NA LCS: Breaking down all the trade drama and roster rumors for every team in 2018
Team SoloMid (TSM)
After another miserable group stage exit at Worlds, it was clear something had to change for NA’s most popular LoL organization.
As their spot in the newly franchised era of LCS was confirmed, rumours began circulating as to what changes would be on the way for a roster that was (mostly) intact for the better part of two seasons. TSM have now finalized their new look roster for 2018 with Bjergsen and Hauntzer reprising their solo lane roles.
MikeYeung is a new face at jungle that enjoyed a brief amount of success as one of the bright spots of Phoenix1’s back and forth seasons. Joining MikeYeung as new members of the historic org will be the legendary European duo of Zven and Mithy. With Hjarnan and Wadid announced as the new faces of G2 Esports bot lane, the puzzle pieces started to settle in for what would be the eventual future of this duo.
Taking the reins in a brand new league with the dynamic solo lanes of TSM and the playmaking of MikeYeung, TSM are already looking like clear favorites to continue their winning ways heading into the franchise era.
Golden Guardians (GGS)
Out of all the newly minted ‘NBALCS’ teams to make their way into the league this offseason, the Golden Guardians have been the most hush about their plans since the franchise announcement. The GS Warriors assistant GM Kirk Lacob made a splash early on as rumors of LocoDoco taking the reins as coach became the buzz on Reddit.
Outside of that, there was virtually no news on who would be on the lineup until ESPN reported through credible sources that the new look lineup for the Golden Guardians would feature former TL prospects Lourlo and Matt at Top and Support respectively. Former C9 and FlyQuest alumni Contractz and Hai were also brought in to fill out the jungle and mid roles.
Scouting grounds prospect Deftly was also brought in to round out the lineup for GGS. While on paper the squad doesn’t really bring much in terms of out and out potential, Hai shotcalling in the mid lane has been a proven winner when he has a capable team behind him. Lourlo, Matt, Contractz and Deftly all share the same humble and coachable characteristics that can make a Hai led team stand out on its own.
LocoDoco is also one of the more valued minds when it comes to coaching staff personnel for LoL. His ability to speak both Korean and English fluently might open the door to Korean acquisitions down the line.
Cloud9 has been a mainstay amongst the top NA LCS teams since their debut in Season 3. For most C9 fans, excellency within the region is automatic. As the only NA team to successfully leave groups two years running, wearing the sky blue and white is a staple of dominance within the region.
With that reputation at stake, some fans have worried over the lack of blockbuster moves as their top side duo of Impact and Contractz have formally signed elsewhere.
Licorice, Wiggily and Selfie have all been acquired through trades that dissolved the NA CS teams, yet some worry if those players are enough to bolster up for this new season. Licorice’s talent as a part of EUnited was evident throughout last season, but for now it seems like Ray will have a vice grip around the starting top role until results slip.
Rumblings of a possible return for C9 Rush have been in circulation as of late, but that seems far less likely than C9 resulting to another foreign talent with Jensen’s NA residence about to take effect.
The biggest positive for C9 was simply keeping their all-star bot lane intact. With Zven and Mithy touching down in NA, for the moment, it seems like C9 is the only bot duo with enough synergy and skill to hold a candle to their play. Down the stretch, this might prove a vital component to strategic match-ups if the rest of Cloud 9 can perform their role against the upper echelon of the division.
Counter Logic Gaming (CLG)
After another disappointing season end that saw their hopes pass by in the gauntlet stage, it was time for another serious shake-up to the CLG roster.
This time, decisions for the top brass of CLG will require a bit more hindsight for the future as CLG will look to avoid last season’s mistakes to develop a cohesive starting five. At the beginning of the franchise announcement, CLG players Stixxay, Huhi and Darshan all confirmed their continued stay with the organization.
With the news of TL acquiring a new jungler, that left the door open for CLG Reignover, and Counter Logic Gaming jumped at the opportunity to land the world-class jungler.
With 4/5 positions filled, many CLG faithfuls are left to scratch their heads over what will become of the beloved team leader Aphromoo as contract negotiations have reached a deafening silence with most of the other teams finalizing their rosters.
Some whispers of Aphromoo possibly joining 100 Thieves have made headlines, and with Biofrost’s playing future still in question, the options for CLG at support are still up for grabs.
Team Liquid (TL)
Another year for Team Liquid in the LCS and it seems that ownership has taken well to their reprised slot as a franchisee. TL made major acquisitions by buying out the Immortals roster as they obtained Xmithie, Pobelter and Olleh whilst snatching up Impact and Doublelift on their way out.
This starting five on paper has the makings of an instant top three team, but any TL fan of the past two seasons and beyond is more than wary of getting their hopes up.
For Team Liquid, the problem with their roster rarely ever had to do with talent across the starting five. Chemistry issues, coaching riffs, and gameday performance have been the plaguing themes of TL’s lackluster seasons as of late.
With this revamped veteran squad of players who’ve played with each other before, some of those ‘new team’ hurdles will be easier to overcome with experience.
Doublelift, Xmithie, Impact and Pobelter have all been proven winners within the region, so carrying on that trend should be the realistic norm for TL fans across the board. Time will tell if the line-up can succeed in this new era.
After a fruitful opening split for FlyQuest, the rest of the 2017 season wasn’t as forgiving as FLY barely made it to the Worlds gauntlet only to get ousted by a surging CLG in the second round. In this franchise era, only WildTurtle is returning to his role at AD as Flame, AnDa, Fly and Stunt have all been acquired to fill out the FlyQuest starting roster.
Flame and Fly are the two Korean imports that will start the season off. Fly endured a rollercoaster 2017 that saw him do most of the heavy lifting as his Gold Coin United were held off from LCS contention at the end of the split.
Flame played a vital role in helping a rocky Immortals team off the ground with Xmithie as they charged to a first place finish in the league. While AnDa and Stunt remain ‘unknown quantities’ amongst the best of the best in NA, there is an incentive to live up to the expectations and develop accordingly as the rest of the veterans on the team will look to set the pace.
With this line-up, AnDa will be the x-factor player on the team. If he can play to the best of his ability during the season the potential for this FlyQuest line-up can unlock as their solo lanes have carry potential.
Echo Fox (FOX)
After an initial capture of Fenix from Gold Coin United, the parts were already in motion for an Echo Fox reboot as Looper, Froggen and Keith were all left to free agency. In the past few days, several sources have indicated that Dardoch, Altec and Adrian would fill the jungle and bot lane roles respectively.
While Altec and Adrian is a solid mid-tier NA bot lane with room for growth, the acquisition of Dardoch is always bound to beg a few questions as his last few roster moves have fallen down the pipe. At the beginning of 2017, Dardoch was originally the starting jungler for Echo Fox after a nasty fallout with Team Liquid that was well documented.
After a contract breach made voided the move, Dardoch would get the starting spot at Immortals only to bow out from the team in a split.
The summer split started as Dardoch and Xmithie swapped teams, the opening weeks got off on the right foot but it was all downhill from there as Dardoch would get benched from CLG for Omargod halfway through the season.
Dardoch ultimately finished the season on none other than Team Liquid as he completed the circle of roster moves that ended a truly lackluster 2017. With four of the spots filled, the acquisition of an import top laner seems all the more possible as Huni recently left his post at SKT.
While FOX Huni seems likely, there has been nothing concrete on the matter, and possibly for the better. A team with tilt-prone personalities like Dardoch and Huni have the possibility for a corrosive component in team communications and the results could prove volatile if not coached properly.
Although the roster does have its upsides, there are a lot of questions to ask of each player both mechanically and mentally heading into the new season.
Clutch Gaming (CG)
The Houston Rockets NBA team try their hand at a new competitive endeavor with a franchise spot as newly formed Clutch Gaming.
The Rockets as an organization have made waves throughout the NBA for scouting players on a ‘moneyball’ basis that focuses on analytics and player metrics rather than feeling of a player to decide what kind of talent to bring in.
The approach to team building has seemingly worked as the Rockets have gone several seasons in a row improving on their record with a slew of dynamic players.
The CG roster of Solo, LiRa, Febiven, Apollo and Hakuho may not have their own ‘James Harden-esque’ player at the moment, but LiRa and Apollos potential to flat out carry games last season is a big anchor for a team that was 3/5 of the old NV lineup.
Febiven and Solo are both capable solo laners that have the potential to succeed with resources allocated, so the propensity to succeed for CG is well within reach. Tillman Fertitta and co. will be looking to make improvements on their investment as CG get set to compete in their first LCS season.
100 Thieves (100)
The 100 Thieves franchise, founded and co-owned by Nadeshot, is the third ‘NBALCS’ team to feature next year in the NA region.
Matthew Haag (Nadeshot) working in conjunction with Dan Gilbert of the Cleveland Cavaliers have got the rights to their own LCS team and with that, the ensuing insanity of roster swaps and rumors have started to take hold. Just a few days ago, Dot Esports cited the arrival of Ssumday, Meteos and Ryu as the starting members of a yet unfinished LCS team.
While Nadeshot is the owner of the team, his LoL expertise isn’t necessarily all the way there to act as a Reginald to the squad. Acquiring pr0lly as head coach from H2K was an excellent move to fill in for that role. Even though Meteos and Ryu share previous game time with each other, the synergy as a five man with a brand new bot lane is still in question as the Thieves are leaving their roster finalization in limbo.
Ssumday will be an obvious positive to a team that will be desperately looking to cling to a star. Ssumday has the potential to take over and straight bully games into his team’s favor the same way Lebron James does in the Association.
If the Thieves can find a way to consistently exploit that strength, the skies are truly the limit for a team that still needs holes to be filled. With both import slots taken that means only NA talent will be at the disposal for the Thieves in bot lane.
As previously mentioned, Aphromoo and Biofrost have been early candidates for the support role. The only real AD name that isn’t already confirmed to fill out the roster would be Cody Sununless TL are looking to utilize him as a sub.
OpTic Gaming (OPT)
In a recent OpTic podcast, CEO Hector Rodriguez spoke with Thomas ‘Zaboutine’ Si-Hassen as the new League of Legends head coach for the organization.
Optic Gaming, through the investment of Texas Rangers co-owner Neil Leibman, made the right moves in order to secure an LCS spot as a pseudo ‘MLBLCS’ team.
They have of course have solid routes within the esports and technological scene, the merging of these two parties on the way to securing a spot in the league have made for a much-hyped roster announcement. According to the most recent Reddit chatter, the rumored roster for OPT in the 2018 season will be: zig, Akaadian, PowerOfEvil, Arrow and LemonNation.
The import slots for Arrow and PoE will be in good use as Arrow has proved his worth in spite of adverse team conditions last year, and PoE was one of the mid laners giving Bjergsen a tough time during Worlds last year.
Akaadian and zig are younger, still developing talents with room to grow as last season saw them enjoy extravagant highs and dismal lows for their respective teams. LemonNation is a battle tested veteran with an already established skill ceiling, but that won’t stop him from synergizing with Arrow effectively to guarantee at least one solid lane for this new look roster.
Notable Free Agents:
Piglet, Moon, Freeze, GBM, MadLife, Marin, Huni, Zeyzal, Biofrost, Svenskeren, Shrimp, Big, Cop, Seraph, Nisqy, Nientonsoh, Shady, Konkwon, Alex Ich, Dodo, Santorin, SSONG, Looper, Froggen, Keith.