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League of Legends

2019 LCS Spring Split Preview and Predictions

Mike Plant

The North American League of Legends Champions Series, known as the LCS, begins their 2019 Spring Split on Saturday, January 26th. Like the LEC, the LCS consists of ten teams that will play each other twice in best of one matches. We preview the players and teams you should be looking out for in North America in 2019.

Breakout Player: Broken Blade

Hauntzer was the best North American top laner in 2017. Despite having a down year in 2018, he’s still an NA native, and TSM had a hole to fill at support. Logically, you would assume that TSM would attack free agency by trying to find the best available support import to pair with Zven and keep Hauntzer. Instead, TSM focused on Broken Blade immediately, clearly deeming him a larger upgrade to Hauntzer than they could get from an import over Smoothie. That decision alone tells us that TSM plans to feature Broken Blade as a carry immediately heading into 2019.

The great thing about joining TSM’s lineup is that they already have two top threats in Bjergsen and Zven. If enemy teams want to shut down Broken Blade in lane, they do so knowing that they won’t be able to influence mid or bot lane. That respect for Bjergsen and Zven should allow Broken Blade to have a lot of time 1v1 in top lane, and his skill is what brings him over to North America with TSM. Though NA has a number of good-to-great top laners, Broken Blade has the potential to be the next great one in the 2019 Spring Split. We will find out where he stands quickly, as his first two games are against 100 Thieves’ Ssumday and Clutch Gaming’s Huni.

Most Impactful Player Transfer: Bang to 100 Thieves

Something was deeply wrong with the 100 Thieves bot lane at the end of 2018. We’ve never been given any information into why Cody Sun was benched for Rikara, and it likely wasn’t a coincidence that Aphromoo looked poor by his standards after an MVP 2018 Spring Split. Bang coming in immediately catapults 100 Thieves from one of the worst AD Carry situations in the LCS to one of the best. He is a former World Champion and brings with him years of experience to pair with Aphromoo bot. His mechanics have not fallen off despite playing for years, as has happened to other pros.

Still, his transfer to 100 Thieves raises some questions. His import slot was opened up when Huhi replaced Ryu, which is – at worst – a lateral move given Ryu’s 2018 form. However, it stopped 100 Thieves from being able to play Levi at jungle, who was eventually transferred to the LPL. AnDa had a great performance at Worlds 2018 despite his team being in shambles, but Levi was brought to North America in 2018 to learn English and eventually be a star carry when he was ready. The combination of Bang and AnDa seems preferable to Levi and a native NA AD carry, but time will tell if AnDa shows his 2018 Worlds form or the form that allowed him to bounce around the league and spend time in academy.

Communication will be an issue, as Bang does not speak English fluently, but we can only speculate as to how much it will affect Bang and the team. Communication is important bot lane, especially as the players need to feel out each others play style, but we’ve seen several examples of successful ADC imports in the past: CoreJJ, Piglet, Arrow, etc. Bang won’t be called on to be a main shotcaller for the team, so as long as he and Aphromoo can stay on the same page, 100 Thieves should be fine over the long haul.

Most Valuable Player: Bjergsen

There has been a lot of talk over the past couple of years that Bjergsen is overrated. Critics point toward TSM’s mediocre 2018, say that he’s too passive in lane to be a superstar, that he demands his team caters to his play style. We couldn’t disagree more. Bjergsen is still the best player in North America and he is going to dominate in 2019. The meta has finally opened back up to allow assassins to thrive, solo kills to exist, and has made taking skirmish fights the correct play. Bjergsen has always had the ability to do all of these things, he’s just been reigned in on wave clear champions, creating small, incremental advantages that often go unnoticed.

Given that there’s been so much negativity surrounding Bjergsen in 2018, it’s only natural that it’ll swing back around to positive energy when he puts on a great performance in 2019. Fan attention and perception is predictable in that way. It is important, of course, that TSM performs well as a team. We think they will with the new additions of Akaadian, Broken Blade, and Smoothie. Hopefully, we’ll see some Aftershock nerfs or Lissandra and Galio bans so that Bjergsen can show off in 2019.

LCS Bjergsen TSM

Dark Horse Team: Golden Guardians

Golden Guardians would have been an elite team in 2017. Hauntzer, Contractz, and Olleh were all top 3 in their respective roles in North America, Froggen has always been good, and Deftly was a rising star in academy. Down years for everyone involved in 2018 have tempered some of the excitement, but these players (minus Deftly) have all shown they can be elite in their roles in the LCS.

Contractz was hamstrung by poor lanes in 2018 and should be able to make a greater impact in 2019. There are rumors that Hauntzer lacked motivation in 2018, but getting kicked from the most decorated organization in LCS history should be a fine wake up call. Olleh struggled with Doublelift and the pressure that came along with playing under Team Liquid but was an MVP caliber player in his run with Immortals and when he was in command of the bot lane calls. He should have that with Deftly.

Froggen comes into 2019 as a bit of an unknown. He sat out 2018, but he doesn’t look to have lost anything from his prowess in solo queue. He comes into a good situation with Golden Guardians and has plenty of experience to fit in on any team. Deftly is the biggest question mark on the team, but he was also one of the few bright spots on GGS in 2018. That alone should tell you how much the team has improved in the offseason. Will it be enough to challenge for the 2019 Spring Split Championship?

Team That May Disappoint: Counter Logic Gaming

Counter Logic Gaming had a down year in 2018, culminating in a parting of ways with long time coach Zikzlol. 7-11 in both splits was not up to the organization’s expectations or previous standards. Unfortunately, we don’t see things improving much in 2019. ReignOver was bad in 2018 and it’s good news for CLG fans that he’s been replaced. Wiggily played well in academy and may deserve his shot in the LCS, but that doesn’t exactly scream upgrade. This was tried last year with OmarGod and ended up tanking a team that was in 2nd place with Dardoch.

PowerOfEvil is a clear upgrade over Huhi, but is that enough to compete in the LCS? Darshan is not a top half top laner in the league, nor is the combination of Stixxay and Biofrost a top half bot lane. Add in a new jungle, and this team looks an awful lot like OpTic Gaming’s 2018 team. They should still challenge for a playoff spot, but we have them on the outside looking in heading into 2019. That’s not a place that CLG fans are accustomed to, but another poor Spring Split in 2019 could finally lead to wholesale changes on the roster.

Title Favorite: Team Liquid

They won both the 2018 Spring Split and Summer Split in the LCS. They retained their core of Impact, Xmithie, and Doublelift. They upgrade their mid lane with Jensen and their support with CoreJJ. What more needs to be said? The best team in the league got better, and all the other teams are trying to play catch-up.

It would have been easily argued that TL could struggle with the heavy skirmishing meta heading into 2019, as they did at Worlds, but adding Jensen to the mid lane should help alleviate, if not eradicate that concern. CoreJJ is a Korean import, but he spent a year in North America with Team Dignitas in 2015. Plus he’s a World Champion, so Doublelift is more likely to respect his calls and input. Impact still isn’t great on carries in top lane, but tanks are always relevant. Team Liquid just doesn’t possess as many weaknesses as other teams, and it would be a shock if they don’t find themselves in first place at the end of the 2019 Spring Split.

LCS Power Rankings

100 Thieves win

Teams come from out of nowhere, top teams fall apart, and that’s why they play the games. But heading into the 2019 Spring Season, these are early LCS Power Rankings with a quick thought on each team.

10) OpTic Gaming

2018 Spring Record: 5-13

2018 Summer Record: 9-9

Top: Niship “Dhokla” Doshi

Jungle: William “Meteos” Hartman

Mid: Lee “Crown” Min-ho

Bot: Noh “Arrow” Dong-hyeon

Support: Terry “BIG” Chuong

OpTic Gaming committed to building around Dhokla in 2019. BIG and Arrow ended up being retained bot lane, and the team added Crown from Gen.G and the popular Meteos. If they don’t outperform their 2018 forms, OpTic Gaming will have a hard time reaching the top 8, much less pushing for the playoffs.

9) Echo Fox

2018 Spring Record: 12-6

2018 Summer Record: 10-8

Top: Collin “Solo” Earnest

Top: Samson “Lourlo” Jackson

Jungle: Lee “Rush” Yoon-jae

Mid: Kim “Fenix” Jae-hun

Bot: Apollo “Apollo” Price

Bot: Lawrence “Lost” Hui

Support: Nickolas “Hakuho” Surgent

Echo Fox used the offseason to turn Huni into a bunch of mediocre parts from Clutch Gaming. Lourlo has a higher ceiling than Solo but both have been inconsistent. Rush was great in NA when he was last here with Cloud 9, but spent much of 2018 on KT Rolster’s bench. Both Echo Fox and Fenix must have been truly desperate to end up reuniting.

8) FlyQuest

2018 Spring Record: 6-12

2018 Summer Record: 10-8

Top: Omran “V1per” Shoura

Jungle: Lucas “Santorin” Tao Kilmer Larsen

Mid: Eugene “Pobelter” Park

Bot: Jason “WildTurtle” Tran

Support: Juan “JayJ” Guibert

FlyQuest retained their core of Santorin, WildTurtle, and JayJ after a surprisingly good 2018 Summer Split. Losing Flame will be tough, but V1per has shown real carry potential in his time with Team Liquid Academy. Pobelter should perform as well or better than Keane mid lane, making this a team with playoff chances.

7) Counter Logic Gaming

2018 Spring Record: 7-11

2018 Summer Record: 7-11

Top: Darshan “Darshan” Upadhyaya

Jungle: Raymond “Wiggily” Griffin

Mid: Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage

Bot: Trevor “Stixxay” Hayes

Support: Vincent “Biofrost” Wang

Counter Logic Gaming look better on paper than they did in 2018, but will that be enough for a playoff spot? Wiggily is unproven, and while PowerOfEvil is an upgrade over Huhi, it would have been nice to see CLG use another import to upgrade top lane or AD carry.

6) Clutch Gaming

2018 Spring Record: 11-7

2018 Summer Record: 6-12

Top: Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon

Jungle: Nam “LirA” Tae-yoo

Mid: Tanner “Damonte” Damonte

Bot: Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin

Support: Phillippe “Vulcan” Laflamme

After a rough Summer Split, people forget that Huni was dominant in 2018 Spring Split and so versatile that he played 4 different roles for Echo Fox in the Summer Split during the funnel meta. LirA and Damonte are big question marks in the middle of the map, but we think Piglet and Vulcan will end up being one of the better bot lanes in NA.

5) Golden Guardians

2018 Spring Record: 4-14

2018 Summer Record: 5-13

Top: Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell

Jungle: Juan “Contractz” Arturo Garcia

Mid: Henrik “Froggen” Hansen

Bot: Matthew “Deftly” Chen

Support: Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung

Golden Guardians needs for their players to recapture their 2017 form. If they do it, they can be scary and a legitimate contender in NA. They likely will need some time to come together, as only Contractz and Deftly return as teammates. Look for them to improve as the season goes along.

4) Cloud9

2018 Spring Record: 11-7

2018 Summer Record: 11-7

Top: Eric “Licorice” Ritchie

Jungle: Robert “Blaber” Huang

Jungle: Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen

Mid: Greyson “Goldenglue” Gilmer

Mid: Yasin “Nisqy” Dinçer

Bot: Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi

Support: Tristan “Zeyzal” Stidam

Nisqy was probably in most analysts’ top 5 mid laners in Europe in 2018, but that is still a direct downgrade from Jensen. Cloud 9 had a magical late-season run — as always it seems  — but they are a team that tends to get better as the year goes rather than starting strong. We would have liked to see another jungle option brought in the offseason to compete with Svenskeren.

3) 100 Thieves

2018 Spring Record: 12-6

2018 Summer Record: 10-8

Top: Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho

Jungle: Andy “AnDa” Hoang

Mid: Choi “Huhi” Jae-hyun

Bot: Bae “Bang” Jun-sik

Support: Zaqueri “aphromoo” Black

100 Thieves made a clear upgrade at ADC with Bang and come off a year in which they were a top 3 team in North America. They have upward mobility if AnDa plays as well in 2019 as he did at Worlds and if Huhi shows he’s better than we think when playing with an improved supporting cast.

2) Team SoloMid

2018 Spring Record: 11-7

2018 Summer Record: 10-8

Top: Sergen “Broken Blade” Çelik

Jungle: Matthew “Akaadian” Higginbotham

Jungle: Jonathan “Grig” Armao

Mid: Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg

Bot: Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen

Support: Andy “Smoothie” Ta

This ranking places a lot of faith in Broken Blade and Akaadian, but we’re very high on the potential of TSM in 2019. Zven should benefit from a more mechanically proficient support in Smoothie, and we’re hopeful that TSM will be more skirmish heavy with carries on Broken Blade and Bjergsen in 2019.

1) Team Liquid

2018 Spring Record: 11-7

2018 Summer Record: 12-6

Top: Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong

Jungle: Jake “Xmithie” Puchero

Mid: Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen

Bot: Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng

Support: Jo “CoreJJ” Yong-in

They were the best team in North America in 2018 and upgraded their two worst performing players with a top 2 NA mid and elite Korean support. When the biggest nitpick you can find is that their top lane isn’t a great carry player, you know you’re in a fantastic spot. Good luck to the rest of North America.