Biggest 2021 LCS Spring Split Narratives
The 2021 LCS Spring Split is right around the corner, so let’s go over some of its most interesting narratives! We’re talking about the stories and question marks that’ll make us want to tune in with great interest. And fortunately, they’re in abundance this time around! There are many reasons for optimism when it comes to the LCS. We’re getting a brand-new format, a (relatively) slick rebrand, and with some of the best Western players of all time making the move across the Atlantic, it’s fair to assume that top-tier play won’t be absent either.
2021 is shaping up to be quite an exciting year for the North American region. Heck, maybe that’s even an understatement. Whether things will pan out as expected, however, remains to be seen.
So, with that out of the way, let’s focus on the most interesting 2021 LCS Spring Split narratives, listed in no particular order!
The Return of Team Liquid?
The changes Team Liquid made during the most recent off-season were nothing short of exceptional. Bringing over Barney “Alphari” Morris and Lucas “Santorin” Tao Kilmer Larsen tells us the following: Team Liquid means business. They’re well aware of the two areas in which they were lacking. Alphari and Santorin are at the top of their game. Even though they’ve been competing at the highest levels for what feels like an eternity (especially true for the Danish veteran jungler), they’ve shown no signs of regression or deterioration.
They’ve aged like fine wine and have earned the opportunity to represent one of North America’s biggest and most recognizable brands.
Still, there are a couple of question marks. Team Liquid never really lacked in talent. They were always a competent team, albeit somewhat one-dimensional. They didn’t grow or evolve as, say, Team SoloMid or the Golden Guardians (we’re talking about 2020 here). And that, frankly speaking, is not something you’d expect from a lineup as stacked and potent as the one TL had to work with. Then again, they faced numerous roster changes and visa issues, so it’s hard to pinpoint what went wrong and why honestly.
In any case, 2021 looks a lot more promising. TL signed many talented, well-known people for their coaching staff, which is a step in the right direction, but they still need to deliver on the Summoner’s Rift. Having Alphari and Santorin around won’t mean much if these two veterans’ potential isn’t harnessed the right way. Still, TL fans don’t have any significant reason for concern — this is a bona fide superteam, and if they get on the same page and play to their strengths, they’re a shoo-in for the LCS finals — at the very least.
Cloud9 — Is It Enough?
A lot of (virtual) ink has been spilled on the topic of Cloud9 and their vexing 2020 season. In a way, it had everything: a triumphant rise that’ll go down in the history books and an equally dramatic fall from grace that seemingly came out of nowhere. For Cloud9 fans, 2020 was a rollercoaster, in both good ways and bad.
They were also the main talking point of the most recent off-season because of their historic investment — they’ve splurged nearly $12 million to bring Luka “Perkz” Perković over to North America. It was a roster signing for the ages, and no one saw it coming. Still, if we ignore that obscene sum of money, it’s impossible not to applaud their willingness to invest; they needed a top-notch mid laner, and few are better than the Croatian mid lane legend. He’s an absolute behemoth and will undoubtedly dominate North American soil as much as he did during his stint with G2 Esports.
There are a couple of question marks, however.
Will Perkz dominate right from the very get-go, or will he need a bit of time to acclimate to his new surroundings? Will Robert “Blaber” Huang stabilize performance-wise? Will Cloud9’s bottom lane duo step up after a relatively underwhelming second half of 2020? Finally, will their brand-new top laner be up to the task? He dominated quite a bit in Academy, but that’s nothing compared to the level of competition he’s about to face in the LCS. There’s no reason to doubt in Cloud9. They’ve decided to promote him over keeping Eric “Licorice” Ritchie, so he must’ve shown great promise, but it’ll undoubtedly take a bit of time before he’s able to compete on even footing with the rest of the region.
Granted, these are by no means burning questions, nor is there any significant risk of Cloud9 imploding as hard as they did last year. Instead, we’re talking about nuances here. While they might not seem all that important right now, they’ll play a huge role when it comes to facing the very best teams the LCS has to offer — namely Team Liquid, 100 Thieves, and Team SoloMid.
If C9 wants to reclaim the LCS throne, they’ll need to harness all of their potential. The margin for error at the highest levels of play is fairly slim, if not non-existent. They have the potential (and lots of it), but they still need to get on the same page and deliver. Hopefully, that’ll happen sooner rather than later.
Team SoloMid — A New Chapter
Speaking of age-old North American giants, Team SoloMid is arguably the biggest question mark of 2021. The roster this perennial organization will field is as divisive as they come. There’s a lot to like (mainly because of Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage and Hu “SwordArt” Shuo-Chieh), a lot to be optimistic about (Mingyi “Spica” Lu and Lawrence “Lost” Sze Yuy Hui), and a massive cause for concern (Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon).
What a strange mishmash of players, one that doesn’t make a lot of sense overall. Still, it’s not like they lack talent or experience-wise. Quite the opposite! But if you ask a hundred fans and analysts what they think of this five-man lineup, you’ll most likely get a hundred different opinions. Do they have potential? Absolutely. Is success guaranteed? Far from it. Could things go awry? Definitely.
The thing is, TSM isn’t known for doing the right thing when it comes to player management. They nurture an aggressive, somewhat elitist culture that nourishes one of League’s most toxic fan bases. It’s a hard place to be in — playing for TSM brings with it an immense pressure to perform, and the fear of online lynching and harassment is still as present as ever. It’s a double-edged sword.
With Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg out of the equation, TSM will need a bit of time (or a lot of it) to rebuild from the ground up and forge a new identity. Growing pains, therefore, are all but guaranteed. It’s possible that they won’t leave much of a mark in 2021 — and that’s fine. This lineup wasn’t assembled with the short-term in mind. Instead, TSM is focused on the broader picture and the years to come. We need to adjust our expectations accordingly. Will they reach the playoffs? Almost certainly, but anything higher than that (as in a Top 3 finish) is nothing but an optimistic stretch. This is a flawed team, albeit a pretty potent one. They’ll face some of the best players the West has to offer over the next couple of months. They’ll probably be on the receiving end of things more often than not. That’s what happens when you change four-fifth of your starting lineup — you lose out early and potentially win big after a couple of months.
In any case, watching them perform and grow as a five-man unit will be an absolute must.
100 Thieves — Breakthrough Moment?
Meet the Golden Guardians 2.0. They’re nearly the same as in 2020, but there are two key differences this time around. They’ll start with a much better top laner and sport some of the slickest jerseys you’ll ever see. The former is more important than the latter, but the point stands nonetheless.
By signing four-fifths of a surprisingly potent GGS roster, 100 Thieves undoubtedly made the most ingenious move of the off-season. They took essential pieces and combined them with their astonishingly talented top laner: Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho. It’s a match made in heaven. They probably accomplished all of this without having to invest millions upon millions of dollars.
Will it be enough to crack Top 3? Well, it’s still too early to predict anything with confidence, but the potential is certainly there. They already have a ton of pre-existing synergy, along with one of the best junglers in the region and arguably the best bottom lane duo, so they’re more than competent for the monumental task at hand. It won’t come easy, of course, but they’ve shown enough maturity to warrant our trust. Plus, they can play through any lane and still find ample amounts of success. Heck, Ssumday alone was enough to keep 100 Thieves relatively dangerous over the years — now he’ll have teammates that are (mostly) on his level.
If there’s one team that has the potential of upsetting the long-established status quo, it has to be 100 Thieves.
FlyQuest — A Different Take
The fact that FlyQuest lost all of their players and still managed to end up with an excellent roster for 2021 is nothing short of mind-blowing. Will they be as fair and competitive as they were in 2020? Probably not, and that’s perfectly fine. They’ll almost certainly remain a playoff-worthy team. That is more than enough for an organization that’s looking to rebuild from the ground up. They’ll have all the right players for the job, too, with numerous promising rookies and a seasoned veteran top laner to lead the charge.
Plus, if you’re into underdogs and rosters with a unique identity, you can’t go wrong with FlyQuest. And don’t be deceived by the fact that they don’t have any superstars other than Eric “Licorice” Ritchie. This is a spectacular lineup with a metric ton of long-term potential. They probably won’t impress all that much early on, but in due time, they almost certainly will.
Counter Logic Gaming — A Shot at Redemption
Finally, we have Counter Logic Gaming — an organization that has pretty much become the region’s laughing stock. And, frankly, there’s a good reason why that’s the case. Ever since their short-lived reign back in 2016, CLG didn’t accomplish all that much. They didn’t accomplish anything at all. They’ve pretty much been one of the worst teams in North America, save for that one split when they unexpectedly rose to the top before once again stabilizing near the very bottom.
The faithful have yet to be rewarded.
2021, however, might bring a bit of joy to the CLG fan base. (notice the intentional emphasis on “might”) The odds of it happening are relatively slim (aren’t they always when it comes to CLG), but at least they exist. For CLG, it’s all about baby steps. It’s not a race any longer — they’re incapable of “running” given the level of competition in the LCS, so they might as well crawl bit by bit in hopes of once again becoming a playoff contender. That road will be long and arduous, but such a goal is by no means unrealistic.
After years of underwhelming lineups, CLG will finally have a good one to work with. Now, this year’s lineup is far from perfect, but at least it has a couple of seasoned veterans who could, at best, push this team into playoff contention. That’s the goal, at least. Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen, Eugene “Pobelter” Park, and Jason “WildTurtle” Tran are a pretty darn good three-man core. They won’t be challenging DAMWON Gaming any time soon, but they’re more than sufficient by LCS standards. At the very least, they’re a step in the right direction, which, for an organization as unsuccessful as CLG, is all we could’ve hoped for.
The inaugural 2021 LCS Lock-In tournament is right around the corner, so make sure to free up your schedule and prepare enough popcorn — you do not want to miss any of the action!