Everyone knows not to take the LCS All-Pro Team, Coach of the Split, and MVP votes as perfect signifiers of the region’s strongest. However, it is still important to note when there are major snubs and undervalued players and coaches. This year, there were three largely questionable misses on the final results for the various awards handed out at the end of the season.
Those snubs were, in no particular order:
- Colin "Solo" Earnest for All Pro Top
- Victor "FBI" Huang for MVP consideration
- Golden Guardians for Best Coaching Staff
Solo was completely out of the top three top laners on the All-Pro team, FBI did not appear on the MVP list, and Golden Guardians' coaching staff was left straggling behind TSM, Cloud9, and FlyQuest after Team Liquid took a deserved first place.
If Solo had a bigger name or a more noteworthy career history, he would’ve made this list, if not topped it. Solo had a dominant split, sitting atop the entire league in multiple stats, despite playing weak side in many of his games and often times blind picking his matchups. Despite all but three of his regular-season games being on tanks, he still did 1/5th of the team's damage and had a positive CSD at 15. Regardless of the resources he received, he was a crucial part of FlyQuest’s third-place finish and was a reliable player in nearly every matchup.
In years prior, Solo had a ton of really good performances, but they were somewhat inconsistent, and potentially patch dependent. Last year on Echo Fox, he was almost a one-man army on picks like Gangplank, solo carrying fights and dragging out games to try and get his team in a favorable position. The difference this year is he has a stronger team around him that can play more consistently and either create their own leads or follow up on the ones he creates in the top lane. Likewise, he has provided the one thing FlyQuest lacked - and desperately needed - since 2019, a consistently strong performance in the top lane.
Solo's worst-ever game this season was a 1/6/2 Renekton game against Kim "Ssumday" Chan-ho's Jayce, and he only had a negative KDA twice throughout the season. The All-Pro team was made up of strong players - Eric "Licorice" Ritchie, Ssumday, and Jung "Impact" Eon-yeong - but they didn’t all provide as much as Solo did for their teams.
Solo had a better KDA than both Licorice and Impact, and was arguably more consistent across the various patches of the split than all three. Licorice played a few more champions than Solo and Impact nearly matched Solo's pool, but Ssumday had a much more limited style, playing only one tank champion, Ornn, and losing all three games on him.
Overall, Solo was second in KDA, above all three All-Pro tops in Kill Participation, had a lower Death Percentage than two of the three, and better CSD than two of the three. He may not have been the flashiest player, but he was solid and did exactly what FlyQuest needed to win in nearly every game they played.
Additionally, without Solo’s strength and consistency on the top side, FlyQuest’s Brandon "MasH" Phan experiment would’ve been much less productive and it’s possible they wouldn’t have been able to run it at all. When running an experiment and making a change, you need every other variable to remain constant. Solo’s consistency helped keep him a “constant” for the team, whereas other Top Laners may have struggled based on patch or champion matchup. Omran "V1per" Shoura is a strong Top Laner with a strong ceiling, but he is more champion and patch dependent, and he is much less consistent, making Solo a crucial part of FlyQuest's ability to gain knowledge on their team strength.
Even Ssumday - historically one of the best Top Laners to ever grace North American League of Legends and 2nd All-Pro Top Laner this summer - struggles with consistency. Look at these back to back Aatrox games from last Spring. He went 0/5/0 against Cloud9 and then 7/0/1 against Liquid in their next match. When Solo can play nearly any champion in nearly any matchup and usually win - or at least go even - in the laning phase and very rarely feed, it is worth noting and exemplifying.
Solo plays against Licorice this week and we'll get a good look at their current strength relative to each other in the post-season.
Sure, FBI made the All-Pro list, but please explain how third place even comes close to defining his performance this Split. FBI was not the third-best AD Carry this season, he was at the top, and there’s almost no debate. Furthermore, how he was not in the top ten candidates for MVP is extremely questionable and senseless. Each of the All-Pro Top Laners were listed before him, despite Licorice and Impact having extra additional carry members on their team and Ssumday coming in 7th place with a more limited playstyle.
FBI topped the charts on a whole slew of stats, and did so on a team that lost 50% of their games without being given the moniker of a "KDA player." He constantly flashes forward in his plays, and often times even resembles Luka "Perkz" Perković’'s aggressive style that garnered so much praise throughout MSI, Summer, and Worlds last year. FBI dominates the laning phase in every matchup, evening winning lane in losing matchups as seen in the custom matchup-adjusted CSD stat GG created just to show how dominant he is.
Furthermore, FBI is incredibly consistent. You don’t get those stats otherwise. Despite losing 50% of the regular season games, his worst KDA was 1/2/1. He never ints the laning phase and rarely mispositions in the mid and late game. He could be compared to Sun "Cody" "Cody Sun" Li-Yu in that way, except he adds on a bunch of extra CS and makes even more aggressive plays in the teamfights.
While it doesn’t count for the voting - as it took place in the post-season - the clearest example of FBI's dominance is found in GG’s series against TSM in Round 1 of the Playoffs. FBI beat NA Legend, Yiliang "Peter" "Doublelift" Peng, in each laning phase, playing both sides of the Caitlyn-Ashe matchup, and finished the series with a CSD of 10 and overall KDA of 3.8 compared to Doublelift's 1.8. He had similar performances throughout the regular season, but this series clearly marks how strong FBI is.
FBI got third, losing to Jesper "Zven" Svenningsen and Edward "Tactical" Ra, who are great ADC’s. But his level of play, especially considering the support difference and win rate, should have netted him first or second place. Zven and Tactical won more games with better supports (who also got first and second All-Pro) and a better overall team.
FBI is also a more crucial component for his team than Zven and Tactical are. Golden Guardians’ strength is greatly defined by Can "Closer" Çelik's ability to carry the early game. When he gets ahead, FBI is always poised to out-contribute his opposing Bot Laner in the mid-game. Replacing FBI for a lower-tier ADC would impact Golden Guardians much more than replacing Zven or Tactical would.
The single point you might be able to make against FBI - beyond having a worse game record - is his lack of champion diversity, but I’d then point you to the overall bot lane meta, which was incredibly limited in variability. Even MasH - who is extremely well known for his mage picks - didn’t pick mages in any of the games he played for FlyQuest.
FBI can make a claim to have the strongest performance this Summer, and he's proving it in the Playoffs. He matches up against Tactical in the second round (Semis?) and will be hungry to prove himself again, as he did last week against Doublelift.
Golden Guardians Coaching Staff
Lastly, the Golden Guardians coaching staff barely squeaking in third right over TSM is a big surprise, and perhaps the most puzzling omission of the bunch. Before the start of the year, most analysts and community members wrote Golden Guardians off as a tenth place team. Despite that, they went on to make playoffs in the Spring Split, where they promptly lost in their first series to go into the off-season.
They, like many other teams, made a roster swap, bringing in Tanner "Damonte" Damonte for Greyson "Goldenglue" Gilmer. But despite their Spring Split performance and roster swap, most analysts and community members weren't really sold on the team favoring other roster moves over theirs. However, with or without support, they pressed forward and got the work done, quietly working their way through "the soup" of all the middle teams and landing themselves in fifth place by the end of the regular season.
While they didn't have any crazy runs like Cloud9 at the start of the summer, nor did they go 15-3 like Team Liquid, they took a roster that was presumed to be near the bottom on paper and made something coherent and threatening.
Furthermore, they made it through the season playing multiple different styles. From control mages mid to heavy roamers, from full farm junglers to tanky hard engage. Kevin "Hauntzer" Yarnell played lane bullies to tanks to even Karma and Kayle. And of course, Choi "huhi" Jae-hyun played a ton of champions as well, just like he did as a Mid Laner originally, fulfilling multiple different roles there as well. Whereas many teams have more limited but refined styles, like Team Liquid and FlyQuest, Golden Guardians worked through as many styles as they could to ensure variability and competence despite the situation.
Again, though it doesn't count for the vote, their series against TSM was a testament to their preparation and growth over the season. GG had just lost to TSM one week before in their final weekend of the regular season. "That game definitely helped," Hauntzer said of their loss. "We did our research... and it paid off." Golden Guardians developed a specific gameplan with just three days of practice on a new patch proving the strength of their staff.