NA LCS 2018 Spring Predictions

The 2018 Spring split will be unlike all others. The NA LCS has franchised, and have replaced 5 out of 10 teams. These are my opinions.

Written by Alex Musa


Ticking Time Bombs

These four teams have built rosters for the long term. They worked top-down to create a system that will succeed eventually, if not immediately. All four have very talented rosters, but not necessarily outrageous amounts of mechanical ability. Patient, macro-oriented tortoises such as Aphromoo and ReignOver will try to win the race by creating strong team synergy and identity over the course of the year.

Team SoloMid

United States
Andy “Reginald” Dinh — Owner
Leena Xu — Manager
Kim “SSONG” Sang-soo — Coach

Michael “MikeYeung” Yeung and Alfonso “Mithy” Aguirre Rodriguez

Starting Roster:
Hauntzer — Top
MikeYeung — Jungle
Bjergsen — Mid
Zven — Bot
Mithy — Support

Players to Watch:

MikeYeung
New to the scene last year, MikeYeung was at least a successful rookie, and at most a prodigy finding his footing. He showed mechanical prowess and good game sense, and it will be exciting to see how far he goes under TSM’s guidance.

Mithy
A sort of “Yell0wStar Junior,” Mithy has never been credited too highly for his mechanical play, but made up for it in strong tactical play. That being said, he’s surrounded himself with strong carries and has made it far at Worlds in the past. The majority of TSM’s shot-calling will be on his shoulders this year.

Prediction:

Seeing how TSM has consistently had powerful individual players and a solid coaching staff, it should be a no-brainer to put TSM at the top of every power ranking by the end of the Summer Split. However, that doesn’t mean they won’t have a huge mountain to climb. The influx of strong players and crafting of strong rosters during this year’s preseason means TSM might struggle more than usual during the Spring. I put them at third place for the regular season, but I wouldn’t bet against them getting first in playoffs.

100 Thieves

United States
Matthew “Nadeshot” Haag — Owner
Neil “pr0lly” Hammad — Coach

Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black and Sang-ook “Ryu” Yoo

Starting Roster:
Ssumday — Top
Meteos — Jungle
Ryu — Mid
Cody Sun — Bot
Aphromoo — Support

Players to watch:

Ryu
Taking some time to look at Ryu’s past, I’ve found it troubled with inconsistency. That inconsistency usually comes by the hand of poor team synergy or major slumps. Fortunately for 100 Thieves, they crafted a roster with friendly and dedicated players. I expect Ryu to start off slow, then grow into a bold, play making shot caller by the end of the Spring.

Aphromoo
The inconsistency train doesn’t end with Ryu. Aphromoo has been plagued with patches of poor play throughout his career. The mechanical ability he once was praised for early on has deteriorated as he focused more on his tactical play. Watch out for his engages and warding endeavors, as these are where he could get caught out and cost his team an objective.

Prediction:

Nadeshot has found some brilliant minds from all across the globe and put them in a team together. While this might mean it takes some time to build solid communication and synergy, they have potential. Ryu has been on teams with both Ssumday and pr0lly in the past, and the other players have historically good work ethic. This should make for a faster ramp-up time than other teams, but they might run into some obstacles due to their League of Legends department being in its infancy. I believe these players should get it together by the end of Spring, but they’re still only at 6th on my list. I expect them to make a decent playoff run.

Cloud9

United States
Jack Etienne — Owner
Danan Flander — Manager
Han-gyu “Reapered” Bok — Coach

Eric “Licorice” Ritchie and Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen

Starting Roster:
Licorice — Top
Svenskeren — Jungle
Jensen — Mid
Sneaky — Bot
Smoothie — Support

Players to Watch:

Licorice
As is tradition with Cloud9 splits, Licorice will most likely start off as a solid player, then blossom into a carry or shot caller by the end of the split. Since he’s a rookie, it’s an obvious topic of discussion going into the first couple of weeks. Listen up for story lines from the on-air talent about his improvements.

Svenskeren
Filling Contractz’s shoes as Jensen’s babysitter might be too much for Svenskeren, but I doubt it. Svenskeren has played with a handful of powerful mid laners in his career. I’m predicting plenty of bodying in the midlane by Jensen and Svenskeren.

Prediction:

Jack has a track record of creating superstars overnight. Contractz, Smoothie, and Ray are all quite strong players that started off as rookies on Cloud9. At this point, if Jack has picked up a rookie for any role, it’s easy to trust his foresight. I should mention that Cloud9 were also very eager to draft rookies from the Scouting Grounds. They bought multiple draft slots from their NA LCS partners. These new Cloud9 players will help to enable Jensen’s carry role, and they will look better and better as time goes on. I predict they will be in 4th by the end of Spring.

Counter-Logic Gaming

Canada
George “HotshotGG” Georgallidis — Owner
Matthew “MaTTcom” Marikian — Manager
Tony “Zikzlol” Gray — Coach

Yeu-jin “ReignOver” Kim and Jae-hyun “HuHi” Choi

Starting Roster:
Darshan — Top
ReignOver — Jungle
HuHi — Mid
Stixxay — Bot
Biofrost — Support

Players to Watch:

ReignOver
From once having the nickname “GameOver” to claiming LCS MVP, ReignOver has written a familiar story for himself. If he has the right team around him, he can do great things. If not, it’s time to find a new bandwagon. One common talking point during the preseason was synergy between the Jungle and Support roles. The members of CLG have a lot to prove in this area. If Biofrost and Reignover find their groove, it could mean trouble for the rest of the league.

HuHi
Having a breakout year in 2017, HuHi needs to keep momentum going and start rivaling the Bjergsens and Jensens of the world to keep CLG in the running for first. With his strong communication and shot calling ability, HuHi could easily become an MVP candidate with enough hard work.

Prediction:

CLG is one of the few teams in the world that has made rosters work without much mechanical skill, but that was with Aphromoo. This team now hopes to make ReignOver the tactical center of the team, or perhaps HuHi has learned enough to take that role. Without any concrete answers to these questions left by Aphromoo’s departure, the only thing to keep the faith is CLG’s renowned infrastructure. Solid players in every role and a proven coaching staff should let this new roster find success eventually. I predict CLG will get it together rather quickly, and their core of Darshan, HuHi, and Stixxay should be able to carry them to 2nd place by the end of Spring.


Explosive Rosters

Having mechanically skilled players can mean a lot. However, if you stack too many of them on the same roster without any shot-callers, you face potential sustainability issues. With only middle tier shot-callers on either team, these two have a lot of ground to gain in the early stages with their tight mechanical core. Strong and aggressive players such as Huni, Dardoch, and Akaadian will get wins for these two teams early on, but it’s up to the coaching staff and other players to support them and keep their momentum going into the Summer.

Echo Fox

North America
Rick Fox — Owner
Jake “Ginko” Fyfe — Manager
Nicholas “Inero” Smith — Coach

Seung-hoon “Huni” Heo and Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett

Starting Roster:
Huni — Top
Dardoch — Jungle
FeniX — Mid
Altec — Bot
Adrian — Support

Players to watch:

Huni
While many would call 2017 a success for SKT Huni, it’s tough to say he lived up to the potential we all saw in him. With his alleged raw skill and SKT’s legendary coaching staff, Huni was expected to dominate the world and match Faker’s elite status. Only time will tell how dominant he can be on a fourth team in four years.

Dardoch
Dardoch has had a rocky past with a variety of teammates, one of which was FeniX. With fairly charming and passive teammates, this could be the right fit for him to shine as an aggressive jungler.

Prediction:

This team looks scary on paper. All five of these players had success in the past individually, and looked like carries in one way or another. On the other hand, only Huni has ever won a split of LCS. Aside from a few glaring issues to sort out, the risks taken by Echo Fox have enough upside to be worth it. I predict Echo Fox makes it to playoffs in 5th place.

OpTic Gaming

United States
Hector “H3CZ” Rodriguez — Onwer
Romain Bigeard — Manager
Thomas “Zaboutine” Si Hassan — Coach

Matthew “Akaadian” Higginbotham and Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage

Starting Roster:
Zig — Top
Akaadian — Jungle
PowerOfEvil — Mid
Arrow — Bot
LemonNation — Support

Players to watch:

Akaadian
This 2017 rookie burst onto the scene with aggression and calculated risk-taking. Eventually it fell short of teams with higher macro-oriented play, but the potential was always there. The question is, can he use this new roster to back up his bold plays, or will history repeat itself?

PowerOfEvil
Throughout the last few years, POE has shown strange picks and unconventional builds for nearly every champion he plays. It’s very possible that on a fresh team and in a new country, he could take some time to find his bearings. Once he does, I fully expect NA mid laners be thrown off by his unique strategies.

Prediction:

Grabbing Romain Bigeard from Unicorns was a bold and strong move politically, as well as getting strong recruitment ability. With Romain’s connections in Europe as well as his showmanship, OpTic was able to pick up a unique mix of global and local talent. This should make for a spicy Spring season, throwing their opponents off guard. Unfortunately, I doubt they will carry it too much further, putting them at 7th on my list.


Wild Cards

Usually in these articles, we find a section where the writer bashes on a few select teams they don’t like, or think are overrated. This isn’t much different. I have many concerns with all four of these teams, even though they could easily prove me wrong (Team Liquid in particular).

FlyQuest

North America
Wes Eden — Owner
Josh Kim — Manager
Robert Yip — Coach

Andy “AnDa” Hoang and Jason “WildTurtle” Tran

Starting Roster:
Flame — Top
AnDa — Jungle
Fly — Mid
WildTurtle — Bot
Stunt — Support

Players to Watch:

AnDa
AnDa wasn’t always a Jungler. He used to play Top on previous teams. Switching roles has its ups and downs. We’ve seen it work well when great players swap roles such as Aphromoo and Ambition, but sometimes we forget the failures, like when HotShotGG played jungle. It sometimes takes new junglers some time to get used to their new role, as we’ve seen. The likes of Hai, bigfatlp, and more have tried their hand at jungling and all 3 eventually left the role. Will AnDa be different?

WildTurtle
During his time in the LCS, WildTurtle has had some questionable performances. Some call him over-aggressive, some call him a bad player. Regardless of community feedback, his teammates continually praise him as a solid role-player and an enjoyable personality to play alongside. We’ll have to see if this is the year he can prove all the haters wrong.

Prediction:
With plenty of individual talent, the success of this team comes down to its coaching staff and tactical execution. FlyQuest have yet to prove their worth next to the TSMs and Cloud9s of the world, so it’s hard to put them too highly on any power ranking. However, they have heavy star power and some big names in their coaching staff, so writing them off could be a huge mistake. Unfortunately, someone has to come last. I predict FlyQuest to end 10th.

Team Liquid

Netherlands
Steve “LiQuiD112” Arhancet — Co-Owner
Victor “Nazgul” Goossens — Co-Owner
Steve “jokasteve” Perino — Manager
David “Varsix” Lim — Coach

Yiliang (Peter) “Doublelift” Peng and Jake “Xmithie” Puchero

Starting Roster:
Impact — Top
Xmithie — Jungle
Pobelter — Mid
Doublelift — Bot
Olleh — Support

Players to Watch:

Xmithie
With such an up and down past, It’s odd to me that the League community has cemented Xmithie as a star Jungler. He’s been on some great teams and done work on his good days, but does that erase his rocky mechanics and questionable shot calling of the past? I’d say no, but his recent success and intelligent mind for the game might imply a bright future for Team Liquid.

Doublelift
This half of Rush Hour has kept in the spotlight for his entire LCS career, and even held it before that with his Blitzcrank and Poppy play. His trash talk and consistency are legendary, but he’s always seem to hit a ceiling when heading to international competition. It’s hard to doubt his regional dominance, but what will happen if he gets to Worlds again?

Prediction:

Team Liquid is the biggest question mark of all. Having so much star power has been a boon of Team Liquid in the past, but unfortunately they’ve never quite made it work for them. With all of the hype surrounding this new star-studded team, will TL finally be able to break their fourth place curse? It’s hard to believe they’ll flop this time. I mean, right? Right, guys? Despite my reservations, I put them to be 1st at the end of Spring. However, I doubt they will make it past quarterfinals during playoffs.

Golden Guardians

United States
Hunter Leigh — Owner
Daniel “dGon” Gonzales — Manager
Yoon-seop “Locodoco” Choi — Coach

Hai “Hai” Lam and Matthew “Matt” Elento

Starting Roster:
Lourlo — Top
Contractz — Jungle
Hai — Mid
Deftly — Bot
Matt — Support

Players to Watch:

Hai
Hai is in a similar boat as players like HuHi and Aphromoo. He’s very strong tactically, transitions strategic to tactical fluidly, and thinks well on the fly. However, this has historically come at the cost of his laning ability and mechanics. Will Matt pick up some of the slack and allow Hai to grow into a confident initiator rather than a strategic mastermind?

Matt
Matt has finally been freed from the chains of Team Liquid. This switch from high drama to Hai drama could be the change MattLife needs to come into his own as a confident young talent.

Prediction:

After their cringy roster announcement video, it’s tough to have confidence with seemingly such low levels of cultural investment into esports. That being said, there are plenty of veterans on this roster, and with Hai leading the way, GGS has potential to learn very quickly how to function in the LCS. While there’s not much hope for a title (or even a playoff berth) this year, watch out for some all-star roster acquisitions in the next year or so. I put them at 9th this split.

Clutch Gaming

United States
Tilman Fertitta — Owner
Toby “Pyrex” Kwon — Manager
David “DLim” Lim — Coach

Fabian “Febiven” Diepstraten and Tae-yoo “Lira” Nam

Starting Roster:
Solo — Top
Lira — Jungle
Febiven — Mid
Apollo — Bot
Hakuho — Support

Players to Watch:

Lira
Lira has been a huge carry threat for a while. The theory is he’s been held back by a poor team environment. It’s possible the preseason roster moves will help him shine even brighter in 2018.

Febiven
If Febiven’s in his groove, he makes waves. He didn’t make it to Worlds quarterfinals alone, but he had his fair share of carry performances. His individual play-making alongside Lira’s shot-calling and aggressive jungle style could eventually find some real purchase in the LCS.

Prediction:

With three players and a coach remaining from EnVyUs, This team doesn’t look like a huge upgrade aside from their EU import Febiven. However, if we take a look at the top lane, their top laner Seraph (who was widely believed to be a toxic teammate) is nowhere to be found. Does this mean a reinvigorated roster with more talent and stronger infrastructure? Probably. Will it take them time to find their footing? Unless Febiven carries them every game, also probably. I predict they don’t get much higher than 6th throughout the season and end up in 8th.


End of Spring Standings

  1. Team Liquid
  2. Counter Logic Gaming
  3. Team SoloMid
  4. Cloud9
  5. Echo Fox
  6. 100 Thieves
  7. OpTic Gaming
  8. Clutch Gaming
  9. Golden Guardians
  10. FlyQuest