After an offseason filled with roster moves and important changes, the 2019 LCS season, formerly known as NA LCS, is set to kickoff on January 26.
Why You Should Watch The 2019 LCS Spring Split [5 Reasons]
Following the best ever showing for a North American team at the World Championship with Cloud9’s semifinal run, the pressure will be on for the eventual spring split winners to repeat the result at the Mid-Season Invitational. Team Liquid dominated 2018, winning both splits while dropping a combined two games during the playoffs. Could their domestic dominance continue in 2019? And what about juggernaut TSM? Following a rather disappointing year that saw the team miss the finals for the first time in NA LCS history; failing to qualify for the World Championship. For TSM, will the most successful organization in the North American League of Legends scene bounce back?
Last but definitely not least, some famous players are back in the LCS Spring Split competition for 2019. Joined by new signings which include some big name imports. Here is why you shouldn’t miss the action.
5 – Can Cloud9 carry the momentum from its World Championship run?
Cloud9 has consistently been the best performing North American team at the world stage for quite some time now. The 2018 tournament, however, marked a new high for the two-time North American champions. C9 survived the play-ins despite a shaky performance only to get drawn straight into the group of death against defending world champions Gen.G and reigning MSI champions Royal Never Give Up. Not only did C9 make it to the quarterfinals, they also forced a tie-breaker against RNG for the first seed.
Drawn against the LCK’s Afreeca Freecs, Cloud9 had perhaps its best showing in the entire tournament, sweeping the Korean team without too much effort. Eventual runner-ups Fnatic eventually swept C9 in the semifinals, however, history had already been made.
C9 Getting it Done
C9’s amazing run became even more impressive considering that the team sat dead last in the standings. For most of Summer, they tore through the competition and secured a second place finish during the regular season. With an ever-changing roster, it eventually settled on a group of seven players featuring a mix of promising rookies and seasoned veterans. A loss against Team Liquid in the finals meant that Cloud9 had to secure its World Championship spot via the Regional Finals’ gauntlet; which they did in style with a clean sweep over TSM.
Long-time midlaner Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen is the only change to C9’s Worlds roster, with former Splyce player Yasin “Nisqy” Dinçer making his return to the North American scene as the replacement. Can Cloud9 maintain its top form going into the new split? That’s definitely one of the things to keep an eye on for 2019.
4 – Could Team Liquid create a dynasty?
TSM had won three consecutive NA LCS and five of the last seven when it surprisingly dropped out in the quarterfinals last spring. With C9’s loss to Team Liquid and CLG failing to make it to the playoffs, we had already been guaranteed a new champion. Liquid would eventually complete a nearly perfect run, dropping a single game to Echo Fox in the semifinals.
Liquid’s summer split was even more dominant, securing a first place finish during the regular season and dropping a single game in the playoffs, this time to 100 Thieves. The team failed to repeat its domestic success at the world stage, not making it past the groups in MSI and Worlds.
With that in mind, TL replaced its midlaner Eugene “Pobelter” Park, support Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung with C9’s Jensen, and former world champion Jo “CoreJJ” Yong-in. Liquid dominated the North American competition in 2018, and we are looking at an even better roster for 2019. Assuming superstar AD carry Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng will continue to play at the top of his game, Liquid could possibly be looking to establish a dynasty.
3 – Will TSM bounce back following its 2018 disappointment?
Speaking about dynasties, Team SoloMid saw its dominant run at the top of the NA LCS come crashing down in style. Completely revamping its roster following another disappointing showing at Worlds, TSM brought in the best botlane in the West, former G2 Esports’ duo Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen and Afonso “Mithy” Rodríguez, along with rising star sophomore jungler Mike “MikeYeung” Yeung.
TSM didn’t even get a shot at redemption. A shaky spring split campaign came to an end following a surprise quarterfinals exit against Clutch Gaming. After nearly missing the playoffs in summer, the team did slightly better during the playoffs. They took eventual runner-ups Cloud9 to a fifth game in the semifinals, and defeating 100 Thieves on the way to a third place finish. TSM still missed the finals for the second time in NA LCS history. The down year ended with the team getting swept by C9 in the regional finals, which meant that TSM would miss the World Championship for the first time in the organization’s history.
- Other: Splyce UNCOVERED
The team needed to change for 2019, and it did. Zven and Mithy split for the first time since 2015, with the support returning to Spanish organization Origen. Longtime toplaner Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell, who had been with TSM since 2015, also left. As their replacements, the team brought in TCL standout Sergen “Broken Blade” Çelik and former Cloud9 support Andy “Smoothie” Ta. Jungler Jonathan “Grig” Armao re-signed, while superstar midlaner Soren “Bjergsen” Bjerg is ready to lead the new roster.
Can Team SoloMid return to the top? Or will 2019 end in disappointment as well?
2 – Froggen, Piglet and Rush are back
Following a rather frantic free agency, some well-known players are back in the LCS. Now officially qualified as a North American resident and not as an import anymore is AD Carry Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin. The 2014 world champion joins Clutch Gaming from its Academy team. Piglet has drawn criticism for failing to live up to his reputation while competing in the NA LCS. The highly popular ADC is a highly talented player who definitely has the potential to help CG. Coming out of retirement, midlaner Henrik “Froggen” Hansen signed with the Golden Guardians for the split.
While Froggen also saw a significant drop in performance during his final season with Echo Fox; we’re talking about the man who was often mentioned in talks as one of the best players in the West. If Froggen can regain his old form, then the Golden State Warriors owned organization has a brilliant asset to work with. Joined by Hauntzer and Olleh along with the returning Juan “Contractz” Garcia and Matthew “Deftly” Chen, Froggen, and Golden Guardians are one of the most interesting teams to follow this Spring.
- Other: Rogue UNCOVERED
But perhaps the best addition of a returning player would be new Echo Fox jungler Lee “Rush” Yoon-jae. One year away from securing an NA residency, Rush left Cloud9 after getting demoted to its Academy team. Following a one-year sabbatical, Rush joined Korean powerhouse KT Rolster as a substitute for the legendary Go “Score” Dong-Bin. Appearing in seven games during KT’s championship run, Rush did enough to prove that he deserved another chance. Despite KT choosing not to re-sign him, Rush didn’t last long as a free agent and quickly signed with Echo Fox as a replacement for Joshua “Dardoch” Harnet. A veteran presence and possibly one of the best junglers in the LCS, Rush could turn out to be a massive boost for Fox as the team tries to repeat its successful third-place run from last Spring.
1 – New import players featuring three World Championship winners
A new season in North America means new import players from Europe and Korea. While we only have one new player from the EU LCS, the 2019 split, will see the addition of three players from the LCK with at least one world championship title to their names. Having lost Jensen to Team Liquid, Cloud9 brought in Splyce and former Team EnVyUs midlaner Nisqy. Following a career year in 2018, Nisqy will have some big shoes to fill in. However, the Belgian player is a rising talent with plenty of potential. Having finished second behind MikeYeung in the 2017 Rookie of the Year voting, he is eager to prove himself on his return to the LCS Spring Split.
But, without a doubt, the biggest additions come from the LCK in the form of not one but three World Championship winners. OpTic Gaming wins the award for the most unexpected signing, as the team brings in the 2017 world champion Lee “Crown” Min-ho. Considered one of the best midlaners in the world for two years, Crown saw a massive drop in 2018, which saw him spend most of Summer as a substitute.
He came back to help Gen.G win the Regional Finals and secure a spot at Worlds, but the team followed its 2017 championship winning campaign (as Samsung Galaxy) with a disappointing group stage exit and a 1-5 record. This is a massive gamble from OpTic Gaming, as it could either turn into a bust or a steal. While Crown’s decline is hard to argue against, it’s also a fact that OpTic might have one of the best players in the world should he regain his old form.
Deeper Look at new signed players
Team Liquid meanwhile signed Crown’s former teammate CoreJJ. The support had a brief stint in North America while playing as an AD Carry before returning to Korea, where he would establish himself as one of the best support players in the world. Also part of Samsung Galaxy’s 2017 championship winning roster, CoreJJ is expected to raise the reigning LCS champions’ level even more. Paired with the best ADC in North America, the Doublelift-CoreJJ pairing’s potential is off the charts.
The biggest addition, however, comes from 100 Thieves. The Cleveland Cavaliers’ owned organization has brought in a two-time world champion, former SKT T1 AD Carry Bae “Bang” Jun-sik. Although Bang received plenty of criticism following SKT’s poor showing in 2018, the mechanically gifted ADC is easily among the best in the world at the role. 100 Thieves will pair Bang with its superstar support Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black, and the duo will definitely be in contention for the best botlane in the LCS.
With all that and plenty more, you absolutely can’t miss the opening split for 2019.
2018 NA LCS Spring Split: Moments and Memories
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