America is a country that has benefited socially and culturally from immigrants that hail from a diverse amount of countries. Immigrants come for a better way of life or new opportunities. The same applies to sports.
Something similar is happening in the North American League Championship Series - two teams making their debut performance in the LCS feature international talent. Since the end of last split, two teams have added top tier foreign players to their starting lineup. In the 2014 Spring LCS, one European import, Soren ‘Bjergsen’ Bjerg, changed the mid-lane dynamic in North America, receiving a MVP award twice.
CLG also added ex-Lemondogs jungler Marcel ‘Dexter’ Feldkamp to their roster at the start of the Spring Split. His impact wasn’t only felt on the end-game scoreboard, but his contribution to the shot-calling aspect of the team led them to a third place regular season finish. It’s clear that adding skilled players from overseas can turn an entire team around. This split, foreigners will turn the North American LCS on its head.
These Chinese superstars have changed the North American scene as a whole, even before playing one LCS match. Their dominance of the Challenger scene was previously unseen in any region, with the exception of Cloud 9’s Challenger run. It was clear, after just a few months of play, that LMQ would be LCS material. Each player rocked the solo queue ladder, rising to the top of Challenger. Drawing experience from top Chinese teams, like Worlds finalists Royal Club, this team was able to snag a spot in the LCS with ease.
LMQ’s roster is bursting with raw skill. In the top lane, world finalist ackerman (previously GoDlike), has smashed any challenger player in his path. His mastery of Renekton earned him the title of “King of Renekton” in the Chinese solo queue ladder. In the midlane, XiaoWeiXiao takes farming to another level. Holding multiple CS records, XiaoWeiXiao is always dependable as a mid or late game carry. Not only that, but he is known for his deep and varied champion pool.
As a whole, LMQ’s team play is top notch. Their experience as some of the best in China will help them stay on top of the meta as it evolves. This is a team that could potentially break into the top three and snag a ticket to the World Championship.
In a nail-biting series versus Team Coast, Complexity slid their way into the LCS with one game to spare. This comes after the same team was unable to defeat Evil Geniuses for an entry into the Spring Split. With North America raising the bar yet again, Complexity will struggle to keep their head above water this split. A combination of inexperience and weak individual play from the team’s top and bot lane will eventually be their demise.
Westrice’s performance in the top lane during the promotion tournament wasn’t what most would expect from an LCS-caliber player. His map pressure was non-existent and he continued to give up death after death. While the bot lane was passable, it’s nothing to write home about. When this team faces and experienced duo in CLG, Cloud 9 or even Dignitas, they will flounder.
The shining lights of hope in this team are Brokenshard and Pr0lly. Pr0lly really hits the mark when it comes to the laning phase. He has a certain knack for winning a trade in the midlane and forcing a kill in a side lane. This is something that has always impressed me about Pr0lly, but whether he will be able to take on players like Bjgersen and Link is unknown. Brokenshard brings a wealth of competitive experience and solid jungle play. He is particularly deadly on Lee Sin - easily his best champion.
This team has more than just ingame hurdles to overcome. In the previous iteration of the Complexity LoL squad, former players cited Pr0lly’s attitude as major factor in the team falling apart. If this team falls to the bottom in the standings, they may have a difficult time picking themselves back up.
The departure of Nien put CLG in an all-too-familiar spot. Keeping a consistent roster has been the downfall of this team throughout League’s history. But as the team’s management and coaching staff have dramatically improved, a roster change isn’t the worst thing for CLG. In fact, CLG proved to everyone that they can adapt to new players quickly, as shown with the addition of Dexter. Aside from visa issues, Dexter’s transition into the team was seemingly painless from the outside. With this in mind, CLG addition of Seraph in the top lane, a top Korean solo-queue player who never get a real break in OGN, could positively affect the team in the same way the addition of Dexter did.
Overall, the most recent Spring Split was the best yet for Counter Logic Gaming. Their potential had finally been realized as they started making major strides towards being a top American team. Watching CLG battle through years of turmoil, to finally being in contention for a top North American team, is one of the best storylines in esports.
Looking closer at Seraph, we can find that he is the embodiment of all CLG fan’s mantra - “potential”. Only playing one OGN for Najin White Shield, Seraph was essentially unknown. That is, until he approached coach MonteCristo about playing for CLG. Since trying out in America, Seraph has begun to demolish the solo queue ladder. While he may struggle with communication due to his limited English, it’s clear that Seraph is a mechanical upgrade for CLG.
I would expect CLG to place top two this split, second only to North American All Stars Cloud 9. Their consistent improvement and upgrade in the top lane will most definitely lead them to the same or improved results in the upcoming split.
Oh, boy. Team SoloMid had a great regular season in the Spring Split, leading the pack for the majority. But falling to Cloud 9 0:3 in the finals of playoffs left a bad taste in the team’s mouth. The recognized things needed to change. Following their loss, TheOddOne and Xpecial were both replaced. It’s yet to be seen whether their replacements, Amazing and Gleeb, will gel with the team after such a short amount of practice time.
Hailing from the European LCS, Amazing leaves behind a crumbling Copenhagen Wolves and will look to make his mark as a jungler yet again, this time in North America. It’s really a toss-up when predicting how he will preform. Sure, he looked like a strong jungler in Europe, but that doesn't translate to being a strong jungler when interacting and playing alongside TSM.
Gleeb is clearly a mechanical downgrade from Xpecial, who was widely considered the best support in North America. While he was definitely a strong support, relative to the Challenger scene, his professional experience is nonexistent. WildTurtle and Co will need to compensate for areas that Gleeb is lacking in as they continue to grow and train him as a player.
It’s not going to be easy this split for one of the most beloved North American organizations. They will need to overcome growing pains as quickly as possible in order to be in a condition to qualify for the World Championship.
This split will be pivotal in defining who North America is and where they stand as a region internationally as the World Championship approaches. Check back tomorrow for part two of the NA LCS preview.
Image Credit: Riot Games, Counter Logic Gaming