One of my favorite parts of the new year is the return of professional League of Legends. China’s LPL and Korea’s LCK have already started, and I have adored seeing some new and old faces take to the Summoner’s Rift once more. But I would be lying if I said I wasn’t most excited for North America’s LCS scene to kick off once again. They might not be as internationally successful as the other major regions, but they have fun broadcast personalities and teams I’ve become more than familiar with.
Every year also brings plenty of new faces to the league, with the worst teams from 2021 certainly having the most room to touch up their roster. No team had more to improve on than Counter Logic Gaming, who finished in 2021 with a 12-33 record. Their backup players in Academy left little hope either, finishing last in their league as well. Their LCS roster is predictably receiving a major facelift, with all five roster spots seeing turnover. Top laner Jenkins saw some play for Team Liquid last year as a backup to Alphari and was impressive with his performance. Jungler Contractz got his big break with Cloud9 in 2017 and is looking to retake his spot as a premiere player in his position. Mid laner Palafox came over from FlyQuest, who showed moments of promise as a young player. CLG also acquired both members of 100 Thieves’ Academy bot lane from 2021, the AD Carry Luger, and support Poome. With zero expectations and nothing to lose, there’s nowhere to go but up with this team.
FlyQuest finished just two games ahead of CLG with 14 total wins and lost arguably their second-best player to CLG. Replacing Palafox in the mid lane is Loïc “toucouille” Dubois, one of the most promising international signings of the year. Hailing from France, toucouille has been playing in minor European leagues since 2017 and could be the next big thing in North America. FlyQuest also obtained the support of Aphromoo, who is arguably the greatest native American support the world has ever seen and who spent the last two years on a middling Dignitas roster. He’ll hope to provide some stability to the young rookie in the mid lane as well as the three existing FlyQuest properties in top laner Kumo, jungler Josedeodo, and AD Carry Johnsun.
Golden Guardians were the laughingstock of Spring 2021, even though they eventually snuck into the playoffs with a tiebreaker over FlyQuest. They understood their issues however, and added three new players to the roster. Their new bot lane is made up of Lost, who served as Team SoloMid’s AD Carry in 2021, and Olleh, who hasn’t seen extended LCS play since he was on this same team in 2019. Their new jungler Pridestalker will be new to the LCS scene as a whole, an amateur jungler from the Netherlands who has been active in the scene since 2016. These three join surging mid laner Ablazeolive and top laner Licorice in their 2022 adventures.
Immortals fell into an area where they were never the worst team, but you couldn’t count on them to upset a better team, even if they played at their peak. The two new veterans in their mid-laner PowerofEvil and AD Carry Wildturtle don’t promise greatness, but do raise the floor of this team to at least playoff-level. PoE’s legacy cannot be understated, and he will join after spending 2021 with TSM. Wildturtle is one of the most storied North American players ever, having played in the LCS since its inception in 2013. With any luck, these two will provide a core that Xerxe, Revenge, and Destiny can grow around.
Top laner FakeGod and AD Carry Neo are returning to Dignitas, joined by both new and old faces. Biofrost shocked the league when he emerged as an elite support seemingly out of nowhere in 2016, but he hasn’t been seen in the LCS since 2020. River was picked up as the jungler for Hong Kong’s PSG Talon after he made waves at last fall’s World Championships. Their new mid-laner Blue, however, joins the trend of emerging mids from Europe, as the Turkish player has performed in the amateur scene under multiple aliases since 2017.
Fresh off a Worlds appearance for North America’s Team Liquid, they surprisingly only kept two members from their previous roster, but their new faces make them the story of the offseason. Fnatic’s star top laner Bwipo made the unsurprising choice to leave Europe for Team Liquid early in the offseason, eventually joined by Hans Sama, the French AD Carry who established himself as one of the best in the world. However, no player in North America is more anticipated than Bjergsen, the mid laner who played for and coached TSM from the LCS’ inception through the end of last year. Now, he is returning from retirement as the newest mid laner for TL, joining the other two newcomers as well as returning players Santorin and CoreJJ. It’s said every year, but if this roster can’t find international success, I’m not sure any American team will.
Cloud9 continued their tradition of fostering young talent with their promotion of the support of Isles, who served as their Academy support in 2021. The jungler Blaber is staying, as well as their top laner Fudge, who has opted to make a role change in mid lane to make room for Summit, the stud top from Korea who was often weighed down by subpar teams. Filling out their roster is AD Carry Berserker, a relatively unknown name out of Korea who is getting his big break. While not as obviously impressive as TL, C9 has shown time and time again that it’s not the talent of the roster, but how they’re coached.
Evil Geniuses brought back their top laner Impact and their bot lane duo of Danny and Ignar, choosing to build upon them with fresh faces. Inspired proved himself to be a top jungler in Europe, earning the Rookie of the Split award in Summer 2019 and the MVP in Summer 2021. Additionally, they brought up their Academy mid laner from last year Jojopyun, hoping he can grow and turn himself into a valuable member of an already impressive squad.
100 Thieves doubled down on their roster by providing the lowest turnover of the LCS teams. All five of their starting members are returning from last year’s roster, with the only addition being Tenacity as a substitute top laner to Ssumday. This roster made it to the World Championships last year, although they were eliminated in the first stage. There’s no doubt they were a top team in North America though, so this roster should still prove competitive.
That brings us to the one, the only, Team SoloMid, who once again posted the best record in the league in 2021. Despite missing Worlds in favor of C9, they have been nothing if not consistently dominant on a domestic level. They have opted to keep their top laner Huni and jungler Spica while adding TL’s former AD Carry Tactical. These three will serve as the reliable core for two fresh players out of China. Their new support will be Shenyi, who spent the last two years developing as a player on FunPlus Phoenix under the World Champion Crisp. Their new mid-laner Keaidou was picked off an amateur team in China and will be landing on a major team for his professional debut at just 20 years old.
I won’t go as far as to predict a massive increase in quality for North America as a region, as I’ve done so foolishly in the past. But every year I fill with this same excitement for new players, and it would do the fans good to forget their preconceptions about how good these teams were and instead look at what they can be.