On January 20th, the 2017 LCS season begins, and it’s shaping up to be one of the most exciting years for professional League of Legends yet.
Following all of the huge changes to the professional scene over the course of the pre-season, it’s hard to predict how a lot of the teams will do. There are, of course, the power-houses that are still around and well (TSM, Cloud 9), but will the new Dignitas manage to come out of the season alive? Will the former Cloud 9 Challenger team (now known as Fly Quest) prove that they can contend with the LCS even though its players haven’t been competitive in years? We have tons of questions, we’re really excited, and it all starts on Friday.
So out of all of the excitement we’re going to see this weekend, chances are you might not be able to catch it all. If you can only tune in for a few games, make sure you watch these:
1.) Cloud9 vs. TSM: January 20 at 6:00pm
The first game of the weekend also happens to have the most hype behind it. TSM and Cloud 9 are both expected to do very well this season, but they also both have the same level of risk and uncertainty. On TSM, this risk comes from the return of their long-time ADC- Jason ‘WildTurtle’ Tran. WildTurtle returns to the team to fill the void of DoubleLift, who has taken a leave of absence from the LCS.
WildTurtle has always synergized well with TSM, but he has never performed well in a post-season setting, something that DoubleLift did very well. The question is: Will WildTurtle be able to perform better than he ever has to elevate himself to DoubleLift’s level? That’s what TSM needs this year to succeed.
On the other side of things, Cloud 9 retains most of their over-powered lineup, but they do have a new jungler. Last season, C9 had one of the best solo jungle performers in the entire League community: Rush. Despite their star-studded team, C9 failed to perform well until the last bit of last season- citing lack of communication and synergy with their new jungler to be the fault. C9’s success this season rests on the shoulders of their new jungler, Juan ‘Contractz’ Garcia. Contractz needs to show the world and his teammates that he can sync up well with his team and all eyes are on him. If he fails, Meteos will likely take over the Jungle spot again.
2.) Counter Logic Gaming vs. Team Liquid: January 21 at 3:00pm
CLG is the only team of the NA LCS scene that did not make any roster changes over the course of the off-season. Why? Because they didn’t need to. Last season, we saw the shotcaller and frontman of CLG, Zaqueri ‘Aphromoo’ Black, lead his team to a fantastic start to the split, only to fall off by the end of the season. They appeared to make simple mistakes and be a bit more uncoordinated than we expected, but the roster itself, on paper, was damn impressive. It makes sense that instead of making roster moves and adding to the lack of synergy that they would use their time during the off-season to bond.
Most LCS power rankings articles place CLG down towards the bottom, but I have a feeling that we’re all going to be very surprised by their performance this year and this weekend could be their chance to show the world they’re more explosive than we give them credit for.
Team Liquid, on the other side of things, is in the opposite end of the boat. Sporting almost an entirely new roster of respectable talent isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but one player in particular stands out as a risk. Greyson ‘Goldenglue’ Gilmer has been trying to make an LCS appearance for a few seasons now, but every time he’s tried- he’s fallen disappointingly short. As a professional mid-laner once more, he has a fairly impressive team built around him, but he’ll have to play better than he ever has to compete with the mid-lane talent of the NA LCS. If he can’t, he’ll have to rely on Piglet to carry at ADC and at least during this first week, he might have difficulty doing so against the bot-lane-powerhouse known as Aphromoo and Stixxay.
3.) Fly Quest vs. Team Envy: January 21 at 3:00pm
This will be a difficult game to watch, since it’s at the same time as the CLG-TL game, but we can’t pretend that even the thought of this game isn’t extremely exciting. Why? Cloud 9, that’s why. Hai ‘Hai’ Du Lam used to be the mid-laner to beat in the NA LCS when he used to play for Cloud 9. That is, until his lung collapsed. As horrible as that sounds, it’s true, and while Hai was taking months away from his C9 family to heal, it was taking its toll on his gameplay. He had been some of the prime talent that had built C9 into the empire it is today, and when he finally returned, he wasn’t himself anymore. He looked out-of-sync with the team he had spent months away from, and he looked tired, likely from just having returned from dealing with a collapsed lung.
After more of this uphill struggle for Hai to try to get back into his rhythm, he ended up leaving the team. He came around when the team needed him to sub, but he was no longer one of C9’s pillars. Well, now he leads the brand new team, Fly Quest (which previously had been C9’s Challenger team) into the LCS with his band of merry LCS retirees. Also on Fly Quest is Lemonnation (C9’s former support), Balls (C9’s former top), and Altec (Gravity’s former ADC). This team, chalk-full of ex-LCS talent, will have to prove that they can tango with the new era of teams, but with Hai’s exceptional and veteran shot-calling, they have the potential to amaze us all. Plus, it’s going to be exceptionally weird to see a game where Lemonnation faces off against Sneaky.
Be sure to check in on Smite Steal to follow the results of this weekend and the predictions for next week’s games! Good luck to all the NA LCS teams competing for the start of the season!
Except for Echo Fox. Rick Fox will just buy you guys a championship trophy even if you don’t make it to the post-season.