I don’t play as much League of Legends as I used to, but it’s still hard not to be excited about the new professional season. In North America, we are represented by the League of Legends Championship Series. They revamped how their regular season will work, making every game count and leading with a new tournament called the “LCS Lock-In.” In it, each team gets to warm up with a chance to test out their new rosters and win some prize money in a tournament among themselves. For the first time in a while, a lot of new faces are joining the league, hoping to make a name for themselves.
The team, 100 Thieves, is led by their star top laner Ssumday, who was joined this year by four members of last year’s Golden Guardians squad. Closer, Damonte, FBI, and Huhi are all familiar with each other and should mesh well while getting accustomed to Ssumday in the top lane, who should be fine operating relatively on his own for the first part of the season. Their first three games in the tournament have been a ride. They did give Counter Logic Gaming their only win, but sandwiched that loss between two strong victories over Team SoloMid and Team Liquid.
Cloud9 has made their annual roster changes, opting in yet again for an unproven talent in the top lane. Licorice departed, allowing Ibrahim “Fudge” Allami to get a shot at a starting roster. Far more notably, their mid laner Nisqy left and was replaced by Perkz, one of the best European players last year who will be re-joining former teammates Zven and Mithy on C9. They took a rough opening day loss to the undefeated Evil Geniuses, but responded with statement wins over FlyQuest and Immortals. They will likely remain a perennial favorite.
CLG’s roster is uninspiring but has some of the most familiar faces in the North American scene. Pobelter and WildTurtle have been around since the dark ages and still have starting spots. Smoothie has been in the scene since 2015 and Solo made his LCS debut back in 2016. Raymond “Griffin” Griffin, formerly known as Wiggily, is entering his fourth year with the CLG organization. What makes CLG unique is their complete lack of imports on their roster, opting for a team of fully-American talent even if it led to their 1-3 start.
Dignitas has been a favorite for years thanks to their long and exciting history in the LCS. However, their roster consists of veteran support Aphromoo and people who have spent their careers bouncing between teams. Dardoch is entering a stint with his eighth different LCS team, largely due to his history of attitude issues. Still, he’s a stud on his best days. The two are surrounded by mostly unproven talents, as Soligo, Neo (formerly Asta), and FakeGod are getting their first starts since 2019. They’re unsurprisingly 1-2 right now, but are exciting and hopefully have good days ahead of them.
Evil Geniuses is the only remaining undefeated team in the tournament and their roster is packed. Jiizuke and Svenskeren reprise their roles from last year, while EG cashed out and brought in two Koreans as well. 2013 world champion top laner Impact came over from Liquid and support IgNar is one of the few players to leave Korea and be good enough to be recruited back. Their roster is rounded out by Deftly, a player with little recognition who is currently leading the entire tournament in kills per game. They’ve practically taken over as the favorite, for good reason.
On the other side is FlyQuest, the only winless team in the tournament. All five members are new to the team this year, with the most established being former C9 top laner Licorice. Around him are jungler Josedeodo, an import from the Latin American scene, mid laner Palafox who has no experience in a major league, AD Carry Johnson who is entering his second year in the LCS, and support Diamond who only had one game of LCS experience prior to this tournament. These are the underdogs and the FlyQuest organization has been really good at getting fans on their side.
The 1-2 Golden Guardians are also functioning with a roster of mostly unknowns, the veteran of them being Stixxay, a bot laner who took the league by storm with CLG in 2015. Niles is new to the team this year, having been recruited at the annual Scouting Grounds tournament in 2020. Stixxay’s other three teammates, Iconic, Newbie and Ablazeolive, are joining from their academy roster, all getting their first real shot at pro play.
Immortals is like Golden Guardians, but worse. Their top laner Revenge was an elite talent in the solo queue but has never played in the LCS. Xerxe spent a lot of time in Europe, playing for three different teams dating back to 2016 and ended up making it to the quarterfinals in Worlds 2019 with Splyce. Insanity was a backup mid laner for Immortals in 2020 and is getting a starting shot this year. Their bot laner Yuri “Keith” Jew is likely the most storied of them, even if it didn’t always result in success. He was a splash when he managed to take a starting spot from world champion Piglet back in 2015. He most recently showed up as a support for Golden Guardians in 2020, but will return to his main role this year. Meanwhile, support Joey has just gotten his first ever games in a major league with this tournament.
Liquid bounced back from losing Impact this year, landing European stud top laner Alphari in return. He joined legends Jensen and CoreJJ, as well as a rising star in Tactical, all three of which have returned. Jonathan “Armao” Armao, formerly Grigne (who was forced by the league to change his name), bounced around the LCS for years, dating back to a string on Echo Fox in 2016. They’re one of the few teams with multiple returning members, making them strong contenders.
TSM had big shoes to fill, allowing Bjergsen and Doublelift to retire. In return, they picked up PowerOfEvil in the mid lane, who interestingly got his big break when he beat TSM back in 2015, and Lost in the bot lane who has been a pleasant surprise. Spica is their only returning member in the jungle, while Huni was picked up from Evil Geniuses and SwordArt was recruited after years of international success in the Taiwanese LMS and the Chinese LPL.
The LCS is more interesting than maybe it’s ever been, and all 10 of these teams will battle it out for several months to see who gets the privilege of representing NA at Worlds 2021.