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NA LCS: Winners and losers of transfer season

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Expert
17th December, 2018
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A couple of week ago I wrote an article about the new LEC rosters – the ones we knew, at least.

With the North American LCS teams more or less locked in, what better time than now to see who came out of transfer season smelling of roses and who smells of… something else?

100 Thieves
100 Thieves might have been the pariah of American fans after their poor showing at Worlds and their strained relationship with former-AD Carry Cody Sun, but their success on the domestic scene was undeniable in the past 12 months.

Bang, despite the stick he gets for SKT’s fall from grace, is definitely an upgrade on Cody. Huhi, on the other hand, is difficult to get excited about.

Ryu, I feel, is a spent force, but Huhi is hardly a superstar replacement. Still, this team looks slightly better on average than last year, even if Huhi is a bit of a sideways move.

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Cloud 9
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it seems to be the C9 motto going into 2019. Sort of. The loss of Jensen was unexpected but Nisqy is a decent replacement.

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A lot of C9’s belated success in 2018 was due to their willingness to ring the changes but Jensen was one of the two best mid laners in North America.

It’s hard to imagine the team that made it to Worlds semi-finals a couple of months ago will suddenly become a train-wreck because of a single change, but other teams have made strict upgrades to their own rosters whereas this one is questionable.

People playing games at Tokyo Game Show

Esports continues to grow. ( The Yomiuri Shimbun via AP Images )

Clutch Gaming
With four new players on the squad, Clutch is a difficult one to judge without seeing the team in action. Huni on form is definitely an improvement over Solo, but he had a tendency to not always show that form.

Damonte is a reasonable replacement for Febiven, who didn’t really set the league on fire like we hoped he might. Piglet hasn’t been at his best for a long time so I don’t know what to say about him.

Perhaps the fact that he and support Vulcan have spent some time on academy teams will have dragged him out of his malaise but I have my doubts.

Counter Logic Gaming
CLG somehow went from being a top NA contender to a team that is hard to get excited about. Reignover seems like his best days are behind him and bringing in some new blood in the shape of Wriggily could be the best thing for all concerned.

PowerofEvil, similarly, was in need of a change after Optic failed to impress last year but will CLG bring out the best in him? This team has “middle of the table” written all over it.

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Echo Fox
All change, everybody out. Echo Fox, despite a promising start to 2018, replaced its entire roster in the off season.

It’s difficult to know where to start with this brand new amalgamation of players but I guess Rush’s return is as good as anywhere. A successful year with KT Rolster will have done his confidence a world of good after being relegated to C9’s challenger team the year before that. Fenix, meanwhile, was once touted as the next big thing, but spent last split as a free agent. Will he play like he has something to prove?

With a so-so botlane of Hakuho and Apollo, he might have to. A lot of this team’s hopes rest on the shoulders of their new jungler so let’s hope he’s up to the task.

FlyQuest
They may have finally moved out of Cloud 9’s shadow last season, but as a team they were almost exactly average.

A 10-8 record and sixth place finish was decent, so it would make sense for them to sign some solid players and press forward. Instead, they gave up their key asset in top laner Flame and traded their mid laner for the shrug-worthy Pobelter.

It’s not that Pobelter is bad, he’s just not much better than the guy he’s replacing. This is the first team where I’m sure they have downgraded their roster, so big is the loss of Flame

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Golden Guardians
You might have expected a team that finished bottom of the league to ring the changes in the upcoming season and GG have done just. Top, mid and support have all changed and they have mostly been upgraded.

The Guardians have done a great job of picking up the leftovers of other teams: Hauntzer from TSM and Olleh from Liquid are both massive improvements.

Swapping Mickey for Froggen is the only question mark. Certainly, Mickey did not have the impact GG hoped for, but Froggen hasn’t competed at the top level for some time now, and when he last did, it was part of a mediocre team.

If class is truly permanent, as the old saying goes, Froggen is probably another improvement, making it three out of three for Golden Guardians. I will be shocked if they repeat their last place performance next season.

Optic Gaming
Now this is a spicy one. The allegedly mistreated Meteos is back on the starting lineup of an LCS team and he’s bringing former-world champion Crown with him. It all sounds great until you factor in Crown’s loss of form between his world title and his crashing out of the same tournament a year later.

He was dismal at this year’s Worlds and barely played in the LCK over the course of the year. I hope a move like this can reignite his latent talent, because it must still be in there somewhere. As for Meteos, he seems to do well wherever he goes so I don’t doubt that he will thrive with the new challenge.

Team Liquid
How do you improve on winning the summer split? How about importing a former world champion and arguably the best mid laner in your region? CoreJJ’s Gen G team may have struggled at Worlds this year, but his pedigree is unquestionable and he will be hungry to prove that it was just a blip.

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Elsewhere, Liquid offloaded its weakest member in the eyes of most observers and replaced him with one of the best localised players in the role. That’s what I call good business, and I expect Liquid to be the team to beat for the foreseeable future.

The teams Misfits Gaming and G2 Esports compete in final of the 'LCS', the first European division of the video game 'League of Legends', at the AccorHotels Arena in Paris on September 3, 2017.

(CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP/Getty Images)

Team SoloMid
The dynasty may have fallen, but TSM is not looking to feel sorry for itself. Mithy may have wanted out, but it’s fair to see that he struggled during his tenure. Smoothie is a capable if unexciting replacement who should at least stabilise a part of the map that had been all over the place previously. Top lane is where TSM have taken a gamble, though.

Broken Blade comes in to replace a Hauntzer who been performing just fine. The ex-Supermassive player is the first Turkish export to join a major region and has a lot to prove. I’m excited to see if he can do it, but I have to admit the TCL is not my area of expertise.

He did lead his team to a 22-6 record in their summer split last year, and a 2nd place finish in playoffs, but the LCS is a big step up. This could turn out to be a master stroke from the TSM management, or it might end up looking very silly.