The 2018 NA LCS preseason has been one wild ride. For the past several weeks, roster announcements/leaks seem like a daily occurrence. Free agency and franchising brought a complete upheaval of many teams. Amidst the widespread changes, we can see the formation of a handful of super-teams such as Team SoloMid (TSM) and Team Liquid (TL). However, these star rosters do raise some flags for concern. After all, some super-teams have not worked in the past. So what makes the 2018 rosters different? Let’s take a look at the performance of NA super-teams in the past and how these new teams look to surpass their predecessors.
Spring 2016 TSM: Enter the Super-team
In the Spring of 2016, Team SoloMid owner, Andy “Reginald” Dinh assembled what many fans saw as the North American dream-team. Following Worlds 2015, and the retirements of Marcus “Dyrus” Hill and Ham “Lustboy” Jang-sik, Reginald rebuilt the TSM roster around star mid laner Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg. Reginald managed to piece together a monster roster consisting of veteran AD-carry Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng, rising top laner Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell, seasoned jungler Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen and legendary support Bora “YellOwStaR” Kim.
Despite the staggering roster, this iteration of TSM struggled to find their footing for most of the spring split. Despite glaring synergy issues, the squad surged through playoffs. Ultimately falling to rivals, Counter Logic Gaming (CLG) in the Finals. There were a number of reasons why Team SoloMid seemed to flounder in Spring 2016. Clearly, the bottom lane struggled to effectively complement one another’s playstyle. Against all expectations, TSM demonstrated why super-teams do not always pan out. An expensive mistake for Regi to be sure. Still, we did catch some glimpses of greatness from that TSM roster.
Many point to TSM‘s playoff upswing as a result of Regi’s decision to hire sports psychologist Weldon Green. The following summer, after YellOwStaR left TSM to return to Europe, the team performed outstandingly. With then rookie talent Vincent “Biofrost” Wang, TSM went on to have the organization’s most dominant split to date. In an interview with Blitz Esports, Weldon Green, reflecting on his time with TSM said, “they would build stellar teams … but they couldn’t maintain it.” Weldon went on to explain that after the 2016 season, Reginald showed incredible strides in fixing this internal issue. However, looking at 2018, Team SoloMid has already announced some serious changes to their roster.
The same Story in 2018?
Coming into 2018, Regi has again acquired some superstar talents in rising rookie Mike “MikeYeung” Yeung and the famous western bottom duo Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen and Alfonso “mithy” Aguirre Rodríguez. Big roster changes like this clearly have not worked out for TSM in the past. So what makes this year different? Reginald made it a point to build on his existing coaching staff. By switching former coach Parth Naidu to General Manager, Regi announced Kim “SSONG” Sang-soo, formerly of team Immortals (IMT), as TSM‘s new Head Coach. In addition to these changes, Regi also brought on Lustboy as a full-time Strategy Coach.
It’s clear that Regi is serious about building on the successes of 2017 Team SoloMid. Bjergsen, Hauntzer, Zven and Mithy have all worked with Weldon Green in the past. These players carry similar mindsets that can be complemented with the solid coaching staff Regi has established. It’s reasonable to think that Weldon’s emphasis on in-game mental resiliency is shared among these four players. Perhaps a shared mentality will give these players an edge in finding their synergy during the season. Now, the biggest question mark on TSM rests on MikeYeung’s shoulders.
As a rookie in 2017 summer, Mike demonstrated serious star potential. His affinity for carry-style junglers seems to clash with TSM‘s preference for control oriented tanks in that role. In that case, are TSM and MikeYeung a good fit for one another? In multiple interviews with MikeYeung, his composure and attitude certainly reflect that of a player open to learning and adapting to new playstyles. On top of that, Mike looks like he is hungry for serious competition. While TSM might look as though they are falling into the same ‘super-team’ trap as 2016, a second glance tells otherwise.
Liquid Doubles down
While much of this article has centered around the example of Team SoloMid super-teams, it’s time to address the other huge threat in North America. Team Liquid co-owner Steve Arhancet has steadily assembled a super-team of his own. The roster consists of some of NA’s top talents in Doublelift, Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong, Eugene “Pobelter” Park, Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung and Jake “Xmithie” Puchero. While the roster is certainly stacked, the first question that comes to mind is synergy. Will Spring 2018 TL be the next Spring 2016 TSM? In short, probably not.
As many already know, three of the five players on TL‘s new roster were stars on the 2017 Immortals roster that placed second in NA. On top of this, Pobelter, Xmithie and Doublelift were part of the 2015 CLG roster that won that year’s summer finals. These players have history both as teammates and competitors. This history will lend itself toward TL‘s synergy coming into the 2018 split. In terms of synergy, Impact stands out as a possible weak point. While his mechanical skill and laning are near-immaculate, Impact’s communication will certainly play a factor in the team’s success, or failure. However with Olleh on the team, and TL‘s newly announced Assistant Coach Kang “Dodo” Jun-hyeuk, Impact will have a much easier time communicating both in and out of game.
The 2018 preseason has already uprooted everything fans know about the NA LCS landscape. Standing on the horizon are two super-teams in Team Liquid and Team SoloMid. The hype has already begun long before the season’s start. With the massive changes to the NA LCS in the coming year, these super-teams will be put to the test. Will TSM and TL dominate? Or is this just another expensive lesson for North America?
Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr
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