Best and worst offseason roster moves heading into the 2020 LCS
Melany M. December 19, 2019
The offseason in League of Legends is finally over, and teams have completed their starting rosters for the 2020 LCS Spring Split. This year, every team made at least one roster change, but who made the best and worst moves of the offseason?
100 Thieves are the LCS offseason winners
100 Thieves won the offseason, simple as that. While most teams are trying to put together cohesive squads that have a fighting chance in the LCS 2020, 100 Thieves went for a throwback and re-signed three members of its 2018 roster.
Kim "Ssumday" Chan-ho is back after spending time in the Academy team. The top laner was one of the strongest pieces in the 100 Thieves roster through 2018 and is arguably one of the best top laners in the LCS. Due to issues with its starting roster and the lack of import slots, 100 Thieves had to sacrifice Ssumday and the overall quality of the LCS team dropped. Bringing back Ssumday is not only smart, but also the best choice for the team as they try to get back to the top.
100 Thieves learned its lesson and decided to bring back William "Meteos" Hartman to the jungle. Meteos is a native talent that has a lot to offer to the team. He’s familiar with the organization and the core members of the starting roster. Through 2019 it became evident that having a top tier jungler is mandatory. Team SoloMid is a cautionary tale for the LCS teams of what happens when you try to get by with lesser junglers.
With the significant changes in the jungle in the offseason, the teams needed a proactive jungler that is constantly making things happen. The objective priority has increased, and waiting for level six to gank is no longer a viable strategy. Meteos is the type of player that can adapt to these changes and enable his laners through aggressive and assertive plays.
Sun "Cody Sun" Li-Yu was the unsung hero of Summer 2019. If one were to watch one game to understand what Cody Sun is capable of, it would be game five versus TSM in the regional gauntlet. Cody Sun brought out Kog’Maw, a pocket pick that not many players would have favored in such a situation. It was do or die for Clutch Gaming and they trusted Cody Sun to carry them through the finishing line.
What happened next was the absolute obliteration of TSM. Clutch Gaming did what no one expected them to do, the biggest underdog in the league secured a spot at Worlds.
Cody Sun was fundamental to Clutch Gaming’s success through 2019. He is not a flashy player and his personality is mellow compared with other characters in the league. What most people tend to forget is that every year, for the past three years, Cody Sun has made it to the World Championship.
100 Thieves paired him up with William "Stunt" Chen, who was promoted from the Academy team. The consensus about Stunt is that he is a solid support and a great partner for Cody Sun. The only gamble is mid laner Tommy "ry0ma" Le, who is joining form the OCL. Mid laners are the Achilles’ heel of 100 Thieves, the team takes a chance on young players and end up with a mess that demands to be fixed around week four of the season.
The coaching staff is confident that ry0ma is up for the challenge, and even if he fails, 100 Thieves secured a solid core with Meteos, Ssumday, and Cody Sun.
TSM takes a big gamble
2020 seems to be the year when teams are willing to take risks and bet on new rosters. TSM took one of the biggest gambles when they signed jungler Joshua "Dardoch" Hartnett=. There are thousands of questions around Dardoch and TSM. Will TSM break him? Is this the roster that will take TSM back to Worlds?
So far, the team seems to be getting along. The team toured China before heading to its final destination, a boot camp in Korea. It was in Korea where the story between Dardoch and TSM begun. This time, the jungler is joining the boot camp as part of the starting roster. Dardoch has stolen the spotlight and no one seems to be talking about the promising bottom lane.
TSM’s bottom lane was one of the team’s weaknesses through 2018 and 2019. It was inconsistent and required too much attention from the jungler. It often fell behind, and the small mistakes would end up costing TSM the games. The team has decided to bring back Vincent "Biofrost" Wang as support, and signed Danish AD carry Kasper "Kobbe" Kobberup.
Kobbe is one of the hidden treasures of the LEC. Kobbe is not as popular as his opponents from Fnatic or G2 Esports, but that doesn’t mean he’s not at the same level. Kobbe’s stats through the summer season place him as the fourth-best bottom laner in the league, a great achievement considering the pool of talent available in the region.
Biofrost is the second half of the bottom lane duo and perhaps the most important for TSM in 2020. The support is returning after two years with Counter Logic Gaming. Through that time, Biofrost went from a passive player to a shot caller and playmaker. Kobbe is used to playing with lesser supports, and now that he will be playing with an improved version of Biofrost, the possibilities are endless for TSM.
TSM added three new elements and kept the strong core of Sergen "Broken Blade" Çelik and Søren "Bjergsen" Bjerg. It’s not the solo laners that will determine the fate of TSM in the LCS 2020, but the jungle and bottom lane. People tend to overlook the importance of support-jungle synergy. If Biofrost and Dardoch can get on the same page and enable the rest of the team, TSM could be unstoppable in 2020.
Team Liquid looks to improve the top LCS squad
Team Liquid’s offseason moves have become predictable. The four-time LCS champion is constantly looking for ways to improve its roster and is willing to pay as much as they need to for the right pieces. Ahead of the 2019 season, Team Liquid added mid laner Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen and support Jo "CoreJJ" Yong-in. This offseason, Team Liquid signed jungler Mads "Broxah" Brock-Pedersen.
Broxah is replacing Jake “Xmithie” Puchero, the best North American jungler in the LCS. Xmithie is an experienced player that was there for all four titles and was consistent throughout his two years with the team. Bringing a new player to the roster that was so dominant domestically seems reckless.
It still is a good move, as Broxah is a consistent player that found success with Fnatic in the LEC. The real question is, how much will Team Liquid improve with Broxah as the starting jungler? Best case scenario, the team continues to be strong. Worst case scenario, Team Liquid implodes and can’t get its fifth title in a row.
The stats place Xmithie above Broxah in average assists, kill participation, and KDA. Through the summer season, Xmithie played eight champions while Broxah played seven
Broxah tends to play around the mid lane and gives priority to the solo laners. Since the addition of CoreJJ, Team Liquid has deviated from its bottom lane heavy style and is trying to bring extra power into the solo lanes. Broxah’s style fits into the team’s vision for 2020. In Broxah and CoreJJ, Team Liquid has secured a strong jungle-support duo that is likely to focus on the playmaking with an aggressive approach.
Team Liquid will start its boot camp in the new year.
100 Thieves, TSM, and Team Liquid are heading to 2020 with strong and promising rosters. These teams are likely to contest the title considering that they have a decent amount of synergy and don’t have to start from scratch.
Other teams were not as lucky in the offseason and found themselves with a bunch of mismatched pieces. These teams are Golden Guardians, Cloud9, and Immortals.
Golden Guardians are the biggest offseason losers
Golden Guardians painted itself into a corner in the offseason. The team released jungler Juan “Contractz” Garcia and mid laner Henrik “Froggen” Hansen, two core pieces of the roster. The organization then proceeded to sign Turkish jungler Can “Closer” Çelik and North American mid laner Greyson "Goldenglue" Gilmer. Golden Guardians completed its roster with bottom laner Yuri "Keith" Jew, who is transitioning to the support role.
Taking Goldenglue over Froggen is a serious downgrade for the team. Goldenglue is talented enough to play in Academy but he’s not LCS caliber just yet. Goldenglue seems too emotional to be consistent, as he doesn’t perform in high pressure situations and it’s not difficult to throw him off balance in-game. He is not experienced enough to fill Froggen’s shoes and mechanically he is not at the same level.
Keith is transitioning from AD carry to support, an unorthodox move that might come back to bite them in the spring. It’s not unheard of, as CoreJJ used to be an AD carry before he became a support but reaching his current level took time.
It’s not all lost for the new bottom lane duo, because Keith has experience as an AD carry so he understands the needs of his duo Iane partner Victor "FBI" Huang.
Closer is a Turkish jungler who recently played in the World Championship. In the TCL, Closer was one of the best performing junglers and the reason why Royal Youth earned the title in the summer. Through Worlds, Closer proved to be strong and consistent enough to carry his team to victory. He can get the job done, even if his teammates are not contributing much. That ability to win almost on his own will come in handy when he jumps to the LCS stage with the new Golden Guardians roster.
The responsibility to lead the team now falls in the hands of top laner Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell, since he’s the most experienced player. It’s the first time Hauntzer finds himself in this position. In the past, the teams have won with Hauntzer in the roster, but not necessarily because of his leadership. Hauntzer is still a top tier player, but this is a different challenge for him. Hauntzer must take a more prominent role and bring together the roster with help from coach Nicholas "Inero" Smith.
Golden Guardians has a lot of work to do before the start of the season.
The underwhelming return of Immortals to the LCS
Before franchising, Immortals was one of the hottest brands in the LCS. Slowly but surely, the team was making a name for itself by challenging the most popular teams in the league. Riot Games denied Immortals a slot in the new LCS when franchising began. Two years later, Immortals successfully completed the acquisition of OpTic Gaming’s slot in the LCS.
The return of Immortals to League of Legends has been underwhelming so far. The team went for a budget roster, a tactic previously used by OpTic Gaming that caused them to miss the playoffs four consecutive times. Immortals used import slots to get two French players, top laner Paul "sOAZ" Boyer and mid laner Jérémy "Eika" Valdenaire.
Since his departure from Fnatic in 2018, sOAZ has not been the same. The top laner joined Misfits where his performance was mediocre at best. sOAZ was subbed out of the team halfway the summer season and was released once the split was over. It’s not crazy to believe that sOAZ is past his prime and might not be able to return to his former self.
Eika never made it to the LEC, and the mid laner has spent his entire career playing in the different national leagues in Europe. Eika recently played in the European Masters with Team-LDLC when the squad made it to that competition's quarterfinals, where they were knocked out by Berlin International Gaming.
In the bottom lane, the decision making didn’t get any better. Immortals signed AD carry Johnny "Altec" Ru, who has been inactive since 2018. The only saving graces for the team are support Nickolas "Hakuho" Surgent and new jungler Xmithie.
So far, Immortals is not living up to fan expectations. Unlike the other new teams that are trying to make a great first impression in the LCS, Immortals seems to be winging it as they go.
The mystery of Cloud9
Cloud9 made a very out-of-character move in the offseason. The organization paid $1.5 million for support Philippe "Vulcan" Laflamme. Historically, Cloud9 is not the team that pays high amounts of money to bring in a new a player. On the contrary, Cloud9 develops talent and then sell them for a profit. That model has worked for the team on several occasions, but it seems like 2020 is the year where Cloud9 goes in a different direction.
Getting Vulcan was a good move for the team, as his consistency through 2019 and the fact that he’s a resident make him highly valuable. The trouble for Cloud9 starts with the other half of the bottom lane, Jesper "Zven" Svenningsen.
In Europe, Zven was considered a top player, recognized for his mechanics and consistent performance. Since joining TSM at the end of 2017, Zven’s level has been in decay. Every TSM fan remembers the mistake by Zven that cost the team the LCS title in the spring, and that moment could serve to represent his career since moving to the LCS.
Zven couldn’t find his identity with TSM, but moving to Cloud9 might not be the solution. Cloud9 and TSM couldn’t be more different. From team culture to the approach to the game, these organizations are opposites. Zven was supposed to match with TSM’s environment and failed to do so. What if Cloud9 is just another mismatch?
At this point, Zven is too much of a coin flip, and signing him over the other options available is a risky move. The team transferred its star jungler to Evil Geniuses and will start Robert "Blaber" Huang, who despite his prowess is still a wild card.
Whether it is a risky composition or an unexpected roster move, Cloud9 is the team that just makes it work. Hopefully for C9 fans, these changes won’t throw the team completely off balance. Either way, Cloud9 has a long road to travel before the LCS 2020 Spring Split begins.