A few years ago, it was easy to tell who were the best teams in each region.
In Europe, there was Fnatic, a lineup of veterans that seamlessly climbed to the top of the EU LCS standings. Meanwhile, North America had TSM, a domestic powerhouse that managed a gargantuan feat of attending every NA LCS finals. As for South Korea, it was dominated by SK Telecom T1, a team that was so far ahead of the international competition that it single-handedly created the image of LCK being unbeatable in the minds of Western fans.
These were the best of the best, the unwavering titans of competitive League of Legends. Yet as seasons went by, more and more chinks appeared in their armor. Nowadays, TSM and SKT T1 are shadows of their former selves, while Fnatic is constantly challenged by Misfits and G2 Esports.
What is behind the fall of these League of Legends dynasties? And will we ever see them make a comeback?
Don’t look at the name
TSM, Fnatic, and SKT T1 have long been household names. League of Legends fans are used to these brands being synonymous with competitive success, so they expect nothing short of perfection.
But while the organizations remained the same, the teams themselves have changed. For instance, no one would say that the lineup of Impact, Bengi, Faker, Piglet, and PoohManDu mirrored the playstyle of the Duke, Bengi, Faker, Bang, and Wolf roster. Still, most fans blend their achievements together, viewing both lineups as mere extensions of SKT T1.
A similar thing happened in the West. Reginald’s TSM presented a stark contrast to Bjergsen’s version of the same team. And Fnatic looked very different when xPeke and company split away to form Origen. Much like with the ship of Theseus, the moving parts of dynasty teams were constantly changing. And now, many of them are no longer there.
Sure, Faker is still playing on SKT T1, but Bengi, the jungler nicknamed the “Right Hand of God” for enabling his superstar mid laner, isn’t playing at his side. And while Rekkles is technically a part of Fnatic, he’s not contributing much from the bench.
Things are even worse with TSM. After all, they made the call to release a world-class bot lane and voluntarily strengthened their competitors. And when players that elevated your team to the highest level imaginable are stepping down, it’s much harder to recapture this lightning in a bottle.
Don’t take success for granted
There’s no denying League of Legends is becoming more competitive. The times when an InSec was considered a god-tier Lee Sin play are long in the past. Now, it’s a basic requirement for playing the champion. Pro play has also evolved at rapid rates. And suddenly, up-and-coming teams build up enough momentum to challenge the top dogs.
Then, there’s the fact that dynasties become complacent. There were several instances when TSM went on record claiming they had reached their singular goal of achieving international success. But while the sentiment is admirable, it led to TSM underestimating the rising level of domestic competition. New challengers stepped up to the plate. And even mid-tier teams found enough firepower to put a dent into existing powerhouses.
Still, you could argue TSM, Fnatic, and SKT already had their time in the limelight. And it’s about time they stepped away and made some room for other dynasties.
Unfortunately, newcomers aren’t likely to achieve the same levels of success. Even Kingzone DragonX, a team that seemed to have the perfect combination of brains and brawn to become SKT’s successor, is struggling to keep up its winning streak. And considering the gap between the top dogs and hungry up-and-comers is closing faster than ever, the time of dynasties may forever be in the past.
Editorial credit: Riot Games