5 New Year Resolutions for the 2020 LCS

▲ Photo by Kevin Haube for Riot Games.


It is the second day of the year, and by now, a large amount of new year resolutions made on the eve of 2020 have already been broken. The easiest way to get around this, of course, is to not name your resolutions until the second day of the year. That being said, here are new years resolutions for five of the most exciting teams competing in the 2020 LCS Spring Split. 


Team Liquid: Don't Look Back


Team Liquid owner Steve "LiQuiD112" Arhancet has always described his organization's approach to esports as "all-in", and since the franchising of the NA LCS at the start of 2018, Team Liquid has stayed true to their word at every turn. TL's superstar roster won both domestic splits in the 2018 NA LCS, but because international performances left much to be desired, the team upgraded in two positions by signing Mid Laner Nicolaj "Jensen" Jensen and Support Jo "CoreJJ" Yong-In.


▲ Photo by Michal Konkol for Riot Games.


TL won both the 2019 LCS Spring and Summer Splits and managed to reach the finals of the 2019 Mid-Season Invitational after a massive upset over at-the-time reigning world champion Invictus Gaming, but once again failed to exit the Group Stage at the 2019 World Championship. TL responded in turn by signing Fnatic Jungler Mads "Broxah" Brock-Pedersen for 2020.

Xmithie is the greatest Jungler in North American history, but his domestic superiority has not always translated to the international stage. Broxah has qualified for Worlds in all three seasons of his career thus far, and has excelled on the international stage. TL isn't satisfied with being the best team in NA, it wants more than that.

It was reported yesterdsay that VISA issues may impede Broxah, as well as Head Coach Jang "Cain" Nu-Ri and  Team Liquid Academy Jungler Shern "Shernfire" Cherng Tai from starting for TL at the beginning of the split, which may affect the speed in which the team can gel.


Xmithie's familiarity with the NA Jungle pool and wealth of experience playing with star Bot Laner Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng should also not be understated when comparing his strengths to Broxah. The former Fnatic Jungler will be under much scrutiny simply due to the nature of his signing, similar to when Bot Laner Jesper "Zven" Svenningsen and Support Alfonso "Mithy" Aguirre left G2 Esports to join TSM for the 2018 NA LCS Spring Split. 


For a team who has already won four LCS championships in a row, the level of expectation is extremely high. If TL were to win two more LCS championships but fall short internationally, its season and signing of Broxah would likely be looked upon as a failure despite a third consecutvie season of domestic dominance.


Team Liquid has continued to rise with its expectations and make incremental improvements despite a lack of domestic competition, and with year 3 of the 'all-in' approach starting with the 2020 LCS Spring Split, there's no looking back for North America's reigning champion. 


Cloud9: Drown Out the Noise


2020 marks a major shift for Cloud9. For the first time since the team's inception, Bot Laner Zachary "Sneaky" Scuderi will not be on the team's roster. With Jungler Dennis "Svenskeren" Johnsen and Support Tristan "Zeyzal" Stidham being sent to Evil Geniuses in the off-season, the team's culture looks more different than more new faces on the roster than ever before. 


▲ photo by Michal Konkol for Riot Games


Top Laner Eric "Licorice" Ritchie and Mid Laner Yasin "Nisqy" Dincer remain on the roster, and with Svenskeren gone, Robert "Blaber" Huang will get his long-awaited chance to start full-time. Zven was signed in place of Sneaky after TSM did not renew his contract, and Dignitas Support Philippe "Vulcan" Laflamme's contract was purchased by C9 to round out its starting roster. 


This isn't to say that the team will become a quinent of stone-faced stoicism, but the younger, leaner look for Cloud9 marks a new era for the NA darling. A fair amount of C9 fans are skeptical about the roster, specifically in Zven after his past two season on TSM or in Blaber as a full-time starter. However, this isn't the first time that C9 has been questioned for a roster move that has ended up working out.

C9 marches to the beat of its own drum, and seems to not exist within the rules of other organizations. People will certainly be quick to hold the organization responsible for bad management or poor off-season choices should the team struggle early on or not meet expectations, but C9 has made a legacy out of taking a perceived likelihood a turning it on its ear.


Dignitas: Prioritize Team Culture


After signing Top Laner Huni "Heo" Seung-hoon to a massive two-year contract in the realm of $2.3 million, Dignitas had a quiet off-season due to budget constraints. DIG was criticized heavily, but ended up with a far more promising roster than what was expected. 


Mid Laner Henrik "Froggen" Hansen and Support Zaqueri "Aphromoo" Black were signed for the 2020 season, as well as former TSM Jungler Jonathan "Grig" Armao. The team's immense veteran presence should be a boon for Bot Laner Johnson "Johnsun" Nguyen, who is the only rookie starting in the upcoming LCS Spring Split. 


▲ Photo by Michal Konkol for Riot Games.

DIG Academy also made away with a few impressive signings towards the end of the off-season. Tanner "Damonte" Damonte ended up re-uniting with his former organization after exploring free agency post-Worlds 2019, and TSM Jungler Matthew "Akaadian" Higginbotham was also signed to the Academy roster. Mid Laner Kim "Fenix" Jae-hoon will start in the Bot Lane for DIG Academy as well.


Dignitas ended the off-season with some star players and plenty of depth. Akaadian and Grig are all too familiar with splitting time on TSM, and it would be a shock to not see Akaadian start at least one game in the Spring Split for DIG's LCS roster. In addition, should Froggen not mesh stylistically with Huni, Damonte has experience with the star Top Laner throughout the past two years and has a much more selfless playstyle than Froggen's control-centric, teamfight carry style. 


Despite a bumpy start with the fallout of the Huni contract, Dignitas roster has a high ceiling with plenty of veterans and a Mid/Jungle core on its Academy team that is absolutely LCS caliber. The organization enters its first split after its Clutch Gaming rebrand with plenty of talent, but players who have historically very specific styles of play and preferences within a team, but for Dignitas to get the most out of its team in 2020, team culture and  player management must be top  priority.


TSM: Build Upon What Worked in 2019


▲ Photo by Kevin Haube for Riot Games.


The end of TSM's 2019 season ended in heartbreak with the organization missing its second Worlds in a row - and ever in the organization's history - but that doesn't mean there wasn't things the elder guard of NA got right in the past year.


TSM was one game away from defeating Team Liquid in the 2019 LCS Spring Finals, but were unable to get the job done despite leading the Finals 2-0. Still, the team's performance showed there is much to take away for the team going into next season.


The criticism of the team's lack of proactivity in previous seasons clearly had been addressed, as TSM possessed one of the strongest early games of the 2019 Spring Split and showcased aggression unseen for years in the black and white. Head Coach Tony "Zikz" Gray was given full authority without intervention from owner Andy "Reginald" Dinh, and the team played to the strengths of new Top Laner Sergen "Broken Blade" Çelik and allowed him to mesh within the team's identity.

However, the team's strange revolving door of Junglers in summer, the pre-playoff intervention of Reginald being more directly involved within the team, a decrease in early game aggression, and far less draft flexibility were indicators of TSM struggling through this past summer in ways similar to past iterations of TSM's mid-season slumps. If TSM's new roster can be closer in form to the 2019 roster in spring than in summer, fans should have reason to be hopeful for swift wrath in 2020.


Immortals: Remember Your Roots


Immortals has returned to North American League of Legends for the first time in two years after the aquisition of OpTic Gaming parent company Infinite Esports & Entertainment. The team qualified for the 2017 World Championship as North America's 2nd seed, but was not selected as one of the ten franchised organizations for the 2018 NA LCS.


▲ Image Source: Riot Games


Immortals was a force for the majority of its time in the LCS, dominating its first season in 2016 with a combination of Huni and Jungler Kim "Reignover" Yeu-jin, but missed playoffs with a 7th place finish in the 2017 NA LCS Spring Split. A mid-season trade of Jungler Joshua "Dardoch" Hartnett for Xmithie made all the difference for the team, and signing him once again as the organization's first player for its 2020 LCS roster was a smart move.

Despite its youthfulness compared to legacy organizations like Counter Logic Gaming, TSM, and C9, IMT's organization seemed to have an understanding of the importance of infrastructure on a higher level than other teams in the pre-franchise era of the NA LCS. Teams have certainly caught up in the past few years with the help of franchising and an influx of larger investments in the scene as a whole, but IMT should acclimate to the LCS  much quicker in its first split than other 'new' teams.

The rest of Immortals starting roster consists of Top Laner Paul "sOAZ" Boyer, Mid Laner Jérémy "Eika" Valdenaire, and Support Nickolas "Hakuho" Surgent. Bot Laner Jonny "Altec" Ru rounds out the roster, and will make his return to the LCS stage for the first time in over two years. Immortals is not considered a contender for the LCS title, but the organization has shown in the past that it knows how to get the most out of its roster. 

The Immortals Gaming Club front office has shifted things around in the past two years, but if the organization can retain its organizational strengths from previous seasons, expect Immortals to exceed expectations and develop into a competitor as the season continues. 

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