their long and successful plan of action.

Featured image: Riot Games

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Coming to America: Levi’s story

Little was known about star jungler Đỗ “Levi” Duy Khánh heading into last year. He had been an all star for the small region of Vietnam. Heading into last year’s MSI he helped put Gigabyte Marines on the map. His wide champion pool and unpredictable aggression sprung him to fame fast.

After the All Star event, he expressed his desire to come to North America to play. He believed it offered him much better competition to improve and to make a name for himself outside of Vietnam. The 100 Thieves have acquired Levi to play on their academy team. While it’s not an LCS position, it’s still a good chance for him to be eventually picked up by LCS teams.

100 Thieves have already used their two import slots on their solo laners so it will be interesting to see if he stays with the organization moving forward. Teams have already seen what he can do at Worlds and MSI so he’ll be one of the most hyped players in the academy league. If he performs well, a struggling LCS team may be able to acquire his services.

MSI 2017

While Levi was named an All Star the previous season he didn’t really become well known until MSI. Before this, many were expecting Gigabyte Marines to be the typical wildcard team: cheese picks and close games with no late game macro. The Gigabyte Marines heavily defied expectations while nearly beating TSM in a best of five series and finishing the group 3-7.

Levi was a huge factor in their wins as a hyper carry style jungler. Gigabyte Marines didn’t care for the meta and weren’t afraid to play their own pocket picks. Levi’s aggression was calculative and impressive to see from a smaller region.

While their style was unorthodox, it worked well with what the team wanted to do. They knew they couldn’t beat teams in standard play, so they’d adapt their play styles to fit their team.

Worlds

Photo by: Riot Games

After MSI, many teams thought they knew what to expect from Gigabyte Marines. They had a sample to look at from MSI so there could be no cheese left. They were wrong. In the most interesting games ever played at Worlds, Gigabyte Marines had Levi play Nocturne. Nocturne wasn’t meta at the time, but with lanes swapped for longer lanes it was perfect. Levi was able to hyper farm to level 6 in five minutes. From there, his full lethality build prevented Fnatic from ever getting back into the game.

They would earn a three way tie for second place and barely miss out on making it out of the group. The world thought the hype for Levi had died down, but it was only starting.

Coming to North America

As Levi heads to North America he has the chance to improve his English and communication. If he can keep his hyper aggressive style there’s no telling where he could go. Many teams may look to acquire him if their LCS starters are struggling.

People have expressed how important communication is in succeeding in LCS. It will be vital to see how he can adjust to American culture, but the future looks bright for him. One can only hope he can keep defying expectations and playing like the monster that he has shown to be.

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Four new organizations enter the NA LCS in 2018

NA LCS team identities following off-season roster upheavals

This year’s off-season has been extremely disruptive to the identity of each NA LCS team. Iconic, long-term and founding members of several rosters have switched to another team for 2018. Aphromoo is no longer playing for Counter Logic Gaming. Echo Fox is without Froggen. Hai has moved on from FlyQuest. TSM does not have Svenskeren.

Four brand new organizations are entering the LCS, while four previous organizations are no more. Immortals, Team Envy, Phoenix1 and Dignitas are out. Optic Gaming, Golden Guardians, 100 Thieves and Clutch Gaming are in. All of the narratives surrounding the dissolved teams no longer matter. Immortals’ fumbles domestically, and then their tragic World Championship; Dignitas’ return to the LCS and Summer Split run in the playoffs; Phoenix1’s roller-coaster ups and downs from Rift Rivals, MikeYeung and roster shuffles. All down the drain.

The incoming teams will create new narratives for fans to enjoy. Endemic organizations made big roster moves in the off-season, which will bring their own storylines. The other teams in the middle, like Echo Fox and FlyQuest, will continue to mold into their own identities. 2018 is a watershed year for creating new drama, rivalries and narratives within the NA LCS.

100 Thieves: Old Guard, Modern Marketing

Aphromoo joined 100 Thieves for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

The roster and coach announced for 100 Thieves consists of Ssumday, Meteos, Ryu, Aphromoo and Pr0lly. Each of these members could easily help anchor a team with their veteran experience and knowledge. However, they find themselves together on a roster that could very well have the most combined professional League of Legends experience on any announced NA LCS team in 2018. The coaching role, every lane, and the jungle position is covered by an established personality.

The organization itself is rather novel, though. Matthew Haag, aka “Nadeshot,” is well-known in the Call of Duty world as a retired player and team owner. He is partnered with the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers to build a brand and a League of Legends roster under the 100 Thieves moniker. With a standout logo and a merch store full of casual-wear, 100 Thieves will most likely bring a different marketing flavor to the LCS.

100 Thieves should bring a mixture of results on and off the Rift. Meteos, Pr0lly and Aphromoo are some of the most recognized personalities in North America, while Ssumday and Ryu rally their own sets of fans. Nadeshot and the Cavaliers may contribute new styles and promotions than League of Legends is used to. Combine the charisma of the players and staff with the creativity and flashiness of the brand, and 100 Thieves could pull a nice set of followers. Not to mention, if the team actually has synergy, then there is no doubt they can be contenders regardless of which AD carry they sign.

Cloud9: question marks

Svenskeren joins Cloud9 for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Fans are filled with confusion and concern towards Cloud9’s off-season. With Impact and Contractz leaving, Cloud9 brought on Svenskeren and Licorice to join Jensen, Sneaky and Smoothie on the starting roster. Factions of the fan-base believe these members to be side-grades at least, downgrades at worst. Licorice has not been tested above the Challenger Series, while Svenskeren was not viewed as a key factor for TSM in 2017. While Impact and Ray had their low moments this year on Cloud9, there is no question that Impact’s high points were on another level.

Cloud9 still remains as one of the goofier, nonchalant organizations. Sneaky will still be the central personality, as the longest tenured member of the organization. Jensen, Smoothie, Svenskeren and even Coach Reapered and team owner Jack have had their fair share of memes and fun. Licorice will probably fall right in line with this theme.

However, the lightheartedness of the players only works if they are winning. Jokes and humor fall flat if the roster has issues clicking, or if results do not show. Despite standing out as an amusing team, Cloud9 actually has a strong League of Legends legacy. They have won two NA LCS championships, and finished runner-up four times. In 2018 Cloud9 will look to continue building on this success, while still playing the jester role off stage.

Counter Logic Gaming: the Nice Guys

Biofrost joins CLG for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

CLG took their first step away from their “Team Friendship” theme when they traded Xmithie for Dardoch in the 2017 mid-season. They took a step further this off-season by bringing on Reignover to start over OmarGod. Add Aphromoo’s departure, and CLG’s identity is reeling.

But look at the starting roster: Darshan, Reignover, Huhi, Stixxay, Biofrost. These are the nice guys of the NA LCS. This squad has charisma. None of these members have any baggage following them from a previous team, or lacks personality. When Stixxay is the most arrogant player on the roster, it is probably a healthy work environment.

CLG should have some concerns, though. Who will be the leader and shotcaller to fill the void left by Aphromoo? Is there enough fire in the team? And is the talent strong enough to pass the test of 2018? Stixxay has never played in the LCS without Aphromoo. Biofrost only played one split without Doublelift, and it was not nearly as impactful. Reignover has not shown a level of play akin to his days with Huni on Fnatic and Immortals. 2018 will be a huge test for these players’ improvement together.

Clutch Gaming: upgraded envy

Febiven joins Clutch Gaming for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Lira, Apollo and Hakuho made up three fifths of Team Envy in 2017, and they will make up three fifths of Clutch Gaming in 2018. Instead of Nisqy and Seraph, though, Clutch opted for Febiven and Solo. Unlike Cloud9’s, these acquisitions should definitely be upgrades. Nisqy brought a level of consistency to the mid lane, which Envy did not have prior to starting him. Seraph was a starter for the team over a longer period of time, but played much less consistently. Febiven earned first team All-Pro in the 2017 European LCS Summer Split, and Solo was a top performer in the North American Challenger Series.

Envy’s jungler and bottom lane were huge contributors to the team’s Summer Split success. They were able to secure a playoff spot, and took CLG to five games in the quarterfinals. With stronger top and mid laners, Clutch Gaming may be able to reach the next level and push even farther. They also brought on David Lim, who led Team Liquid Academy during their promotion into the LCS and Team Liquid during the 2017 Spring Split.

Beyond a possibly underrated roster, the Houston Rockets’ Clutch Gaming identity within the LCS remains unclear. Sebastian Park, their Head of Esports, seems confident in the team’s potential, and the organization has teased analytical tools for optimizing talent scouting, including a “pathfinding engine.” If these types of developments pan out, then Clutch Gaming could become the Moneyball team in the NA LCS.

Echo Fox: The Aggressors

Dardoch and Fenix join Echo Fox for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

List the most aggressive players in the NA LCS over the past two years, and several of Echo Fox’s reported members are likely to pop up. Huni, Dardoch and Fenix are well-known hawkish competitors. Altec and Adrian began building a similar reputation in the 2017 Summer Split, as well. Echo Fox has combined these aggressors into one squad to completely revamp into 2018.

Drama and tension are the other side of this aggression coin. Dardoch and Fenix had their fair share of issues while on Team Liquid in 2016, as showcased in Breaking PointAdrian had his own problems on Phoenix1 in the 2017 Spring Split. These types of off-stage obstacles could bubble up once again without the proper infrastructure.

FOX’s new look is also a departure from the previous Froggen-centric 10-man roster and the Stream Dream Team (Delta Fox). Echo Fox could never develop any synergy on their LCS roster during Summer Split, due to constantly rotating starters. Froggen’s status is still unknown (although Jacob Wolf reported that FOX plans to drop him), but even if he stays, he will no longer be the only voice on the team. This new Echo Fox will have the highest performance variance, as most of the members rely on emotional momentum to succeed. If this roster is able to mesh and remain problem-free, then Echo Fox could reap huge rewards from this huge risk.

FlyQuest: A chemistry experiment

Flame joins FlyQuest for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

One of the few fully announced rosters, FlyQuest is completely revamped for 2018. Following the trend of keystone figures switching teams, Hai is no longer FlyQuest’s mid laner. Balls, Moon and Lemonnation are gone, as well. Instead, FlyQuest acquired Flame, Anda, Fly and Stunt as starters. They also signed Keane and Shrimp, as well as Ngo, Erry and Jayj from the University of Toronto’s collegiate team. Wildturtle is the only remaining member from the 2017 roster.

Other than Flame, these players feel middle of the pack individually. Anda and Fly are untested in the LCS, but have played in the NA Challenger Series with varying success. Wildturtle can spike fairly high, but generally relies on his teammates to play around his style. Stunt was the on-and-off starter during his time on Phoenix1.

Unlocking these players’ ceilings will be FlyQuest’s greatest challenge in 2018. With the proper synergy, FlyQuest could certainly rise higher than their 2017 Summer Split. Communication problems are more likely, though. Wildturtle has veteran experience, but he may not be a loud voice to build a team around. The rookies, Anda and Stunt, will rely on Wildturtle to be a leader and gel together with the Korean imports, Flame and Fly. Keane and Shrimp are smart pick-ups, since they worked fairly well with Ssumday on Dignitas, and could bring that experience into FlyQuest.

Golden Guardians: Hai and Company

Hai joins Golden Guardians for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Hai kick-starts a new organization in 2018, Golden Guardians, and he is basically their only hope. The Golden State Warriors-owned organization has reportedly acquired Lourlo, Contractz, Deftly and Matt. This roster would be the only one in the NA LCS without any imported players. Golden Guardians also seem to have the least combined LCS experience. These two factors will leave many fans wondering what reasoning was used to construct this team.

Golden Guardians will live or die by Hai in 2018. He is surrounded by relatively young players who have never played for more than one previous organization. LCS fans were impressed with Moon’s performance on FlyQuest with Hai as a shotcaller, but that success was short-lived. If Hai is able to unlock Lourlo, Contractz, Deftly and Matt the same way, then Golden Guardians could surprise.

ESPN also reported Locodoco as the Golden Guardians’ head coach, which could be helpful. He has experience coaching younger players on Team Liquid and Gold Coin United, including Lourlo and Matt. It would be surprising if Golden Guardians kept these same five members as their starters throughout 2018. Without the pressure of relegation, this organization could be taking the opportunity to develop younger native talents with Hai’s proven leadership.

Optic Gaming: The HodgePodge

PowerOfEvil joins Optic Gaming for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

A true concoction, Optic Gaming enters the NA LCS pulling together a wide variety of talents. The “Green Wall” is an expansive organization spanning Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Call of Duty, Overwatch and other esports. They have announced their acquisition of Romain Bigeard, ex-manager of Unicorns of Love, and Zaboutine, former caster, as manager and coach. ESPN has reported the starting roster as Zig, Akaadian, PowerOfEvil, Arrow and LemonNation.

If all of this is true, then Optic is combining rising stars in top and jungle with an experimental European mid laner, an up-and-down Korean AD carry and an analytical, veteran support. The roster will be led by an eccentric manager-mascot and a French caster-turned-coach, and they will have the full support of an esports powerhouse brand. There are some strong pieces to this puzzle, but they are not necessarily a clean fit.

The Optic LCS team seems like it may sit somewhere between 100 Thieves and FlyQuest. Optic is definitely a well-known esports organization, and they should draw a fan-base. The first-person shooter edge and player recognition of 100 Thieves combines with the questionable roster synergy of FlyQuest. Romain is a promotional personality with a knack for creating content and winning hearts, so expect Optic to use him to full effect. There is certainly plenty of talent on this roster, but it may take a while for them to actually produce favorable results.

Team Liquid: Vengeful Spirits

Doublelift joins Team Liquid for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

The hoarders of the off-season, Team Liquid emerges with a complete roster overhaul. After acquiring contracts for several different players, Liquid has most likely settled on Impact, Xmithie, Pobelter, Doublelift and Olleh. This five-man group feels much stronger and intuitive than Liquid’s team from 2017 Summer Split. Xmithie, Pobelter and Olleh are proven talents who made up three fifths of Immortals’ World Championship-qualifying roster. Impact had a mostly off year, but still solid during the high points. Doublelift comes to Liquid after being replaced by TSM.

Revenge is the overarching theme for Team Liquid going into 2018. Owner Steve Arhancet wants revenge for his last two years of roster troubles. The ex-Immortals players want revenge for losing to TSM in the Summer Split finals, then being denied from the franchised LCS. Most importantly, Doublelift wants revenge for getting nudged out of TSM.

With Cain remaining as head coach, Team Liquid should trend towards the top of the league. If this roster is unable to perform, then it will be a complete disgrace. All of these players have been victorious in the past. Each of these players have attended the World Championship, many of them as teammates. 2018 serves as a fresh start for Team Liquid and Steve, and they need to use their past frustrations as fuel. Dardoch is not an excuse. Piglet is not an excuse. Goldenglue is not an excuse. It is time for Liquid to put up or shut up.

TSM: the final boss

Zven and mithy join TSM for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Citing international shortcomings and issues with shotcalling and communication, TSM’s owner, Reginald, decided to replace Svenskeren, Doublelift and Biofrost with MikeYeung, Zven and Mithy. He also picked up Coach Ssong from Immortals’ dissolved team. The six-time NA LCS champions continue to adapt and reinvigorate their roster, and TSM will remain as the final boss in 2018. Every individual player on this team should be top three in their role at the beginning of the season.

MikeYeung is the only player worth questioning. He showcased an explosive Rift Rivals in 2017, but Phoenix1 fell off as a team afterwards. Fans will find out how meta-dependent MikeYeung is in 2018.

Hauntzer was the standout player at Worlds, and he had an all-around stellar 2017. Bjergsen continues to be an anchor in the mid lane, ever-present, ever-consistent. Zven and Mithy’s reputation precedes them, as they have been a package deal since their time on Origen starting in 2014.

TSM’s performance floor is higher than several LCS teams’ ceilings, because the consistency and experience on this team should be solid. Ssong obviously factored into Immortals’ Summer Split success. If he can produce even a portion of that improvement with TSM, then they have a fruitful road ahead. With so much volatility in the off-season, TSM is one of the only teams to maintain the same identity as the villain of the league. They are the team that assumes North American dominance, and shoots for greatness abroad. Franchising has opened doors for some others to compete financially and strategically, but will they actually have what it takes to dethrone the kings?

credits

Featured Image: Akshon Esports Twitter

Other Images: LoL Esports’ Flickr

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