A new year has arrived.
Many smiles greet the new year, but not everyone is happy with the fact that another year has passed. This is especially the case for sports players, as many players see their performance drop as they age.
It’s the same case for professional League of Legends players. Players who are playing at their “prime” are usually in their late teens or early 20s. But players who are in their late 20’s often show a drop in performance. That is why many players retire to either stream full-time or remain in the esports field by shifting their careers into coaching.
ROX Tiger’s former toplaner, Shy, recently retired at the age of 26. Afreeca Freec’s former toplaner, Marin, a player who is of the same age as Shy, made an announcement during his stream that he will be taking the next split off in order to recover his form. But of course, there are special cases such as Ambition, a player that proved age doesn’t matter; he's a married man that has held the Summoner’s Cup as an accomplished player.
Here are 8 NA LCS players who are above the age of 25 and some predictions regarding their performance in the upcoming season.
Birthdate : July 19th, 1993
Team / Role : Team Liquid / ADC
The very first player to introduce is Doublelift. Being one of the veterans in NA, Doublelift has earned himself fans not only in NA but also from across the entire world with his unique personality/characteristics.
Although Doublelift is seen to be a burden to his team due to his critical mistakes in international tournaments, it is not right to shift all the blame to Doublelift. This is because it is rare to see an NA ADC perform well in international tournaments. It is hard to pick an ADC player in NA who is superior to Doublelift. When compared to the ADC players who cannot carry the game even though their team has done everything they can, Doublelift’s plays are exceptional to say the least.
Although Doublelift has said that if he begins to not perform on par as an ADC he would switch to another role, this statement illustrate just how confident Doublelift really is. Having spent a long time as a player, Doublelift has been criticized immensely by the community. And yet, his mental stays strong. With his unique wit, I expect Doublelift to have some positive synergy with the newly-formed Team Liquid. Of course, for him, the most important task of the year is to be able to properly utilize his ‘Flash’ unlike in the last World Championships.
Birthdate: June 13th, 1993
Team / Role: 100 Thieves / Jungle
Meteos is a jungler who played in C9 for a long time. In 2017, he wasn’t considered as good as Contractz and MikeYeung in the jungle, but he still played his part at Phoenix 1 with Arrow and the others.
Of course, there’s a problem with the different play styles. If the laners have bad lane fights in the early game, there’s not much the jungler can do; he is similar to Ambition, so he had a hard time in Phoenix 1. which had weak laners. However, in 100 Thieves, most of the laners are strong, so there’s a possibility that Meteos will have good synergy with them.
There’s still the matter with Ryu and Cody Sun, who have unstable performances, so Meteos’ performance may depend on their performances. Also, compared to the previous season, which had a meta more focused on tanks and macro, this season with the new rune system is appearing to be more based on fights, so that could be another factor to think about.
Birthdate: May 26th, 1993
Team / Role : Clutch Gaming / Top
Despite his fairly long career, Solo has not made it into the NA LCS as much as he has hoped. His player life has constantly looped in the NACS.
The 2018 season will be one hell of an adventure for him and his newly-founded team, Clutch Gaming. Not only is Solo new to the NA LCS, he's also new Clutch Gaming. Because there is a general recognition of the top prowess of the NA LCS, there is a lot of pressure on Solo due to him playing in the NA LCS for the majority of his career. However, LirA, who showed a very adherent performance on Team EnVyUs as a jungler, has the capability to strengthen Solo’s playstyle in the top lane. Although the statement from Longzhu Gaming Khan “If Top loses, it is the jungler's fault” may or may not be true, it is true that the presence of a good jungler can bolster the strength of a top laner.
However, Clutch Gaming’s bot lane is a little lacking compared to the other top tier teams, and this pushes even more pressure and incentive on Solo to compensate with a stronger top lane.
Birthdate: September 20th, 1992
Team / Role: Golden Guardians / Mid
Hai is a player known for his macro in the NA LCS. He has played in many positions, going from jungler to mid, back to jungler, then support and mid again. Even with all these changes, he hasn’t had that much trouble adapting to each position. There’s not many that can substitute for him even in NA, thanks to his outstanding macro and shotcalling capabilities.
Unfortunately, his mechanics started to deteriorate starting from 2015. However, while FlyQuest was evaluated as the underdog in 2017, they didn’t have to play the qualification match; and it was Hai that was credited for that.
In his new team, Golden Guardians, the jungler and laners are said to have good mechanics, so he should be feeling more pressure when it comes to macro. Lourlo, who is the top laner, and Contractz, the jungler, have good mechanics, but are lacking in macro. Now, Hai really has to stay on his toes with the shotcalling. This may take some of Hai’s concentration away from his lane fights, which have been getting weaker already. This could cause some games to become one-sided before they even get into macro plays, especially with teams who consistently push the mid lane.
With the new rune system, which places more emphasis on skirmishes than on macro plays, Hai might be more vulnerable than before. Will Hai be able to overcome his weaknesses and win his share like at FlyQuest?
Birthdate: September 8th, 1992
Team / Role: 100 Thieves / Support
Aphromoo is a support who was always ranked near the top in NA. During his long stay at CLG, he became one of the pillars that drove the team forward in its prime. However, he let down many fans along with Stixxay in 2017.
He is similar to KSV support CoreJJ, since he became better after changing his position from ADC to support, but he hasn’t gotten in high positions at Worlds like most NA teams. Despite the fact that he hasn’t had good results at Worlds, there is no doubt that he’s one of the best supports in the world.
The main point to look at is his synergy with Cody Sun. Although he made a critical mistake at the last Worlds, he still is one of the most promising ADCs of NA. One of the main factors for 100 Thieves next season may be how Aphromoo’s experience can moderate the young vigor of Cody Sun.
Birthdate: August 13th, 1992
Team / Role: FlyQuest / Top
In comparison to the other Korean imports at the time of his debut in NA, Flame was underwhelming. But in 2017, Flame came back to form and reached the 2nd place of the NA LCS while on his former team, Immortals. Although IMT was eliminated during the group stages of Worlds, Flame held up his own against Khan, who was a player that received an immense amount of attention coming into Worlds.
However, there are some concerns regarding Flame's upcoming season. His new teammates are high in the ladder in Solo Queue, but they come from a background of either NACS or the bench of another team, hence the reason why FlyQuest’s roster may seem underwhelming. Also, FlyQuest has a handful of players who are fairly weak in macro management - a single error in communication could prove dire for the team.
“Can Flame continue to perform at his top level?” is also a question that needs to be asked for the upcoming season. Although Marin, a player who is older than Flame by 1 year, displayed one hell of a performance during the Spring of 2017, there’s no denying that he completely fell off during the Summer. Was the 2017 Summer a one-time thing for Flame? Will he continue to perform at his top level for the 2018 Spring? In addition, Flame will also have to lead the new members of his team with Wildturtle.
Birthdate: May 10th, 1991
Team / Role: TeamLiquid / Jungle
Including Contractz and MikeYeung, NA has brought a lot of new, talented young junglers to their teams. But amidst this new generation, there are veteran junglers that still stand out, players such as Xmithie and Meteos. While the old and experienced junglers tend to prioritize and excel in shotcalling and vision control over mechanics, Xmithie utilizes his aggressive style of play in the early game to pave a path forward for his team.
The experience that Xmithie collected while playing on CLG has proven useful, as he reached the 2nd place of the NA LCS whilst on Immortals. But the underperformance of Cody Sun at the time of Worlds had the team eliminated during the group stages.
However, in the 2018 season, Team Liquid is going forward with a rather uplifting point of view. With their new roster, Team Liquid may be able to capitalize on their vast potential for the upcoming season. Their roster consists of Impact, Pobelter, Xmithie, Olleh, and Doublelift. Impact, being a robust top laner, can hold his own without the need for the jungler’s aid. Pobelter is of the same caliber as one of the best mid laners in NA, Bjergsen. Xmithie can bring his team together with his aggressive early game playstyle. The potential synergy is immense. On top of all this, there's the team's bot lane. After leaving a strong impression in 2017, Olleh will be laning with the ADC veteran Doublelift. As long as his team can supply Doublelift with the right opportunities, Doublelift can easily carry out his role. This new and strong bot lane is considered to be more compatible compared to that of Immortal’s.
In addition to TSM, which has greatly reinforced their overall strength as a team, Team Liquid has a high chance of performing exceptionally well in the upcoming international tournaments. While fans are all anxious to see how both TSM and Team Liquid will perform in 2018, we cannot help but wonder if Xmithie can perform as well as the veteran Ambition did last season.
Birthdate: June 15th, 1989
Team / Role: OpTic Gaming / Support
LemonNation is currently the oldest player to be part of a main roster in the NA LCS. Compared to the youngest players, Contractz and MikeYeung, LemonNation is 10 years their senior. As players approach the age of 30, most retire to become coaches or managers - one example is TSM’s head coach, Ssong, who is the same age as LemonNation.
LemonNation is a special case; he is a player that returned to the scene after having declared his retirement. His mechanics may have dwindled as he aged, but in similar fashion to his former teammate, Hai, LemonNation acted as the brain of the team - if Hai is well-known for his shotcalling and macro control, Lemon is well-known for his ‘drafting’ and general tactics. In 2017, FlyQuest's roster was seen as underwhelming, but despite the low expectations, FlyQuest held up their own against the top teams of the NA LCS. The two “brains” of the team most likely had something to do with that.
Whatever the case may be, how LemonNation will perform with his new teammates is still a mystery. He may have some of the strongest players as his new teammates: POE, a player that made a name for himself during Worlds, and Arrow, a player who has always done his part despite the decline of his former team’s performance, but there’s no denying that OpTic’s top and jungler have yet to prove themselves.
Can the veteran, LemonNation, put his experience to good use in his new team environment? The slogan for the previous Worlds was “Legends never die,” and we are hoping that LemonNation will prove that the saying is true.
-Photos by Riot Games
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