Spring split is almost upon us again in the League of Legends Championship Series!
There has, as always, been much roster shuffling and meta-changing, leaving us with a significantly different game to the one we finished on last year.
The neutral monsters in the jungle have received some pretty serious nerfs, but Junglers still have significant carry potential, and by extension they should be able have a solid impact on the solo laners, and in particular on Midlaners.
For the first few weeks at least, these will be some of the most impactful roles in-game.
There are a million and one power rankings out there already, so for this week let’s just catch up on where the teams are at, and what their first few games will have to offer.
Now I’m not just starting with Cloud 9 because I’m biased, however true that may be – they’re also our first team alphabetically. The club has had minimal roster movement in the off-season, only shifting Jungler Meteos out to make room for Contractz. I have to admit to only catching a few of his games to date, but he is clearly the stronger initiator, and some of his best champions (think Elise, Hecarim and Rek’sai) are in good spots to start the season and ease him into his new role.
Once we take into account the new 10-ban system hopefully pushing players onto less overpowered/more pocket picks, and the buffs to AD Carry Sneaky’s old classic Draven (let me dream!), Cloud 9 should continue to be a lot of fun to watch, whether you want them to win or just to see a lot of action. They will be opening the split in a game against summer split winners Team SoloMid from 10am Saturday AEDT and let me tell you, I am hyped.
The only team to not have any roster changes in the off season, CounterLogic Gaming are coming in with a significant advantage. This team has not had any communication or play style changes to adjust to internally, they’ve simply had to keep up with the meta. Now, that’s no guarantee that they will be any good, but of all the teams we have the best idea of their potential.
The meta has been kind to Jungler Xmithie and Midlaner Huhi. Both of them are either good at or have clearly been practising some of the most meta champs, and personally I really hope to see Xmithie’s Vi (on which he is 8-2 in ranked last I checked) make it onto the rift. CounterLogic Gaming will have their first game against Team Liquid on Sunday at 7am.
Boy oh boy, Echo Fox have had their problems, haven’t they? This season though, owner Rick Fox has worked to upgrade his roster once again around Froggen in the midlane. The most notable pickup is easily 2014 World Champion Top Laner Looper, but I feel it will be even more interesting to watch Akaadian in the jungle. We already know what Looper is capable of, but Akaadian only has a very brief LCS history from almost two years ago.
This is also going to be a mixed language team, which we’ve seen to be a significant disadvantage in other cases. We will get to see them play Phoenix1, who were of a similar level at the end of season six, on the first day of the split, and start to find out what this new roster is capable of. This game is the second match of the split at 1pm on Saturday.
I’ve said several times before that I’m a major Cloud 9 fangirl, which leaves me in a tough spot with new team FlyQuest. The team entered the LCS in the promotion tournament at the end of last split as Cloud 9 Challenger, however due to ownership rules the team had to be sold to new owners.
With three of the original Cloud 9 members, this new FlyQuest team is almost more Cloud 9 than the actual Cloud 9.
The team is packed with veteran talent; Jungler Moon is the least experienced with 20 LCS games to his name, which could be make or break for this team. If he can pull his weight in such a pivotal role, FlyQuest could be an incredibly successful team, but with so many strong teams it will not be an easy path. Their maiden match will be against Team EnVyUs at 7am on Sunday.
Immortals have played an excellent regular season the last few splits, but with many changes to the lineup, there are a lot of questions. Some of these are questions you expect to face at the start of the season – how do new acquisitions fit in, are the veterans still good, can the newbies be shaped. There is one question however that is Immortals’ and theirs alone – how will Jungler Dardoch handle himself?
Dardoch has shown himself to be incredibly talented in his time on Team Liquid, but it was a rocky relationship including a brief suspension. If he has matured during the off season, and can work productively with his new team, he and Midlaner Pobelter could finally be the combination Immortals needs to get through a semifinal. Their kickoff for the split will be against Echo Fox at 10am on Sunday
Phoenix1’s recent history is similar to Echo Fox’s, in that they have shown flashes of brilliance but have simply not held up to the challenge of some of the larger, more well established and supported teams. This season though, Phoenix1 have pulled together some key elements that will hopefully allow them to jump ahead of where they were.
I’ve spoken at length about other teams’ Jungler/Mid pairings, and Inori and Ryu are certainly strong players on paper, but the real news here should be the new coach, Fly. Fly lead LMQ back in their heyday, then moved on to coach China’s Royal Never Give Up for several extremely successful splits. For some time now, coaches have played a pivotal role in team’s success, and the team may really be able to take off under Fly’s wings. Their match against Echo Fox at 1pm on Saturday should be a solid indicator of just how much impact these changes will have.
Dignitas is just such a mystery to me. They’re one of the latest in a line of eSports teams bought by a traditional sports team, the Philadelphia 76ers bought this spot from Apex Gaming as well as the team of Dignitas, then smooshed them together under the Dignitas banner. And like the team itself, the team members come from very different backgrounds. Like many other teams, there is a mix of local players and recent Korean imports, which absolutely could make communication across the team very difficult for them.
That said, if they can communicate properly, they have an incredibly talented set of players, all of whom have played fantastic games recently. Top laner Ssumday is as close to a god as you get in this game without being Faker, and having Chaser in the jungle should really help him play to his best. Dignitas’ first game will be against Phoenix 1 on Sunday morning at around 10am, and should tell us a lot about the team’s synergy and communication.
It just can’t be sugarcoated, EnVyUs were on a very slippery downward slope last split. I have to say, I think this team is in the most precarious position in the LCS on paper, but teams have come from behind before under the guidance of good coaching staff. The EnVyUs organisation has teams across a fair few eSports, so they do have the general know-how to make this happen.
To refine that knowledge and bring it to the League of Legends scene, they’ve brought on 2016 Immortals coach, Dylan. Immortals saw plenty of domestic success last year, but not so much in playoffs. Perhaps the team knows something we don’t – there are a number of players I would expect to see on a 2013/2014 roster, not a 2017 one. The same could have been said of Immortals this time last year though, and yet they performed amazingly. We will start to see how the team and coaching staff fare in their first game against FlyQuest, at 7am on Sunday.
Team Liquid have shown serious commitment to getting the best players they can this season. They picked up Reignover, arguably the best Jungler in the region, and have retained Piglet who may be the best AD Carry. Support Matt has been looking better and better over the course of 2016, and he is just so much fun to watch on carry supports.
If they have a weak spot, it is in the midlane. Goldenglue has been flitting around for two or three years now, mostly in the challenger series. He has plenty of high-level experience but has just not spent much time in the LCS itself (I count 24 games over three years, and a 7-17 record). With the meta where it is, he and his synergy with Reignover could be make or break for this team; we will get our first look at Team Liquid on Sunday at 7am against CounterLogic Gaming.
Or last team is another that has only had the one roster change. WildTurtle has stepped back into the team, after his year on Immortals, to cover for Doublelift. I am a huge Turtle fan (how can you not love that face?), but he has a drastically different play style to Doublelift, so we will have to watch how he slots into the old-but-new team.
The biggest question: how will Turtle and Biofrost pair up? Fortunately for Turtle, the AD Carry role is not the strongest right now, which means that he can at least start the season with low expectations on his shoulders. As long as the rest of the team maintains their form, the team has the potential to do very well this split, and they will be playing against Cloud 9 in the opening game of the split at 10am on Saturday.
I can’t be the only one excited to see how some of the established teams and players hold up against the heavily revamped teams. Which team is the most exciting? Who will get you out of bed at 7 on a Sunday to catch their games?