Calm before the storm: The storylines of the NA Summer Split

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There were many roster changes for the NA LCS Spring Split. An old team returned to the LCS, while familiar faces jumped brands. Notable roster changes included Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett who joined Immortals; Kim “Reignover” Un-jin who signed with Team Liquid; Jason “WildTurtle” Tran who rejoined TSM; and Ryu “Ryu” Sang-wook who came from EU LCS to join Phoenix1.

It didn’t end there. Team Dignitas came back to the LCS after getting bought by the Philadelphia 76ers and taking over Apex Gaming’s place. After succeeding in the Challenger Series, Hai “Hai” Lam, An “Balls” Le and Daerek “LemonNation” Hart decided their playing days are not over and formed FlyQuest. After grueling 10 weeks, it came down to TSM and Cloud9. In a close 5-game series in the Spring Split Finals, TSM came out on top and earned a spot in the Mid-Season Invitational.

There, TSM went through all five games against the Gigabyte Marines to get to the Group Stage where they placed 5th, not really showing the power they had in the Spring Split. In other news, SK Telecom T1 dominated another international competition and won back-to-back MSI Championships. They will once again be the favorites going into Worlds if they qualify in the LCK Summer Split.

Aside from activities in Brazil, things stirred up in North America just ahead of the Summer Split. Firstly, Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng returned to TSM after a hiatus from Spring, a move that upgraded the Spring champions and filled holes such as shotcalling and taking initiative. Immortals and Counter Logic Gaming swapped junglers, with hopes that those players will mean better team synergy.

RELATED: Doublelift on his first weekend back on TSM

Lastly from Team Liquid’s Twitter, Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin will return to the ADC position and Grayson “Goldenglue” Gilmer will return to TL from his stint in Korea. The question concerning Team Liquid is if the boot camp for Goldenglue paid off and improved. Additionally, with a roster of Piglet, Reignover, and an improved Goldenglue, will they be able to place higher than 4th or falter once again?

Doublelift Peng rejoined TSM after a Spring hiatus. He will look to carry TSM to another championship in the Summer Split. / Riot Games

Gameplay changes and what do they mean

Since MSI, Summoner’s Rift went through a haul for the Summer Split. During the Spring, Rift Herald was not a significant objective for casual and competitive players to chase. Besides Maokai and Nautilus, tanks were not used in the meta, and bot lane was a utility role in the game. To answer these issues, Riot released Patch 7.9 where the Rift Herald plays more of an objective. If a team captures it, Eye of the Herald is acquired and like Baron, the player who holds this item can recall in four seconds. Upon unleashing Eye of the Herald, the Rift Herald will appear and dash towards the enemy’s structure dealing massive damage.

The Rift Herald will play an important function during the Summer Split. It can help a team split push, rush down a lane to get an enemy’s inhibitor quicker, or be used as a comeback mechanic to help a team regain gold and come back into the game.

Another big change coming to the rift are tanks. First of all, Riot updated Maokai, Sejuani, and Zac to give them an identity. Maokai’s Sapling Toss and ultimate were changed, bringing new strategies for initiation and sieging for team fights. Although he was picked almost every game in Spring Split, his pick rate has gone down in MSI and will be situational during Summer.

Over Patch 7.9, Sejuani became a better jungler and should be a priority pick in the Summer Split. Sejuani’s ult is a great initiating tool to gank lanes and start fights by stunning the first enemy it hits and slowing other enemies inside its ult. Changes to Sejuani’s W and E make her a great frontliner, applying frost to a champion and stunning them.

One of the most distinct changes came to Zac. His ult can be charged, turning him into a flat, circular goo that will snatch enemies standing on top of him and toss them into a target location. His Q was altered, too, and will now clash two enemy champions together with a Q/basic attack combo. These changes will give Zac the tools needed to start and become a unique tank using his goo. As a fan of William “Meteos” Hartman, if he comes back to LCS, it will be a pleasure to see how he utilizes this version of Zac.

Nam “LirA” Tae-yoo is the starting jungler for Team EnVyUs. He will continue his rise in the NA LCS. / Riot Games

These changes in Summoner’s Rift are helpful to orgs that build their team around their jungler. Teams such as Counter Logic Gaming that has a star jungler like Dardoch can use Sejuani to start ganks. Another team not to underrate is Team EnVyUs. Even though they had to play through relegations, LirA played a significant role in the team to carry them back to the LCS. Teams that aggressively capture objectives like Cloud9 and TSM will love Rift Herald as well. Since Rift Herald can take a significant chunk out of a tower, a team such as these can play siege comps to zone out enemies and end games under 30 minutes at a higher rate.

State of the teams

This iteration of League of Legends will play faster than ever before and teams will be more deliberate in their picks and playstyles. New playstyles emerged with MSI and Gigabyte Marines and are looking to make way into the Summer Split, whose future storylines could look something like that:

  • Top tier teams like Cloud9 and TSM will likely continue their dominance as they have been capable to adapt their gameplay with each patch.
  • Currently, Phoenix1 do not have a support but that will not hinder NA LCS Spring Split MVP No “Arrow” Dong-hyeon and he will continue to help carry Phoenix1 as a top team, possibly even defeating Cloud9 and TSM in the standings.
  • With the addition of WildTurtle, FlyQuest improved in the ADC role but the team should focus on playing around their jungler as Galen “Moon” Holgate proved reliable in the clutch and turn games around as needed. If FlyQuest can improve on their shot calling and LemonNation can correct his mistakes during the Spring Split Playoffs, the likelihood of FlyQuest winning games against top teams will improve.
Matthew “Akaadian” Higginbotham starts his 2nd split with Echo Fox this Summer. / Riot Games

Even though we will see teams improve with the midseason patch, other teams will have a difficult time.

  • Echo Fox had a difficult Spring Split, but avoided relegations. They need Yuri “Keith” Jew to step up in order for Matthew “Akaadian” Higginbotham and Henrik “Froggen” Hansen to snowball and carry games after laning phase.
  • Before Season 7 started, critics predicted Counter Logic Gaming to win Spring Split only to be reverse-swept by FlyQuest in the playoffs. To answer criticism, CLG picked up Dardoch to control lanes and play around new changes from the patch but if CLG struggle in their first games of the Summer Split, they will need to dig themselves out of the hole. With Dardoch’s known attitude issues, Aphromoo needs to be more of a leader to carry CLG into victory.

These teams contain potential to be the best in the region, but these major setbacks might hold them from accomplishing that goal.

Kim “Reignover” Yeu-jin and Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin carried Team Liquid back to the NA LCS. They have a mission to carry the team back to prominence. / Riot Games

Lastly, there will be surprises and upsets in the Summer Split. Teams that finished strong at the end of the Spring Split such as Team EnVyUs will surprise and even though they might not have had the best Spring Split, they showed a lot of promise during the promotion tournament. Besides LirA, Shin “Seraph” Woo-yeong showed that he can still play at a high level when he shows motivation. The bot lane of Apollo “Apollo” Price and Nickolas “Hakuho” Surgent still needs some improvement, but their game against Gold Coin United demonstrated they can be a threat.

Other teams that are building for the future like Immortals, Team Dignitas, and Team Liquid can take a game off top tier teams. Immortals traded Dardoch, one of their best players during Spring for Jake “Xmithie” Puchero who struggled to find his stride during Spring. With a new team and fresh environment, he may find his groove again.

RELATED: Piglet criticises Team Liquid in open letter interview

While Team Dignitas and Team Liquid may not win the Summer Split, they have the best resources to avoid relegations. Team Dignitas still need to find an effective way to use Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho and Lee “Chaser” Sang-hyun. Their new support, Terry “Big” Chuong, may be a downgrade from Alex “Xpecial” Chu, but Dignitas needs to find a way to work around their weak link. Team Liquid qualified for the Summer Split from the Promotion Tournament and they will look to go all-in during this split to ensure their team is franchised for next season. Piglet and Reignover will always perform at a high level. Samson “Lourlo” Jackson is still developing as a pro player and will start to hit his prime this split.

This split will be among the most intriguing to date, especially with the move into franchising around the corner. Already a week in, the storm of storylines is gathering.

source header image: Riot Games

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