2021 LCS Spring Split Players to Watch
The 2021 LCS Spring Split is right around the corner, so let’s focus on a couple of players you need to keep an eye on! All of the individuals listed below are worthy of your undivided attention in one way or another. Most of them are top-tier competitors, but they also have something to prove. Maybe they’ve moved across the Atlantic to compete in the LCS for the first time or counted upon to hardcarry like there’s no tomorrow. Either way, the pressure is mounting, and they’ll need to deliver in some way, shape, or form.
Finally, before we delve any deeper, keep in mind that this is by no means a definitive, “be-all and end-all” kind of list. Subjectivity and personal preference always play a key role, be it consciously or subconsciously, and omissions tend to happen — that’s just the nature of any listicle. So, with that out of the way, let’s focus on a couple of 2021 LCS Spring Split players you should keep an eye on going forward, listed in no particular order!
Luka “Perkz” Perković — Cloud9, Mid
One of the best mid laners of all time (and arguably the greatest Western player to ever compete) is making the move over to North America. That, in itself, is hype-inducing beyond measure. Plus, he’s not doing it for the money (although a sizable sack of cash certainly won’t hurt), but instead to conquer yet another region and further solidify his spot in the pantheon of competitive League.
One could argue that Cloud9 was the only team worthy of his greatness. They might not be the biggest brand in North America. They might not have the most LCS titles or the highest viewership (although they certainly rank high in all of these parameters), but they have something no other North American team has ever attained: success on the international stage. Winning the LCS is excellent and all, but it pales compared to rubbing shoulders with the best teams in the world. And that’s what Perkz wants the most. Fortunately, with a line-up as talented as the one Cloud9 has assembled, trading blows with the who’s who of competitive League is not only possible but nearly guaranteed.
Of course, it’s still too early to predict anything with confidence, but it’s fair to say that Cloud9 has all the right tools and players to not only win the LCS but even leave a mark on the international stage. We certainly hope they’ll be up to the task.
Barney “Alphari” Morris — Team Liquid, Top
No one could’ve predicted Alphari’s meteoric rise. Back when he first broke onto the scene with Misfits Gaming, he was a promising young talent albeit relatively flawed (much like Misfits as a whole). He was a pretty good player with much promise by and large, but there wasn’t anything exceptional about him. But years went on, and it’s fair to say that Alphari grew into one of the best and most dominant top laners Europe ever fostered.
Unfortunately, he didn’t have much luck post-Misfits, by which we mean he never had teammates on his level. And yet, that didn’t stop him from shining bright regardless of the line-up he was on. Heck, “shine bright” doesn’t even begin to cut it. Alphari was as dominant as they come, destroying his peers in lane game after game. It didn’t always matter, unfortunately, as he could only do so much by himself. Fortunately, his days of being trapped in “elo hell” are finally over.
Team Liquid Alphari sure does have a nice ring to it. Still, playing for the four-time LCS champions carries with it an immense amount of pressure and responsibility — this isn’t your grandfather’s Team Liquid, the one that was perennially locked in fourth place. Alphari was picked up for his incredible laning and stellar team fighting — but he still needs to deliver. That’s the part we’re all waiting for. He wouldn’t be the first high-profile LEC import to fumble and fail (Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen’s stint with Liquid immediately comes to mind).
Fingers crossed that everything works out!
Victor “FBI” Huang & Choi “huhi” Jae-hyun — 100 Thieves, Bottom Lane Duo
It’s impossible to analyze and observe FBI and huhi individually as they first rose to prominence as a duo. It’s also impossible to understand when exactly they started popping off because for a good portion of their time playing together, they weren’t anything special. They were pretty darn mediocre.
But something just “clicked,” and the rest, as they say, is history. As things stand, FBI and huhi are one of the best bottom lane duos in the entire region. Just writing such a thing makes one feel strange, but it’s true. You could even argue that they’re the best duo in NA, based on their performance at the 2020 LCS Summer Split playoffs. Simply put, they were masterful in every way, shape, and form, and no one saw it coming. They were far more successful and impactful than any other bottom lane, including Team Liquid, Cloud9, and even Team SoloMid.
Talk about correcting course… Sheesh!
Fortunately, they were picked up by 100 Thieves and will continue playing alongside each other, which is downright fantastic. Everyone’s dying to find out whether they’re that good or if it was just a moment of brilliance — a flash in the pan that is unlikely to occur again.
In any case, we won’t have to wait long to find out!
Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho — 100 Thieves, Top
While we’re on the topic of 100 Thieves, it’s impossible not to mention the one, the only, the unexpendable Ssumday. When he decides it’s time to hardcarry, he can darn near win the whole game by himself. On those days, he’s like an army of 10, rather than just an individual player. He’s that good. And now, he’ll finally have the right support around him. It took a while, too, but better late than never.
If Ssumday was so bafflingly dominant and consistent back when he had dreadful (or at best subpar) teammates, one could only imagine how good he’ll look now that he’ll be accompanied by some of the best players in their respective roles. Just imagine an even better, more aggressive, and more successful Ssumday than the one we’ve seen over the years; quite a frightening notion.
He’ll no longer have to hardcarry all by himself — now it’ll be a burden shared by the entire team, which means we could end up seeing the best version of Ssumday yet. The 2021 LCS Spring Split can’t come soon enough, that’s for sure!
Ibrahim “Fudge” Allami — Cloud9, Top
The fact that Cloud9 decided to promote Fudge and sell Eric “Licorice” Ritchie’s contract tells us two important things: (1) they’re certain of his potential, and (2) he’s mature enough to compete on the LCS stage. Whether their assessment is correct, however, remains to be seen. In any case, Fudge will face an uphill battle going forward. The LCS is packed with top lane talent, although most of it came by way of importing. Ssumday, Alphari, Licorice, Jeong “Impact” Eon-yeong, and so on.
Quite a formidable list, you’ll probably agree.
And sure, Fudge will have some mighty powerful teammates to help out, but he’ll still need to deliver as an individual. He’ll be under a ton of pressure, which doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll fumble and fail, but it will make the road ahead a lot more complicated. In any case, he’ll need time to grow and develop, and if he isn’t up to snuff, then Cloud9 will have a glaring weakness, a liability in the top lane that could easily be exploited. If they intend on challenging Team Liquid and eventually winning the LCS, they’ll need to deliver across the board — and that includes Fudge.
Will he be up to the task?
Hu “SwordArt” Shuo-Chieh — Team SoloMid, Support
It still feels like this seasoned veteran support isn’t getting the respect and recognition he truly deserves. We’ve been watching him dominate with the Flash Wolves for nearly half a decade, and yet he’s rarely in the conversation whenever fans talk about the best supports in the history of the game. His name did rise in popularity after reaching the 2020 World Championship finals, but some people still aren’t convinced.
Fortunately, Team SoloMid are, which is why they’ve signed him on a (record-breaking) three-year deal worth $6 million. We’d argue that such a lofty sum (life-changing money, to say the least) is much better than a slew of positive comments on Reddit, so SwordArt doesn’t have a lot to complain about — he’s good.
He’ll now take on a role similar to that of former World Champion Jo “CoreJJ” Yong-in: nurturing a promising young native marksman. It’s not exactly the most complicated assignment in the world, but it’s not without its challenges. This raises a couple of key questions: will Lawrence “Lost” Sze Yuy Hui be up to the task? Will SwordArt still roam and impact the map, or will he be chained to his less experienced lane partner? What are TSM’s plans for SwordArt, anyway? To have a playmaker akin to CoreJJ and Lee “IgNar” Dong-geun, or someone who’s supposed to win lane and shotcall from a safe distance?
No one’s quite sure, but one thing is for certain: SwordArt’s talents, while great in number and astounding in-depth, need to be harnessed correctly. It’s not just a plug and play kind of thing. TSM doesn’t have a stellar record for player management and importing supports (remember the Bora “YellOwStaR” Kim debacle), so temper your expectations. There’s ample potential, but without a proper approach, it’ll all be in vain.
Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen — Counter Logic Gaming, Jungle
Broxah’s stock plummeted considerably ever since he decided to sign for Team Liquid. Some of it is his fault, for sure, but a good portion isn’t. He couldn’t join his team in time, was forced to acclimate to an entirely different region amidst a global epidemic, and was immediately scrutinized after failing to deliver performance-wise.
At the time of this writing, many fans online consider him washed up, yet such an opinion is illogical and foolish. Revisionism is the favorite pastime of the average League of Legends fan, and it’s currently in full effect when it comes to Broxah. What’s the main reason why Team Liquid decided to sign Broxah in the first place? The answer is simple: his immensely successful stint with Fnatic. And it wasn’t just a flash in the pan either — Broxah is a proven quantity and one of the best Western junglers of all time. And sure, you could never guess that based on his play with Team Liquid, but he’s only human, and it’s perfectly normal for a player to have dips in performance. For Broxah, everything that could go wrong eventually did.
2021 will, therefore, provide him with a chance at redemption. Unfortunately, he decided to sign with Counter Logic Gaming, which, pardon the phrasing, is truly counter logic. You don’t mount a comeback by signing for one of the worst orgs in the League, but we assume he didn’t have any other place to go. In any case, he’s a wholesome guy, a talented jungler, and a truly mature teammate — the perfect mix, even though that second virtue wasn’t on full display last year. Hopefully, that was just a one-off occurrence.
Brandon Joel “Josedeodo” Villegas — FlyQuest, Jungle
Finally, we have none other than the man who made his name at the 2020 World Championship, even though he only played a handful of games: Josedeodo, one of Latin America’s most promising junglers. After a surprisingly dominant run in the Play-In stage, Josedeodo was given an opportunity that was too good to refuse: signing for FlyQuest, one of the best and most authentic organizations in North America.
A by-product of playing so well at Worlds is that people now automatically expect him to pop off and hardcarry like a madman. Will that happen? Probably, at some point in the season, but we need to temper our expectations. He’s only just joining the big leagues. He’ll need a bit of time before he can spread his wings and play to the best of his ability. Fortunately, he’ll have some exceptional teammates by his side (namely Licorice, who’s still one of the best top laners in the region), so he’ll no doubt prosper and grow in all the right ways. Either way, the outlook is bright for this talented Argentinian jungler, and we cannot wait to see him in action!