An Overview of the LCS in 2022 Part 2: The Other Guys
Updated: Jan 31, 2022
The second part of this two-part preview will look at the back of the pack. These 5 teams are the ones who quite have firepower that the top teams did. These orgs are either running development rosters, not trying to spend, are going through major rebuilds, or just bungled the offseason entirely. They probably don’t have a shot at the title, but they will be looking to develop for the future, pull off some upsets, or even sneak in as a 2nd or 3rd seed to Worlds. There are some reasons to be optimistic about these teams’ rosters and their futures, but realistically, they just can’t compare to the top half of the league.
Top: Revenge Jungle: Xerxe
Mid: PowerOfEvil (from TSM)
ADC: WildTurtle (from CLG)
Head Coach: Invert (from Dignitas)
Mid: Insanity (to 100 Thieves Next)
ADC: Raes (Free Agent)
Head Coach: Guilhoto (to Team Liquid)
2021: 7th in Spring, 5th -6th in Summer
Offseason: Immortals ran a development roster in 2020 that punched significantly above their weight class throughout the regular season. Most of the core remained, but there were some questionable moves and a devastating blow was struck to the squad.
To get the worst part of it out of the way, Guilhoto took his talents to Team Liquid. Guilhoto was a big reason in Immortals’ resurgence. He took a roster that most people had pegged as 9th/10th and put them in a position to make a playoff run. That series against TSM actually had some eyes around it as scrim results were going IMT’s way and the team said they came out flat against them. With the main man of the rebuild gone, it will hurt significantly. This leads us into the player acquisitions
The moves Immortals made look good…but not great. And they needed to be great. Raes was inconsistent and wasn’t all that impressive throughout 2021. Sure you could give him another year to develop, but Immortals wanted something more. So they picked up WildTurtle, a very known quantity coming off of an atrocious year on CLG.
As for mid, I wasn’t quite ready to pull the trigger on Insanity, there was justification for the move. I just don’t quite get who they signed. PowerOfEvil, a solid mid laner who specializes in control mages but has a reputation for being a bit one dimensional. These are solid picks, good in a vacuum, but it all paints a very troublesome picture.
Expectation: This might just be the team I am watching with the most curiosity. The way this roster is built is good, but not great. It’s the physical embodiment of a B+, decent, medium floor but low celling. Your biggest hope is that Revenge develops quickly and becomes and X factor because it feels like the rest are known quantities. Sure, Xerxe and Destiny are having a bit of a resurgence, but how much room do the other 4 members really have to grow? This roster can’t really win now, but it also can’t really develop or go anywhere. If anything, this offseason is giving me vibes of 2021 CLG. And as you either remember, or will see in that section, that is not a good team to emulate. However, there is a “glass half full” way to look at it and is a reason I am somewhat cautiously optimistic about Immortals.
This roster is giving me vibes of 2020 Flyquest. A roster full of players people consider to be good, but not great. A very honest roster with no real weak point, but no real X-factor either. WildTurtle and PoE were two of the members of that very roster. That team just showed up every day and took care of business quietly on the rift, but by the end, they made it to two finals and broke even in a very tough group!
If Immortals are going to succeed in a meaningful way this year, they are going to do it quietly. They’ll never be the talk of the league, but they’ll always hover around the top half. And the moment one of the big names underestimates them, they will pounce, and make their name known.
Or you know, they could always just be an average team that stays slightly above or below .500, beats one of the jobber 7th -8th place teams, before being blasted into next century by a real team. That’s also a possibility.
Golden Guardians Roster:
Jungle: Pridestalker (from MOUZ)
ADC: Lost (from TSM)
Support: Olleh (from free agency)
Head Coach: Inero
Top: Niles (back to Maryville University), Solo (Free Agent)
Jungle: Iconic (to Golden Guardians Academy)
ADC: Stixxay (to GGA)
Support: Newbie (to GGA), Chime (to GGA)
2021: 10th in Spring, 7th -8th in Summer
Offseason: Team Liquid have been pulling from the same playbook in the offseason since the dawn of franchising. Cut off the weaker branches without remorse or hesitation and drop massive amounts money on the biggest names on the market. This year was not much different, but this is perhaps TL’s biggest all-in push yet.
Tactical had a very volatile 2021. While he showed flashes of his stellar rookie season, he was just as likely to lose TL a critical match all on his own. He was dropped after the Worlds run.
In the solo lanes, they stuck with what worked. A change in scenery helped Licorice shake off an awful split and a half on FlyQuest, so they decided to keep that momentum going. As for Mid lane, Golden Guardians actually managed to keep their most promising piece this time around. Ablazeolive was one of the only promising pieces of the original 2021 roster that was all but set up to fail. Golden Guardians success may rely heavily on how well they develop him.
As for fixing what was wrong, there were two distinct, opposite problems surrounding their 3 remaining positions. Iconic and Chime were nowhere near ready for the LCS. They were fresh out of college/academy and needed more time to develop if they wanted to be major contributors on a roster. Meanwhile at the ADC position, Stixxay had been a professional player for over 5 years. Both his results, and his skills on the rift were starting to suffer regression. He wasn’t really turning it around even after getting out of CLG.
To fix these issues, Golden Guardians tried the strategy that won them their prized 2020 roster. Looking for diamonds in the rough from places people may not expect, and players they might overlook. Pridestalker has had some experience at the highest level, (2 underwhelming runs in the LEC on Roccat and Schalke 04) but has also been performing admirably in the EU Masters scene. Time will tell if he can become a breakout player in NA. For ADC, they decided to go with Lost from TSM. He was a freshly promoted player who was far from the worst ADC in the league, but he was an undeniable weak link for TSM, and had a majority of the blame placed on him (alongside SwordArt) for TSM missing Worlds despite an incredible regular season. Perhaps all he needs is a change in scenery and lower expectations to truly shine on the big stage.
Finally for support, Olleh has come out of retirement. After coming to NA, he helped lead Immortals to a 2nd place finish in Summer 2017, and their only appearance at Worlds. Then he was selected to be a part of the Team Liquid super team where they won two straight titles. Unfortunately for him, CoreJJ was on the market in free agency and his next stop as GG’s newest support didn’t go so well. After a year of not being in the LCS, he has spent his time grinding solo queue, and has been tearing up the Korean ladder. Fans of him, and the Golden Guardians org can only hope that this is a sign that he is returning to his prime.
Expectation: On paper, this roster probably shouldn’t do much. Ablazeolive is only in his second year at the LCS and could struggle, Lost didn’t really impress on TSM, Licorice did shake off his slump last split but wasn’t quite a world beater, Pridestalker is coming from the 2nd tier of competition and wasn’t particularly impressive at the highest level, and Olleh is a wild card coming out of a year of absence after a down year of play. It really doesn’t feel like this team has the firepower to break into the top 5. Sure, they can contend with and even comfortably handle the teams around and below them, but they look like a firm middle/bottom of the pack roster.
However, the one-time Golden Guardians were anything but on the scale of mediocre to horrible, they got there by taking players you wouldn’t think are heavy hitters and turning them into stars. That 2020 roster after being bought by 100T went on to make top 4 in Spring, won summer, and broke even at Worlds in a group with one of the most storied organizations in LoL and the eventual World Champions, with only a change in the mid lane halfway through, and the top lane at the beginning of the year. Even last year, the Licorice acquisition looked terrible on paper (as many players and analysts let GG know when the news broke) and Ablazeolive wasn’t exactly elite, yet the trade allowed GG to sneak into a playoff spot and Ablazeolive showed he has potential. Inero has proven that he can scout and develop talent well, so there might be something special here after some time passes. Just don’t expect too much this year.
Counter Logic Gaming Roster:
Top: Jenkins (from TL Academy)
Jungle: Contractz (from Evil Geniuses)
Mid: Palafox (from FlyQuest)
ADC: Luger (from 100 Thieves Academy) Support: Poome (from 100T Academy)
Top: Finn (to Excel Esports)
Jungle: Griffin (Free Agent), Broxah (to TL as content creator)
Mid: rjs (Free Agent), Pobelter (Free Agent), Damonte (CLG Positional Coach)
ADC: WildTurtle (to Immortals)
Support: Smoothie (Free Agent)
Staff: Gutex (positional coach), Beora (analyst), Galen (Head Coach) Prymari (assistant coach), Tafokints (LoL General Manager) ALL currently teamless for 2022
2021: 9th in Spring, 10th in Summer
Offseason: To say Counter Logic Gaming had a rough 2021 would be the understatement of the century.
Visa issues keeping their big name jungler away for 3 weeks in spring while the team fell apart out the gate, a potentially promising summer only having one good week and the rest being agony incarnate, every player looking like the worst, or in contention for the worst in their role, a PR disaster so horrendous they scarred the already stained dignity of one of the LCS’s fallen giants even worse than it already was, all equated to a 33 loss season and dead last in the league.
With everything that happened both on and off the rift, there was only one real appropriate response to it. And for the first time since franchising rolled around, CLG made a proactive decision that didn’t make people hate them
Every single one of the players (8 in total), coaching staff (4 in total), and even the League of Legends GM were given the ax in one of the biggest purges of an LCS team in recent memory. With how bad things had gotten in recent years, (1 playoff appearance in 8 splits, no higher than 7th otherwise, 2 dead last finishes) CLG needed to be turned into ground zero. It was the best for all parties involved. One went back to his old home in the LEC. Some found new homes in the LCS. Many still wander the wastelands of free agency.
Thus began the long, complete, and very difficult rebuilding process from the ground up. From an organizational and staff standpoint, Jonathan McDaniel was given the position of GM. Being in charge of scouting for Golden Guardians and working with Riot Games on the new playoffs and the Lock In tournament, this was seen as a solid hire. For coaching, Thinkcard did take an underwhelming on paper Clutch Gaming to Worlds in 2019 and his assistant Croissant did good work with GG Academy alongside him. Former pros Apollo and Damonte will also be serving as positional coaches. All-in-all, a great support staff on paper!
When it came to rebuilding the roster, CLG, for the first time in years, made a roster that won them new fans. They decided to go full developmental, embracing often neglected North American talent, and the academy scene.
For top lane, they grabbed Jenkins from Team Liquid academy. He actually got a not-insignificant amount of stage time when he had to sub for Alphari. Despite the situation around him that could best be described as “perilous”, (subbing in for the best laner in the LCS amidst a drama-ridden tire fire) he did have his stand out moments, and when he went back to academy, he helped TL dominate the amateur scene. Contractz has been bouncing around organizations for a while now, but he had a bit of a resurgence on Evil Geniuses where his skill and hunger for success won him a few opportunities to play on the main roster in both the regular season and playoffs. For the mid lane, Palafox may not have exactly panned out on FlyQuest, but he was still one of the more promising Academy mid laners, and he didn’t exactly have many good pieces around him to succeed. He is far from done growing. And to top it off, CLG nagged both pieces of the elite 100T Academy bot lane in Poome and Luger. In 2021, 100 Thieves Academy was one of the best Academy/Amateur teams in NA, with solid placements throughout the year. Luger (who came to NA from the TCL) and Poome were key parts in that success.
Expectation: Despite the placement and the expectations for CLG being about as low as ever, this is the most excited I, and many others, have been about CLG in years. They have finally stopped simply being content with floundering around aimlessly and building rosters that can really only be mediocre at best. For the first time in almost 6 years, CLG has a clear direction. This roster isn’t meant to be a world beater. It isn’t an all-in push. This is a roster built for the future. And I am very happy that it is.
A common flaw of many bottom tier LCS teams throughout the years has been that they try to win now, despite having nowhere near the budget or firepower to do so. As such, they just sort of sit there and be mediocre for 2 splits as nobody cares about them as they aren’t in a significantly better position than they were at the start and have no real room to get better, before they blow it up and do the same thing next year. If you want some recent examples, see 2021 CLG, and look closely at 2022 Immortals. These rosters have little room for growth, but their upsides aren’t good enough to hang with the best of the best. So, what are they even doing?
CLG is not falling into this trap this year. They will be looking to build a solid core of players that can eventually grow into big names and become the new faces of CLG. This is the first step in a long road to redemption for CLG, but it was a hard step to take, and a very big one. And CLG should be commended for doing so.
Mid: toucouille (from GameWard)
Support: aphromoo (from Dignitas
Head Coach: Sharkz
Jungle: Nxi (to FlyQuest Academy)
Mid: Palafox (to CLG), Triple (to FLYA)
ADC: Tomo (to FLYA)
Support: Diamond (to FLYA)
Head Coach: Kanani (to Berlin International Gaming)
2021: 8th in Spring, 10th in Summer
Offseason: After a summer split that was one complete roster swap away from being called a complete disaster, (and even then, they still missed out on playoffs when the Golden Guardians made it) FlyQuest had a ton of work to do in the offseason. Mostly on deciding which players from each iteration they would be starting, and where they needed to look for outside options.
Johnsun, Kumo, and Josedeodo would be the ones remaining after the shuffles. Many of the squad simply went back to FlyQuest Academy, however Palafox found a starting spot on CLG. As for their new additions, they picked up their new mid laner off GameWard, a team from the wildly popular LFL (Ligue Française de League of Legends). While this has been seen with a bit of skepticism as GameWard wasn’t exactly a powerhouse, and there might have been better native options, time will only tell if he can become a breakout player. As for the Support, they acquired aphromoo from Dignitas. Johnsun originally got his start alongside aphro’s veteran guidance and looked considerably worse last year without him. Perhaps a return to familiarity is all he will need to break out of his slump.
Expectation: To be completely honest, this FlyQuest roster really does not look like anything special. Josedeodo had a fairly bad year for how much hype surrounded him, Kumo was a good substitute after they let Licorice go, but I am not sure if he can be truly elite, Johnsun looked pretty bad last year and toucouille is almost completely unproven at the highest level. At least aphromoo was pretty good last year. It isn’t completely a lost cause as there might be some hope for the future here with all of the fairly young talent, but there is almost no way the roster does much of anything this year. They have almost no real weapons and nobody I would really consider in contention for top of their position.
It feels like FlyQuest is going back to it’s pre-franchising days of being just another team in the LCS. Nobody really hates them, but they give very little reason to actually pay attention to them. They just exist and that’s about it. After the breakout year, things went back to status quo for FlyQuest. Being irrelevant, but not offensive. They don’t generate hatred like some of the big teams people want to see fail do, they don’t attract pity like some of the truly terrible teams, I just don’t feel anything when I look at this team. Even the environmental stuff they did that got them notoriety isn’t quite making headlines like it used to. 2020 is feeling more and more like a fluke year as the splits go by.
Jungle: River (from PSG Talon)
Mid: Blue (from SK Gaming
Support: Biofrost (from Free Agency) Head Coach: Enatron
Jungle: Akaadian (to Golden Guardians Academy (coach))
Mid: Yusui (Free Agency), Soligo (Free Agency)
Support: aphromoo (to FlyQuest)
2021: 5th-6th in Spring, 7th-8th in Summer
Offseason: After a spring split where Dignitas actually gave fans hopes and showed potential for the first time since requiring a spot by buying Clutch Gaming’s that was sabotaged in summer by baffling and confusing roster moves, Dignitas decided to make headlines in the offseason…
By making even more baffling roster moves.
Let’s take this one step at a time going from the moves that make the most sense to least. Keeping Neo was a great move. He showed tons of potential last year and was one of the few bright spots during the summer collapse.
At support on the other hand, losing aphromoo is going to hurt dearly. He was actually performing quite well on DIG, and he had a pattern of allowing young ADCs to show their true potential and grow under his talent and experience. His replacement? Biofrost. He was one of the best NA supports and was a key part of that awesome 2016 and 17 TSM roster, but he couldn’t find a team last year after TSM went 0-6 at Worlds. There is no guarantee his is going to look like his prime self but he could provide some guidance for Neo.
At jungle, Dignitas was hurt by factors both in and out of their control. Releasing Akkadian was unnecessary. He came in on short notice after the Dardoch debacle and was one of the key players in saving DIG from total collapse. But ok, his key replacement Will from Dignitas Academy was a top
Academy talent! He has a ton of room to grow and is already showing promise! Unfortunately for DIG, he made the respectable decision to take the split off and focus on his high school studies. As for who they actually got… River is alright. I mean he was on the historically dominant PCS team PSG Talon that had a 40+ game win streak. He was the best jungler in the region… but PSG Talon still couldn’t make it out of a group with an RNG that kept shooting itself in the foot, a Hanwha Life Esports that was quite literally being carried by 2 players, and a Fnatic that was dead to rights before they even played a single game… despite PSG Talon being the pool 1 seed. River might have just been a normal sized fish in a small pond, and I am unsure how much of an upgrade over Akkadian he really is.
So, this is a win now team right? It would seem that way with signing a veteran support and an import jungle you can be proud of if he comes over from the PCS and wrecks shop. So Dignitas is going all in? Not with what they did in the top lane they aren’t! They brought back FakeGod, who is a fairly young player who showed some good play in spring, but didn’t really grow much in Summer and looked laughably outclassed in all 3 playoff series against the top (Impact, Ssumday) and bottom (Revenge) of the table. He is most certainly not a “win now player”. Who knows if he will develop properly? He has been only slightly above average at best.
Finally at mid lane, they made a decision that made very little sense no matter what philosophy Dignitas was working with. Here is a question for you. You are a GM of an LCS team. Last year, you had a massive crisis in the mid lane where you replaced your somewhat above average mid laner Soligo with Yusui out of nowhere, and he flopped horrendously. You need to make a decision for 2022.
A: Give Soligo his starting position back?
B: Let Yusui have another shot, but keep Soligo in reserve if things go poorly?
C: Ditch both and grab a new mid laner from the NA Academy/Amateur scene? (That 5fire guy who won almost every event he entered in 2021 including Proving Grounds Spring looks pretty good)
D: Drop Yusui, keep Soligo in Academy, and import the worst mid in the LEC from the 5-13 9th place SK Gaming?
If you answered not D, then congratulations, your decisions make more sense on the surface than an actual LCS team!
To be clear, there is absolutely no hate to Blue himself. He simply did what was best for him. He probably wasn’t going to get an offer from a top LEC team, so if an LCS org wants to throw money at him for him to fly overseas and play for them, who is he to disagree? What I can be confused about is why
Dignitas thought this was the next step forward. You are using up 1 of your 2 very valuable imports slots, letting your former starter keep warming the proverbial bench, and letting quite a bit of domestic talent sit on the side line, (5Fire straight up retired from pro play for the foreseeable future as he did pretty much everything he could right and still didn’t get signed) all for a player who analysts, community figureheads, and even statistics agree was the worst mid laner in LEC Summer 2021.
Expectation: Well on the plus side, at least Dignitas has no expectations for this year! No player even comes close to the top of the table in their role, the upside of this team doesn’t appear to be that high, and there shouldn’t be that much room for them to grow. The big immediate downside for Dignitas, is that they are probably going to be looked at with a microscope with the community ready to pounce on them if they start playing bad. That move in the mid lane practically embodies every complaint fans have had concerning teams’ hesitance to use NA talent, and Dignitas has made themselves a very easy target for vitriol. My only regrets in this situation are that Blue is going to get a lot of hate when things go poorly (even if it isn’t his fault) because people are angry and need someone to blame, and that Neo won’t get to show his true potential on a bottom of the table team.
Unless a team above them collapses in spectacular fashion, (could happen, GGS was the premier bottom tier team in 2020, then CLG imitated a nuclear meltdown) or every single player plays way above expectations, Dignitas won’t be doing much this year. Even if everything breaks right for them, I still can’t see them making the playoffs in Spring or winning a best-of-5 against anyone in Summer.
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