- 1 1. Cloud9
- 2 2. Team SoloMid
- 3 3. FlyQuest
- 4 4. Immortals
- 5 5. Counter Logic Gaming
- 6 6. Team Liquid
- 7 7. Dignitas (formerly Apex Gaming)
- 8 8. Phoenix1
- 9 9. Team Envy
- 10 10. Echo Fox
The ranking will be in ascending order with a quick recap of the team’s offseason, an outlook for the upcoming 2017 Spring Split, and our predictions.
Cloud9 enters the 2017 season with a much clearer picture of what they want to do.
After a consistent 2016 and the eventual decision to go with Andy “Smoothie” Ta over Michael “Bunny FuFuu” Kurylo in the support position, Cloud9 found moderate success. They surprisingly advanced the furthest of the three NA teams at Worlds, reaching the quarterfinals.
The team will have one major change, bringing in young rookie Juan “Contractz” Arturo Garcia to replace a declining William “Meteos” Hartman.
Cloud9 will be led this split by their three star players. In the mid lane, Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen has established himself as the 1b in NA, behind only Bjergsen. With the semi-retirement of Doublelift, Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi becomes the presumptive best ADC in the region.
Not to be forgotten, Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong finished 2016 as the unanimous best top laner, continuing his stellar play into Worlds. The position gets much deeper, but he’s up for the challenge.
Adding Contractz to the jungle will upgrade the aggression from that position over Meteos. Contractz qualified for the Spring Split with Cloud 9 Challenger, but was called up to the main roster before they were sold to FlyQuest.
The progression of Smoothie and Sneaky in the bottom lane was evident as the 2016 Summer Split carried on, and it was on full display against TSM in Week One. With Smoothie and Sneaky on the same page, that’s potentially the most dangerous bottom lane in NA.
Meanwhile, Contractz started out his professional career by making Bjergsen’s life miserable. He solo-killed TSM’s star mid laner in both their games to announce his arrival.
All the parts are there now for Cloud9 to have a memorable NA split.
2. Team SoloMid
TSM finally came into form during the 2016 Summer Split, only losing one series, to Phoenix1. However, they had an abysmal showing at Worlds, failing to make it out of group stage.
The biggest change for TSM during the offseason was the abrupt semi-retirement of Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng for at least one split. WildTurtle will now return to his former team as the starting ADC after a successful season with Immortals.
TSM still has a strong chance of repeating as champions, but with these changes, it will not be as simple as it was last split.
Reigning MVP Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg will once again be the featured player for TSM, but his responsibilities will now increase. Doublelift was becoming the team’s major shot caller, a duty Bjergsen must now take up.
Vincent “Biofrost” Wang will be returning as support; he showed amazing potential last split. He will have to adjust to a totally different type of ADC role, however, an issue that could stunt his growth. TSM would love for him to become the team’s main shot caller, but I think that’s asking too much for just his second split.
If it’s not Biofrost, Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen must step up and help Bjergsen with shot-calling. Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell was a top five player in the top lane last split, but that was against much weaker competition.
It was evident in their first series against Cloud9 last week that shot-calling was a major issue. It’s asking too much of Bjergsen to account for everything happening on the map as well as contend against another premier mid laner in Jensen.
This is still a deeply talented team, and Bjergsen will dominate over half the midlaners in the NA LCS. However, WildTurtle isn’t Doublelift, and the downgrade in skill and abrupt absence of premier shot-calling will be crippling if they can’t figure it out.
The good news is TSM has an entire split to evolve in their shot-calling abilities. It may be bumpy in the beginning, but this is still a top three team.
FlyQuest is the newest team to enter the LCS, formed by Milwaukee Bucks’ co-owner Wesley Edens after he purchased the rights to Cloud9 Challenger’s LCS spot.
Cloud9 Challenger was first announced in 2016 under their parent organization, Cloud9. Filled with former legendary Cloud9 players, the team was a mixture of veteran presence and upcoming players in the Challenger Series.
With An “Balls” Le in the top lane, Lee “Rush” Yoon-jae dominating the jungle (and later Contractz), Hai “Hai” Du Lam returning to the mid lane, and Johnny “Altec” Ru as ADC with Daerek “LemonNation” Hart and his notebook, Cloud9 Challenger was a dominant force in the NACS.
In the 2017 NA LCS Spring Promotional tournament, Cloud9 took down NRG in a 3-0 sweep to earn their ticket to the LCS.
FlyQuest’s main issue for the 2017 season is time. With just one week until the official start of the Spring Split, there was no time to formulate a roster. Instead, FlyQuest will essentially roll out the entire Cloud9 Challenger team from last season, sans Contractz in the jungle.
Galen “Moon” Holgate, former NRG and Team Liquid Academy jungler, will replace Rush. He underperformed with NRG the last time we saw him in the LCS, but he’ll get another chance to show why a lot of analysts initially hyped him as the next great NA jungler.
Synergy will be FlyQuest’s biggest advantage. Mechanically, it’s not the most gifted roster, but the core of this team has played together since really the inception of the LCS.
If this was 2012 or 2013, this would be a very formidable roster. However, (and no slight to what the original crew of Cloud9 accomplished in the past) this doesn’t scream top tier team by any form of measurement.
While there’s nothing on FlyQuest that jumps out as dominating, there’s plenty of cohesion and veteran experience to go around. The team will have to rely heavily on each other, and their past experience playing together could result in some upsets of less cohesive teams.
All in all, they will most likely finish as a fringe playoff team. They’re not quite talented enough individually to compete with the top echelon, but there’s plenty here to work with in the organization’s first-ever split.
After creating the first true superstar team in 2016, Immortals underwent an almost complete roster turnover during the offseason. Gone are Fnatic imports Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon and Reignover, as well as the bottom lane duo of WildTurtle and Adrian.
Eugene “Pobelter” Park is the only returning player from last season, and we’ll see if he can continue to put up stellar numbers with an entire roster rebuilt around him. Previously, Pobelter was 30-3 as the mid lane starter for Immortals.
Immortals played at IEM Gyeonggi last month, showing signs of potential. Pobelter and the “Bash Brothers” (the new nickname for jungler Dardoch and top laner Lee “Flame” Ho-jong) played to expectations, but the bottom lane really struggled.
The final two additions to Immortals, Cody “Cody Sun” Sun and Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung, look like they will need some time to get to get in sync with the rest of the team.
Pobelter is now the veteran on this team, and we’ll see if he can continue to play at the level we saw at the end of last split. The Bash Brothers will be the critical element, however.
Dardoch will need to bring plenty of help to a young bottom lane, as Cody Sun has only played a handful of games at the pro level. If the bottom lane can stay even until Flame and Dardoch have the opportunity to help, this could be a dangerous team.
For now though, there remains a large question mark in the bottom lane. Until we see how they progress this season, it’s hard to predict more than a fringe playoff spot. But if the bottom lane can surpass expectations, this could be a very favorable dark horse.
5. Counter Logic Gaming
CLG is all about the status quo, maintaining roster positions to enhance team synergy and team specific mechanics. The team underwent not a single roster change from last split, a philosophy this organization has instilled at every level.
The best way to describe CLG’s 2016 Summer Split is disappointing. They finished 10-8, in fourth place in the regular season and fourth in the playoffs. The team really struggled to find consistency after finishing as the runner-up at MSI to SKT.
How successful CLG is this split will largely depend on the transformation of Choi “Huhi” Jae-hyun in the midlane. With 10 bans now live in competitive play, it could put a huge damper on Huhi’s champion pool (which has historically been limited).
Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black remains a top-tier support player, capable of pulling out games for CLG with his aggressive playmaking. Darshan “Darshan” Upadhyaya will remain a key component as well, but the top lane will be highly competitive this split.
One overlooked part of this team is the bottom lane pairing of Aphromoo and Trevor “Stixxay” Hayes. If they can reach another level this split, it could be a huge reason for CLG’s newfound success. However, ADC is a weak spot right now.
There were weaknesses on this team last split, namely Huhi’s performance against better competition. One strength, though, is their cohesiveness. This is a team that knows itself intricately, but they have to work out their individual kinks that held them back last split.
Overall, I believe having 10 bans will significantly hurt Huhi’s gameplay. Darshan still has the capability to carry games, but he will require even more resources to do so this split.
CLG should make the playoffs once again, but they’ll have to prove they can play with the top teams this split before they move up our rankings.
6. Team Liquid
It seems every split we’re talking about a roster rebuild for Team Liquid, and this offseason was no different.
Last split, we saw the benching of Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin after he essentially refused to play against bottom dweller Phoenix1. That, of course, was preceded by the benching of Dardoch (who was later traded to Immortals) after he belittled management.
Despite this, TL finished in 5th place last split, going 9-9. The current roster also made it to the semifinals at IEM.
Kim “Reignover” Yeu-jin will replace Dardoch, and he should provide the same skillset and ceiling in that position (both are great junglers with similar playstyles). Piglet returns after what many thought was his last split in NA.
Matthew “Matt” Elento will once again be reunited with a strong ADC, and we’ve seen previously that these two are really compatible. Samson “Lourlo” Jackson will have his hands full in the top lane this split, but expect consistent play from him.
The biggest concern for this team is mid lane. Austin “Link” Shin was brought out of retirement to compete with Greyson “Goldenglue” Gilmer for the starting position, which isn’t a great indication. Both mid laners have had mediocre careers (Link was the former CLG midlaner before Huhi), and this will present an issue against top talent like Bjergsen, Jensen, Pobelter, and Froggen.
The one question surrounding Team Liquid is whether individual players can regain their former level of play.
We have Piglet returning to the NA LCS after spending time on Team Liquid Academy in the Challenger Series. Can he reassert himself as a top ADC? The same goes for Matt, who has lost a lot of momentum and confidence after dealing with a revolving door of ADCs last split.
Meanwhile, Lourlo will have to prove he can compete against a much more talented pool of top lane players. There’s no questioning Reignover’s skill, but he will now to have to lead a third team in as many years.
The biggest question still remains in the mid lane. If GoldenGlue or Link can evolve as a consistent player, this team has a ton of potential. I don’t think they can do it with their current repertoire though, as it already seems GoldenGlue is being forced out by Link.
For now, this is a fringe playoff team that’s sorely missing a solid mid lane starter.
7. Dignitas (formerly Apex Gaming)
We saw Apex Gaming hit the ground running in their inaugural split, taking advantage of a weak early Summer Split schedule. The trials and tribulations of a long split soon took over though, and Apex simply could not compete with the top echelon of teams.
After finishing 8-10, Apex narrowly missed out on a playoff spot, but their seventh place finish guaranteed them another chance to compete in this upcoming split.
During the offseason, the Philadelphia 76ers acquired the rights to both the Dignitas and Apex franchises. The new organization has since merged under the Dignitas brand.
The new team will have two returning members from last split’s Apex Gaming, mid laner Lae-Young “Keane” Jang and support Alex “Xpecial” Chu.
Headlining the team will be top laner Chan-ho “Ssumday” Kim. Ssumday is another legendary top lane import, joining Impact and Looper in what will be a very competitive position this split. A long-time starter for KT Rolster, Ssumday was rumored to be linked to the three-time world champion SK Telecom T1 before signing with Dignitas.
Assisting Ssumday from the jungle position will be yet-another import, former Longzhu Gaming jungler Lee “Chaser” Sang-hyun. Chaser spoke with several teams abroad before choosing to sign with Dignitas and will add plenty of play potential to this roster.
In the ADC position will be an up-and-coming Canadian, Benjamin “LOD” deMunck. LOD played for EnVyUs last split, finding mild success. He was a substitute player for Renegades and Echo Fox before that.
This is a potentially formidable roster with four Korean and Chinese players. (Keane and Xpecial have gained North American residency per Riot regulations due to playing for an NA team the past two years.)
Ssumday has the ability to immediately take ownership as the premier top laner in NA, while Chaser can easily stake his claim as a top three jungler. Keane won’t dominate the mid lane, but he should be able to hold his own and is a huge factor in team fights.
The real weak link could be relatively untested LOD. If opponents can exploit Dignitas, it will be through their bottom lane. Regardless, this is a team that can compete for a playoff spot immediately. I expect them to just sneak in as the fifth or sixth seed.
Rising from the ashes of an 0-9 start to their first-ever LCS split, Phoenix1 went on to win five of their next nine series to stick around in the LCS.
The biggest change occurred when Rami “Inori” Charagh was finally added to the starting roster after numerous visa issues. After ending the Summer Split on a hot streak, Phoenix 1 successfully re-qualified into the LCS against Echo Fox in the promotion tournament.
Now that they have a complete roster, Phoenix1 will look to build off their momentum from the end of last split.
On paper, this roster has significantly improved. Inori is a highly touted jungler and has been pegged as a potential star player. Noh “Arrow” Dong-hyeon plays with a unique ADC style, but he hasn’t found the success many expected.
One of the biggest offseason acquisitions was Adrian “Adrian” Ma. One of the premier support players in not only NA but the world, Adrian has a deep champion pool and a nasty Soraka.
And speaking of rising from the ashes, Yoo “Ryu” Sang-ook will finally get the opportunity to show he’s not the player many see as simply Faker’s pawn.
The biggest obstacle this team has to overcome is finding a way to navigate team fights as a unit. Who will be the leader and shot caller? That question has yet to be answered.
Furthermore, Arrow and Adrian will have to quickly figure out each other’s playstyle. Adrian is more passive aggressive, preferring champions that offer plenty of counterplay. Meanwhile, Arrow likes to make big plays, snowballing the mid game.
It also remains to be seen how Derek “zig” Shao, one of the two returning players, will handle the resurgence of top laners in NA this split.
As of now, we don’t know what Phoenix1’s identity will be. They most certainly won’t have the same slow start we saw last split, but a playoff spot is not a given.
9. Team Envy
Team Envy’s lineup saw some changes in the ADC and jungle positions, but the core of the team remains the same. The roster includes Shin “Seraph” Woo-yeong in the top lane, Nam “LirA” Tae-yoo in the jungle, Noh “Ninja” Geon-woo in the mid lane, Apollo “Apollo” Price in the AD carry role, and Nickolas “Hakuho” Surgent in the support position.
Team Envy finished in sixth place last split, making it to the quarterfinals before losing 1-3 to Cloud9. They had a fast start to their split, going 5-1 and only losing to Immortals through the first three weeks, but really fell off near the end, with many believing they were undeserving of their playoff bid.
This team struggled last split, and the changes during the offseason don’t reflect an improved team. Seraph is a mid-tier top laner in a region that has vastly improved at the position. It’s questionable whether Ninja can remain in the NA LCS if he has another subpar split as well.
Of the three returning players, Hakuho provides the highest skill cap. He’ll have to support a new ADC in Apollo, a player who still has yet to prove he can perform for an entire split.
Envy’s quick success last split was through their ability to come together as one unit quicker than other teams. That natural chemistry fell off as the split wore on though, something Envy will have to avoid.
When you look at this roster, it’s hard to pinpoint a player who can ascend this team. LirA looked great playing for Afreeca Freecs, but he’s comes to a downgraded roster. Apollo is not on the same level as LOD from last split, either.
Overall, this is a team with a very low ceiling. The roster will feature three Korean players, providing slightly better communication. However, it could be a real struggle for this team to make an improvement on their sixth place finish from last split.
10. Echo Fox
The 2017 Spring Split will be all about redemption for Echo Fox. After finishing the 2016 season in disastrous fashion, the team barely escaped getting relegated to the League of Legends Challenger Series.
During the 2016 Spring Split, Echo Fox finished 6-12 despite numerous visa issues, but the team would only win one series (against Team Impulse, who was relegated) during the Summer Split. Their 1-17 finish is currently the worst performance in LCS history.
Due to their last place finish, Echo Fox had to duel it out with Team Liquid Academy to earn their way back into the LCS. It would take a decisive Game Five victory in a very competitive 3-2 series before Echo Fox could breathe easier.
Adding his name to a long list of outstanding Danish mid laners (such as Bjergsen and Jensen), Henrik “Froggen” Hansen will once again look to anchor this team. The only other returning player will be ADC Yuri “Keith” Jew, now playing in his third straight split with Froggen.
Joining Froggen and Keith will be legendary Korean top laner, Jang “Looper” Hyeong-seok. After witnessing Cloud9’s Impact have a resurgence last season, Echo Fox is looking to find their own success story.
The biggest wildcard on this team will be the jungle position. After Riot overruled the trade of Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett to Echo Fox, the team has settled on longtime Challenger Series jungler, Matthew “Akaadian” Higginbotham. He will have to prove his merit in a position that is highly demanding. While he’s relatively unknown, he’s had success playing champions like Gragas and Nidalee.
Lastly, veteran support player Austin “Gate” Yu will be assisting Keith in the bottom lane. Gate has plenty of experience in the North American circuit, having previously played for Phoenix1 and Team Impulse.
This team is most certainly an upgrade over the squad we saw last split, but there are still a lot of unknown parts that must fit to make this a true contender. Dardoch would have been an exceptional additional to this roster, finally giving this team a jungler who could have enable Froggen and Keith. Alas, we won’t get to see it.
The always looming question is who is calling the shots on this team. That was a major issue that plagued them last year, and we saw it again in Week One. This team breaks down when it comes to teamfighting, and that has to be corrected quickly.
Echo Fox will most certainly outperform their abysmal 1-17 finish from last split, but getting into a playoff position may be too much to ask for.