-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 shall cover the 3rd tier: the dark horses.
Dark horses: These teams are middle of the pack for various reasons but have some exciting individual parts. If they develop quickly or over-perform consistently, they could cause a few upsets or even make a deep playoff run themselves.
ADC: Deftly (from EG Academy)
Support: Ignar(from Flyquest)
Huni, Top: to TSM
Goldenglue, Mid: to 100T Academy
Bang, ADC: to Afreeca Freecs
Zeyzal, Support (free agent)
Previous year: If there was one word to describe Evil Geniuses last year it was inconsistent. Thanks to tiebreakers, they managed to finish the spring regular season 2nd. However, despite convincingly beating Flyquest in round 1, and taking a game off of the unstoppable C9, they inexplicably fell to Flyquest in their rematch in the loser’s finals.
This inconsistency continued into summer where they started 4-2 and then started stumbling. They inexplicably swapped their top from the serviceable and improving Kumo to the living coin flip that is Huni and their high-risk high reward mid-laner Jiizuke for the painfully average Goldenglue. One day they would beat top teams like TL and C9, other days they would lose to bottom feeders like CLG and Dignitas. In the playoffs, they almost upset 3rd seed Flyquest but lost in 5 games, stomped 100 Thieves in the losers bracket, and didn't even put up a fight vs Cloud 9 as their season ended not with a bang, but a whimper.
Off-season and expectations: Evil Geniuses made some big changes in the off-season. Huni was bought out by TSM, Jizuke returned to the starting position, and they completely revamped the bot lane as Bang returned to his home region Korea and they dropped Zeyzal. For the replacements, they picked up Impact from Team Liquid, a former World Champion and a key member of the 4-peat. For support, they signed Ignar who was a big part of Flyquest's recent successes, and promoted Deftly who is serviceable. The main question will be if this team can find any sort of consistency. If we get 2013 World Champion Impact, 2019 summer MVP Svenskeren, 2018 Worlds Jizuke, and 2017 Misfits Ignar, this team can keep up with and beat the top of the table. If they can't maintain these forms, then expect some ugly losses.
Top: Licorice (from Cloud 9)
Jungle: Josedeodo (from Rainbow 7)
Mid: Palafox (from Cloud 9 Academy)
ADC: Johnsun (from Dignitas)
Support: Diamond (from Cloud 9 Academy)
Solo, Top (free agent)
Santorin, Jungle: to Team Liquid
PowerOfEvil, Mid: to TSM
WildTurtle, ADC: to CLG
Ignar, Support: to Evil Geniuses
Previous Year: Flyquest probably had one of the most successful seasons not only on the rift but also as a brand. Flyquest was a fairly young organization that hadn't really won anything or had too many star players. Honestly, they were just kind of.. there. Last year, Flyquest introduced the “TreeQuest” initiative for spring and the “Seaquest” initiative for Summer in the spring the team would plant a certain number of trees for every kill, ocean dragon taken, or victory, in the summer it was the same thing but instead donating to the Coral Reef Alliance. This made Flyquest very easy to root for and the org found itself a new wave of fans. Even if they weren't your favorite team people always cheered them on a little because of how likable the team was.
The success also helped. With quality players in all positions Flyquest was always in the discussion for best team in the league across both splits, across all positions I wouldn't put any player below the top 5 (top) in their position with some around top 3 (mid,adc,sup) and Santorin was the best jungler in Summer. This led to 2nd place finishes in both spring and summer, falling to the unstoppable C9 in spring and almost reverse sweeping TSM in summer. Despite this, they were drawn into a "group of death" at Worlds 2020 and were expected to come to do poorly (2-4 at best, 0-6 at worst). Despite this, they finished 3-3 even taking a game off of China's Top Esports, and tournament favorite.
Off-season and expectations: Unfortunately for Flyquest they are owned by an NBA team. (Milwaukee) And as the NBA lost revenue and some teams are forced to make budget cuts, Flyquest suffered as a result of this. They couldn't keep up in the price wars leading to the entire roster heading elsewhere, most of them to teams with bigger budgets.
Flyquest did a surprisingly good job with the rebuilds. They picked up Licorice who helped lead C9 to some of their greatest over the past 3 years. They acquired Josedeodo from the Latin American team Rainbow 7. Josedeodo was the key to R7's success as they made worlds, took games off of a major region (China), and the wildcard team that made the group stage. Their mid and support come from Cloud 9 Academy, an org known for producing talent. The final piece is Johnsun, who was one of the most promising rookies in the LCS last year who was unfortunately stuck on a below-average Dignitas. This is the roster I'm the most excited for, even if they don't perform well immediately, there is a lot to look forward to providing everyone develops. If the players develop quicker than expected? The sky's the limit.
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.