The Proven – Team Solo Mid, Cloud 9, Team Impulse
Team Solo Mid – 1st Seed
To speak of TSM is to speak of what is arguably one of, if not the most successful North American team in League of Legends history. Their rise to fame began around the qualifiers for the Season 1 World Championships, having earned their invitation by beating the then crowd favourite CLG in two best of three matches during the regional qualifiers. TSM then went on to place third in the Season 1 World Championships, the highest of all the North American teams in that tournament.
Following their debut and a relatively lacklustre preseason, TSM came into Season 2 guns blazing. They quite literally overwhelmed all the other competition on the continent, winning every single non-international competition in an extremely convincing fashion. This was the golden era of TSM dominance; they were untouchable by any team in the region. This regional dominance continued until the advent of Cloud 9, a full season and a half after season 2. Even with the rising competition in the more recent seasons, TSM has managed to finish top two at the end of every single LCS playoff. To further iterate their regional success, TSM is only team in the world to have attended the World Championships every single season.
It should be noted that while TSM was by far the top dog in North America, they were still unable to beat any international teams, constantly losing to the European Moscow 5 and the top Korean teams at the time, Azubu Blaze and Frost. Since then, their international success has only gotten marginally better. With the introduction of the jungler Santorin to their roster this season, TSM hopes to maintain their regional prominence and show that they are capable of translating it to the world stage.
Top Lane: Marcus ‘Dyrus’ Hill
Dyrus is one of the few players in the world to have a claim to being the most consistently good player in the world. His career began playing for Epik Gamer back in Season 1, which after moderate success disbanded due to the team’s lack of commitment. He was then picked up at the beginning of Season 2 to replace TheRainMan, where he has remained ever since.
Dyrus is the only remaining member on TSM who was a part of their golden age, and has seen the team through all its ups and downs. Throughout this massive span of time, Dyrus has never once faced a fatal slump, and has been a consistent rock throughout his entire career. Furthermore, he has done so while remaining a competitive top laner in the world. No game changes have shaken him; few top laners can claim to have bested him. There are few, if any players in the world who could dream of having this kind of career.
Coming into Season 5, Dyrus seeks to continue his legacy of being the solid backbone of TSM’s success. Although many question his ability to continue his career as he ages and the scene becomes flooded with young talent, his career is the only testament that the naysayers need. Given his success as a player, Dyrus has cemented his place amongst the stars, regardless of most anything that could happen in the future.
Middle Lane: Søren ‘Bjergsen’ Bjerg
Bjergsen’s career started in Europe as a rising mid laner for the team Copenhagen Wolves. After very impressive showings in Season 3, Bjergsen was offered the burden of replacing Reginald on TSM. This move was a monumental show of faith by the organization. The young Bjergsen (who was seventeen-years-old at the time) was not replacing “just anybody”, he was replacing the long standing captain and shotcaller who had led TSM to three consecutive world championships.
Suffice to say, Bjergsen had massive shoes to fill, and he did nothing short of meeting every single expectation. In his debut, Bjergsen was voted MVP for three of the eleven weeks in the 2014 Spring Split. He maintained one of the best KDA’s of the split, finishing 5th in the league with a KDA of 6.3. His popularity surged, and he was voted to represent North America in the 2014 Paris All-Stars Tournament.
Bjergsen has since solidified his position as one of the most mechanically gifted mid laners in the world, and the best mid laner in North America. He is known for his prowess on assassins, but has demonstrated high level play in every role, notably scoring a pentakill on Karma. The kicker is that even with all these laurels, Bjergsen can still further develop as a player in his shotcalling abilities. Season 5 is the young Dane’s opportunity to shine, and to show that he is capable of a career that outshines even his predecessor Reginald.
Jungle: Lucas ‘Santorin’ Larsen
Santorin is the new kid on the block, so to speak. While he has been playing League of Legends since the middle of Season 2, he entered the competitive scene nearing the end of Season 3 as an amateur. His entrance into the spotlight was playing in the 2014 EU Spring Challenger Series on Cloud 9 Eclipse, which met its end at an unfortunate 0:3 loss to SUPA HOT CREW. He was then picked up by Team Coast, on which he did exceedingly well in the 2014 NA Summer Challenger Series, and was picked up by TSM to replace their last jungler Amazing.
Santorin has been a solid jungler with very impressive results in solo queue, having finished in the top ten in North America before the ladder reset. However, he is still extremely untested in high level competitive play, and it is always hard to see how a player will transition from challenger play to the LCS. He has only had one competitive showing at IEM San Jose, which was quite lacklustre. As the newest player on TSM, Santorin has a large amount of pressure to perform, or else the legions of fans will quite surely scapegoat him.
Bottom Lane: Jason ‘WildTurtle’ Tran and Jang-sik ‘Lustboy’ Ham
WildTurtle’s career began playing for amateur teams in Season 2. He has consistently been a high rated player in solo queue, having obtained the top three spots on the NA ladder at the same time in Season 3. He was picked up to replace Chaox in the NA LCS 2013 Spring Split, after his predecessor fell off drastically. Like Bjergsen, Turtle had large shoes to fill coming into TSM. Chaox was their long time AD Carry who had won multiple accolades, such as MVP of the Season 2 NA Regional Qualifiers. Many eyes were upon him to perform, and Turtle shattered everyone’s expectations by scoring a pentakill during his first week as a substitute in the LCS. He has since then developed a reputation for being on the most mechanically sound AD Carries in the world, having competed and done exceedingly well on the world stage.
Lustboy is another one of those players with extremely decorated careers. He started on MiG Blaze in Korea, which was one of the best teams there for most of Season 2. After a gradual decline over the years and two rebrands, Lustboy was released by Blaze after less-than-stellar showings in OGN. He was then picked up by TSM to replace Gleeglarbu, who was unable to cope with the pressures of the LCS. While Lustboy perhaps was outshined by other supports in Korea, he is nonetheless a very strong and solid player. He is mechanically strong and very good at keeping up with the metagame. Furthermore, unlike other Korean imports, he has had a relatively easy transition into North America due to his friendship with TSM coach Locodoco.
Coming into Season 5, TSM’s bot lane has a little bit of work to do. WildTurtle had started slumping near the end of last season, which many would like to see him get out of. Lustboy is still learning English, which means there is most likely still a language barrier between him and the rest of the team. However, due to the fact he has been here for a while, language may not be that large an issue any more. TSM has an incredibly strong bottom lane in terms of mechanics, and if Turtle manages to get back in form, it could very well mean their ability to take first place again this season.
TSM has traditionally been one of the strongest teams in North America since their conception. Much of their success will be dependent on Santorin performing up to par, and Bjergsen further bettering himself as a shotcaller. The both of them have shown on stream that they have become good friends however, which may possibly translate to a good jungle-mid synergy that is necessary for a top team to have. WildTurtle getting back into form would also be an excellent thing for TSM to have.
All-in-all, TSM mechanically has one of the strongest teams coming into the NA LCS where language is not a major issue. Furthermore, they have not had as massive a roster swap as most of the other teams, which means that they should still be able to perform well together. Their largest issue boils down to good shotcalling, something that they have been weaker at in comparison to the best teams in the world. If they improve on these problems, there is a very high chance for them to reverse their poor showing at IEM San Jose.
Prediction for end of split: 2nd place.
Cloud 9 – 2nd Seed
Cloud 9 has had a pretty amazing history within the LCS. They started as Orbit Gaming, transitioning to Quantic Gaming, and became Cloud 9 in the middle of Season 3. They have always been in the North American amateur scene, but they never had any particular success until their rebrand as Cloud 9, when Hai shifted from jungle to mid, and Meteos, Sneaky, and Balls were picked up, and Jack Etienne became their team manager. At this point in time, Cloud 9’s players were either unknown, or had a rather unsuccessful career. To expect success from them, a completely new challenger team, was like betting on the Washington Generals.
And then the 2013 Summer Promotion Qualifiers happened. Suddenly, Cloud 9 was winning everything. Nothing stood in their way. They blazed through everything, only dropping a single game against all of the amateur teams, and beating Complexity 3:0 in their promotion series. Even so, people had their doubts (mostly because Complexity got manhandled in the LCS). Everyone questioned their ability to take on the top teams in the LCS. Cue the first Super Week of the 2013 NA LCS Summer Split; Cloud sweeps the competition, going 5:0, crushing three of the largest names in North American League of Legends. They finished that split with an unbeaten record of 25:3, with the longest win streak in LCS history to date.
No one questions Cloud 9 now. Many agree that they are currently the undisputed best team in North America, and maybe even the west. Cloud 9 has one of the highest levels of strategic play to ever grace League of Legends, and is one of the few western teams that can compete on the level of Koreans. They have made it to all three NA LCS Playoff finals they could possibly have made it to, and won two out of those three, losing by a hair’s width to TSM in the Season 4 Summer Playoffs. Coming into Season 5 fresh off a clean tournament sweep at IEM San Jose, Cloud 9 seeks to stack further laurels upon their incredible record.
Top Lane: An ‘Balls’ Le
Balls is one of those players in the running for Dyrus’ title of most consistently good player. He has rarely ever performed badly since his inception to the LCS, and has demonstrated some of the best Rumble play in the world. He has always had a large champion pool and is unfazed by game charges. His abilities as a player are remarkable, and many people view him as one of the best players mechanically on Cloud 9.
Something fun of note is the Balls was once an AD Carry player for other amateur teams. He has been playing competitively since Season 2.
Middle Lane: Hai ‘Hai’ Lam
Hai is one of those players who have been around since Season 1. He started his own team as a jungler after getting high rated, which gradually became better known under the name of Orbit Gaming. To be frank, Orbit Gaming never did very well. They were always one of the teams in the amateur scene, but they could never achieve much success. Orbit was rebranded Quantic Gaming, going through multiple rosters swaps but never being able to make it. Throughout this period of time, Hai was trying again and again to build a top competitive team, but never quite making it.
Then he makes the switch from being a jungler to mid laner, and he acquires the current roster we know as Cloud 9 today. Incidentally, this is when Hai started winning. Since then Hai has attained a reputation of being one of the best shotcallers in the world, having been one of the main forces in Cloud 9’s strategic dominance in the game. Unlike being extremely mechanically gifted like the top mid laners, Hai’s strength lies in his impeccable decision making, which rarely ever leads Cloud 9 astray. He has at times had issues with his champion pool, but his ability to make the right calls have always made him a valuable asset to his team.
Jungle: William ‘Meteos’ Hartman
Meteos, unlike most players on other top teams, hasn’t actually been playing competitively for that long. He was known as a high rated player in solo queue since Season 2, but he went under the radar as he never really played for any teams. In Season 3, he joined the Cloud 9 roster, and was immediately catapulted into the spotlight as one of the best junglers in the world, and the best junglers in the west. In the beginning, he was known for a very high farm jungle style, where Cloud 9 sacrificed farm on their laners’ part for Meteos to become strong. It was during this time that Meteos hit absurdly high KDAs; his KDA on Zac was 49 with a 100% win rate, and he finished the summer split with a 12.7 KDA which is the highest in LCS history.
However, after a less than desirable performance at the Season 3 World Championships, Meteos adapted his style and has since taken on a more supportive jungle role. He adapts well to game changes, and his champion pool is rarely an issue. He is an extremely strong player mechanically, and in addition he has very strong in terms of strategy too, being responsible for a lot of Cloud 9’s early plays.
Bottom Lane: Zachary ‘Sneaky’ Scuderi and Daerek ‘LemonNation’ Hart
Sneaky, originally SnEaKyCaStRoO, has been playing League of Legends since about Season 2. He was a high rated player, but like Meteos was not very active in the competitive scene. His actual debut onto the scene was with Cloud 9. Sneaky always did well in his games, but no one would ever have thought that he’d have grown into the AD Carry powerhouse he is today. His growth over the years has been phenomenal, having gone from just a decent player to one of the best AD Carries in the world today. Sneaky is extremely strong mechanically, with consistently good decision making and positioning. He has a wide champion pool, and has historically been able to play any champion at a competitive level.
Like the rest of his teammates, LemonNation has played League of Legends since Season 2. He was well known by the high ranked community as a support player who only played Janna. After reaching rank 1 playing only support, Lemon was picked up by an amateur team, and after a brief period of time ended up on Orbit Gaming with now teammate Hai. From there, his career followed the same path as Hai to where he is today, as the support player of one of the best teams in the world. His individual skill is unfortunately lacking in comparison to other support players, and is inconsistent in his ability to impact the game. However, Lemon’s true value lies in his famous notebook, which really is a congregation of notes made in preparation for each game. The amount and quality of strategic knowledge he provides to his team is what makes him invaluable to Cloud 9 as a player.
Cloud 9’s bottom lane has traditionally been very solid. In their debut, they popularized the Ashe/Zyra combination to great success, although it has since grown defunct. After Sneaky has grown into the amazing player he is today, it has since become a very reliable backbone for Cloud 9 to fall on in tough games. Coming into this split, Sneaky intends to show just how much further he can grow as a player, while Lemon should work on his gameplay. If Lemon’s abilities develop to a point where he lands key skillshots more consistently, or gets caught less often while warding, Cloud 9 will have effectively covered up one of their few weaknesses.
Cloud 9 is a team that has literally never placed lower than second place in any regional event. Their understanding of the game and ability to play well strategically has allowed them to cover up their mechanical weaknesses against teams with better individual players. Their solidarity as a unit is shown through some of the best team play seen in the world. The fact that they have kept the same roster and management staff for the past two years now is also monument to this fact. If they all improve further in their individual gameplay, Cloud 9 will undoubtedly retain their title as the top team in the west.
Prediction for end of split: 1st place
Team Impulse (formerly LMQ) – 3rd Seed
LMQ arrived in the North American scene in Season 3, seeking greater prospects than they found in their native region China. The old LMQ was the epitome of the American dream – five skilled players coming over from another country seeking riches, working hard to integrate and make their mark in their new environment. They were one of the largest success stories of the LCS, with their honest attempts at embracing American culture winning the hearts of many fans in their new region.
Unfortunately, this story ends in heartbreak. Not even the Pacific Ocean could save LMQ from the shady business practices rampant throughout China. After a large schism in management of the newly beloved team and an unfortunate knockout in the group stages at the Season 4 World Championships, LMQ lost four of its five members that had made such an impact on the North American scene. After picking up an almost entirely new roster, LMQ rebranded as Team Impulse, seeking to regain its former success in the LCS.
Top Lane: Eon-yeong ‘Impact’ Jung
Impact is perhaps the most renowned player on the new Team Impulse roster. He is the former teammate of the legendary Faker, having played for SK Telecom K which won the Season 3 World Championships in one of the most dominating fashions possible. However, in the following Season 4, this championship team was unable to meet its former success in the Korean scene, and Impact as a result was released.
While his career has arguably taken a turn for the worse, Impact is still a very good top lane player. He is known for his versatility and ability to play any champion at a high level. With his entry into the North American scene, Impact seeks to exert his prowess as a top laner and regain his former glory as a world champion.
Middle Lane: Xian ‘XiaoWeiXiao’ Yu
XiaoWeiXiao is the only member of LMQ left on the team. His career began as a play on Royal Club Tian Ci, the training and substitute team of Star Horn Royal Club, one of China’s best teams traditionally. After coming over to North America, his abilities as a mid laner quickly became recognized through streams and playing in the Challenger series. Not only does he field an insanely large champion pool, he is an extremely skilled player mechanically and constantly outfarms his opponents in lane. In Season 4, he was arguably one of the best mid laners in North America, and definitely played a large part in improving the overall quality of mid play in the region. XiaoWeiXiao hopes to continue his story of pursuing the American dream, and turn the unfortunate events of the end of last season into a short chapter of a very successful career.
Jungle: Yoonjae ‘Rush’ Lee
Rush is another import from Korea, known as one of the best solo queue players from the region. However, he was never once picked up by a Korean team, and thus he career begins this split as the jungler for Team Impulse. Like all solo queue stars, Rush has to prove that he is able to translate his success from solo queue into competitive play. Given that North America is a region with few good junglers, if Rush is successful in his move to North America, he may very well follow in XiaoWeiXiao’s footsteps in playing a large part in improving the overall play of his new region.
Bottom Lane: Apollo ‘Apollo’ Price and Adrian ‘Adrian’ Ma
Apollo, or “Wizfujiin” to the older crowd has been in the professional scene for a couple of years. He played for the LCS team Coast back in Season 3 but never saw much success. He’s known as being an incredibly good solo queue player, constantly reaching the top ten spots on the North American ladder. However, with his unsuccessful stint in the LCS, many question his ability to play well on stage. Nonetheless, his solo queue success at least demonstrates his mechanical skill is good enough to be relevant.
Adrian is a relatively unknown player. He’s a high rated solo queue player who’s played in the amateur scene in Season 4, but little is known about him otherwise. He has demonstrated decent game knowledge in his ability to play all five roles across solo queue, but he is not a very strong player mechanically. Like Apollo, he will have to be able to prove his worth in the LCS by showing that he is able to translate his solo queue success into competitive play.
Team Impulse’s largest issue by far is language barriers. They have two Koreans, one Chinese, and two Americans on their roster. However, there is solace in the fact that XiaoWeiXiao has been learning English for over a year now, and apparently Rush speaks English quite well too.
In terms of their roster, Impulse is coming into Season 5 with some pretty interesting pickups. Impact is definitely one of the most notable players coming into North America this year, and there is a lot of hype surrounding him. Rush is rumoured to be a very solid jungler. XiaoWeiXiao has been a consistently good mid laner. The big question mark is their bottom lane. If Apollo and Adrian manage to hold their weight in a region filled with titanic bottom pairs, Team Impulse may very well be able to achieve their former success.
Prediction for end of split: 5th/6th/7th Place with Gravity and Winterfox as the others
Written by: Kevin ‘SoullessFire’ Lee
Graphics by Ling Gu: @vpnviper
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