NA LCS: Sleeper teams

With teams announcing their new rosters, this has to be the most active off-season to date. No one was a sure thing, with franchising bringing new teams into the league. With some teams not making it in, it left many players as free agents ready to be picked up. With new teams entering the scene some interesting rosters have come about. Here are a few of my sleeper teams heading into the new season.

100 Thieves

Roster: 

Top: Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho

Jungle: William “Meteos” Hartman

Mid: Yoo “Ryu” Sang-wook

ADC: Cody “Cody Sun” Sun (Rumored)

Support: Zaqueri “aphromoo” Black

Head Coach: Neil “pr0lly” Hammad

It looks like Pr0lly was given the lead to construct the roster as he pleased and he did an excellent job. Not only is each player individually talented, but their styles look like they could mesh really well together in game.

Adding a personality like Pr0lly already adds some good PR starting off for a new organization. Pr0lly has experience playing in LCS during his time on Complexity, as well as coaching in EU LCS with H2K. Being able to get a star top laner like Ssumday who has shown the beastly mechanics is definitely a success.

Ryu comes in after a struggling Summer Split with Phoenix1. He’s hoping to revitalize his career by reuniting with coach Pr0lly. Pr0lly noted in an interview with Travis Gafford that Ryu has a loud voice that can sometimes distract from focusing on his own play. Bringing in Aphromoo to shot-call for the team takes a lot of weight off Ryu’s shoulders to let him focus on his own gameplay.

With every member officially announced aside from ADC, Cody Sun looks to be the obvious choice. Ryu and Ssumday take up their import slots so if it isn’t Cody Sun, it would mean bringing in a fresh North American rookie. Cody Sun would be a nice added piece after a decent rookie split on Immortals. He showed flashes of greatness at times last year and under the tutelage of a veteran support like Aphromoo, could really begin to shine. If everything works out, 100 Thieves could be a top 2-4 team heading into Spring.

Clutch Gaming

Top: Colin “Solo” Earnest 

Jungle: Nam “LirA” Tae-yoo

Mid: Fabian “Febiven” Diepstraten

ADC: Apollo “Apollo” Price

Support: Nickolas “Hakuho” Surgent 

Head Coach:David Lim

Photo by: Riot Games

Another NBA team heading into the NA LCS is Clutch Gaming. Clutch Gaming basically took most of Team EnVyUs and replaced their solo laners. EnVyUs didn’t look terrible last split, making their way into the quarterfinals of playoffs. Clutch Gaming picked up most of the core of their team in Lira, Apollo and Hakuho. David Lim heads the team after spending much time on Liquid. His coaching stint never really worked out, but Team Liquid also didn’t have the best roster.

LirA made a name for himself as one of the best junglers in North America despite being on an average team. Many players praised LirA for his aggressive play style and unpredictable pathing almost solo carrying some games. Apollo and Hakuho developed into a formidable duo who were 2v2’ing some of the best bot lanes in North America. Apollo will never be a flashy ADC, but he’s consistent with his play style and can pop off some games.

The acquisition of Febiven in the mid lane is huge as he comes off a year where he revitalized his career on H2K. Febiven looked great once again, looking like his rookie form with Fnatic. The biggest question mark will be in the top lane with rookie, Solo. Solo has been a longtime Challenger Series player who hasn’t been able to crack into the LCS until now. While he’s looked decent in the Challenger Series, he’s looked average for the most part when it came to going against LCS competition. If he can develop into a decent LCS caliber top laner, Clutch Gaming could definitely surprise a lot of people.

Echo Fox

Top: Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon (Pursuing)

Jungle: Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett

Mid: Kim “FeniX” Jae-hun

ADC: Johnny “Altec” Ru

Support: Adrian “Adrian” Ma

Head Coach: Coach: Nick “Inero” Smith

Photo by: Riot Games

Echo Fox brought in possibly one of the most high risk, high reward rosters of the off-season. From an attitude standpoint, things could internally implode if things don’t work out early.

Everyone knows the Dardoch story. A highly skilled jungler with all the mechanics you’d want from a rising young rookie. We saw first hand with his time on Team Liquid how he is as a teammate and player. Being kicked off Immortals and Counter Logic Gaming has to make you question if he can ever get his act together. Time and time again he has had his chances. This may be his last shot under Echo Fox. He reunites with former Team Liquid mid laner, Fenix, who spent time in the Challenger Series this past year.

Fenix has shown good laning mechanics, but fails to translate his laning success in a team sense. He can lane with some of the best mid laners, but can he truly mesh with the team around him to make his team succeed.

In the bot lane, Adrian and Altec stay together from Dignitas. Dignitas looked like a strong team who could possibly make a strong run at Worlds towards the end of summer. Things seemed to have imploded as the team lost their synergy. Adrian in particular has been noted to have attitude problems during his time on Team Impulse and Phoenix1.

If this team can find the perfect chemistry to be able to succeed, they could definitely be top contenders. If things don’t work out, this team could fall apart very fast.

 

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Winners and Losers of the Off-season: NALCS

Franchising has definitely brought a different level of spiciness this off-season that has had many fans alike excited for the upcoming season. It almost feels that anyone and everyone has been on the move with every team having money to spend this off-season. While not everything is confirmed yet, most of the rumors have come to fruition.

Some teams have made big splashes recruiting big names this off-season. Others seemed to have been late to the party. This piece we’ll be looking at the winners and losers of the off-season so far. Let’s take a look:

Winners

Team Liquid

While “Paid by Steve” has become a meme, it became a reality as Team Liquid struck fast in the off-season. They were able to obtain most of the Immortals roster who qualified for Worlds last year and added two veteran stars to go along with them. Their starting roster consists of Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong, Jake “Xmithie” Puchero, Eugene “Pobelter” Park, Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng, and Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung.

Being able to obtain three players who previously worked together is definitely a win right off the bat will bring some needed synergy for a new team. Pobelter, Doublelift, and Xmithie are all longtime NALCS vets who can bring a lot of leadership to this team. Impact has been a star for the past few seasons on Cloud 9 and had another great Worlds performance. Having played in NA for the past two years, his English has gotten a lot better. He’s often been heralded for his communication and which is a great trait to have as an import. He also has the experience of having been a world champion with SKT in season 3.

Olleh is an aggressive laning support who should do well with star ADC Doublelift. Doublelift comes to Team Liquid after being replaced on TSM by European star, Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen. Doublelift is hungry to be the best and get revenge on his former team. He’s been arguably one of the best ADC’s in the West since becoming a pro. While domestically he’s been great, it’s internationally where he’ll need to show up. His past few Worlds performances have been average at best so he’ll want to get to Worlds again to finally prove himself.

Xmithie and Pobelter come off a summer split where they both revitalized their careers on Immortals. Both players looked to be on the decline after rough Spring Splits. Xmithie had an MVP like split in which the meta leaned towards tank-control junglers. His play was vital in Immortals making it to Summer finals.

Team Liquid without a doubt had a lot of money to spend, and this time spent it in the right places.

TSM’s Mike “MikeYeung” Yeung

Photo by: Riot Esports

Mikeyeung went from playing on a 9th place Phoenix1 team to one of the most successful franchises in NALCS history. While the pressure will be on to perform, he’ll be surrounded by star veterans in every lane. Opportunity arose with TSM importing the European bot lane duo of Zven and Alfonso “mithy” Aguirre Rodríguez. With TSM needing a North American talent in the jungle, Mikeyeung’s opportunity was there.

Mikeyeung had one of the most surprising rookie splits this past summer. He came into a flailing Phoenix1 team that went from 3rd to last place and tried to salvage as much as he could. He showed great aggression on champs such as Lee Sin and Nidalee. He’ll have every chance to succeed with TSM being the kings of domestic success. He’ll also have a chance to learn under the leadership of former Immortals coach Kim “SSONG” Sang-soo. Any team Ssong has coach, he’s been praised for improving the team drastically.

TSM has the reputation of turning aggressive junglers into ward bots so we’ll need to see what Mikeyeung becomes. If he stays the aggressive, play making jungler, it may be just what TSM needs.

100 Thieves

Of all the new teams entering the league, 100 thieves have the build of a prominent roster if things pan out. As one of the only teams who hasn’t announced their bot lane yet, all signs point to star support Zaqueri “aphromoo” Black heading their way. The confirmed players look to all be individually really good. They are top laner Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho, jungler William “Meteos” Hartman, and mid laner Yoo “Ryu” Sang-wook. It’s also good to note that they’ll be coached by Neil “pr0lly” Hammad who showed great success in EU with H2K.

If Aphromoo is heading to 100 thieves as their support it will most likely be a North American rookie at ADC. Aphromoo has shown the ability to mold great ADC’s in the bot lane with Stixxay on CLG so it won’t be new for him. This team could be a major sleeper to storm into the league as legit contenders right away.

 

Losers

 Counter Logic Gaming

Counter Logic Gaming took a major hit this off-season losing long time veteran leader Aphromoo. Aphromoo has always been associated as CLG’s main leader inside and outside of game. His leadership qualities will be missed. He was always seen as the mediator when things got rough and with how inconsistent this roster can be, his absence will be felt.

Taking his place will be TSM’s former support, Vincent “Biofrost” Wang. While mechanically Biofrost has showed to be really good, his communication seems to be lacking as Doublelift and Bjergsen were more of the shot callers on the team. He’s still young, but this roster isn’t too talented on paper. Everyone else imported big names, while CLG looked to stay mostly the same. They picked up jungler in Kim “Reignover” Yeu-jin who had a horrific season on Team Liquid. Individually he did okay, but he’ll be looking to bounce back big this year.

The returning members  of the team, mid laner Choi “Huhi” Jae-hyun, ADC Trevor “Stixxay” Hayes, and Darshan “Darshan” Upadhyaya have had their share of inconsistencies. Without the leadership of aphromoo this team may crumble if they don’t perform well early.

CLoud 9

Photo by: Riot Esports

In a shocking turn of events rising star Juan “Contractz” Garcia and top laner Impact both left the team for brighter pastures. While one could see Impact leaving as a possibility, the fact that Contractz left meant Cloud 9 needed to either import a jungler or top laner. Cloud 9 seemed to be late to the party as most of the North American junglers had already found new homes.

They found their replacement in former TSM jungler, Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen who is an EU talent. This means Svenskeren will be taking an import slot. This most likely means that rookie Eric “Licorice” Ritchie will be the starting top laner for Cloud 9. Svenskeren has had his troubles with inconsistencies. He was a huge scapegoat in TSM’s performance at Worlds in which their early game play making was lacking.

While Svenskeren isn’t necessarily a steep downgrade to Contractz, replacing Impact with a rookie will definitely be felt. Licorice spent his time in the challenger series on EUnited last split. He’s been a top player in the challenger scene for the past few splits. He’ll have big shoes to fill if they plan to start him right away. With many of the top teams looking even better, Cloud 9 may have taken a step back. Only time will tell if this was the right move for them.

EuLCS

An exodus was bound to happen with franchising heading to North America. With EU having some big name talents who can proficiently speak English, North America was bound to try to recruit them to cross the Atlantic. Europe loses the G2 bot lane of Zven and Mithy, along with mid laners Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage and Fabian “Febiven” Diepstraten. The off-season isn’t even over yet. There’s definitely still room for more players to head over.

This is a major hit for EU. Misfits in particular almost knocked off former champions, SKT. Most of these rosters did not choose to stick together and EU will have to look to garner new talent to replace the ones that left.

With franchising not coming until 2019, many of the EU organizations can’t compete with the salaries being offered in North America. This will most likely result in EU being top heavy. Players are looking to team up with the best in EU while younger orgs will have to fight for scraps.

 

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How much will this exodus hurt EU LCS?

With most of the NA LCS teams announcing their rosters this week, imports were to be expected. Since franchising is coming to North America, more money is available to every team more than ever before. With EU LCS not franchising until next year, many of their players were drawn to North America for huge pay increases.

Big names such as Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage, Fabian “Febiven” Diepstraten, Alfonso “mithy” Aguirre Rodríguez and Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen are all rumored/confirmed to be playing in the NA LCS next split. While there have been cases of a few EU players leaving to North America, this is the first time so many stars have all gone at once.

Many are excited for the NA LCS as franchising has helped create some new and interesting competitive rosters. While North American fans are rejoicing at how competitive the league looks to be, EU fans are left distraught.

EU LCS

Photo by: Riot Esports

Replacing stars

It wasn’t long ago when many of the Korean superstars left to team up in China. Chinese teams offered ridiculous paychecks that Korean organizations were not willing to match. This wasn’t an issue as Korea has been the epicenter of professional League of Legends talent. Teams in Korea have a way of developing talent quickly and efficiently to where the exodus wasn’t felt at all. Korea still took home the world championship that year and still touted the best teams in the World.

Europe will face this same hardship with much less organization and infrastructure. With many teams losing out on stars, the few stars left are attempting to team up together. With Korea notably having one of the most competitive solo queue ladders, it will be interesting to see if EU can find talent among their own competitive scene. EU has far less money and less infrastructure going forward, especially compared to the other main regions.

It will be interesting to see if large fan bases stick around. Most notably Unicorns of Love lost many of their key stars already this off season. Will fans look to NA to watch their favorite EU stars?

Less competitive?

If people thought EU LCS was top heavy last season, one can only expect it to get worse. Many of the fan favorite teams of EU LCS lost core members/personalities. Most of the top EU players will most likely be looking to team up to create the best possible roster. This will likely make EU even more top heavy than before with all the talent funneling into a few teams.

The quality of play may drop as well with so many players leaving, as many of the new rosters will be unfamiliar with one another. This could lead to more hectic clown fiesta games at least for a split while teams recover from this exodus. This could see the overall quality of play drop significantly at a point where EU was beginning to look like they had been getting stronger.

This exodus could be a major step back for the region with franchising rumored to be coming in 2019. 2018 will be a year to watch in EU. With format changes rumored and the EU exodus taking place, the region looks to be in limbo. Time will tell if they’re able to stay competitive and represent their region well on the World stage once again.

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Can Team Liquid finally break the “forever fourth” curse?

With the off-season underway, many roster moves have been rumored in the past few weeks. Most notably, Team Liquid has been rumored to be stockpiling North American talent. We already know owner Steve Arhancet isn’t afraid to pay with big dollars for players. With Team Liquid being accepted into franchising, even more money will be available for the team to spend on big name players.

becoming immortal

This may be a meme, but Team Liquid have been one of the most active teams this off-season. With Immortals being rejected from the NA LCS, many of their players were up for grabs. Team Liquid was quick to pull the trigger in acquiring 3/5 starting members from their roster.

Jacob Wolf first reported that they acquired the contracts of former Immortals players Jake “Xmithie” Puchero, Andy “AnDa” Hoang, Eugene “Pobelter” Park and Cody “Cody Sun” Sun. Xmithie, Pobelter and Cody Sun have built up synergy having qualified for Worlds last year and placing second with Immortals. AnDa is seen more as a project player who was a sub on the Immortals team.

Xmithie was regarded as the best jungler in NA during the Summer Split. His improvement was a major reason why Immortals qualified for their first World Championship after narrowly losing to TSM. The meta became extremely favorable towards his style and he flourished because of it.

Pobelter has often been regarded as the best mid lane talent actually from North America. He’s been in the scene from a young age and actually started out on team Curse. He is valuable as a talented player who doesn’t take an import slot.

Cody Sun may have struggled at Worlds, but during the regular split him and Olleh were one of the better bot lane duos. He’ll look to build off a solid rookie season in which we saw him improve vastly from spring to summer.

Adding more star power

Photo by: Riot Esports

We may have thought Team Liquid was done after acquiring most of the Immortals roster, but there was more. News broke  from ESPN’s Jacob Wolf that Team Liquid would be acquiring Cloud 9 top laner Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong. This is huge if it’s true. Impact has shown to be one of the best top laners in the world when he’s at his best. Having to sub out last year showed inconsistencies in his play, but if he’s a full time starter he can prove that he’s one of the best again.

Impact has been praised for his improved communication and mechanics. He also has one year left before he can become an “NA resident” player which could be valuable moving forward.

Lastly, Team Liquid have been rumored by The ScoreEsports to have acquired star ADC Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng. Doubelift has been a star domestically. Arguably one of the strongest ADC’s in the west, acquiring Doublelift would be a huge addition. During his time at TSM, Doublelift has been heavily criticized for his international performances. Domestically, he’s a monster, but we’ll need to see that he’s not burning out as being one of the first pros of the LoL scene.

What Will the Lineup Be?

While Team Liquid have been in many rumors of adding loads of talent, nobody knows what their actual lineup will be. Does the addition of Xmithie mean the end for former star Kim “Reignover” Yeu-jin? Team Liquid also acquired Korean mid laner Son “Mickey” Young-min towards the end of last split.

They’re also rumored to have two new ADC’s with Cody Sun and Doublelift. Does this spell the retirement of Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin? Will they stick to their “10 man” roster with the Academy team? No team has been able to successfully make six man rosters work outside of Korea. Team Liquid’s owner, Steve Arhancet, seems to be serious about winning. With these additions they might be able to finally break their “forever fourth” curse and find their way to Worlds.

With many new teams entering the scene, Team Liquid at least have the advantage of having been in the LCS for so long. They should know by now how to win and build a successful team. With the money available now more than ever, they’ll need to show that they can rise above the rest.

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Can SSong solve TSM’s international woes?

According to Jacob Wolf, sources close to TSM have confirmed that they’ll be taking on former Immortals head coach Kim “SSONG” Sang-soo as their new head coach heading into the new season. Coach SSong has a long tenure of successful coaching stints as the former coach of ROX Tigers and Immortals.

During his time at Immortals, Ssong transformed Immortals from a seventh place team in Spring to a second place NA LCS team in summer. It was a major improvement over a short amount of time. Many of the Immortals members credited coach Ssong with the team’s success during summer.

Ssong’s hiring comes in the wake of another failed TSM run at Worlds where the team failed to make it out of groups once again. This year TSM had one of the easiest groups at Worlds. The fact that they failed to make it out again was a major disappointment for the organization.

New Roster Changes Incoming?

Photo by: Riot Esports

It’s no secret Andy “Reginald” Dinh believes avoiding the language barrier is an important factor to a successful team. Introducing a Korean coach may hint that the team is finally breaking that mold and might be importing Korean talent.

In the article from ESPN, sources also say that the team is looking at some roster changes for the upcoming season. One of the most criticized players after Worlds has to be jungler Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen. If there was one position likely to be changed, it would probably be jungle.

Star ADC Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng could also be in talks of retirement again. He’s a longtime pro in the scene, but we could also see TSM utilize a sixth man like they had proposed last summer.

Svenskeren was one of the least proactive junglers at Worlds. The team as a whole failed to make any early game plays and would often fall behind by ridiculous amounts of gold.

ssong brings a new dynamic

The hiring of Ssong starts a new tenure of Korean coaching with TSM. This is the first time TSM will be under the tutelage of a Korean coach. They will also have the help of former support Lustboy and Parth, their old head coach. It’s clear what region has dominated the professional LoL scene for the past years. Korea has five of the seven LoL World Championships. Korean coaching structure has been heralded as more intense than Western coaching styles. Korean players who have imported have stated how much more relaxed the professional scene is compared to Korea.

Coach Ssong will have the chance to lead one of the best North American teams in TSM. While they’ve dominated domestically, they have yet to show much success internationally. Ssong will hope to change that and will add a strong strategic mind who’s had experience coaching a North American team.

Immortals praised Ssong during his time there last summer. Many of the players and leads credited Ssong for their drastic turnaround during summer. It will be interesting to see how he approaches TSM heading into the split. As a team that’s already known to dominate domestically, they’ll need to improve in their international play.

With a new head coach TSM already looks to be getting stronger. We’ll need to wait and see what the roster changes could be, but TSM will be favorites heading in. With Ssong leading the way and more talent incoming, TSM fans can only grow more excited for the upcoming season.

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Best available free agents from North America

With the offseason fully underway, many of the newer LCS teams will be looking to fill their rosters. While many will look towards imports to fill some slots, homegrown free agents will be very important in being contenders. With certain teams not making the cut for LCS franchising, there will definitely be some big names to choose from.

In this piece we’ll be taking a look at the best North American free agents available.

Nickolas “Hakuho” Surgent (Support)

Photo by: Riot Esports

Hakuho is the former support of team EnVyus. EnVyus had their moments as a team but were never quite able to reach top-tier status. Hakuho was quietly one of the more underrated supports in the league. It’s his time to finally be surrounded by good teammates to show what he’s really capable of.

When he was paired with veteran ADC, Apollo “Apollo” Price, many analysts noted the improvement to Apollo’s play. Hakuho was substantial to his improvement as they were one of the better bot lane duos in the NALCS. On a team with a lower win rate Hakuho was able to maintain the 3rd highest KDA among supports which is rather impressive.

With Team EnVyus missing out on the NALCS, Hakuho will be a valuable support on the market. If surrounded by better talent, Hakuho can surely make a name for himself.

Jake “Xmithie” Puchero (jungler)

Xmithie was a standout player for Immortals in helping them qualify for their first ever World Championship. With Immortals rumored to be out of the NALCS, Xmithie brings loads of experience with three World Championship appearances.

Many people thought his career was on a decline after a struggling split with CLG. On Immortals he showed just how effective he could be if surrounded by the right teammates with smart pathing and aggression, helping turn Immortals from a seventh-place team to an LCS finals one.

Xmithie will be seen as a strong veteran presence on the market after a great Spring Split.

Adrian “Adrian” Ma and Johnny “Altec” Ru (Support and ADC)

Adrian and Altec both sat out for most of the Summer Split before becoming starters on Team Dignitas at the halfway point in the split. For a time it looked like the move was successful as Dignitas began to go on a tear through the NALCS.

Altec and Adrian looked to be one of the better bot lane duos shortly after coming into Dignitas. In a hyper carry ADC meta, Altec was 2nd in the league in DMG% for summer with 27.5%.

Adrian has long been known for his great play on healing/shielding supports such as Janna and Soraka. His attitude has been noted to be an issue from his previous teams such as Phoenix1 and Team Impulse.

It will be interesting to see if this duo attempts to stay together. They have the benefit of having a built-up synergy already and there’s no language barrier between them compared to importing.

Alex “Xpecial” Chu and William “Meteos” Hartman

Photo by: Riot Esports

Xpecial and Meteos are some big-time veterans that may or may not be returning. The money could be too good for them to pass up though and one could see them both getting some decent offers to stay in the scene.

Xpecial is more likely, as Meteos has a decent following for streaming on Twitch. Meteos has also noted his loyalty to Cloud9. It’s no doubt that both these players still have the talent to play at a competitive level. It didn’t take long for Meteos to get back in the groove of professional play that helped Phoenix1 to a third-place finish.

Xpecial will always be a long time favorite among the scenes as a smart aggressive support. Although he hasn’t seen too much success since his days with TSM and Team Liquid, Xpecial does have a veteran experience and game knowledge to still warrant being on a starting roster.

If we do see them on rosters next split, it will be interesting to see if they are still able to compete at a high level.


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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.

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Dethroning of a dynasty: Samsung Galaxy shocks SKT

The 2017 World Championship concluded yesterday in a way nobody was expecting. A 3-0 collapse of three time World Champions, SK Telecom T1. It was a rematch of last year’s World final and Samsung took their revenge against SKT sweeping the former champions. SKT were looking to cement their dynasty by adding a three peat World Championship to their legacy. Samsung Galaxy showed up big and proved that they were the best team in the World this year.

While it wasn’t necessarily an upset, fans have come to know SKT as the powerhouse team in professional League of Legends. Three World Championships in the last four seasons speaks to the dominance of the dynasty that they’ve built. Mid laner Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok has become world renown as the best professional LoL player. He did not disappoint this Worlds, but it just wasn’t enough to overtake Samsung.

Ruler and cuvee play out of their minds

While SKT tried to play thru Faker, Samsung played through their side lanes. Samsung Galaxy ADC Park “Ruler” Jae-hyuk stepped up huge for his team this Worlds. Last year was his Worlds debut where he showed glimpses of what was to come. In the end, he fell short of his goal and made some costly mistakes that led to Samsung losing to SKT 3-2 in the finals last year. This year was different. Ruler came out and showed why he is one of the best ADC’s in the World, dominating the game and earning himself the Finals MVP.

Over the three games Ruler had some phenomenal performances on Xayah and Varus. He also made the game ending play off a bold flash Varus ultimate that led to the team catching out Faker and sealing the championship for Samsung Galaxy.

Top laner Lee “CuVee” Seong-jin had himself quite the series as well. It was a close race between him and Ruler for MVP. In game one, Samsung baited SKT top laner Seung “Huni” Hoon Heo into taking Gnar in preparation for unleashing Cuvee’s Kennen. The Kennen pick was amazing as he dominated the lane and then continued to do so, forcing Huni to stay with the threat of the split push. His AD Kennen was such a unique pick and so powerful that it allowed Samsung to steamroll through game one.

In game two he was countered by Huni’s Yasuo as he picked Gnar. He was able to keep up in lane despite the bad match-up and made his presence known with his excellent TP plays. It was his team fighting prowess that helped Samsung come back from major deficits in games two and three.

Bang and Peanut Fall Short

It was no secret who SKT’s scapegoat would become for the series. It was the uncharacteristic misplays of ADC Bae “Bang” Jun-sik that allowed Samsung back into the matches in which SKT grew big leads. SKT were ahead both games after a much more proactive early game as opposed to game one. Looking to snowball even more, Bang flashed into dragon pit to ult Jarvan with his Varus. This left him vulnerable with no followup as Samsung were able to easily eliminate him before moving on to the rest of the team.

Game three looked to be a redemption game for him as he seemed to be doing well for the first half. When it came to the mid-late game, SKT attempted to catch out Ruler without his flash, but it was Bang’s Tristana ult that ended up saving Ruler and allowing him to stay in the team fights to dish out damage. This was a championship costing mistake as Samsung were able to gain Baron control off of it and take control of the game.

For jungler Han “Peanut” Wang-ho many expected his addition to SKT to be the next chapter of a star studded championship roster. As the meta shifted, SKT relied more on Peanut to be less of a carry and more of a control jungler. Not a style we had seen him do well on in the past. Peanut seemed out matched by Samsung’s Kang “Ambition” Chan-yong. Peanut was benched in game three and despite SKT having a good early game due to some early ganks from Blank, they still fell short.

A perfect storybook ending for ambition

Photo By: Riot Esports

Samsung jungler, Ambition, is a long time name in League of Legends. Known as one of the best mid laners in the world when he came onto the scene, many thought he was washed up when he joined Samsung long ago as a jungler. Samsung was nowhere near a Worlds caliber team at the time and had lower expectations. As the season grew on and the roster changed a few times, they slowly grew into the World champions that they are today.

It wasn’t too long ago when Faker made his debut against Ambition solo-killing him on Nidalee against Ambition’s Kha’zix. Having the chance to dethrone the player whose legacy began solo-killing you had to be satisfying for him.

After falling short a year ago, they stuck with the same roster knowing that if they had a second chance they would not allow it to slip from them once again.

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Is an EUxodus heading to North America?

In a recent announcement from G2 the team announced that they would allow their star bot lane of Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen and Alfonso “Mithy” Aguirre Rodriguez to field offers from other teams. This sparked quite the discussion on if they would leave EU for money in North America. It’s no secret that with franchising heading to North America, just about every team will have money to spend on big name players. Ocelote states in the comments, “North American organizations have contacted us in order to purchase the rights to speak with some of our players. Some of these offers have been unreasonably high, to a point of them making no sense from a business standpoint in order to maintain a sustainable business.” If teams are offering ridiculous amounts just to talk to star players, one can only wonder what the salary offer will be like.

Two years ago we saw what would become known as the “Korean Exodus” as many Koreans bolted to China with promises of huge paydays. With some North American teams preaching communication is key, many might look to EU instead for talent. EU has been known to produce some great talent and their players might be easier to integrate into American culture.

If this “EUxodus” were to happen how would it affect both leagues? Can we expect EU to lose a lot of big names this off-season or will North America still look to the best region in Korea for imports?

Photo by: Riot Esports

Lack of NA Talent Development

In the past few seasons we’ve seen North American teams look to imports to fill the void left by the lack of North American talent. Is there really a lack of talent or are teams just not looking to develop it? Riot has tried to step in last year by implementing “Scouting Grounds” to help gain some recognition for up and coming talent. Franchising will also allow for teams to have “Academy” teams where they can have a competitive challenger squad made up of talent that may not be ready for LCS quite yet.

NA solo queue has become a meme for some as many LCS pros have stated the lack of quality of practice it provides compared to other regions. Pairing that with how much longer queue times are here, you may not be able to get as many solo queue games as you want.

North American teams have not been shy to import where they can. Three of the teams at Worlds this year from North America had a total of six imports among them if you include the Danish star Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg.

Could talent in EU Drop?

When Korea had the massive exodus, it wasn’t long before they just replaced the old talent with new players who developed into their own stars. This was to be expected as Korea has seemed to be the birth place of League of Legends stars and champions. Having claimed the last four World Championships, it’s no secret that they have found the way to develop the best players in the world.

While EU does have talent, it doesn’t compare to the infrastructure and development in Korea. Europe is bound to have less money without franchising coming until 2019 as well. If we do see players leave in chase of the bigger paycheck we could see a massive talent drop in EU for a bit if teams aren’t able to recover.

While some players have mentioned that they would rather represent their home region than take a bigger paycheck, that may not be the case for everyone. Not only does it hurt the competitive side, but also the viewership could dip if some fan favorites bolt.

It’s no guarantee that EUxodus is coming, but the Zven and Mithy announcement definitely hints at some big name imports that could possibly be heading to North America. Franchising definitely opens the pockets for many teams and it will be interesting to see where they look to in finding their talent.

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Worlds under-performing five after Week One

Week One of Worlds has concluded and we’re slowly seeing where the teams stand amongst eachother in terms of competition. Korea is still dominating for the most part. Meanwhile, North America is off to another strong Week One of Worlds. Europe has an unlikely hero in Misfits, while Fnatic is slowly bleeding out, and the hometown of China has looked really good aside from EDG struggling.

Our own Thomas Baker gave his spin on his “OP 5” from the first week, and I’ll be looking at the under-performing five. Those who made this list primarily had decent expectations coming in to do really well but have struggled. They’ll need to step up huge in Week Two for their teams to have any chance of making it to the bracket stage of Worlds. Let’s take a look:

Image by: Riot Esports

TOP: Paul “sOAZ” Boyer (Fnatic)

Soaz is one of the more veteran players attending Worlds this year. He’s always been a rock steady performer for his team, especially when it comes to Worlds. The mighty have fallen as Soaz has not looked good at all in his first three games this year. The team as a whole seems to have had some longing issues that have been taken to Twitter as of late.

In three games, Soaz has 2 kills, 16 deaths and 6 assists. His KDA of 0.5 is the second lowest among top laners. The Fnatic strategy usually revolved around getting bot and top ahead while leaving mid to play safe, but at Worlds top lane has been feeling the “Dyrus” treatment. It’s a mix of poor play and lack of assistance as Soaz was heavily punished in their first match against Gigabyte Marines. The lane swap prevent Soaz from getting a single cs until 5 minutes into the game.

In the next two games, Soaz would get counterpicked against Immortals and Longzhu Gaming. Cho’gath into Jayce is a really rough lane, but even mid-late Soaz’s impact was not felt. In the game against Longzhu he was put on Mao’kai against a Nasus who could freely farm with no real threat from Mao’kai.

Heading into Week Two, Fnatic is 0-3 in their group and will need to go undefeated to have a real chance of getting out. Soaz will need to step up and show why he used to be one of the most dangerous top laners in Europe.

Jungle: Hung “Karsa” Hau-Hsuan (Flashwolves)

Image by: Riot Esports

Karsa has been a staple for Flash Wolves in previous seasons. His aggressiveness paired with a strong mid lane presence has been the vocal point of Flash Wolves’ success. While Karsa is still a very smart and aggressive jungler, his mid-late game play has cost his team. Time and time again he’s been getting caught out during crucial moments. It was his deaths against TSM that stalled the game out longer. He also had a crucial death against Misfits that basically lead to them taking Baron control. Karsa also got caught face checking mid against WE that once again lead to a baron take.

Not many junglers were hyped up this year when the meta shifted to more tank junglers, but Karsa was being hyped as one of the better junglers entering the tournament. His first blood percentage is still highest among junglers, but his 1.3 KDA is lowest among all junglers in the tournament.

It’s interesting to see Karsa in a jungle meta where it’s more of a supportive role. He’s still making plays early, but translating it to victories has been a struggle for him. He can’t keep getting caught out during crucial moments if Flash Wolves has any shot of making it out.

Mid: Lee “Scout” Ye-chan EDG (Edward Gaming)

Photo by: Riot Esports

Scout came in touted as one of the better mid laners out of China. A former sub of SKT, Scout has been known for his aggressive laning and playstyle. This style was punished for the most part. Against Cloud 9, it was the Shen pick that negated much of his aggressiveness and punished him for overstepping on a trade with Jensen in the mid lane.

For whatever reason, EDG has been content to let Scout play Lucian in all three games. While Lucian does have his strong points in the early-mid, his weaknesses have shown in the late as EDG has failed to close out games with it.

With a big lead against AHQ early, EDG gave up some crucial team fights that allowed AHQ to stall. With each team fully built, the side of AHQ was free to stack armor as EDG had no AP threat due to the Lucian being mid. Scout would eventually get caught out around mid where AHQ would than win the game.

It’ll be interesting to see if EDG plays something other than Lucian going forward. It’s had the early game presence at times, but it just hasn’t worked in getting the win. Scout in particular will need to play phenomenal against the likes of Faker and Jensen for EDG to turn their group around.

ADC: Park “Ruler” Jae-hyuk (Samsung Galaxy)

Photo by: Riot Esports

Ruler came to Worlds after finishing rank one of the Korean solo que ladder. He was being preached as one of the best ADC’s of the tournament. He was looking to improve from last years performance where some minor mistakes might have cost his team a World championship.

The first week of the tournament was not a good start for Ruler or Samsung Galaxy as a whole. They were dominant against Europe’s G2, but were dominated by China’s Royal Never Give up, and had a surprisingly close match against Turkish team, 1907 Fehnerbace. It’s hard to stand out as an ADC on a struggling team, but outside of laning phase Ruler hasn’t looked impressive.

He currently has one of the lowest KDA’s among ADC’s at 2.4 and has the 2nd lowest damage per minute numbers. In a meta where teamfighting and bot lane is extremely important, Ruler’s impact hasn’t been felt. In their match against RNG, the bot lane of SSG seemed outmatched by the hometown heroes.

Ruler will need to step up to have a bigger impact in Week Two. Samsung had a somewhat similar slow Week One last year, so I’ll be interested to see how they step up.

Support: Hu “SwordArt” Shuo-Jie (Flash Wolves)

Photo by: Riot Esports

SwordArt received much criticism after being named as a top 20 player at Worlds by some people. SwordArt hasn’t done much to backup these statements as he hasn’t looked incredible by any means.

SwordArt may be suffering the same fate as Karsa; the meta has shifted into a spot where he doesn’t look comfortable. His best plays have been on engage play making supports such as Alistar, Tahm Kench and Thresh. His Taric is the only champion that allows him to still engage for his team.

SwordArt and Flashwolves have a tall task as they have dropped to 0-3 in a group where teams aren’t the strongest. If there was one team I think that could still make it out despite being 0-3, it would be Flash Wolves. They have showed prowess and grit to be able to compete with the teams in their group. It’s the small macro decisions and mistakes that have cost them. SwordArt will need to shotcall a lot better, but there is a chance even if it may be slim.


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 Thomas!

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