Checking in on the NA LCS teams with Korean imports

During an interview with Slingshot earlier in the spring split of the North American League of Legends Championship Series, Cloud9’s Jun “Impact” Eon-young shared his insight in Korean imports in 2017, as the NA LCS saw a fair amount of them for the spring split for many of the teams, saying that the new imports shouldn’t “care even if they lose often after one year.”

We’ve decided to implement Impact’s comments throughout the year and will track how each team with imports does. Having reached the halfway point of the spring split, it’s time for the first checkup.

Phoenix1

Imports: No “Arrow” Dong-Hyeon and Ryu “Ryu” Sang-wook

Record: 6-4, T-third

Relevant quote: “I think Ryu in particular has a large impact in game. He’s the mid laner, he knows how to request what kind of plays he wants from his teammates, and I think that’s a big part of it.” –Phoenix1 coach Kim “Fly” Sang-Chul, to Slingshot.

What’s happening? Phoenix1 is enjoying a solid split, especially compared to its performance in last summer, which resulted in a trip to the relegation tournament. With two new imports that have been playing competitively since Season 3, both are also quite proficient in English, which one can assume only helps the integration of the veterans with the new blood despite a language difference. Right now, both players have been playing as well as fans have anticipated, bringing P1 to new heights that previously have been unheard of. Not many fans expected P1 to do this well, even with the Korean imports, which shows the impact of Ryu and Arrow have had on the team. With a record of 6-4 and a victory over first place Cloud9 under it’s belt, it’s safe to say that P1 has indeed found a return on their investment.

Immortals

Record: 5-5, T-fifth

Imports: Lee “Flame” Ho-jong,Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung

Relevant quote: “The first few weeks we were facing all the top teams like Team SoloMid, Cloud9, and FlyQuest, all within two weeks, so it put us out to a bad start.” –Eugene “Pobelter” Park, to ESPN.

What’s happening? It came as a shock to many fans to hear that Flame was America bound after his rather disappointing time with Longzhu Gaming in League Champions Korea last year. Famous for his dominant laning phase, his play style and the expected synergy with new jungler Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett made up for some of the sting of losing Kim “Reignover” Ui-jin and Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon. So far the matches have been hit or miss, without as much dominance from Flame. Part of that is because of the tank meta still being in effect, which contrasts with his carrying play style. Flame seems to be working just as hard as he did in Korea, looking to improve each match. With a record of 5-5, Immortals still has much to prove with its roster choices, but Flame has yet to really burn as brightly as he can.

Echo Fox

Record: 4-6, T-seventh

Imports: Jang “Looper” Hyeong-seok

Relevant quote: “We placed like 10th for our last year Echo Fox team, so more than ever I just want to win.” –Yuri “KEITH” Jew, to Slingshot

What’s happening? Former world champion and Korean veteran from Season 3, Looper was a bold choice to add to Echo Fox. Also a team that had some troubles in the previous split, Looper is expected to be a vitalizing import who will propel Echo Fox higher into the standings. Going as far to pay a transfer fee to add him, Looper isn’t playing as well as one might hope, given a a world championship under his belt, but he has been playing at least a player’s worth each match. If social media interaction is any indication, Looper seems to be acclimating well with his new team, but he still might have some nagging communication issues, which are apparent. It might seem unimpressive, but Echo Fox is already doing better than last summer.

Dignitas

Record: 4-6, T-seventh

Imports: Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho and Lee “Chaser” Sang-hyeon

Relevant quote: Alex “Xpecial” Chu, to Yahoo Esports“We had really high expectations going into this split, and we really failed so far. And (Week 5) was a really good (reminder) of ‘Hey, maybe we aren’t so bad.'” – .

What’s happening? Ssumday’s addition to the North American LCS was exciting news for many, as his prowess was well known even outside of Korea. Although he only had one showing at worlds in 2015, Ssumday’s move to NA was met with great fanfare. Many fans pegged Dignitas as a team that came out ahead during the offseason. But the team has been mired in struggles through the first half of the split. It did not have a translator at the beginning, and most recently underwent a sudden coaching staff change. Chaser’s performance has also been lukewarm, not exactly a powerhouse of talent, as seen in his time with Longzhu in 2016. Dignitas is perhaps the team with the most to prove out of all the teams with Korean imports this year, but there is enough time for a turnaround.

Team EnVyUs

Record: 2-8, T-ninth

Imports: Nam “LirA” Tae-yoo

Relevant quote: “I haven’t shown my best performance yet, but my form went up really high so now I can show my best performance soon.” –Lira, to TheScore

What’s happening? LirA has had a rather hectic career, jumping from Korea, to China, to Korea again, and now to NA. His performances with the Afreeca Freecs last year outlined an aggressive jungling style that fit the fight-crazy style of his team. But he wasn’t able to really show much of his skills for a variety of reasons. Visa problems prevented him from even playing in the first week, and his constant travel back to and from Korea meant that his body was wracked with fatigue even as he stepped on the NA LCS stage. EnVyUs has clearly felt the effects with a 2-8 record that is tied for last place.

Cover photo courtesy of Riot Games/illustration by Slingshot

Slingshot staff writer and Korean League of Legends expert who also owns a Pikachu-themed iPhone case. You can reach him at Andrew@slingshotesports.com

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