Is Cloud 9’s new roster underrated?

Heading into the new split, one of the biggest organizations in NA LCS, Cloud 9, made some questionable moves this off season. They lost top laner, Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong, to Team Liquid and also let rising jungler Juan “Contractz” Garcia leave. With the acquisitions of rookie top laner Eric “Licorice” Ritchie and former TSM jungler, Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen, most people are considering these moves downgrades. Licorice is a huge question mark as someone who has never seen the LCS stage outside of challenger series. He showed carry potential at times, but when faced against LCS-level competition, he floundered. Svenskeren comes in after a shaky year with TSM in which he took the blunt of the criticism for their failures. Cloud 9 have always been a top organization in NA LCS, but are people downplaying how good this roster can actually be?

is Licorice the next Hauntzer?

Photo by: Riot Esports

Licorice is seen as the biggest question mark heading into the new split. He hasn’t had any LCS experience outside of the challenger series, but has shown flashes of his carry potential. He’s often been high on the solo queue ladder so the mechanics are definitely there. In a region with weaker top lane talent, Licorice has the chance to have the similar path of TSM’s Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell.

Licorice has the chance to learn from many of the LCS veterans on his team. Many people doubted TSM’s signing of Hauntzer after seeing him do decent with Gravity. Nobody thought that he would be as good as he is today. Being surrounded with some of the best players in the league gives him a chance to learn from the best. Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen, Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi and Andy “Smoothie” Ta are all at least top two players within the region. While Svenskeren may have had an off year this past split, the new runes may favor his type of playstyle.

Licorice seems hungry to learn and brings in a new young player that Cloud 9 can mold. This is the second straight season that they’ll be bringing on a rookie NA player.

Keeping the Core

If there’s one move Cloud 9 can be praised for, it’s keeping the core of their success. Jensen and Sneaky are two of the best carries in North America at their positions. Sneaky, being underrated for most of his career, finally began to receive recognition last year after good Worlds and Gauntlet performances. He attended his first All star event this past year. Smoothie has also shined since joining Cloud 9 as a shot caller and play making support. Smoothie continues to grow every year and is arguably one of the best supports in the league now.

While there were rumors that head coach Bok “Reapered” Han-gyu could bolt after last season, he has stayed with the team. Since coming onto the team in May 2016, he’s given the team the leadership to succeed and shot call in game without former star, Hai “Hai” Lam. Being able to keep a coaching talent like Reapered is huge for staying successful.

Which Svenskeren Will We see?

It’s no secret Svenskeren is coming off one of the weakest years of his career. He received much of the criticism for TSM’s lackluster performances at international events. Joining a new team gives him a fresh start to rebuild himself. This will likely be his last chance to prove that he can be a world class jungler. With the new runes leaning towards more aggressive junglers, Svenskeren might be able to reinvigorate his career.

He matches much of the aggression of star mid laner, Jensen, so it will be interesting to see how the two work together. They could form one of the most aggressive mid/jungle duos if things work out correctly. Former TSM owner, Andy “Reginald” Dinh noted his lack of synergy with former support Vincent “Biofrost” Wang. Jungle and support synergy is especially important in the early game play making. With Smoothie being a very vocal member of the team, I could see him and Svenskeren working really well together.

Cloud 9 will have some big questions to answer in the new season. With franchising shaking up rosters, there will be some new teams on the rise for sure. Cloud 9 will need to be on top of their game if they want to stay contenders in a growing NA LCS scene.

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NA LCS: Rookies to watch

With franchising bringing some newer imports into the league, a few rookies will get their chance on the NA LCS stage. Spring Split brings the excitement of seeing all these newly formed rosters with a shot to make some noise early. With teams still learning to play with one another it will be interesting to see who can separate themselves from the rest of the pack.

With new players being imported from everywhere, some new players were chosen to fill resident slots. It’s been a long time coming for some of these hopeful pros. Here are some of the rookies to look out for this split:

Matthew “Deftly” Chen, Golden Guardians adc

Deftly was featured during last years Scouting Grounds by Yahoo Esports and quickly began to garner some attention. Deftly spent time with EUnited on one of the better NA CS teams. The experience has paid off as he was picked up this split by The Golden Guardians.

Golden Guardians look to be a younger and newer team that wants to build something sustainable, rather than focus on winning in the now. They sport a lot of young players outside of mid laner Hai “Hai” Lam. They are the only team not using an import slot and look to be trying to develop their own chosen North American talent. Under the coaching of experienced Choi “Locodoco” Yoon-seop, this team has a lot of upside if they can get things going early.

Hai has become famous for being a superb shot caller and in game leader. During the early parts of last spring he was able to lead a subpar Flyquest squad to the top of the standings. Deftly plays one of the more flashier positions as ADC, so if this team can be surprise contenders, expect his stats to be on the upper echelon of players. All players seem pretty hungry to prove everyone wrong so maybe they can shock some people.

Andy “AnDa” Hoang, Flyquest jungler

Anda is a name that may not be familiar to many people. He spent last Summer as the substitute for Immortals. In previous seasons he had played in the Challenger Series as a top laner. As a jungler in Korean solo queue he reached top 15 on the ladder in a ridiculous amount of time. His signature champions were Nidalee and Ezreal on his climb.

His aggressive play style helped him climb the ladder fast and a lot of people noticed. Flyquest will give him is first shot at performing on the LCS stage. He has the chance to learn under legendary SKT coach  Jung “RapidStar” Min-sung. Solo queue and professional play are much different for junglers, but if he can make the adjustment this roster has the talent to surprise some people.

Eric “Licorice” Ritchie, Cloud 9 Top laner

na lcs

Photo by: Riot Games

Licorice may have the biggest shoes to fill as a rookie. Cloud 9 has a long tenure as one of the most successful LCS organizations. With former star top laner Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong going to Team Liquid the team had to look towards a replacement. With new jungler Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen taking up an import slot, the team was forced to look at domestic talent.

Taking the risk on Licorice may have high rewards long term. He’s been a notable solo queue talent for awhile. He also spent time on the challenger team, EUnited, where he looked good for the most part. But when it came to taking on LCS caliber talent, he looked average at best.

He comes in as the second rookie that Cloud 9 has brought into the team in the past two years. He’ll get to learn under the coaching of Bok “Reapered” Han-gyu and his veteran teammates. If Cloud 9 can mold him into what Impact was or better this team can continue to be a top three team in this league.

Colin “Solo” Earnest, CLutch Gaming Top Laner

Solo is one of those players who has spent a lot of time in the Challenger Series. He had stints on Team Liquid Academy, Ember and most recently, Gold Coin United. His LCS opportunity has finally come with the new organization of Clutch Gaming. He’ll be surrounded by most of the former members of Team EnVyUs.

Solo has always looked decent in Challenger Series, but failed to stand out against LCS competition. As a long time Challenger Series veteran, he’ll want to prove he belongs with LCS competition. He draws comparison to former pro Cristian “Cris” Rosales who spent a lot of time on low tier LCS and challenger teams. If he can prove that he’s not just another Cris, this roster actually has a lot of potential to be good.

Team EnVyUs was a good top laner away from being possibly a top five team last split. With star jungler Nam “LirA” Tae-yoo sticking with the team there’s a lot of upside that Solo could bring. If he can be a decent low-econ top laner, Clutch Gaming could become a top team in LCS.

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Free agent moves to watch for in North America

With Season 7 ending, it’s no secret that Korea is still the most dominant region. Looking towards North America, they once again seemed like the weakest region there. Only one team made it to quarterfinals, as the week two NA curse took hold again. Team SoloMid came in as the top team from North America with a much easier group, as they didn’t have a Korean team. They still managed to not make it out and fail once again.

With franchising coming to North America next year, we can expect a lot of money being invested among the teams that make it. This may see North America become the most competitive it’s ever been. In just a few weeks, we’ve heard rumors of some big names coming to North America. It will be a long off season so expect more big news to keep coming as we go on.

With the off season in full swing here are some of my big free agent moves to look out for:

TSM Jungler

Photo by: Riot Esports

Team SoloMid once again failed to make it out of groups. Even with all the domestic success the team has had, internationally it hasn’t been working. The biggest scapegoat from this year’s worlds has to be jungler Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen. Svenskeren seemed out matched at Worlds as he failed to make any plays in the early game. He was the face of much of TSM’s downfalls as a team lacking early game play making.

It’s questionable at this point whether it’s poor individual play of Svenskeren or a team play style for their jungler? Svenskeren is well known as being an aggressive early play making jungler. This style was punished early in the Spring split where he was often caught out going for cheeky invades.

Rumors swirled on reddit earlier this week that TSM might be looking to import LMS Flash Wolves’ star jungler Hung “Karsa” Hau-Hsuan. While these rumors may be light, it’s definitely a possibility after how the team has looked at Worlds for the past two seasons. Phoenix1’s star rookie Michael “MikeYeung” Yeung could also be available with rumors that Phoenix1 will not be returning to the NA LCS. MikeYeung has been duoing with mid laner Soren “Bjergsen” Bjerg, but it could just be for fun. MikeYeung showed flashes of stardom as he was a huge play maker on aggressive junglers while he was with Phoenix1. His Nidalee and Lee Sin plays made highlight reels during their run at Rift Rivals.

The possibility of TSM keeping Svenskeren and adding a sixth man jungler is also a possibility. SKT has shown the success of having two junglers so TSM could give it a try as well.

Disbanding Teams

Photo by: Riot Esports

With rumors already swirling about who is in/out of the NA LCS, there could be some good rosters disbanding. Teams rumored to be out are Phoenix1, Envyus, Dignitas and Immortals. Each of these teams have some big names to choose from.

In the top lane from Dignitas and Immortals you have two huge Korean stars in Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho and Lee “Flame” Ho-Jong. Each of them has had success in Korea before coming to North America this past year. Ssumday has been known to be a mechanical God, but Dignitas had some synergy issues when it came down to performing well. Flame showed success with Immortals helping them finish second domestically before being eliminated in the group stages at Worlds. It will be interesting to see if these two decide to stay in NA or head back to Korea.

Junglers in this group are also considered pretty strong. Jake “Xmithie” Puchero quietly became the best jungler in North America after transferring to Immortals. His supportive playstyle was vital in their success during Summer Split. MikeYeung will be pursued following a good rookie split on a struggling Phoenix1 team. Nam “lira” Tae-yoo was another jungler who was a great player on a bad team. He was often praised by other players as being one of the best in the league.

One of the more underrated players out of these teams might be EnVyus support Nickolas “Hakuho” Surgent. Hakuho has quietly been one of the better supports in North America. He was a major reason for the improvement of ADC Apollo “Apollo” Price. He holds a lot of value as a North American player who wouldn’t take up an import slot.

Cloud 9 Top Lane

While Cloud 9’s top laner Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong had a great split overall after taking over full time as the starter, there were still rumors that he may be looking to retire. His contract does expire this year which was a main reason why Cloud 9 took on Jeon “Ray” Ji-won. Impact had a decent showing at Worlds so maybe that will change his mind, but it’s definitely something to keep our eyes on.

With Dignitas and Immortals not making it in, Ssumday and Flame become available. Ssumday has been a mechanical God since he came over, but hasn’t really had the right team to back him up. Flame showed success on Immortals, but language barrier might be an issue with both of them. Cloud 9 has experience working around that with coach Bok “Reapered” Han-gyu.

While it’s still likely Impact makes his way back to Cloud 9, it might be interesting to see if they keep Ray around or look for another sub top laner to eventually take over.

New Rookies?

We got the chance to see some new rookies in the challenger scene last year that could be making their way onto the LCS stage. One big name that has been a solo queue star for awhile and showed some promise last year was Eric “Licorice” Ritchie on EUnited. Licorice mechanically seems pretty sound, but just needs more experience on the big stage against better competition. With academy teams becoming more relevant with franchising, he might be a split away from becoming an LCS starter.

Another rookie that we could see soon is ADC Matthew “Deftly” Chen. Deftly has shown the ability to be a great ADC at times, but has also had some inconsistencies. A nice comparison would be Cody Sun last year. Deftly will most likely get picked up for an academy team for Spring in hopes of gaining enough experience to contend for a starting position in Summer.

Jungler Raymond “Wiggily” Griffin is a challenger player who benefited from Riot’s scouting grounds. He played in the challenger scene on Tempo Storm, who looked good for the majority of the regular season. Wiggily is a jungler on the rise and could see his way into a young team looking for NA talent.

Looking for a podcast covering EU and NA LCS? Check out LCS Weekly on SoundCloud.

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Possible Roster Moves For EnVyUs and Team Liquid

Relegations are over, and EnVyUs and Team Liquid have earned their way back into the LCS. It wasn’t a domination by any means though. Both of these teams will need to make some changes for next split if they don’t want to finish bottom two again. Here are some possible roster moves I could see for both teams going into next split:

EnvYus

Courtesy: Riot Esports

EnVyUs began to pick up its play towards the end of the split. Their jungler Nam “Lira” Tae-yoo developed into one of the best junglers in NALCS. Team EnVyUs will need to build around their star jungler going forward. Where they can look to improve is in their solo laners. Top laner Shin “Seraph” Wu-Yeong and mid laner Noh “Ninja” Geon-woo looked close to mediocre in their roles last split. It’s questionable how Ninja is still worth an import slot at this point.

Envy’s bot lane was heavily underrated last split. Apollo “Apollo” Price and Nikolas “Hakuho” Surgent held their own against some of the best, and have shown they can compete at an LCS level. They also serve as valuable assets as they don’t take import slots.

Possible Roster Moves:

Looking at possible imports and challenger players available, they may look to the team that they had to defeat to get back into LCS. Gold Coin United’s solo laners may be adequate replacements. Mid laner Kim “Fenix” Jae-hun has has also proven to be a mechanically skilled mid laner that’s able to compete with some of the best in North America.

If Seraph doesn’t play next split, they could look to either Colin “Solo” Earnest or Eric “Licorice” Ritchie. Solo has been bouncing around the challenger scene for awhile now, but looked to hold his own during the promotion tournament. Licorice also had some impressive games during the promotion tournament that could see him being looked at for an LCS team soon.

Another notable import could be EU Giants’ Na “NighT” Gun-woo. NighT made quite the impact during his rookie split last season. He was a lone star on a struggling Giants roster this split. He has shown the ability to be able to play against some of the best mids in Europe.

Team Liquid

Courtesy: Riot Esports

Team Liquid has quite the dilemma going forward. With Yiliang “Doubelift” going back to TSM, they’ll need to decide whether they keep Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin at Mid or move him back to his former role. Piglet has quite a while to prepare to become a better mid laner for Summer, but whether he’ll want to come back is the question. Piglet may have reached his breaking point, having failed to bring Team Liquid to Worlds in multiple consecutive splits now.

Support Matt “Matt” Elento has struggled since his phenomenal rookie split. Matt said in interviews that the pressure was beginning to affect his play. With the announcement of Adrian “Adrian” Ma’s departure from the team, Matt will be the support going forward.

The only sure roster locks that I see Team Liquid keeping are top laner Samson “Lourlo” Jackson and jungler Kim “Reignover” Ui-jin. Lourlo was still inconsistent last split, but I don’t think he did bad enough to be benched, and still showed glimpses of a star top laner. Reignover certainly struggled last split, but he returned to star form near the end of the split.

The mid and ADC positions have the biggest question marks heading into Summer.

Possible Roster Moves:

Like team Envy, NighT is a definite option for them. Piglet wasn’t the worst mid laner, but you could tell he didn’t know his lane matchups quite well enough yet. NighT is an adequate option as he has experience communicating in English. Team Liquid has experience integrating Korean Imports into their lineup as well. NighT has shown that he can be a force in the mid lane. Bringing Piglet back to the ADC role would also not be the worst thing with recent patches making them much more powerful than before.

Looking at the ADC role, Eunited’s ADC Matthew “Deftly” Chen showed some good games in the promotion tournament. He had a tremendous score line in game one against TL. He’s an up and coming NA talent to watch after having a feature on his Scouting Grounds experience.

 

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