With the 2017 Spring Split approaching, there is more parity in the North American League Championship Series than ever before. With almost every team making multiple roster moves and every bedroom analyst in NA providing their two cents on how the imports will far, it’s about time that CLICKON eSports chipped in to predict how the rankings will shape up before the players step back onto the stage for the new season.
The tremors of 2016 have reshaped the landscape of the NA LCS. With multiple investors and traditional sports teams pouring money into the scene, star players from across the globe have been lured to American soil, stacking the league with more talent than ever before.
The influx of talent has undoubtedly closed the gap between the top and mid tiers, with a great deal of uncertainty as to how the teams will settle into the new season. Here are the CLICKON eSports NA LCS Spring Split Power Rankings:
10. Echo Fox
After a promising start to the off-season with the announcement of signing Top laner Jang “Looper” Hyeong-seok from China’s Royal Never Give Up, the rest of Echo Fox’s announced starting line-up has been underwhelming. Retaining Henrik “Froggen” Hansen in the Mid lane and Yuri “Keith” Jew as ADC, Echo Fox filled out their roster with the additions of Austin “Gate” Yu at Support and Matthew “Akaadian” Higginbotham in the Jungle.
After carrying Echo Fox through the Promotion Tournament, Froggen will not be able to do the same against the other LCS teams. Echo Fox has arguably the weakest bot lane of any of the teams, coupled with a Jungler who has not been overly impressive in the NACS. Even if Looper and Froggen have exceptional splits, it will not be enough to move Echo Fox past the status of a mid-tier team. Echo Fox will find themselves fighting for their LCS spot once again at the split’s end.
9. FlyQuest eSports
FlyQuest eSports (formerly Cloud 9 Challenger) bring a wealth of LCS talent to the table this split, with every member having played in the LCS at some point in their careers. Anchored by former Cloud 9 members, including team shot-caller and Mid laner Hai “Hai” Lam, Top laner An “balls” Le, and Support Daerek “LemonNation, FlyQuest boasts 3/5 of Cloud 9’s 2015 World Championship roster. Considering the line-up is rounded out by Jungler Galen “Moon” Holgate and ADC Johnny “Altec” Ru, experience may be the only area where FlyQuest excels.
With no lanes having an exceptionally talented player, FlyQuest will have to rely on Hai’s shot-calling and superior team co-ordination to find success in the LCS. While this may be able to carry them through the first few weeks of the season, I expect the rest of the LCS will catch up and eventually pass FlyQuest because of their lack of individual talent. Having one of the lowest upsides of any LCS team, FlyQuest will finish as a mid-tier LCS team at best.
8. Team EnVyUs
Team EnVyUs return with three of their former members for the 2017 NALCS, Top laner Shin “Seraph” Woo-yeong, Support Nickolas “Hakuho” Surgent, and Noh “Ninja” Geon-woo in the Mid lane. From the LCK’s Afreeca Freecs they signed jungler Nam “Lira” Tae-yoo, and also added ADC Apollo “Apollo” Price from Team Dignitas after he was replaced by former EnVyUs ADC Benjamin “LOD” deMunck.
Apollo is strictly a downgrade from LOD for EnvyUs, and with LOD’s departure, fans are left wondering who will be the one to carry EnvyUs forward. The obvious choice for EnVyUs is Seraph, but with an influx of talent to the top lane of the NALCS he may find this very difficult to do. As the last split progressed, EnvyUS faded farther and farther back in the standings to a 6th place finish. With no clear advantages in any lane, look for that fall to continue in the forthcoming split.
Pheonix 1 may have been one of the most active NALCS teams in free agency, acquiring Mid laner Ryu “Ryu” Sang-wook from the EULCS’s H2K Gaming, Support Adrian “Adrian” Ma from Immortals, and AD Carry No “Arrow” Dong-hyeon from the LCK’s KT Rolster. Alongside these new additions, they return Top laner Derek “Zig” Shao and Jungler Rami “Inori” Charagh.
Whilst the talent of many of the players they have signed is undeniable, how these pieces will fit together remains an unknown. Ryu has been underwhelming in the EULCS after he arrived with very high expectations and Adrian has been criticized for having a very limited champion pool. For Pheonix1 to find success, they will likely need to look to their new ADC Arrow and Jungler Inori. Pheonix one may be the biggest wildcard in the NALCS with the potential for a top 3 finish, or they could easily fall to the Promotion tournament.
Immortals managed to retain just a single player from the roster that finished 2nd in the 2016 Summer Split, Mid laner Eugene “Pobelter” Park. With the departure of their two star players Kim “Reignover” Yeu-jin and Seong “Huni” Hoon Heo, Immortals brought in two other big names in Jungler Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett and Top laner Lee “Flame” Ho-jong. In the Bot lane, Immortals added rookie Li “Cody” Sun and Support Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung formerly of Hong Kong Esports.
The major concern for Immortals this split will be the performance of their bot lane, who showed significant flaws at IEM Gyeonggi. Whether Dardoch and Flame can have the synergy their predecessors had is yet to be seen, but for Immortals to be successful they will need to carry Immortals forward. While they have the potential to emerge as a top team, I expect Immortals to struggle slightly this first split but continue to improve as the season progresses.
5. Counter Logic Gaming
The only team to return their entire lineup from the previous split, CLG will once again have Top laner Darshan “Darshan” Upadhyaha, Mid laner Choi “Huhi” Jae-hyun, Jungler Jake “Xmithie” Puchero, ADC Trevor “Stixxay” Hayes, and Support Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black. Perhaps not the most talented team on paper, CLG continues to excel with surprising showings at international events and strong playoff runs.
Led by one of the NA LCS’s best shot-callers in Aphromoo, CLG employed their superior coordination and understanding to two top 4 finishes last year. With many teams fielding rosters where the majority of players are new to the team, having all of their players returning should help propel CLG to a top half finish once again.
4. Team Liquid
Team Liquid looks to rebuild after what was a disappointing end to their 2016 season. Plagued by internal issues, Liquid underwent a major roster overhaul and returned only two players from their final roster, Support Matt “Matt” Elento and Samson “Lourlo” Jackson in the Top lane. In what may have been the biggest offseason acquisition, Liquid added star Jungler Kim “Reignover” Ui-jin, and brought back Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin as their ADC.Liquid recently announced they would split time in the Mid lane between Grayson “GoldenGlue” Gilmer and former CLG mid Austin “Link” Shin.
After a strong showing at IEM Gyeonggi, TL should build on their success with a line-up anchored by two of NA’s best talents in Reignover and Piglet. Look for Liquid to fix many of the internal issues that held them back last year, and be in competition for a spot at Worlds by the end of the season. This is a mid-tier team at worst, with the talent and potential for a top 3 finish.
3. Team Dignitas
Team Dignitas (Formerly Apex Gaming) may field the most talented roster of any NA LCS team this split, bringing in both Top laner Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho and Lee “Chaser” Sang-hyun from Korea along with ADC Benjamin “LOD” deMunck from EnvyUs. Along with the return of Mid laner Jang “Keane” Lae-young and Support Alex “Xpecial” Chu, Dignitas has the talent to be the top team in NA by the end of the year.
Ssumday and Chaser were both widely regarded as top players in Korea at one time, and LOD brings a carry potential to the bot lane that Apex did not have with former ADC Apollo “Apollo” Price. If they are able to overcome communication barriers within the team, they can easily secure a top 3 finish this split.
2. Cloud 9
On the heels of a World Championship Quarterfinals appearance, Cloud9 returns almost all of their starters including Mid laner Nicolaj “Jensen”Jensen, Top laner Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong, ADC Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi, and Support Andy “Smoothie” Ta. The one addition to the starting roster is highly touted Jungler Juan “Contractz” Garcia, who until this split has been ineligible to play in the LCS due to his age.
Contractz brings a far more aggressive style of play to Cloud 9 compared to his predecessor William “Meteos” Hartman, and although he found great success in the NACS whether that translates to the LCS stage is yet to be seen. Cloud9 will expect to continue their hot finish to last season, with strong solo laners and one of NA’s best bot lanes. If Contractz is able to build upon his prior success, this may be the NALCS’s best team and will push for the top seed for NA by the end of the split.
Team SoloMid fielded what was regarded as NA’s best team yet last season, yet ultimately failed to advance past the group stages at the World Championships. Led by the reigning NA MVP Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg, TSM also retained Top laner Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell, Jungler Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen, and Support Vincent “Biofrost” Wang. TSM are still coming to terms with the departure of Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng, acquiring former player Jason “WildTurtle” Tran to fill the ADC position.
Doublelift was both a carry and secondary shot-caller for TSM, and his loss absolutely makes this lineup weaker than the previous split talent-wise. The key for Team SoloMid this split will likely be the play of their Jungler Svenskeren, who continued his strong play at the end of the split through Worlds and is known for many of the current meta champions. With strong laners and a proven jungler, TSM remains as NA’s strongest team and will easily secure another spot to Worlds.