#10 OpTic Gaming
A new challenger approaches in the NA LCS with OpTic Gaming. Even though OPT is new to the NA LCS, its players are not rookies. This team consists of an experienced mid laner from the EU LCS, an up and coming jungler, a veteran support, and a top laner and AD Carry who are familiar with each other.
Its staff, however, is relatively new to the NA LCS. Their general manager, Romain, found success with Unicorns of Love in the EU LCS. You may remember him parading around during games without a shirt cheering enthusiastically for UOL. Perhaps, he will bring the same hype and get the fans and players riled up during OpTic’s games.
New to professional League of Legends is Thomas “Zaboutine” Si-Hassen. Zaboutine was most known for being a commentator with O’Gaming. He will bring his knowledge to OPT as their head coach.
On paper, OPT looks like a team on the road to success. Derek “zig” Shao and Noh “Arrow” Dong-hyeon were successful while on Phoenix1 in 2017 and carries that experience over to OPT. Matthew “Akaadian” Higginbotham was a solid jungler for Echo Fox in 2017 and continues to improve. Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage is an established mid laner and helped carry teams such as Unicorns of Love and Misfits Gaming to playoffs. Daerek “LemonNation” Hart is the grizzled veteran who analyzed his opponents and helped Cloud9 and FlyQuest to playoffs.
With that success comes with struggles. Aside from Zig and Arrow, the other players in OPT never played with each other. Zig and Arrow are coming off the 2017 Summer Split with Phoenix1 where they struggled individually; in effect, difficult staying composed as a team. Since the 2017 Spring Split playoffs, LemonNation did not look like the top tier support as he was in the past. Akaadian, who showed potential in the 2017 Spring Split, failed to find identical success in the 2017 Summer Split. PowerOfEvil, who is considered a top mid laner in EU, is transitioning to a new region and will need time to adapt to his new opponents. Additionally, the players will need to adjust to new management and coaching staff. This inexperience will show on the stage sooner rather than later. Even though I ranked them last in the standings, they can slowly show improvement throughout the split (similar to Team EnVyus in 2017), possibly upsetting a team like TSM or Cloud9.
When does OpTic play?
#9 Golden Guardians
An organization whose renowned on winning NBA Championships, the Golden State Warriors found their way to esports. Led by former shotcaller for Cloud9 and FlyQuest, Hai Lam looks to find a championship with entirely new teammates. Despite his mechanical skills deteriorating, Golden Guardians look to build a roster around him full of young players with loads of potential.
Matthew “Deftly” Chen has prior experience with challenger teams such as Denial Esports, Eanix, and eUnited. Despite being new to the NA LCS, Deftly dominated the NACS during his time with eUnited. In Golden Guardians, he has a high skill ceiling and surrounded by players who can guide him to the next level.
Matthew “Matt” Elento and Samson “Lourlo” Jackson was the support and top laner for Team Liquid, respectively. During their time with Team Liquid, they had a difficult time finding their stride with numerous team and staff changes. Thus, they were unable to exhibit any improvements. The move from Team Liquid to Golden Guardians is a net positive for both players. They carry the capability of demonstrating growth in becoming top tier players in their positions with leadership from Hai and coach Locodoco.
Juan “Contractz” Arturo Garcia is a former jungler for Cloud9 who continues to show growth since his debut in 2017. Even if his decision to leave C9 was questionable for most people, his reasoning was not. Contractz stated in his tweet,
I’m sure a lot of you guys will be curious as to why I wanted to explore options in the first place after such an amazing year on C9. This last year as a player I learned a lot from everyone on C9 and I’m forever grateful for all their hard work. That being said, I’m nowhere near where I want to be. I have a lot of problems to work on going into this next season and the biggest one I’m working on is communication.
I’ve always struggled with this ever since I started to play competitively. I’ve always thought to myself, unless I work on this I won’t be able to level up as a player and I felt if I was on C9 I don’t think I can level up as much as I want to in this aspect of play. It requires me to go out of my comfort zone and really focus on being a leader ingame and out. It might sound weird to say all this while being on a team with Hai since he’s a renowned shotcaller and leader, but if there’s a future where there is no Hai to be that leader for our team, I want to be ready step in.
If he wants to meet his objective to be a future leader on a team, his trade to GGS is the correct move. An established leader like Hai is able to teach his ideologies and knowledge to Contractz. However, as Contractz said, he will need to work on communication before moving forward as an in-game leader and shotcaller. Until then, his experience with Cloud9 can help carry wins for GGS.
Golden Guardians brought players from established LCS teams. But, their players (namely Lourlo and Matt) and coach Locodoco have a lot to prove in order to carry GGS as a top tier team.
#8 Echo Fox
The hunt is on. A familiar organization seeks retribution in the upcoming LCS season. Echo Fox was established in 2015 and debuted in the LCS in 2016. Since then, the organization has not improved, finished near the bottom of the standings and yet to see playoffs. In a failure of building around Henrik “Froggen” Hansen as the team’s superstar, Echo Fox responded with an overhaul of its entire roster.
Starting from the bottom, the team signed the former Team Dignitas duo of Johnny “Altec” Ru and Adrian “Adrian” Ma. In 2017, Altec was the starting ADC for FlyQuest and played a significant part for the team. Even though FlyQuest finished 4th in the 2017 Spring Split, they substituted Altec for Jason “WildTurtle” Tran. Thus, Altec left FLY for DIG. In Team Dignitas, Altec found the perfect duo with Adrian. They improved every week and was a key piece in carrying DIG to playoffs. In the 2017 Summer Split, DIG finished in 4th place. However, Altec and Adrian were the standout players during their playoff run. In Echo Fox, they seek to continue the same consistency as they did in 2017.
Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett is a highly skilled jungler and a travelman in the LCS. During his 2 year career, he’s played for 4 teams (Team Liquid, Immortals, and Counter Logic Gaming) including Echo Fox. Many assumptions state his negative manner towards his teammates and unable to cooperate. However, players state the opposite and say he did not have an attitude problem. The main issue was his playstyle did not compliment the team’s playstyle — leading to his release from the aforementioned teams. In Echo Fox, Dardoch has an opportunity to show he’s an A-tier jungler and be a quality shotcaller. More importantly, prove that he is a team player.
In 2017, Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon left the NA LCS in favor of pursuing a championship with SK Telecom T1. He aided the team into the championship finals against Samsung Galaxy but failed in his mission to succeed. After Worlds, Huni returned to the NA LCS and signed with Echo Fox. In an interview with Fomos, Huni stated that he returned to NA to win a championship in the region. Additionally, he was asked what he learned while in SKT. His reply was,
You know, before I joined SKT, I thought that I was the best. After I joined, I realized quickly that it wasn’t the case. Head Coach Kkoma taught me many things, and I’ve changed outside the game as well. If I used to be emotional, now I’m more realistic
If what he said is true about his stay with SKT, then he will do anything to help his team rather than care about being the best player in the team. Along with putting his ego aside, Huni is a highly skilled player with Worlds experience who is capable of making a huge presence in games for Echo Fox.
After taking a hiatus from the NA LCS in 2016, Kim “FeniX” Jae-hun returns as the starting mid laner for Echo Fox in the upcoming 2018 Spring Split. Prior to his hiatus, FeniX struggled while in Team Liquid. He was paired with current teammate, Dardoch, but showed no qualms during their stay. FeniX had glimpses of being a top tier mid laner. However, with quality mid laners like Bjergsen, Jensen, and Pobelter, it was hard for FeniX to stay in that echelon of players. In Echo Fox, FeniX is attempting to redeem himself in the NA LCS. It will be a hard road for him as the quality of play went up and teams will see him as the weak link in Echo Fox. Is FeniX able to play at a high level after a year hiatus?
Echo Fox signed highly skilled players; however, if they want to be at least a top 4 team in the NA LCS, their coaching staff needs to step up. Inero, who’s been with Echo Fox since May 2017, showed that he had issues drafting to the team’s strengths and unable to keep a consistent strategy. Thus, Echo Fox failed to improve and finishing in 8th place in the 2017 Summer Split.
If Echo Fox starts on a losing note, there will be dissension within the organization quickly and will look for someone to blame. Since these players have a proven track record, the team will probably blame their coaching staff before them. If this team can cooperate throughout the split, other teams will have a strenuous time slowing them down. This team is all about being a consistent pace. Any deviation will lead to their downfall.