NA LCS Summer: Roster changes to look out for

Jess Carruthers Roar Rookie

By , Jess Carruthers is a Roar Rookie

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    Well, the League of Legends Mid Season Invitational is all wrapped up. Although the eventual winner of SK Telecom T1 (SKT) was not a surprise, I was honestly a bit blown away by the performance of runner-up G2 eSports.

    Not only did they look amazingly strong in both their series, they became only the third western team to ever take a game off SKT.

    G2 have now gone 7-1 in their best of five matches, all of which have taken four games. Even in their losses, G2 pushed their opponents hard with strong early play.

    In game one of the finals, getting not only first blood but the three subsequent kills onto Lee ‘Faker’ Sang-hyeok set the tone for challenging SKT in this series. Every single player on G2 showed up in the knockout stage, and I am really looking forward to the next round of international comps.

    Speaking of which, this week Riot made an announcement about some changes to the international tournament schedule. Riot and ESL will no longer be coordinating to ensure top tier League of Legends teams will be able to participate in the Intel Extreme Masters circuit.

    Although IEM has historically been an important opportunity for teams to get international practise, teams have de-prioritised the tournament in the past few years, ultimately reducing the usefulness of the tournament as a whole.

    Instead, Riot are introducing a new series of five intra-region tournaments called Rift Rivals, to be held at the start of July. Each Rivals tournament will have the top 3-4 teams of Split 1 from each region, with 2-3 regions participating.

    The formats vary by tournament, so it’s best to head over to the LoL eSports site to read the details, but these promise to be a great opportunity for top local teams to get a bit more international experience under their belts.

    There are plenty of criticisms of the tournaments floating around, but I really believe that the benefits will drastically outweigh the drawbacks. The outcomes of these tournaments have no impact on the World’s circuit; these teams are playing for pride and experience. For minor regions, second through fourth placed teams have had no Riot-organised opportunities to practise against international opponents, so introducing Rift Rivals will be of great benefit to them.

    This is an exciting and important change from Riot. I can’t wait to watch the top NA and EU teams face off, or our own OCE teams against the GPL and LJL. I’ll cover these in more detail as we near the tournament.

    Split 2 doesn’t start up until next week, but the roster lock was on the 24th of May. In honour of that, I want to re-focus on the NA LCS, and look at the team changes that have been made in the mid-season break.

    CounterLogic Gaming (CLG): Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett replaces Jake “Xmithie” Puchero as Jungle
    Despite being winning Rookie of the Split in Split 1 last year, Dardoch has now moved on to his third team in two years. On his past couple of teams, there has been a lot of talk about him being quite toxic as a player, which lead to him being suspended briefly in 2016 Split 1.

    After a challenging split, CLG need something to help them back to the top, and Dardoch could definitely bring that… as long as he doesn’t anger and alienate his teammates first. CLG is full of strong personalities already, and I have high hopes of them keeping him in line, but I don’t think we’ll know how this move is going to work out until later in the split.

    FlyQuest (FLY): Jason “WildTurtle” Tran replaces Johnny “Altec” Ru as AD Carry
    When I saw Hai “Hai” Du Lam tweet that there was “good news soon,” I’m not sure exactly what I expected, but it was definitely not a pickup of WildTurtle for FlyQuest. On a personal level, I am thrilled; although Turtle is definitely not the greatest AD Carry in the league, he is one of my all-time favourites, and I can’t wait to see how he performs on this team.

    Historically, WildTurtle has an aggressive playstyle that has sometimes gotten him in trouble. That has also been a defining feature of FlyQuest in Split 1, and I really think Turtle could flourish with the team playing Hai’s aggressive calls. This is a team reuniting from their challenger series days was back in Season 3, and I cannot wait to see how these players perform together.

    Immortals (IMT): Jake “Xmithie” Puchero replaces Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett as Jungle
    The other half of this Jungler move, Xmithie will now be the starting Jungler for IMT. He has been an excellent player in the past, but showed some real weakness in 2017 Split 1. I put a lot of this down to the meta for the split; Xmithie looks a lot more comfortable on supportive junglers, where especially in the first half of the last split the meta significantly favoured a more carry-oriented playstyle.

    Xmithie has moved to a team that heavily focuses synergy as the pathway to victory. With the meta coming back towards his strengths, this could be a more favourable move than it might seem on the surface. As Xmithie said in a recent interview, the fact that most of the team can and sometimes does speak Korean may be a challenge, but I do think that a more support-oriented Jungler may be able to help the team’s carries actually carry.

    Immortals (IMT): Kim “Ssong” Sang-soo appointed Head Coach
    The second change for Immortals this split is the appointment of a new Head Coach in Ssong. They have not had someone in this role since parting with Dylan Falco in November last year, so bringing in the Head Coach who took ROX Tigers to the Worlds semifinals, and who raised Longzhu to be one of the best teams in Korea has the potential to be a huge gain for the team.

    It can be very difficult to assess the impact that a new coach will have on a team, but with the current starting lineup of this team combined with Ssong’s history, this team could return to some of the strengths they saw last year. The organisation has shown in the past that they can build winning teams, so I look forward to seeing how Immortals progress.

    Team EnvyUs (NV): Choi “Pirean” Jun-sik and Yasin “Nisqy” Dincer replace Noh “Ninja” Geon-woo in Mid Lane
    NV were on a knife’s edge of being pushed out of the LCS last split, so something was bound to give on their roster. Pirean played on Phoenix1 (P1) in 2016 Split 2, where the team came eighth, and spent last split as a sub. Nisqy was playing on the EU LCS Fnatic Academy roster that broke into the LCS for Split 2, but the roster was disbanded after being purchased by Ninjas in Pajamas.

    Although I’m somewhat skeptical about the quality of these two Mid Laners, they should fill complementary roles on the team. Nisqy regularly plays high-damage control and burst mages, where Pirean has (at least in the past) played more utility and support mages. Although Nisqy has a good game record, it was entirely against low-ranked teams, while Pirean’s best rank has been 8th place. Regardless of who the meta favours as we go into the LCS, these guys will both need to step up their play if they want to avoid the promotion tournament this time around.

    Team Liquid (TL): Greyson “Goldenglue” Gilmer replaces Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin as Mid Laner
    Goldenglue has had a rough time since he joined TL. Early last split he took constant criticism from the fanbase; although the whole team was struggling in their roles, it seemed that he was targeted consistently as the main problem, and in all honesty he’s not got a great team record; the only other time he was in the LCS (on Team8 in 2015), his team came eighth.

    That said, he’s spent the last little while working on his play in Korea, and he’s said that it has certainly transformed him. Regardless of his personal development, the first couple of weeks of play will probably have a significant impact on fans’ opinions of him; if TL succeed, Goldenglue has returned to save them, but if not, he will likely still cop the brunt of the blame.

    Team Liquid (TL): Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin replaces Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng as AD Carry
    In a move that will surprise no-one, Piglet has been moved back to his original AD Carry position on TL. Last split he had a really hard time to start out, with the meta rendering his role next to useless, but this split AD Carry is in a much more secure role. If tank junglers come back into vogue, as they seem to be, Piglet and Jungler Kim “Reignover” Ui-jin could raise this team from the (almost) dead.

    That said, I have some serious concerns about Piglet’s performances. If he returns to power then that will be excellent, but he doesn’t seem to have been on form for the last couple of splits. I’m hoping his brief stint in mid will have invigorated him, but I’m not going to hold my breath for it.

    Team SoloMid (TSM): Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng joins as AD Carry
    Although this is probably old news for most by now, Doublelift will be rejoining TSM in the AD Carry role this split. What is new, however, is that Doublelift will be sharing with an unknown second player, since WildTurtle has joined FlyQuest as the sole starter. While TSM have put out a call for “an experienced player who will grow under [the] team’s leadership,” this might take some time to fill given the limited number of North American free agents who will fit the bill.

    In the meantime then, Doublelift will have to be the sole starting AD Carry for the team. For TSM fans, Doublelift’s return is expected to bring a higher degree of regional dominance and a hopeful passage out of the group stage at worlds. We have a whole split until then though, not to mention the Rift Rivals tournament. I am especially excited to see TSM with Doublelift in their rematch against G2 eSports.

    While it’s not the biggest shakeup we’ve seen in the mid season, there are some really important changes to be looking for when the LCS starts up again on Saturday June 3rd at 8am AEST. Keep your eyes peeled for any other late roster changes, and I’ll be back next week to look at the opening matches for Split 2.

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