By: Dan Dankert
1) Team Solo Mid (TSM)
Is it a surprise that TSM finds themselves at the top of this list? TSM has made it to every single LCS playoff final, and I don’t see that trend ending now. They still have a very strong roster, and they will be adding Doublelift back to the squad after his sabbatical spent streaming. TSM has some glaring weaknesses and those showed at MSI, but as a whole I don’t think there is much of an argument for another team being placed at number 1.
I want to throw out a weird theory. TSM doesn’t always have the best players, but they have players who are winners. Hauntzer is a great example of this. He isn’t in my opinion a great player, but he makes plays that winners make. He roams mid after he pushes out top, he doesn’t play over aggressively and dies. His item choices are always on point. He does a lot of the small things that other, more technically proficient players, wouldn’t make.
I want to take a little time to look at their individual players
Top- Hauntzer (B+) Overall I am not a huge Hauntzer fan, but I do feel that he is a competent North American top laner who won’t get bodied by anyone unless he is put in an unwinnable matchup, in some ways that is one of the most important qualities a top laner can have. I think he plays smart and has above average mechanical ability. I think TSM has found their top laner and no changes should be made here.
Jungle- Sven (C-) Here is my biggest problem with Sven, he isn’t worth an import slot. Now I know that TSM doesn’t really utilize those spots as well as they should, but there are definitely players who would be a much better fit for the team than Sven, I mean even Rush could do pretty well with that team, and Rush can more or less speak English. A jungler often times unlocks his lanes to win, and outside of his close synergy with Bjerg, I don’t see him offering much benefit to the team. Its pretty hard to unlock your solo lanes if you are dying in the opposing team’s jungle. I guess you can’t feed the other team’s top laner if you die to their jungler first (Insert Meme Here). Sven takes a huge hit to his grade because he occupies an import slot, if he was a North American player he probably gets a B- or B from me, but its inexcusable to take up an import spot and be the worst player on the team.
Mid- Bjergsen (A+) I am a huge Bjergsen fan. I feel that he is the one of two players from the West that could have made it playing in the LCK (Rekkles is the other), especially if he learned the language. He is an incredibly talented player who can do anything. He can play support mid lane champions, he can play assassins, and he has clean control mage play. Perkz and Jensen both joke about clapping Faker, but Bjergsen is the only mid laner in North America I believe could. To put this in soccer terms, Faker is a lot like Messi. He is dominant, and a once in a lifetime player. Bjergsen is a lot like Eden Hazard. He is undeniably great, but doesn’t reach that same echelon of greatness that Messi has.
ADC- Doublelift (A), Wildturtle (B) I am not a Wildturtle hater. He is, in my opinion, the third best ADC ever born in North America. It’s pretty clearly Doublelift, Sneaky, Tyler1 Wildturtle, and in that order (#FreeTyler1). The team clearly doesn’t trust him and I think that’s the biggest problem Wildturtle faces, I think he should start on almost any North American team not named Cloud 9 or TSM. Doublelift however brings the team a very good ADC who isn’t as good as the Korean greats like Deft or Bang, but he is the best they are ever going to get if they don’t bring in a Korean like they could have with Pray. Even though I am a Cloud 9 fan, I would have loved to see Pray come to TSM. Orrrr, they get rid of Sven, and bring in both Pray and Gorilla. I would have become pretty big fans of the team if that happened. I’ll say it now, if that ever happens, I will personally buy a Baylife shit.
Support- Biofrost (A+) Or as all TSM fans know him as Biodaddy, Biofrost has an interesting story. He was brought in last year, and competed for the spot against Koreans when TSM bootcamped in Korea, and he has been one of the best performing support players in North America, and even though I am a Cloud 9 fan it’s hard for me to say that there is anyone as good as Biofrost is.
Ultimately I think this team has the best roster to compete on the international stage, and I think if they could snag a great import jungler they could position themselves for a run at an international competition. I feel that putting Doublelift into the equation will erase a lot of their MSI problems. Honestly, it just came across that they had 0 trust in Wildturtle, I’m not sure why, but that was clear. Removing Wildturtle and adding the stabilizing force of Doublelift should make things a lot better for the team.
2) Cloud 9
It’s been weeks and I still feel devastated from the Spring playoff finals. But the roster remains untouched and I am excited for what the team has in store for this split. Though question marks remain in the top lane, and in the jungle, I think the team is poised to be the second best team in North America by a decent margin. Though I could make an argument for why Cloud 9 is a better team than TSM even with the addition to Doublelift, I won’t. Mostly because I am biased as a Cloud 9 fan, and the arguments are mostly conjecture and not worthy of mention in this article. That being said, I think this is another good opportunity to look at the positions individually like we did with TSM.
Top- Impact (A+), Ray (B+) I have a theory, Impact doesn’t care about spring split. It’s about the only way I can explain what happened during the last three months. We know Impact is an amazing player. Going into Worlds last year there wasn’t a player in the world playing at a higher level than him (Okay, besides Cuvee). He is a monster on tanks and he has the ability to play some more lane dominant champions as well like Rumble, Gnar, and Kennen. Ray on the other hand is so hard for me to grade. He is mechanically one of the best players I have ever watched (On par with Rush), but his decision making skills are lacking, and he seemed to lack poise on the big stage. That being said, I think another split with Impact and Reapered, and Ray will be better than Impact.
Jungle- Juan/Contractz (B) For those of you that don’t know Contractz tweeted “Change is good” which blew up Twitter, followed by a tweet from Jack (C9 owner) jokingly saying that he was switching his name from Contractz to C9 Juan. Anyways, Contractz had an up and down split and it felt like his performance was largely dependent on what champion he was on. When he played on Kha’zix (Who says “Change is good” as a line in the game) he looked beastly, when on champions not named Kha’zix he looked shaky. With the meta being shifted towards objective taking champions, I wonder how his play will translate. Champions like Nunu, and Ivern will likely dominate early on next split and his performance on these champions will go a long way in C9’s ability to compete in those early weeks.
Contractz is also a mechanically proficient player. He made some insane outplays this year, and if he can put that skill together with better pathing, and outthinking his opponents look out, he could develop into a star. Few players had as much hype as he did (Rekkles, Bjergsen, Freeze). We should all remember that he has only been playing jungle for a year or two.
Mid- Incarnati0n/Jensen (A) Jensen is, in my opinion, clearly the second best mid laner in the league and if he doesn’t get deleted in the last fight against TSM, we could have seen him finally eclipse Bjergsen, and TSM. I think mechanically he is a great player, but I think he takes losses hard, and has difficulty on the big stage. That being said, there isn’t anyone I would rather have manning the mid lane for Cloud 9 this year. One of the things I say is a slight compared to Jensen, is he always needs to be a carry, and one thing Bjergsen is great at doing is playing a supportive mid, and allowing other players on the team to carry. It’s a skill I think Jensen needs to develop so that they can be less 1 dimensional.
ADC- Sneaky (A-) Sneaky doesn’t do the best on hyper carry champions. He specializes on caster ADCs. Think of his most signature champions… Ashe, Jhin, Lucian, and Jayce Ezreal all of them fall into that category. I think he is the perfect fit for this team, because he likes utility ADCs and it unlocks the rest of the team to get more resources and be the true carries. Considering Cloud 9 uses their import slots on their solo lanes, Sneaky is the perfect North American ADC for the team. I do think they need to work on developing a young North American ADC. Sneaky won’t be here forever, and if his play dips much, it’s not hard for me to see Sneaky focus on streaming to maximize the amount of money he can make before retirement.
Support- Smoothie (A)- First team all-LCS and by the widest margin, Smoothie is a top tier support. I said earlier that I think Biofrost is a better player and I will stick to that, but I think the margin between Smoothie and Biofrost is very small and after watching Smoothie develop, he is one of my favorite players, and I watch his stream whenever it comes on. Smoothie is definitely not a weak spot on this roster.
3) Phoenix 1
Arrow is my favorite person ever after his Reddit AMA, and his tweets after he was announced as the MVP. I think they are a better team with Meteos, but Inori is very gifted and aggressive. Ryu is a rock in the mid lane, and Zig has been quite impressive over the past year. Actually I would say he was one of, if not the single most impressive player I saw all year long. In my opinion, in a league filled with Korean top lane talent, Zig proved to still be one of the best top laners in the league. The big question mark for me is in the support role. Losing Adrian last year was a big hit.
I don’t know what to do with this team. Some weeks they look unstoppable, some weeks they look awful. If I had to guess, I would say that Dignitas will take games off Cloud 9 and TSM but also falter to lower tier teams. I think the big question comes when the World’s gauntlet comes up, this is a team that could steal a World’s spot away from Phoenix 1 if they peak at the right time. If Dig is out of playoff contention it wouldn’t shock me.
The addition of Freeze is a good sign for the club. When he was healthy he was one of the best young ADCs in the world. Flyquest has some really good pieces who will probably continue to waver between being the best mid-tier team, and dropping games to bad teams. It’s not even a problem with inconsistency as much as they aren’t that skilled mechanically, and there will be times where that mechanical skill will just let them down. Think of a matchup against Dignitas. It’s not unrealistic to me to think that even if Dignitas is slumping, Ssumday could solo kill Balls a few times in lane, and take over the game on a champion like Fiora.
I don’t think the addition of Dardoch helps this team much. Its problems weren’t in the jungle, as much it was in the solo lanes. Darshan needs to figure out what he wants to do with his life, does he want to be a great LoL player or not. Because I believe he can be great, but I think he doesn’t put in the work to get there. Between his skills, and the legendary quote of “even my teachers call me Zion” he was so good it was kind of mythical, now he has turned into a liability. Huhi needs to just grind out games on meta champions because he seems S tier on ASol, and B tier on everything else. It was rumored that Aphro was thinking about joining C9 last summer, given the team he has now, he definitely should have.
This team is average, but adding Xmithie will give the team some stability. The big problem is that this team lacks a superstar. Maybe Flame will recapture his old stardom, but if not this team is in trouble. That being said, dark horse Cody Sun MVP award?
8) Echo Fox
RIICKK FOOOXXXX. I still really like this team but I have little faith in this team. Matthew “Akaadian” Higginbotham deserved rookie of the split, because he is an animal, other than that this team is average. If you play Echo Fox just remember that banning Anivia is a good strategy no matter how meta the champion is or isn’t.
Mo’ money mo’ problems. Team Liquid is the embodiment of that quote. Terrible management as of late has put Liquid in a very bad place. I love Reignover, but his play and the team’s play last year was horrendous.
Actually furious that they made it through the promotion tournament. This should have been Gold Coin United’s spot. That team was awesome, Solo, Santorin, Fenix, Mash, and Madlife. That team could have done really well in the LCS and if you add a player or two to that roster it becomes amazing. Envy, who was embarrassingly bad last year, is in the LCS again. I hope this gets resolved when franchising sets in.