The North American League Championship Series returns on Saturday, June 16 with teams looking to fight for their spot to attend the World Championships in Korea. The same ten organizations will be competing in the NALCS since franchising happened. Check out the schedule for the 2018 Summer Split.
In terms of roster moves, not many teams changed their starting lineup. FlyQuest will be starting Lae-young “Keane” Jang in the mid lane as previous mid laner Song “Fly” Yong-jun is going back to League Champions Korea. Fly will be a sub mid laner for Generation Gaming, previously KSV eSports. FlyQuest will also be starting Koo Hyuk “Kwon” Kwon as support. FlyQuest also added long time jungler for the EU and NA LCS, Lucas “Santorin” Larsen as their starting jungler. Golden Guardians added mid laner Youngmin “Mickey” Son to start as Hai “Hai” Lam stepped down after the Spring Split. Lastly, OpTic Gaming has chosen to start Niship “Dhokla” Doshi in the top lane and Terry “Big” Chuong as support after releasing Derek “zig” Shao and Daerek “LemonNation” Hart after the Spring Split.
1. Team SoloMid
It’s hard to imagine a split where Team SoloMid didn’t make it to the finals, but Clutch Gaming made it happen. After getting 3-1’d by Clutch, TSM has had some time to fix the problems they had in the spring. With the new ADC items and the importance of the rift scuttler to junglers, TSM should be prepared for the new meta. The championship level experience out of all three lanes means that Mike “MikeYeung” Yeung should have an easier time succeeding this summer. TSM has struggled with giving their jungler the tools to succeed. But because the role can be put behind easily, it will be important to support MikeYeung when contesting neutral objectives.
Another advantage TSM has is the bot lane power that the new ADC items have on duo lanes. With the updated and added ADC items, TSM can easily focus around the bottom lane of Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen and Alfonso “Mithy” Rodriguez. TSM always take time to get going, be it in a season, a series, or a tournament. By the end of the summer, TSM should be in prime position to take back their spot at the top.
2. Team Liquid
Despite ending the Mid Season Invitational 4-7, Team Liquid actually performed well. Peng “Doublelift” Yiliang played exceptionally well, in particular. Doublelift had the highest kill participation at 81 percent out of ADC’s during the group stage. This means that TL were mainly fighting, and the kill distribution shows it. During the group stage, Doublelift had 49 out of 106 total kills TL accumulated. That’s about 46 percent of the kills for the entire group stage. TL take second however, because of the rest of the team.
Unless Jeong “Impact” Eon-Young was in a tank versus tank match-up, his performance left much to the imagination. TL’s last game in the group stage against Fnatic had Impact on Vladimir top, which was good in theory, but executed poorly by TL. FNC was playing topside vigorously, with multiple roams from mid laner Rasmus “Caps” Winther playing Taliyah and jungler Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen on Trundle. Eventually, FNC were able to out marco TL and sent the NA representative home. TL gets the second spot because Doublelift will probably carry the team to more wins than one. As long as TL play around their carry effectively, they will at least make the finals and Worlds without much of a struggle.
Cloud9 had an early exit from the 2018 Spring Playoffs. TL swept C9 in the quarterfinals, and C9 looks primed to use the meta to their advantage. Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi has been the ADC of C9 for 5 years now, and with an ADC centered meta, Sneaky could be back to shine again. Along with jungler Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen being able to play aggressive will be imperative for the team’s success.
Coming into the spring, many didn’t expect much from the C9 roster after losing Impact and jungler Juan “Contractz” Garcia, but the team managed to surprise. The veteran talent in Svenskeren and the now “Rookie of the Split” top laner Eric “Licorice” Ritchie shook up the standings for C9’s spring. With the changes coming to pro play, C9 has the ability to carry from multiple lanes. Support Andy “Smoothie” Ta led the support role in assists, but C9 also had some issues with dying. With the exception of mid laner Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen, C9’s players were among the top three in total deaths in the Spring Split. Smarter play will greatly shrink those deaths, and C9 could end with a top three finish.
4. 100 Thieves
100 Thieves had an amazing six game win streak to end the Spring Split in first. This squad holds one of the most internationally experienced rosters in the NALCS. On paper, this team should easily be top three. However, 100T has some weaknesses that could hold them back.
ADC Sun “Cody Sun” Li Yu can be pushed around by more aggressive lanes. And with what we saw from MSI, teams need their ADCs to come in clutch. In order for the Thieves to pull off this heist, there are going to need some help from the top side of the map. Top laner Kim “Ssumday” Chanho and mid laner Yoo “Ryu” Sangwook will need to step up to alleviate the pressure that will be pushed towards the bot side.
The strongest factors for 100T is going to come from their roaming potential. Jungler William “Meteos” Hartman and support Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black are known for their ability to shot-call and traverse the map. With vision and changes to the jungle, Meteos will have to play around the rift scuttler, so creative pathing and unexpected gank routes will be rarer in an attempt to even in jungle experience. If the Thieves can make something happen again like the spring, it will need to be outside of the bot lane.
5. Echo Fox
Echo Fox had almost the opposite problem 100T had. A really good start with a strong lineup, but not making the finals again must hurt for top laner Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon. Ending the second half of the split 4-6 and losing the first place seed that Fox held onto for a majority of the season shows some of the struggles that the team can have. Being able to beat every team at least once except Counter Logic Gaming shows this team as feast or famine. The strength of the top lane alone propels Fox to the top half, but the inconsistency and reliance on the top lane to draw pressure is where Fox drop down a few notches.
The bottom lane of ADC Johnny “Altec” Ru and support Adrian “Adrian” Ma are going to be the wild card for Echo Fox. It seems as when Huni and jungler Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett take the spotlight, the team shines. Being able to perform around the top side of the map is something that Echo Fox should find comforting, but troubling for what the meta might be. Altec in the regular season died the most out of all ADCs with 41 deaths in 19 games.
6. Clutch Gaming
Did they ban Thresh? Support Nickolas “Hakuho” Surgent popped off during the quarter and semifinals. Clutch was able to defeat TSM and take 100T to a game five before falling to the Thieves, then to Echo Fox in Miami. The bot lane for Clutch has been the one of the most underrated duos in the NALCS. Along with Apollo “Apollo” Price, Hakuho was able to play engage supports to lead the fights.
Clutch were able to succeed by sacrificing top laner Colin “Solo” Earnest in order to keep the bot lane pressure up. By having Solo play mostly tanks, jungler Nam “Lira” Taeyou was able to take a carry position and force fights alongside Hakuho. It will be interesting to see if Clutch will continue this play style because of the recent Banner of Command changes. Clutch has struggled against teams that can take advantage of the top lane island, so being able to play multiple styles will be important coming into the summer.
7. OpTic Gaming
The struggles that OpTic Gaming had during their first split is somewhat surprising. Korean ADC Noh “Arrow” Dong Hyeon hasn’t really felt the same since he arrived in NA on Phoenix1. Matching Arrow with EU mid laner Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage really should have had more success than it actually did. POE previously had taken SK Telecom T1 to a game five at Worlds 2017, and hasn’t really shone bright in NA. In order for OpTic to make it above the cut and make playoffs, they are going to need more overhaul to help their carries.
Starting Dhokla and Big could be the first steps to a better team, but coordination with jungler Matthew “Akaadian” Higginbotham is going to set the standard. NA has many aggressive and macro focused junglers, so OpTic will need to focus elevating their play as a team. OpTic will need to rely on their newer players to not fall behind the competition if they are going to try to make a run towards playoffs.
8. Counter Logic Gaming
How much faith does it take to make a team succeed? Counter Logic Gaming almost made it to playoffs over TSM and TL, but ended up placing seventh in the standings. Having the core of top laner Darshan “Darshan” Upadhyaya, mid laner Choi “Huhi” Jae Hyun, and ADC Trevor “Stixxay” Hayes got CLG to the finals of MSI in 2016. The problem that CLG seems to have is the missing pieces. After changing out junglers for over a year, CLG settled on Kim “Reignover” YeuJin. Reignover has had some difficulty after leaving Immortals after November 2016. He never really succeeded on TL, and hasn’t succeeded on CLG either.
The other problem CLG has is the huge hole left when Aphromoo left the team. The macro play and shotcalling by Aphromoo is surely missed by CLG. Picking up support Vincent “Biofrost” Wang from TSM did not help to fill that hole. Having Darshan and Huhi step up as leaders is still taking time, and by the end of spring, it looks like they still have much to learn. Every time CLG is counted out, they somehow come back, but the strength in the NALCS might be too much to overcome.
Another team that had a high start, but has fallen very quickly. Sporting three of the five original C9 members, FlyQuest looked like a top half team entering the NALCS. Since franchising however, the new lineup and new members don’t give the team much hope. Bringing Santorin onto the roster looks like a quick patch to a larger problem. Aside from the high skill ceiling that Jason “WildTurtle” Tran might bring out a few wins during the season. A few wins does not make a season, though.
The biggest problem is the lack of a real carry from the team. FlyQuest spent the first half of spring waiting for Fly, who left the team after the split ended. The only hope from FlyQuest is the new coach, Brandon “Saintvicious” DiMarco. Saintvicious has been in the NALCS from player to coach since the LCS beginnings. A new approach to the game is probably what FlyQuest need, but they should look towards the Spring 2019 in order to compete for a top spot.
10. Golden Guardians
The Golden Guardians have not had an amazing time in the LCS. Despite having good potential in players like Samson “Lourlo” Jackson and Contractz, the team took a straight nosedive to the bottom of the table. Picking up Mickey to replace Hai might give the team more pressure around the mid lane, but the bot lane of ADC Matthew “Deftly” Chen and support Matt “Matt” Elento are going to need to step up. GGS’ bot lane is arguably the weakest in the NALCS, and with the importance of having an ADC succeed, GGS look like they have not improved much in the past few months.
The saving grace for the Golden Guardians is that they are in this for the long haul. The advantage of franchising is that poor performances no longer mean relegation. As GGS continue to build and grow, the team should slowly rise up the ranks. Time could help GGS, but clear improvement needs to be shown this summer in order to show that GGS are worth the time.
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