With the start of the 2016 League of Legends LCS Spring Split right around the corner, it’s time to analyze each of the North American contenders.
These predictions are the culmination of watching countless hours of LCS pro player streams during the offseason, analyzing each team’s offseason acquisitions, and some personal opinions of how each team will perform this year.
Without further ado, we’ll be starting with the last ranked team and working our way up to who we predict to win the LCS Spring Split, an especially helpful preview if you plan on doing any eSports betting on this event.
10. Team Impulse
Formerly known as LMQ (they rebranded their name in the 2015 preseason), Team Impulse found success last year. After being in the middle of the pack through the first five weeks, the team went on a massive winning streak to end the year.
The team finished in fourth place after winning a tie breaker game against Gravity, then losing to Team SoloMid. In the summer playoffs, the team went 3-0 against Dignitas before losing to Counter Logic Gaming and Team Liquid. They were upset by Cloud9 in a reverse sweep to lose their shot at the World Championship. During the offseason, the organization attempted to unsuccessfully sell the team’s LCS roster spot.
The team has undergone drastic changes during the offseason and will roll out essentially a brand new roster this season. In top lane will be rookie Feng from China joining fellow countryman Gate (who will be playing in the support role this year after Adrian left the team to join Immortals). Two Korean players will also be featured on the team, with relatively untested Procxin in the jungle and rookie Pirean in the mid lane. Rounding out this year’s team will be journeyman Mash filling the ADC roll (this will be his 14th team).
The reasoning for having Team Impulse ranked so low is all the question marks this team has. While other teams improved their rosters during the offseason, Team Impulse did the opposite. The team essentially broke up after losing a chance at competing in the World Championship.
After realizing there were no potential buyers, the organization quickly tried to build a competitive roster for this season. It raises questions as to how committed the team leaders are to competing in the LCS this season.
Also, while we’re all for giving rookies a chance to show their merit on the competitive scene, relatively unknown players will have to grow quickly. Building a roster around Gate and Mash isn’t the worst idea, but it just feels like a halfhearted attempt.
It was just a few years ago that Dignitas looked to be on the right path towards competing annually for the top spot in North America. Unfortunately, retaining players has been a huge issue.
Imaqtpie has essentially retired to focus on his streaming career, Crumbzz is now the jungler for Renegades, and Darshan (ZionSpartan) has become a top laner god for CLG. KiWiKiD is still here supporting, but that has been the only constant.
Canadian-born Shiphtur also returns in the mid lane, but three new players will again be featured this year. SmittyJ will get his first taste of competitive play in North America in the top lane, as well as jungler Kirei. Apollo has been signed from Team Impulse and will be the team’s ADC.
Dignitas played relatively well at IEM Cologne, with Kirei being a real bright spot. Watching Kirei stream, he’s very aggressive with a tendency to gank early and often. The current meta fits perfectly with his skill set, and he has the potential to surprise many people this year. The real question is who rises up on this team when Kirei can’t get the job done?
Shiphtur was 10th last year in kill participation and 10th in creep score. SmittyJ doesn’t really have the potential to carry, and Apollo is consistent but not a super star.
Largely this team feels experimental, with no true super star featured on the team. Kirei has the potential down the road to be really good, but I’m not sure this will be his breakout year. Leadership is also a huge question mark, with Brokenshard leaving the team a month before the season starts. In a league where the top echelon teams at least have one super star player, Dignitas will have to find ways to win with strategy and playing together.
Can a team featuring three new players find that synergy right away? It’s possible, but not likely.
8. Echo Fox
Echo Fox is one of the three teams that was purchased during the offseason. Rick Fox, former NBA player turned television personality, acquired the rights to Gravity Gaming during the offseason and then subsequently renamed the team to Echo Fox.
When analyzing this team, the first person that pops out is Froggen. He’s been a consistent mid laner in the European league and the one player you could call a super star on Echo Fox. He’s great during the laning phase, with high farm numbers and the ability to harass his opponent. Where Froggen needs to improve at is the amount of times he dies each game.
In Europe, he tied for second most deaths. Part of that was his lack of a strong team around him, but it’s largely unknown how this team will perform.
At ADC will be Keith. This is his moment to shine after largely being used a backup the past two years. He isn’t projected to be a super star at ADC, but he’s consistent and won’t bring this team down. Supporting him will be Big (formerly Babyeater) from TDK and Team Imagine.
In the top lane will be rookie KFO from Korea. He was a Solo Q Challenger last year, which is especially impressive considering the amount of quality top laners in that region. This will be his first competitive experience on the big stage however, and the jury is still out on him.
Rounding out the roster will be Hard in the jungle. He formerly played for Cloud9 Tempest and has the potential to be pretty good. He’s young (18) and a bit raw in terms of skill and experience, but with some molding he has a lot of promise.
Ultimately this team will need KFO or Hard to step up in a big way if Echo Fox is to make some noise this year. The roster has some potential, especially with Froggen at the helm, but there just doesn’t seem to be enough experience to compete on a weekly basis with the top teams in North America.
Renegades fought their way through the Challenger Series last year to earn an automatic qualifying spot for this year’s LCS. This will be a very interesting team to follow, with two veteran players returning to the competitive scene and two rookies seeing their first action on the big stage.
The first veteran, and potential super star, is Alex Ich in the mid lane. He was an amazing mid laner in Eureope on Gambit Gaming, and his ability to dominate on control mages will play a crucial part in how well this team does. He’s a solid laner with the ability to matchup against anyone. He always has a high team kill participation and has learned the nuances of shot calling.
In a season that has a lot of highs and lows, he’ll be the one to stabilize this team. In the jungle will be former Dignitas jungler, Crumbzz. While he’s not the most gifted player when it comes to mechanics, he’s extremely intelligent at predicting the enemy jungler’s path and uses that to his advantage. He’s also one of the top junglers when it comes to vision control.
In the bottom lane will be the highly anticipated duo of Remilia and Freeze (who replaces MapleStreet at ADC). Remilia is known for her strong Thresh and Morgana plays, but beyond that her champion pool is a huge question mark. How she matches up against the likes of YellowStar and Aphromoo will be important as well.
Meanwhile Freeze is a legendary Draven player. Statistically he was one of the top five ADC’s in Europe. How well these two work together will be key in how competitive Renegades will be this year.
Rounding out this team will be RF Legendary in the top lane. While he was solid in the Challenger Series, the big concern is how he will face up against the top echelon of North American players. There are concerns over his laning phase, especially against Huni or Darshan. Statistically RF has excelled in team fights, though.
Overall this is a team that has the right pieces to build a solid base. There’s a lot of potential there, especially after the addition of Freeze at the ADC position. Are they good enough to be a playoff contender right away? Probably not this year, but don’t be surprised if they’re in contention coming into week eight and nine.
6. Team Liquid
Formerly Team Curse, Team Liquid has always finished middle of the pack in the LCS. They lost Top laner Quas during the offseason for unknown reasons, and team synergy is a huge concern.
Replacing Quas in the top lane will be Lourlo. This will be his first experience playing in the LCS. The real question will be, is he as good as Quas skill-wise?
Probably not right away. There are some champion pool depth issues as well with Lourlo. As far as functioning with the team, Lourlo will be able to play the tank, support type top laners that Team Liquid prefers.
In the jungle will be IWillDominate once again. He quietly finished as the second best jungler last split, and he is a consistent performer. In the mid lane will be Fenix. He’s great on certain champions (like Azir and Oriana), but what else can he perform on? Whether or not he can expand his champion pool effectively will determine how good he can be.
Finally, in the bottom lane will be famed ADC Piglet and his handpicked support, Smoothie. Piglet is a consistent performer and mechanically sound, but has always lacked a truly dominant support. Smoothie feels like a slight upgrade to Xpecial, and he’s obviously upgraded his situation from last year (he played for Team Dragon Knight, which was relegated). He’s a solid support, but not on the level of YellowStar or Aphromoo.
On paper, there is a ton of talent with this team like usual. The same issues that have plagued this team over the past two to three years remain, though.
How will they work together? Can they shelve their attitudes and egos in order to come together and play as one unit? New player integration is going to be critical to how successful Team Liquid is this year.
5. NRG eSports
NRG eSports acquired the rights to Team Coast during the offseason. The only returning player from that roster will be support, KonKwon. Largely the upgrades look to be a step in the right direction for this new organization.
In the top lane will be Impact. Impact formerly played for SKT in Korea before coming over to North America last year and playing for Team Impulse. He’s a phenomenal talent and can compete with the best top laners in the world.
In the mid lane will be GBM from Jin Air Green Wings. GBM excels on poke mages, and he has the potential to be a top mid laner in North America. He’s not a lane bully like Froggen or Bjergsen, but he performs extremely well in team fights. He had the second-highest KDA in Korea last year.
In the bottom lane will be ADC Altec and returning player KonKwon. Altec is mediocre in the laning phase, but great at securing resources. He was first in CS per mine and 4th in kills last year. He does struggle at times in team fights, but he should put up numbers similar to C9’s Sneaky this year.
The biggest factor in how well this team performs this year will be their rookie jungler, Moon. Moon had an amazing run in the Challenger Series, and he has the potential to be a top jungler in North America. His biggest obstacle will be communicating with his team members and adjusting to the pace of LCS games.
How effectively Moon and GBM are able to perform on the North American stage will decide how successful this team will be. The coaching staff is also strong, with some great analysts also present. There’s enough talent here for a top 3 finish, but it will all have to come together quickly.
4. Counter Logic Gaming
CLG had a great run last year to claim the number one seed in North America during the regular season. They struggled in the World Championship (to be fair, the North American region as a whole did). They’ll have to prove that their team was more than just Doublelift though. They’ll also be replacing Pobelter with HuHi.
In the top lane will be Darshan (Zionspartan). His skills and mechanics can match any top laner in the world, and he’s developing into a decent shot caller. He also has great synergy with Jungler Xmithie. Xmithie is for the most part underrated in the North American scene. He has the skill level to effectively provide what CLG likes to do from game to game.
In the bottom lane will be Aphromoo. Aphromoo is not only one of the best supports in North America, but the entire world. He’s one of the few supports in the game that has the ability to control the outcome of a game by his plays alone.
He’ll have to be at the top of his game though, as CLG looks to break in rookie ADC Stixxay. From what I’ve watched of Stixxay at IEM and in solo q, he’s not as good as Doublelift, but there won’t be a huge drop off in talent there as many people would expect.
Rounding out the team will be HuHi in the mid lane. HuHi largely was a backup for CLG last year to Pobelter, but has the potential to be a full time starter. Management approached Pobelter during the offseason about sharing time with HuHi, with Pobelter preferring to find a permanent mid laning position on a different team.
HuHi didn’t perform particularly well at IEM, but that’s an extremely small sample size. He’s been in the CLG organization for a while now, so team synergy won’t be an issue.
The largest obstacle this team will face is integrating two new carries. Darshan and Aphromoo are now the veterans, and they’ll continue to perform at a high level again this year. I feel they’ll take a step back though with HuHi in mid and Stixxay at ADC. They’ve always had great strategies and rotations, so
I’m not expecting there to be a big fall back. I just don’t see this being a top contending team this year, though.
3. Cloud 9
If you haven’t watched much of C9, I strongly recommend checking out the end of last season and how C9 played during the gauntlet. Hai continues to be one of the greatest shot callers in League of Legends history and a phenomenal teammate.
One of the biggest problems that plagued this team last year was lacking a strong presence in the jungle. Meteos took a huge step back, and sure that was partly due to the loss of Hai’s shot calling. That problem is no more though with the addition of Rush. Rush is undoubtedly the top jungler in North America, and his play making will be a huge bonus for C9 contending for that top spot in North America this year.
Balls will again return to the top lane this year for C9. He’s taken some abuse over the past year regarding his performance, and he’ll look to rebound in the Spring Split. The addition of Rush should also help him. Returning in the mid lane will be Jensen (Incarnati0n). He struggled at the beginning of last year but really came into his own at the end of the year. His play has improved dramatically, and I think he’ll continue to build on that success this year.
In the bottom lane is long time staple Sneaky and surprise, surprise, shot calling god Hai as support. Sneaky is one of the most consistent players in the history of League of Legends, but it will be interesting to see how he pairs with Hai. Hai will have to transition from shot calling from the jungle to shot calling from the support position.
If it doesn’t work out, BunnyFuFu is waiting in the wings.
Ultimately the roster has improved this year. Getting Rush fills the biggest need of the offseason with the best available player at that position. There’s still some questions regarding how Hai transitions to the support role, but C9 has always figured it out.
Acquiring teams has been a consistent theme this offseason, and Immortals is another organization that went that route after acquiring the rights to Team 8. On paper this is an extremely potent team of talented individuals.
Imported from team Fnatic is top laner Huni and jungler Reignover. Anytime you can get two players from a team that went on a historic run, that is a good thing.
Huni has the potential to be the top performer at his position this year and having Reignover in his pocket is a huge bonus. He’s been dominating in solo q for the past two months now.
Discarded TSM ADC Wild Turtle will look for his vengeance this year while playing for the Immortals. His mechanics have always been solid, but last year he made questionable decisions in the mid-to-late game that affected his team. Supporting him will be former Team Impulse support, Adrian. He had an off season last year, but his skill isn’t in question. The dude has achieved three accounts in Challenger for a reason.
In the mid lane will be former CLG mid laner, Pobelter. Pobelter was over shadowed by Darshan and Doublelift last year, and he felt somewhat slighted by the organization after they asked him to split time with HuHi. Look for him to play this year with something to prove.
Overall this is a really scary roster with the potential to contend right away. These guys are a bunch of veteran players that know how to get the job done. Communication could be a slight issue, as well as finding that team synergy right away, but all the ingredients are there for a strong run to the playoffs.
1. Team SoloMid
In the mid lane will be one of the most recognized players in the world, Bjergsen. Mechanically he’s one of the strongest laners in the world, always out performing his opponent in creep score. He did suffer some wrist injuries last year and it’s yet to be determined how this will impact his play this year.
Meanwhile fellow Danish countryman, Sven, will look to create better results than Santorin had last year in the jungle.
Hauntzer will be replacing fan favorite Dyrus in the top lane. He previously played for Gravity Gaming and Curse Academy. Top lane will be a hotly contested position this year in North America, and if there is a weakness on the team it may be here. Hauntzer did compete well against the likes of Acorn and Flame, but had a poor showing at IEM against sOAZ.
The bottom lane will be another position of great strength for this team. Arguably both players are number one in North America at their position. Former CLG ADC Doublelift is a step up from Wild Turtle. Pair him with former Fnatic great Yellowstar and you have one lethal bottom lane duo.
If TSM doesn’t finish in the top 3 it will be a huge disappointment this year. When you have arguably three players who are the best at their position, there’s no excuse to underperform. There are question marks at jungle and top lane, but they still feature enough talent to contend with any team on a weekly basis.