Team Liquid NA LCS Offseason Report Cards

The NA LCS offseason has been underway for some time now, and boy has it been a good one. Many players are changing their jerseys for 2019, and the league landscape is shifting. Although the offseason isn’t over yet, many of the North American teams are finalizing their rosters. Let’s take a look at the updated rosters and all the player movement heading into the new year.


Team Liquid

+ Jensen, CoreJJ | – Pobelter, Olleh

The rich get richer in the case of Team Liquid, who were already the best team in the region. However, they did have some pretty glaring weaknesses in their mid lane and support positions. In response, Team Liquid said goodbye to mid laner Eugene “Pobelter” Park, as well as Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung. In their place, they brought in some incredible replacements. First, Team Liquid acquired Cloud9’s star mid laner, Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen. They then picked up former Gen.G support, Jo “CoreJJ” Yong-in.

Jensen has been a top two mid laner for a few years now, battling for the top spot against TSM’s Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg. He was a huge factor into Cloud9’s success in 2018, especially at the World Championships. The 23-year-old’s performance helped push his former team past competition the likes of Gen.G, Royal Never Give Up, and Afreeca Freecs. Meanwhile, with CoreJJ’s great mechanical skill and good playmaking ability, he and Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng are already widely considered the best bot lane duo in the region.

CoreJJ’s experience as a World Champion will be crucial for Team Liquid’s success, especially in international events.

Grade: A+ Team Liquid doesn’t seem to have any weaknesses now, and looks poised to take North America for the second year in a row.


100 Thieves

+ Huhi, Bang | Cody Sun, Rikara, Ryu

After a disappointing end to their 2018 campaign, 100 Thieves made some big changes to their roster. The organization let go of Cody “Cody Sun” Sun after a troublesome Summer Split. They also moved Ryu “Ryu” Sang-wook to a coaching position. The team then acquired long-time CLG mid laner Choi “Huhi” Jae-hyun, reuniting him with his good friend, Zaqueri “aphromoo” Black. It’ll be interesting to see if those two reconnect on their chemistry from back in their CLG days.

Speaking of playing together, 100 Thieves made a big signing for Aphromoo’s new bottom lane partner. The team picked up former World Champion, Bae “Bang” Jun-sik, as their new ADC for 2019. Although acquiring Huhi is big news, Bang moving to North America is even bigger news. His experience and individual prowess with SK Telecom T1 will be valuable in 100 Thieves’ quest for a top spot next season.

Grade: A | If 100 Thieves’ bottom lane can find some chemistry together, this team could push for the top of the league once again.


TSM

+ Smoothie, Broken Blade | – Hauntzer, Mithy

It looks like TSM is retooling for the 2019 season after what was easily the worst year in the organization’s history. The team parted ways with longtime top laner Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell and All-Star support, Alfonso “Mithy” Aguirre Rodríguez. In their place, they’ve brought in Andy “Smoothie” Ta and 18-year-old Sergen “Broken Blade” Çelik. Smoothie is a talented, vocal leader in the support role and should be able to handle more of the shot-calling for TSM. It will be interesting to see how he and Bjergsen interact as leaders of the team. The bigger question mark for the team comes in their new rookie top laner.

It’s nice to see TSM focusing more attention on cultivating young talent instead of continuing to pick up established stars. They know better than anyone that building a team with your wallet doesn’t always pan out every time. Picking up young talent with potential could be good for the team’s future.

The other interesting storyline to follow this season will be how Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen will adapt to playing with a new support.

Grade: B | TSM is going to need a breakout season from Broken Blade to push the upper echelons of the LCS in 2019. The young rookie looks ready to do so.


Cloud9

+ Nisqy | – Jensen

Cloud9 fans suffered a shock this offseason after losing star mid laner Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen. It was a move that no one really saw coming, and it shifted the LCS landscape even further towards the top. However, Cloud9 had no time to mourn, as they now had a huge hole to fill in their mid lane. Enter Yasin “Nisqy” Dinçer, fresh from his first year in the EU LCS.

Nisqy had a pretty average year with Splyce. The team managed to finish third in the regular season in the EU LCS Spring Split and sixth in the Summer. Although Nisqy wasn’t a star mid laner, he was decent and consistent throughout the year.

C9’s new mid obviously has some big shoes to fill with the departure of Jensen, but the team can’t afford to dwell on the past. The rest of Cloud9’s core still remains intact, and that’s really all that matters. With World Championship experience under their belts, Tristan “Zeyzal” Stidam and Eric “Licorice” Ritchie will be coming back stronger and hungrier than before. Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi should be a rock in the bottom lane, as he has always been for this organization.

Grade: C | The first breakup is always the most painful. However, don’t be surprised if Cloud9 is once again a top team by the time playoffs roll around.


Clutch Gaming

+ Huni, Damonte, Piglet, Vulcan, Cody Sun | – Febiven, Solo, Apollo, Hakuho

Clutch Gaming would go through one of the bigger roster overhauls in the LCS, replacing four of their five members. Granted, their results from last year would warrant a pretty big change. The team would have a pretty dismal 2018, first barely finishing in the playoffs in the Spring Split. They would drop considerably in the 2018 Summer Split though, falling to ninth place. The team would end up leaning on Fabian “Febiven” Diepstraten way too much, and with a lack of talent, they could not find any success.

Unfortunately, this lineup doesn’t inspire too much faith as well. A collection of subpar lanes with Huni in the top lane with no support doesn’t bode well for Clutch Gaming. The team didn’t even address one of their biggest weaknesses in 2018, which was their jungle. In fact, they actually kept Nam “LirA” Tae-yoo, who many people were crying for a replacement. All in all, Clutch Gaming may have made plenty of moves, but none of them look like they’ll make a difference.

Grade: D | Quantity over quality in Houston.


Counter Logic Gaming

+ PowerOfEvil, Wiggily | – Huhi, Reignover

Once a top three team in the LCS, Counter Logic Gaming has fallen from grace over the past few years. Ever since their 2016 Spring Split championship, they would never reach the apex again. This past year was their worst to date, finishing with a 7-11 record in both splits. Counter Logic Gaming would also go through some big roster changes through the past year, first by losing longtime leader, Zaqueri “aphromoo” Black. The team would also pick up Kim “Reignover” Yeu-jin, but he would continue a slump that had been occurring since he joined Team Liquid for the 2016 season.

Counter Logic Gaming is now in a bit of a rebuild, but maybe this is what the organization needed. Additionally, reaching into their young supply of rookies could inject a spark into the lineup. Raymond “Wiggily” Griffin now comes in ready to make an impact. Could he follow the footsteps of some of the great rookies of North America?

Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage would have an off-year with OpTic Gaming, but he still has a ton of potential that hasn’t been realized. He will look to redeem himself from an abysmal performance with the Green Wall. Maybe with a bit more help, he can show the world that he is still one of the top mid laners of the west.

Grade: B | Improvements in both roles, but synergy is key here for CLG. Will Wiggily live up to expectations?


Echo Fox

+ Solo, Lourlo, Rush, Fenix, Apollo, Hakuho | – Huni, Dardoch, Damonte, Smoothie

New year, new foxes. Rick Fox is sending out a brand new lineup for 2019. Echo Fox would part ways with a majority of their roster, including star jungler Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett and All-Star top laner, Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon. The team would also lose talented support Smoothie to TSM as well. They are welcoming a whole new platoon of troops from across the league.

Apollo “Apollo” Price and Nickolas “Hakuho” Surgent are coming from Clutch Gaming following a disappointing 2018 campaign. However, they are still one of the more underrated duos in the LCS. Samson “Lourlo” Jackson has gone from Team Liquid to Golden Guardians to Echo Fox. The top laner hasn’t been the best in the league during his career, but he has been relatively consistent.

Everyone is excited about the return of Lee “Rush” Yoon-jae, but will he be able to adjust to the LCS after spending so much time away? He hasn’t been starting on a main roster for three years, and we wouldn’t see much of him on KT Rolster. Is he still as good as he was before? Of course, keeping yourself mechanically sharp is good, but getting used to playing on a team again will take some time.

Grade: C- | Not sure how this group of players will mesh together. Without a real star presence on the team, Echo Fox may flounder behind the pack this season.


FlyQuest

+ Viper, Pobelter | – Flame, Keane

FlyQuest’s acquisitions this past offseason have been pretty lackluster so far, as the team would pick up Eugene “Pobelter” Park and Omran “V1per” Shoura. They haven’t made any other announcements about their roster, but it is expected that the team will keep Jason “WildTurtle” Tran and Juan “JayJ” Guibert. Their jungler position isn’t solidified either, although the contract of Lucas “Santorin” Tao Kilmer Larsen doesn’t end until next year.

FlyQuest just hasn’t had the talent to compete with the best of the LCS, and it looks like they won’t have the talent again. Pobelter has been one of the most consistent North American mid laners, but he is coming off a pretty big slump. That slump would get him replaced off of Team Liquid. It will be hard for Pobelter to transfer over as probably the best player on this roster. Mind you, he hasn’t really ever been the hard carry type.

Grade: C- | One can hope that Viper has a great first year in the LCS and that maybe, Pobelter can have a nice comeback story for 2019. Not holding our breath though.


Golden Guardians

+ Hauntzer, Froggen, Olleh | – Lourlo, Matt, Mickey

For a last-place team, these moves are not half-bad. Their 2018 roster obviously wasn’t going to accomplish much, so a general overhaul of the lineup was in order. First, the team would acquire Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell, after TSM would replace him with Broken Blade. Although going through an off-year of his own, Hauntzer has been one of the best North American top laners over the past few years. In the same vein, the team would also acquire Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung after being replaced by CoreJJ.

Picking up Froggen for the mid lane was an interesting move on Golden Guardians’ part. However, it did seem like a move of desperation due to a shrinking mid lane talent pool. Still, we know of Froggen’s past conquests, and we know that he has been keeping his mechanical skill on point. Hopefully, he has kept his ability to lead a team as well.

Overall, the theme for this Golden Guardians lineup is “fresh starts”, both for the organization and its players. For many of the members acquired, this team represents a fresh start for them to prove themselves as top players in the scene again. Golden Guardians needed a fresh start after a horrendous first season in the league. We will need to see whether or not they will be able to prove the doubters wrong in 2019.

Grade: B | Improvements in all three roles, but nothing to move the needle too much. However, there’s nowhere to go but up for Golden Guardians.


OpTic Gaming

+ Crown, Dardoch, Meteos | – Akaadian, PowerOfEvil

OpTic Gaming is confusing me with their offseason moves this year. Yes, they were able to pick up some huge names in Lee “Crown” Min-ho, Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett and William “Meteos” Hartman. However, there are a few issues that I believe will be huge pitfalls in 2019. First off, that jungle situation could become a problem during the year. Both Dardoch and Meteos are starting caliber players and will want to be the main jungler for the team. I am not sure why they would sign both unless they wish to run a double-jungle system similar to Cloud9.

Not being able to improve their ADC and support will come back to bite them come the start of next year. Noh “Arrow” Dong-hyeon and Terry “BIG” Chuong were one of the worst bottom lanes in the league, and bringing them back for another round is a head-scratcher. Even with their great additions, the lack of support for their strong mid lane and jungle will be hard to play around. We will have to see whether Crown’s championship experience can help this team grow and improve together.

Grade: B+ | Great additions, but a lack of improvement in the other lanes is worrying. Still, Dardoch and Crown could help push OpTic higher up the standings.


What are your thoughts on our 2018 LCS Offseason Grades? Let us know what you think in the comments below! If you want more LCS coverage, check us out here!

Lawrence Tyler Esguerra
Born and raised in Toronto. Sometimes a writer. Sometimes a creative director. Sometimes bored. Catch me with hundreds of unplayed games in my Steam library.

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