The North American League Champion Series (LCS) will kick off with its new “Friday Night League” tomorrow which means it’s time to preview these rosters, my thoughts, break them into tiers, and discuss my futures strategy regarding the league for the season.

Week one in the LCS tends to be a little weird sometimes. A lot of the teams will start academy players or new players but eventually settle back on their original starters. It’s critical to keep an eye on the team Twitter accounts as they will frequently announce if a new player is getting a start or not. This could change over the weekend but do yourself a favor and follow the official Twitter accounts of each of the LCS teams in case they make any last minute moves. I’ll mention a few in this article.

 

Tiers defined:

 

F Tier – I’m not sure I’ll give any of these out but it’s mostly reserved for uniquely bad situations like maybe an expansion team or team from a smaller, weaker region at a large tournament or something.

 

D Tier – Non-playoff teams that have next to no shot without a borderline miracle developing to have a chance at playoffs. Not all regions will have these. Often rebuilding teams, teams with large rosters and constant swaps of subpar players, or straight up awful teams.

 

C Tier – Non-playoff teams that need a lot of things to go well to have a shot at competing domestically.

Often these teams are trying and competing but lack the players/skill to really compete with the stronger teams. Sometimes will beat middle of the table teams but will also drop some games to worse teams.

 

B Tier – Teams that might make the playoffs or might just miss. Most of the “middle of the table” teams fall into this category. Often they either do one thing well but have weaknesses or they’re a pretty solid team that just doesn’t have the skill/ability to be much better than they are.

 

A Tier – Likely playoff teams that could contend for a title if a few things go their way. Usually solid teams with a weakness or high upside teams with multiple question marks.

 

S Tier – World championship caliber teams and/or teams that are substantially ahead of their region. S+ rating indicates teams that I feel have a great chance at winning the world championship.

 

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C Tier:

 

 

Immortals

 

Arrivals: Potluck (jungle)

Departures: none

Projected Starters: Soaz (top), Xmithie (jungle), Eika (mid), Altec (ADC), Gate (support)

Substitutes: Apollo (ADC), Hakuho (support), Potluck (jungle)

Odds: +2500 to win Summer

Immortals already announced that they’re starting new jungler Potluck in game one but it remains to be seen whether or not he’ll become a permanent fixture.

While I don’t think this team is completely dreadful they just lack the upside to be too optimistic about their prospects for Summer. Xmithie not starting game one makes me think that either he doesn’t possess the champion pool to play the current meta picks like Graves, Nidalee, and Kindred which could be why they’re going with Potluck. Xmithie is the best player on this team so it feels like this can only hurt them overall. Gate is a Bard specialist and that is a very potent pick right now so I like that move.

The futures market has this team priced as the 6th place finisher. I doubt they get to that level but it’s not out of the question. Regardless they’re overpriced.

Overall Immortals shouldn’t be terrible, they have a bunch of savvy veterans that still have some chops and none of their players stick out as “bad” but their ceiling feels rather low. Then again the second place team in North America last split was a crew of mostly savvy veterans just playing mostly mistake free LOL with solid drafting, if Immortals can do the same thing they’ll vastly outperform this rating if the field doesn’t improve.

 

 

Counter Logic Gaming (CLG)

 

Arrivals: xSojin (assistant coach) joins from academy

Departures: none

Projected Starters: Ruin (top), Wiggily (jungle), Pobelter (mid), Wind (ADC), Smoothie (support)

Substitutes: Stixxay (ADC)

Odds: +7100 to win Summer

My colleagues are significantly more bullish on CLG placing them a few positions higher than this spot but in a similar fashion to Immortals, I just don’t see the ceiling. Pobelter significantly improved this team with his mid-season arrival but it still didn’t translate to a lot of wins. They’ll almost certainly get more this season with a lot more time to build chemistry and game plans. We haven’t seen enough of Wind at that ADC position to really get a good read on how good or bad he could be. As it stands he’s just been serviceable. Ruin has had a few standout performances but has mostly underwhelmed in 2020, Smoothie and Wiggily were outstanding in 2019 but have struggled so far.

CLG needed a fresh start. The whole fiasco with Crown not working out really put a damper on this teams season and disrupted everything. They weren’t able to get any kind of momentum going. There’s a chance they’re reinvigorated for this split and come out the gate firing. CLG will definitely be a better team this split I just think they need a lot of things to work out for them to make playoffs. It’s not outside the realm of possibility I just don’t think it’s very likely.

 

B Tier:

 

100 Thieves

 

Arrivals: none

Departures: none

Projected Starters: Ssumday (top), Meteos (jungle), Ryoma (mid), Cody Sun (ADC), Stunt (support)

Substitutes: none listed

Odds: +2500 to win Summer

Ssumday is one of the best individual players in the league and Cody Sun has become remarkably consistent as a player over the years. The rest of this roster is serviceable or less. Ryoma started to get it together later in the season but for the most part lacked pizzazz last season. More often than not he would get favorable matchups and just do nothing with them which allowed teams to focus more attention on Ssumday and the bottom lane. Perhaps he’ll be another split more comfortable but I think he’s one of, if not the weakest mid the league and it’s the strongest position in NA which will start 100 Thieves off of a disadvantage in every match and reducing the impact of having a stud like Ssumday in the lineup.

The thing to be optimistic about with 100 Thieves is that this metagame is excellent for Meteos’ farm-centric jungle style over the course of his career. If it stays that way for awhile teams will have to devote bans towards him frequently which should give 100 Thieves a draft edge for quite some time.

This is yet another “good not great” roster. They’ve got some upside due to the individual talent of Ssumday and his ability to play anything and everything to an elite level, but this team still has a fairly low ceiling to me.

 

Golden Guardians

 

Arrivals: Damonte (mid), Olleh (positional coach)

Departures: Goldenglue (mid) and Keith (support) to academy

Projected Starters: Hauntzer (top), Closer (jungle), Damonte (mid), FBI (ADC), Huhi (support)

Substitutes: none listed

Odds: +5100 to win Summer

This is a roster I’m a bit more bullish on than the field. Closer was a standout performer in the jungle and should improve with a full split under his belt. Damonte should prove an upgrade over Goldenglue not in general skill but style and depth of champion pool which should allow Golden Guardians to be more versatile. FBI and Huhi should continue to develop as a lane duo now that they’re the solidified full-time starters. Hauntzer might not be quite as good as he used to be but should prove to be a solid contributor in the top lane.

Golden Guardians have a lot of upside to me. The Closer+Damonte combination is the kind of mid+jungle duo that could take over games with strong, decisive priority play and really help this team out. They’re a stronger “punch up” underdog candidate for this reason alone and without any true detrimental players at any position should prove to be a higher floor team than people might be giving them credit for in addition to a higher ceiling.

 

FlyQuest

 

Arrivals: none

Departures: V1per (top)

Projected Starters: Solo (top), Santorin (jungle), PowerOfEvil (mid), WildTurtle (ADC), Ignar (support)

Substitutes: none listed

Odds: +2200 to win Summer

I was not optimistic about FlyQuest going into the Spring split and they ended up the clear #2 in the league off of the back of an MVP performance by PowerOfEvil. Ignar and Santorin also had outstanding seasons. For the most part, FlyQuest were just fundamentally sound and made the fewest mistakes both in-game and in the draft. Their preparation was excellent and their coaching staff identified quickly how to play in Season 10. The rest of the league honestly never really picked up on it outside of Evil Geniuses and Cloud 9.

If you assume the rest of the league catches up to some extent in team chemistry and identifying the correct things to be doing, FlyQuest lose a lot of their edge on the field. I think this team will be solid and competing for a playoff spot but their low ceiling is unappetizing. Still, this team has one of the highest floors in the league and should be a consistent competitor even against the top teams because of their great fundamentals.

 

 

Dignitas

 

Arrivals: V1per (top), Dardoch (jungle), JayJ (support)

Departures: Huni (top)

Projected Starters: V1per (top), Dardoch (jungle), Froggen (mid), Johnsun (ADC), JayJ (support)

Substitutes: Akaadian (jungle), Aphromoo (support)

Odds: +3500 to win Summer

Akaadian is getting the week one start. Whether that will be a permanent fixture is yet to be known.

Full disclosure: I like this roster a lot.

A blend of savvy, above average or better veterans and pair of high upside young guns in Johnsun and V1per is always a combination I like to see and in a league like the LCS, this is the kind of roster that can surprise. Dardoch was severely underrated last season and was remembered more of this lowlights than all of the incredible stuff he was doing to set TSM up with leads in nearly every early game. Akaadian has always been a bit better than perception as well so I like the prospects for this team regardless of which jungler starts. Froggen is still an absolute rock, capable of playing any number of styles and a champion pool as deep as Nukeduck’s over in the LEC. JayJ is an underrated support, one of the better ones in the league and Johnsun was excellent in his debut split.

The big question mark is V1per who had a disappointing Spring even on the second place team. There’s a chance the change of scenery is a wake-up call for him and he elevates to previous levels but I’m less concerned about that when you look at the top lane metagame early in season ten and the bruisers/carries available to play which should be right up his alley. The rest of this team should open up drafts for him to “do his thing” a bit more than FlyQuest who was asking him to play a more traditional role.

Dignitas is probably the team I’m most bullish on of the non-elite teams. I don’t see them winning the split but I could see a FlyQuest-esque run.

 

A Tier:

 

Team Solo Mid

 

Arrivals: Doublelift (ADC), Spica (jungle) from academy

Departures: Dardoch (jungle), Kobbe (ADC)

Projected Starters: BrokenBlade (top), Spica (jungle), Bjergsen (mid), Doublelift (ADC), Biofrost (support)

Substitutes: none listed

Odds: +320 to win Summer

Ahhh the drama… I’ve chronicled the TSM/Liquid situation via writing and podcast enough over the past month or so and you can find my thoughts in more detail if you like through those mediums. To keep this short and sweet, Doublelift PROBABLY provides and upgrade but not a big one and not one that was worth the drama.

Team Solo Mid are tremendously talented but Spica has been awful in his appearances as a professional player and unimpressive even in academy. There’s a chance that might not matter as much when his lanes are as good as they are but I have TSM on high “dumpster fire alert.” If this team doesn’t start the season well I could see this entire thing unraveling very quickly.

I’m a bit bearish on TSM but still, the talent is overwhelming compared to most teams in the LCS. TSM are almost definitely a playoff team but they’ll be frequently “jungle gapped” against the top teams. I can’t understate just how big of a downgrade this is. Dardoch was a 7 or 8 out of 10 and you’re moving to like a -5 here. Unless Spica has reinvented himself this feels like a botched free agent signing or something like that (perhaps limited by the pandemic).

 

Evil Geniuses

 

Arrivals: Huni (top)

Departures: Towey (general manager)

Projected Starters: Kumo (top), Svenskeren (jungle), Jiizuke (mid), Bang (ADC), Zeyzal (support)

Substitutes: Huni (top)

Odds: +900 to win Summer

Note: Huni cannot start unless Bang or Jiizuke aren’t starting due to import restrictions. Bang and Huni are still under Korean residency (for now) and Jiizuke is under European residency (Italy). A team can only start two imports.

It took about six or seven weeks into the season for EG to figure out who they were but they eventually did and looked outstanding in playoffs despite lackluster performances from Svenskeren and Kumo. If either of those two can elevate then EG are going to be excellent. If not, they’ll be very good. This metagame allows for 1-3-1 split pushing strategies with champions like Twisted Fate. That’s Jiizuke’s game. Going into Spring I questioned the construction of a Bang+Zeyzal bottom lane. A lane-centric ADC with a poor laning support that was better as a map leverage player felt odd to me but after a few weeks but it ended up being excellent. Bang was a silent killer last season boasting some of the best efficiency numbers in any league all while Zeyzal was allowed to “do his thing.”

I’m not sure how much more room for growth there is but I still think there’s a bit. If you consider how inconsistent and poor Evil Geniuses were for the first half of last season I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect a full season that was more like their second half which would have been good for #2. They’ll be much more consistent this season now that they’ve figured out who they are and should be a top four team or better.

 

S Tier:

 

Team Liquid

 

Arrivals: Jatt (head coach), Croissant (assistant coach), Cain moves from head coach to strategic coach)

Departures: Doublelift (ADC)

Projected Starters: Impact (top), Broxah (jungle), Jensen (mid), Tactical (ADC), CoreJJ (support)

Substitutes: TFBlade (top)

Odds: +260 to win Summer

Team Liquid were a statistical anomaly last season. In traditional sports they’d be like the 49ers in 2018-19 who had tremendous underlying metrics but were crippled by turnovers. They made it to the Super Bowl the next season once the turnovers regressed to a more normal rate. I’m not saying Liquid were entirely unlucky, their drafts left a lot to be desired and they punted some leads they shouldn’t have, but given the weird circumstances around Broxah and his late arrival and all of the other stuff last season, I think it’s safe to say this season “got away from them” a bit.

A fresh start, a full off-season for Broxah to get incorporated, the Doublelift drama gone, and the addition of Jatt, who I think is going to be a fantastic coach all add up to the best kind of fresh start/reset. Liquid should have been dominant last season. I expect them to be this season and they’ll be the only challenger to Cloud 9 unless Spica can elevate on TSM.

 

Cloud 9

 

Arrivals: none

Departures: none

Projected Starters: Licorice (top), Blaber (jungle), Nisqy (mid), Zven (ADC), Vulcan (support)

Substitutes: none listed

Odds: -147 to win Summer

A lot of people are just assuming a massive regression for Cloud 9. I’ve heard everything from luck to “they’ll start to be punished for their style” to “their drafts are suspect” and everything else.

Simply put, this team was monstrous. You look at almost every single measureable and that will be the case. They had the best gold percentage rate of any team in the four major regions by a mile (2.29) more than double that of DragonX (1.08) and Gen.G (0.93). “They were just stomping on a bad region.” You’re right, they were but what else can we ask them to do?

Cloud 9 don’t just have the on-paper numbers either. They had dynamic and appropriately experimental drafts, played with a blistering pace, executed at an extremely high level in most scenarios, showed the ability to manage the mid-to-late transition when they weren’t able to completely snowball a lead home early, something that even good teams struggle with (as we’re seeing in the LPL). Where a lot of early game team compositions would stall out, Cloud 9 find ways to get to the finish line.

The rest of the league is going to upgrade and will almost certainly provide a better challenge for Cloud 9 this time around. I doubt we’ll see another 17-1 season but I still think Cloud 9 are the class of the LCS and a world class team even though we didn’t get the opportunity to see that with no MSI this season. They have one of the best coaches in the world, are hungry, play the game the optimal way, possess versatility and players that can execute on a variety of looks and strategies. Cloud 9 have everything you could ask them to.

That season wasn’t a fluke. If you don’t believe me go watch their film. They so thoroughly dominated this league to such a ridiculous degree that I’m not sure I remember a more dominant season in any league since the early SK Telecom days or maybe G2. At this point we’re just hoping for Team Liquid to be the Fnatic to Cloud9’s G2.

 

—–

 

Tier List

S: Cloud 9, Team Liquid

A: Evil Geniuses, Team Solo Mid

B: Dignitas, FlyQuest, Golden Guardians, 100 Thieves

C: Counter Logic Gaming, Immortals

 

The LCS lacks overall play quality after the top teams but it should be a highly competitive league. I could see any one of the 5th-10th teams battling for the final two playoff positions but feel that the top four is fairly set in stone.

 

Futures Strategy:

Depending on where you look, Cloud 9 are -147 to up to -300 to win the LCS Summer. If you go to a book that has Cloud 9 as closer to that -300 number you’ll notice a lot of opportunities for the middle teams who will have significantly better odds. For example, my favorite selection of Team Liquid who are +260 in some places and up to +1600 in others.

I think Liquid are the only team worth a look. Cloud 9 feel almost G2-esque to me this season. If I had to take a chance at a long shot besides Liquid it’d be Dignitas at +3500 but that’s just me. If you believe in this TSM roster they’re not a bad look at similar numbers to Liquid. TSM have the talent to win it’s just a matter of putting it all together which is normally what you like in an outright situation if you’re getting reasonable odds.

I’ll be sticking to just Liquid.

My Picks:

 

To win LCS Summer 2020: Team Liquid +1600 (1 unit)(Bovada)

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