Four days from now, the North American LCS may have up to four new teams as the LCS Summer Promotion draws to a close. CLG, Dignitas, MRN, and compLexity are fighting for their LCS lives as eight up-and-coming teams are taking off their Challenger’s gloves and looking to fight their way into the big-time. This article takes a look at the teams participating to provide some knowledge about the lesser-known challenger teams and insight into old favorites.
BalIs – Top
Hai – Mid
Meteos – Jungler
SneakyCastro – AD
LemonNation – Support
Who They Play: Team Astral Poke (Challenger), compLexity Gaming (LCS).
The Hype: Quantic is by far the most hyped of the NA Challenger teams, and like a valedictorian is considered “most likely to succeed.” They’ve taken first at the two Challenger LANs this year, MLG Dallas and the IPL6 Promotion Qualifier, and the word going around in regard to scrims, is that they are winning. The entire team is in Challenger, with five of the top ten spots in Solo Queue Challenger belonging to Quantic; two of the accounts belonging to support player LemonNation.
The Reality: Quantic is strong, there is no doubt about it. Their biggest internal strife was the replacement of WildTurtle with SneakyCastro (when WT joined TSM), but SneakyCastro has melded with the team well. The comps played by Quantic tend to be unique, with a strong focus on situational aggression and very reactive gameplay. This has the added benefit of allowing great recovery. They’re not unstoppable by any means though. At the finals of the IPL6 Promotion Qualifier, they very nearly lost 1-2 to Curse Academy. CA however grouped up in a way that let Quantic shred through them and then they were able to recover from having inhibitors down, no baron, and a massive gold disadvantage. If they are given a chance to shine, they will blind the opposition.
Chances of LCS: Likely, but by no means guaranteed.
Team Astral Poke
Anxietylol – Top
Newbert – Mid
Remstars – Jungle
bobbyhankhill – AD
NydusHerMain – Support
Who They Play: Quantic (Challenger), compLexity Gaming (LCS).
The Hype: Unfortunately for TAP, there’s a lot less hype coming their way than both Quantic and compLexity. The big names here are bobbyhankhill and NydusHerMain. bobby was formerly on Epik way back in season 1, and Nydus spent a decent amount of time on Curse Academy this season. There hasn’t been much talk about their performance in scrims and there aren’t many tournament results to look at either.
The Reality: Team Astral Poke is in a rough spot. Their only tournament results are from the Ranked 5s qualifiers, where they placed last among qualifying teams. The team itself hasn’t existed for a particularly long time, being one of the fresher Season 3 challenger teams. The players aren’t well known, which could be a boon to TAP and allow them to bust-out secret strategies that are hard to predict. If they’ve been practicing hard, scouting like crazy, and doing everything they possibly can to prepare, they might be able to beat Quantic. The question then becomes, how do they take down compLexity? Do they have the prowess and experience to defeat some of the zanier cheese that is likely to be used by coL? Their limited results say no, though the team may be underestimated and hopefully has some surprises in store.
Chances of LCS: “Anything Can Happen” is true of the LCS Promotion, and is TAP’s big hope.
NickWu – Top
Pr0lly – Mid
Lautemortis – Jungle
Chuuper – AD
M eye A – Support
Who They Play: Winner of Quantic vs Team Astral Poke.
The Hype: Pr0lly, NickWu, and Lautemortis – a deadly trio. NickWu has an extremely stable toplane which lets the aggressive Pr0lly and Lautemortis combo go crazy across the map. The hype for coL is in an odd place right now; many fans are excited for Pr0lly, but others are worried how the replacement of Brunch Ü with Chuuper will affect the team. Regardless, the framework for ridiculous strategies is there and it’s always a blast to watch.
The Reality: The truth about coL is something that is only going to be known to teams that scrim coL consistently and coL themselves. Chuuper’s replacement of Brunch Ü was an act of necessity more than preference. The replacement happened late in the season and coL had to use a substitute that’d been on the team before LCS’s roster lock. Their choices were Bischu (who doesn’t AD), Meteos (who jungles for Quantic, their main opposition), and Chuuper. The dynamics between coL and Chuuper may be strained as coL had already benched him from the AP Carry role of the team. The question really is: has coL gotten past uncomfortable feelings to focus on the games at hand? The good news is that coL’s innovative thinking and cheese will still be in effect, and that can help remedy their possibly scarred team. They’ve also never been as dependent on their botlane as other teams, meaning Chuuper can focus on playing safely and going even rather than winning his lane. Unfortunately Quantic’s reactive playstyle is very potent against cheese, but coL’s standard play can still work quite well. In a best of five that standard play will very likely see at least two games.
Chances of LCS: They’re favored a little less than Quantic, but it should be a close match one way or another.
Cris – Top
Vileroze – Mid
nk inc – Jungle
Frommaplestreet – AD Carry
Evaniskus – Support
Who They Play: The Salad Bar (Challenger), MRN (LCS).
The Hype: Velocity Gaming (formerly Dirt Nap Gaming) has had a solid showing in the past, but with changing rosters up until the lockout date for the LCS Promotion, it’s hard to pinpoint what the buzz around them is. Former players include Pr0lly, now on compLexity, and Prophet, now on Fidelis. They took 6th at the LCS Spring Qualifiers, but the only player remaining from that tournament is Cris. They’ve had solid showings at CPS, TSM IPL6 Qualifiers, and MLG Dallas; but at the IPL6 Promotional Qualifier, Velocity went 0-2 versus Quantic. The former Velocity rosters have done well, but what about the new blood?
The Reality: Losing Pr0lly right before the IPL6 Promotional Qualifier hit Velocity hard. Pr0lly, as he is now on coL, was a major member of the team in regards to strategies and composition. Luckily, word is that Velocity has adapted well to their new midlaner, Vileroze. While they may be playing a bit more standard (not Pr0lly based comps), they’re playing consistently and playing well. There’s still a lot of raw talent on the team as NK Inc, Cris, Evaniskus, and VileRoze are all older players with varying amounts of Season 2 experience. FromMapleStreet, the brother of TheOddOne, has a lot less experience than others but the base skill that runs in his family makes him a very potent AD. There’s not a lot of competition between LCS teams and Challenger teams, so knowing if Velocity has the umph to take down MRN is tough, but they are definitely a sizeable threat.
Chances of LCS: Not favored, but a very real opponent for MRN.
The Salad Bar
Hirishin – Top
Ehomda – Mid
Ghoztzero – Jungle
DkBnet – AD
ArcZSlash – Support
Who They Play: Velocity (Challenger), MRN (LCS).
The Hype: The Salad Bar will always be a hype team because of their origins. They’re a group of friends that play normal games instead of ranked games, and this gives them a different perspective and level of innovation compared to most ranked soloqueue players. Ehomda is big news among the pros (with a lot of pros referring to the team as Ehomda’s team), and DkBnet is no slouch himself as an AD Carry. The team itself isn’t new to LANs, having played in the LCS Spring Qualifier (though going 0-2).
The Reality: The Salad Bar is a very cool team to watch because of the strengths that stem from practicing in normal games. They have wide champion pools since they’re not limited by bans, play very aggressively and creatively since they’re less restricted by meta, and just do what they want because of the more relaxed play in normal games. The limited events they’ve played in, such as the NESL Premier Series and LCS Ranked 5s Online Qualifier, show that their early laning is bonkers and is their main strength. Ehomda was one of the early mids to go Elixir of Fortitude and AD Runes to dominate in lane, a strategy that has been picked up occasionally by other teams when playing for the early game (and has since been nerfed by Riot). However, their late game is lacking due to their limited experience versus organized high-end teams. Quite often they’ll gain a lead but lack the ability to close out the game before a mistake punishes them and quickly spirals them to a loss.
Chances of LCS: TSB is the weakest member of Group B, but not respecting TSB is a death sentence.
MegaZero – Top
ecco – Mid
ClakeyD – Jungle
Nientonsoh – AD Carry
Heartbeat – Support
Who They Play: Winner of Velocity vs The Salad Bar.
The Hype: Half of MRN’s hype is a combination of MegaZero making big plays, ecco wrecking people with safe mids, and Nientonsoh going HAM on the farm and picking up kills as a hard AD Carry. The other half tends to come from the team’s manager, Marn, hyping for hypes sake- which is a great way to promote a team. Raw excitement aside, the team has shown some improvements throughout the course of the LCS, and the big-play montages come through for every player on the team.
The Reality: MRN didn’t do particularly well during the LCS spring season, ending with a score of 10-18. MRN’s bigger wins were also very specific: 3-1 versus coL, 3-1 versus CLG, and 2-2 versus GGU. coL, CLG, and GGU tended to run more unorthodox compositions, and this might mean MRN is not as well-suited for standard play. At the same time, the team has improved as Heartbeat has become a much stronger support after switching from AD, and with Nientonsoh, MRN’s botlane has stepped their game up. Their ability to deal with the unorthodox will help quite a bit versus The Salad Bar, but that strength wont be nearly as useful versus Velocity. Their experience and learning throughout the LCS is huge though, and while some of the numbers may not favor them, they have improved significantly. The big weakness of MRN may be endurance; they have played very few longer sets due to the format of the LCS and lack Season 2 experience. When a set will go to a minimum of three games, being able to stay focused for those games is a huge deal.
Chances of LCS: Favored, but not by a huge margin.
Grim Samurai – Top
Captain Korea – Mid
otter – AD
L0cust – Support
Who They Play: Fidelis (Challenger), Dignitas (LCS).
The Hype: Formerly Square Ducks, Team Summon had a pretty explosive burst onto the challenger scene back in February, taking first in the SoloMid IPL6 (RIP) Qualifier with a crushing set of victories. The roster is a blast from the past as well; they have L0cust, the former Dignitas support, to come up with strategies and gameplans, and Captain Korea, who may not be well known but was one of the anchors of Spellsy and Friends (the team that GGU’s ZionSpartan originated from).
The Reality: TS is in a tough spot. When they arrived onto the scene in February, they had a different top laner and AD Carry, both of whom had to be replaced due to age restrictions in the LCS. Even with the past members, they did not win a single game versus Curse Academy at Riot’s IPL Promotion Qualifier in April. Team Summon still packs a lot of potential though. L0cust knows his former teammates, and he’s got a keen sense of picks and bans. otter is a great AD Carry and Grim Samurai’s smaller champ pool has grown. If everything goes well TS can certainly put Dignitas into the ground, but past experience has shown that they may not have the LAN nerves. By all means they’re a good team that can do well, but can they beat a great team in a long set?
Chances of LCS: Difficult. If they do qualify, it will be a tight series, most likely a 3-2.
Niko44 – Top
Arthelon – Mid
Tsunamiiee – Jungler
Virus – AD
Prophet – Support
Who They Play: Team Summon (Challenger), Dignitas (LCS).
The Hype: Fidelis and Team Astral Poke fall into the category of more unknown LCS Qualifier Teams, and there’s a lot less info on Fidelis available. There is a bit of hype for Fidelis in the form of some of their individual players, but nothing as a team. Prophet is formerly from Dirt Nap Gaming, Arthelon played for Meat Playground during the spring LCS Qualifiers, and Virus is really good at Draven. Seriously, he’s really good at Draven.
The Reality: Vileroze left Fidelis to join Velocity before the trade lockout for the LCS Promotion, and the team has been in a recovery pattern since then. While Virus is a great Draven, everyone knows this. Both Team Summon and Dignitas will ban it, pick it, or form a plan around Virus’s Draven, and his other ADs are much weaker. They’re a team with very little LAN experience, very little time together, and very little achievements for the individual players.
Chances of LCS: Miracles do happen.
KiWiKiD – Top
Scarra – Mid
Crumbzz – Jungler
Imaqtpie – AD
Patoy – Support
Who They Play: Winner of Team Summon v Fidelis.
The Hype: Dignitas was the 3rd placed LCS team prior to playoffs, and they’ve been a superstar team since Season 2 with hype orbiting around all of their players – from Scarra to the relatively new KiWiKiD. They’ve got the experience, the skills, the devilish good looks, and (with the dedication of Dignitas’ owner Odee) a very strong work ethic.
The Reality: They’re good, damn good, but they have had some recent turmoil. At the end of the LCS Spring Split, Dignitas was in a fairly big slump. This, timed with the improvement of other LCS teams, resulted in a less than impressive 3-7 record for the last few weeks. While by no means a stellar score, it is from LCS teams, and Dignitas has had weeks to crackdown and revitalize themselves. If Dignitas has been able to put the mariachi music aside for a bit and focus on gaming, they have a massive advantage in terms of experience and coordination that will be very difficult to beat. Even if L0cust predicts every pick from Dignitas, their comps tend to be aggressive and based off the entire team being a brickwall of team-fight potential, which is not necessarily something Team Summon can pick around. Even if Virus gets Draven, Dignitas will have a plan for him.
Chances of LCS: They’re in a phenomenal spot. The most likely to stay in LCS of all entrants in the qualifier.
InnoX – Top
nubbypoohbear – Mid
ScubaChris – Jungle
Flappy Bearfish – AD
Unstoppable – Support
Who They Play: Azure Cats (Challenger), CLG (LCS).
The Hype: DoubleBuff, formerly 1 Trick Ponies, has a lot of recognizable names from Season 2 and also placed well in the “We Will Do It Ourselves Cup.” Unstoppable is the former jungler for TSM.Evo, nubbypoohbear was the former mid for Orbit, and ScubaChris jungled for 1TP at the last LCS Qualifier. Their skills aren’t super well known, but they perform well in scrims and while they lack tournament experience as a team, they still have a lot of old blood with decent LAN experience.
The Reality: They’re a lot less talked about than Azure Cats, but they’re still a very solid team. They do well in scrims, and while that isn’t the same as LAN experience, they could go far if nubbypoohbear, Unstoppable, and ScubaChris can keep the team confident. There are scraps of tournament footage from DoubleBuff, but it’s hard to research them from VoDs, instead having to go by word of mouth. This can be a huge advantage if CLG and Azure Cats are unable to do detailed research and be 100% ready when game time rolls around. Based off those whispers though, they’re good – really good. Azure Cats should fear them and CLG can’t pass them off either.
Chances of LCS: Betting on DB is risky, but payoff is certainly possible.
Cruzerthebruzer – Top
bigfatlp – Mid
xDragunerx – Jungle
Demunlul – AD
Obituarist – Support
Who They Play: DoubleBuff (Challenger), CLG (LCS).
The Hype: There’s big fat hype for bigfatlp’s return to the competitive scene versus CLG. CLG has said that Azure Cats is the team that will beat them and cause the team to disband. Azure Cats also has two former members of the great season 2 team Legion: Cruzerthebruzer and Demunlul. The old blood mixes well with the fresher players of xDragunerx and Obituarist. While it is really hard to beat the hype that is “The CLG Killer,” others that aren’t on the bandwagon have very vocally stated that Azure Cats are overhyped and CLG is trying to create hype for their matches.
The Reality: Like DoubleBuff, Azure Cats is a good team. A very good team. Their known elements are also similar to DoubleBuff’s. There are lots of whispers and lots of statements from players, but there haven’t been very many Challenger tournaments. As a result it’s hard to pinpoint how good the current roster is. Similar to DoubleBuff though, any team they face will need to respect Azure Cats or their chances for the LCS will get tossed out the window. The players are solid: bigfatlp has been steadily improving since his benching from CLG, Demunlul has returned after making a surprising splash on Azure at the last LCS Qualifiers, and Cruzerthebruzer’s team is no longer trying to ghost. On that note, there is going to be some personal blood between Cruzer, nubbypoohbear, and Unstoppable, as they were all members of Absolute Legends in December. Unstoppable and nubbypoohbear were caught ghosting during Spring LCS Promotion Qualifiers, costing aL.na (and specifically the innocent Cruzer) their chance at qualifying for Spring LCS.
Chances of LCS: About the same as DB.
HotShotGG – Top
Link – Mid
Chauster – Jungler
Doublelift – AD
Aphromoo – Support
Who They Play: Winner of DoubleBuff vs Azure Cats.
The Hype: CLG is the oldest League team, and most of the hype isn’t around the team itself, but the fact that such a definitive team might be on the chopping block for mainstream competitive LoL. They have stated they’d disband if they’re eliminated, but what are the odds they won’t appear in the LCS Studio anytime soon?
The Reality: During the last weeks of the LCS, CLG went a middle-of-the-road 5-6 and 1-2 versus Vulcun in the playoffs. These are still good records considering it’s against LCS teams, in a high-pressure environment. CLG has had a lot of weaknesses though: inconsistent bot lane synergy, Hotshot dies quite a bit, Chauster sometimes fail to impact the game. While it’s easy to poke around CLG and say they won’t win, it’s because they’ve had so much practice and exposure at a high level that these flaws can be pointed out. The cards are in their favor, and even if they did average in the LCS, they still pose a major threat to both Azure Cats and DoubleBuff. Mechanically the team has quite a bit of potential, and a lot of the losses for CLG tend to be from teams with experience on how to beat CLG after playing them during the LCS. bigfatlp may have that knowledge, but CLG has gone through some winding roads since the LCS started in February, and the winning strategy has evolved to more than “Kill HotshotGG” (though that’s usually part of it).
Chances of LCS: Likely.
It’s important to remember the golden rule of tournaments; anything can and will happen. It’s easy to look at past results (when available) and make an educated guess, but in the end outside factors can very easily change a game. A player could have a bad night’s rest, get caught up in the emotions of playing for salary, or have an epiphany on how to improve, moments before starting up the game. Old stars and young teams alike have a shot at making the LCS, just remember to tune in and support your favorite team. They’ll need it.
Christopher “Studio” Grant