Times are changing across the competitive League of Legends landscape. From big rebrands to new waves of rookie talent, many regions around the world, including the North American LCS, have started to shift into a new era.
The LCS has always been criticized for its lack of adaptability, on and off Summoner’s Rift. The list goes on when it comes to problems in NA. But this year, the league has taken the first steps to finally start building toward the future, rather than remaining stuck in the past.
Top teams have made some of the biggest moves in LCS offseason history, while other organizations have started to invest into younger, more unproven talent. It’s a new year and the North American landscape will look a lot different when the season begins later this week.
There are plenty of different stories that you’ll want to keep an eye on when the 2021 Spring Split kicks off, but here are some of the most interesting narratives that you’ll want to watch.
Same king, new kingdom
Cloud9 made the biggest splash of the North American offseason when it announced the addition of European superstar Perkz and the new-look roster is understandably one of the favorites to lead the LCS once again.
The 22-year-old phenom has returned to his mid lane kingdom and has promised to “take this region higher than it has ever been before.” Granted, this region hasn’t usually gone too far in terms of international success, but Perkz has never been one to make false promises.
Many people are scared that he’ll fall victim to the “NA retirement home,” but there shouldn’t be anything to fear—Perkz is still in his prime, he’s still considered as a top-three player in the West, and is arguably the best player in the LCS next to CoreJJ. He’s a supernova, the type of player to rally his teammates and elevate their game in a way that they could never have done without him.
Combined with a reunion with star marksman Zven and the further addition of strategic coach Mithy, both Perkz and C9 look poised to win multiple championships and push for greater finishes at MSI and Worlds.
At least, those are the expectations. People expect C9 to dominate the LCS and win multiple trophies, and anything less than both LCS championships should be considered a disappointment for this star-studded lineup. But fans still need to stay grounded as the season begins.
As strong as this lineup might look on paper, they have introduced multiple new pieces—including Perkz, rookie top laner Fudge, and a new head coach with Reignover—that may run into some growing pains at first. It happens to almost every great roster, with some things not clicking right away and some parts needing to be fine-tuned.
But barring a complete meltdown, C9 are a surefire candidate for the crown after the team is given time to adjust to one another.
The great unknown
Like many of the previous free agency periods, this past offseason was a roller coaster of emotions for TSM fans. This organization has always been at the forefront of NA, leading the region with NA legends like Bjergsen and Doublelift at the helm. This year, however, things are much more uncertain.
In prior seasons, many people had some semblance of understanding around how TSM would perform with Bjergsen spearheading the team. He was the anchor that kept the team from floating away and the engine that kept the roster going when it needed it. But now, he’s taken up a new challenge as the team’s coach.
There are so many variables that need to be accounted for with TSM. How will Bjergsen adjust to life as a head coach? How will Lost do in his first season next to a superstar support like SwordArt? Can Spica continue his development while also having to adjust to a new team with a new playstyle? Will Huni find some level of consistency with his play?
There are so many things that need to go right and not a lot of leeway for mistakes—especially with the expectations that the black and white crest on their chests brings. TSM is sailing into completely unknown waters for the first time in a long while and it’s safe to say that the sea might be turbulent for fans.
The ceiling is undoubtedly high with this much firepower, though. If Huni coinflips to his Fnatic-T1 form, Lost is able to play as a weakside ADC, and SwordArt is able to roam the map to help PowerOfEvil thrive, TSM could be fighting up at the top of the LCS with the rest of the best.
In a way, TSM’s slate has been wiped clean. They’re essentially a new squad with a new coaching staff behind them. There’s plenty to like about the roster, but there will be some growing pains that need patience from the fans and players alike.
Buying into the future
For a while, many fans and analysts thought the NA League scene was doomed to repeat the same cycle every single season. The same three teams make the LCS finals, they fail to find much success at Worlds, and they import more talent into the region in an attempt to liven up their rosters before the next year.
And yet, 2021 has brought a breath of fresh air that the region has desperately needed over the past few years. Multiple teams have finally started to look toward NA’s own surplus of young, hungry rookies and are giving them a chance to flourish on an LCS team.
FlyQuest, for example, has a great combination of veteran experience and new talent that should provide a strong environment for their development. Licorice, fresh off another All-Pro First Team performance in 2020, will be the defacto leader for this roster, guiding newcomers like Josedeodo, Diamond, and Palafox through their first LCS season.
In the same vein, Golden Guardians transitioned the team into a developmental roster after the organization lost all of its players during the offseason. Former CLG ADC Stixxay will be providing the four other new players with some valuable experience as the only non-LCS rookie on the team.
Most people aren’t expecting these teams to stun the world and end up as a top-three squad—and that’s fine. Their development will be an important story to follow as the year goes on because these moves could be the first step in NA building itself back up from the inside with its own homegrown talent.
Some teams, like C9, Evil Geniuses, and 100 Thieves, have even dedicated resources to the development of younger talent with amateur teams. This can also help build up the region from within, instead of relying on imports to fill in the holes.
Remember, we’d have never gotten to see how great Tactical is if Doublelift hadn’t lost motivation halfway through the 2020 Spring Split. Some of these players simply need a chance to show off their skills and they’ve never had a venue to do that until now.
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