The 2021 LCS Spring Season closed out last weekend, with Cloud9 winning the Mid Season Showdown to secure the title. League of Legends looked a little different this year for North America. The season kicked off with NA’s first Lock In tournament, followed by a six-week regular season which included three games per week for each team, and finally the Mid Season Showdown to crown a champion leading into Mid Season Invitational. Alongside these format changes, the LCS saw 16 new players enter the league: rookies, OCE players (now considered residents) and true imports. Here is a brief review of the 2021 Spring Season rookies after their first split in the big leagues.
IMT Revenge: C
Casting back to preseason, Revenge was an early announcement from Immortals. The acquisition was surprising to many, as Revenge had not had the most impressive 2020 season while on FlyQuest Academy. Revenge had a hot start to the split, top three among top laners in several stats during Lock In, including kill share, XPD@10 and damage per minute. He also solo-carried IMT’s first match versus Team Liquid utilizing an Irelia counterpick. However, by the end of regular season, Revenge dropped to bottom three in almost every metric. IMT had the worst early game in the LCS, and Revenge did little to improve it. Revenge’s weaknesses stand out especially when compared to second-split mid laner Insanity.
GG Niles: C-
Most fans will probably disagree, but Niles seemed about on par with Revenge as a top laner. The jungle and overall experience felt like the gap for Niles. Unfortunately, Golden Guardians’ top laner was not able to show much in his first split beyond a Kled carry game against CLG. Analysts gave Niles a lot of flak for opting into aggressive plays that more-often-than-not put GG at more of a deficit, but he deserves some credit for not rolling over. Niles is certainly deserving of criticism, but GG was a sinking ship, and not many players can look like Alphari when he played on Origin.
GG Iconic: D
Many of Golden Guardians’ problems arose from draft into the early game, and how Iconic played it out. Oftentimes, Iconic got to counterpick into his opponent, yet averaged the 13th lowest First Blood rate in the LCS. GG commonly drafted a strong top-side, like Kled, Pantheon, Jayce or Quinn, but Iconic would rarely find openings in the early stages. In fact, GG’s jungler carried the fourth lowest kill participation in the LCS. For most rookies, this would be more understandable, but Niles and Iconic were picked up as a duo from Maryville. Of all the rookies in 2021, Iconic is the only one that feels like he needs significantly more time in a minor league.
GG Ablazolive: B
Honestly, Ablaze had a solid split. Golden Guardians’ season had to be really frustrating, but their mid laner was arguably their best performer overall. Ablaze was their only player to average a gold lead at 10 minutes, the seventh highest damage share in the LCS, and his Twisted Fate netted them two wins across the season. A higher caliber mid may have helped GG secure another win or two, but a worse one may have left GG winless in the regular season. Ablazeolive proved he deserves more time in the LCS, hopefully with more help from the team.
FLY Palafox: B
Palafox played about as well as Ablazeolive, but FlyQuest was better than Golden Guardians, particularly their jungler. FLY’s played a couple of monster games on Akali during Lock In, two strong Yone games and helped FLY win both regular season matches versus TSM. Beyond those six games, Palafox was mostly a non-factor. He averaged some of the worst laning stats in the league, and had a fairly low kill participation. Unfortunately, FLY probably cannot reach playoffs without a stronger performance out of mid lane.
FLY Diamond: D
Diamond was one of the top prospects coming into 2021. He had a huge impact in Cloud9 Academy in 2020, but his level felt lower this spring. Diamond had the lowest kill participation in the LCS–as a support. He made unforced errors that put FLY in very difficult situations, often overcommitting unnecessarily. Diamond was the first to try Janna as an answer to the Rell pick, but it got punished pretty hard by Team Liquid and it never showed up again for FLY. The rookie support seemed to warm up as the season went on, but never really found his stride with a team that has a lot of potential.
In the end, these five players represent true North American rookies for 2021. Rough edges, inconsistency, and poor decision-making are most likely going to happen within this group of players. It’s up to each of them to focus on improvement and refinement, rather than becoming superstars overnight. The organizations, the coaches and veteran players will need to continue investing time, energy and knowledge into these guys in order for them to last long term. Someone saw something in each of them. Spring Split is over, and Summer Split training will begin in about a month. Hopefully, they can come back to the competition ready to give it another shot.
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