With just one day left before the start of the 2016 NA LCS Summer Split, it’s time to take a look at how this split may pan out.
First, let’s take a look at the newest teams: Phoenix 1, Apex, and Team Envy. Then we’ll move on to the mid-tier teams from the spring split, and finish off with the top contenders for Worlds.
This is perhaps the most untested team, at least on paper. With a roster of mixed new talent and old veterans, this is a team with nothing to lose and everything to prove. Many of the players are no-names, and they will want to take the chance to earn themselves the titles of gods. Mash and Gate, the veteran duo bot lane from the original Team Impulse, struggled hard during the spring split. But if Phoenix 1 are to find success, Mash and Gate will have to lead the charge, mash their heads against the other team’s gates, and bring their team to victory.
These are the players who have just realized their dreams. After sweeping through the NA Challenger Scene, they qualified for the LCS — taking Dignitas’ spot — and are looking to prove themselves against the big names of NA. Perhaps their most notable player is support Xpecial, who played for TSM until season 4. The European god, Diamondprox, is also joining this new team to make his NA debut. Legends in their own right, it’s up to them to lead the otherwise untested Apex into glory — or risk falling back to square one.
Much like the other two new teams, there’s very little to lose for Team Envy. It’s a new roster, filled with players from the challenger scene and a few who stayed on from Renegades. But irregardless of where they came from, each player must show that they are worthy to compete on the LCS stage. For the newer players, this is a given. For the ex-Renegades members, they must shake off the mantle of their crushing spring season and take on the summer split by performing as they never have before. This is certainly a team to watch, as their players are great on their own, but on a team such as this? Excitement is sure to ensue.
Aside from Immortals, Echo Fox is the only other team to enter the Summer Split without any roster changes. Spring saw great performances from Froggen (Stardew Valley against Dignitas, anyone?), and the Korean bootcamp saw Keith make it to top ten rank in solo queue. This is not a roster without talent, yet they always seem to fall towards the middle of the pack. Froggen was once one of the most renowned midlaners in the world and must return to that form this split if he hopes to make an impact. Keith must transition over his incredible solo queue skills to the team environment and be the hypercarry he’s proven he can be. The rest of the team must keep pace with these two and, if they can carry through as a team, we may very well see them in the playoffs.
After a complete roster shakeup following the spring season, NRG is looking fresher and more energetic than ever. GBM was the star of NRG during the spring split. But he is far from the only player that makes this team shine this time around. Having picked up ohq (who is commonly seen as one of the better ADC’s from Korea), snatching up KiwiKid after Dignitas lost relegations, and cinching in TSM’s former jungler Santorin, the new NRG is chock full of tried and tested talent. Their new botlane is especially terrifying, as both players are known for their aggression in lane and ability to snowball hard. And Santorin, returning from his break, seems to be in top form. If this new team gels, we may have yet another finals contender on our hands. GBM was always terrifying; now he’s got a whole new team to back it up. Look out, NALCS–your fans better give you their energy.
TL is a team that always seems to be in contention for the top three, but never makes it there. With the recent drama surrounding Dardoch, the spring split jungler and Rookie of the Split, he has been moved to a sub position while Moon has been moved in. It’s unclear how much this will affect Team Liquid’s hyper-aggressive style, but with solid lanes and a good finish in the spring split, they will be looking to improve upon the foundation they set. Liquid’s success has to be by more than just Fenix in the midlane–they have to adapt without Dardoch’s early game aggression and prove themselves to be top of the split material. This team is one of the biggest question marks in the LCS. Time and time again, they have shown that they can perform to an outstandingly high level, yet somehow always fall just when they should have reached the top. This time around, they aren’t going to fall. Liquid will be fighting tooth and nail for the chance to–finally–make it out of fourth place.
TSM has long been a staple of the North American LCS. With an explosive history and a star studded lineup, it’s hard not to put them in contention for the top three. With convincing victories in the playoffs against Cloud9 and Immortals and a hard-fought battle against CLG, TSM has shown themselves to be a strong contender this split if they manage to perform to the level they did in playoffs. The change to Best of Three’s this split is also a point in TSM’s favor, as they have consistently performed better in Bo3’s or Bo5’s.
However, TSM has to be careful not to let the mistakes that landed them in sixth place last split affect them this time around. For most of the regular spring season, we saw a team that was full of mechanical wunderkinds, but lacked decisive shotcalling and communication. Most recently, TSM picked up their new support, the untested and fresh Biofrost, following the departure of YellowStar back to Fnatic. It remains to be seen how well he will fit in and perform. With Bjergsen at the helm and the rest of the team following at his heels, TSM is looking to take the summer split by storm.
To some, Cloud9 is the meme dream team. To others, they were the once-best team in North America. This split, without legendary shotcaller Hai and a completely new face on the team — season 3 SKT’s Impact — Cloud9 has more to prove than ever. While their spring jungler, Rush, is now playing for their challenger team, old-timer Meteos is coming back to fill his own shoes and prove that he is still the superstar jungler legend from season 3.
With one of the best bot lanes in NA (at least on paper), a former world champion, EU Dopa, and the 12.7 KDA superstar jungle god, Cloud9 is a stacked team who are easily Worlds contenders–if they resolve shotcalling and communication problems. If Cloud9 plays to their full potential this split, they are very scary indeed. But if they let the flaws that shot them down in summer 2015 return, they may very well have to run the gauntlet once more.
For the majority of the spring split, this terrifying group were indeed immortal. With an impressive 17-1 record in the regular season, they seemed unstoppable, only to fall to TSM in a clean 0-3 sweep. Their strengths: the ability to carry from any role and amazing teamwork. Their weaknesses: a tendency to not adapt as quickly as many other teams do, and a seeming refusal to play outside their comfort zone. But even after a harsh loss to TSM during semifinals, they crushed Team Liquid in the 3rd/4th place playoffs, which indicates that it might just have been a misread of the meta. Whatever the cost, Immortals will want to retain their notoriety from the spring split and regain their reputation as the true Immortals on the Rift.
Counter Logic Gaming
The current North American kings, Counter Logic Gaming took a sweeping victory over TSM to become the spring split champions, followed by a wholly unexpected run at MSI to finish second place behind SKT T1. Their macro play is incredible, their synergy formidable. CLG’s greatest strength isn’t that their players are number 1 in each of their respective roles; it’s that they work cohesively as a single unit. They know how to play the map at both a macro and micro scale, and it will take a lot for any other team to topple them. More than any other team in the NALCS, they seem to understand that the team is greater than the individual, and each play they make shows it. CLG are the team to beat right now, and they intend to remain that way. Their goal: a third LCS championship and a trip to Worlds.