Huni will be the new centerpiece of Clutch Gaming after Febiven left to return to Europe.
League of Legends Roster Shuffle 2018 is in full effect. Stay tuned for daily updates on the latest moves and what they mean for the 2019 competitive landscape.
What it means for RGE: On the surface, this isn’t a very exciting move for Rogue. More “exciting” names like Freeze and Steelback were available, not to mention the prospect of re-uniting Wadid with Hjarnan. Part of this may be because HeaQ has been stuck on very bad teams over his career. When checking the stats, he actually has a very high damage share for the amount of team gold that he gets. The question then becomes: what happens if he is given more resources and asked to be a main carry threat? We may find out the answer to that question if Rogue are unable to sign impact solo laners to round out their roster.
What it means for S04: A promising young mid laner is plucked from the Turkish league and moved up to the LEC. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Abbedagge continues the makeover of Schalke 04, joining Upset and Memento as the confirmed members for 2019. Abbedagge currently holds the top spot in EU West Solo Queue at 1,262 LP Challenger. Schalke are very clear eyeing up talented mechanical players for their new roster. That would also fit in with speculation that S04 will be bringing IgNar back to the LEC. If true and they find a solid top laner, S04 should be seen as a top half of the league team, right behind the S tier of Fnatic, G2 Esports, and Misfits.
What it means for SPY: Splyce have been very quiet so far with their 2019 roster plans. We know that Xerxe will be back, but Humanoid’s pickup is the only other roster spot that currently seems secure. He joins Nemesis and Abbedagge as new EU mid laners and with that comes the requisite hype. Humanoid played well for the Polish team Illuminar Gaming and will join forces with a great jungler in Xerxe, but he will have to prove himself quickly for Splyce to compete in 2019. Keeping Kobbe and adding Norskeren would round out a solid, if unspectacular, roster for Splyce on paper.
What it means for xL: Another rookie announced for the LEC, Jeskla gets to lane with the experienced kaSing in his first LEC action. They are the only two members of the roster to be confirmed so far. Jeskla played in Spain for Movistar Riders for the past year. He is well known for his Tristana, and as you may be able to guess from the champion, his ability to team fight and carry in the late game. exceL now has to fill out their top half of the map. Rumors indicate that xL are looking at Caedrel at jungle and Exileh in mid, though their plans for top lane remain unclear. Assuming the roster shapes out something like that, xL would likely be fighting in the bottom half of the league in Spring 2019.
What it means for GGS: Olleh and Doublelift struggled as a pair. They often were not on the same page, both wanting to be leaders in the lane but having different styles. It was apparent that Doublelift took over the reins and Olleh never seemed comfortable with Team Liquid. He also talked frequently about getting nervous before big international matches and not wanting to let his fans and team down. Moving to Golden Guardians could be perfect for Olleh. He gets to lane with a promising ADC in Deftly that will surely let him lead the lane. GGS have playoff expectations in NA, but aren’t one of the top organizations or expected to perform internationally. It is a very similar situation to the one Olleh had on Immortals, where he thrived leading a young Cody Sun on a team that was happy with domestic success. Matt had moments where he looked very good, but he’s never broken through to become anything more than an average support in the LCS. With Hauntzer, Deftly, and Contractz, GGS still have an import slot to use for mid lane. Froggen looks to be the best option with the news that Fenix is returning to Echo Fox.
What it means for TL: Team Liquid made their attempt at revamping bot lane when they signed CoreJJ from Gen.G. Olleh, despite the struggles to click with Doublelift, was never bad for TL. But TL doesn’t settle for “not bad” and went after the best available support they could find on the open market. Olleh and Doublelift’s fit is obviously a cautionary tale for expecting two great players who have never played together to mesh, but it made sense for TL to move on from Olleh after a year of time together produced little progress.
What it means for EF: It’s impossible to pick which of these moves is more shocking. Rush left North America for Korea to try to regain his form as a top jungler, only to spend the year on KT Rolster’s bench behind Score. Returning to NA so quickly, especially to a likely bottom tier team like Echo Fox, is interesting. All NA LCS followers will remember the crushing circumstances of EF releasing Fenix just hours before the roster lock, leaving him unable to catch on with another team. Now he returns to the very same team. His fit as a mid laner on the team does make sense. They have an import slot for him, and EF had a glaring hole mid lane with no great options left. Rush’s fit to on the team is less clear. Dardoch is one of the best junglers in the LCS and has NA residency, so neither him nor Rush are here to sit on an academy team. EF must be exploring transfer options for Dardoch with this move. TSM is the obvious choice, though CLG can’t be ruled out despite their falling out with Dardoch in 2017. A lineup of Solo, Rush, Fenix, Apollo, and Hakuho should look very similar to Clutch Gaming’s season last year. They would be expected to compete for the playoffs, but wouldn’t be considered a threat to the top teams like Team Liquid, 100 Thieves, or Cloud 9.
What it means for IG: It looks like Invictus Gaming are doing their best to keep the band together for 2019. Ning re-signed without drama, but Baolan re-joining comes after his announcement that he would be leaving the team earlier in the day. Rumor has it that it was in response to him not feeling he got any credit for IG’s World Championship victory, but IG’s management were able to assure Baolan that he is not taken for granted. In all, this assures that 4 out of the 5 world champions will return for 2019. The last — and most important — is Rookie, who almost assuredly will come to a deal to return. IG has the money and Rookie has a great situation for more success. IG will obviously be a World Champion contender when Rookie officially re-signs.
What it means for FNC: It can’t come as a huge surprise that Fnatic will add a rookie in place of one of their best players — it’s just what they do. They have a tremendous track record with rookies and will hope Nemesis is the next in line. It’s interesting to note that FNC signed Nemesis to a three-year deal. While this expresses great confidence in him, it also hints that they are getting tired of their star players leaving at the ends of their contracts. Fnatic’s 2019 hopes will go as Nemesis goes. A poor performance could inhibit Broxah’s aggressive playstyle and force Rekkles and Bwipo to carry a bigger burden. A good performance would give Fnatic a good shot at repeating their success from 2018.
What it means for G2: With the stunning news of Perkz moving to ADC to make room for Caps, we now know that Perkz will be laning with Mikyx. It was important for G2 to get a good support with experience to help ease Perkz’s transition, and Mikyx should be that guy for G2. Assuming they do not make any moves with Wunder or Jankos, G2 now have their complete roster for 2019. On paper, they have a better team mechanically than 2018, but games aren’t won on paper. Everything will be fine if Perkz and Caps come out of the gate strong, but what if one or both struggles? This was a big move for both of them and emotions could run hot if the early signs point to it being a mistake. In terms of pure talent, G2 will be up there with Fnatic and Misfits fighting for LEC supremacy.
What it means for MSF: Mikyx was one of the better European supports, but Misfits set their sights even higher by coming to terms with GorillA. The rest of the team is filled with European players, so import slots are no issue. Misfits have put themselves in the conversation with Fnatic and G2 Esports for the top European team heading into 2019.
What it means for RGE: Wadid grew over the course of 2018 and put forth a strong performance at Worlds for G2. That wasn’t enough for G2 to keep together the Hjarnan and Wadid bot lane, so Wadid left to become the 2nd member of Rogue. On the plus side, Rogue have already picked up two Worlds participants for their roster. On the other hand, these first announcements are likely their most recognizable and known talents, and that is not overwhelmingly exciting. With little top end talent left to fill the rest of the roster, it looks more like Rogue will be fighting for a playoff spot, rather than challenging for an LEC title.
What it means for GGS: Hauntzer should be an upgrade for Golden Guardians top lane, so this is a no-brainer. Lourlo has been touted for his mechanical skill and the way he can dominate in solo queue on carries, but we haven’t seen that translate to success in the LCS yet. Hauntzer has already reached the peak of top lane in 2017 with TSM before falling off in 2018. He has demonstrated a better ability to play tanks and adapt to the meta in general. The knock on Hauntzer is that he may not have the best work ethic — his accounts show significantly fewer games played than his peers. It’s always possible, though, that he has other accounts that the public doesn’t know. His acquisition allows GGS to improve their team while keeping both import slots open. Froggen and Olleh have been linked to GGS but remain unconfirmed.
What it means for TSM: Hauntzer’s days at Team SoloMid were over when TSM came to an agreement with Broken Blade. It was surprising to see TSM decide that they needed to use an import slot on top lane after Hauntzer was top tier only a year ago, but TSM sees Broken Blade as a Bjergsen level talent. TSM will be limited to rounding out their roster with an NA jungler. Keeping Grig or signing Akaadian are the easiest options, but don’t discount them trying to trade for Dardoch from a rebuilding Echo Fox.
What it means for VIT: It is unclear whether Team Vitality wanted to keep Kikis or whether he decided to move on for his own interests, but Mowgli is a good get for VIT. VIT and Afreeca Freecs were said to have spent a lot of time together in Worlds preparation so VIT would have had their opportunities to see Mowgli often and must have liked what they saw. Assuming they keep the same core intact, VIT should challenge for one of the top spots in Europe in 2019. If there is one area to worry about, it’s that they often took poor fights in 2018. For a team needing more work on their macro play and fight selection, there could be communication issues with bringing in a Korean jungler, given that it’s the role that sets the pace early.
What it means for AFs: Mowgli didn’t get a ton of play time behind Spirit in 2018, but it was significant that Afreeca Freecs thought enough of him to give him some games at Worlds, including in the quarterfinals against Cloud 9. It would be shocking if AFs allowed Mowgli to transfer without some assurance that Spirit will be returning to jungle. In that case, AFs would enter 2019 with one of the strongest top half of the maps in the World with Kiin, Spirit, and Ucal. It remains to be seen if they will head into 2019 with Aiming and Jelly bot or if they will look to add more competition.
What it means for LGD: This is the most head-scratching move of the off-season so far. LGD entered 2019 with their two best players under contract: mid laner Yuuki and ADC y4. Ian is a mid laner and Kramer is an ADC. If they needed an upgrade anywhere, it would have been at jungle or support. Instead, they now have a Korean import listed at every role and will have some difficult decisions to make on the starting lineup. Assuming they can also improve other roles and run a 10 man roster, this could make more sense. But for now, it just looks like LGD misdiagnosed their own needs.
What it means for AFs: Kramer was confirmed to leave AFs during the exodus of him, Kramer, and Kuro. AFs will be starting a new bot lane in 2019, whether it is Aiming and Jelly, or adding two new faces to the roster. With Pray hinting at retirement, AFs are running out of suitable replacements. Big names like Arrow and Wolf remain available, but they have not been performing well over the past year plus.
What it means for TOP: Adding Ben to the fold should round out a very mechanically gifted roster for Topsports Gaming. He will team up with LokeN for an all Korean bot lane, a change from 2018 when TOP fielded an all Chinese roster. Both played in the LPL in 2018, so they have some experience communicating with Chinese teammates. TOP look to take another step forward in 2019 to compete with the upper class of the LPL.
What it means for WE: World Elite had a bit of a revolving door at support, though Ben played in the final stretch of games for WE in 2018. They still have 694 signed for two more years and Missing signed for three more years, so the team has options in-house. The loss of Ben may point to Mystic also leaving, as the other half of that Korean bot duo. Imp also remains under contract for WE but has not looked to be in their plans for the future of the organization.
What it means for RGE: You have to start somewhere, and Kikis isn’t a bad place to start for a new organization. He led Team Vitality on an incredible run to Worlds last year after he was inserted into the main lineup over Gilius. Kikis will also be a great foundation for a new organization because of his wealth of experience as a professional player. It remains to be seen if Rogue will attempt to compete for the playoffs in their first year by signing some veterans, or keep an eye to the future by signing on rookies.
What it means for xL: Like Kikis, kaSing becomes the foundation and first face of the franchise. He also is a long time pro player and will bring with him a good following of fans to exceL Esports. This move feels very similar to when Aphromoo moved to 100 Thieves in the NA LCS in 2018. A strong veteran support joins a new organization and has a big say in the roster and team building. Like Rogue, xL have the option of making a competitive push in their signings or prioritizing developing young talent.
What it means for SPY: This is a tough loss for Splyce, as kaSing is a talented player. Fortunately, there are several viable alternatives still available in Free Agency. Norskeren and Vander jump out, while Mithy has been made available for transfer discussions by Team SoloMid. However, Norskeren and Vander have both come out to say they won’t be playing in the LEC next split, meaning Splyce is likely to go in a different direction. It will be interesting to see who they sign that they prefer over those two.
What it means for CG: This all but finalizes the starting roster for Clutch Gaming in 2019. Vulcan had good synergy with Piglet in Academy last year, and with Piglet becoming an NA resident this split, it made sense to bring the pair up to the main roster. For better or worse, Huni demands a lot of resources top lane, so Vulcan and Piglet will have to be able to handle feeling more enemy pressure than a typical bot lane. A lot of CG’s success will hinge on Huni and LirA bouncing back in a big way in 2019.
What it means for FLY: Viper was one of the two top NA Academy players vying for LCS promotion (along with Shiro of C9). He is known for his Riven as a former one trick, but he has worked on his champion pool competitively over the past couple of years. He is a carry player, so he should slide into Flame’s role quite well. With Viper, Santorin, WildTurtle, and JayJ all confirmed, FlyQuest are only in the market for a mid laner. That is heavily rumored to be Pobelter, who has said that he has been signed to a team, but no announcements have been made yet. If they were to field these five, they would have an entirely NA resident roster and forgo import slots. This is a solid roster, pending how Viper responds to the pressure of jumping to the LCS. They will be in the playoff mix, but still stand to be a tier or two below the top teams like Team Liquid and 100 Thieves.
What it means for TL: With Impact in the top lane becoming an NA resident, Team Liquid had no path for Viper to get playing time on the main roster, despite being deserving of a chance in the LCS. TL did the noble thing and allowed him to transfer to FlyQuest and get his chance. Always known as a player’s organization, this is the type of move that makes a player want to sign with TL and builds goodwill. Letting Viper go does not make TL better, but they will have plenty of options to replace Viper with on their academy roster. Several scouting grounds players showed well in top lane, and some 2018 LCS top laners are likely to be left off main rosters with Broken Blade and Viper joining the LCS. TL will likely look for one that plays carries well to cover for Impact’s main weakness.
What it means for CG: Huni will be the new centerpiece of Clutch Gaming after Febiven left to return to Europe. Huni had an MVP level Spring Split for Echo Fox in 2018 before falling out of form during Summer. He is a carry top laner in every sense of the word, as evidenced by Echo Fox putting him on four different roles in 2018, just based on what “OP” champion they were able to draft. CG will likely become a very top side focused team with his addition. CG could still make moves in their bot lane, but would be restricted to NA residents. Piglet is seemingly a lock for ADC after gaining NA residency, while CG has so far retained Vulcan despite other teams being interested. Matt is a potential fit if Olleh goes to Golden Guardians as rumored.
What it means for EF: Echo Fox had already announced that they would be moving on from Huni earlier in the offseason. It makes sense, given that they poured a lot of money and resources into him and were not able to secure a Worlds berth in 2018. However, Solo is an uninspiring choice to fill his shoes. Their current roster projects as a total downgrade from 2018, without offering the sort of potential and upside you would associate with lower budget rosters.
What it means for OPT: Meteos is a nice signing for OpTic as an NA resident. For one, he is a very popular figure in the League of Legends community and should give a boost to OPT’s fan engagement. He also remains a good player, if not the same carry he was when he first joined the NA LCS. His play style is definitely more controlled than Akaadian’s, but also lacks the aggressive playmaking of late. If OPT think that style will mesh better with Crown, it makes sense to make that change at jungle. By selecting an NA resident jungler, OPT retain the ability to import an ADC for their final roster spot. Arrow could still return, but OPT could also turn to Cody Sun or Prismal as well.
What it means for FLY: FlyQuest have been happy with Santorin’s performance and preferred to keep him over Meteos. Even though he is originally from Europe, Santorin does not take up an import slot because he was one of the early players to gain NA residency. With four starters locked in, we are only waiting for the announcement of the new FLY mid laner, rumored to be Pobelter.
What it means for KZ: Deft is the big get for Kingzone DragonX. He had many offers across regions and ultimately wanted to stay with Pawn. This obviously explains why KZ committed to Pawn, despite him playing behind Ucal for the majority of 2018. Once a top player, it is optimistic to assume that he can regain that form after playing through numerous injuries and never quite looking the same. TusiN had a very inconsistent 2018 but has shown that he has the top end talent when in form to pair with Deft. He excels on engage supports and will hope to recapture his MVP like LCK 2018 Spring Split. With these acquisitions, KZ need only to finalize their choice for top lane. The early indications seem to be re-signing Rascal for another year after the departure of Khan.
What it means for AFs and KT: We have talked in depth about KT Rolster and their departures earlier, but an interesting note from this move was Deft revealing how much he desired to play with Pawn. KT’s potential unwillingness to start Pawn could have led to Deft’s departure in Free Agency. Afreeca Freecs are now confirmed to lose both of their main bot laners from 2018. TusiN played in every game for AFs but struggled in the second half the year. AFs may turn their bot lane over to Aiming and Jelly in 2019, although it would be a risky move to pair Kiin and Ucal with such an inexperienced bot lane. Pray, Arrow and Wolf are some names to keep in mind if AFs looks to add to their bot lane.
What it means for JAG: Composed of several rookies, Jin Air Green Wings look to be one of the first teams that has committed to fielding a very young roster with their eyes toward the future. Stitch and Lindarang have experience and will likely be the focal points of the roster. Given how strong the LCK teams are coming together with fewer Korean departures to other regions than expected, this JAG cannot reasonably expect to compete in the LCK in 2019. Their top priority will be on player development. Finding useful players for 2020 and avoiding relegation would be considered a successful year for JAG.
What it means for KT: After the mass exodus of Mata, Deft, and Ucal, KT Rolster fans had to be at least a little nervous that things could go poorly very quickly in regards to the 2019 roster. With these signings, that worry should turn to excitement. Getting Smeb to re-sign was always the priority, but locking in Score was another important move for the squad. Parting ways with Ucal was surprising because of his age and the potential for even more growth, but you can’t find fault if the plan was always to bring in Bdd. KT should feel no downgrade in mid lane. Casual LCK fans may have forgotten about SnowFlower in 2018 after he left to play in Turkey, but he can challenge to be one of the best supports in Korea. He and Zeitnot were absolutely dominant. The final piece for KT’s roster is finding an ADC to pair with him. Pray would be an ideal fit here, but don’t count out Kramer or Arrow.
What it means for KZ: If we’re keeping score at home, it seems like Kingzone DragonX swapped their star mid laner for KT Rolster’s backup mid laner. Not exactly the most inspiring of moves. However, these players were free agents, and Deft has spoken of how instrumental Pawn was to his signing with KZ. All things considered, KZ still find themselves with a core that should challenge for playoffs, pending their final moves.
What it means for CG: One of the very few NA resident mid laners with experience on the Free Agent market, Clutch Gaming are happy to grab Damonte. While not spectacular, he showed promise in his action with Echo Fox in 2018 and has room to grow. On the other hand, Damonte and LirA enter 2019 as one of the weaker mid/jungle duos in the NA LCS. LirA is coming off a terrible 2018 and takes an import slot unless CG are unable to unload him elsewhere. Investing in NA talent in mid lane allows CG another import slot for a different role. Rumors swirl that Huni will land with CG to take over Solo’s vacated top lane. Piglet and Vulcan seem to be a good bet for the bot lane pair. Piglet has gained NA residency to fit alongside two imports and Vulcan was his 2018 duo partner and is thought highly of for a younger player.
What it means for Echo Fox: A confusing offseason for Echo Fox continues with them being unable or uninterested in re-signing Damonte. After unexpectedly moving on from Fenix right before the roster lock in 2018, Echo Fox seemed to commit to developing Damonte on the fly as a team with playoffs and Worlds aspirations. An overhaul of the roster brought in Solo, Apollo, and Hakuho from CG, but there is no reason that Damonte could not have fit in that roster alongside Dardoch. It would make sense for EF to be looking for an import mid laner if they were trying to win in 2019, but that sounds too much like running it back with a mediocre 2018 CG team and a mid laner that is likely worse than Febiven. It remains to be seen whether EF keeps Dardoch or attempt to sell him to another team. In doing so, they could open another import slot to pair with mid. However, time is running out to find impact players.
What it means for S04: Schalke decided to rebuild their roster after just barely failing to make Worlds in 2018, retaining only Upset. Memento is now back in the fold for S04 after spending a year with Team ROCCAT. He is considered to have been the best remaining native European jungler on the market, an excellent pickup for S04 as they build the core of the roster. Few rumors have gone around regarding S04’s roster preferences for 2019, but Upset and Memento have the makings of an upper echelon team in the LEC. S04 will also have two import slots to work with to fill out the remainder of their roster.
What it means for TSM: Hauntzer followed a dominant 2017 with a lackluster 2018, but he was still a solid option as a North American resident. By importing Broken Blade, TSM are swinging for the fences to find another Bjergsen like talent. Broken Blade made his name in solo queue and with dominant performances in the Turkish league. He is a mechanical superstar who should have a lot to prove playing in a major region for the first time. With his arrival, TSM also announced that Zven will be staying on the roster for 2019. Together, they take up TSM’s two import slots, meaning that their jungler will have to be an NA resident. If they decide to move on from Grig, Dardoch could be a name to watch — assuming they could work a transfer agreement with Echo Fox.
What it means for OPT: So much for the theory that OpTic Gaming are slashing their budget. Crown is admittedly coming off a very poor 2018 for his standards, but he remains an incredibly mechanically gifted player and has the experience of a World champion. He has admitted that the pressure to perform in Korea got to him, so perhaps joining another region with lower expectations can help him reset mentally. Judging purely from 2018 performance, it is a downgrade going from PowerOfEvil to Crown. OpTic still have a lot of work to do with their roster, but signing Crown is a clear commitment to trying to win in 2019. OPT still have an import slot remaining, should they choose to use it.
What it means for Gen.G: It was clear after 2018 that Crown and Gen.G each needed a change going forward. Crown struggled and Gen.G as a whole could not adapt to a faster-paced meta. Fly had plenty of play time in 2018, though Crown was given the nod in all of the big matches for Gen.G. Whether or not Gen.G try to add a stronger mid laner should let us know if that was in deference to Crown or if they do not believe in Fly as the solution mid lane. With Peanut locked in as a jungler, Gen.G would be an attractive team for mid laners to join.
What it means for SKT: Mata jumps from one superteam to the next. SK Telecom T1 is now loaded beyond belief for 2019. They would have been the early LCK favorites had they continued with Effort as their primary support, but adding Mata to the mix immediately vaults them to a top Worlds 2019 contender. It is a totally revamped lineup with players from different teams, but SKT have a wealth of experience to lean on. Their biggest obstacle could be to overcome the overwhelming expectations that will surely follow this final acquisition. KT Rolster were in this position a year ago — and while they finally won an LCK title — they ultimately fell short of winning a Worlds title. SKT can hope that Mata’s KT experience will help him and the team avoid early pitfalls in 2019.
What it means for KT: His departure from KT had been announced days ago, but this is certainly not a favorable outcome for KT Rolster. No roster they can put together from here will be expected to match up with SKT individually. Re-signing Smeb remains the top priority, but they must also surround him with players that allow the team to at least challenge SKT. This news possibly gives KT a reason to use 2019 as a development year, but doing so would be an unconvincing way to get Smeb to re-sign — not to mention a waste of one of his prime years.
What it means for EF: Hakuho is a very good support and has played with Apollo for a long time. Apollo has had his ups and downs but remains a solid LCS caliber player. Solo was in the lower echelon of top laners last year, but at least he is an NA resident. But overall, these moves must range from uninspiring to frustrating for Echo Fox fans. EF is rumored to be slashing their budget for 2019 and these moves would certainly line up with that talk. Huni will obviously not be returning, and you have to wonder if EF will hold onto Dardoch or try to sell him to a team in need (TSM?). Echo Fox still need to find a mid laner after Damonte’s confirmed departure and have two import slots left. With these signings, it makes more sense to try to develop an up-and-coming mid laner than invest in a more established player.
What it means for CG: With Piglet establishing NA residency and Vulcan’s emergence as a talented rookie, Clutch Gaming felt the timing was right to move on from Apollo and Hakuho. Adding in Solo suggests that CG already has a new top laner lined up, rumored to be Huni. CG could then look to Damonte to round out their roster, assuming they retain Lira. They may want to give Lira another chance with new teammates to regain his 2017 form, but he struggled heavily in 2018. He likely will have the shortest leash in 2019. These moves are encouraging for CG fans, as the team is continuing to push for improvements in their roster, rather than being content as a middling NA LCS team.
What it means for CLG: Counter Logic Gaming quickly responded to the loss of Huhi by signing PowerOfEvil. They were one of the few teams that could lose an NA resident and replace him with an import. CLG should have an interesting dynamic in 2019, assuming they keep the roster of their roster intact. Huhi often sacrificed resources in favor of Darshan and Stixxay, but PowerOfEvil demanded more resources while on OpTic Gaming. How CLG decides to divide the map with this addition will be crucial to their placement in 2019. Grabbing a more lane dominant mid laner could also help Reignover, who has struggled for the past couple of years with weaker laners.
What it means for OG: OpTic Gaming have been silent on their plans for 2019 so far. Losing their star player PowerOfEvil certainly does not make them a stronger team for the time being. Dhokla and BIG are the only remaining players under contract, while Akaadian and Arrow have not been confirmed to stay or leave. The loss of PowerOfEvil frees up an import slot for OG, but like Echo Fox, they are rumored to be cutting budget. With so many spots up for grabs, it will be interesting to see what direction they take for 2019.
What it means for TSM: This all but confirms the departure of Mithy after only one year. Brought in as Zven’s duo and to be a shot caller, Mithy struggled for most of 2018. TSM cited Smoothie’s “in-game leadership” in their release, suggesting that they see him as at least part of the shot calling solution. It remains to be seen whether Zven will stay with the team or look for a release to continue with Mithy. Bringing on Smoothie opens up an import slot for TSM, one that they could use to look for an upgrade in top lane or jungle. Rumors abound that TSM is interested in the talented European Broken Blade, but they still have Hauntzer under contract. Grig was not a superstar in 2018, but he stabilized the jungle position and seemed to fit in well with Bjergsen.
What it means for EF: Hakuho was the best of the three players that Echo Fox received from Clutch Gaming, so Smoothie was quickly moved along. Smoothie did not play with EF for long after he was acquired from Cloud 9 in the middle of the 2018 year. EF will have to make a splash signing in mid lane and keep Dardoch in the fold to have any kind of playoff hopes in 2019.
What it means for HLE: Hanwha Life Esports round out their 10 man roster with these signings. Thal and Moojin were teammates in Europe in 2017, so they could have a quick connection for HLE and hopefully represent upgrades over Lindarang and SeongHwan. The core of Lava, Sangyhoon, and Key remain intact. HLE finished 6th in LCK 2018 Summer and while the roster remains solid, it’s also hard to push them up the hierarchy in Korea. HLE are entering 2019 banking on team cohesion over taking risks on a higher variance roster composition.
What it means for SKT and JAG: SK Telecom T1 will wish Thal well but are happy to have Khan as their new starting top laner. He had no place on SKT after an uneven 2018 performance. SoHwan continues a mass exodus of players for Jin Air Green Wings. After an 8th place finish in LCK 2018 Summer, they have seen all but Grace and Nova official part ways with the organization. This looks like a total rebuild, so it would not be a surprise to see them field some rookies after the dust settles.
What it means for MSF: Misfits swung for the fences and hit an off-season home run. They have a lineup with sOAZ, Maxlore, Febiven, Hans Sama, and now Gorilla that can challenge for the LEC title and more. As with all supposed super-teams, the real test is not how skilled the players are, but how well they fit together in the games. What has to be exciting for MSF fans is that this star-studded roster does not have too many resource-hog players. sOAZ has a lot of experience playing and thriving in a low economy role top lane, and Hans Sama did not have an obscene gold share in 2018 on a Misfits team that featured less talent than it will next year. Gorilla is the final piece to make MSF the undisputed LEC off-season winners.
What it means for KZ: Kingzone DragonX are forced to undergo a rebuild after a disappointing 2018 season and, such that the loss of Gorilla is just a small part of the larger problem. After falling short of Worlds qualification, all 5 starters have announced that they will be leaving the organization. The only player currently under contract for KZ is Cuzz. They will be one of the teams left at the drawing board, deciding whether to piece together a potentially competitive roster in 2019 or turning their attention to player development for 2020 and beyond.
What it means for FNC: This was the expected outcome after it was announced that sOAZ would be leaving for Misfits. Bwipo played most of FNC’s important matches in 2018 and supplanted sOAZ as the primary top laner on the team. He is younger than sOAZ and has shown to be better on carries at this point in his career, so it makes sense for FNC to invest in him. That he was locked up for a lengthy three years may be in response to the report that Caps will be going to G2 just a month after falling short at the 2018 Worlds Finals. On his current trajectory, FNC will be happy to have Bwipo stay and grow on the team as one of the new building blocks.
What it means for C9: Nabbing Nisqy is Cloud 9’s response to transferring Jensen to Team Liquid. Nisqy is a player that has grown year-by-year, having competed in North America earlier with Team EnVyUs. He was a solid middle-of-the-pack mid laner in Europe last year, but even that is very valuable in NA. The starting spot will not be handed to him, as Goldenglue has confirmed that he will be staying with C9 and competing for a spot on the main roster. Regardless of who wins that competition, this is a good depth move for C9, an organization that has shown a willingness to move players up and down between their main and academy teams. Their track record in player development also speaks for itself. C9 fans may be disappointed for now, but C9 and their staff deserve the benefit of the doubt.
What it means for Splyce: This is a tough loss for Splyce as the mid lane market is drying up. The rest of their team remains under contract for 2019, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t try to shake things up. Consecutive middling results in LEC splits don’t often lead to keeping the status quo, so more changes may be on the way. You wouldn’t point to any part of the team as a weakness, but they are also lacking the star power that was often on display by the teams at Worlds 2018. Both Froggen and PowerOfEvil are available to return to Europe, but Splyce may opt for an up-and-coming talent instead.
What it means for Gen.G: Peanut is an enormous get for Gen.G after losing both Ambition and Haru. Peanut confirmed that he was seriously debating between joining a foreign league and staying in Korea. The West’s loss is Gen.G’s gain, as Peanut is the best available jungler on the market. His aggression will hopefully make Gen.G a more active team in the early game, something they heavily struggled with in the 2018 season. Gen.G now have players signed in all five roles, but they will certainly look to make a run at Mata to pair with Ruler for another upgrade.
What it means for KZ: The third of Kingzone DragonX’s roster to depart. All 5 departures have been confirmed with no replacements yet announced. See Gorilla above for more information.
What it means for AFs: Only 17 years old, Ucal has room to grow after he had a phenomenal LCK season and great Worlds 2018 performance. There was no shame for him in getting outclassed by Rookie in their series against Invictus Gaming. Adding Ucal to a team that already boasts Kiin gives Afreeca Freecs claim to one of the best solo lane duos in the world. However, AFs still have the rest of their roster to put together. Spirit is a Free Agent and both Kramer and TusiN are on their way out. If they can find even league average players to fill those roles, AFs will be a force to be reckoned with in 2019.
What it means for KT: The superteam was already dead, but now there are legitimate concerns about the future of the team. Ucal is an elite, young talent that most teams would dream to build around, so it’s hard to imagine that they are happy to see him go. It will be more crucial than before to make sure they lock down Smeb to be competitive in 2019. Score is the only other former KT member that is not confirmed to leave, so it remains to be seen if they can keep him as well. BDD would be a fantastic get for KT, and likely the only way they can move on to 2019 without a downgrade at mid lane. Regardless, the off-season has not been kind to KT Rolster.
What it means for SKT: This is the moment Faker and SK Telecom T1 fans have been waiting for all off-season. SKT bring in a fresh batch of elite talent to try to lessen the burden of carrying on Faker. Khan and Faker are the LCK’s answer to Rookie and TheShy, while Haru and Clid bring carry oriented, mechanics focused jungle play to SKT that has been lacking since Peanut left. Teddy is an elite ADC and is likely even considered to be an upgrade from Bang in terms of hard carry potential. The final avenue for improvement would be to add an elite support talent to play alongside Teddy. Could Mata join Faker to rule the LCK?
What it means for MSF: The most accomplished Western player in League of Legends history is a great get for Misfits. Despite being pushed out of Fnatic by the emergence of Bwipo, sOAZ had some of the best top lane performances at Worlds 2018 and showed he still has the ability to play at the highest level. His experience could go a long way in helping the team jell quickly in 2019. Misfits are a solid support pickup away from being an elite LEC threat next year. By getting sOAZ, MSF retain the option to find an import to play support. Ignar and Gorilla would be names to watch if they go in that direction.
What it means for FNC: Fnatic are one of the only teams in the world that could feel comfortable losing someone of sOAZ’s caliber. His departure has been expected, but Fnatic must still come to terms with Bwipo. To lose them both would be an absolute disaster. Assuming that Bwipo is re-signed, Fnatic keeps 4 of 5 of the Worlds 2019 Finalists roster. It will still come down to finding a replacement for Caps. With each passing signing, it feels like Fnatic will have to pull a rabbit out of their hat to not take a step back in the mid lane in 2019.
What it means for 100T: 100 Thieves round out their lineup with arguably the best ADC that was available to them on the market. With his addition, 100T will be expected to compete for championships in the NA LCS and put on a better performance internationally. Huhi and Bang represent upgrades on a roster that already finished 2nd in North America during their first LCS season. It will remain to be seen how quickly Bang and Aphromoo can get on the same page in bot lane. Bang is reported to speak English well, but there is always a transition phase for new duos, especially when they speak different native languages. This also means that Levi will be unable to play on the main roster and AnDa is locked in as the starting jungler. All in all, 100T fans have to be excited about the final roster.
What it means for SKT: This is more of a shifting of eras for SK Telecom T1 than a big loss. Bang was a big personality on the team and will be remembered as a huge part of their dominance. In practical terms, Teddy is a rising star who should be able to take Bang’s spot with no loss in performance. SKT probably would have been fine with keeping Bang, but a fresh start seems beneficial to both parties at this point in Bang’s career. The bigger issue for SKT is making sure they are comfortable with the support that ends up taking the majority of play time with Teddy.
What it means for Gen.G: Despite stagnating in 2018, Gen.G decide to keep several players on the roster for 2019. It remains to be seen whether Fly and Life will remain as depth pieces in the organization or will be promoted to more prominent roles with the departures of Crown and CoreJJ. Fly got plenty of play time during the regular season, but Crown was played in all of the big postseason matches for Gen.G. They will be in the market for a starting jungler after Haru left for SKT. There are plenty of options left in Korea, but Peanut is the rumored choice for Gen.G.
What it means for MSF: Misfits lock down a top tier mid/jungle duo with the acquisition of Febiven yesterday and the re-signing of Maxlore today. Alphari’s departure has rumors swirling that sOAZ will be the next MSF top laner, leaving only a decision on support remaining. Maxlore and Febiven each signed three-year deals, indicating that MSF believe this will be the core of the team for years to come. How quickly they can build the required mid/jungle synergy will be key for MSF’s 2019 fortunes.
What it means for VIT: With Jiizuke and Attila already under contract, Vitality seemingly only need to secure their jungler to put the finishing touches on their 2019 roster. Coming off their amazing late-season surge and promising Worlds performance, Vitality may opt to keep their entire lineup together if they can come to terms with Kikis. Remember, it was his insertion into the starting lineup that started their win streak and forged their outrageously aggressive identity. This is a good start to Free Agency for Vitality, but their fate will still hinge on the quality of jungler they are able to bring in.
What it means for 100T: Huhi and Pobelter were the two most sought after North American mid laners in Free Agency, and 100 Thieves locked down one by snagging Huhi. This will open them up to either importing an ADC (Bang?) or allow them to play Levi over AnDa at jungle. Huhi has a great relationship with Aphromoo and that should allow Huhi to fit into the team quickly. While not a superstar, Huhi has the highest skill ceiling of NA resident mid laners available that still has significant LCS experience. 100T are well positioned to upgrade their biggest weaknesses and make another run at the top spot in the NA LCS.
What it means for CLG: Counter Logic Gaming have a lot of different directions they can go to round out their roster. All four of their other players are signed through at least 2019, and only Reignover is an import. If they are looking for immediate success, CLG would likely want to import a mid laner from Europe or Korea. Pobelter would seem to be a natural fit, but a previous iteration of CLG booted Pobelter in favor of Huhi and hard feelings could still exist. CLG likely also would like to find a way out of Reignover’s contract, but that seems unlikely given his form over the past couple of years and his rumored contract. The dream for CLG fans would be to import a strong mid/jungle duo, but a more realistic scenario would be CLG opting to develop a mid laner in 2019 with an eye on 2020.
What it means for HLE: Moojin returns to Korea to presumably take over the starting jungler role for Hanwha Life Esports. HLE’s only LCK split resulted in a middling 10-8 record, good for a 6th place finish. Moojin should be an upgrade over SeongHwan as they attempt to round out their roster by finding a new top laner.
What it means for FW: Moojin saw great domestic success with Flash Wolves, but as a team, they were unable to make any progress at Worlds 2018. FW will be in the market for a new jungler with Moojin’s departure. He was one of only two imports in the team’s history — the other being KKramer — so FW may look to stay in-region with their replacement.
What it means for TL: With Impact gaining North American residency, Team Liquid were able to bring in an import mid laner to replace NA native Pobelter. Jensen should provide more carry potential than Pobelter was able to muster and give TL another carry threat to pair with Doublelift. Jensen can become an NA resident prior to the 2019 Summer Split, meaning TL can then look to add another import before Worlds 2019 if they so choose.
What it means for C9: Losing Jensen hurts, especially right before he becomes an NA resident, but it means something that Cloud 9 had him under contract and made the transfer to TL. Whether this is confidence in Goldenglue, a new addition to mid lane or a hopeful addition by subtraction remains to be seen. C9 now has his — and potentially Svenskeren’s — import slot available to work with.
What it means for SKT: A big sigh of relief (if there was ever any worry). The best player and biggest name in the world stays home to make another run at LCK and Worlds glory. A disastrous 2018 led to SKT parting ways with Thal, Untara, Blank, Blossom, Pirean, Bang, and Wolf, but Faker remains the single best player to build a team around. The question remains if SKT can surround him with a team that is capable of returning to the top.
What it means for OG: The first three signings for Origen are certainly solid, even if they likely won’t end up as one of the rumored super teams in Europe. New Origen general manager Deficio has made his love of Nukeduck’s play known for years, and Nukeduck is coming off a great season with FC Schalke 04. Alphari had a breakout 2017 with Misfits — and even with a slightly down 2018 — is considered a top-tier top laner in Europe. Sheriff is the wildcard of the three signings. His H2k-Gaming team was terrible in 2018, but Sheriff is seen as a star-in-waiting and is lauded as the next great European AD Carry. Expectations for the squad will come into focus as they round out their roster with their jungler and support pickups.
What it means for S04 and MSF: Both FC Schalke 04 and Misfits are teams with Worlds aspirations that are down a solo laner heading into 2019. Fortunately for them, there are still plenty of options available this early in Free Agency. Fnatic is unlikely to keep both sOAZ and Bwipo, adding an extra top-tier talent to the pool. In addition, there are strong rumors that import European mids may be returning home to strengthen an already deep European mid-pool.
What it means for TL: Another home run for $teve. Olleh never quite panned out with Doublelift, so Team Liquid went out and acquired what was likely the best available support in CoreJJ. We know from his time in Dignitas that he should have little problem with communication and is a good shotcaller. In 2017, TL acquired the three best players from Immortals and upgraded the two remaining positions. In 2018, TL is again replacing their two weakest links with upgrades. That’s a scary proposition for a team that won the last two NA LCS championships.
What it means for Gen.G: Things never quite clicked in 2018 for the 2017 World Champions and big changes are coming as Haru, Ambition, Crown, and CoreJJ are all leaving the team. Gen.G will attempt to rebuild around Ruler, so their support pickup will be vital to their success. Mata is currently the biggest prize and could bring Ruler’s play to another level if he were to join Gen.G.
What it means for MSF: When in form, Febiven was easily one of the best Western mid laners in the past few years. Misfits are clearly gambling on that return to form with a three-year contract. Pairing Febiven with Hans Sama is a great carry core for Misfits to try to cope with the loss of Alphari. Re-signing Maxlore becomes more and more vital to give Febiven the jungle threat that he didn’t have in Lira on Clutch Gaming.
What it means for CG: Febiven was their star player, so it will be interesting to see what direction Clutch Gaming take from here. A solid Spring Split turned into a toxic Summer Split environment, where CG were more known for their poor solo queue antics than LCS success. The rest of the lineup remains under contract for another year, so CG may turn to a native NA mid laner to try to develop before a large roster reconstruction takes place.
What it means for 100T: This is crucial for 100 Thieves on many levels. The most obvious is, of course, Ssumday is one of the best top laners in the world. Further, than that, 100T took a terrible public relations hit with their handling of the Meteos trade and Cody Sun benching in the run-up to the 2018 Summer Split playoffs. Re-signing Ssumday should re-gain some goodwill, or at least avoid more negative publicity. With Ssumday back in the fold, 100T will have to make a decision on whether to carry another import or promote Levi to the main roster.
What it means for G2: A stunning move, G2 Esports take away the best player from their rival, only to force their own best player to role swap to ADC. If Perkz can pull it off, this is likely to be one of the greatest coups of the 2018 roster shuffle. Caps proved at Worlds 2018 that he is the best Western mid laner, while G2 suffered from a weak bot lane. Finding Perkz a strong support to ease his transition will now be the top priority for G2.
What it means for FNC: A devastating blow, Fnatic will have to find a way to regroup. Nobody will cry for a team that already has an enviable core of Bwipo, Broxah, Rekkles and Hylissang, but there is quite simply no replacing Caps’ 2018 performance on the open market. If there is any good news for FNC, it’s that mid laners who crave international success will line up to talk to FNC about their new opening.