-By Edward Brady
The LCS is the North American League of Legends professional league and one of the 4 major regions in the League of Legends Esports scene, where players compete on franchised teams for fame, pride, a considerable salary, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash prizes. You may remember our brief coverage of the League of Legends World Championship last year; these Regional seasons are the build-up to the international tournaments. Although there are a total of 12 official leagues all around the world in places like Europe, Korea, China, and more, I will only be covering the North American scene as time zones are unfortunately a thing. Here is a small preview and what to expect of the teams that will make up the 2021 League Championship Series, power ranked from highest to lowest expectations and split into 5 tiers This part will cover the 5th and final tier: the rebuilds.
Rebuilding: These teams are going through pretty major rebuilds, did away with large parts of their rosters, and are starting many players new to the big stage. There is a reason for optimism as they will definitely be better next year with more experience or even in summer if they develop fast... but don’t expect much of them this split.
Top: FakeGod (from 100T Academy)
Mid: Soligo (from 100t Academy)
ADC: Neo (from Dignitas Academy)
V1per, Top (free agent)
Lourlo, Top: to Dignitas
Akaadian, Jungle: to Dignitas Academy
Fenix, Mid: to Dignitas Academy
Froggen, Mid (free agent)
Johnsun, ADC: to Flyquest
Previous Year: Going into the off-season Dignitas (formerly known as Clutch Gaming) had a lot of promise, they had just made a miracle gauntlet run, made it to Worlds and most of their talent was young and promising. Inexplicably, Dignitas let 4/5ths of that roster go, keeping only Huni and extending him with a 3.2-million-dollar (reportedly 1/3rd of their entire LCS budget) deal. The new roster was a mix of veterans and young talent but didn’t amount to much. In Spring despite starting 3-1 and remaining at .500 for 3 weeks, Dignitas couldn’t keep up with the rest of the league finishing in a 3-way tie for 6th, beating Immortals but losing to the Golden Guardians to miss the playoffs and finish 7th.
Summer started even worse, due to inconsistency, Dignitas ditched Huni for V1per. They also picked up Dardoch from TSM, this came in handy when the original roster went winless for the 1st 4 weeks. Dignitas spent most of the summer in the basement subbing out Akaadian for Dardoch, Froggen for Fenix, and despite V1per’s underperformance on anything other than Riven, and Lourlo winning the game he was subbed in for, keeping V1per in the top lane. Despite all their failures, flaws, and finishing with 5 wins they managed to tie CLG for 8th and win the tiebreaker match to make it to the playoffs. Dignitas made a convincing argument for why there shouldn’t be an 8 team playoff as TSM ran all over them.
Off-season and expectations: Dignitas made some efforts towards fixing their issues by getting rid of V1per and attempting to look elsewhere for mid lane talent but this might have come at a cost. The ADC Johnsun was undoubtedly the best part of Dignitas, despite being a rookie and the rest of the team not being so great, Johnsun showed serious promise and could’ve been the cornerstone of the franchise going forward. He left for the greener pastures of Flyquest. Dardoch and Aphromoo were solid enough and Aphromoo has been seeing a resurgence of sorts after a rough 2019. Soligo and FakeGod both had received spots on the main 100T roster, but it was quite obvious they were nowhere near ready. More time in the academy has given them time to improve and properly prepare. Neo is making his first-ever LCS start. Hopefully, this year can serve as a learning year for these young players and Dardoch and Aphromoo can serve as leaders. Maybe they’ll be something interesting down the line, but due to the top of the table being so stacked, don’t expect much of them this year.
Top: Revenge (from Flyquest Academy)
Jungle: Xerxe (from Astralis)
ADC: Raes (from Legacy Esports)
Support: Destiny (from Astralis)
sOAZ, Top: to LDLC OL as coach
Allorim, Top: to official LCS broadcast
Xmithie, Jungle (Free agent)
Potluck, Jungle: to Immortals Academy
Eika, Mid: back to LDLC OL
Apollo and Altec, ADC (free agents)
Hakuho and Gate, Support (free agents)
Previous Year: Once upon a time, Immortals was a beloved up and coming team who was willing to drop millions on the biggest and best names, was one of the few teams outside of the “old guard” (TSM, CLG, C9) to achieve any meaningful success, even making Worlds in their 2nd year of existence. That was before due to financial issues, they were denied a spot for franchising in 2018, they bought out Optic Gaming’s spot in 2019 Their return to the league went… poorly. The roster-building started out strong signing former Immortals player Xmithie but then things got questionable. sOAZ was once a World Finalist and incredible EU top laner, but he was coming off of a bad year with Misfits. There were questions as to whether he was worth the import slot or not (context: each team can only start 2 imports, so if you get an import, he better pull his weight) Altec and Hakuho have been around for a while and have earned the reputation of good, but not great. The real question was the signing of import mid lane Eika. This move was heavily questioned as Eika had little experience at the highest level, plenty of impressive native mid laners weren’t finding spots. Notable names included Pobelter, 3 time LCS champ, and Damonte who had recently made it to Worlds.
Immortals had a decent start, going 4-2 to start spring and shaking off some of the doubters, but they never looked dominant in their wins and looked ugly in their losses. People were just waiting for the other shoe to drop. They eventually fizzled out finishing 8-10 losing a tiebreaker and finishing 8th. Considering how they failed to beat good teams and the lack of star power, changes were expected to be made.
Somehow at the beginning of summer, not only did they get worse they earned the ire of the community. Xmithie, 6 time LCS champion was inexplicably benched for Potluck, a player from the 9th place academy team. Hakuho was also subbed out for their academy counterparts This was also not helped as on social media, Immortals began to talk trash about Cloud 9, the team that went 26-2 over spring and had brought NA some of the only World Championship success the region has. This backfired immensely as Immortals tried to play the role of the “villain” but instead just ended up looking like clowns. The only thing worse than their social media was their in-game performance as the revamped roster started 0-4. It got so bad there were conspiracies that the only reason sOAZ and Eika had starting spots was that they were French like their coach Zaboutine. These theories are completely unsupported and I chalk up these baffling roster moves more to complete and utter incompetence on Immortals part. Zaboutine was horrible on Optic Gaming yet when they bought the spot they kept him around? The culture of only accepting the best for the team was obviously long dead.
This resulted in Immortals overhauling the entire roster in week 3, dropping Potluck back to the academy, and taking the rest of the team with him, as they brought back Xmithie, Apollo, and hakuho as well as promoting Allorim and Insanity. The “new” academy squad finished 8th adding extra unintentional hilarity to the clown show that is this franchise There were some brief flashes of promise here and there but they didn’t fare that much better. Overall the team only won half as many games as they did the last split and finished the split dead last. Dead last in a league where the aforementioned Dignitas and CLG exist. Ouch.
Off-season and expectations: This off-season has begun a big rebuild for Immortals as all players on both academy and main rosters last year will not be playing in the LCS. Potluck simply stayed in Academy but the others' fates were more varied. As of January 8th Eika headed back overseas to his previous EU masters team LDLC OL, and sOAZ joined him to coach the team. Xmithie, despite all his previous accomplishments, did not find a team, whether he will keep looking or choose to call it quits is yet to be seen. Gate, Altec, Apollo, and Hakuho also did not get any offers. Considering how much 1 bad split can affect a player’s market value I fear that they may have an uphill battle if they ever want to start again. Allorim has actually managed to land a spot on the Riot LCS broadcast team. He had made some appearances on the analyst desk before and he was very well-spoken. I look forward to seeing him on the analyst desk and wish him the best of luck.
Immortals were left with the perilous task of building an LCS roster from scratch. They started by bringing in the coach, jungler, and support of EU team Astralis. Although Astralis finished 10th place last summer, hopefully, they can get back on their feet in NA. Immortals have also benefited from the OPL (Oceanic Pro League) dissolving as OPL “imports” now count as residents, and thus do not take up an import slot, This allowed Immortals to pick up Raes, who made it to Worlds and was a big part of Legacy Esports taking the OPL to new heights. They stuck with Insanity who was really promising last year but was prone to making rookie mistakes which will have hopefully been solved this year. The only “questionable” signing was Revenge, as Immortals drafted a top laner, Tony Top with the first pick of the draft earlier this year, didn’t sign him and let him go to EG Academy instead signing the top laner from the ninth place Academy team. Not sure what they were going for with that one but maybe this squad will turn into something special with more experience. For now, though they will have to learn and grow, but that growth will probably involve many losses.
Top: Niles (from Maryville University, drafted 4th)
Jungle: Iconic (from Maryville University)
Mid: Ablazeolive (from Golden Guardians Academy)
ADC: Stixxay (from CLG)
Support: Newbie (from All Knights)
Hauntzer, Top: to TSM Academy
Closer, Jungle: to 100T
Damonte, Mid: to 100T
FBI, ADC: to 100T
Huhi, Support: to 100T
Keith, Support: to IMT Academy
Previous Year: Golden Guardians had a much better year than their placements would suggest. Coming into the year, the Golden Guardians roster just seemed to scream "poverty franchise" with an old but good top laner, a jungle and ADC nobody had heard of, Goldenglue (enough said) in the midlane and a support who wasn't even a support (Keith was an ADC for years) before eventually being subbed out for another role swapped support (Huhi played mid originally) jokes and predictions that Golden Guardians would remain in the basement as they have been for most of their existence. (1 playoff appearance, two last-place finishes, no winning seasons)
Despite this, the roster worked surprisingly well, Hauntzer was regaining some of his old form Closer and FBI proved themselves and the Keith/Huhi duo wasn't a liability like expected, they were even good. They still didn't finish above .500 but they made the playoffs… and were promptly swept aside by Flyquest. It was a start.
Summer was where things really picked up, after dropping Goldenglue for Damonte, (coming off of a team that made Worlds, fans had no idea how he hadn't found a starting spot) and named Huhi the starting support going forward. The team may not have had a much better record (only 9-9, previously 8-10) but they looked much better. Damonte was keeping up with the top mids. Hauntzer was looking really good. Closer was in contention for best Jungler and was even a candidate for summer split MVP. FBI and Huhi worked really well together and were looking great in the bot lane.
Playoffs were where things really got interesting. They swept TSM. FBI and Huhi made Doublelift and Treatz look like amateurs. Damonte kept Bjergsen in check and kept him from carrying his team 1v5. Hauntzer and Closer had their opponents' numbers, outperforming them at every turn. It wasn't even close. A quick 3-0 sweep from Team Liquid gave them a reality check but they had a rematch with TSM in the lower bracket and they almost swept them again. They took the first two games convincingly, and only thanks to TSM getting it together were they able to avoid ultimate humiliation. Despite failing to close out it gave a lot of fans hope and showed that this roster still had a ton of potential. Unfortunately, this is where the feel-good stuff ends.
Off-season and expectations: Golden Guardians was already a pretty money tight franchise, but the NBA's revenue loss hurting their owners (Golden State) was really felt by the Guardians. Oh, that roster had potential alright, and teams with deeper pockets took notice. Four out of five members were signed by 100 Thieves. They will continue to tear up the league but in a different jersey. Hauntzer, the only one 100 Thieves didn't take went back home to TSM…'s Academy team.
This left the Golden Guardians with an unenviable task: rebuild the entire roster on a small budget. Golden Guardians have chosen to look towards the future taking two players out of college, (Maryville University is a powerhouse in the collegiate LoL scene) their academy mid laner, Stixxay for some reason, (hasn't been great as of recently and has been around for a while now, so why???) and Newbie from the emerging Liga Latinoamérica. This roster has potential but will have to grow very fast if they want to do anything this year. My main concern is not about this split but if the Golden Guardians front office will be patient enough with this much young talent. LoL teams around the globe have a history of just blowing the roster up if they don't see immediate success and I sincerely hope that does not occur here. Golden Guardians is giving young talent a shot, something the LCS has struggled with for years and is only starting to remedy now. Check back in on this team in a few months, the play you will see out of them now is probably nowhere near their peak.
The LCS Lock-in Tournament, the first-ever official preseason tournament licensed by Riot Games themselves is already underway. Although it won't count towards Worlds qualification, teams will still be playing for cash and pride and the fans will get a first look at these new rosters. You can find the full schedule at lolesports.com, and you can watch the matches on the website, the lol esports YouTube channel, or Twitch.tv/LCS.
More importantly, the Spring Split will begin on February 5th. Although the exact time and schedule have yet to be announced, you can keep up to date on the LCS and all things competitive League of Legends at lolesports.com, and the other two aforementioned channels.