By Petar Vukobrat
May 8, 2019
With the 2019 Spring Split behind us, let’s take a closer look at the three biggest LCS winners. It is only natural that some teams attained more success than others, and we can finally (and objectively) assess everyone’s accomplishments now that the split is over.
First of all, before delving deeper into the list itself, it’s important to highlight that this isn’t a list of teams that actually won something — there can be only one champion, and that’s Team Liquid. Instead, this is a list of three teams that performed above expectations: a list of three teams that were able to transcend their level of play and, at least for a little while, go blow-for-blow with the perennial North American titans.
Unlike the LEC where the gap between the top and the middle is shrinking with each passing week, the North American LCS is a lot more top-heavy. We have Team Liquid, Team SoloMid, and Cloud9 at the top. These are teams of unparalleled strength that comprise the LCS pantheon.
Much like everyone else, they have their own ups and downs, but in the end, you can be sure that all three teams will end up at the very top of the region.
It is only below them that absolute chaos starts to break out. We really didn’t know who was going to end up in the playoffs until the last week of regular-season play. This isn’t exactly a sign of a strong region, but rather of an unbalanced one.
But even in such a top-heavy status quo, there are a couple of teams that stood out. The best of the rest, if you will. Make no mistake — these teams won’t be challenging Liquid for their throne. They simply don’t have the manpower, infrastructure, experience, or mechanical skill. They are outmatched and outnumbered (figuratively speaking) on all fronts when compared to one of the Top 3 titans.
But when it comes to their own small microcosms, any kind of accomplishment or improvement is a resounding success. These teams, or permanent partners, rather, are building their own fan bases, legacies, narratives, and storylines. These things take time, and nothing of value was built in a single split.
So let’s take a closer look at the three biggest LCS winners from the 2019 Spring Split, listed in ascending order!
First up on our list, we have none other than Echo Fox. Seeing them on such a list is probably pretty unexpected, but given what they had to work with, their success is absolutely spectacular.
Coming into the 2019 Spring Split, no one was giving them much thought — and with good reason. They arguably had the worst roster out of all teams competing and, by proxy, the smallest chance of attaining success. Other than their one star player (Lee “Rush” Yoon-jae), they really didn’t have anyone overly spectacular.
Sure, they had veterans in every single lane, but these were players that never really accomplished anything. And as harsh as that might sound, it’s the truth.
Success is, in a way, completely unknown to them. Over the years, they won some, lost some, and in the end, they always finished as gatekeepers. Somewhere in the middle. They were not exceptional by any means and not abysmal either. Perhaps that’s the worst possible outcome for a team/player — to be consistently regarded as a gatekeeper. Someone who can never achieve true greatness.
But then again, when we look at their most recent run, Echo Fox ended sixth. That’s not that spectacular or particularly worthy of mentioning, right? On paper, yes, but that is only before we factor in the context and what (and whom) they had to go through in order to get to the playoffs.
100 Thieves, a team with a two-time World Champion and one of the best North American shot callers, couldn’t get to the playoffs. And neither could OpTic Gaming and Clutch Gaming, two teams that had World Champions within their ranks as well. One quick look at their rosters, and you’d think that playoffs would be a guarantee.
But there are no guarantees when it comes to competitive League of Legends.
Echo Fox had to go through thick and thin to get to the playoffs. And they’ve achieved such respectable heights through…well, a plethora of different means. They adapted to the meta fairly quickly, found what worked for them, and developed a very respectable amount of synergy in a fairly short time span.
By the end of the split, their strength was palpable — it was concrete. Their wins were far from flukes, and while they were never really that consistent, they were still able to win through stellar team play.
Now, Echo Fox is by no means a top-tier contender, and they won’t achieve any mind-blowing heights come Summer Split. But they’re a tough nut to crack, and they’re extremely aggressive, sometimes to a fault.
All in all, their 2019 Spring Split was an absolute success. Being a dangerous playoff dark horse is far more than anyone ever thought they could achieve.
Before delving deeper into why the Guardians made this list, it is important to highlight that this organization became the first one in LCS history to end two splits in a row in tenth place. Watching them play was awful at first. Everyone laughed and pointed fingers. But at the same time, most of us kind of felt like they would pick up the pace sooner rather than later.
But that never happened. And soon enough, the laughter stopped, and pity took its place.
The only thing this organization was able to maintain throughout 2018 was their staggering level of mediocrity. There were short bursts of solid play, but they were too few and far between to actually warrant anything higher than tenth place.
By all accounts, the Golden Guardians were a resounding failure.
So coming into 2019, the bar was set as low as possible. They only needed to end up ninth in the Spring Split, and they would’ve made an improvement. The old adage “when you’re at the bottom, the only way left to go is up” rang true for the Guardians.
Luckily, they had bigger plans — which, in all fairness, wasn’t that hard after finishing last twice in a row. With a roster filled with many veterans, 2019 looked like a year the Guardians would upset the status quo. These were all players who knew their way around the Summoner’s Rift. They knew every nook and cranny, and some of them had already reached the pinnacle of competitive LCS play.
On paper, this roster had a ton of potential — given that these veterans weren’t past their prime.
In the end, the Guardians’ sophomore season was a huge success, all things considered. Then again, they were never really that great throughout the regular portion of the split. There were glimpses of their potential and moments that reminded us why we all love and cheer for these veterans even after so many years of play.
But they never really found an identity for themselves. They never shocked us with their play, and they definitely didn’t look like a veteran roster that has experience in spades. They were making egregious errors left and right, and their play left a lot to be desired. Even though they ultimately found success, it feels like they slightly missed the mark.
Henrik “Froggen” Hansen was, without a doubt, their biggest and most potent catalyst. Some of his statistics are simply out of this world, and he was able to find so much success on his own on a team that struggled to find its footing for a good portion of the split.
Even though he’s the definition of a veteran player, he’s still able to dominate at the highest level of play, and that’s downright insane.
Going forward, the Guardians will surely look to build on their most recent success, but whether or not they’ll be able to climb any higher remains to be seen. Either way, their fifth-place finish is a respectable accomplishment.
The only reason why FlyQuest is higher than the Golden Guardians is their roster’s ability to go blow-for-blow with the perennial LCS giants. The Guardians, as good as they are, just can’t trade blows with the teams at the top. They’re not as versatile, nor as cohesive. FlyQuest, on the other hand, actually is.
Now, they’re still fairly young as a five-man roster, but what they’ve been able to accomplish in such a short time span is worthy of the highest praise.
Perhaps most importantly, they found what worked best for them, and they stuck to their guns. They never budged, and even though the meta shifted, they persevered and eventually became one of the best mid and late game team fighting teams in the region.
While we can always nitpick and highlight some of their innate flaws, they’ve obtained far more success than most people ever thought they could. They stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the likes of Team SoloMid, Cloud9, and even Team Liquid.
Most of their players had something to prove coming into 2019: Omran “Viper” Shoura wanted to prove he wasn’t just a solo queue one-trick pony; Lucas Tao Kilmer “Santorin” Larsen wanted to show the world he still had what it takes to compete at the highest level; and Eugene “Pobelter” Park wanted to prove his worth after getting dropped by Team Liquid in favor of Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen.
All things considered, North America actually got a brand-new contender. Whether or not they’ll be able to crack the top three still remains to be seen, but they’re well-rounded and have shown more than enough grit and determination throughout the first three months of competitive play to get us excited for the things to come.
The upcoming 2019 Summer Split should, by all means, be an absolute barnburner. There’s room for just one team at the top, and there are many contenders that are willing to fight tooth and nail in order to become the champions.
That’s it for our three biggest LCS winners list! If you’re still craving top-tier competitive League, make sure to tune in to the 2019 Mid-Season Invitational that’s currently underway. We’ll get to see some of the best teams in the world duke it out on the Summoner’s Rift, and you do not want to miss it!