Welcome to the opening week of the NA LCS, where the eSports team at Cloth5 want to kick off the season with a brief summary of the 8 NA LCS teams, and provide a Power Ranking of these 8 teams. Keep in mind, most of the teams have played a maximum of 2 games and had various roster adjustments, so it is difficult to read too deep into performance. With each team playing four games in the opening week of the LCS, we should be able to have a better read on how these teams will perform throughout the rest of the season. The momentum coming out of the initial Super Week tends to empower (or discourage) the performance of the upcoming weeks, so the importance to do well this week is paramount. Without further ado, I introduce you to the 8 LCS teams, listed in order of Season 3 ranking.
NA LCS Team Preview
Evil Geniuses came into the LCS Promotional Tournament as an unknown team. While the rosters were known for some time, the performance of the team came into question. Taking arguably the three weaker members of Evil Geniuses EU, along with two players from the Challenger scene, the performance would be hard to gauge by speculation alone. However, once the games started, it was clear as day that Evil Geniuses would be a strong contender in the Spring Split. Evil Geniuses dominated Determined Gaming with a 3-0 victory to earn their spot into the LCS.
One of the most improved players during the off-season is Snoopeh, who had a lackluster Season 3 with a dated champion pool and difficulty adapting to the changes to the jungler role. Snoopeh displayed an incredible performance with aggressive early game pressure, contributing to nearly 80% of his team’s kills and only dying four times in the series (dying the least of any Evil Geniuses members). EG is incredibly fortunate to have a formidable jungler coming into LCS Spring.
Another shining star of EG is Krepo. Krepo had a stunning performance as the team’s initiator on Leona and Annie, making several game-changing picks for EG. Krepo fed the most kills during the promotional tournament (8) of all EG members, but still managed to hold onto a 6.5 KDA, and only took 5 of EG’s 71 kills. With the Season 4 increase to support income, Krepo has demonstrated just how supports make a bigger impact from Season 3.
Evil Geniuses has demonstrated a great display of talent in a high-pressure situation. EG comes into the Spring Split with a plenty of hype and solid momentum. EG will be playing against XDG, TSM, CLG, and Coast, having an easier week than most (based off of Battle of the Atlantic performances), with TSM being the most difficult match-up of the weekend. Let’s just hope that EG has better success than their European counterpart, Alliance.
Team Coast was known as a team that was disappointing in the regular season, but secured second place in the 2013 Spring Split. Coast ended the 2013 Summer Split with a 9-19 record, starting the season strong and tapering off throughout the season. When the Summer Split ended, Coast took a step back to re-evaluate, and were able to find themselves in a different light during the off-season. Coast was highlighted as the best “Challenger” or non-LCS team during the off-season, winning the North American Challenger League and NESL tournaments in December.
Coast was especially dominant in patch 3.13 where split-push / snowball strategies were still incredibly effective. When patch 3.14 came about, Coast had some difficulties finding a reliable strategy to close out game with the same efficiency as before, which led to some inconsistent play. Coast played against The Walking Zed to regain their spot into the LCS, and narrowly defeated TWZ 3-2 in a close series. Coast played cautiously and made several mistakes; ranging from picking compositions and not playing them correctly, to blatant throws in the late game. Overall, Coast performed well and went against the hardest of the three challenger teams to secure their spot.
Coast hopes to have a more positive performance in the Spring Split and not fall off as the season progresses. While Coast still has plenty of room for development, they are not the weakest team in the LCS at this time. Coast plays against Curse, Dignitas, EG, and XDG, which is one of the easiest schedules of the weekend, if Coast bring their A-game.
Team Curse had a disappointing Summer Split, remaining in the lower-half of the standings until the final week, where there was a three-way tie for 4th place at 13-15 (which Curse won in a tie-breaker). Curse lost to both Dignitas and CLG in the playoffs, droping Curse into relgation. Curse underwent a drastic overhaul of their roster, bringing in three new players and moving star Voyboy from top to mid lane. Curse scoured the best free agents of North America to rebuild Team Curse.
Along with the roster changes, an invigorating spirit empowered Curse, bringing out a style of aggression that Curse had not seen in quite some time. Curse also had a strong performance in Challenger tournaments during the off-season, consistently placing second before forfeiting to conceal strategies for the LCS Promotion tournament. Curse defeated COGnitive gaming 3-1, gaining confidence as the series progressed.
Curse has done a great job growing as a team, and they still have not hit their peak performance. Voyboy has done a great job learning mid in such a short time, but he was not the star performer for Curse. Quas builds aggressively and prefers bully champions over the “hypertanks” of 3.14, which should provide some exciting play in a typically dull top lane. During the Promotional Series, Curse tended to stall out the games for quite some time, rather than capitalizing on the aggressive playstyle that suited them well in the off-season. Curse comes into the LCS going against Coast, XDG, CLG, and TSM, which Curse will have the most trouble with TSM for their final game of the weekend.
Counter Logic Gaming
CLG has been one of the more perplexing professional teams in North America, being able to take games off of stronger teams, but losing to weaker teams. The method of using players based on “potential” rather than demonstrated skill put CLG’s roster into a confusing state. CLG placed 6th in the Summer Split of LCS, with a record of 13-15, and ended the season with 5th place, defeating Curse and avoiding relegation.
CLG’s most recent performance was in the Battle of the Atlantic where they faced 5th place European team, Alternate (now Millennium) and lost both games. CLG made some interesting decisions against ATN, culminating into greedy plays that cost CLG the game. There were obvious play-calling mistakes, along with general indecision of what the team objective should be. Presumably nerves were an issue, but also the mentality of the team putting so much focus on Doublelift carrying the team. Many of the problems that plagued CLG during Season 3 are still evident in the Battle of the Atlantic, but perhaps the guidance of MonteCristo will have a positive influence on the team. It’s worthwhile to note that their main jungler, Dexter, will not be playing with CLG for the first week and it is rumored that Nightblue3 may sub in.
CLG will be coming into the Spring Split with either low morale, or an opportunity to prove themselves. Since the scenario that CLG face for Week One are not preferable, it’s hard to say which hat CLG will wear coming into the LCS. CLG plays against Dignitas, Cloud 9, EG, and Curse; which is not going to be an easy week for CLG, especially because CLG have to use a substitute jungler.
Dignitas is a team that has drifted through the LCS in 2013; not distinguishing themselves as a top contender, but managing to stay out of relegation. Dig ended the 2013 Summer Split 13-15, and took 4th place in the playoffs. Dig have been known to play comfort champions or unorthodox picks, rather than meta-exclusive champions
Dignitas did not have a pleasant time at the Battle of the Atlantic against Alliance (the reformed Evil Geniuses EU). Dig lost both games decisively against an incredibly strong Alliance, and producing one of the more notorious clips of the BotA event; the Fountain Dive.
Dig had a few roster changes as well, moving Kiwikid from Top Lane to Support, where he showed drastic improvements over the series. Cruzer, the new top laner, had a difficult time facing against Wickd and having trouble playing Shyvana into Renekton/Malphite, a match that typically favors Shyvana. Overall, Dignitas’ performance was underwhelming, and served as a wake up call coming into the NA LCS.
Once again, the pitfall for Dignitas is that they tend to draft champions that they feel comfortable on, even if they are not the strongest. Dig need to step up and distinguish themselves as more than a mediocre team; as mediocrity may not guarantee you a job come the next LCS split. Dignitas will play against CLG, TSM, Coast, and Cloud 9, which is one of the toughest schedules of all the LCS teams.
XD.GG (Ex Duris Gloria)
XDG, formerly Vulcun Techbargins, was one of the most dominant teams during the Summer LCS, ending 20-8, and also giving Cloud 9 two of their three losses in the regular season. XDG played an aggressive tempo in their games, often resorting to fast pushes and early kills in lane. XDG played very aggressive, but had a tendency to go on tilt easier than most teams, and have emotions carry over into additional games during during LCS weekends.
XDG faced off against Gambit Gaming, and showed an underwhelming performance against the 2012 Moscow5 line up. XDG Zuna had a horrible performance, dying 14 and maintaining a low 6.25 CS/min between two games. One of the explanations for the poor performance is that XDG had been on vacation for some time and had only practiced for 4 days leading up to the Battle of the Atlantic. Another plausible reason is that XDG had been focusing on a role swap, but decided against it at the last moment.
One of the major changes to XDG is the role switch between Xmithie (Marksman) and Zuna (Jungle). The synergy between Xmithie and mid lane Mancloud was one of XDG’s greatest strengths, and Zuna has very large shoes to fill with the role swap. Little is known about Xmithie and playing a marksman outside of solo queue, so this is another unknown variable to be added into the XDG cauldron.
The first week of the NA LCS will be the true test for XDG. Has XDG shaken off the rust from vacations? Will the role swap between Zuna/Xmithie be a success? Does XDG have the discipline to not go on tilt? XDG faces off against EG, Cloud 9, Curse, and Coast; culminating into an incredibly difficult challenge for XDG.
Team Solo Mid
Team Solo Mid has been one of the top tier North American teams for the past two years, having consistent winning performances in major NA events. TSM tends to start the LCS season slow, but pulls it together in the later weeks and performs exceptionally well in playoffs. TSM ended the LCS Summer split 14-14, but took 2nd place in the playoff bracket, earning a spot into the World Championship Series.
TSM had an outstanding performance in the Battle of the Atlantic, smashing down the recently released LCS team, Lemondogs. TSM brought in EU mid lane superstar, Bjergsen, to replace team owner Reginald. TSM quickly dominated Lemondogs, with a clean 2-0 sweep and ending both games before the 30-minute mark. TSM has been closing the games out quickly and efficiently, along with being one of the best Team-Fighting teams in North America. TSM is a force to be reckoned with and will not be underestimated by anyone.
The revitalized line-up for TSM looks remarkably strong at the moment, and will likely be one of the top performers in the early weeks of the LCS. TSM will kick off the NA LCS facing Cloud 9, then playing against EG, Dignitas, and Curse throughout the weekend. TSM vs Cloud 9 will probably be the most hyped match coming into the LCS, so be ready to kick off the LCS season with a great game.
Cloud 9 was a Challenger team that failed to qualify for the Spring Split of the LCS, but defeated compLexity Gaming to gain a seed in the Summer Split. Cloud 9 had the most impressive record of any LCS team; with a full-season record of 30-3 (losing twice to Vulcun/XDG, and once to CLG). Cloud 9 was unique in the fact that their strategies involved capitalizing on gaining as much farm as possible, and granting extra lane farm to the jungler. Very few teams in the world put as much emphasis on the jungler to carry the game as Cloud 9 does.
The deciding series for the Battle of the Atlantic title was between #1 NA team Cloud 9 and #1 EU team Fnatic. Cloud 9 brought out an interesting aspect of aggressive early jungling, something that Meteos strayed from during Season 3. The bottom lane of Cloud 9 is still a bit passive pre-6, which may prove difficult against more aggressive duo bot combinations. Cloud 9 finished the series 2-0 over Fnatic, affirming the dominance of Cloud 9 while casting doubt about the strength of Fnatic.
Cloud 9 look to uphold thier legacy, coming into the first week of the NA LCS with great momentum. C9 come into the games with specific game plans and look to draft proactively (rather than reactively), which makes reading the compositions somewhat challenging. C9 will face TSM in the opening game of the Spring Split, and then play against XDG, CLG, and Dignitas. This schedule is fairly easy for C9, with three games against teams that are still looking to settle into their roster adjustments.
NA LCS Power Rankings (Week 1):
Power rankings are listed by performance in professional events and public knowledge of team activity outside of the game, but not taking into account scrim performance (to preserve privacy of team strategies).
1st : Cloud 9
Cloud 9 comes into the Spring Split with a huge boost of momentum, and riding a wave of hype from an impressive Season 3. Cloud 9 is heavily favored to be a contender for the 1st place seed throughout the entire LCS season. As long as Cloud 9 is able to play the champions/compositions that they want, it will be difficult for teams to defeat C9.
2nd : Team Solo Mid
TSM had an impressive performance at the Battle of the Atlantic, and with the acquisition of Bjergsen, TSM looks stronger than ever. As long as TSM can remain in harmony and stave off the mid-season drama, they stand a solid chance to stay ahead of the pack for the Spring Split.
3rd : Evil Geniuses
Evil Geniuses took the challenger scene by storm by taking Velocity eSport’s spot in late November and dominating Determined Gaming to secure their spot into the LCS. EG look solid in their play and have the aptitude to remain at the upper-half of the Spring Split as long as they remain focused.
4th / 5th : Team Coast / Team Curse
Both Curse and Coast had an eventful off-season, being able to practice for a solid 4 months leading up to the LCS. However, it is difficult to extrapolate that the dominance of challenger teams will translate into exceptional performance in the professional league. Ultimately, both Curse and Coast must work hard to distinguish themselves and not settle with mediocrity.
6th / 7th / 8th : Dig / XDG / CLG
Each of these three teams had a disappointing performance during the Battle of the Atlantic, and also have some sort of roster adjustment that may not be fully worked out by the first week of LCS. While these teams are ranked the lowest, they also have the most to prove. These teams may have a rough opening week, and might take several weeks to warm up to the fullest of their abilities.
Be sure to catch all of the NA LCS Week 1 action via LoLeSports, starting at 4pm EST (12pm PST) on Friday, January 17th. There will be 16 games over three days, with every team playing 4 games each.
* A special thanks to lolesports.com for providing team photographs used in this article.