As the 2021 Season in League of Legends is about to begin, it's time for the crew of Inven Global to take one last, reminiscent look at the whirlpool of a year that was 2020. And what better way to do it than to give out some end-of-year (though technically start of the year now...) awards?
We're happy to announce the inaugural edition of the Inven Global Awards (IGA). Voted by the crew of Inven Global, the IGA's are awarded to the best teams, players, talent, and stories in competitive League of Legends for 2020, split in 13 categories. Today, we present you the first of those categories: the "Off-season winners" award, presented to the teams that made the most impactful roster transfers during the hot stove league.
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Every off-season brings numerous changes across each region, for better or worse. And despite a global pandemic in 2020, this off-season was no different, even featuring some of the biggest breakups in League history. Along with the pandemic came budget cuts for many, capitalized by others across the globe, which made for a tumultuous and disparate free agency period. In many cases, the most successful only furthered their on-paper domination. And while we'll only know the true winners after the season, here are the teams that won the off-season in 2020.
LCS off-season winners
Perhaps the most tragic unequal distribution of the off-season was in the LCS, with numerous teams getting hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Multiple teams are now made up of an entirely new roster and, in some cases, even coaching staff. The LCS has historically been a top-heavy region, and after this off-season, will be arguably more so. That said, a few teams capitalized well and came out positive.
WINNER: Team Liquid
Team Liquid has been at the top of the LCS for a few years — barring their 2020 Spring Split performance — and they've proven again that they're going to keep making moves to remain dominant. After yet another 3-3 finish at Worlds, Team Liquid snatched up the 1st All-Pro top laner from Europe Barney "Alphari" Morris and the 2nd All-Pro Jungler from NA Lucas "Santorin" Larsen, while also resecuring their mid laner, Nicolaj "Jensen" Jensen.
And along with that was an entire overhaul of their coaching and support staff. Team Liquid has the best on-paper team in the LCS, and if the pieces work out, they'll have little opposition for the next couple of titles, and they'll once again stamp their ticket to China to try and break their three-year streak of 3-3 Worlds runs. Yes, they paid a lot, but when you're adding the best possible people, you still win the off-season.
Cloud9 had the most tragic fall from glory in modern League of Legends, from a 35-2 run in the first split and a half to missing Worlds a couple of months later. And while they first released news that the team would all stick together for 2021, with the closure of the OPL and integration of OPL pros to NA residents, Cloud9 promoted their Oceanic Academy top laner Ibrahim "Fudge" Allami. Then, a month later, when news broke of Luka "Perkz" Perković looking to return to the mid lane and leave G2, Cloud9 snatched him up as well.
Fudge was arguably the strongest performing Academy top laner and Perkz has eight LEC titles, an MSI title, and multiple top-four finishes at Worlds. Perkz is almost undoubtedly the best player in the region now, and he will be hard-pressed not to snag another ticket to Worlds and collect yet another domestic title.
LCK Off-season winners
The LCK shifted a lot this off-season, undergoing its own franchise and soft rebrand, and welcoming a few new teams to the league while saying goodbye to others. The LCK also finally brought back another World Championship trophy, the first since 2017, with DAMWON Gaming winning. Amidst all the shuffle of teams and players, and with the pressure of needing to bring back the Summoners Cup again in 2021, a couple of teams made changes that stood out above the rest.
T1 is perhaps the most well-known org in League of Legends, and they've been pulling a Team Liquid for way longer than Steve, finding the best talents and snatching them every chance they get. This year is no different. They not only signed one of the best supports in the world, but also acquired the coach who just won Worlds a couple of months ago. The following is an excerpt from our full breakdown of T1's roster and 2021 expectations.
"Nothing less than first place is enough, and when T1 failed to qualify for Worlds in 2020, they really spent their resources to acquire some of the best names in the competitive League of Legends scene. Their acquisition of Keria, who was considered to be one of the best supports in 2020 (in his very first competitive year!), and Yang “Daeny” Dae-in and Lee “Zefa” Tae-min, the former coaching staff for world champions DWG, will look to elevate T1 by many levels in their 2021 season."
RUNNER-UP: DWG KIA
DAMWON Gaming won Worlds and immediately partnered with KIA, becoming DWG KIA, or DK. And though they lost their top laner Jang "Nuguri" Ha-gwon to FunPlus Phoenix, they traded him for Kim "Khan" Dong-ha, who is even more prestigious, though not currently in his prime. Regardless, four-fifths of the World Champions stayed together and were joined by a strong veteran. Our LCK experts wrote:
"Meanwhile, the other players on the team continue to transcend their former selves. Kim "Canyon" Geon-bu, who’s already the undisputed king of the jungle, and as mid-jungle in the current meta are still the most important roles in the game, he continues to perform levels above his opponents. DK may not be as strong as before, but their competition has a long way to go before they can catch up to their level."
LEC Off-season winners
The LEC is yet another top-heavy region, and the ceiling may have just been raised higher. There are definitely some orgs who failed to put together a top contending team, but others snagged some key players and should come into 2021 with high expectations.
WINNER: G2 Esports
G2 Esports may have lost the face of their org in Luka "Perkz" Perković but in his place comes the only feasible replacement and the face of rival org: Fnatic's Martin "Rekkles" Larsson. While Perkz was arguably the stronger bot laner on a couple of specific champions (hello, Xayah), Rekkles has an enormous wealth of history across an abundance of metas, playstyles, and champions. Rekkles is also capable of playing supports and other non-traditional AD carries thanks to the experimentation on Fnatic. He will fit in G2's versatile style better than anyone. And as a cherry on top, he is former teammates with Rasmus "Caps" Winther, so they've got a chance to build on that 2018 Finals appearance and improve on it.
RUNNER-UP: FC Schalke 04 Esports
Schalke 04 had a rollercoaster of a year in 2020. They started each split with a long losing streak, going 0-7 in the Spring before their first win and 0-8 in the Summer Split. While they didn't make too many leaps and bounds in the Spring Split, they had a miracle run in the Summer, going from 1-10 to lossless four games into the playoffs to complete an 11 game win streak. Just two more victories would've netted them a trip to Worlds. They fell short, however, but kept the main core of the roster together.
Additionally, they brought on Sergen "Broken Blade" Çelik, TSM's former top laner, who performed incredibly in 2020. He's a fairly versatile top laner, but especially good at carry champions, and should level up the team nicely. The only potential question for them is their support change, going from Han "Dreams" Min-kook to Dino "LIMIT" Tot. If he synergizes well with Matúš "Neon" Jakubčík, Schalke could be a top contender for 2021.
LPL Off-season winners
Whereas the other regions all have 10 teams, the LPL has... 17 teams. So, they get four off-season victors instead of just two. As always, any top LPL team could win Worlds under the right patch and conditions — they've got the star power and the right environment to train and grow. These four, however, are arguably the biggest victors of the off-season and could be considered early favorites for Worlds 2021.
WINNERS: FunPlus Phoenix & EDward Gaming
Both FPX and EDG kept the majority of their roster while adding on additional talent. FPX made a top lane change, signing one of the best players in the world and 2020 world champion Jang "Nuguri" Ha-gwon. They also signed Lee "Prince" Chae-hwan as a second AD carry, who played one single game with Nuguri on DWG in 2019. Otherwise, they still have the same roster from their 2019 Worlds victory, and with Nuguri's arrival, it's clear FPX are trying for another title.
EDG kept the strong points of their roster but added two big talents, Li "Flandre" Xuan-Jun and Park "Viper" Do-hyeon. Flandre was a strong top laner in the LPL previously and will elevate the team, whereas Viper was considered one of the best players in the world for a couple of seasons on Griffin. He's had a more quiet recent history, but those two additions should propel EDG forward. Not to mention Ming "Clearlove" Kai returned to the jungle as an option for them after taking a break to coach the team. They've got tons of firepower now and everyone should keep their eyes on EDG in 2021.
RUNNER-UPS: JD Gaming & Top Esports
Both of these teams are here because despite making it incredibly far at Worlds — though failing when it mattered most — they kept their rosters together. JD Gaming has all five members that won Spring Split 2020, got second in Summer Split, and made it to the Worlds quarterfinals. They also added two world-renowned players, Su "xiye" Han-Wei and Jin "Mystic" Seong-jun. They've added additional talent to an already proven roster, and if it goes well, JDG could be front runners for the 2021 World Championship.
TES kept all its members other than Liang "yuyanjia" Jia-Yuan, who was arguably the weakest performing member at Worlds. yuyanjia's replacement, Wang "Zhuo" Xu-Zhuo, is a bit untested, coming from Team WE's LDL squad, but if he works well with Yu "JackeyLove" Wen-Bo, TES could rise to the top again and finish what they failed to complete in 2020. Additionally, they brought on a new head coach, Chen "WarHorse" Ju-Chih who not only won Worlds with FPX in 2019, but also coached TES jungler, Hung "Karsa" Hao-Hsuan, for his entire time on Flash Wolves from 2015-2017. They've got a scary squad and is yet another LPL superpower to watch closely this year.
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