2018 NA LoL Championship Series Spring

20 January, 2017 - N/A Los Angeles, United States
The North American League of Legends Championship Series is the premier tournament of the North American region, and it hosts some of the most recognized brands within esports. 

2018 will be the first year of Riots new franchising initiative.


After a long winter break, we are finally on the verge of the newest League of Legends season. Things cannot get more exciting for the North American region as it was franchised during the off-season. Fans will get the chance to see four completely new teams that will enter the NA LCS at the expense of four existing ones. (Team Dignitas, Phoenix1, Team EnVyUs and Immortals were all denied a spot in the franchised North American league)

Those four teams are:

  1. OpTic Gaming - zig, Akaadian, PowerOfEvil, Arrow, Lemonnation

  2. Golden Guardians - Lourlo, Contractz, Hai, Deftly, Matt

  3. Clutch Gaming - Solo, LirA, Febiven, Apollo, Hakuho

  4. 100 Thieves - Ssumday, Meteos, Ryu, Cody Sun, aphromoo

They will be joining six existing teams that retained their spots. However even though there are a lot of familiar faces, a lot has changed over the course of the off-season. Before going into each and every roster and previewing what is most likely to happen, let’s focus on two incredibly important changes first.

The meta

Preseasons are always a time when a lot of things change. Riot Games fine tune existing champions, items and various elements of the game. However this season is bringing one of the biggest changes in recent history - a complete overhaul of the rune and mastery system. With the removal of runes and masteries every champion had to be fine-tuned individually and with a new rune system in place players are finding new and exciting ways to play on a daily basis. A lot of it is still undiscovered which adds another exciting layer to professional play.

So you’re probably wondering, how is this important? With such a big shift in core game mechanics, the meta will shift as well. That means every single team that is participating will be on a somewhat level playing field regardless of roster strength and coaching staff. While that “uncertainty” won’t last throughout the Spring Split it probably will impact the early stages.

This change goes hand-in-hand with the second one:

Format change

North American LCS will no longer be played in a Best of 3 format like during the entirety of the 2017 season, but will instead be Best of 1. (like in the first half of 2016 and prior) That means you will spend less time watching competitive League of Legends, but the games you will watch should be a lot more impactful and fun. With just a single game played teams can prepare just a single strategy and play a plethora of “cheese” strategies and team compositions. Teams have to take every single game played seriously because it could heavily impact the standings. While spectators and fans lose out on any potential comebacks that were possible in Best of 3 matches, this will surely infuse a breath of fresh air to the NA LCS while also being less of a time investment.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s focus on the teams that are competing. This list will go from (predicted) best to worst, however do have in mind that things change consistently so do keep an eye on everyone’s skill level when the split starts.

  1. Team Solo Mid - the staple NA giant, the biggest, most popular and accomplished North American organization. There hasn’t been an NA final without them participating in it, and TSM is poised to continue that tradition next split as well. So what has changed during the off-season? After failing to accomplish any international success (failing to get out of groups at both Worlds 2016, MSI 2017 and Worlds 2017) over the course of the last two years this team needed big changes in order to improve their chances next year. They have the tools, the players and the coaching staff to contest for the NA LCS title, but they’re missing a couple of key elements in order to leave a mark on the Worlds stage. They swapped out Svenskeren in favor of 2017 Summer Rookie of the Split, Phoenix1’s MikeYoung, and they imported arguably the best bottom lane duo that the West has to offer - Zven and Mithy from G2 eSports. Essentially, they shouldn’t skip a beat when the Spring Split kicks in. They exchanged an aggressive playmaking jungler for another one who in addition to being mechanically talented was able to hardcarry his struggling team, and they plugged in an excellent bottom lane that also shotcalls so they can only improve going on further. Also one of the biggest changes that isn’t being talked about that much is the change in coaching staff - Parth (their ex-coach) will be going into the General Manager position, and they’ve actually signed coach Ssong (of Immortals and Longzhu fame) to be the head coach. If he brings at least a smidge of what he did with the struggling (7th ranked in Spring) IMT squad then TSM fans can actually be cautiously optimistic.

  2. Team Liquid - if you were following the offseason you might have seen that TL literally picked up enough players to field two or maybe even three rosters. They have invested an insane amount of money and actually swapped each and every player from their previous roster and with good reason. They struggled to find any kind of success over the course of 2016 and 2017 and were almost relegated twice last year. They acquired former SKT T1 top laner Impact from Cloud9, Xmithie, Pobelter and Olleh from the disbanded Immortals squad and Doublelift from TSM. On paper, this team is an extremely frightening one. With this starting line-up it would be almost impossible for them not to contest for a Top 3 spot, and even the title. Now there are a couple of question marks however and they’re mostly regarding Liquid’s coaching staff as it had the tendency to make highly talented players look very mediocre. That said, if they invested this much into their roster, they’re probably looking to do the same with their staff as well. For the first time in a long time Team Liquid actually has a roster that can compete at the highest possible level.

  3. Counter Logic Gaming - it’s rare for a team to stay as a five man unit regardless of how well they play and if they’re successful or not. The CLG roster played through thick and thin and they’ve made two very big changes during the off-season, and overall they’re changes for the better. First of all, they lost one of their staple players and that is aphromoo. He has been a part of CLG for what seems like an eternity and seeing him leave is a big blow not just for all CLG fans but for the team as well. Aphro was always a big in-game leader and shotcaller and managed to stay relevant as an individual player through all meta shifts and changes. Instead, TSM’s Biofrost will take the starting position which from a mechanical standpoint isn’t a downgrade by any means. Luckily for CLG, even though they lost one strong vocal player they gained another in Reignover. (of 2015 Fnatic and 2016 Immortals fame) He is widely considered to be one of the best, most cerebral and analytical junglers in the world, and even though he didn’t have a strong year at Team Liquid it’s hard gauging his actual level of play right now. That said, he has the tools and the right environment at CLG to prosper and get back to his level. He speaks fluent English and is a shotcaller as well so with time this roster has the tools to contest a Top 3 spot without a doubt.

  4. 100 Thieves - a completely new team that managed to sign a ton of incredibly talented players. Ssumday is without a doubt one of the best top laners in the world, Meteos is an experienced veteran, Ryu is incredibly talented and was one of the best midlaners in Europe (back when he was playing for H2K) and the bottom duo consisting of Cody Sun and aphromoo doesn’t need any introduction. This is a stacked roster both skill and personality/popularity-wise. They have experience, mechanical skill as well as shotcalling all mixed up and to top if all off they signed coach Neil “pr0lly” Hammad from H2K as well. He brings an incredible amount of experience and has already coached Ryu to great success. The only unknown variable here is how motivated Meteos and Ryu are right now. Meteos left the competitive League scene after burnout and isn’t playing much of it on a regular basis. That said when he subbed in for Phoenix1 last split he didn’t show any “ring rust” at all. Ryu on the other hand was fairly vocal about his lack of motivation which is pretty understandable seeing how quickly Phoenix1 crashed and burned between Spring and Summer. If they manage to click they could very well fight for a Top 5 spot if not even higher.

  5. Cloud9 - out of all returning teams, Cloud9’s roster took the biggest hit for sure. They lost one of the best performing toplaners in Impact, and to top it all off they sold their jungler Contractz to Golden Guardians for an undisclosed reason and signed Svenskeren instead. It’s hard not to question their judgement when seeing the moves other teams made. Former eUnited toplaner Licorice will be filling the incredible void left by Impact and while he is yet to hit his peak, it’s impossible seeing him win any matchup against 8 or even 9 NA LCS toplaners. Luckily they do retain Jensen, Sneaky and Smoothie which still keeps them “in the game” however not for long. Teams will develop and strenghten over the course of the Spring Split and it is only a matter of time before Cloud9 won’t be able to fight back. Svenskeren is a great, aggressive jungler in his own right however he wasn’t nearly as consistent or (successfully) aggressive in 2017 as fans wanted him to be. He looked timid and scared for the majority of the season and completely transformed into the old TSM meme of turning aggressive junglers into moving wards. This is still a highly talented roster, however seeing the changes other teams made it’s only a matter of time before Cloud9 won’t be able to reach the Top 5 and perhaps - at worst - even the playoffs.

  6. Echo Fox - this is where things get incredibly interesting. Huni comes straight from his 2017 World Championship Finals, Dardoch changed three teams over the course of 2017 - Immortals, CLG and finally Team Liquid, Fenix is prehaps best known for his Team Liquid stint in 2015 (last seen playing in the Challenger Series for Gold Coin United) and the bottom duo consisting of Altec and Adrian. These are all incredible players, however the logic behind signing them is highly questionable. Things can go wrong any day of the week with personality clashes, different levels of motivation and professionalism, different approaches to the game and the meta, etc. Essentially, this team could by the end of Summer 2018 be a Top 3/Top 5 team or sit comfortably at the bottom of the standings. If there was an analogy that would best describe this roster it would be that it’s a lot like a house of cards. Yes - they can get to great heights but just a single bad move and it will all come crashing down.

  7. Clutch Gaming - another fairly solid team that has a lot of potential but in comparison to the competition it’s hard to realistically predict anything with certainty. They managed to sign the Team EnVyUs core - LirA, Apollo and Hakuho and bring over one of the best and most consistent midlaners from Europe - H2K’s Febiven. On paper that four man squad could challenge even the top teams on this list however consistency is a big factor. Team EnVy didn’t always look that good and only managed to shine in a couple of key moments during the regular season. Individual skill is of no concern however, with all players with the expection of toplaner Solo being incredibly talented. If Febiven adapts well to his new environment this team could very well be a playoff contender.

  8. FlyQuest - it came as a surprise to see FlyQuest completely rebrand and change up their former roster. They actually made the right moves and signed the right players in order to be in the running for playoffs. They signed Flame from Immortals who was one of the best performing toplaners last season along with AnDa who was recognized for his individual mechanical prowess while subbing for Immortals and getting to Korean Challenger in around three weeks. They kept WildTurtle and signed Stunt who is a very solid, highly underrated support as well. To top it all off they signed Fly who came over from Gold Coin United (of 2016 KT Rolster fame). On paper this is a fairly solid roster that could surprise a lot of people coming into the Spring Split. That said team synergy and coaching remains a big question that is yet to be answered.

  9. OpTic Gaming - one of the premier eSports organizations is finally entering the League of Legends scene. The roster that they will field however is a fairly strange one. Zig from Phoenix1 in the top lane, Akaadian from Echo Fox in the jungle, PowerOfEvil from EU’s Misfits in mid, Arrow from Phoenix1 as the ADC and - perhaps the strangest signing yet - Lemonnation from FlyQuest. This is quite the confusing lineup of players, and while their individual mechanical skill shouldn’t be questioned, the amount of synergy that they will be able to develop is highly questionable. They do have the “x factor” however, with a solid top laner in zig, and a promising jungle+mid duo that will be able to go toe-to-toe with even the best teams in NA. Their bottom lane on the other hand leaves a lot to be desired. They will surely end Spring in the bottom half of the rankings as they will need time to develop synergy and cohesion, but for Summer they might be able to contest for a playoff spot given the right coaching and guidance.

  10. Golden Guardians - at the very end we have arguably the weakest roster (on paper) out of all that will be competing. Lourlo, Contractz, Hai, Deftly and Matt. These are all somewhat household names (with the exception of Deftly who played in the Challenger Series) with Lourlo and Matt being starters for quite some time on Team Liquid, Contractz being the prodigal Cloud9 jungler and Hai one of the legendary NA veteran midlaners. If there is one thing to be said about this roster it is that a good portion of it is heavily underrated, most notably Lourlo and Matt. They have some potential but before seeing them play a single game you shouldn’t be too optimistic. They will surely surprise a lot of people in Spring as they have one of the most vocal and successful shotcallers in League history. By just having Hai shotcall, Golden Guardians have an upper hand over the majority of other teams - until they develop synergy that is. Expect them to start somewhat solid but to fall of hard as the split develops.

These will be the ten teams that we will watch compete every Friday to Sunday in the LCS Studio in Los Angeles. Expect a lot of fireworks and a lot of exciting games but also try to watch as many games as possible in order to assess each team’s skill level.


Tournament Format

Summer Promotion: The top two teams from the 2017 NA Challenger Series Summer face off versus the bottom two teams from the 2017 NA LCS Summer split in a double elimination bracket starting in the semifinal.
All matches are Best-of-Five.
Top two advance to the main season.

More information will be added soon