NA LCS Spring Week 1: On your marks, get set…

Jess Carruthers Roar Pro

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    The NA LCS is heating up as it nears a conclusion.

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    Only one day left until the North American LCS kicks off for Split 2. We have had a few roster changes come out since last week, so before I go into a preview of this week’s matches, here are the late announcements.

    Team Dignitas (DIG): Terry “BIG” Chuong replaces Alex “Xpecial” Chu as Support

    The last of the roster changes to be announced, BIG has been around for some time now under the names “Baby” and “BabyEater.” He has played in the LCS before, but only in three games under Team Dragon Knights back in Summer 2015.

    He’s been on Echo and Delta Fox most recently, and played a fair chunk of Challenger Series. I’m not sure how good of a pickup this really is; it’s been ages since we saw him play at a high level. Either way though, I am definitely looking forward to seeing DIG BIG play on the LCS stage.

    Echo Fox (FOX): Nick “Inero” Smith replaces Simon “heavenTime” Jeon as Head Coach

    Inero was most recently the coach for Tainted Minds, the Oceanic org who were caught up in some major controversy in February and March. Because of how early in the split this all came up, it’s really difficult to say how the team could have performed, but looking further back at his time mousesports, the team had a middling performance with him as head coach.

    Going from middle-tier challenger teams and an OPL team to the NA LCS is a big jump in responsibility, and he will likely get a lot more attention than he has in the past.

    This season could make or break his career; I have a soft spot for both him and Echo Fox, so I’m rather hoping that this is a “Make” season, but it’s so hard to know what impact a coach will have ahead of time, so I’m going to wait and see how the first half of the split pans out.

    Team Envy (NV): Kim “viOLet” Dong Hwan replaces Dylan Falco as Head Coach

    viOLet is an ex-pro StarCraft II player, making his move into support staff. He’s been floating around the professional eSports scene since 2011, across multiple continents and games, before coming into his new position.

    As with Inero and other coaches, it’s really hard to know how much of an impact a new coach will have on a team, especially one coming from a different sport.

    I don’t know much about other support staff for NV (analysts? strategists?), but if viOLet needs to bring game-specific strategies, then this could a split with a really tough learning curve for him.

    On the other hand, if his main role is going to be more general and method-focused, he could be a great pick up for NV.

    Now, to move on to the matches for this week.

    Cloud9 (C9) vs CounterLogic Gaming (CLG), 8am AEST Saturday
    For the first time in LCS history, game one will not be a re-match of last split’s finals. Instead, we will see second against 5th/6th place, however this won’t be as mis-matched a game as it appears.

    CLG’s pickup of Darshan is probably one of the most talked-about changes in the midseason, and it’s going to be especially exciting to see how he fits in with his new team against the well-oiled machine of C9 and Contractz.

    It’s this jungle matchup that I will be most interested to watch; CLG are putting a lot of eggs in this basket, considering their average result last season and lack of other changes.

    This is one of the key games to watch this week, as C9 are one of the teams CLG will be hoping to challenge for top spots in Split 2. And it’s at a reasonable hour for us Aussies to watch!

    Immortals (IMT) vs Phoenix1 (P1), 11am Saturday
    Although P1 have retained their roster from Split 1, IMT come in with a new Head Coach and Jungler. Similarly to CLG against C9, IMT are going to be looking to finish closer to P1’s third place with their roster change, and with this being their first game of the split, they need to launch themselves straight into it.

    As the meta appears to have moved back towards support jungle champions, this is again going to be the matchup to watch. Xmithie has tended to shine on the supportive junglers, where Inori has had times where his Rengar or Hecarim have carried the team.

    The meta will inevitably go through several iterations in the opening weeks of the split; whichever of these Junglers are more favoured will be a huge boost to their team.

    CounterLogic Gaming (CLG) vs Team Liquid (TL), 5am Sunday
    While CLG have picked up Dardoch, TL have returned to their first Split 1 roster with Goldenglue in Mid Lane. They’ve copped a lot of flack with this move, from across the League-watching community, and the caution was with good reason; they came so close to being last place last split, and came way too close to losing their LCS spot for comfort.

    Goldenglue is fresh back in NA from a trip to Korea, which he says has changed him. The meta should also, in theory, favour Piglet’s AD Carry play style; the role is much stronger than it was last split, with strong play coming out of champions that build Blade of the Ruined King.

    Still, Mid Lane will be the one to watch here – Huhi is a strong Mid Laner, although not top-tier, and an excellent starting point to work out just how much Goldenglue has changed.

    Echo Fox (FOX) vs FlyQuest (FLY), 5am Sunday
    Echo Fox’s only change in the midseason has been the pickup of Inero as a head coach, while FlyQuest have made what I consider a significant player upgrade in AD Carry WildTurtle.

    It’s true that a coach can be the centre of a team (you only have to look at Kkoma and SKT to see it), but the impact in-game is generally a much more gradual change than changing players.

    Considering this, and the overall mismatch of these teams last split, this may well be a fairly one-sided match.

    I am interested to see how the two top laners for these teams match up, especially with some of the changes to top lane champions in the midseason.

    I also feel like it’s one of the closer series this week, and despite the quality of the teams, whichever top laner can have greater impact could have a more serious influence on the outcome of the rest of the game.

    Team SoloMid (TSM) vs Cloud9 (C9), 8am Sunday
    This rematch of the Split 1 final was moved back to Sunday to give TSM as much time to recover from the Mid Season Invitational as possible. I have a feeling though that this is going to be the inverse of the Split 1 opener, where C9 crushed TSM.

    The return of Doublelift should have all the other NA teams scared. A great analysis came out this week comparing TSM’s successes with WildTurtle and Doublelift on mobalytics.gg; I recommend checking it out if you like data and graphs, but the crux of it is that Doublelift has a far greater impact on TSM’s successes that WildTurtle did.

    I can’t wait to watch this series, and especially the bot lane; Sneaky and Smoothie were a great duo last split, and while I suspect Doublelift and Biofrost will beat them thoroughly, these are two strong lane paris in a classic matchup.

    Team Dignitas (DIG) vs Team Envy (NV), 8am Sunday
    Both teams here have made changes to their rosters; NV in Mid, and DIG in support. DIG had a reasonable Split 1, while NV finished dead last, narrowly avoiding relegation.

    Although NV are planning to field a 6-man roster, last I saw was that Nisqy’s visa would not be ready prior to the start of the split, so they will be starting Pirean in all games this week.

    Again, I want to watch the bot lane for these teams. BIG coming in as a support, in a newly AD Carry-focused meta could seriously change the dynamic of the game, and similarly I want to see how Apollo and Hakuho fare with their role becoming more central to game outcomes.

    Hakuho in particular is underrated in my eyes, so it should be interesting to watch these supports and see what impact they can have for their team.

    Immortals (IMT) vs Team SoloMid (TSM), 5am Monday
    If TSM vs C9 is going to be a strong TSM win, they should be able to beat IMT even more handily. IMT lost both series to TSM last split, and even with the roster moves they have made, I just don’t see them holding up against a full strength TSM.

    That said, I’m still looking forward to seeing Pobelter play against Bjergsen in the Mid Lane. Pobelter has had his shaky moments in the past, but so has Bjergsen, even as recently as MSI.

    If Pobelter is playing in top form, Mid Lane should be an enjoyable matchup to watch, even if I’m not optimistic that IMT will be able to come out of it all on top.

    Team Envy (NV) vs Phoenix1 (P1), 5am Monday
    I have more or less said my piece on where these teams stand in their first matches. This is another series in which only the one player has changed, and the difference in the two teams is pretty drastic. Although it could be worse, NV do not have easy games in store for them this week.

    I’m looking forward to the top lane match here between Zig and Seraph. Seraph is one of the better players on NV in my opinion, and Zig had an incredibly impressive Split 1.

    Playing in the back end of week one, these players should have a basic idea of what the top lane meta will look like, and it will be interesting to see how both these teams interpret that.

    FlyQuest (FLY) vs Team Dignitas (DIG), 8am Monday
    This is probably going to be one of the closest matches of the weekend, and I’m really looking forward to it. Both teams have made bot lane changes, and both teams finished within just a few places of each other last split.

    Meta changes could help and hinder both of these teams – both relied regularly on their carry Junglers in Split 1, and both new players are running in bot lane.

    This is my bellwether game for this week; I expect it to give us the best indication of how the middling teams will perform this split, especially considering DIG and FLY are playing low-tier teams in their other games.

    Team Liquid (TL) vs Echo Fox (FOX), 8am Monday
    These are two teams who fell right down at the bottom of the standings last split, and who will be eager to prove themselves in the opening week of Split 2.

    Both of them have reasonably tough opponents in their first match; if they lose those, both will be especially hungry for a win in this last match of the weekend.

    With TL’s reversion back to their early-spring line up, these two teams have effectively not had a roster change over the break.

    Team Liquid won this match in week three last split, which should give them a boost coming into this series despite a very different meta.

    I’m excited to see the junglers face off with recent changes – veteran Reignover is poised to return to glory on his supportive junglers, while Akaadian (who came within inches of winning Rookie of the Split) will need to adapt to playing a less carry-focused role than he did in Split 1.

    And that will be the first week of regional play! Which game are you most excited to catch? Who do you think the mid season updates will help and hinder?

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