Will Team SoloMid remain king of North American League of Legends, or will an underdog make a run and win it all? Our staff previews the top storylines ahead of the 2017 North American League Championship Series spring playoffs.
Who will win the NA LCS playoffs?
My heart says Phoenix1. What a story it would be if the team that was laughed at for being worse than Challenger squads could become league champion less than a year later. The team has a lot of likable characters, and the redemption story of William "Meteos" Hartman -- going from the one former original Cloud9 member not to be a starter at the beginning the season to league champion and defeating his former teammates in his wake -- would be legendary. P1's winning would mean it is an NA LCS Final that isn't just some combo of Cloud9 or Counter Logic Gaming taking on TSM for the eighth season in a row. Variety rocks!
But my head says Team SoloMid. The team always makes it to the final, and though C9 was the stronger team coming into the season, the ascension of Kevin "Hauntzer" Yarnell as an elite player at his role has strengthened TSM in an area they used to ignore. Any team has a chance to make the final this season, but TSM, rain or shine, seems to always make it, so I'd have to put my money on Reginald's boys. -- Tyler Erzberger
Upset pick coming in: Team Dignitas. -- Darin Kwilinski
Team SoloMid. Cloud9 and Phoenix1 have a chance, but currently, Team SoloMid looks to be the clear favorite headed into the next few weeks. -- Jacob Wolf
Team SoloMid. -- Rachel Gu
I called Cloud9 the best team in North America midsplit, but I can't stand by that now. TSM has its own issues, but it's the best team in the region and won't lose a best-of-five series. -- Leo Howell
Which dark horse team can make a run?
Dignitas. The team took out a playoff-level Immortals team 2-0 to qualify for the postseason, and the club has been on a hot streak ever since a lackluster start to the season. Also, the team has Kim "Ssumday" Chan-ho, who is still one of the best top laners in the world. Momentum plus ace player equals a great recipe for upsets. -- Erzberger
Dignitas. Its turn-around was impressive just past the midseason point, and it'd be fun to see the old familiar make a deep run and find some glory. -- Kwilinski
Phoenix1. Not a bad team by any means, but they need to make some gameplay adjustments and could really be challengers in the semifinals. -- Wolf
Team Dignitas. -- Gu
Dignitas. There's too much talent in that lineup and too much creativity in that coaching staff to count them out. -- Howell
Who is most likely to disappoint?
Is it cheating to say FlyQuest? I still think Immortals would have posed a better challenge for teams in playoffs than FlyQuest, but you can't overlook how well Fly played and mixed things up in the first half of the season. Also, when it mattered most, FLY prevailed over Team Liquid, locking up its spot and making the playoffs when the team was expected to battle for relegation in the preseason. -- Erzberger
FlyQuest. A strong start to the season has turned into something else entirely. The fall of FlyQuest could be completed against Counter Logic Gaming. -- Kwilinski
Counter Logic Gaming. After some health issues, I don't see how they'll manage to prepare themselves enough for FlyQuest. It's going to be a really close series, though. -- Wolf
FlyQuest. -- Gu
Cloud9. When Impact is in the lineup and the draft falls in the right order, Cloud9 looks like an unstoppable late-game beast. But camping or banning Impact (or Cloud9 subbing him out) makes the team look mortal and beatable. -- Howell
Which champion will have the biggest impact in the playoffs?
Lucian. The entire season up to the playoffs was about long-ranged, utility-focused AD carries. With the fleet-of-foot sharpshooter back in the meta and buffed, it'll add a wrinkle to the awfully stale marksman meta that plagued the spring split. -- Erzberger
Lulu. In the past three weeks, she has been picked or banned 68 times out of 73 matches. I don't see her influence going down anytime soon. -- Kwilinski
Orianna. She's always one of the most impactful champions any time she is viable in the meta. She can single-handedly change games. -- Wolf
I have a tough time choosing between Rengar and Camille, but I value playmaking over carrying, so Rengar is my pick. -- Gu
Lulu. With the ADC position evolving, providing support and protection for the glass cannons will be pivotal, especially in late-game situations. Nothing is more exciting or frustrating (depending on your perspective) than a buffed up Caitlyn or Lucian in a late-game teamfight. -- Howell
Which player has the most "carry or feed" potential?
It has to be Jason "WildTurtle" Tran. No player has ever had such great highs before equally woeful lows as Turtle over the years. When he's great, there are few AD carries in North America who can make his technical skill. But when he's off his game, flashing forward for kills and sending himself to an early grave, that's when Team SoloMid fans ask how quickly Yilliang "Doublelift" Peng can return to the lineup. After losing in lane to Doublelift in the last week of the season, the playoffs will be a big moment in WildTurtle's career. He can either shut up the critics and lead TSM to a championship, or the AD carry position for TSM is going to be the biggest topic of discussion going into the summer split. -- Erzberger
I'd say Galen "Moon" Holgate of FlyQuest. The first half of the season, he was putting up big differentials in the Kills/Deaths column -- 11/3/8, 9/0/8 - and even in losses he was netting positive. The second half? Things swung the other way. 0/4/10, 1/6/0. His past few weeks have been more successful, so which version of Moon shows up will be interesting to see. -- Kwilinski
Hai "Hai" Lam or Moon. FlyQuest is really dependent on these two's performances. If they don't feed, they'll be pivotal to winning their playoff series. -- Wolf
Hai. -- Gu
Jang "Keane" Lae-young. He hasn't been wildly inconsistent, but if he plays at a high level in the playoffs, Dignitas could win it all. If he reverts back to his mediocre level of play we saw earlier this split, they'll quickly depart the tournament before it really even gets underway. -- Howell
Odds that the NA LCS representative wins the Mid-Season Invitational?
75-to-1. South Korea will send a world-class team like always, Taiwan's Flash Wolves are better than ever, and the expanded format of MSI means whoever comes out of NA will need two best-of-fives before making the six-team group stage. CLG's making the MSI Finals last year was a great moment for North America, but I wouldn't expect a repeat. I think there is a better chance that NA drops out before the six-man group stage than wins the tournament this year. -- Erzberger
Hmmm ... let's go 50-to-1. -- Kwilinski
Five percent. -- Wolf
What're the odds the Falcons can go back in time and win the Super Bowl? -- Gu
0 percent. None of these teams is on a level of team play to take down the top teams around the world. Even the potential European representatives seem to have more cohesive styles and plans of attack. -- Howell