As the offseason draws to a close, we can now start looking forward to the start of the new season, starting with the 2019 LCS Spring Split.
For the past few months, we’ve been on a roller coaster ride of emotions, where we felt fear, excitement, sadness, and joy — sometimes one of these feelings at a time, and sometimes, all at once. After all, once the confetti has landed and the champions have been crowned, the race is on as teams start to rectify mistakes they made in the past season and aim for success in the next.
The time for examining emotions is now over though. The 2019 LCS Spring Split is almost here, and with the rosters already all but locked in, we took the time to discuss how strong each team looks on paper, from their fit in certain metas and how well their preferred styles of play mesh with each other.
Read on below for our preliminary power rankings of the 2019 LCS Spring Split.
Cloud9 usually makes up for the lack of domestic success by getting through the group stages at the World Championship. Case in point, last season, they were able to go to the semifinals by taking down two Korean teams (Gen G and the Afreeca Freecs) on the way there.
The current iteration of Cloud9 is unique in that they can fight anytime and anywhere. Against the best teams in the world, they showed immense draft flexibility by showing that Eric “Licorice” Ritchie can do well both on tanks and carries, and can handle even the losing side of matchups well. To some extent, Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi showed some of that ability as well by playing mages in the bottom lane. Meanwhile, Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen seems to have regained his trademark aggression. More importantly, he has learned how to mix it with some semblance of control, making him one of the more dangerous and unpredictable players around. Tristan “Zeyzal” Stidam has been mostly on follow-up engage duty, but if claims from the coaching staff are true, he brings a whole different lot in terms of shot calling and making plays.
This season, Cloud9 decided to change their mid. Greyson “Goldenglue” Gilmer is still around, but Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen has since left for Team Liquid. His replacement, Yasin “Nisqy” Dinçer, is proficient on champions like Akali, something that Jensen never really showed. Nisqy is also quite good on the Zoe, and with her resurgence into the meta, he could be the X-factor for Cloud9.
The only question is if Bok “Reapered” Han-gyu will be able to unleash Nisqy’s potential.
2. Team Liquid
Team Liquid underwent massive changes following their shortcomings at the World Championship. Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung and Eugene “Pobelter” Park are no longer around. In their stead is Jensen and former World Champion, Jo “CoreJJ” Yong-in.
Overall, the replacements are arguably an upgrade over the previous players. However, we can’t deny that Team Liquid’s style of play remains predicated to the success of their bottom lane despite the changes. Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong has not appeared to have any proficiency on carries in the entirety of the past season, and Jensen has been on control mages for the most of 2018— if no change happens in the kind of champions that these players prefer, then all might still be on Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng.
While the talent in this roster is undeniable, I am left to be quite apprehensive as to how they would approach a solo lane-driven meta such as the one we are in right now.
This squad, however, has been known to start slowly, then gain momentum as they go later into a split. They already have the talent to succeed, now all they need to do is to integrate new styles of play for a good showing at the 2019 LCS Spring Split.
3. 100 Thieves
The Thieves made significant choices even before the season ended for them. We all remember them trading William “Meteos” Hartman for Andy “AnDa” Hoang, and swapping out Cody “Cody Sun” Sun for Richard Samuel “Rikara” Oh. The result, however, was middling performances in the NA LCS for the summer, and a rather underwhelming performance at Worlds.
For the 2019 LCS Spring Split, 100 Thieves has decided to move Ryu “Ryu” Sang-wook into a coaching staff assignment, and he has been replaced by Choi “Huhi” Jae-hyun. Rikara has also been relieved of the starting position, and he has been replaced by two-time world champion Bae “Bang” Jun-sik. The fact of the matter, however, is that despite these changes, the team feels kind of the same. Huhi is the same with Ryu, excelling at roaming-oriented control mages, Bang was always a late-game insurance policy for SK Telecom T1, and he might end up the same at 100 Thieves.
The real challenge to adapt towards the demands of a solo lane oriented meta will be very interesting to watch in the case of 100 Thieves. Will they be able to perform even better than they did in the past year?
4. Team SoloMid
2018 was a historic year for Team SoloMid, but for the wrong reasons. In both splits, they were not able to reach the Grand Final. In addition, they were not able to make it to the World Championship for the first time in the organization’s history.
Their gambit of importing a bottom lane obviously did not work. As a result, they have let go of support Alfonso “Mithy” Aguirre Rodriguez, replacing him with Andy “Smoothie” Ta. Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell is also now gone, with Sergen “Broken Blade” Çelik in his place. In a meta where solo lanes are the key to victory, Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg and Broken Blade are powerful laners that could carry the whole team. Meanwhile, Jonathan “Grig” Armao adds the element of having a dependable jungler for the team, and Jesper “Zven” Zvenningsen is a great laner himself that could net advantages on his own.
More importantly, the team has brought in Tony “Zikz” Gray as their coach, someone who’s infamous for his early game players during his time on Counter Logic Gaming.
Unfortunately, we’ll have to doubt TSM for now. After all, this isn’t the first time that the organization has assembled a roster that’s set to perform well on paper, only to come up short once the real thing starts.
We’ll have to wait and see first how well TSM perform once the 2019 LCS Spring Split starts before we buy into this lineup’s potential.
5. Golden Guardians
The Golden Guardians were not able to perform well at all last season. They let go of most of the players in their roster, and they underwent some massive improvements in the offseason. They now have Hauntzer in the top lane, Henrik “Froggen” Hansen in the mid lane, and Olleh will now be the squad’s support. In addition, Nick “Inero” Smith is now at the helm of the team as head coach.
With old members Juan Arturo “Contractz” Garcia and Matthew “Deftly” Chen still in the fold, Golden Guardians just jumped from bottom dwellers to a potential playoff team.
Still, potential doesn’t get you wins. It’s winning that gets you wins. As good as the roster is on paper, we can’t help but have doubts regarding the performance of their solo lanes. Case in point, Froggen was not on any team all year aside from a brif stint with Origen at the European Masters tournament in spring. At the same time, Hauntzer has had quite a number of polarizing performances in recent times.
If Golden Guardians do hit their stride though, they could disrupt the 2019 LCS Spring Split.
6. OpTic Gaming
OpTic Gaming had a difficult off season, with their star Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage leaving the team. The team has since replaced him with Lee “Crown” Min-ho, arguably an upgrade. They have also since added two new junglers in Meteos and Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett. As for the rest of the team, they remain the same. Niship “Dhokla” Doshi is still in the top lane, Noh “Arrow” Dong-hyeon is still in the bottom lane, and Terry “Big” Chuong is still the team’s support.
What’s most interesting bout OpTic Gaming is they could produce vastly varied results at the 2019 LCS Spring Split. Case in point, Dhokla was better on the team when he was on split pushers, and his champion picks were better when those were oriented towards winning the lane than being oriented towards his team. Crown was, at best, second only to Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok in 2016, but his dominating performances have been followed by a now two-season long slump.
The questions are, of course, towards the form that the players on the team have. Meteos and/or Dardoch will be commanding voices on the team. If the members of the squad perform towards their potential, this team could make a deep run in the playoffs. If not, then fans better prepare for yet another disappointing season.
FlyQuest is in an awkward spot. For starters, they let go of their star top laner, Lee “Flame” Ho-jong and decided to take a flier on Team Liquid Academy top laner, Omran “V1per” Shoura. Pobelter also moved in as the team’s mid laner. The rest of the team is still the same though, with Lucas Tao Kilmer “Santorin” Larsen in the jungle, Jason “WildTurtle” Tran in the bottom lane, and Juan “JayJ” Guibert as the support. Some changes have been made to the coaching staff— Brandon “Saintvicious” DiMarco has been taken off the team due to a recent incident in his stream. The team has since replaced him with Gabriel “Invert” Zohan-Johan.
The real question about FlyQuest is how exactly they should play. Viper is an unproven player and Pobelter is, by no means, a clutch player. The bottom lane eventually find its tride last summer, but it was mostly because they stuck to a small rotation of champions. Once teams started to figure that out, their play started going down as well.
With zero real threats on the roster, FlyQuest will be one of the worst teams of the 2019 LCS Spring Split.
8. Clutch Gaming
Clutch Gaming found themselves with a high variance roster for 2019. Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin has now been converted into a North American resident, with Philippe “Vulcan” Laflamme as his support. Tanner “Damonte” Damonte is now the squad’s mid laner following Fabian “Febiven” Diepstraten’s departure towards Misfits Gaming. Nam “LirA” Tae-yoo remains in the jungle, now with Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon in the top lane.
All members are prone to inconsistent performances, and they would need to find their stride and proper style of play. Another issue that they might find is that Piglet, Huni, and perhaps LirA are all strong voices on teams, and they’ll need someone to reign them in. It might be pretty difficult to see them stringing a whole lot of wins, and a series of losses might send them down into a downward spiral.
Fans will need to hope that the coaching staff is able to keep the squad in order for a good showing once the 2019 LCS Spring Split kicks off.
9. Echo Fox
Echo Fox did some kind of trading with Clutch Gaming. They got top laner Colin “Solo” Earnest, bottom laner Apollo “Apollo” Price, and support Nickolas “Hakuho” Surgent. Kim “Fenix” Jae-hun is back in the organization and crowd favorite jungler Lee “Rush” Yoon-jae is back in North America with Echo Fox.
To be honest, the whole squad raises a lot of eyebrows. Who is supposed to be the carry for this team? How is Rush’s champion pool doing? Has Fenix’s champion pool expanded? Are Apollo and Hakuho more of in their spring split or their summer split form? Can head coach Kim “Ssong” Sang-sso bring out the best in these players?
Right now, no one really knows what to expect from this team, which is mostly why they find themselves pretty low on our preseason power rankings for the 2019 LCS Spring Split.
10. Counter Logic Gaming
Counter Logic Gaming is a historic North American organization, but last season, they couldn’t even come close to making it to the playoffs after taking a gamble on a roster that looked as well as any could on paper.
While most expected a complete roster overhaul, Counter Logic Gaming instead retained three of their members. Meanwhile, they would bring in PowerOfEvil as their mid laner, and promoted former Academy jungler Raymond “Wiggily” Griffin into the starting roster. At first glance, both are improvements compared to their predecessors. However, losing their head coach is big, and it’s highly likely that Weldon Green can keep the squad in tip-top shape.
But then again, Counter Logic Gaming has always performed better when no one expected anything from them, and with zero expectations for the 2019 LCS Spring Split, the CLG faithful might just find their belief and suffering rewarded.
One must remember that all of this is based on previous performances and how the roster looks on paper, not on actual play— we will have to wait for January until we get to see that happen. The possibilities are always endless, and working them out is always a great exercise for fans and analysts alike.
As many emotions as the offseason brings, it is always a promise — a promise to do better, a promise to make up for past seasons’ failures, a promise to leave a mark on LCS history. And we have yet to see whether they deliver on those promises.
Which team do you think will dominate come the 2019 LCS Spring Split? Will one of the underdogs turn some heads and surprise everyone with their performance? Be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments down below.