The North American League of Legends LCS
kicked off on January 25 after a turbulent off-season.
Roster switches were the name of the game, and three new or returning teams are participating in this split. Dignitas, Immortals, and Evil Geniuses replaced Clutch Gaming, OpTic Gaming, and Echo Fox, with the resulting free agents playing a part in the dramatic reorganization of teams.
All eyes are on Team Liquid after winning their fourth consecutive split last summer. This is a new record for LCS and is a big accomplishment for the organization after an underwhelming World Championship eliminated them in the group stage and culminated a disappointing end to the year. Team Liquid are returning to LCS with high expectations as they are the only roster to retain at least four members. The only change is the addition of ex-Fnatic star Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen, who is taking over the role of jungle. Broxah is used to winning championships with two EU LCS first place finishes and will understandably be aiming for the same in NA.
Team Liquid struggled through the first three weeks, missing Broxah, who was stuck in Europe with visa difficulties. Last week, they finally received confirmation that Broxah’s visa was approved, but it is still unclear when he will be able to join the team. Their current standing is 2-4, and we can only wait to see if Broxah is the missing piece they need to save the underwhelming start. The lack of practice will surely have an impact on his performance with the team.
Cloud9 exploded out of the first three weeks, leading the league with a perfect 6-0 record. The organization faced substantial scrutiny after replacing their bot lane from last year, including star and fan-favorite Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi. His replacement, Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen is producing outstanding performances, only dying once in six games. C9 also lost the MVP of summer playoffs, Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen, to new organization Evil Geniuses. So far, the changes appear to have paid off, and they hope to continue their momentum in the coming weeks.
After the first two weeks of play, FlyQuest and Dignitas were currently tied for second with impressive 3-1 records, but they both flopped in week three and find themselves at 3-3. Dignitas is led by the dominant play of mid-laner Henrik “Froggen” Hansen, who already accumulated three Player of the Game awards.
Counter Logic Gaming is the disappointment of the season so far, finding their place at the bottom of the standings with a 1-5 record. They finished third place last summer and were expected to be around there this split as well. They also began last summer with some troubles, so perhaps this is just a team strategy to add motivation before catapulting to the top.
Team SoloMid and Immortals fans can find some relief in the solid week three from both teams after a rocky start. They are now tied for second at 4-2 and look like playoff-caliber teams. 100 Thieves are currently at 3-3, while Evil Geniuses and Golden Guardians sit at 2-4.
There is a heavy emphasis on team play this split. With the diverse roster and team changes, the first three weeks were a race to see which side could find their chemistry first. Every organization has a star (or two or three), but the standout teams are the ones who play for objectives.
The new changes to dragons, through the addition of the dragon soul buff, brings even more of a focus to the bottom lane early on. The first of two prevailing strategies is to pick an aggressive, early-game team to try to get a lead on dragons and carry that through the rest of the game.
This strategy is matched by teams who chose to scale compositions and allow their opponents to get the first couple of dragons uncontested. Only after they have some items and feel powerful do they fight over later dragons. Teams want to acquire one of the main buffs from either dragon soul, Elder Dragon, or Baron before they attempt to close out a game. This resulted in exactly half of the first 20 games passing the 35-minute mark.
The first three weeks were exciting to watch, and the unstable standings only multiply this feeling. The coming weeks will shine some light on the identities of the front-runners, although C9 is making a strong case for themselves. But right now, it is anyone’s trophy.