The Tested – Team Liquid, Team Dignitas, Counter Logic Gaming, Winterfox
Team Liquid (formerly Team Curse) – 4th Seed
Team Liquid, formerly known as Curse quite possibly has had the most amusing history of all the LCS teams. For those new to watching the LCS, “Team Curse” was quite possibly the most fitting name they could have had. At the end of almost every major tournament they have played in, Curse has had a very good habit of placing fourth, regardless of roster or competition. Furthermore, since Season 2, Curse has fielded many of CLG’s benched players, with their roster at one point being almost completely ex-CLG. Given this history, they have always been a team that has hovered beneath the best.
Their roster since then has now changed drastically. They now field an extremely hyped up roster, with Season 3 World Champion Piglet as their AD Carry, and a good amount of star players in their other roles. Their new mid laner FeniX is rumoured to be hidden talent from Korea, having insane solo queue stats but having not had an opportunity to perform yet. In addition to their old players Quas, IWillDominate, and Xpecial, Team Liquid hopes to break free of their curse, and not just in name either.
Top Lane: Diego ‘Quas’ Ruiz
Quas’ career began in solo queue and gained traction after constantly appearing in popular streams. He’s one of the newest players on the scene and has seen a great deal of success. He was brought into the LCS by Team Curse at the beginning of Season 4 Spring Split, and at the beginning struggled to adjust to the tank metagame at the time since he played mostly carry champions. However, as the summer split progressed, so did Quas’ abilities. It became clear to spectators that he was no longer the solo queue star who struggled in competitive, but was becoming an absolute monster in the top lane that the best teams started to fear. He ended up finishing Season 4 with some of the best stats of top laners in the NA LCS. He may have had a slow start coming into the LCS, but now he is nothing short of a god. He is looking to continue his upwards trend coming into Season 5. If he does so, he may soon be considered the best top laner in North America, if he isn’t already.
Middle Lane: Jae-hoon ‘FeniX’ Kim
As mentioned above, FeniX is rumoured to be hidden talent from Korea. FeniX was brought in to replace mid laner Voyboy, whose skill was falling off near the end of Season 4. He was previously on the Jin Air Falcons, one of Korea’s worst teams. As a result, he never had much of an opportunity to show what he was capable of. His only laurels are stacks of insane solo queue stats from Korea, and now North America. FeniX’s ability to mesh and do well on Team Liquid depends on how well he adjusts to his new environment and learn English to communicate with his new team. Many look forward to being able to see if his hype was well deserved coming into this new season.
Jungle: Christian ‘IWillDominate’ Riviera
IWillDominate began his career in Season 2, replacing Jatt on Team Dignitas as their jungler. After being labelled as toxic in game by Riot, Dominate was banned from the LCS an entire year. After this ban, he created a new account and managed to climb to a high rating again. He played in a few amateur tournaments during the ban, but did nothing major. Since then, he has reformed his raging ways and re-entered the competitive scene at the end of Season 3 as the jungler for Team Curse. Dominate has always been a solid jungler, but has rarely been considered as one of the top. He’s a decent all-rounder, with good mechanics and shotcalling, but he wouldn’t be considered great.
Bottom Lane: Gwang-jin ‘Piglet’ Chae and Alex ‘Xpecial’ Chu
Piglet famously played on the SK Telecom K squad, with the legendary Faker. The highlight of his career was winning the Season 3 World Championships, where his team dropped a total of three games throughout the entire tournament. Piglet is a highly accomplished AD Carry with some of the best mechanics on the scene; mechanics obtained through thousands of hours of practice and dedication. After SKT K was unable to meet its former success in Season 4, Piglet was released, and picked up by Team Liquid soon after. Piglet seeks to dominate the rest of the competition in North America and show that he is still one of the best players in the world.
Xpecial was once the support player for TSM, having been one of few players to have qualified for three different World Championships. After a very dramatic release from TSM, Xpecial was soon picked up by Team Curse which had been struggling to obtain a good support at the time. Xpecial has been regarded as one of the best support players in North America since the start of his career. He has excellent mechanics and game sense and rarely ever gets caught while fighting for vision. His Thresh play is exceptional, in addition to play many other supports at an extremely high level.
Team Liquid’s bottom lane’s largest hurdle is communication. With Piglet and Xpecial speaking primarily different languages, their ability to communicate to each other is completely stunted. While they’re individually some of the most talented professional players in the scene, to play a lane based on cooperation without the ability to communicate clearly is something that skill cannot make up for. However, if Piglet and Xpecial find a way to make this work, they could very possibly be the best bottom lane in all of North America.
As mentioned, Team Liquid has a very strong roster individually. Paired with historically decent decision making, they have two questions to answer if one is to make predictions about how they will do in the coming season. If FeniX proves himself and lives up to the hype, Liquid will have gained an extremely powerful mid laner. With the mid lane competition in North America having grown miles since Season 2, having a strong solo laner who can hold his own and influence the rest of the map is crucial to any team’s success. The second question is if they are able to overcome the language barrier within the team. FeniX and Piglet are both Korean, and the rest of the team speak English. Furthermore, Piglet has been shown early in the pre-season to not be adjusting well to his move to North America. However, Team Liquid has been shown to be extremely supportive in helping him adjust to the move. If these issues prove to be a non-factor, Team Liquid may very well field one of the top rosters in North America.
A small thing of note is that Team Liquid now has P to the D (the coach of last season’s third place team LMQ) as their coach now. This adds another small layer of communication issues, but as the coach it shouldn’t be too bad. If he is able to replicate his success again in this season, Team Liquid will have an extremely good chance of being rid of their curse, in more than just their name.
Prediction for end of split standings: 3rd place.
Team Dignitas – 5th Seed
Dignitas made its spotlight into the League of Legends professional scene back in 2011, right after the first World Championships. They were originally Rock Solid, which had barely failed to qualify for said tournament, and were known at the time as an up and coming team. Their performance in the preseason was fantastic, having beaten the top teams at the time CLG and Epik Gaming for first place in their debut tournament. However, since then, they have not quite had the same success since. In every tournament back then where Dignitas, CLG, and TSM participated simultaneously, Dignitas would cheese CLG into the loser’s bracket, lose to TSM, and lose the third place match to CLG. This solidified them as the third best team in North America for a long while.
Like CLG, Dignitas has not achieved the same success since. In fact, one might say they have a rock solid history of only doing the opposite of what fans expect. Records have shown them winning when their fans have lost hope, and losing when their fans have fully built the hype train. Furthermore, they have had an extremely poor record with the Baron Nashor objective in game. They come into Season 5 as the fifth seeded team in North America after a gigantic roster change. After a poor showing at IEM Cologne, many question their ability to maintain their position as a relevant team in the LCS this split. However, given their track record, it’s quite impossible to ever predict how they will do.
Top Lane: Yeong-Jin ‘Gamsu’ No
Gamsu is a Korean player who is practically unknown. He was a substitute player for Samsung Blue in the last season, but never saw any play. He is rumoured to be extremely good in the top lane and has excellent solo queue stats. Gamsu is coming in as a replacement for ZionSpartan, one of North America’s carry top laners. Given the lack of information on Gamsu, it is hard to say if he is an upgrade. However, his solo queue stats demonstrate that he is at least mechanically sound, as he hit master with a 72:5 win/loss ratio upon entering North America. In order to prove himself, Gamsu must be able to translate his success on solo queue to the LCS, and overcome the language barrier that plagues all the Asian imports.
Middle Lane: Danny ‘Shiphtur’ Le
Shiphtur is one of North America’s more well-known mid laners. His career began as the mid laner for Team Coast. Due to the fact he was on a team that did quite poorly, Shiphtur went relatively unnoticed for quite some time. However, as the LCS progressed, more and more people started noticing things. Perhaps it was an insanely well played teamfight that brought his team back into the game; maybe it would be ridiculous Ziggs play that singlehandedly stalled a loss until the fiftieth minute. Shiphtur’s strong play, despite his team’s winning or losing generated some of the best stats in the LCS, and put him into the spotlight. He is nothing short of mechanically gifted, with a wide champion pool and is able to play almost every champion he wants to.
Shiphtur’s only flaw is in his team play. While he has made some very monumental and game changing decisions that have often won his team the game as an individual, he tends to play extremely selfishly. Many people argue that his high stats are due to his conservative style, only making an action if he deems it beneficial to himself as opposed to his team. If he is able to become more of a team player, his career might see better success, even at the possible cost of his KDA.
Jungle: Alberto ‘Crumbz’ Rengifo
Crumbz is another player who has been around since the beginning of League of Legends. He entered the spotlight as the jungler for Team Curse near the end of Season 1. Curse at the time was arguably the best amateur team, always placing fourth just behind the titanic TSM, CLG, and Dignitas. It was within this team that Crumbz started to become recognized as a strong player. Halfway through Season 2, Crumbz was picked up by Dignitas as a part of a three way roster change between CLG, Dignitas, and Curse. After this switch, Crumbz role swapped to the top lane.
Crumbz returned to the jungle role, where he has been since, after IWillDominate’s infamous ban. As the most experienced player on the Dignitas roster, many expect Crumbz to play the role of a team leader. He has historically proven himself to be able to be an excellent shotcaller. However, he is not the most consistent in the role. He is also a very strong jungler mechanically. He is one of the lights for Dignitas fans to look to in this coming split, but with his career length and record, that light may be slowly fading.
Bottom Lane: Yong-in ‘Core JJ’ Jo and Alan ‘KiWiKiD Nguyen
Core JJ is another Korean import coming in this season to replace the famous imaqtpie. The story of how he got the role is quite funny; upon hearing of qtpie’s retirement, he made a post on Inven (the Korean version of our League subreddit) asking how he may obtain the newly opened position on Dignitas. Soon after, Dignitas contacted him and, as they say, the rest is history. Core JJ was one of the top 10 AD Carries in Korean solo queue before the move. He played for Bigfile Miracle, which had an awful 0:6 showing in OGN Champions. As a result, many question Dignitas’ decision in picking up Core JJ, considering him a “reject AD Carry” from Korea and not worth creating the issue of language barriers.
KiWiKiD has had a very lacklustre career. He joined Dignitas before Season 3 as their top laner. While his first split was Dignitas’ most successful in LCS history, things did not proceed so smoothly after. KiWiKiD once had the unfortunate record of having the most deaths in a single LCS split, although that record has been surpassed since. Nonetheless, it is unfortunately the most notable aspect of his play, even after having been role swapped to support at the beginning of Season 4. KiWiKiD is known for a highly aggressive style, which is one of the reasons for his high amount of deaths every single split. Furthermore, he constantly gets caught out while warding and fighting for vision.
With KiWiKiD’s poor record, Core JJ’s less-than-stellar record, and the language barrier between the two players, very few people expect this bottom lane to actually do well. Not only does KiWiKiD have to really step up his game, but he will have to learn how to communicate properly with his Korean AD Carry as well. Core JJ most likely is strong mechanically, but few would consider him one of the best. If KiWiKiD is unable to play his role properly, Core JJ may very well regret his desire to join Dignitas as their AD Carry.
Dignitas has some extremely large issues coming into this split. Unlike many teams who have brought in foreign players at the sacrifice of communication, Dignitas did not bring in players who could be considered stars. While Gamsu and CoreJJ have been shown to be incredibly strong individual players, Gamsu is untested, and CoreJJ had an awful showing within OGN. This means that Dignitas has introduced a communication barrier within its team, while making extremely risky pickups. Furthermore, continued poor performances by KiWiKiD in his LCS career have left many fans wondering why he has not yet been replaced. While the bottom lane of Dignitas shares the same problem as the bottom lane of Team Liquid, the skill gap between both pairs is so large that the inability to communicate well for Dignitas seems like much more of an issue.
Gamsu and CoreJJ will have to far exceed anyone’s expectations of them if Dignitas hopes to compete for a high standing this split. In addition, they will need to fix the communication issues that were ever so present at IEM Cologne, where they crumbled before Gambit Gaming. Things are looking grim for the once fan-adored team. But then again, it’s Dignitas, and for whatever that’s holy, you can really never know with them.
Prediction for end of split standings: 8th place.
Counter Logic Gaming – 6th Seed
CLG exists as one of the oldest competitive League of Legends brands in the world that is still currently active in the professional scene today. Founded by George “HotshotGG” Georgallidisback in 2010, CLG throughout the ages has fielded some of the most recognizable names in League of Legends history such as Brandon “Saintvicious” DiMarco, Steve ‘Chauster’ Chau, and its current captain Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng. In the stages of its conception, CLG was widely regarded as one of the best teams in the world, placing first in many of the major tournaments during Season 1.
Since then, CLG has experienced a very gradual fall from their former glory. The past few seasons have been filled with disappointment and manic roster changes. They have failed to qualify for the World Championships in the last two seasons despite the highly touted “potential” many of the fans have come to joke about. After a very narrow relegation series against Curse Academy, CLG have requalified for the 2015 NA LCS Spring Split, and is looking to regain its former place amongst the best in the world.
Top Lane: Darshan ‘ZionSpartan’ Upadhyaha
In their recent acquisition of ZionSpartan for this season, CLG has placed a large investment into the veteran top laner, who has been playing competitive League of Legends since season 2. ZionSpartan is widely known as one of the few “carry” top lane players in North American scene, having been known to single-handedly influence the tide of games on signature champions such as Jax and Jayce. Despite this, his critics have frequently commented on his consistency as player, as his impact in a carry role has garnered erratic results.
However, especially in his recent showing at IEM Cologne 2014, Zion has demonstrated that his mechanical prowess extends to any champion and is willing to play according to his team’s needs. With this acquisition, CLG hopes to make amends to the communication issues CLG experienced with former top laner Seraph, and to obtain a second threat to relieve pressure on their star bottom lane.
Mid Lane: Austin ‘Link’ Shin
After two long and disappointing seasons on CLG, Link is something of a prodigal son to the organization. When signed for the 2013 LCS Spring Split to replace Bigfatlp as CLG’s mid laner, fans heralded his acquisition as a new age, citing his mechanical prowess in solo queue as a turning point in the ill-fortunes of the team’s ability to secure a first place LAN tournament finish. Even though the hype behind Link was immense, his performance in the past four splits has been lacking. Rather, he has been consistently inconsistent – showing up and living up to his expectations in one game, then being irrelevant or even a detriment in the next four. Even after a questionable showing in their relegation series and a lengthy tryout for mid laners, CLG and its members have once decided to place their faith in him for another split. Faith that fans feel is misplaced after a recent less-than-stellar showing at IEM Cologne.
Despite his doubters, Link has often been cited as the driving force behind CLG’s strategic play by his teammates, which played a large part in CLG’s regular season success in the 2014 Summer Split. Another shred of hope that fans may cling to is the signing of his former CLG.Black teammate, Xmithie, with whom Link has previously been shown to perform with. A large factor in CLG’s performance this season will be the ability of Link and Xmithie to work together to control and influence the map. While only time will tell if CLG has made the right decision in placing their faith in him once again, the immense amount of pressure on Link to perform this split is certain.
Jungle: Jake ‘Xmithie’ Puchero
After quite the fall from grace following the Season 3 World Championships, Xmithie has re-emerged from the obliteration of what was once team Vulcun as CLG’s new jungler. In his glory days, Xmithie was known to be an excellent support jungler, having secure many early game leads with a solid mid-laner in Mandatorycloud. He was known to play an excellent Lee Sin, even having won the Best Lee Sin NA tournament back in 2013.
For the fans, the acquisition of Xmithie is both a breath of relief and an eyebrow-raising decision. As CLG has a track record of signing non-jungle players into the position, the fact they got an actual jungler itself passes the first test. In addition, as aforementioned, Xmithie was once a previous teammate of Link, which theoretically is a positive for the all-important jungle-mid synergy that is instrumental to every team’s success. On the flip side, Xmithie has been absent from League of Legends for over a year following a very systematic destruction of his once world class team Vulcun. Many wonder if his abilities are still up to par for a team whose ultimate desire is to once again rise to the top.
Bottom Lane: Yiliang ‘Doublelift’ Peng & Zaqueri ‘Aphromoo’ Black
The re-signing of the highly acclaimed bottom lane, monikered “Rush Hour”, is one of the few unquestioned decisions made by CLG in the pre-season. Tried and tested again and again, Doublelift and Aphromoo have constantly proven themselves throughout Season 4 to be top tier players in their positions in the west.
Doublelift, who once had claim to the title of “Best AD Carry in the World” is now striving to regain his former glory by earning a spot to the Season 5 World Championships where he could compete amongst the best. His mechanical skill is amongst the best in the western hemisphere of the world, and CLG often defaults to “protect Doublelift” strategies when backed into a corner.
Despite a shaky spring split in Season 3 and absence from the summer, Aphromoo returned to CLG in Season 4 with a zeal that catapulted him into a reputation as one of the best supports in North America. The pair are known for their especially strong and aggressive laning abilities, and often obtain a strong advantage which form the basis for CLG’s wins.
While I sing praises of this bottom lane, they are not without their faults. They play extremely aggressively during the laning phase which is a kind of gameplay that puts them in dubious positions. This is a trademark that many of the top tier teams try to abuse, often coordinating ganks to punish and deny them any momentum. Furthermore, the price to Doublelift’s inhuman mechanical abilities is a tendency to make poor decisions with his positioning and throw leads. However, in spite of these flaws, they are still the lynchpin of CLG, and are the members who are always an integral part of their team’s success.
Due to the major roster change in which two of their players and their coach were changed, one would have to question their team cohesion coming into the spring split. There are also questions of whether or not Link can step up his game and play at the level CLG needs him to in order to reach the top, and if Xmithie is still able to perform or if he’s a washed up version of his former self.
Nevertheless, CLG possesses a few large advantages this split. All five team members have played at a high level in their careers for more than a year. Furthermore, they are one of the few teams in the NA LCS where all five players speak English fluently due to the massive influx of Asian players. Also, their acquisition of a new live-in coach William ‘scarra’ Li serves as an upgrade to their former coach MonteCristo, who was unable to settle team disputes due to his inability to stay in California. While they currently may not be the best team in North America, they certainly have the capability to do well and make a good show.
Prediction for end of split standings: 4th place.
Winterfox (formerly Evil Geniuses) – 7th Seed
In order to speak of Winterfox’ history, we have to talk about Evil Geniuses, and to a lesser extent the long extinct CLG.eu.
Evil Geniuses, one of the largest and oldest eSports entities in the world, acquired the famous CLG.eu roster at the advent of Season 3. At this point, CLG.eu, along with Moscow 5 dominated the European scene and were the only western teams at the time able to stand up to the Korean players. However, after the organization switch, the close-knit CLG.eu roster was unable to achieve its former success, resulting in a roster split with the players Krepo, Yellowpete, and Snoopeh after leaving Europe in hope of better success in North America at the beginning of Season 4.
It is interesting to note that the three listed players have since retired and left the LCS through the two long and arduous splits which involved playing two relegation series to earn a spot back in the regular season. After sweeping Team Coast in the 2015 LCS Spring Promotion Series and a small roster change, Evil Geniuses was rebranded as Winterfox, with all its original members having moved on to different ventures, and a new starting lineup. Winterfox is coming into the 2015 Spring Split after spending the preseason bootcamping in Korea.
Top Lane: Donghyeon ‘Avalon’ Shin
One of the new offseason acquisitions on the Winterfox roster, Avalon hails from Korea as a replacement for the former top laner Innox, who had very lacking performances. Little is known about Avalon; he is the brother of Helios and he is Diamond 1 in Korean solo queue, hovering around 50 LP. Back in Season 2, when Reapered was booted from Azubu Blaze, Avalon was a placeholder for the top lane position until he was ultimately replaced by Flame. Due to the lack of knowledge about Avalon and his relatively low solo queue ranking, it is hard to say whether or not he will be an improvement over Innox. In addition, the move from Korea to the US may pose certain difficulties for him as well. However, with his brother Helios with him, and three others on Winterfox speaking fluent Korean, the transition may not be as difficult as it was for other players such as Team Liquid’s Piglet.
Middle Lane: Eugene ‘Pobelter’ Park
Pobelter, Throwbelter, the Notorious P.O.B., or Young Pob are amongst the many affectionate nicknames given to the up and coming player. Having finished Season 4 with three accounts in the top five spots of NA Challenger, Pobelter is amongst one of the most hyped players in the coming Spring Split. Pobelter is an extremely versatile player, having fielded ten champions of varying roles across the twenty eight games in the 2014 Summer Split. Furthermore, during the Winterfox Korean bootcamp, he was frequently asked if he was Cool or Faker (who are amongst the best mids in the world). This story ends with the fact that Pobelter achieved top 30 with a 72% winrate in Korean soloqueue, which is an extremely impressive feat.
While his performance in the LCS has had rough patches (usually citing high school and tilt for inconsistent showing), he has since graduated high school and is finally able to dedicate the entirety of his time to becoming a professional player. His strength mechanically in combination with his young age and strong performances in his last several competitive games, Pobelter is starting to ascend to the ranks of the great mid laners in the hearts of many.
Jungle: Dongjin ‘Helios’ Shin
Helios has been playing in competitive League of Legends since Season 2 as a part of the MiG/Azubu/CJ Entus organizations (mostly the same rosters, just different brands). Helios boasts the most experience of the current Winterfox roster, with achievements going back to when Azubu Blaze roster which systematically obliterated Team Solo Mid (the top North American team at the time) in the MLG Summer Arena tournament of 2012. However, after poor results in the Korean scene and disappointing placements, he developed a reputation of not being good enough for OGN. Nonetheless, he was recruited to EG after a trial period, replacing Snoopeh and has displayed a relatively respectable performance in the North American LCS since.
Helios demonstrates an early aggression jungling style, prioritizing getting his laners ahead. This is demonstrated in the recent Summer Split, where his most picked champions were Elise, Lee Sin, and Evelynn, all of which have excellent early game pressure. While he may be a foreign import, it is important to note that he has been shown to get along extremely well with mid laner Pobelter in interviews and streams, which reflects brightly on their synergy. His English is quite well developed in comparison to other Korean players, being able to do interviews without a translator at hand, which would mean that his ability to communicate with his teammates would better than one would imagine.
Bottom Lane: Johnny ‘Altec’ Ru and Hyeonsu ‘Imagine’ Jang
Alongside with long-time friend and teammate Pobelter, Altec is another up and coming star in the professional League of Legends scene. He is constantly praised as one of the best AD Carries in North America, finishing the 2014 LCS Summer Split with the second highest KDA of all players, despite EG having an 11-13 win-loss with him on the starting roster. Given that Altec is also currently the youngest player in the NA LCS, many believe in his potential to become one of the best AD Carries in the world.
Imagine is high rated challenger in Korean soloqueue with over 1000 games on Thresh, and pretty much zero competitive experience. He was brought into Winterfox as a replacement for Krepo, a player with extremely good game knowledge and was an excellent support player in his own right. With the current information on Imagine, it would be hard to predict how he well he could fill the gap left behind by Krepo’s retirement. However, if we consider his rank alongside the fact that he had yet to be picked up by a Korean team, one might bring into question his abilities on champions other than Thresh.
In addition to the fact that Imagine is untested, there is a slight language barrier between Altec and Imagine that could cause potential problems for the young talent. Imagine speaks about as much English as Altec understands Korean (which to his credit is a fair bit to my understanding), and communication issues are a hurdle the pair will have to jump coming into this coming split.
Winterfox is a team with a lot of unanswered questions. While their main carries have excellent reputations to their names, they have a lot of excitement to live up to in the coming season. Avalon and Imagine are completely untested players in competitive, and it’s always extremely hard to tell how one’s performance will be given their solo queue results. However, if Altec and Pobelter manage to play as well as they possibly can, Winterfox will surely be a force to be reckoned with, even if Imagine and Avalon are merely subpar.
A very interesting note in all this is that while Pobelter and Altec are from North America, Pobelter speaks fluent Korean, and Altec is familiar with the language. This means that even with three Koreans on the team, the language barrier may not be as problematic as one might think. In addition, due to the Korean bootcamp, the current Winterfox roster has already had over a month of practice together, which is more than a lot of other LCS rosters could have a claim to.
Prediction for end of split: 5th/6th/7th Place with Gravity and Impulse as the others
The Challengers – An overview of the challenger NA LCS teams coming into Season 5 (T8, GV, CST)
Written by: Kevin ‘SoullessFire’ Lee
Graphics by Ling Gu: @vpnviper
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