Reignover joined CLG for 2018

Reignover’s journey from 2015 Worlds to the bottom of the NA LCS

When Fnatic announced Kim “Reignover” Yeu-jin as their starting jungler for the 2015 Spring Split, the LCS community aired its skepticism and criticism:

“Korean imports again. Can only end well. -_-”

“haha, reignover really?”

“This roster is pretty underwhelming, considering the talent that was available…FNC looking like a bottom-half team atm.”

Several online news outlets voiced similar sentiments:

“While that should have been significant incentive for Fnatic to pull together the best talent they can, the results are somewhat mystifying. To wit: While picking up premier new midlane talent in Febiven is an undeniably good choice, every other decision on the roster seems questionable.”

Reignover joined Fnatic in 2015

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

“Their Worlds placings; their endless top placings in LCS splits; the players who won those games and splits were no more. What was Fnatic’s response? They imported a Samsung Galaxy sub and his duo-que buddy, an ADC from the challenger scene, and the star mid-laner of H2K; Huni and Reignover, Steelback, and Febiven. A lot of people thought of these acquisitions as sub-optimal and disappointing.”

“It’d be a tough season, fans began to reason, but Fnatic had a tremendous eye for talent and would surely find the best possible players to replace their former stars. This general assumption resulted in a great and terrible gnashing of teeth when Fnatic’s signings to complete their new roster for Season 5 included two Korean players—Kim ‘ReignOver’ Yeu-jin, formerly of Incredible Miracle, and Heo ‘Huni’ Seung-hoon, a complete newcomer to competitive League of Legends.”

At the time, importing players from other regions was still uncommon in Europe, and Huni and Reignover were relatively unknown quantities in Korea. It was understandable that audiences would question Fnatic’s pick-ups, following the departure of several star players. Little did they know, these two players would be pivotal to Fnatic’s deep run at the World Championship that year.

Reignover’s Beginning: Spring and Summer Titles

Reignover had a spectacular year with Fnatic in 2015. Huni and he had instant synergy as a top-jungle duo, which allowed them to finish the spring regular season in second place with a 13-5 record. Reignover even earned weekly MVP of the EU LCS in week two for his Rengar and Olaf play.

Reignover and Fnatic won Spring and Summer Split 2015

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Fnatic went on to win a heated playoff bracket that spring. They beat H2K in the semifinals 3-2, despite losing two early games using a double-smite, Lee Sin top composition. With Unicorns of Love upsetting SK Gaming, Fnatic came into the finals as favorites. The series saw several different champions played, but Fnatic was able to pull out another 3-2 to take the Spring Split title. Reignover won MVP of the finals, Huni won the Outstanding Rookie award, and every Fnatic member represented the EU LCS first team All-Pro.

After bringing Europe home a fourth place finish at the 2015 Mid-Season Invitational (and taking SKT to fives games in the semifinals), Fnatic returned to the Summer Split with one new member–Rekkles. He turned out to be the key that unlocked Fnatic’s full potential. This roster finished the regular season undefeated, 18-0, solidifying Huni, Reignover, and the rest as some of the best Europe had ever seen. Reignover’s efficient jungle pathing with mostly Rek’Sai and Gragas provided Huni and Febiven with the upper hand in most match-ups.

The entire Fnatic line-up won first-team All-Pro honors again, and the summer playoffs went mostly as expected. Fnatic took down Unicorns of Love 3-0 in the semifinals. They met a formidable Origen squad in the finals, which went to five games. This match-up represented the narrative culmination of “old Fnatic” versus “new Fnatic”, with xPeke and Soaz facing off against Rekkles and Yellowstar. Huni and Reignover played large parts in allowing Fnatic to win the series 3-2, reinforcing the organization’s off-season roster decisions, and sending them to Worlds as Europe’s top seed.

Reignover’s Peak: Top Four at Worlds

Heading into the 2015 World Championship, western media outlets put Fnatic and Reignover under the microscope with statements like “To make it through their Group and beyond, Reignover needs to be successful in his ganks, specifically top side, to put Huni ahead,” “Reignover relies on high gold values to be effective in team fights, as he likes to play high damage picks like Elise, but with other high gold jungle monsters in this group, that’s less of an easy advantage,” “It’s easy to tag ReignOver as the weakest player on Fnatic based on his performances during the latter stages of the EU LCS,” and “Many have looked at Reignover’s champion pool as a target for Fnatic.”

Reignover and Fnatic went to Worlds in 2015

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Invictus Gaming, Cloud9 and AHQ Esports Club joined Fnatic in Group B, pitting Reignover against Mountain, Hai and KaKAO. In the round robin, Fnatic lost to AHQ and Cloud9 once each, then won their other four games. The 4-2 record put Fnatic at the top of their group, pushing them into the bracket stage.

For quarterfinals, Fnatic faced EDward Gaming. The Chinese organization finished first in the LPL regular season that summer, but flopped in the playoffs to finally place fourth. They won the Regional Qualifiers, which allowed EDG to qualify into Worlds. During the group stage, EDG lost both games to SKT, but went 2-0 against H2K and Bangkok Titans. Clearlove was a primary factor in EDG’s success, which meant all eyes would be on Reignover.

Clearlove and Reignover went back and forth with Rek’Sai and Gragas picks, but Reignover proved to be the better jungle on the day. He finished with more gold and assists in every game of Fnatic’s 3-0 victory. The series win qualified Fnatic for the World semifinals, an achievement no western team had reached since season three (which was also Fnatic).

Unfortunately, KOO Tigers, a top Korean team, crushed Fnatic 3-0. They joined their European rivals, Origen, finishing third-fourth in the tournament. These placements reinstated the EU LCS as a top region behind the LCK, and Fnatic as an international threat.

Reignover’s Move: Immortals’ Domestic Dominance

Reignover and Huni joined Immortals in 2016

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Reignover’s off-season, following such an impressive year with Fnatic, brought opportunities unlike any other. Eventually, Immortals announced their entrance into the NA LCS, and their successful signing of Fnatic’s top-jungle duo–Huni and Reignover. The two were such a hit together that they became a package deal.

Expectations for Immortals’ top-side was through the roof. “Immortals will be relying on the touted top-jungle synergy of former Fnatic duo of breakout rookie top laner Heo ‘Huni’ Seunghoon and junger Kim ‘Reignover’ Yeujin to take them to the top of the standings,” “[Immortals’] starting five is headlined by Fnatic’s South Korean duo from last year, the explosive Heo ‘Huni’ Seung-hoon in the top lane and his partner Kim ‘Reignover’ Yeu-jin at the jungler position,” and “Yes, it was a fantastic move, especially if the Koreans can bring along some of Fnatic’s winning culture and approach, but Immortals really scored points for how they built their team around Huni and Reignover,” were all remarks by the media. It was clear that Reignover and Huni had risen from Korean nobodies to titans in the span of a year.

Spring Split proved these presuppositions to be warranted. Immortals tore through North America’s teams to finish with a 17-1 record, only dropping one series to Counter Logic Gaming in week seven. CLG was the next closest contender, with a 13-5 record, four wins behind. Huni and Reignover won first team All-Pro honors for the third split in a row, and Reignover was deemed North America’s MVP.

However, TSM was able to find Immortals’ achilles heel and vanquish them in the playoffs. Some questionable top lane picks for Huni, and lackluster decision-making from Immortals, resulted in an 0-3 loss, which they took out on Team Liquid for third place. This moment marked the first major domestic shutdown of Reignover and Huni since their start as professional players. 

Reignover and Immortals barely missed playoffs in Spring and Summer Split 2016

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

The Immortals roster stayed together for Summer Split, which left many wondering if they could repeat their dominating spring performance. TSM proved to be the only contender, finishing the split with a 4-1 game record against Immortals, and the only team above them in the standings. Immortals 16-2 regular season record was still impressive, but not nearly as dominant as their prior first place finish. Reignover was the only Immortals member to be first team All-Pro, with TSM taking the other spots.

Playoffs seemed all but certain to end with TSM facing Immortals in the finals, but history decided to repeat itself. Immortals faced Cloud9 in the semifinals, and fell 3-2. For the second time in two splits, Immortals missed the NA LCS finals, due to uncharacteristic play in the semifinals. And again, they won the third place match. They took down CLG 3-2, which provided enough championship points for Immortals to get a direct seed to the regional finals for a spot at Worlds. Everyone’s anxieties came true, as Cloud9 defeated Immortals again, this time 3-1. All three losses were fairly one-sided, with most of Immortals’ players suffering negative KDAs and significant gold deficits.

It is hard to believe how disappointed each of Immortals’ members were once they realized they would not make it to the 2016 World Championship. Huni, Reignover and Pobelter had all competed in 2015, and regular-season-Immortals felt like they were set to go. This probably felt like a low point for Reignover, coming off of two years of solid performance. Playing with Immortals in North America had to feel like playing with Fnatic in Europe, except Immortals fell just short of glory–no trophies, no MSI, no Worlds. Reignover could not know that the following year would only get worse.

Reignover’s Fall: Team Liquid’s Mismanagement

Reignover joined Team Liquid in 2017

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Immortals rebuilt their roster around Pobelter in the off-season leading into 2017. Reignover and Huni were given opportunities to weigh other offers, and they ended up splitting for the first time in two years. Huni made the move to Korean powerhouse SKT, while Reignover signed with Team Liquid in North America. He joined Lourlo, Goldenglue, Link, Piglet and Matt.

The media was even higher on Reignover in this move than they had ever been before. Esports news outlets touted “Reignover is a master of being in the right place at the right time,” “Reignover was the best jungler in NA last year, and he’s a welcome, experienced addition to this team,” “If Team Liquid does as well as I’m projecting, it will be mostly due to their superstars, Kim ‘Reignover’ Yeu-jin and Piglet, both of whom are arguably the strongest players at their positions in North America,” and “Stars like Chae ‘Piglet’ Gwang-jin and Kim ‘Reignover’ Yeu-jin can be terrifying.”

This roster turned out to be a mess. They finished the Spring Split in ninth place with a 5-13 series record and a 36 percent game win rate. After announcing changes in the middle of the split, Liquid decided to move Piglet to the mid lane and bring in Youngbin as AD carry. After a couple of weeks with no improvement, Doublelift joined the team as a temporary sub out of his break, and Adrian later joined and started a few games. All of this turmoil and chaos completely overshadowed any positive gameplay out of Reignover.

Luckily, Team Liquid avoided relegation. The Promotion tournament was an extreme low point for the organization, and Reignover himself. No one had questioned his talent and consistency in over two years. Going into Summer Split, everyone was wondering what Liquid would do to rectify the situation. It turns out, they did not change anything. They picked up Inori and Slooshi as substitutes, but kept Lourlo, Reignover, Goldenglue, Piglet and Matt as starters.

Reignover and Team Liquid played both promotion tournaments in 2017

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Similar results ensued. TL finished Summer Split in ninth place again, with a 4-14 series record and a 30 percent game win rate. Just like spring, as the split went on, Liquid started Inori, Slooshi, and KonKwon. They brought back Dardoch, despite past troubles with the controversial jungler. They imported Mickey, a Korean mid laner from ROX Tigers. Liquid even swapped out David Lim for Cain as head coach. They went on to compete in the Promotion Tournament, and defended their spot, yet again.

This was truly the lowest point for Reignover. He was completely dropped from conversations of “the best jungler in the league,” in favor of LiRa, Xmithie and Contractz. Fnatic, Immortals, Huni, Rekkles and Pobelter had some of their best splits yet, and were heading to Worlds. Reignover was fighting in promotion tournaments, getting benched for Inori and Dardoch, and falling from grace.

Reignover’s Present: CLG’s Struggles

Enter CLG, an organization also in need of redemption. Darshan, Huhi and Stixxay carried over into 2018, while Reignover and Biofrost joined in the off-season. Although several sources predicted CLG to be a top three team in their preseason power rankings, few commented on Reignover in the same tone of awe as they had in the past.

Several weeks into the split, CLG sits tied for seventh with a 3-5 record. Many of their losses have chalked up to Stixxay’s shortcomings, but coordination and decisiveness in the late game are contributing, as well. Reignover needs this split to be a success. For his stock to rise, CLG needs to make playoffs and prove they can compete at the top level.

Huni and Reignover are playing in the NA LCS in 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Reignover was patient with Team Liquid last year, but now it’s time for dividends. Huni is even back in North America, playing for a different team, and solidifying himself at the top of the standings. A bottom-three finish would be detrimental to Reignover and CLG. In fact, CLG looked best in their 2016 Spring Split victory and MSI performance. They have fallen slightly out of favor since then, narrowly missing a chance at Worlds last year. This organization and this player need each other for success. A high finish this split, and this year, could be an ultimate catharsis for such decorated League of Legends entities. Reignover’s journey has been treacherous thus far, but it is not over yet. 

credits

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr

Quotes: Reddit, Esports Heaven, Concussion Gaming, Thorin’s Thoughts, Dot Esports, EU LCS Broadcast, LoL Esports, TheScore Esports, TheScore Esports, Esports HeavenYahoo Esports, TheScore Esports, TheScore Esports

Historical Data: Leaguepedia

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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

Huhi – Scrims, team development and TSM

Choi “Huhi” Jae-hyun on opposing mid-laners – “I’m not really that scared of any mid-laner right now.”


Congrats on the recent wins and turning it around. How do you feel about the team?

“It feels good that we are starting to prove it on stage. In scrims, we are always really confident and it was always really weird that it didn’t transfer to the real games. And now it feels like we are getting there.”

 

Obviously stage play is a lot different, but what was the issue in the transition? Lack of confidence? Or just the change in environment?

Image provided by Riot Games

“I wasn’t sure, and I’m still not actually. First of all, people are figuring out their normal daily routine on stage too. We were doing a lot of different things that the team asked us and I think that was too much at once. We slowly adapted finally and now we are there… We just had to get used to the different process.”

 

What are your plans on preparing next week for TSM? It’s an old rivalry, both teams were off to slow starts but are really ramping up now and are at 3-3, with a similar story this split and in the past. So are you looking forward to it? Is it still the same big match like it usually is?

“I think for sure. This time we have an ex-TSM member. We’ve never had that, that’s a new thing for us. But we kind of want to make sure that all of us treat the TSM match the same as other matches so that we can stay focused on our games. I don’t think we will do anything different to prepare versus them.”

 

Do you think they have any big weaknesses that you are going to try and exploit?

“Well, I think MikeYeung was having a pretty hard time in the early split just trying to get used to his team too. So I guess the mid-jung synergy could be a potential place to punish since me and Reignover are pretty comfortable with each other.”

 

There have been a lot of big mid lane plays, with our first pentakill on Febiven last week and others picking up steam, like Pobelter. But people have also been talking about you as well and how you lead the team differently this split than before. So where do you personally put yourself in this group of mid laners, and who is the strongest/scariest to go against in lane?

Image provided by Riot Games

“It’s pretty hard to say one, because I haven’t thought about it yet. I would say the first and second split that I played, I had those tier lists in my heart, though I never really said it. But this time I’m not really paying attention that much on it because I’m just really confident with my team and I know that it doesn’t matter. We will beat every team as long as we play our game and we focus on ourselves. So I’m not really that scared of any mid-laner right now.”

 

So when are you most comfortable then? When do you go into a game feeling really confident? Is there a specific team comp or champ that you like more than others?

“I’d say when we play the champions that we practice in scrims, for sure. We have that muscle memory where we know what we are capable of and the power spikes and what we have to do to win the game and that makes the game much easier. Also, right now, I’m pretty comfortable in almost every game because my team helps me feel comfortable. Like yesterday, I felt like I was playing really bad, and even though I was, my team was making sure I was okay and helping me to stay in the game. They got my back and we won the game easily.”

Image provided by Riot Games

Do you have any big weaknesses that you’re working on?

“I think because of our strengths – playing as a team – I feel like our weakness is, if you die, everyone will try to save that guy and die together. So those are the points we want to improve on. Like when we have to do that and when we don’t and try to not bleed. And that’s a challenge we have to try to figure out.”

 


Thanks for reading! Find Huhi on Twitter @Huhi to send him your energy. Check back 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. =)

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

Image from lolesports.com

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

Image from lolesports.com

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

Image from lolesports.com

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

Image from lolesports.com

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

Image from lolesports.com

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

Image from lolesports.com

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

Image from lolesports.com

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

Image from lolesports.com

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

Image from lolesports.com

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

Image from lolesports.com

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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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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scouting grounds

Standouts at 2017 North America Scouting Grounds

The 2017 North America Scouting Grounds event took place this weekend. 20 of NA’s top challenger players worked alongside four NA LCS organizations to test their mettle in the Riot LA studio. OpTic Gaming (OPT), Team SoloMid (TSM), Counter Logic Gaming (CLG) and Cloud 9 (C9) were the four teams to participate at this year’s scouting event. After a series of placement matches on day one, the players headed into the third and first place matches. Let’s highlight some standout players in their respective teams.

Fighting tooth and nail

scouting grounds

Credits: LoL Esports

Coming in at fourth place overall, Team Cloud Drake (CLD), led by C9, struggled to find their footing in their third place match against Team Mountain Drake (MTN). Despite the tough series, two of CLD‘s players managed to show resolve in their play. First off, League in the top lane showed up despite being counter-picked in both games. In game one, League’s Cho’Gath not only stayed toe-to-toe with Rodov‘s Gnar during the laning phase, but even managed to earn a solo kill. At 17 minutes, League’s superior timing at a teamfight bottom turned the fight in CLD‘s favor. In his second game, League demonstrated several heads-up plays using his Teleport to flank and engage teamfights. Although CLD failed to capitalize on some of these plays, League’s proactive playstyle stood out respectably.

Another player on CLD who performed on-stage was Fanatik. Although Fanatik fell behind his veteran counter-part “Nintendudex” pressure early on, he adapted quickly in game one. After recognizing the mid-jungle focus for Team Mountain Drake, Fanatik countered a dive to secure a clean 2-0 fight. In his second game, Fanatik capitalized on a crucial team MTN mistake and stole the Baron to keep his team alive. At 26 minutes, Fanatik’s Jarvan found a four man “Cataclysm” to lock down multiple enemies and win his team the fight. As the youngest player at the 2017 Scouting Grounds, it will be interesting to see how he develops as a player.

A team of duos

scouting grounds

Credits: LoL Esports

For Team Mountain Drake, led by Counter Logic Gaming, their duos stood out more than individual play. First, no stranger to the NA LCS, Nintendudex showed serious synergy with Ablazeolive, one of the foremost challenger mid laners in North America. The communication between the two was on clear display during a fight in game one of the series. After Ablazeolive used his Teleport to return to lane, CLD‘s Linsanity saw an opportunity to get a pick. But, Ablazeolive turned on the enemy mid laner, locking him down using Malzahar’s “Nether Grasp” to buy Nintendudex time to join the fight and finish the kill. Ablaze’s teamfight ability shined in game two where he hit multiple key “Shockwave’s” on Orianna to seal CLD‘s fate.

The second pair to come through was MTN‘s bottom lane. Support Winter and AD-carry Value stood out as remarkable players in their roles. Winter’s aggressive style transitioned to key roams on Alistar to tip early skirmishes. In game one, Winter’s awareness on Alistar punished a poorly set up flank by CLD‘s mid and jungle, deleting the enemy Ryze from the ensuing teamfight. In game two, his engages on Rakan set up multiple fights for his mid laner to land game-winning ultimates. Winter’s AD-carry, Value also had his fair share of star play. In game one, an over-ambitious engage from CLD, Value landed a four-man “Featherstorm” + “Bladecaller” combo to clean up the fight. By layering his ultimates with his team’s engages, Value pumped out 927 damage per minute in game two. He earned himself player of the series with a combined 18/3/15 KDA across two games.

Live and die by the flames

scouting grounds

Credits: LoL Esports

Team Infernal Drake (INF), led by TSM, gave viewers some heated highlight plays to live up to their team name. In game one of the finals match, INF found themselves pushed in heavily. Their opponents, Team Ocean Drake (OCN), had remarkable vision superiority in INF‘s jungle, making it difficult for them to find fights on favorable terms. But their support Teesum on Rakan was able to find a three man engage with his “Grand Entrance.” This catch gave room for his carries to unload their damage before the enemy team could respond. However, Teesum’s performance in game two was largely lacking. Despite being the team’s main tank on Braum, several flubbed shields using his “Unbreakable” led to multiple teamfight deaths.

Game two was where two of INF‘s carries stepped up. After a rough game one, INF funneled resources into their AD-carry, NoahMost. Although his teamfight presence was weak throughout the early game, Noah was able to capitalize on an overzealous rush by Team Ocean Drake. With five members barreling toward his Xayah, Noah released a “Featherstorm” + “Bladecaller” combo that rooted five members. After locking down the entire enemy team, Noah’s Xayah mowed down the opposition for the only Pentakill at the 2017 Scouting Grounds.

The third player on INF to showcase his star potential was PieCakeLord in the top lane. Although his team was behind for much of the second game, PieCakeLord on Fiora was able to exert tremendous side-lane pressure that often brought multiple OCN members to stop him. Still, he managed to out-pressure the enemy Shen throughout most of the game. After the enemy Azir wiped his team at the Baron pit, PieCakeLord outplayed the enemy mid and top to keep his team in the game.

Stomping the Scouting Grounds

scouting grounds

Credits: LoL Esports

After drafting possibly the strongest team at Scouting Grounds, eyes were on OpTic Gaming’s coaching staff to make that roster shine. And boy did they shine. First, Vulcan‘s Taric was able to turn an early gank into a kill on the enemy AD-carry, setting a serious tempo advantage for team OCN. In the late game, Taric’s damage negation with “Cosmic Radiance” allowed his team to stampede over teamfights. In game two, Vulcan’s engages on Rakan practically spoon fed kills to his mid laner, Palafox.

Palafox had questions circling about his potential after being drafted as the 20th pick. But he brought the heat. Playing as Malzahar in game one, Palafox found an aggressive pick onto the enemy Orianna. After Orianna seemingly flashed to safety, Palafox landed an instant over the wall “Call of the Void” to secure the kill. Palafox’s Azir was the single greatest game-deciding factor in game two. A gigantic “Emperor’s Divide” knocked up four members of INF, completely shifting the momentum mid-game. Again at 46 minutes, Palafox earned a quadrakill at the Baron pit to push OCN‘s advantages over the edge.

Third, OCN‘s top laner Kaizen came into his own in game two. His Shen managed to outplay an early 2v1 dive by INF‘s top-jungle duo, earning himself a kill on his lane opponent on the way out. Although the enemy Fiora’s split push pressure was strong, ultimately, Kaizen’s teamfight utility became a winning factor for his team. Across the board, Team OCN performed spectacularly at this year’s Scouting Grounds. It will be exciting to see these players develop on future academy rosters. And, a win here shows good signs for OpTic Gaming who hope to make a definitive statement in their first season in the NA LCS.

Featured Image: LoL Esports

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biofrost

Biofrost: Following the footsteps of legends

Vincent “Biofrost” Wang began his NA LCS career in 2016 summer as the starting support for Team SoloMid (TSM). In his rookie split, Biofrost had the daunting task of replacing one of League’s most legendary supports, Bora “YellOwStaR” Kim. Against all expectations, Biofrost emerged as one of the league’s premier supports. After two years with TSM, Biofrost signed a contract with Counter Logic Gaming (CLG) as the new starting support for the 2018 season. With new roster announcements dropping daily, let’s take a moment to appreciate all that Biofrost has accomplished.

Filling Bora’s Shoes

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

In 2016 spring, team owner Andy “Reginald” Dinh drafted an all-star roster for Team SoloMid, featuring veteran support YellOwStaR alongside Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng in the bottom lane. Following issues with team synergy and performance, YellOwStaR left TSM in May of that year. To fill his shoes, Biofrost, an unknown rookie, joined the squad. While expectations surrounding TSM’s new support remained low, Bio’s performance was anything but. In his rookie split with TSM, Bio helped push the team to a 17-1 win-loss record, a league record.

His lane prowess on champions like “Karma” and “Lulu” complimented Doublelift’s hyper-carry playstyle. Even on non healers/shielders, Biofrost pulled off some incredible highlight saves to keep his AD-carry alive. Bio truly stepped up by honing his teamfighting presence on TSM. Team SoloMid has historically been one of the most dominant teamfighting teams in NA LCS history. As a rookie, Bio had to pick up these skills quick. And his progress proved itself time and again in his playoff performances.

In the summer 2016 playoffs, a clutch two-man Tempered Fate from Bio’s “Bard” earned TSM a quarterfinal victory over summer split juggernaut Immortals (IMT). Team SoloMid went on to win the NA LCS summer finals and met Samsung Galaxy (SSG), Royal Never Give Up (RNG) and Splyce (SPY) at Worlds 2016. Despite drawing into the “group of death,” TSM managed a 3-3 record before dropping against RNG. After failing to advance from groups, TSM‘s AD-carry Doublelift announced that he would take a break from professional play in the 2017 season.

New Season New Botlane

Biofrost

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

In spring of 2017, Biofrost partnered with LCS veteran Jason “WildTurtle” Tran to make up TSM‘s new bottom lane. With a hugely successful rookie season already under his belt, Bio’s mission for spring was to grow into his own. With Doublelift taking a break, LoL Esports saw this as an opportunity for Biofrost to find “more space to operate and discover his identity as a support player.” While many fans expected Bio to develop a stronger leadership role, the TSM bottom lane struggled to find consistency. Criticism fell on Turtle and Bio as the roster stumbled to find its footing.

WildTurtle’s famously high-risk, high-reward playstyle became a problem. As TSM worked to tone down Turtle’s flashy plays, Bio also suffered the consequences. Rather than finding more space to operate, he found himself constantly under a lens. Teams focused the bot-duo, pinpointing Turtle and Bio as TSM‘s weak link. While pressure from opponents rained down bottom, TSM shifted their jungle pressure top lane. Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell grew into a carry role to offset his struggling bottom lane. This change in resources gave Biofrost even fewer tools to garner much growth.

Despite the challenges thrown their way, Biofrost and WildTurtle powered their way to yet another NA LCS championship. A two-time LCS champion, Bio boasted a pedigree that some of League’s veterans still have yet to achieve. At the start of summer 2017, TSM announced that Doublelift would return to the starting roster. With the majority of a split apart, it was unclear if the TSM bottom lane could gel once again.

The Biofrost we love

biofrost

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

In summer, Biofrost and Doublelift took to the Rift facing some new opponents. A revamped Immortals roster had support, Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung, rampaging through NA LCS. Olleh’s exciting play-making and roaming sense on champions like “Alistar” earned him the reputation of best support in NA. Then, as if to directly challenge the title, Biofrost faced off against Olleh’s “Alistar” in the NA LCS grand finals. With “Rakan” as his champion of choice, Bio found multiple key engages that clawed TSM back from a 10.5K gold deficit. That win sent TSM to Worlds 2017 as NA’s first seed.

At Worlds, TSM failed to find their footing in the group stage and suffered an early exit from the tournament. In the off-season, TSM announced that Biofrost, Doublelift and Svenskeren would be leaving the team. Several days later, Counter Logic Gaming (CLG) announced that Biofrost would join the main roster as starting support. With the departure of storied veteran Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black, Biofrost has some legendary shoes to fill once again. In an early DUOS Extra interview, Biofrost explained that Aphromoo was an idol for him early on. As fate would have it, Biofrost will go on to replace Aphro in the 2018 season.

Aphromoo leaves a legacy on CLG that any player will be hard-pressed to surpass. But, there is perhaps no greater player than Biofrost to fill the shoes of North America’s most legendary support. While the goodbye is bitter for most TSM fans, Biofrost will remain one of NA’s most beloved players. A starting position on an endemic organization like CLG will give Bio the resources and play time he needs to grow beyond his previous iterations. Although the future is uncertain, Biofrost will undoubtedly return to captivate North America in 2018.

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

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Thanksgiving Free Agents: League of Legends Edition

League of Legends is having their first major free agency period since the start of franchising in North America. As with traditional sports, free agency is going to be a major time for teams to build their rosters for LCS’ new start. Instead of just giving you who some of the free agents are and where they might go, a holiday theme has been added for your enjoyment. (Note: As of the time this was written none of these players have signed officially)

Corn “Froggen”

Froggen has been consistent since the day he entered the LCS. Never overly flashy but a major part and sometimes the best part of his team. Corn like Froggen is never flashy but it is reliable and can be the best part of a bad meal.

Last year on Echo Fox, Froggen was the unchallenged leader of the team. Echo Fox finished in eighth, just outside of the playoffs the last two splits. This was due to many things, but rarely ever Froggen. There are plenty of new openings for Froggen. As an in-game and out of game leader, Froggen will be someone who is going to be brought on to do just that. His play is consistent but his leadership skills are what gets him his next position.

For this reason, Froggen will be going to a completely new squad in NA as some of the newer teams will be looking for a leader to help guide them through their first season. He did this with Echo Fox and maybe with a better and more consistent roster around him, Froggen will finally make NA playoffs this year.  With sources saying Akaadian has been bought out by OpTic Gaming it would make sense that they add arguably the two best players from Echo Fox.

Prediction: OpTic

Cranberry Sauce “PowerOfEvil”

Like cranberry sauce you either love PowerOfEvil or you strongly dislike him. He can be an absolute legend on the rift or look like he is lost. That being said PowerOfEvil is testing the waters of free agency hoping to be picked up by a NA squad.

Misfits made a surprising run in world this last year making it out of group stages. While the team played well as a whole, in most games until the end, PowerOfEvil had looked solid. He can make the flashy plays and keep up with many of the games top mid-laners when he is on his game. If he can find consistency there is no doubt that he can challenge just about anyone while in lane. For that reason I think PowerOfEvil will be a hot commodity for NA this free agency.

A great squad for PowerOfEvil would be Flyquest. With Flame reportedly signing there and a solid bot-lane of WildTurtle and Stunt, bringing on PowerOfEvil would make a nice splash for FlyQuest. For PowerOfEvil he would be able to play with teammates who can help guide him in his first year in NA and allow for him to learn from his mistakes he will probably make early on. If they get the PowerOfEvil we saw during group stages and during Mistfits’ run in EU championships, then FlyQuest could have a very strong squad next season.

Prediction: FlyQuest

Sweet Potatoes “LemonNation”

Sweet Potatoes are classic when talking about Thanksgiving dinner. They are sweet and almost like desert before actual desert. Lemonnation is a classic NA support who can surprise people by quietly being solid throughout the game. (Also both are orange/red) Lemonnation has been a consistent and overall solid support since he came into the professional league scene. He does his work and helps lead teams to being better than many people would have thought.

Last year on FlyQuest, many people felt that they would be a joke because it was made up of players who had not played in the pro-scene in awhile. They came out and surprised everyone by making playoffs their first split and barely missing playoffs their second split. Lemonnation came back with a vengeance and showed that older players in the scene can still play and has maybe changed everyone’s opinions about what a “old” player really is.

While Ignar and Aphromoo are higher on teams’ lists, there are still openings for supports especially on new teams. You could reasonably argue that once the other two have signed, whoever else has an opening would sign Lemonnation. With that in mind 100 Thieves looks like a good place for Lemonnation to end up. Ssumday and Meteos (both of whom are on this list) are rumored to be signed with 100 Thieves and Ryu has been confirmed. With Pr0lly as their coach this group could add Lemonnation and have a very reliable team.

Prediction: 100 Thieves

Green Bean Casserole “Meteos”

Some years it’s there, some it’s not. Sometimes you dislike it, sometimes you love it. Like “Dark” Meteos green bean casserole comes back after missing some time at family events and you’re afraid of what is coming next. It is put on your plate against your will and you are told to try it. This time you like it and oddly want more.

Meteos was a mainstay with Cloud9 for many splits. He has a solid following and thus every time he’s filled in for a team people have been very excited. After spending different parts of the year with Phoenix1, who went from playoffs to last between Spring and Summer split, Meteos is ready to be a starter again. With the many opportunities it is likely that he will get a chance to show he is a top level jungler at the professional level.

It is being reported that Meteos will be signing with 100 Thieves. If this stands, with Ryu and Ssumday, it looks as though 100 Thieves could have a very interesting roster to start of League of Legends franchising.

Prediction: 100 Thieves

Biscuit/Corn Bread/Rolls “Febiven”

Any type of bread is needed with any Thanksgiving meal. They help to fill you up and are a go to if you’re not ready to try something new. Febiven in NA would be that. He is a solid mid-laner who brings consistency to any team. He may not be the mvp on his team but he is needed and a safe pickup for any team.

Febiven brings that feeling of a stalwart in the middle of the rift for any team. For H2k this past year Febiven brought composure to an already winning team. He got his start with Cloud9 Eclipse and many speculate he is testing free agency in order to go back to NA. Febiven can bring a lot to one of these new franchising teams and it is likely that he would have a nice payday doing so.

According to sources Golden Guardians only have their coach so far, Locodoco. It is also rumored that Shiphtur might be signing with them. While Shiphtur is a good mid-laner, the Golden Guardians would be making a big time acquisition by signing Febiven. He would not only attract fans but also players. If they know they have someone like him holding down the middle of the Rift then players will feel more comfortable around him. Also wouldn’t it be fun to see Bjerg, Jensen, Pobelter, Huhi, Ryu and Febiven battling it out in mid next season?

Prediction: Golden Guardians

Stuffing “Ignar”

On the outside, if you have never had stuffing before you might think, “I dont know what to think about this”. Then you try it and realize it’s solid and brings the meal together. In many ways this is Ignar. The All-Pro support had some questions coming over to Misfits and showed this year that he is the stuffing to any Thanksgiving meal.

After a quick stay with KT Rolster Ignar found a home with Misfits. He was exactly what you would want in a support. He is able to speak Korean and getting better at English, and he is able to help get bot-lane ahead. His aggresion mixed well with his lanemate, Hans Sama, as he played champions like Rakan, Blitzcrank and Thresh. He is a playmaker and with that will come many offers from teams for a support who can do more than just keep their ADC alive.

There are rumors that Ignar is looking to head back to the LCK, possibly even with SKT. If this doesn’t happen and he heads to NA, there is no doubt that he will land a starting roll. OpTic would be a good match with Ignar. Sources say that Arrow has already signed and thus Ignar would have another Korean ADC. This would eliminate a language barrier and give OpTic another nice pickup.

Prediction: OpTic Gaming

Gravy “Aphromoo”

If you don’t like gravy, what are you doing with your life? If you don’t like Aphromoo the same question should be asked. The man is one of the best supports in NA and, like gravy, he is liked by mostly everyone. Gravy is also what you put on everything in order to help it taste better. No matter what team Aphromoo joins, he will make them that much better.

The Moo has been one of the best, if not the best, supports in NA since he arrived on the scene. His ability to get his ADC ahead by whatever means necessary has made him a lanemate that any ADC would want. While he still can go back to CLG if he wants to, it is interesting that he is testing free agency. It may help drive up the money for his contract wherever he signs, including CLG.

While it would be interesting to see another team pick up Aphromoo, it is likely he stays with CLG. They will give into giving him a large contract and that should bring him back. He is already familiar with the team as most of his teammates, Darshan, Huhi and Stixxay have all already signed with CLG.

Prediction: CLG

Mashed Potatoes “Ssumday”

Mashed potatoes are one of the best parts of the entire Thanksgiving meal. Is it really Thanksgiving without them? Nearly everyone loves them and sometimes if the other parts of the meal aren’t good you can always turn to mashed potatoes to be the best part. Ssumday will be this for which ever team he signs with. Everyone is going to want to bring him on and when others may not be as good around him, you can turn to him and know he will show why he is one of the best top-laners in the world.

Ssumday did not live up to the hype during his first full year in NA, but was still very good. Coming over from KT Rolster everyone believed Ssumday was easily a top 3 top-laner in the world. Dignitas fans were ecstatic when he signed on. Dig went to the playoffs both splits in their first full season back, but unfortunately were not chosen to go forward with franchising. Now Ssumday is again looking for his next home to show he is a top tier top-laner again.

Originally it was thought that Ssumday would be looking to go back to the LCK this season. Then sources came out claiming that 100 Thieves is looking to sign him. While the team has not confirmed it yet, if he were to sign there 100 Thieves, it would have a very nice start for their team.

Prediction: 100 Thieves

Pumpkin Pie “MikeYeung”

Pumpkin pie is what everyone wants even though they are already full, it is that good. It can be the only part some people care about. MikeYeung is the new, young jungler that everyone is going to be going after. He is the pumpkin pie at this Thanksgiving dinner, every team will be giving him a look.

MikeYueng made a splash in NA during his first split with Pheonix1 by winning Rookie of the Split. He showed that he can be an impact player at every phase of the game, especially when he got ahead. The problem was when he didn’t get ahead or his team struggled, he lacked the experience to bring them back. Now that he has played a full split he will be looking to show anyone who signs him that he is the real deal.

Sources are saying that TSM is likely going to sign MikeYeung. After a disappointing year with Svenskeren, it is not a huge surprise that TSM would be looking at someone with the potential of MikeYeung. With Bjerg and Hauntzer most likely staying, they will be able to help bring Mike along and help him to reach his full potential. Also, with sources saying that Zven and Mithy have come over to TSM, this squad could have an incredible 2018.

Prediction: TSM

Turkey “Peanut”

The main course, the bird that represents all of Thanksgiving is the turkey. Turkey is what people spend days prepping to make sure it looks and tastes amazing. Shows and movies constantly show people fighting over the last available turkey. Thanksgiving dinner is not Thanksgiving dinner without a turkey. Peanut is someone people can build a team around. He is the turkey of this Thanksgiving meal.

Many people were surprised when Peanut announced that he was a free agent. He instantly shot up to the top of teams wishlists, as he is considered by many to be the best jungler in the world. Every team that has a jungle opening should be looking to sign someone of his talent level. He made his name on ROX Tigers and then signed with SKT this last season. While they didn’t win Worlds he was still a major part, along with Faker, of getting this team to Finals.

Peanut is the prize in this free agency and if he heads to NA, every team will want him. If it wasn’t likely that TSM was signing MikeYeung, it is probable that they would be in the mix. Counting them out, there are three teams who will likely be vying for his service: FlyQuest, Golden Guardians and CLG. CLG has a very good squad especially if they bring back Aphromoo. OmarGod had a solid first split after Dardoch left but, if CLG want to be a contender for Worlds, they need to sign Peanut. With him on their team CLG could easily be vying for a top spot in NA and could make a huge run at Worlds.

Prediction: CLG

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

graduated junglers

Preseason: NA’s graduated junglers

After joining the NA LCS in 2017, three former rookies mount their return as NA’s newly graduated junglers. Mike “MikeYeung” Yeung, Omar “Omargod” Amin and Juan “Contractz” Garcia exploded onto the scene in season 7. After an exciting freshman year, these three junglers look to stake their claim on the newly franchised NA LCS. Looking back at their performances the past year, who is poised for even greater breakout performances in 2018? Let’s take a look at North America’s graduated jungler trio as they plot their return.

MikeYeung: From the Ashes

graduated junglers

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

MikeYeung made his NA LCS debut in the Summer Split as the jungler for Phoenix1 (P1). Previously a highly rated solo-queue player, MikeYeung erupted onto the NA scene with an arsenal of carry junglers. His signature pick in “Nidalee” stunned the NA crowd and crushed his opponents. Boasting an insane 80% overall winrate on “Nidalee” in summer, this pocket pick was no joke. Following an already impressive debut, MikeYeung travelled to Germany with Phoenix1 to participate in the Rift Rivals tournament, his first international event. Mike shocked his EU opponents with some flashy plays on his patented “Nidalee,” earning himself the Group Stage MVP distinction.

After returning from a strong showing at Rift Rivals, the MikeYeung hype train was in full gear. However, with the jungle meta shifting to control-oriented tank picks, Mike’s champion pool struggled. His star champions, “Kha’Zix,” “Lee Sin” and “Nidalee” could not snowball enough advantages against more useful utility tanks. Due to these meta changes, fans did not see the dominant MikeYeung that most expected. Phoenix1 suffered a steady decline that saw them forced into the summer Promotion tournament.

After ending their summer season early, news surrounding P1’s failure to earn a spot in the new NA LCS began to leak. The question now: where will P1’s rookie sensation go to reclaim his former glory? With the recent runes overhaul in patch 7.22, carry junglers look to make a serious comeback. MikeYeung has an opportunity to showcase his improvement since the Promotion tournament at the upcoming 2017 All-Stars event. For MikeYeung, the sky is the limit. Can the graduated rookie can reclaim his spot atop NA’s jungle hierarchy?

Omargod: Breaking the Chains

graduated junglers

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

Omargod made his professional debut as a substitute jungler for Counter Logic Gaming (CLG). After internal issues involving starting jungler Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett surfaced, Omar became the team’s starter. For Omargod, the road to NA LCS was a long climb. He first appeared on CLG’s radar at the 2016 Scouting Grounds event. Impressed by his carry performances, coach Tony “Zikzlol” Gray and veteran support Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black first-picked Omar as the jungler for Team Cloud Drake. After several fantastic games on carry picks like “Hecarim,” Omargod proved why he belonged on the LCS stage.

After Dardoch parted ways with CLG, Omargod had a huge gap to fill. Dardoch established a name for himself by consistently dominating enemy junglers. But, because of meta shifts in the summer split, Omar found himself mainly on utility tanks. Criticism poured in as CLG struggled to regain their footing in the latter half of the split. Analysts pointed to the recent jungle swap as the obvious reason for CLG’s decline. After falling to Cloud 9 (C9) in the NA LCS regional qualifiers, CLG and Omargod found themselves stuck at home, instead of attending Worlds.

Because of Omar’s shaky performances during the Summer Split, fans have mixed expectations for the upcoming season. However, Counter Logic Gaming is an organization known for the coaching staff’s dedication and loyalty to players. If any coach can bring out the best in Omargod, Zikz is second to none. Now is the time for Omar to free himself of the criticism from last split and prove himself on CLG. Perhaps the preseason meta changes will encourage Omargod to dip into his champion pool and show North America the carry potential that CLG witnessed at Scouting Grounds. After all, rumor has it “Predator Hecarim” is rampaging through preseason.

Contractz: A Carry’s DNA

graduated junglers

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

Unlike the other graduated junglers, Contractz began his journey with Cloud 9 in the spring of 2017. After earning spring Rookie of the Split, Contractz stumbled a bit in summer. In the Summer Playoffs, Cloud 9 dropped out in quarterfinals against a surging Dignitas (DIG). So, C9 spent their time preparing for the regional qualifier gauntlet. There, the squad overcame CLG in a solid 3-1 finish and booked a ticket for China.

At Worlds, Contractz battled the likes of SKT Peanut, EDG Clearlove7 and WE Condi. His peerage became a group of elite, international junglers. Still, the rookie performed fantastically on the world stage. Contractz won over many fans, pulling out picks like “Ezreal” and “Graves” in the group stage. While the other NA junglers struggled against international competition, Contractz held his own against the best. After being the only North American representative to advance past group stages, all hope rested with Cloud 9. Although C9 fell to Team WE in quarterfinals, the roster made a definitive statement to the fans back home. “We are the best NA team here.”

With a great Worlds performance behind him, Contractz looks to dominate in the upcoming split. As carry junglers rise both in power and viability in preseason, is this the split for Contractz to stamp his name as the best jungler in NA? A Top 8 finish at Worlds means the onus is on C9 to reclaim their former glory at the top of North America. With changes coming to NA LCS, Cloud 9 look poised to gun for first place. Of the three former rookie junglers, Contractz may be the one to surpass them all. Still, only time will tell which graduated jungler will break ahead of the pack.

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Looking for a podcast covering EU and NA LCS? Check out LCS Weekly on SoundCloud. You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Michael!

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