Team Liquid vs Cloud 9
It’s almost impossible to dispute that Team Liquid is the “Most Talented” group of individuals in the entire NA scene. There were arguments for TL being the most talented group in 2017, and that’s before the newfound pressure they will be having in the mid lane with the addition of Jensen for the 2019 season. Core JJ will provide some veteran level experience and might be able to mold the raw talent and skill of Doublelift into an elite, championship-level bot lane. This will be the biggest mettle testing year for Doublelift yet; can NA’s greatest bot lane player finally achieve success come September, or is this another year where we see regular season dominance and stumbling come Worlds 2019?
It’s not like Cloud 9 is a team that can be slept on though. While one of their franchise faces in Jensen will be playing for the opposing team, C9 has already shown the value that playing as a collective unit has with their tournament results in the last few weeks of the 2018 LCS and 2018 Worlds. While their roster is comprised of mostly the same players from last year, a core that has seen the semifinals of the League of Legends World tournament, some of their troubles might arise when their star player and primary play maker is no longer there to make a huge clutch play late in a game.
Prediction: Accolades and praise aside, I have to choose Team Liquid coming out on top. Some teams get better in the offseason, and some get worse; it’s simple. Team Liquid gathered another All-Star caliber player while C9 are left scraping their wounds. On top of that, something about first week jitters and Jensen playing against his old team makes the narrative easily swaying in the favor of the more talented team. Can we determine who will be the LCS champion as a result? No, obviously. I would not be surprised if either of these teams got off to a slow start toward the beginning of the season, because sometimes it takes multiple weeks for these super-teams the gel together into a perfectly coordinated death ball of a team consisting of Syndra ultimates and flash engages.
100 Thieves vs Team Solo Mid
100 Thieves will revolve around their bot lane prowess, as they usually do, and for perfectly good reason. Constantly finishing around third or fourth place in the LCS, Aphromoo’s pairing with the Korean Juggernaut Bang might just be enough to string together enough playoff wins to bring home 100 Thieves first LCS title. The experience the team picked up during the worlds tournament, while not as much as some of the other NA teams, might just bring enough veteran decision making to get this team out of pools in Worlds 2019.
Team Solo Mid will subsequently be led by their fearless leader Bjergsen. It will be entertaining and informative to see how these two minds will continuously clash throughout the LCS. However, the focus for this game will still fall on the top lane, specifically the debut of Broken Blade in the NALCS. Broken Blade is valued as one of the brightest top lane minds, and his sheer pressure exertion can be enough to take relieve Bjergsen of the duty of carrying every game as he has done in seasons prior.
Prediction: TSM will most likely win the head to head this week, but how much can someone really determine after a best-of-one series? The clearest image of the outcome of this game is that Bjergsen and Broken Blade will play together with their jungler and their dominance from the top half of the map. This will most likely be enough to out tempo the bot lane pressure that Ahromoo and Bang will have created. The real stories will be a result of the next time these two teams face. I don’t expect 100 Thieves to just roll over, they will most likely develop a strategy that will force the top and bot lane pressure into an equilibrium. Who will be targeted? What counters will be implemented? Will anyone try and send a message to the other team?
Fly Quest vs Golden Guardians
Unfortunately, Fly Quest is looking to become a cemetery for the once great pro players of League. With some reshaping and polishing during the offseason, the Fly Quests 2019 lineup looks to be as underwhelming as they have been for the past two seasons. Is it the players? The team culture? The management? Hard to say for certain, but as some of the teams make power moves in the offseason for tier 2 players, some teams stay stagnant and get worse as a result.
Golden Guardians, on the other hand, are a team that has made huge roster improvements for the 2019 season. Big name players like Froggen, Hauntzer, and Olleh are what this team needed to break the cycle of back-to-back last place finishes and to finally put together a successful season. These big three could be enough to put GGS on the map as legit playoff contenders; a team that could be a future destination for Tier 1 or Tier 2 type players. This team seeing any type traction when playoffs come by is doubtful, but GGS has a solid core and come the 2020 season, they might just be one of the prized placements for top tier talent from around the world.
Prediction: Golden Guardians are the favorite for this matchup. The way most of these week one picks go, it’s upon perceived talent and the overall quality of players that each roster has. That being said, Froggen is already known to be able to handle his business in the mid lane, while Olleh and Hauntzer will most likely be enough of a supporting cast to bring the first victory of the season into Golden Guardians hands. These veterans will have played enough League of Legends that a season opener wont be enough to shake them in their boots.
Clutch Gaming vs Echo Fox
Who knows? It’s a legitimate question, Who legitimately knows what is to come of this season for either of these teams? On the side of Clutch Gaming, there are two players with deep Worlds tournament experience, but have been unable to gather consistent results since their Worlds finishes. With a sixth place regular season finish in the 2018 Summer LCS, the hopes that this team can consistently gather success and results is trifled by the abundance of talent elsewhere in the LCS. Can these two foreign veterans trace back their steps to reach the greatness that they once achieved? Who knows?
And to Echo Fox, a rebuild of last year’s Clutch Gaming roster who, mind you, had a fourth place finish during the spring LCS, have added a now known personality with Rush as their jungler and Fenix as their mid laner. This team looks decent; however, there still needs to be teams and players that fill in the bottom half of the LCS lineup. This team can be considered as a fringe pick for playoff contention, but it seems like we’d be fooling ourselves if we thought that this team will have a chance at getting to and winning the LCS finals this year.
Prediction: What’s so strange to me is that in basketball there is ALWAYS, ALWAYS one team that wins the trade. Usually, the team that gets the larger superstar is the winner. And these roster movements make for an interesting conversation, but there is no set in stone super-star between these two teams. The type of roster movement occurring here is the equivalent of the 13th place Chicago Bulls trading away their core players to the 12th place Arizona Hawks. Does it make a difference in the larger picture, with Wildcard races and such? Probably not. That being said, I flipped a coin and it landed on heads, so Echo Fox is one hundred percent the winner of this matchup according to calculated scientific research.
CLG vs Optic Gaming
To be honest, Counter Logic Gaming have been a shell of their former selves for a long time now. Without a decent tournament since the summer of 2017, it’s hard to argue that this team and this roster will be able to compete with some of the stronger seeded teams in the LCS. Potentially upon the shoulders of Power of Evil and his prior Worlds experience; CLG might have some of the correct stepping stones to making the playoffs, a feat they were snubbed of last season.
But taking a look at Optic Gaming, another team snubbed from last year’s playoffs, have reigned in a world champion and combined with dozens of veteran league of legends players from all corners of the world. Optic Gaming has potential to finish the regular season this spring around fourth place, but with a real chance at making statements during the playoffs and surprising a lot of doubters and nay-sayers.
Prediction: That’s why the no brainier, on paper, is to go with Optic Gaming. Seeing how their off-season roster changes have brought in an extraordinary amount of talent, The Crown led Optic might just prove to be the next largest threat in the NALCS.