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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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Cover photo by Riot Esports

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