Zven and Alphari benched: what is happening in the LCS?

The 2021 LCS Summer Split kicked off last week and things couldn’t have been more dramatic. We’re going to be looking at the two major roster changes of Team Liquid and Cloud9, which benched two EU players in top laner Alphari and ADC player Zven.

What were the reasons behind these choices? And what could this mean for both teams going forward? Let’s find out.

Zven benched

Credit: Riot Games

C9 – Zven benched from starting roster, K1ng promoted from Academy

On May 29th, Cloud9 announced on Twitter that ADC player Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen was benched from the starting roster, with the Academy player Calvin “k1ng” Truong stepping up to replace him. This announcement came out of nowhere, with people questioning what could have happened during and after the Mid-Season Invitational (MSI), considering that Zven was the best performing marksman in North America.

Jack Etienne, the CEO and founder of Cloud9, mentioned that Zven will be heading to C9 Academy in a leadership role and is “fully intending on recapturing the LCS starting position.”

While it may be true, fans became very skeptical about this statement: benching Zven looks like nothing but a punishment. Then, what could the real reasons why Zven was removed from the starting roster?

C9 Zven – Attitude problem or business strategy?

There are two main lines of thought: one is related to his behavior, the other is related to Cloud9’s business strategy.

The first idea is that Zven had attitude issues throughout MSI, due to the lackluster performance on the international stage. Cloud9 was eliminated in the Rumble Stage, ending 5th in the standings. The results showed that NA still has a lot to work on to fight with the best. The poor performance from the other players in the team (especially jungler Robert “Blaber” Huang), might have caused Zven to bring a negative and toxic atmosphere to the team, thus the decision to bench him. While this may be true, it’s really hard to confirm it due to the organization keeping behind-the-scenes action private.

On the other hand, there are people claiming that Cloud9’s choice was a strategic move to run the business and make a profit. If K1ng performs well during this split, he would become an interesting player that other teams would look into. His value would increase and C9 would likely make a bigger profit by selling its player. Zven, instead, would still keep its value thanks to his decorated history, and teams would still need to pay a lot in order to buy his contract.

On the flip side, the inverse result would still be good. If K1ng doesn’t meet expectations, Zven would return to the starting roster and his value would be intact. As a result, Cloud9’s move would benefit them in most scenarios and that’s probably why they went for it. Remember, esports organizations are effectively running a business: they must making some profits or they won’t survive for long…

In conclusion, there must be some thought behind these decisions and Cloud9 is one of the best at doing so. While the results in Week 1 of Summer Split were not ideal (1-2 record), Cloud9 has the tools to continue being a top team in NA. Especially now that Team Liquid made a similar choice.

TL – Alphari benched and replaced by Jenkins

Unlike Cloud9, Team Liquid benched Barney “Alphari” Morris after the team’s first game of the summer split. Thomas “Jenkins” Tran, TL’s Academy player, was promoted to starting roster.

TL’s head coach Joshua “Jatt” Leesman, during an interview with Travis Gafford, said that the move “was not a spur of the moment decision” and that it actually was pondered over the past month. He also mentions that “nothing crazy happened” behind the scenes and that Jenkins was the right choice for the remainder of Week 1. Unfortunately, no further information was given.

There are many people asking why Alphari was benched, but the lack of information makes it very hard to come to any conclusion. It’s also unclear whether Jenkins will stay as a starter in week 2: we might see Alphari coming back soon, especially if TL doesn’t perform well.

Alphari himself made a playful tweet, prompting a tweeting storm in response.

Following his tweet, plenty of memes and bashing went down TL’s way as a response. With the EU fans and even casters mocking Team Liquid’s decision.

Needless to say, Alphari’s benching will make TL look a lot weaker. First in most metrics with insane stats, Alphari was the number 1 top laner of NA. TL also started with a 1-2 record: they must bounce back if they still want to have a shot at the title. Will it be with Jenkins or Alphari? Find out this Friday when NA LCS will be back with more action!

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