With the NA LCS about to return, it’s time to make predictions about how the teams will stack up when they return to the Rift on June 2.
The teams were ranked based on our expectations for their placement at the end of the split. For each team's key player, we chose the player whose performance, in our opinion, has the greatest realistic potential to swing their team's performance for better or worse.
10. Echo Fox
Key Player: Matthew “Akaadian” Higginbotham, Jungle
We’ve seen what Akaadian can do, and Echo Fox will want to see more of that if they want to move up the standings. But there are some troubling signs here, including an attempt at a 10-player roster, that seem to suggest that Echo Fox may slip slightly compared to spring split.
If a tweet from Cloud9 owner Jack Etienne is to be believed, dark times could be ahead for this squad.
The inability of this team to generate much through its bottom lane is, like nV, a weakness that will likely be exploited by better teams. Not scrimming those teams, and getting that bot lane some more experience, is a worrying decision.
Key Player: Eugene “Pobelter” Park
Immortals made headlines as they swapped junglers with Counter Logic Gaming this offseason, adding Jake “Xmithie” Puchero to the roster as they bid farewell to Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett. It is the NA LCS offseason move with the most potential to transform teams, as IMT gain a jungler with supportive tendencies, and who told theScore esports that he thinks “what this team really needs is a leader to be having the team rally behind them, not really to carry, just to listen and be a mentor, I guess.”
This team has also had issues playing through their bottom lane, but when they get what they need from Pobelter, things tend to go in their favor. Expect to see Xmithie giving Pobelter support in the mid, especially given the fact that they’ve played together and won an NA LCS split before. Unfortunately, outside of mid, it’s unclear which lane the team can look to in order to win games.
8. Team EnVyUs
Key Player: Nam “LirA” Tae-yoo, Jungle
This roster didn’t go into the Spring Split with the highest of expectations, but the slow start they experienced — partially, perhaps, due to LirA’s late arrival — didn’t do them any favors. Though the team was sent to the promotion tournament, they eked out a narrow 3-2 win over Gold Coin United to retain their spot.
The team added mid laners Choi "Pirean" Jun-sik, Yasin "Nisqy" Dinçer to replace Noh "Ninja" Geon-woo, a move that is hard to view as a substantial upgrade to the team's abilities. This roster will still look to LirA to carry some games, and perhaps this split he'll be able to do it more consistently than last. But the team's inability to play through the bottom lane remains a scary prospect as hyper-carries begin to take hold in the meta.
7. Team Liquid
Key Player: Greyson “Goldenglue” Gilmer
Everything that's old is new again, as Team Liquid reverts to the roster that started their spring split. With their prayers answered by guardian angel Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng, the team has survived relegation. Now, Chae "Piglet" Gwang-jin will return to the AD carry position, while Greyson "Goldenglue" Gilmer, fresh off his self-imposed Korean exodus, will start in mid.
Goldenglue will be under a lot of pressure to perform now, but the mid laner told theScore esports in April that he felt many of the problems the team encountered in spring were team issues, not individual problems. With the roster able to work on those over the offseason and with a reinvigorated mid laner, Liquid could look to make their way up the standings, if only slightly.
One major difference is the change in coaching staff, with Jang “Cain” Nu-ri joining. As well, the meta has completely shifted to have more of a bottom lane focus. This allows Piglet to potentially thrive, and gives Kim “Reignover” Yeu-jin the ability to focus on his controlled style over the early Season 7 carry jungle meta.
6. Team Dignitas
Key Player: Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho
Dignitas was last split's Cinderella story. They went from a tumultuous beginning and dead last in the standings to snagging the last playoff spot in the very last week of games. Dignitas showed some signs of improvement in play at the end due to a coaching change, where David "Cop" Roberson took the reigns on the struggling team.
With a newly embedded coach and top Korean talent that is adjusting well to the NA LCS, Dignitas look poised for another playoff run. Top laner Ssumday and jungler Lee "Chaser" Sang-hyun are great players, with Ssumday earning acclaim in particular. The weakness of their bottom lane looks to be shored up through Terry "Big" Chuong, who had decent stats for being a part of fifth-place NACS team Delta Fox.
If Big works well with Benjamin "LOD" deMunck, the team could be incredibly solid and stable in the NA LCS. Absent that presence in the bot lane, however, Dignitas could see themselves with an unfortunate fate, moving toward the bottom of the standings.
Key Player: Hai “Hai” Lam
After an incredible start to the spring split, FlyQuest slumped in the middle. Still, they rallied and managed fourth in playoffs. If consistency was not exactly their hallmark — they played Mordekaiser in the bot lane, for god’s sake — the players’ exciting style of play and innate synergy gave them the edge often enough to get to the post-season.
Enter Jason “WildTurtle” Tran.
It’s still not clear how or even if he will share time with Johnny “Altec” Ru, but WildTurtle’s addition is intriguing. He will likely bring more aggression than Altec, but is that what this roster was missing? What they definitely gain is some of that old Quantic Gaming synergy. FlyQuest, as usual, remains difficult to pin down.
Statistically, WildTurtle actually underperformed on TSM by a large margin. Whether that’s because he wasn’t given the chance in a team where the solo lanes had greater carry potential is unclear, but his more aggressive style will at the very least give FlyQuest an outlet in the laning phase to stamp an early lead.
Key Player: Noh “Arrow” Dong-hyeon
Evaluating Phoenix1 is a tricky prospect. For all intents and purposes, they thrived in a meta where Rami "Inori" Charagh could be insanely aggressive, and when that didn't work, they could fall back on William "Meteos" Hartman for a more controlled style. Arrow is still last split's MVP and may yet be the best AD carry in the summer split as well.
However, this time Phoenix1 doesn't necessarily have the fallback plans that they did in the last split. It's unclear how often Meteos will feature, and Jordan "Shady" Robison will be a still inexperienced addition to the bot lane compared to Adrian "Adrian" Ma or William "Stunt" Chen. How he adjusts will be key to the success of Phoenix1, as he supports their superstar AD carry.
3. Counter Logic Gaming
Key Player: Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett
Counter Logic Gaming is now the episode of your favorite sitcom where a new main character is introduced: will the group’s dynamic change to accommodate this newcomer, or will they end up relegated to the sidelines?
What’s certain is that Dardoch’s performance will be an important factor in the team’s chances. While CLG’s bot lane is fully capable of carrying them through some games, they now have a more aggressive jungler who can be an option to do the same.
In our opinion, the ceiling for this team is incredibly high. The only thing stopping this team from being an elite NA roster is itself, and whether the team can keep up morale during potential troughs of their split. If the carefully cut media exposes are the full truth, it may be a more difficult task than even the team of friendship can muster. But, if they are able to keep up the synergy that has been a hallmark of CLG's play, this roster boasts multiple potential carry threats, and an aggressive jungler that should be able to unlock them.
Key Player: Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen
Last split's finalists are back, and situated in the second spot of our power rankings. After a close, five-game set against Team SoloMid, Cloud9 returns with no changes and a renewed hunger for victory after coming so close to representing North America at MSI.
Cloud9 has the benefit of the familiar, with the added bonus of their young talent growing into their potential, thanks in part to the coach of the split, Bok "Reapered" Han-gyu. Juan "Contractz" Garcia is coming off of a rookie of the split performance, upon which he will have to improve if C9 want any shot at the first NA seed. His performance tailed off a bit, and in big games was more nervous and overaggressive. But if he is able to thrive, our number one team could be dethroned.
1. Team SoloMid
Key Player: Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng
The reigning champions are number one on our list. Not just because they won spring split, but because they are bringing back one of their superstars.
Doublelift return for the summer split was expected, and the impact of such a move leads many to wonder if the rest of the NA LCS has actually caught up to this previously dominant squad. With a reduced shotcalling burden on all members thanks to the reintroduction of Doublelift, the quality of play for the team ought to increase as well.
Søren "Bjergsen" Bjerg and Kevin "Hauntzer" Yarnell had stellar spring seasons, and Vincent "Biofrost" Wang's performance at MSI and in playoffs was admirable. Dennis "Svenskeren" Johnsen has been a weak point for 2017 thus far, and could be the focus of other teams due to his recently poor decision-making. But, firing on all cylinders, this team looks poised to repeat as NA's top team headed into Worlds.
Josh “Gauntlet” Bury is a news editor for theScore esports. You can find him on Twitter.
Gabriel Zoltan-Johan is a news editor at theScore esports and the head analyst for the University of Toronto League of Legends team. His (public) musings can be found on his Twitter.
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