Another year of the NA LCS is soon to begin, which means it is time to boil down highly uninformed assumptions into a ranking list! With this list I am suggesting where I believe each team will lie in the rankings before turning towards the playoffs. In this brazen attempt to make my speculated standings I did not just consider the roster at face value, but also elements like players’ histories, potential roster cohesion, and coaching impact. I may not highlight each of these things directly when discussing a team,but I am briefly bringing up what I consider be the most significant contributing factor to that team’s success. Before I continue to babble on about my flimsy criteria, let’s just get into it. That way you can argue why I am wrong faster!
1. Team Liquid
Don’t really think we need to spend too much time discussing why Team Liquid is at the top of this ranking. While it was questionable whether or not Team Liquid was going to take the title at the start of the 2018 Spring Split, it is nothing more than an expectation heading into 2019.Unless Team Liquid face TSM in the playoffs resulting in the classic scene of Jensen choking to Bjergsen, Team Liquid should make it to the top easily.
With the performance Cloud9 had at worlds, I am sure some are putting them as a clear number one team and why shouldn’t they? Cloud9 has had the luxury of having the fewest roster swaps in the NA LCS and were even able to retain their backups. Aside from how Nisqy will fit into the team, Cloud9 should have the easiest time transitioning into the 2019 Spring Split. On those notes, I absolutely agree Cloud9 will have the fewest bumps compared to any other teams and will perform splendidly. I just have to hold Cloud9’s history against them, because for as great of a performance they have provided on the world stage they tend to trip themselves domestically. Whether this is a result of Cloud9 just trying to better themselves or out-mind game their opponent, they occasionally do something rather head scratching. I don’t want to poke at Cloud9 here for long ,because they have hushed doubters plenty of times before. I just think back to picking Twitch in the NA LCS 2018 Summer finals match and ask whether Cloud9 out-mind gamed themselves. Outside of that, there are a few other examples of strange and somewhat incoherent decisions that deny them a first place spot on this ranking.
3. 100 Thieves
100 Thieves roster got some upgrades in both the AD and mid lane roles. It goes without saying why Bang is going to be force to be reckoned, but I can understand a twitch of tear when Huhi’s name comes up. Huhi within a single season goes from the best, to the worst mid laner very rapidly and has yet to escape the moniker of a one-trick Aurelion Sol main. While it seems like you never know what kind of Huhi your going to get, when Huhi does hit his highs he looks unstoppable. I am willing to bet this year we will see Huhi reach a significantly higher number of those highs after rejoining his former teammate aphromoo. The synergy Huhi and aphromoo share has helped them in the past and under a top laner like Ssumday, 100 Thieves should flourish.
Golden Guardians are quite possibly going to be everyone’s favorite team to talk about. Outside of Deflty, we are going to hear over and over again about how this roster has something to prove against their old teams. This rhetoric is serviced well here and heck, I am gonna join in too; Haunzter was passed over for a non-resident with speculative talent, Contractz is still trying to make-up for his mistake of jumping from Cloud9, Froggen is trying to show he still has it, and Olleh just got kicked from the previous NA LCS champion Team Liquid. Although, it is difficult to think of Olleh having any kind of vendetta against a player, if it is going to be anyone it might as well be Doublelift. Not only outside of the story though, but Deftly is also outside the high expectations of his teammates. I don’t have too many concerns about this though, because we have seen Olleh do well to support and build up his lane partner. With revenge filled eyes, I expect Golden Guardians to ravage their way into a playoff spot.
This might be the most reasonable I have ever been when ranking CLG. I usually take the bait and hop aboard the CLG faith and friends cruise which has very often sunk at port. Weldon returning to Counter Logic Gaming as a head coach, however, gives me a sense of safety when putting them in a playoff position. Weldon at this point has made a name for himself by fixing up rosters and turning them into success stories. While Weldon is well known for his work with TSM, people tend to forget he was with CLG when they won their first NA LCS Championship. As it so happens, the only player left from that CLG Championship era is Darshan who at the time looked like one of the best top laners in the league. Similarly to Huhi, Darshan has a history of being either the best or worst player in their respective role. Whatever the reason may be on any given day, I have to think with Weldon’s presence Darshan will become more consistent and really that is all CLG need. CLG now have PowerOfEvil as a carry threat and CLG’s bottom lane is one of the best in the league. If I had more definitive proof that Darshan could hold evenly against his opposition, I would be willing to put CLG higher up on this list.
The roster FlyQuest was able to engineer this off season is quite commendable. While there isn’t much of an exceptionally flashy player(expect WildTurtle going after a kill), FlyQuest could make a bid for playoffs. They have nice stable core based around Pobleter and JayJ, and can look to Santorin and WildTurtle to inch out advantages. V1per is definitely an unknown, but perhaps another team can strike gold with an Academy player similarly to Cloud9’s Licorice. Compared to other teams in the league, this might just be the most stable roster which should allow them to stroll into playoffs.
I have to put FlyQuest right at the edge of 6th place though, because of the absence of Saintvicious. There was a distinct turn around in FlyQuest’s performance when Saintvicious stepped in last split and we even saw Santorin step up to present his case as one of the best junglers in the league. Unfortunately, with the dismissal of Saintvicious from the team I have to question whether FlyQuest will remember those passed lessons for success.
Before TSM announced the unfortunate benching of Grig due to wrist issues, I was prepared to elevate TSM towards the upper half of my rankings. This difference in the jungle position though removes a vast amount of goodwill and faith. TSM’s history with junglers is not stellar as they tend to lobotomize players in the position with a propensity for an aggressive play style. Amazing, Santorin, and Svenskeren have all fallen prey to TSM’s teachings and were turned into a wards. Although all of these junglers have had success since leaving TSM, it seemed to take a while to break brainless habits.
Then Grig appeared, not playing Lee Sin, and actually served TSM’s wishes well of being a supportive style jungler. Although TSM did not go further than a playoff appearance in 2018, they did find their jungler. In the offseason, TSM did well with noting their lack of a play maker and brought Smoothie in as a welcome addition. While I am uncertain of Broken Blades potential, we should be able to assume he offers more than Hauntzer. Under the strategic mind of Zikz this team sounds terrifying, but with a different jungler it seems more likely to fail. Zikz’s time on CLG didn’t do much to prove his ability of how to handle plugging in a jungler. While I have no doubts about Zikz’s ability craft winning strategies, what happens if losses start coming in and moral drops. TSM no longer have the ability to call Weldon Green to fix their problems and as the years go on it is getting harder for Bjergsen to 1v9
I really don’t want this roster to be the swan song of Crown, but I think it is the swan song of Crown. The first red flag in this closing ballad is the obvious universal mixed results non-resident players tend to have coming to a new region. While the thought of Crown performing poorly is nearly inadmissible as a former World Champion, I don’t think he is going to get anywhere with this roster. Dhokla had an impressive end to his 2018 Summer split once supplied with resources to carry, but has yet garner my faith as a top tier player. The jungler position draws concern because while Meteos can get the job done, you have Dardoch floating around in the Academy position probably waiting to stake his claim at a starting role. If the threat of possible teammate tribulations wasn’t enough to dissuade a higher ranking, you then have OpTic Gaming’s bottom lane, Arrow and BIG. This is easily the most forgettable bottom lane duo in the NA LCS which is truly heartbreaking in regards to Arrow who not so long ago was the 2017 Spring Split MVP. I can see Crown bring up some big wins for OpTic Gaming, but nothing more for this disheveled crew.
Last year was a pretty dry year for drama, but now we have Piglet back in the league! Not going to beat around the bush or deny that I believe this team is going to break apart at the seams. The presence of both a strong willed Huni and Piglet sounds like a wonderfully disastrous combination. I am usually not one to revel in the thought of a teams potential implosion, but it feels like we have a plane about to nose dive into a train. If this roster doesn’t change by week 4 or even week 1, I will be pleasantly surprised.
If I take a moment from my gawking and assume this roster gets along daintily, I can imagine a world where they perform to their desired style. In this imaginative world though, I keep them in the same spot on my list. If it isn’t the emotional roller coaster ruining their play, it will be their over aggression. While head coach mcscrag has already worked with Piglet on Clutch Gaming’s academy team and may help balance the roster out, the volatility of this squad is incomparable to any other in the league.
Outside of Rush, no one on this roster really catches my eye. I would have to describe the rest of the members of this roster as “plug and play” laners. What I mean by, “plug and play” laners is that they do their job and not much more. I will not argue against these players having the occasional breakout performance, nor am I saying that being called a“plug and play” laner a bad thing. Rosters need teammates that are going to act as a supporting force and allow their star players to absorb more resources. In the case of Echo Fox, I really don’t see anyone other than Rush being that star player. If someone else steps, up then by all means Echo Fox can climb up the standings and even make a playoff appearance. But that just presents the saying, “easier said than done.”