NA LCS Summer 2019 Pre-Season Tier List
After a finals appearance at MSI there is suddenly a lot of hope for NA internationally but should there be? I take a deep dive into my tiers for the NA LCS heading into summer.
As always, these are my tiers only and are meant to give a relative comparison of strength. It's not necessarily the order I believe the teams will finish but more as a set of approximately how strong I believe they end up by seasons end. Matchups, stylistic tendencies, and patches must be taken into consideration when looking at two teams heads up. Actual prediction of final rankings order at the end of the post.
Counter Logic Gaming
Projected Starters: Ruin, Wiggily, PowerOfEvil, Stixxay, Biofrost
Subs: Allorim (top), FallenBandit (top), Moon (jungle), Auto (ADC)
A lot of the bottom tier NA teams suffer from the lack of ceiling problem except for OpTic. I think Ruin is a slight upgrade or maybe just a side grade from Darshan but this team didn't change it's identity and didn't make enough moves to really strike any kind of chord with me. CLG are going to do the same thing they've been doing and as of late that hasn't exactly been working. We'd have to see performances that exceed expectations from three or more players on this team for them to have a shot at playoffs.
Projected Starters: Solo, Rush, Fenix, Apollo, Hakuho
Subs: Panda (jungle), Yusui (mid), Lost (ADC)
I think Echo Fox have a bit more upside than CLG but utlimately suffer from inconsistency and a tumultuous offseason that saw some ownership ousted. There is a chance this team rallies against all the offseason negativity that came about but outside of Fenix and Rush I think this team falls flat. Solo performed so well last year and has been a liability this season. Apollo and Hakuho are servicable at this point in their careers. If Solo can recapture some of last Spring's game I think this team could surprise us but I'm not going to bet on that happening, in fact I'll be going the opposite direction. Echo Fox's problem is that their best players are at positions where NA is rich with good players and Solo doesn't quite measure up to the regional competition like he did last year. We'll see but I think Echo Fox more than likely finish in the bottom three.
Projected Starters: Dhokla, Dardoch, Crown, Arrow, Big
Subs: Allorim (top), Meteos (jungle), Asta (ADC), Gate (support/mid)
OpTic is intriguing because they have some stellar players in Dardoch, Crown, and, if he has anything left in the tank, Arrow. Big is also a solid player and their bench is, relative to most LCS teams, pretty deep. Dhokla has shown flashes as well. I should make it clear that I expect this to be a really fluid roster that swaps people in and out over the course of the season quite a bit as they figure things out. The real issue I have with OpTic is that they don't translate to game speed as well as they appear on paper for some reason and rely a lot on exceptional performances from Crown to carry them. Last season they won most of the games that Crown got ahead and into a side lane but that's a really predictable style which is a problem. OpTic have the highest upside of the bottom three teams but they're just too linear. Individual player quality matters a lot in the current state of the game and OpTic certainly have that so it wouldn't surpise me to see them finish in the playoffs but, once again, I'm not going to bet on that happening.
Projected Starters: Huni, Lira, Damonte, CodySun, Vulcan
Subs: Piglet (mid/ADC)
Projected Starters: V1per, Santorin, Pobelter, WildTurtle, JayJ
Subs: Maxi (jungle), Wadid (support)
The B Tier is a total wash to me. I have no idea where any of these teams finish but they all feel about the same level. Of the four teams here I think FlyQuest are the most steady. They don't exactly have a high ceiling but they're just solid. Maybe V1per and JayJ progress a bit more and this team breaks through it's ceiling but I don't think that's likely. FlyQuest are similar to Origen or Splyce in Europe to me. Their upside is a bit capped but they're well coached and good enough to be a consistent playoff team until the bottom teams step up.
Projected Starters: Hauntzer, Contractz, Froggen, Deftly, Olleh
Golden Guardians and FlyQuest are more or less even to me but I think FlyQuest are a tad more steady and Golden Guardians have a tad more upside AND downside cooked into their position in this tier. Ultimately the difference is barely distinguishable and I think they're both playoff teams that are clearly better than the bottom tier.
Projected Starters: Ssumday, Amazing, Soligo, Bang, Aphromoo
This is perhaps my "hottest" take although if you ask my TGC Podcast comrades they'd agree that 100 Thieves are ripe for a resurgence. I was wrong about this team last year and admitted defeat and respected them with my preseason position in the Spring but this team just collapsed after a couple bad losses and never recovered. With so many veterans I was honestly surprised they weren't able to turn it around. I'm not making excuses but the truth is these kinds of weird seasons can happen in a best of one format and it's one of the reasons I can't stand it. I look at this lineup and see a bottom lane that has the ability to compete with Doublelift and CoreJJ, a former World Class superstar in Ssumday that has been really solid until last split in his time in NA, a great and stable veteran jungler in Amazing and Soligo who got some stage time and has nothing but room to grow. I also think 100 Thieves can't possibly be as bad as they were last season and that the break will act much like the pressing of a "reset" button for this team. They needed this. I have really high hopes for 100 Thieves to turn it around. I even said at the end of last season that it wouldn't surprise me at all to see 100 Thieves back in Summer smashing most of the teams in the league and I still think that. I'm really REALLY bullish on 100 Thieves.
Team Solo Mid
Projected Starters: BrokenBlade, Grig, Bjergsen, Zven, Smoothie
Subs: Akaadian (jungle)
It might seem obvious to start Akaadian after their finals performance but between Grig having a really long contract that goes into 2021 and the loyalty they showed to him during the split, I can't help but think he's been the more impressive player in scrims where they have a much larger sample size. However, whether or not this is Grig or Akaadian doesn't particularly matter to me. Bjergsen is still a monster, Zven/Smoothie are both just excellent players that had a bit of an offseason learning each other, and BrokenBlade has a high ceiling and a floor that was more or less last season. I'll take this roster any day to make playoffs. My beef with TSM is that I don't think they really have a great chance at taking out Liquid and honestly I think Cloud 9 are a full tier better than them. With a lot of these B Tier teams being solid I couldn't reasonably favor TSM heavily against any of them but I did like Cloud 9 quite a bit which is why I'm putting them a full tier lower.
Projected Starters: Licorice, Svenskeren, Nisqy, Sneaky, Zeyzal
Subs: Kumo (top), Blaber (jungle), Goldenglue (mid), Keith (ADC), Diamond (support)
Cloud 9 lost a stunner to TSM where Reapered went a little bit too wild in the draft and the players weren't executing anyway. It was mostly an off day if you ask me. I know that might sound weird after watching TSM Then go on to compete admirably against Team Liquid but TSM remind me a lot of JDG in the LPL last split. Maybe not quite as flukey as that outcome but pretty close. They got hot at the right time and beat a C9 team that was better than they were. I don't let playoffs alone shade my considerations. Cloud 9 are an incredible organization and they have depth out the wazoo. This depth breeds competition and Reapered is, for the most part, an excellent coach. Great players, great organization, and great coaching to go along with depth make Cloud 9 the best NA team not named Liquid. I also think this roster has a lot of room to grow still and they could end up in A+ or S tier with Liquid by season's end.
Projected Starters: Impact, Xmithie, Jensen, Doublelift, CoreJJ
Subs: TF Blade (top)
Don't overthink it. Team Liquid are the best team in NA and one of their big weaknesses was confidence which their finals appearance at MSI is going to give them truckloads of. I actually expect Team Liquid to have a near perfect season here. They're not a team that rests on their laurels and with confidence no longer an issue I can totally see Liquid tryharding their way through NA Summer as preparation for Worlds.
NA Rankings Final Prediction
10) Counter Logic Gaming
9) Echo Fox
8) OpTic Gaming
7) Clutch Gaming
5) Golden Guardians
4) 100 Thieves
3) Team Solo Mid
2) Cloud 9
1) Team Liquid