After giant offseason rollercoaster ride, the start of the League of Legends Championship Series is finally here. A handful of top European players moved to North American teams, leaving fans with some regret and confusion as who to root for this year, but I’m here to tell you everything will be fine for Europe.
North American fans might also be confused in cheering interests as the landscape is widely different. With the new talent coming to NA, there’s no excuses for the region to perform poorly this year. There will be a lot of pressure, which is a good thing.
For the first time, North America is poised to threaten as a top contender.
Predicting the top-performing teams and players will be difficult (though our friends Chase Wassenar and Walter Fedczuk did a good job earlier in the week). So let’s take a look from an individual perspective with Slingshot’s preseason “All-LCS” teams for Europe and North America. I will be picking two players for each role who stand to make the most impact this split.
First team (North America): Kim “Reignover” Yeu-jin of Immortals
It is probably not surprising that the jungler for the undefeated 2015 European powerhouse Fnatic was first on the list for the NA junglers. Although Reignover isn’t hailed for incredible mechanics as Rush is, his jungle pathing and understanding of the role is second to none in North America. When a team is as successful as Fnatic was in 2015, everything has to come together perfectly. Fnatic had standout carry players in the top and middle lane, but Reignover knew how to support them to allow his carries to take over the game. It was hard not to put Rush over Reignover, but Reignover’s success with Fnatic was too much to ignore.
Second team (North America): Lee “Rush” Yoon-jae of Cloud 9
Rush’s gameplay is different from Reignover because Rush is the carry for his team. Although Rush didn’t have the support to back him up as Reignover had in 2015, it’s tough to deny his talent. Now with a much-better Cloud 9, and having the freedom to pick carry champions such as his patented Nidalee and Lee Sin, it won’t be surprising to expect to see Rush single-handedly take over games. If his performance at IEM Cologne is any indication for the future, expect big things from this hard-carry jungler.
First team (Europe): Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski of H2K-Gaming
With a strong roster around him, it is finally time for Jankos to shine. His synergy with his support, Oskar “VandeR” Bogdan, is the best in all of Europe, and this duo will show Europe what map control is all about.
Second team (Europe): Danil “Diamondprox” Reshetnikov of Unicorns of Love
This pick might come as a surprise, but Diamondprox has the chance to ascend to the top of his game in 2016. Last year was full of ups and downs for Diamondprox and Gambit Gaming, but things are much different this time around. Not too much will be expected from UOL this season, but with a steady roster and coaching staff, people shouldn’t be too fast to forget what this legendary jungler can do when the circumstances are right.
First team (NA): Heo “Huni” Seung Hoon of Immortals
Huni is the easiest pick of the entire team. Easily the best Western top laner in 2015, he’s now coming to a region that is notorious for its weak top laners. As Doublelift said earlier this year: “[Huni] will either make every top laner really good or he’ll just crush them.”The skill gap between him and the other top laners in Europe was enormous last year. His ability to carry games, draw bans, and dominate the map was unparalleled in the West, and it’ll translate to his new team.
Second team (NA): Darshan “Darshan” Upadhyaha of Counter Logic Gaming
Darshan, formerly known as ZionSpartan, finally had a breakout performance in 2015, especially during the NA LCS finals in Madison Square Garden. His performance at the world championships and IEM San Jose was a little shaky, but CLG had many out-of-game difficulties that happened after the win at Madison Square Garden. Once things settle down for CLG, expect a strong showing from Darshan.
First team (EU): Paul “SOAZ” Boyer of Origen
It can be argued that Soaz is past his prime, or that he might not be the all that good when it comes down to the lane phase, but after his performance at worlds, those doubts should be tempered. The veteran top laner performed at the top of his game. His teleport usage and smart map pressure were two of the many reasons Origen did so well at worlds. Soaz and crew blew by the competition at IEM San Jose, and look out for the same results in the upcoming season.
Second team (EU): Lucas “Cabochard” Simon-Meslet of Team Vitality
Cabochard had an impressive spring split in 2015, while Gambit Gaming was going strong. He is one of the best in a 1-v-1 lane, had good usage of teleports and was known for excellent team fighting throughout the year. There have been many changes to top lane in the new season, but Cabochard should still be able to excel.
First team (NA): Yiliang“Doublelift” Peng of Team SoloMid
Doublelift has been around for seemingly forever and has always been hailed as one of the best mechanical NA ADCs. In 2014, Doublelift and CLG vastly underperformed, and critics started questioning if the veteran was past his prime. Then 2015 rolled around and Doublelift had something to prove. Finally finding its footing in the summer split, The Rush Hour bottom lane turned up its game. CLG made a mockery of TSM in the NA finals, and Doublelift was at the forefront. His ability to find a way to accumulate massive gold leads against the opposing ADCs is due in fact to his raw mechanical talent and understanding of the role. When the resources were put on other players on his team, unlike in the past, Doublelift gladly let his team do the carrying. He has become a top-notch player and is positioned perfectly for a huge year with TSM.
Second team (NA): Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi of Cloud 9
Sneaky has been a key player for Cloud 9 ever since its dominating 2014. He’s sometimes overlooked as a great ADC, but if Cloud 9’s unexpected success at worlds is any indicator, Sneaky is in line for a big season. Even though Daerek “LemonNation” Hart, his longtime lane counterpart, has retired, Sneaky should have no problems adapting to his new supports.
First team (EU): Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen of Fnatic
Going into last season, no one would have expected the success the newly-formed Origen would attain. Throughout the season, one thing was always constant: Origen’s bottom lane was winning. This fact was stressed even harder during worlds when Zven, formerly known as Niels, and his support, Mithy, continuously amazed. Zven constantly drew bans, and expect the same in 2016. Zven is no ordinary ADC anymore; multiple times during Worlds, Origen’s success was put in his hands, and he repeatedly performed at a high level.
Second team (EU): Konstantinos “FORG1VEN” Tzortziou of H2k-Gaming
The 2015 spring split in Europe was all about FORG1VEN. During his SK Gaming days, FORG1VEN hard-carried almost every game. He was appointed the split’s MVP, and then left for Gambit Gaming, where the season didn’t go as planned for the star ADC. FORG1VEN wasn’t playing the hard-carry champions that he should have had, and on top of the team’s downhill swing, FORG1VEN was issued a suspension by Riot due to his behavior on the solo queue ladder at the end of the season. 2016 is of the utmost importance for FORG1VEN, and he’s ready to prove himself as the best Western ADC. With a stellar roster around him on H2K, expect FORG1VEN to be the carry he was meant to be.
First team (NA): Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black of Counter Logic Gaming
CLG’s bottom lane has broken up, but fans should not worry. After a disappointing run at worlds, Aphromoo is back to show why CLG claimed NA’s number one seed going into last October’s championships. Aphromoo is the full package: a mechanically-strong support with keen game sense. Expect Aphromoo’s lane to win, and expect great plays all over the map from this veteran support. Aphromoo is not only a leader on The Rift, but also outside the game. CLG very much needs that at this dire time, and Aphromoo will show the world why CLG is ready to take the North American crown.
Second team (NA): Bora “YellOwStaR” Kim of Team SoloMid
It was hard not to put YellOwStaR as the best Western support after a huge run last year on Fnatic. Nevertheless, he is the perfect fit for TSM. With YellOwStaR’s shot-calling, TSM should be poised to reach the top of North America. We didn’t see YellOwStaR constantly dominate his lane when he was on Fnatic, but he doesn’t need to worry about that anymore playing alongside Doublelift. The game sense he has is unmatched, and his genius team plays around the map will make not only YellOwStaR, but all of TSM possibly the biggest North American threat.
First team (EU): Alfonso “Mithy” Aguirre Rodriguez of Origen
Simply put, Mithy showed up for Origen and not only carried his team during the laning phase, by decimating the opposing bot lane, but knew how to perfectly support his teammates around the map. The Origen bottom lane is possibly the best in all of the West. With his amazing play at worlds, on top of Origen’s performance at IEM San Jose, there is no reason to think that Mithy and his team should not be dominating the competition right off the bat in the EU LCS.
Second team (EU): Lewis “NoXiAK” Simon Felix of Fnatic
This is probably the most surprising selection. NoXiAK is a newcomer to the professional scene, but expect him to be a force on the new European landscape. During IEM Cologne, NoXiAK was drawing multiple bans, which is always a extremely valuable aspect of any player. With the stellar coaching staff of Fnatic, and sharing the bottom lane with the veran ADC, Rekkles, fans should be ready to see this new support become a top player going into the new season.
First team (NA): Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg of Team SoloMid
Everyone’s eyes should be on Bjergsen this season. The first half of last year, TSM looked like a world class team. After a disappointing run at the Mid-Season Invitational, TSM never fully recovered. A lot of responsibility was thrust on Bjergsen to carry a team that was going downhill fast. Now with the shot-calling responsibility lifted from his shoulders, 2016 is the season where Bjergsen will return as the West’s best mid laner. With NA having much better talent, Bjergsen now has the chance to prove to the world why his name is held in such regard. TSM will be led by YellOwStaR, but Bjergsen will be the reason for its ascent.
Second team (NA): Henrik “Froggen” Hansen of Echo Fox
There has probably been no other player since Season 2 to have such high expectations as Froggen. Back then, Froggen was easily the top Western mid laner, and he’s still considered one of the best players of all time. A long time has passed — and Froggen’s number of teams has increased — since the days of CLG.eu. Despite being apart of lower caliber teams, Froggen always performed. Expect that to continue on Echo Fox. Glory will be restored to this legendary mid laner in 2016.
First team (EU): Fabian“Febiven” Diepstraten of Fnatic
Right now, Febiven is the best player in the Europe. Even though Fnatic has a vastly different roster, expectations shouldn’t be different for this mid laner. 2015 was the dream season for Fnatic, and Febiven was at the very forefront, carrying the team alongside Huni. Expect many more outplays and great map movements.
Second team (EU): Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage of Origen
While on Unicorns of Love, PowerOfEvil was a huge factor for a successful season. But he has big shoes to fill replacing the legendary Enrique “xPeke” Cedeno Martinez. It shouldn’t be a problem with the support of his team and coaching staff at Origen, and after a promising performance at IEM San Jose, Origen fans should look at the new mid lane change as an upgrade.
Photos courtesy of Riot Games.