The Echo Fox Team

Keeping the faith: Echo Fox, Dardoch and the case for second chances

The path of Echo Fox

When Echo Fox joined the NA LCS prior to the 2016 Spring Split, the expectations and excitement were high. Purchasing the spot from Gravity, former NBA Star and actor Rick Fox wasted no time. He invested quickly and heavily in foreign talent, but due to Visa issues among other things, Echo Fox ended their first split in 7th place. By the end of that year, they found themselves facing NRG Esports in a best of five series for the right to stay in the NA LCS. Though they avoided relegation, they ended both 2017 Splits in 8th place. By the start of 2018, they had a completely new roster. Now, sitting atop the NA LCS at 7-1, they have defied critics with a roster full of second chances.

 

Dardoch and Echo Fox

Courtesy of LoL Esports

 

Dardoch

The signing of Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett to yet another team was one of the most talked about stories this preseason. Since signing with AffNity in 2014, he played for no less than nine teams before finally landing with Echo Fox. The year he spent with Team Liquid was his longest stint in one place. During that time he bounced between being a starter, a substitute and a member of their Academy team.  

A mechanically talented player, the cause of his frequent moves was not because of poor performance. Instead, most were due to personal differences with other members of the organizations. Before long, this understandably earned him the reputation of being hard to work with. Other than Team Liquid, each team that signed him found a replacement within six months. He represented Immortals, Counter Logic Gaming and even found his way back into a Team Liquid uniform for a split before being signed by Echo Fox.

Now, it seems that he has figured out whatever issues he had with teams in the past. Dardoch has built a rapport with his team that is not just built on his talent, but also his presence as a teammate. Additionally, he has excelled on the rift with his current team, and is looking more dominant than ever. Adding improved decision-making and pathing to his already impressive mechanics, he leads both the NA and EU LCS junglers by a margin of over 20 assists after only four weeks of play.

 

A common theme

Though he may be the most well known example, Dardoch’s story isn’t exactly unique on the Echo Fox roster.  ADC Johnny “Altec” Ru has played for 11 different teams since 2014, including three stints as a substitute. Support Adrian “Adrian” Ma has worn six different jerseys in the NA LCS. Three of these came last season when he left Phoenix 1 due to internal issues, spent one month with Team Liquid, and then landed with Team Dignitas. Kim “Fenix” Jae-hun spent last year as the mid lane substitute for Gold Coin United. This NA Challenger Series team finished in second place, but failed to secure a promotion to the LCS. Even Top Laner Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon, who has the most consistent history of the group, has been a member of four teams in three different leagues over the last four years. SKT T1 released Huni after they failed to win the World Championship last year.

Though all well known players, it’s safe to say that not many would pick this roster to lead the NA LCS. Despite their history, however, the team has come together to earn a top spot, tied for first with Cloud9. One possible reason for this is maturity. Dardoch bounced between all of those teams and earned this reputation for being difficult all before his 19th birthday. Fenix is the only member over 20 at the ripe old age of 22. One can hardly blame players for struggling to navigate relationships and team politics perfectly at such a young age. As these players have grown, the sport has grown as well, and each year the infrastructure is improved to help the athletes succeed. In an esport dominated by younger and younger players, there may be something to be said for those who have earned experience and the level head that comes with it.

Echo Fox

Courtesy of LoL Esports

 

Supporting success

Another factor that should not be overlooked is the organization itself. With Fox’s experience in the NBA, three time NBA Champion Jared Jeffries as the new President, and the recent investment by the New York Yankees, Echo Fox approaches player management from a more traditional manner than most epsorts teams. They create an infrastructure that focuses on the development of the members as people as well as players. Along with this, they have a broad range of experience with players of varying egos and personalities.

Though his background is in traditional sports, Rick Fox has jumped into the esports scene with both feet. He is one of the most vocal supporters of not only his team, but esports in general. After their recent victory against Team Liquid, Dardoch referenced this support in a post game interview with LoL Esports. “I mean, it obviously helps a lot just having people in general…just being there to support us every day.” he said, referencing Rick waving from the crowd. “Stratton comes out, Jared Jeffries comes out, our President. And also Rick Fox comes out very often, so, just seeing them at work every day, and also them to show up on the days that matter most helps us a lot.”

Whatever the key ingredient is, it’s clear that it’s working. They have lost only one game this split to the veterans of CLG. Despite many critics’ predictions, they bounced back the next game just as strong as before. If they can keep succeeding, the members of Echo Fox may have finally found a permanent home and lasting success.

 

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Featured image courtesy of LoL Esports

NA LCS Week 1 overreactions

Week 1 of NA LCS is in the books and as always, teams don’t always seem too coordinated at the beginning of the split. The new meta has brought a lot of long games that has tested the shot calling and synergy of many of these newly formed rosters. Franchising seems to have upped the competition for sure as every team looked competitive in the first week. Here are some of the overreactions after week 1:

TSM will crash and burn

It’s no secret that Team SoloMid’s new roster debuted with a dud of a week. After being criticized heavily at last years world’s for the lack of early play making ability, the team went for a new look. They imported European duo laners Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen and Alfonso “mithy” Aguirre Rodríguez. They also brought in promising all star rookie jungler, Michael “MikeYeung” Yeung, to round out the roster.

TSM looked like a mirror image of their Worlds team during week 1. They were lacking in early game play making and reacting to the enemy team’s moves. Former coach of the split, Kim “Ssong” Sangso was supposed to help fix their issues, but the team looked unchanged.

Star mid laner Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg faced heavy criticism from Riot analysts for his passive play. Many players were quick to defend him. They came in ranked near the top for most of the preseason power rankings. Going 0-2 is a major disappointment for this new roster and they’ll need to fix their drafts and early game play making if they don’t want to fall too far behind.

Echo Fox can actually win na lcs

Huni

Source: Riot Games Flickr

Echo Fox came being ranked as one of the lower tier teams in the league. Many argued that the egos on the roster would not be able to mesh well together and the team would ultimately fail once they lost a few games. In their first two games, the team looked very good going 2-0. Echo Fox’s early game has been the best in the league. They averaged a gold difference @15 of 4,233 over the two games they played.

Top lane star Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon showed off his top Lucian pick as a counter to Gangplank. He would end the game with a 4-0-6 KDA and flame horizon the originator of the saying, Lee “Flame” Ho-jong.

Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett showed out well with two good Zac games and finishing with a 9.5 KDA. Echo Fox looked really strong, but we’ll need to see them stay consistent heading into week 2. They’ll be facing off against a struggling TSM and Cloud 9 this week. If they can pull out another 2-0, this team could be the real deal. This could possibly be the roster that finally gets Echo Fox to playoffs.

100 Thieves Might be the Strongest of all the New teams

With the NA LCS introducing four new teams into franchising, 100 Thieves looked to be the best of all the teams. Built with solid veterans in just about every role this team could be a sleeper team to look out for. They have two strong Korean solo laners in Yoo “Ryu” Sang-wook and Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho.

They have a strong core of North American players as well in veterans Zaqueri “aphromoo” Black and William “Meteos” Hartman. Along with rising young stud Cody “Cody Sun” Sun, their roster looks solid. They were able to pull off a really close win against Optic Gaming and dominated Counter Logic Gaming.

Lead by passionate owner, Matthew “Nadeshot” Haag, 100 Thieves could start gaining fans quickly if they keep their success up.

Licorice is the Next Great NA Talent

When Cloud 9 announced that rookie Eric “Licorice” Ritchie would be replacing Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong, many were quick to write them off as contenders. Licorice in particular had no LCS experience and hadn’t looked particularly strong against LCS competition. In their first match against CLG Licorice was a victim to camping by the enemy jungler, but was still able to deal the most damage in the game on Gangplank.

In his second game against Golden Guardians, he had an excellent Kled game going 7-0-6. Licorice has been a longtime solo queue stud, so if he can develop into a carry top lane he could be the next star from North America. Cloud 9 is known to be open to letting their players play what they think is strong so he’ll have a lot of freedom for champion choice.

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Is Echo Fox the biggest sleeper team?

It’s no doubt that when Echo Fox’s roster was announced, the biggest critique would be their clash of personalities. Echo Fox gutted their roster from last split in favor of bringing in young talented players among the scene. Just about every player was known as a rising young star at some point before failing to ever meet their potential.

With these questions being raised, many are ranking Echo Fox in the lower half of pre-season power rankings. The team seemed to have built off raw talent without regards to the problems that could arise.

Echo Fox has a lot of synergy questions to answer heading into the split. While this team on paper has a lot of talent, egos could clash if the team doesn’t perform well early.

New Year, New Dardoch?

Jungler Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett alone is already on his fourth team in his young career. Fans were given an inside look into the life of Team Liquid in the HTC documentary, “Breaking Point,” where Dardoch was at the center of many clashes with teammates and coaching staff.

Last year Immortals granted Dardoch a three year contract, but Dardoch didn’t even last his entire first year before being transferred. In his departure video, it could be seen that Dardoch hadn’t changed much from his Team Liquid days. He was shown still clashing with teammates and coaching staff and Immortals traded him to Counter Logic Gaming after the Spring Split.

With CLG, not much was known to fans about why Dardoch would eventually be replaced. He felt betrayed when the team brought in Omar “Omargod” Amin to split scrims with him. After Omargod was brought in Dardoch felt the need to leave the team and would eventually be transferred back to Team Liquid.

Dardoch has a new chance with Echo Fox to prove that he has matured and can succeed in this league. This may be his last chance as many teams may not be willing to give him another chance if he can’t fix his attitude issues.

Adrian and Altec Stay Together

Photo by: Riot Esports

Echo Fox’s bot lane duo of Johnny “Altec” Ru and Adrian “Adrian” Ma come over after a brief stint on Dignitas. With Dignitas, they instantly made the team better as Dignitas was able to upset Cloud 9 in the first round of playoffs before losing to TSM in the next round. Altec and Adrian were a large part of Dignitas’ improvement.

On Echo Fox, they’ll have the benefit of having played together before. Adrian has had attitude issues on other teams as well. Most recently, on Phoenix1, he was quick to point out Inori’s flaws in an interview. This would eventually lead to Adrian being transferred off of Phoenix1.

Both Altec and Adrian were heralded as rising young stars early in their careers. Neither of them have been able to qualify for a world championship, despite being on some talented rosters. The added synergy from playing together will definitely help in developing Echo Fox’s synergy.

Huni’s Return

The biggest acquisition for this team might be in the top lane with former SKT top laner, Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon. Huni had the experience of playing in the most competitive region in the world last year. He failed to win the World Championship with SKT, but his mechanical skill was still seen through his play.

When he played in EU and NA many critiqued his inability to play tank champions. With SKT, he showed the ability to play both tanks and carry champions. He’s always had a positive and fun attitude towards the game in interviews. He gives a bright and positive attitude to a roster that may need it.

Many will remember his great regular season performances in North America the last time he was here with Immortals. If he can duplicate that same success, Echo Fox could be surprise contenders at the end of the split.

With nobody really talking about them at the moment, Echo Fox has the chance to finally have a successful split in the LCS with this new roster.

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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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Coming to America: Levi’s story

Little was known about star jungler Đỗ “Levi” Duy Khánh heading into last year. He had been an all star for the small region of Vietnam. Heading into last year’s MSI he helped put Gigabyte Marines on the map. His wide champion pool and unpredictable aggression sprung him to fame fast.

After the All Star event, he expressed his desire to come to North America to play. He believed it offered him much better competition to improve and to make a name for himself outside of Vietnam. The 100 Thieves have acquired Levi to play on their academy team. While it’s not an LCS position, it’s still a good chance for him to be eventually picked up by LCS teams.

100 Thieves have already used their two import slots on their solo laners so it will be interesting to see if he stays with the organization moving forward. Teams have already seen what he can do at Worlds and MSI so he’ll be one of the most hyped players in the academy league. If he performs well, a struggling LCS team may be able to acquire his services.

MSI 2017

While Levi was named an All Star the previous season he didn’t really become well known until MSI. Before this, many were expecting Gigabyte Marines to be the typical wildcard team: cheese picks and close games with no late game macro. The Gigabyte Marines heavily defied expectations while nearly beating TSM in a best of five series and finishing the group 3-7.

Levi was a huge factor in their wins as a hyper carry style jungler. Gigabyte Marines didn’t care for the meta and weren’t afraid to play their own pocket picks. Levi’s aggression was calculative and impressive to see from a smaller region.

While their style was unorthodox, it worked well with what the team wanted to do. They knew they couldn’t beat teams in standard play, so they’d adapt their play styles to fit their team.

Worlds

Photo by: Riot Games

After MSI, many teams thought they knew what to expect from Gigabyte Marines. They had a sample to look at from MSI so there could be no cheese left. They were wrong. In the most interesting games ever played at Worlds, Gigabyte Marines had Levi play Nocturne. Nocturne wasn’t meta at the time, but with lanes swapped for longer lanes it was perfect. Levi was able to hyper farm to level 6 in five minutes. From there, his full lethality build prevented Fnatic from ever getting back into the game.

They would earn a three way tie for second place and barely miss out on making it out of the group. The world thought the hype for Levi had died down, but it was only starting.

Coming to North America

As Levi heads to North America he has the chance to improve his English and communication. If he can keep his hyper aggressive style there’s no telling where he could go. Many teams may look to acquire him if their LCS starters are struggling.

People have expressed how important communication is in succeeding in LCS. It will be vital to see how he can adjust to American culture, but the future looks bright for him. One can only hope he can keep defying expectations and playing like the monster that he has shown to be.

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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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Cover photo by 100 Thieves Twitter

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.

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

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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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