As the European League Championship Series Promotional Tournament can be easily classified as a celebration of the next wave of talent clashing against the disappointment of what was supposed to be the previous wave of talent, the North American iteration carries a bit more controversy. We’ve seen talented writers call out the Cloud9 Challenger team’s approach to the scene for what it is: a quick cash grab in a system that doesn’t give any reason to do otherwise. It’s easy to wonder what Riot Games would have done if Cloud9 or Team Liquid had fallen into a relegation spot given how the Renegades ruling showed its devotion to competitive integrity, but they’re fortunate enough to not have to answer that question. Instead, the region will have to answer questions about whether loading the dice with rosters that contain a majority of former LCS players will cost the scene dearly when the new Interregional Movement Policy comes into effect.
While the specter of these actions will hang over the entirety of the tournament, one can’t fail to recognize the sheer talent involved. Team Liquid Academy, a team that could arguably have won the NA Challenger Series Finals had it not accidentally locked in Rammus, has former world champion Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin on the roster, who is just as hard of a carry as you remember. Support William “Stunt” Chen has managed to stand out as an LCS caliber player, and mid laner Greyson “Goldenglue” Gilmer is desperate to make his way back into the pro scene and stick around for once. Meanwhile, Cloud9 Challenger has a combination of strategic prowess in Hai “Hai” Du Lam and Daerek “LemonNation” Hart combined with the sheer talent of “next big thing” Juan Arturo “Contractz” Garcia and “maybe he’ll stay out of his own way this time” Johnny “Altec” Ru. These rosters were built as LCS rosters from their very inception, and it’s hard to argue otherwise given the sheer talent on display.
The biggest question that remains is whether there is any life left in some of the remaining North American LCS teams that would need to put up a fight against these powerhouses. Despite the passion of its owner, Echo Fox looks like it’s on life support, with Henrik “Froggen” Hansen likely pacing around the gaming house wondering if there’s any way he can cut this part out when he’s inducted into the eventual League of Legends Hall of Fame. NRG isn’t faring much better. Despite being well funded and investing in a huge staff of analysts, none of them was able to solve the problem of Diego “Quas” Ruiz being two years out of his prime, Alan “KiWiKiD” Nguyen never being all that good to begin with, and Lee “GBM” Chang-seok pulling a Bae “dade” Eo-jin and giving up halfway through the year once he realized he was getting paid regardless. The only difference between these two teams is that NRG has Lucas “Santorin” Larsen, who has established himself as a top three player in North America at the jungle position, while Echo Fox has bitter tears and a half decent three point shot.
At the end of the day, this will be a battle between teams that were made with no heart but possess a lot of talent and teams that had a whole bunch of passion pumped into lost causes, while Phoenix1 presumably stands above them all basking in the glory of the surprisingly solid Rami “Inori” Charagh, as it continues to exceed the high standards its coach set out for them. Now, all that’s left is for our podcast hosts to break it all down and make their predictions for the week.
On today’s episode of the Rough Drafts Guess the Lines Podcast, Walter “Ceades” Fedczuk and Chase “RedShirtKing” Wassenar weigh in on the controversial decision by Riot Games to allow LCS teams to use the Challenger Series as a farm system and the natural repercussions to those actions. They then move on to the actual games, where they discuss whether NRG has anything left in the tank, whether Altec has learned to handle the pressure that will come C9C’s way, and if Team Liquid Academy is good enough to surprise some people along the way. They close with their predictions and a couple quick lines.
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