With the new LCS season fast approaching, it’s time to look at some of the frontrunners to take the titles in their respective regions and weigh up exactly who we’ll be putting our money on. There are plenty of interesting teams in both NA and EU, some old, some new, and the inaugural split of the 2016 season promises to be a close run affair, with multiple strong teams looking to challenge for that first place finish.
The Favourites: Origen (13/8 with bet365)
Origen come into 2016 looking an even stronger team than the one that left 2015, and that’s considering a Worlds Semi-Final appearance last year. Bringing in PowerofEvil gives them a younger, more potent carry threat in the mid lane and should alleviate some of the pressure on Neils (now Zven) to carry in the late game. With a raft of changes coming into the 2016 season, PoE should also be able to show us why he was considered such an innovator last year and bring out new, as of yet unseen champion picks to make the draft phase difficult for any opponent they face. Coming back to Zven, the new season sees a larger emphasis on the ADC position to carry, and in the young Dane OG have possibly the finest talent to fill the now more important Marksman role.
The only potential downside to this team will be if they hang on to their old early game style, where the jungler and support roam deep to set up early wards, as vision has been heavily de-emphasized for the 2016 season and games have become more lane centric, snowball oriented affairs. Origen have the talent in all three lanes to win the early game and carry, it just remains to be seen whether they can alter the roam, map control focused mentality of Amazing and Mithy in order to fit the changing meta. The players are there though and it shouldn’t be too difficult for this team to adjust and assume their rightful place as the number 1 team in Europe.
The Challengers: H2K (4/1 with Betway)
H2K have built something of a superteam for this season, bringing in potent carry threat Forgiven, aggressive early game jungler Jankos and lane dominant support Vander to compliment the very consistent solo laners of Ryu and Odoamne. This roster should be looking to settle for nothing less than first place. However, they will need to generate synergy quickly in order to compete in the fast paced, kill heavy games we seem to be getting on the current patch. There is no doubt this team has a high skill ceiling but it remains to be seen whether the abrasive Forgiven can finally settle in a team and live up to his billing as the best ADC in the west.
This team would seem to match up fairly evenly to Origen, and should be able to go toe to toe in every lane and at least come out even. Some might give them a slight laning advantage in bot lane, as Zven and Mithy were not particularly lane dominant players last year. The big difference we can see is in the jungle, as Jankos’ style of getting his lanes rolling with first bloods suits the new season a lot more than Amazing’s more invade heavy approach. H2K could be a very strong bet to win the league, and considering Origen are the favourite with the bookies, this could be where the smart money is going.
The Dark Horse: Team Vitality (25/1 with Betway)
A new organisation has stepped up to the plate this year, with French based organisation Team Vitality picking up a highly talented roster to compete in the EU LCS. Vitality contains players who, at different points in their careers, have all been considered as at least top three in their position in the LCS. Whether all of the players can get back to that level is another question entirely.
The consistent points of this team will likely be Cabochard and Hjarnan. Cabochard showed an uncanny ability to win lane and get huge gold differentials last year on Gambit Gaming and with the help of Diamonprox was the main carry threat on a team that also housed Forgiven. This year, he finds himself paired with another aggressive early game jungler in Shook, and if we see Shook regaining the form he showed on the old Alliance roster this will be a duo to fear. Hjarnan is a steady, clean up ADC with a solid laning phase and smart positioning in teamfights, perfect for allowing Cabochard to go deep and play-make whilst consistently outputting damage from the back of fights. With Kasing thrown in the mix to facilitate the carries and shotcall, even if Nukeduck and Shook don’t refind former glories, this team will definitely be looking to mix it up with the top teams in this league, and have a very good chance to be finishing in that coveted top spot. With odds of 25/1 at Betway, we see no reason not to take a chance on Team Vitality
The Favourites: Team Solo Mid (5/2 with bet365)
In terms of western League of Legends, TSM have put together a roster made up of just that: legends. Bjergsen, Doublelift and Yellowstar are three of the biggest names in the history of the west and to this day are some of the most coveted players at their positions. Last year Bjergsen carried an ailing TSM to second place in the summer split and a worlds spot, Doublelift finally broke his duck and won a LAN title, and Yellowstar oversaw the construction of the most dominant team EU has ever seen and nabbed himself a Semi Final appearance at worlds.
With the amount of raw talent on this team, it’s almost impossible to see any scenario in which they don’t win the league. Not only do we have 3 superstar western names, but Hauntzer is one of the most promising up and coming NA tops and Svenskeren has shown himself to be a world class aggressive jungler in Europe. Our main concern is whether TSM can find a coherent team identity. Trying to fit the gold hungry trio of Svenskeren, Doublelift and Bjergsen on a team may cause issues, and we will have to see certain players take a backseat in some games this year. Svenskeren may also need to adjust his playstyle, as previously he has been a jungler very focused on invading his opponent and crushing them in the 1v1 jungle matchup. With Bjergsen and Doublelift on his team, we can’t see him being allowed to ignore his lanes, with Doublelift historically being particularly vocal if he feels jungler is not ganking bot enough.
TSM have historically as an organisation always found a way to create winning lineups and we expect this to be no exception. Compared to EU, this should be a clearer cut thing, and expect to see TSM lifting the Summoners Cup come the end of this split.
The Challengers: NRG (5/1 with Betway)
It was difficult to pick a single challenger for NA, as there is an incredible amount of depth in the top half of the league behind TSM. Cloud 9, Immortals and even CLG have all been touted as possible top contenders by analysts and other pros, but our favourite here to take second place and possibly challenge for first is NRG Esports.
Of all the teams behind TSM in the pecking order, only NRG has the individual carry talent in all three solo lanes to possibly match TSM overall. Impact has the experience and consistency of performance to see him match up favourably in our minds with Hauntzer, while GBM was a top three mid lane in Korea last year, competing alongside players like Faker and Coco. Altec has grown split upon split during his time in the LCS and solo carried Gravity last year in teamfights. Whilst not quite the same calibre of ADC as Doublelift, he is young and will only get better going into this year. The question marks around this roster are focused on the two supporting members, jungler Moon and support KonKwon. Both are entirely unproven at LCS level but come off the back of promising Challenger careers. It remains to be seen whether this will translate to a performance on the biggest stage in NA, but even if these two fail to impress the talent elsewhere on the roster should be enough to see them best the teams around them, but it will not be easy.
The Dark Horse: Immortals (10/1 with Betway)
Immortals boast NA and EU LCS champions at 4 positions, 2 worlds Semi-Finalists and a support many assume to be the best in North America. You would wonder, looking at the achievements without context, why this team isn’t the favourite to win the whole competition, but it’s important to understand what roles these players filled on their teams prior to this.
Reignover was the solid, but unspectacular jungler on Fnatic, arguably the worst player on the roster. Huni was touted as a world class top laner in the first half of 2015 but his performance declined and by worlds he was a class below players like Smeb, and second to Febiven and Rekkles in terms of carrying Fnatic. Pobelter was the steady presence in CLG’s mid lane, expected to sit under his tower and farm whilst his jungler did things elsewhere on the map, and contribute in teamfights to facilitate Doublelift and Zionspartan carrying. Wildturtle was, in no uncertain terms, the worst ADC in NA last year. Gold hungry, dps shy, he was a shadow of the player who burst onto the scene in 2013. Adrian is actually the one arguably legitimate world class player on this team, a fantastic laning support with great vision control and wonderful teamfighting ability.
This roster is by no means weak, it is in fact very strong, but it is made up of the leftovers of strong western teams. These aren’t the first players you would have looked to when explaining the success of their respective teams, but they are still strong players in their own right and will be looking towards the top of the league this year. Don’t expect them to best TSM, but they can take games off of the teams around them and if the synergy develops maybe they can make a deep playoffs run.