By Tanner Kinney
Climb out of the mid-season bomb shelters everyone, the LCS is starting again! Look around, the teams are the same, but the game has been drastically changed. Riot Games has dropped multiple major patch nukes in the form of jungle changes and class-wide marksman nerfs that have left a lawless wasteland in Patch 8.11. In this Mad Max warzone of a patch, the NA LCS teams are going to start going at it again, and there’s almost no way Riot will clean up all the fallout in time, especially before the bruiser buff nuke hits the Rift. It’ll be chaotic for a while, but hopefully civilization can form again. I really, really hope that happens.
Last split served as a good trial run for franchising, with many teams not changing their rosters due to not having the fear of getting relegated. Despite that, bottom teams have done some roster shifts that are…okay at best? Team Liquid also embarrassed themselves at MSI, and while they showed weakness in the patches before the bombs dropped, it’s a new game out there now. The teams likely have spent their time off improving their game and, hopefully, we get some better competition. Power rankings this split, then, will be based on both roster strength on paper and previous results, since we now have some. A few extrapolations are also made, and most of them are me trying to justify putting Clutch Gaming higher than they deserve because I like them. Going from worst to best this time, because I think that’s more interesting.
10. Golden Guardians (GGS)
Starting at the bottom, we have the trash squad from last split: Golden Guardians. The team failed to make much of an impact, aside from a few upsets over teams that were hard slumping. The only roster change and possibly the only shining light for the team, is their new mid laner in Mickey. A former LCK player, widely regarded as “ehh, pretty good, not the best though,” Mickey briefly made an appearance during the dark days of Team Liquid in Season 7, where he looked pretty decent against challenger teams. He’s easily an upgrade to Hai mechanically, that’s without question.
But with every blessing comes a curse, and the curse is in communication. GGS’s brand identity and best aspect was communication and teamplay despite horrible deficits. Without Hai, that teamplay and communication will be moved onto a different player who definitely won’t be able to manage a sinking ship like Hai could. Perhaps they could surprise everyone, but considering their first matches are against FOX and TSM, I have my doubts they’ll sprint out of the gate. More roster changes probably needed to be made for this team to be competitive. It’ll be hard for the team as it stands to get a win.
Well, unless a team like, I dunno, 100 Thieves has a player stop hitting the nexus in a close game against GGS. That would be equivalent to someone dribbling out the clock in a tied basketball game, but I can’t think of any teams that would do that.
9. OpTic Gaming (OPT #GREENWALL)
The GREENWALL made their League debut last split, and tripped, stumbled, and only managed to place above the Golden Guardians. Not surprising, considering the team had old man LemonNation on it, who some games just looked lost in a world with much better supports. OpTic never even won against a team that was highly rated, only getting wins against a terrible looking CLG, one win against FlyQuest, and, well, Golden Guardians. Even though PowerOfEvil and Akaadian looked pretty good at times, and Arrow would sometimes pop off, the team had trouble winning against good teams.
OpTic this split retains most of the same members, but with Dholka promoted to starter, and the support role equivalent to Flex Tape in Big (with Gate as a sub) on support. This roster does not look any more promising than last split, even with the support role getting upgraded. Big has never been a great support, and if they subbed in Gate it would be about the same there. Dholka was definitely more consistent than Zig, even if that’s a low bar, but still not impressive. The team succeeds off the back of PowerOfEvil and Akaadian again. As teams get better, that reality becomes less and less feasible.
8. FlyQuest (FLY)
FlyQuest was a team with a few ups and a lot of downs. They seemed to be good at times, then they subbed players in-and-out randomly, and continued to randomly get wins against a number of teams. In terms of the lowest ranking teams, FlyQuest had the most potential of the bottom tier teams as well. Unfortunately, they had trouble winning games even with leads.
The roster changes FlyQuest made are actually pretty promising. The inconsistent AnDa was demoted to a sub position and replaced with Santorin, a jungler who hasn’t looked great recently, but has had a great history and with enough practice could be better. Support was also changed to Kwon, formerly KonKwon, who I personally think was a great support on a number of terrible rosters. Is he better than Stunt? Probably, and in a meta where supports are kings of the Rift, that’s very important. I think they’re still gonna be bottom three, but have the best chance of climbing higher. At least, I hope so, since it’ll make things much more interesting.
7. Cloud 9 (C9)
When I was having a discussion about power rankings with my boys in the Clash team, DOP (Dank OutPlays), the matter of which teams were middle of the pack was probably the hardest part to come up with. The results of last split were all very close, with so many tiebreakers at the end of the split, so deciding what teams would be in the middle was a challenge. It may seem insane to some people to put a team who made it to playoffs, Cloud 9, below a team who struggled in the early part of the split, Counter Logic Gaming. Yet, there this gut feeling I have that C9 is going to under-perform.
Let me explain: it’s all about attitude. Cloud 9 is this friendly team, the team environment is very good, but the competitive nature of it is likely less apparent than teams like TSM. They are the modern equivalent to the old Dignitas squad. Yet, in terms of results, Dignitas fell apart compared to actual competitive teams. This C9 roster has a lot of attitude issues, particularly in Jensen and Sneaky. Jensen is likely burnt out on the game, and has previously stated that he only really views the game as a job. Sneaky, on the other hand, treats the game too casually. He frequently streams and has even started a cosplay Patreon with his girlfriend. Sure, the cosplays are impressive, and the streams are entertaining (if chat would stop being so rowdy), but that doesn’t scream “competitor” to me. Sure, he was the best performing member last split, but that doesn’t mean anything if his attitude about this game is bad.
As it turns out, my gut feeling was correct. Jensen, Sneaky, and Smoothie (for some reason) were all removed from the team for “results and motivation.” They were replaced with the Flex Tape of midlane in GoldenGlue, a memester who failed to perform on Echo Fox in Keith, and the absolute unit that is Zeyzal. Zeyzal, admittedly, was one of the best academy supports, and the academy roster did well. Yet GoldenGlue and Keith have rarely performed on stage, when it matters. Have fun at the bottom of the table, C9.
6. Counter Logic Gaming (CLG)
The start of the Spring Split was rough for CLG. With shotcalling duties on Huhi and Darshan, the roster never really could gain any decisive victories. It was really depressing as a former CLG fan to see the once great team just fail to make an impact, both on social media and in-game. After giving shotcalling duties to Biofrost, the team went on an insane win streak, and almost made it into playoffs, getting gatekept by impossible odds. Coming into this split, with no roster changes as of time of writing, the team looks hungry for success.
Placing CLG above C9 was previously an attitude thing. CLG looks like they are hungry for success. They really beans’d the start of the previous split, but now they are set to be an incredibly successful team. I’m excited to see CLG play because I think, now that the team has had a while to gel, we might start seeing some great plays. Now, this is purely a roster comparison. Reignover may be washed up, but the matchup of Huhi and GoldenGlue on stage is one that seems like it’ll be very one-sided. Even in such a volatile meta, I have more faith in CLG to succeed. After all, if you have no faith, why are you even here? No, I will never stop using that line when referring to CLG. It’s too good to give up.
5. Echo Fox (EF)
Echo Fox is a team that was a rollercoaster to witness. They started off so strong, beating every single team fairly easily. Then the meta shifted, and we got to see what really happens when Echo Fox is put at a disadvantage. It wasn’t pretty. Huni may have performed well, but the rest of the team (in particular, the bot lane) just seemed to really get smashed over and over. After some questionable roleswaps during the middle of the split, which resulted in more losses, the team barely secured a playoff bye entirely due to their early split performance.
Echo Fox isn’t going to be a bottom table team. They can, at the very least, beat the worst teams in the League. They can even beat the best teams. They managed to 3-0 Clutch and get 3rd place last split (a popular spot for Huni). But I still don’t think they can challenge the top of the table with their roster unless the meta is favorable. Considering how chaotic it is right now, we’ll see what happens. I have a feeling Echo Fox will place somewhere in the middle though. If the meta turns out to be Fox favored, then oh boy, will things start to look promising.
4. Team SoloMid (TSM)
TSM is a team that should never be counted out. With a rocky start last split, they still managed to pull it back and grab the 3rd seed going into playoffs. Then something happened. The team just fell apart somewhere in drafting, mentally, or even somewhere other than that. They managed to lose to Clutch Gaming, who I was rooting for to win the whole dang thing (don’t let my predictions tell you otherwise: I was 100% rooting for them). TSM has had rough spring splits in the past though, and still manages to secure a spot at Worlds to disappoint NA fans once again.
In terms of putting them fourth, it was a really close call. The top of the table is all really close in my eyes. TSM is ahead of Echo Fox because I have a feeling after the extra prep going into this split, they will be a force to be reckoned with. They are lower though, since I still don’t think the problems with the roster will be fixed at the end of the day. MikeYeung is an anchor weighing down the team, and with how Zven and Mithy have been performing, even an NA botlane would look better. Then again, with how insane the meta is, anything can happen.
3. 100 Thieves (100T)
“Wow, look at that, this hack fraud analyst is underrating 100 Thieves again, despite so much evidence to the contrary!” I’m sure none of you actually said that, but let me explain. 100T had a very interesting start of their team’s history. When the team was hot, they were on fire, managing to end first in the regular split. When the team was cold, like during the middle of the split, they just looked incredibly sad to watch. The roster has plenty of talent, but that talent isn’t exactly better than talent on other teams, at least in my eyes.
This split, 100T will be a team to watch. They’ll definitely be top of the table, with their sheer talent and especially their ability to communicate and play as a team. If Meteos and Ryu stay focused on the game, things could go really well. Aphro also seems to have a good grasp of the meta, which is incredible all things considered. Cody Sun, ehh, he’s looked okay in the new meta, but not too great. Though solo queue isn’t the best judge. I swear this split I won’t underestimate them. At least, I’ll try my hardest not to.
2. Clutch Gaming (CG)
The boys over at Clutch City Gaming made history, being the first 6th seed in playoffs to beat a 3rd seed. The team was incredibly consistent during the split, and never lost a game to a team on the lower end of the table, and could contest teams on the higher end with great frequency. For a fresh team and fresh roster, this was all very impressive, though less impressive than 100 Thieves success. CG was personal favorite team to watch, with insane gameplay and the best support in NA, the legend himself Nick “Hakuho” Surgent.
This split, I think CG will finally start cracking the top of the table with a higher frequency. They looked great in playoffs, and with the summer to improve teamplay and communication the raw mechanical skill of the team can shine. In a meta where supports are king, Hakuho will be able to make some magic happen. Especially since Thresh and mages will rise to the top, which Hakuho has shown proficiency with, this could be an incredible meta for CG. I just hope Apollo has dusted off his Yasuo.
1. Team Liquid (TL)
I’ll keep this quick, since this is very long already: Team Liquid has shown themselves to be the most adaptive team, and overall the best. Doublelift has already got a handle on the meta, and even if Olleh has some mental blockade I think they can overcome it. Impact is still solid, Xmithe is still solid, and Pobelter may have been INTbelter at MSI, but he’ll likely perform against the NA mid laners. I expect to see this team near the top, if not at the top.
Sources: YouTube, Byte
Tanner is a Film and Media Studies major and a Digital Media minor. His Neo Yokio review won a second-place CSPA Golden Circle award for the 2017 semester. He enjoys playing JRPG’s of any variety, regardless of how obscure and strange it is. Tanner is also the host of Byte at the Movies, the premiere movie discussion live-stream.