Op-Ed

2020 League of Legends LCS Pre-Season Rankings

After months of postseason and offseason, the LCS is finally coming back and I could not be more excited about it! Ten of the best teams in North America are battling it out for the title and a trip to MSI. During the Spring Split, new rosters are presented and viewers find out which teams are strong enough to represent North America at Worlds and which ones have struggled to adapt and perform in the meta. This year we’ve seen quite a few changes, especially ones involving big teams like TL and C9. Let’s check out each team and what changes they’ve made to their roster so you can be ready when the LCS returns on Saturday, January 25th.

With coach Zikz replacing coach pr0lly and general manager PapaSmithy stepping in as well, 100 Thieves is out with the old and in with the… old? 100 Thieves’ first season in 2018 featured Meteos and Cody Sun, both of whom left later on in the year to join other organizations. Meteos was kicked unexpectedly for what proved to be a downgrade in AnDa, while Cody Sun was essentially forced out after some disagreements, most notably with coach pr0lly. Based on these exits, you’d think that these two would never come back to this organization. However, with a new coaching structure, both of these talented players are back and will have to do their part if 100 Thieves is going to stand a chance against the other top teams.

Joining Cody Sun and Meteos as new members to the team will be mid-laner ry0ma and support Stunt. Ry0ma is an OCE import who has played with some of the best OCE teams around; he’s gotten his chance and will be looking to prove himself in North America. Alongside ry0ma is Stunt, a player who has bounced around several teams and is getting promoted from 100 Thieves Academy to the main roster. The only returning player from last year’s main roster is the star of the show: top laner Ssumday. Ssumday has proven himself to be one of the best top laners in the world, and he’ll have to continue this type of play to give the team a shot at the title in Spring. 100 Thieves has new faces and old faces, some popular and some unpopular, in their roster; despite these differences, it’s one roster that I would definitely keep an eye on.

One of the biggest teams in North America has made some big changes. The most obvious change is that Sneaky will not be the starting ADC this season. This shocked many players, as Sneaky has been with the team since its LCS debut in 2013. It’s honestly sad that we have to say goodbye to a stalwart player like Sneaky; it looks like he won’t be starting on any team in the 2020 season. Replacing this superstar ADC will be another superstar, former G2-TSM ADC Zven. After two disappointing seasons in North America with TSM, Zven is going to try his luck with Cloud 9. He has a lot to live up to in replacing Sneaky, but if he can return to his old European form, I think Cloud 9 will be happy with the switch up.

Another switch in the bot lane comes with the departure of star support Zeyzal, who packed up with jungler Svenskeren: they’re both headed to new team Evil Geniuses. They’ll both be missed, especially with the lackluster talent replacing them. Vulcan is a great support coming off a solid season with Clutch Gaming, but he still pales in comparison to Zeyzal. Blaber will also be taking over for Svenskeren, as he was promoted from C9 Academy. Blaber is no rookie to the stage, as he and Svenskeren used to split time on stage, but he no longer has an MVP jungler to rely on, and his hit-or-miss playstyle is going to dictate a lot of C9’s wins and losses. Licorice and Nisqy are going to have to do a lot of heavy lifting on this C9 team that, in my opinion, saw mostly downgrades in this offseason.

CLG is another big-name team, but their offseason changes were a lot less drastic than Cloud 9’s. Only two players left CLG this offseason, and they were both replaced by very capable names. PowerOfEvil was one of CLG’s stars, and while he will definitely be missed by the organization, CLG managed to secure World Champion midlaner Crown as his replacement, who is coming off a stellar season at Optic. Biofrost also left, but he’s being replaced by Smoothie, a very solid support. Overall, I think both of these moves are lateral moves, and I don’t think CLG’s power level has changed very much at all with these swaps. The question is going to be how everyone plays together and whether CLG can finally compete for a top spot. CLG has not been to Worlds since 2016, and this is an organization that desperately wants to return there. I think they have a great roster with some fantastic potential, but I’m not sure whether it will be enough to push them into elite status.

Dignitas is finally making their return into the LCS with a very… interesting roster. These five players have never played with each other before, so it’s going to take a bit of getting used to, but I could see this team succeed given the right circumstances. Former Fnatic-SKT top laner Huni was offered a ridiculously lucrative contract with Dignitas despite his lackluster 2019 season at Clutch. In the Jungle is former TSM jungler Grig. It’s rumored that TSM’s Jungle role is like the Defense Against the Dark Arts teachers in Harry Potter, but that’s still no reason as to why Grig had an abhorrent time with TSM. Given a new roster and new players with a heck of a lot less pressure, hopefully we will see him improve with a new team.

Dignitas’s mid laner is Froggen, another veteran of the scene who has been around almost since the beginning of professional LoL. He has no doubt slowed down since his glory days, but he’s still a more-than-capable player. For ADC, Dignitas picked up NA prodigy Johnsun, who has been styling on people in solo queue for months and is looking to bring that talent to the big stage. Finally, their support is Aphromoo, who has been slowing down recently and did not look so hot in his last split with 100 Thieves. However, Aphromoo is another veteran of the scene, and even if his mechanics aren’t what they used to be, his voice in the bot lane will be a godsend for rookie Johnsun. This team is… a team? It seems like Dignitas kind of just grabbed what they could and are hoping it will stick. Only time will tell if it will work out for them.

Probably the most hyped team coming into the 2020 spring season is Evil Geniuses. Not a single player from Echo Fox is coming to Evil Geniuses, who managed to acquire quite a solid lineup. Evil Geniuses snagged C9’s support/jungle duo Svenskeren and Zeyzal, two extremely strong veteran players. Both of these players have proven successful and are great pickups for this new organization. Another insane grab for them is the arrival of former SKT member and two-time World Champion ADC Bang. It’s no secret that Bang is a superb player, and despite 100 Thieves disappointing 2019 season, Bang is still an incredible pickup for this team.

In the midlane, Evil Geniuses acquired Jiizuke, the Italian Stallion from Vitality. It was rumored that they almost got their hands on midlaner Chovy, who was by far the hottest free agent this offseason and one of the best mids the world has ever seen. The deal ultimately fell through, but Evil Geniuses still got their hands on a stellar midlaner in Jiizuke. Jiizuke has not performed as well as he did when he made his debut a few years ago, but he’s still a very talented individual. The only real question mark on this roster is top laner Kumo. Kumo played with C9 Academy in the 2019 season and has been with them since 2018. He’s definitely a great player, but in a team filled with superstars, he is the outlier. Overall, if these players can gel well together, we may have ourselves a contender to dethrone the current NA champions. (Yes, I will probably regret this statement.)

This is a middle-of-the-pack team that looks like they’ll be a middle-of-the-pack team again. Flyquest kept their core team of V1per, Santorin, and WildTurtle, but they also made two upgrades in the mid and support roles. Flyquest managed to grab PowerOfEvil from CLG, who has proven to be one of the best mids in North America since his arrival from Europe. Wadid is gone after one season now that Flyquest has picked up support IgNar. IgNar is a popular Korean import who has bounced around a few teams in Europe and Korea and will now try his luck in NA. There isn’t too much to say about Flyquest, and there usually isn’t. This team is...fine. Are they bad? No. Are they good? Meh. They’re a solid 5-6 team who can slip into the playoffs and get booted out by one of the big names. But who knows: in my opinion, PowerOfEvil and IgNar are upgrades to Pobelter and Wadid. Maybe these guys will be enough to push Flyquest over the edge...but I doubt it.

I won’t lie: on paper, this team looks pretty lackluster. The Golden Guardians definitely made an upgrade in the Jungle position, but they made two fairly substantial downgrades in both mid and support. Although the Guardians are losing longtime jungler Contractz, they are getting Turkish import Closer. Closer has played with some of the best in Turkey, including Besiktas Esports and Royal Youth. We’ll see how much success Closer has on this team as he follows the path of his former top laner BrokenBlade. 

The mid and support roles leave the most to be desired. GoldenGlue has been around forever and has never put together a successful career. Now, as a starter on the Guardians, it’s all up to him to finally show up and prove that he deserves a prominent role. An even bigger head scratch is the assignment of Keith, one of the most unsuccessful ADC players in NA, to the support role. Keith has also been around for an eternity and is being given yet another chance, this time supporting OCE import FBI. Unless GoldenGlue and Keith can reverse years and years of disappointment, Golden Guardians would be my early guess for 10th place.

One of the most beloved teams in NA is back and replacing Optic Gaming, and they’re bringing a solid lineup with them. Immortals have imported top laner sOAZ, one of the most veteran players to grace LoL esports. After serving as Fnatic’s top laner for several years, he left them for a failed Misfits team and has now arrived in NA. Despite a disappointing year at Misfits, sOAZ is still an incredibly talented player and should look to shine once more. In the Jungle is another eternal player in Xmithie, one of the longest-standing NA junglers. Though Xmithie is never in the spotlight like some of his teammates, he’s a proven winner. Every time Xmithie joins a team, they seem to become winners.

Unfortunately for him, instead of being a supplement to some real superstars, Immortals lacks a real hard carry. Both sOAZ and Xmithie are excellent role players, but they aren’t exactly players to 1v9 a game. Mid lane is being given to French import Eika, a relatively unknown player who has been playing for French team LDLC. Why Eika was chosen is still a question mark: there are better imports and better native players available. Maybe Immortals saw something and are hoping he proves to be a bargain pick that shines in a new environment.

Altec and Hakuho are two other veteran players. Hakuho has proven himself to be one of the best native support players in North America after his time with Clutch. Altec, after a year of absence from professional play, is being given the starter spot on Immortals. I like this team, but my biggest worry is that Altec and Eika won’t be able to carry. If these two players can pop off, I could see Immortals being a top 3 team. If they don’t, despite having some big talent, this team could fall to the wayside.

Not much needs to be said about four-time LCS winners Team Liquid. They’ve won the LCS for the past two years straight, and they’ve done nothing but improve their chances of bringing in a fifth win. The only roster change that was made was the import of Jungler Broxah from Fnatic. Broxah is an incredible talent and replaces veteran Xmithie, who was been outclassed when it comes to international play. With this change, Team Liquid not only becomes stronger, but gives themselves a better chance when it comes to international performances. Aside from Broxah, the rest of the team stays as fantastic as ever. Former World Champions Impact and CoreJJ helm top and support, and they’re both fantastic players. Jensen stays in the mid lane, as he has since he left Cloud 9. Finally, the star of the show will continue to be North American ADC Doublelift, the most talented player North America has ever produced. Doublelift will show why he’s the best ADC in NA in the upcoming Spring Split.

Last but certainly not least, we have TSM, originally one of the best organizations in North America. Despite this, they’ve slowly but surely fallen from glory over the past 2 years. With a couple of roster changes, TSM is clearly hoping to get back into the spotlight. The most feared role in the LCS, TSM’s jungler, is being given to Dardoch this spring. Dardoch is a fantastic native jungler with an aggressive playstyle that has led many teams to successful seasons. Although there has been controversy in the past with Dardoch’s behavior towards his teammates, that looks to be a thing of the past, as nothing has arisen recently. TSM is known to suppress talented junglers, but if Dardoch is given room to play, he could be an excellent addition to TSM.

In the ADC role, we have Danish import Kobbe to replace Danish import Zven. Replacing Doublelift for Zven has proven to be one of the worst roster moves of all time, and the importation of Zven and Mithy in 2017 was a failure for this team. Now, TSM has gotten rid of Zven and is looking to Kobbe to bring life to their bot lane. This will be helped by the final addition: returning member Biofrost. Bio left TSM in 2017 and joined CLG, but will be back and better than ever for TSM in 2020. The two returning members will be German import Broken Blade, who had a successful rookie year in 2019 with TSM, and all-star Bjergsen. Bjergsen is going to have to pull out his biggest performances yet to match up with some of the other teams in this league.

Here are my predictions for these teams’ placements in 2020. Pre-season power rankings are always wrong, and they always get laughed at by the end of the season, but it’s fun to see just how wrong you are. Based on roster strength and player strength, here are my predictions for Spring LCS 2020!

I think #1 will be Team Liquid no matter what unless something drastic happens. That is probably the safest bet on this list. Spots 2-6 are all extremely close teams, and I think you could realistically argue for any arrangement of them. I put C9 second because they are a known entity, and despite some less-than-optimal roster changes, they are still a safe bet and have talent that could push them to #2. Evil Geniuses in 3rd scares me because they could crash and burn, but with talent like Jiizuke and Bang alongside safe but strong players in Svenskeren and Zeyzal, I feel confident putting them 3rd. I think TSM, CLG, and 100 Thieves in 4th, 5th and 6th is the right order, but again, it’s all very close. 100 Thieves has some strong players in Ssumday and Cody Sun, but the unknown quantities of ry0ma and Stunt made me put them 6th.

I don’t think the bottom four on this list will make it into the playoffs. 7th place Immortals might surprise some people since they have players like sOAZ and Xmithie on their team, but I don’t think Eika and Altec’s carry is strong enough for this team. I put Flyquest in 8th place because while they do have some solid players like PowerOfEvil, I don’t think it’s going to be enough. I think 9th and 10th both have very subpar rosters, but I put Dignitas 9th because they have a few unknowns like Johnsun that could end up being amazing superstars. Golden Guardians has an old, tried and failed roster that I have a hard time believing will find much success at all.

 

Well, there you have it! Every team made at least one roster change for Spring 2020, with most teams making quite substantial ones. Regardless of whether they’ve imported new players from abroad, promoted native players from academy status, or simply swapped players among teams, the LCS landscape has changed quite drastically. The LCS starts January 25th, with an amazing first match of C9 v TL.

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