NA LCS Spring Week 1: A new era of League of Legends

Jess Carruthers Roar Guru

By Jess Carruthers, Jess Carruthers is a Roar Guru


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    The NA LCS is heating up. (Photo by Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images)

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    Roll up, roll up, for the start of Season 8 of the North American League of Legends Championship Series.

    Around the world, leagues are starting to kick off their games – Korea and China have both begun already. Starting from 9am AEDT on Sunday, the NA LCS will hold its first game of the year, and I’m here to give you a preview of what to expect.

    Before I get into the games, there is a host of new Riot content for all your analysis needs. The fantastic podcast The Dive is continuing into it’s second season, and is posted on Youtube and most podcasting platforms. Half an hour before each day of games, the NA LCS Countdown will air on broadcast streams, with news, stats, and predictions.

    For the last game on Sunday, NA LCS Lounge will air on the alt streams. This will be akin to the alt streams on Saturdays last year, with player casters, lane focuses, and fog-of-war streams. Then after the last game on Mondays, NA LCS Tonight will return to recap the weekend’s games.

    Personally, I adore these shows where more extended analysis can take place. If you enjoy reading these preview columns, I absolutely recommend catching some of the official content.

    Now, the important part: this week’s games. As a reminder, the format this split is back to a best of one double round robin, with each team playing two games over the weekend. Week one is always exciting, but with all the changes this year – out of fifty starters, only nine players have remained on the same team – there is a lot of bar-setting in store.

    On that basis, since almost all the data this week is based on individual skill and pre-existing synergy, I’m going to go into a lot more detail on the first time looking at each team than the second. There are just too many variables to go into much more in-depth analysis at this stage.

    Team Liquid (TL) versus Team SoloMid (TSM)
    9am Sunday
    Riot usually has a rematch of the summer finals to kick off spring split, and with TL picking up 60% of the old Immortals team, this is as close as they could get. These teams are both right up the top of most power rankings this season, and it’s easy to see why, with both teams running absolutely stacked rosters.

    The most exciting part of this though is going to be seeing Doublelift playing against his old team straight out of the gate. His impassioned article, “Everyone Else is Trash,” on the Player’s Tribune earlier this month talked a big game about beating his former team and showing them that they made a mistake in changing their botlane.

    Their botlane change though… it’s intimidating. Zven and Mithy, formerly of Europe’s G2 Esports, have been widely heralded as the best botlane in the west. I have no particular love for Doublelift, but I absolutely will grant that he is one of the best AD Carries out there.

    Against these two though? He’s not going to have an easy time, especially with a new lane partner in Olleh.

    What a phenomenal game to kick off the split. Between the botlane and Bjergsen, TSM has the edge here, but this could definitely go either way.

    100 Thieves (100) versus OpTic Gaming (OPT)
    10am Sunday

    Straight after a somewhat classic match, two of the newest teams will face off against each other. There are a lot of question marks around both these rosters; although each has a good number of well-known veterans, it’s very hard to know how the teams will gel.

    With mostly untested rosters – 100 have only had their full team together for two weeks due to visa issues – the only real info we can glean right now is going to be based mostly on individual performances. Running down the positions, then, Top, Jungle and Mid are almost all going to be incredibly dependent on the version of the player that shows up.

    This is most evident in the Midlane: both Ryu for 100 and PowerOfEvil for OPT have soaring highs and deep lows, and until we see where they’re at now, it’s tough to know what version of them will be there.

    I’m looking forward to 100’s Cody Sun and Aphromoo botlane, but I’m cautious to not get too excited too soon. I really don’t know how these two will work together, although I would expect them to run circles around Arrow and LemonNation. Given these are also now bo1s, I’m giving 100 the edge here, but not by as significant a margin as many other punters seem to.

    Clutch Gaming (CG) versus Golden Guardians (GGS)
    11am Sunday
    The second pair of new teams are facing off immediately after the first, which I find incredibly satisfying. Although this is less evenly matched than 100 versus OPT, being a bo1 there is still the potential for a surprise outcome.

    I know I’ve spoken to this before, but I really like CG’s roster. Solo and Febiven make this an upgraded Team EnvyUs in my mind, and I can see GGS really struggling to match the pre-existing synergy. There should be some between the old TL guys, but Top and Support get far less interaction than Jungle, Mid and Support in the early to mid game, which is going to be absolutely crucial in these early weeks of best-of-ones.

    I do think GGS are being slept on a bit though. Almost every power ranking has them between 8 and 10, and while I can definitely see that happening, I feel like we are far more likely to see a situation like FlyQuest at the start of 2017; between Hai and Contractz, I can imagine GGS out maneuvering CG this first time they meet. Still, I think CG are a considerably stronger team, who have all the resources available to them to win this match.

    Echo Fox (FOX) versus FlyQuest (FLY)
    12pm Sunday
    I am super excited to see Huni back in the NA LCS, and I’m devastated that I didn’t manage to get him in my fantasy team. That’s probably not enough justification for calling this match, but I think it’s pretty important.

    While I do love WildTurtle, I’m not sure how he and Stunt are going to work together. More than that, even if everything goes better than expected, I don’t see them outlaning Altec and Adrian, who have shown themselves to be an incredibly strong duo.

    Similarly, although Flame is a good toplaner, I just don’t see him beating out Huni. I know Huni didn’t quite live up to expectations on SKT last year, but against other toplaners in the LCS I really expect him to hold his own.

    In this match-up, the wildcard is going to be in the Jungle. I maintain that Dardoch is a questionable pickup until he can prove he has matured more as a person, but on the other hand, AnDa is entirely unproven and hasn’t held a starting position since 2016. For this first week though, at least – before Dardoch has a chance to alienate all his teammates – FOX should really take this.

    Counter Logic Gaming (CLG) versus Cloud9 (C9)
    1pm Sunday

    Two of the three historic LCS winners will close out the day on Sunday. This is going to be the first stream with the LCS Lounge show, where Aphromoo and Meteos will join Phreak to discuss the game.

    I’ve warmed up to this C9 roster a lot since it was first announced, but I just don’t see it being enough to beat the updated CLG team. I don’t have high expectations for Licorice or Svenskeren in general, and especially not pitted against Darshan and Reignover on their first day back. While I think Jensen is better than Huhi, it’s a gap that closed significantly in the last year.

    I want to think the botlane will win out for C9, but Stixxay and Biofrost have incredible potential – if they unlock that before Sunday, this could be a wild ride.

    If you’ve ever read any of my pieces before – or even paid attention to how I talk about Hai and Contractz earlier – you’ll know that I am unashamedly a C9 fangirl.

    I really want them to win this, but on paper I actually don’t see it happening. They could if it goes late, but especially after a break, I don’t think they will be able to prevent CLG from running away with the early game.

    OpTic Gaming (OPT) versus Team Liquid (TL)
    9am Monday

    You’ve already read plenty about my read on these teams, so let’s keep it simple as we turn to day two. This match isn’t a hard call; instead of the close matches of day one, these teams could certainly be the bottom and top ranked respectively. I will be incredibly surprised if TL fails to win this game, and if that happens it will speak far more to a failure of supporting staff rather than players.

    FlyQuest (FLY) versus Team SoloMid (TSM)
    10am Monday
    Although I wouldn’t put the skill gap quite as far as match one, this is a similar situation. TSM have just about every advantage over FLY that they could want.

    The only potential losing role is MikeYeung in the jungle, but under the wing of Ssong and the incredible support staff of TSM, I expect him to step up to the level of the rest of his new team.

    Counter Logic Gaming (CLG) versus 100 Thieves (100)
    11am Monday
    In theory, this match-up is considerably closer than the first two, depending on how exactly your power rankings fall.

    In practise, short of 100 having a surprise game plan, the skill gap here is greater than power rankings might indicate; CLG have outright stronger players in every lane bar top, and even then Darshan should at least be able to avoid getting too far behind.

    Golden Guardians (GGS) versus Cloud9 (C9)
    12pm Monday
    Not a close skill match-up, but I’m still really excited to watch this game. I got a huge kick out of the C9 versus FLY match-ups last year, and with Hai and Contractz on GGS, this is going to be fun. Similar to the last match, I don’t see GGS winning this without some tricks up their sleeve… but of all the teams to have tricks, the one with Hai is the one to look at.

    Echo Fox (FOX) versus Clutch Gaming (CG)
    1pm Monday
    The final game for day two is the least predictable in my book, but still not impossible to call. These teams both have clear strengths and weaknesses in their roster, but knowing that proto-CG made it into playoffs last year, I’ve got to give actual CG the advantage here.

    All of this should be taken with an appropriately large grain of salt, of course. We’ve not seen any of these teams play together yet! What do you expect (or just really want) to see out of the first week of the LCS?

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