This year has seen a rise in the number of subs used in the LCS. In previous years it was a rare sight to have multiple players starting in the same position. The exception came only when there were illnesses or injuries preventing a player from playing. Now, though it is far from the norm, many teams have started swapping out players between games and sets depending on a number of factors. These factors include: the team being played, the composition the team wants to try, tilt and player to player match ups.
The most prominent example of subs working lies with SKT. Since season five they have had at least one sub. Initially it was Easyhoon subbing in for Faker in the midlane. Then it was Bengi and Blank subbing in and out in the jungle. Now we have Peanut and Blank sharing the jungle and Untara and Huni splitting time in the top lane.
SKT finding success with the sub style has proven that it can work. Though it has been implemented in the NALCS, the strategy has been met with varied degrees of success.
Cloud 9 has probably found the most success with substitutions in the NALCS this split. Being able to sub in Ray or Impact when the series isn’t going their way, or when the match calls for a certain playstyle has helped Cloud 9 a few times this season. Most prominently when C9 subbed out Impact for Ray in their series against TSM. Ray came into game two and stayed even in lane, then made a huge play in the bottom lane swinging the momentum in C9’s favor. Then despite picking the wrong keystone mastery in game three of the series he still managed to make plays around the map.
Cloud 9 has found some success with substitutions. They still have a lot of problems that need to be fixed, though. Namely, the team often looks uncoordinated. Take their most recent series against CLG. They lost game one with Impact, who was just destroyed from level one, so they sub in Ray. They win game two with Ray, his J4 looked clean and though he didn’t carry he definitely set up some great plays. Game three was a different story. Despite being up in gold and towers at 20 minutes Cloud 9 is unable to take control of the neutral objectives and lost a fight around Baron and then in midlane giving CLG the advantage and letting them take the game.
Subbing works at times for Cloud 9, but it feels as if the lack of scrims with the same roster, and the different playstyle that each top laner brings unbalances C9 nearly as much as it does the opposing team.
This trend of unbalance on both sides seems to be a staple among all of the teams that utilize subs in the NALCS. Recently CLG has brought in jungler OmarGod. In his first series he came in after CLG picked up a win against Flyquest. He crushed on Olaf with a 5-0-13 performance, dominating the early game and bullying his way into the mid game. He proved that he has the talent to be an LCS jungler. When CLG lost game one to DIG they subbed out Dardoch and brought in Omar. They still didn’t pick up the win, and in fact looked more discombobulated in game two than in game one.
Echo Fox has a “ten man line-up” with a sub for every roll. However, substitutions in any role has only gotten a win against TL since week three.
NV has seen some success with the substitutions between Pirean and Nisqy. Generally, they play out an entire weekend with one, rather than swapping out in between games or series. This allows them time in scrims to prepare for the coming week, rather than splitting time. They still haven’t managed to beat a top team other than the struggling C9.
Pros and Cons
Whatever advantages teams gain from implementing subs seems to be negated by the unbalance it brings to their own team. The communication seems to be lackluster in all of the teams that have used subs this split. CLG seemed to bring in Omar in the DIG series because they were reaching for a panic button, rather than having a definitive plan to win. The lack of scrim time that each player gets is also a concern. More scrims is always a good thing, and having to split time between players doesn’t promote cohesion.
It is a long term investment though. Having two players that are both integrated with the rest of the team can be a powerful weapon to possess. If teams like CLG and C9 can have seamlessly interchangeable players at their disposal in the future they may have the edge they need to beat other top teams. Until those players get to that level of integration the teams are going to suffer some defeats because of it.
Only time will tell if the investments these teams have made into multiple players will pay off as short term losses and long term gains.
Cover Photo Via lolesports
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