Does rebuilding LoL rosters always make them stronger?
With the Summer Split over for the major League of Legends (LoL) esports regions, most teams’ season has come to an end. A select few teams ready themselves for the LoL World Championship (Worlds), the rest can only look ahead to the next year.
Those that want to attend Worlds 2021, will need to make improvements to their teams. This sometimes involves the dramatic process of rebuilding teams from scratch.
The LoL Roster Rebuild process
During a rebuild, teams will part ways with the majority of players and staff and restart with a new team identity. Working from a single or few players can help provide a solid foundation for the team’s identity. For example, if a team has a star mid-laner, it would be beneficial to pair them with a ganking jungler and a roaming support to unlock the mid-laner’s full potential.
If for whatever reason (team decision or player contracts), the team decides to remove the entire team and rebuild from scratch, it is a much more difficult task. It will require much more work on the general manager’s part to secure the team’s correct players while navigating contract negotiations.
This does have the benefit that it can remove any “bad blood” or problematic players, that plagued the previous team and forced a rebuild. Sometimes, a player’s mentality may be too exasperated and require a new team to reset them mentally.
Historically speaking, there have been many rebuilds to varying degrees of success.
Let’s take a look at some recent rebuilds and the degrees of success they achieved.
MAD Lions 2020
Before rebranding, the MAD Lions were Splyce and had come off of a respectable run at Worlds 2019. It was clear that the current line-up had reached its maximum ability and would not improve from their recent performance. For the next year of the League of Legends European Championship (LEC), they squad needed a new direction. MAD decided to keep rookie mid-laner Marek “Humanoid” Brázda and released the rest, including coach Hadrien “Duke” Forestier. The head of the MAD Lions’ coaching staff, Peter Dun, then brought on James “Mac” MacCormack and scouted for rookies from the European regional leagues.
Thus, the MAD Lions consisted of Humanoid (himself coming off his first year in the LEC) and four newcomer rookies.
Despite concerns on how they would react to the main stage, the MAD Lions came out blazing. They performed well in the Spring and Summer splits for 2020, finishing third in Spring and fourth in Summer playoffs. They beat out many teams with veteran names and talent to claim their position at the top.
As they now prepare to attend Worlds 2020, it is clear that the rebuild was successful. The MAD Lions proved that neither experience nor imports were needed to build a strong domestic team.
The League of Legend Champions Korea’s (LCK’s) DRX is another team that rebranded for the 2020 season. Previously known as KingZone DragonX, DRX had a disappointing 2019 Summer season. Finishing in seventh, KingZone failed to make playoffs and needed a change.
Also, like MAD, DRX chose to rebuild around one player. In their case, it was superstar veteran botlaner Hyuk-kyu “Deft” Kim. For jungler and support, DRX promoted Chang-hyeon “Pyosik” Hong and support Min-seok “Keria” Ryu.
To round out the rebuilt roster, DRX signed on former Griffin players and staff. Top-laner Hyon-joon “Doran” Choi and prodigy mid-laner Ji-hoon “Chovy” Jeong joined DRX alongside coach Dae-ho “cvMax” Kim.
DRX had a strong 2020, finishing third in Spring and second in Summer. While overall still satisfied with their Worlds qualification, DRX shows the risks that must be accounted for when building rosters.
In their case, DRX has multiple players known to get emotional during games and thus can lead to unforced errors from flustered star players. This makes DRX a strong team but not a stable one.
100 Thieves 2020
The 100 Thieves in the League of Legends Championship Series (LCS) was one of the most drastic roster rebuilds. Following a tenth place finish in Spring and eighth in Summer, 100 Thieves moved into 2020 by cutting the entire team, coach, and general manager. The only player remaining was Chan-ho “Ssumday” Kim, who, due to import rule complications, had been subbed and playing in the Academy league.
For the 2020 season, 100 Thieves signed Chris “PapaSmithy” Smith as general manager and Anthony “Zikz” Gray as head coach. They then brought on a mix of veteran players for jungle and bot-laner alongside LCS newcomers for the mid-laner and support positions.
In the Thieves’ case, it’s a very mixed bag. The team finished third in Spring in what was almost certainly an overachievement and then finished in a disappointing seventh for Summer. The pieces are there for 100 Thieves to attain success in 2021, but will likely require some more iteration. In particular, the mid-lane and support positions did not work out as well as the staff probably hoped. While still improving over their 2019 selves, the 2020 rebuild was drastic but did not bring the desired results.
These are still among the more successful teams after a rebuild. Generally, most teams always benefit overall from making changes. The more common problem in esports teams is not making changes when they are sorely needed. At least by committing to a rebuilding process, it puts the team in the mindset for further change. This means they can continue to tweak and improve the roster with time, much better than sitting on players whose names have bought them starting positions more than any current level of skill.
So far at least three western organizations have announced either a full or a partial rebuild for the 2021 season.
LEC’s Origen announced there is no “sacred cows” and changes will be made for the team to perform next season.
Two LCS rosters have also committed to a rebuild. Immortals came first with their announcement as soon as the season ended. Four players and the coach were released as a result. CLG has also hinted a LoL roster rebuild, but are yet to release any official notes on what direction the rebuild is going.
There is likely a few LoL rebuilds coming up in the LCK, especially with franchising coming up.
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