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LCS offseason grades: Team SoloMid back; FlyQuest intriguing

Team SoloMid's Soren "Bjergsen" Bjerg. Courtesy of Riot Games

If we were to summarize North America at the 2019 League of Legends World Championship, the word "failure" adequately captures what happened. Not a single representative advanced out of the group stages. It was a disastrous ending to a year for a region where good results are harder to find than a starting North American-born mid laner in the League Championship Series.

The walls have been repainted and all 10 franchises (including a few new ones) have shuffled their starting rosters going into 2020 hoping to be the savior North America needs. While some teams aced their offseason wish lists, others are primed to be sent to the back of the class.

Team Liquid: A

  • Top: Jung "Impact" Eon-yeong

  • Jungle: Mads "Broxah" Brock-Pedersen

  • Mid: Nicolaj "Jensen" Jensen

  • ACD: Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng

  • Support: Jo "CoreJJ" Yong-in

After winning four straight domestic championships in a row, it's almost impossible to gauge Team Liquid's offseason moves until the world championship 10 months from now in China. Liquid could win their fifth and sixth LCS titles in succession and even do well at the Mid-Season Invitational, but none of that will matter unless the gold-standard franchise in North America can do damage when it matters at the end of the year. With this year's roster, the only difference in the starting lineup is Jake "Xmithie" Puchero moving to Immortals in favor of Broxah. On paper, the move elevates Liquid's proverbial ceiling against international competition with Broxah bringing a more early-game presence, though it could backfire. Xmithie has been a cog who makes a title-winning squad function, and Liquid's gamble to shoot for the stars at worlds might result in their streak of domestic glory coming to an end.

Team SoloMid: A+

  • Top: Sergen "Broken Blade" Çelik

  • Jungle: Joshua "Dardoch" Hartnett

  • Mid: Søren "Bjergsen" Bjerg

  • ADC: Kasper "Kobbe" Kobberup

  • Support: Vincent "Biofrost" Wang

This is what I'm talking about, TSM. Ever since they let go of Doublelift in the 2017 offseason, the once unflappable kings of North America have become the sidekick to Team Liquid, and in turn, lost their standing as the premier franchise in the LCS. As this offseason approached, it could have ended in disaster for TSM. Bjergsen, four-time league MVP and the franchise's face, was up for free agency and a few small moves could have seen TSM go from sidekick to cannon fodder at the bottom of the LCS table. Fortunately for TSM fans, Bjergsen re-signed and became part owner, beginning what was a bountiful offseason for the former champions when they acquired one of the most sought-after Western free agents in Kobbe and pairing him with an old TSM ally in Biofrost. Dardoch is the wild card in this mix, but for a franchise wanting to regain its spot as No. 1, he is the type of player who can help it get its first domestic title since Doublelift's departure -- if all the stars align.

Evil Geniuses: B

  • Top: Colin "Kumo" Zhao

  • Jungle: Dennis "Svenskeren" Johnsen

  • Mid: Daniele "Jiizuke" di Mauro

  • ADC: Bae "Bang" Jun-sik

  • Support: Tristan "Zeyzal" Stidam

For a new franchise to the LCS taking over the languishing Echo Fox, this is a solid roster to begin EG's return. While this would have been an "A" if they could have swung a deal for South Korea's Jeong "Chovy" Ji-hoon, EG finishing in second for the superstar mid's services behind DragonX, this starting five should contend and likely make the playoffs in the spring split.

Svenskeren will anchor the lineup as EG's new starting jungler coming over from C9, and it'll be up to Jiizuke and Bang to shake off lackluster 2019 campaigns to return to their forms in previous years when they made waves at the world championship. The most intriguing player in this roster could be Kumo, included in C9's player package when transferring over Svenskeren. He's one of NA's few true blue-chip prospects, and a quick start from the quasi-rookie is something that could lead to something higher than a first-round playoff exit for the boys in blue.

Cloud9: A

  • Top: Eric "Licorice" Ritchie

  • Jungle: Robert "Blaber" Huang

  • Mid: Yasin "Nisqy" Dinçer

  • ADC: Jesper "Zven" Svenningsen

  • Support: Philippe "Vulcan" Laflamme

Cloud9 ... didn't ... lose the offseason? In the past, Cloud9 have lost players and signed others to create homegrown talent instead of being aggressive in free agency. Finally the perennial league finalists did some spending this free-agency window. After selling league MVP Svenskeren over to new franchise Evil Geniuses and solidifying Blaber as the team's new jungler, C9 used some of their money from the Svenskeren deal to acquire Vulcan from Dignitas and pair him up from the departing Zven from TSM. Blaber is the type of player who with the right coaching and discipline has what it takes to be the best North American-born jungler in history, and Vulcan is coming off a world championship in which he didn't look overmatched against some of the best bottom lanes in the world. As long as Zven can reassert himself into the conversation as one of the league's top AD carries, C9 should once again find themselves in the mix for a trip to the world championship.

Dignitas: C

  • Top: Heo "Huni" Seung-hoon

  • Jungle: Jonathan "Grig" Armao

  • Mid: Henrik "Froggen" Hansen

  • ADC: Johnson "Johnsun" Nguyen

  • Support: Zaqueri "Aphromoo" Black

Well, this is a roster. In a sea of mediocrity that is NA outside of the tippy top, it isn't like Dignitas can't contend for a playoff spot or even make it into the top five of the standings. However, that might be the team's best-case scenario -- sneaking into the top six only to get blown out by a team like C9 or CLG in the first round. Huni and Froggen are both capable solo laners and are strong enough to win some games over the better teams in the LCS, but the rest of the roster is a gigantic question mark.

Grig has never inspired any confidence that he will become one of NA's best junglers, Aphromoo is coming off the worst year of his storied career and Johnsun is literally the only rookie projected to start in the entire LCS. There's a world where Aphromoo turns back the clock and helps Johnsun break out in his inaugural split, though that might be asking for too much. Johnsun has the mechanics to be a game-changer for an LCS franchise, but that might be more of a 2021 storyline than one we're talking about in his first season, pitted against a row of veteran AD carry talent.

Counter Logic Gaming: B+

  • Top: Kim "Ruin" Hyeong-min

  • Jungle: Raymond "Wiggily" Griffin

  • Mid: Lee "Crown" Min-ho

  • ADC: Trevor "Stixxay" Hayes

  • Support: Andy "Smoothie" Ta

Sometimes a team doesn't need to go wild in the offseason to get closer to its ultimate goal. CLG were one of the least talked-about franchises in the offseason and most of their moves were eclipsed by something bigger happening around them. With Smoothie coming over, the fact that Biofrost was going back to TSM in the trade was the headline-grabber of the deal. For Crown, it was a stealth move that didn't get much buzz, but after a good first split in America last year on Optic Gaming (now Immortals), there is reason to believe that the former world champion could be even better on a stronger all-around squad in 2020. To me, this team's future rests on the shoulders of their jungler Wiggily. If the homegrown youngster can improve on a decent first year as a starter and take the leap from solid to star, CLG instantly transform from frisky dark horse to true contender in the LCS. The starting five with a matured and stronger Wiggily can win the LCS. If he only incrementally gets better or, even worse, stagnates? Say goodbye to any chance of MSI or worlds.

FlyQuest: B

  • Top: Omran "V1per" Shoura

  • Jungle: Lucas "Santorin" Tao Kilmer Larsen

  • Mid: Tristan "PowerOfEvil" Schrage

  • ADC: Jason "WildTurtle" Tran

  • Support: Lee "IgNar" Dong-geun

Similarly to CLG, FlyQuest quietly improved their roster over the offseason as TSM, Liquid and C9 made the flashier signings. Ever since Hai "Hai" Lam decided to step down from pro play and left FlyQuest, the franchise has been looking for an identity the team can play around. Pairing IgNar, the ultra-aggressive playmaking support, along with the quintessential go-in-even-if-I-might-blow-up AD carry WildTurtle is the makings of something that FlyQuest can rally behind. V1per is ready to take a step up the top-lane hierarchy in NA and should flourish with a team more willing to play on the offensive. Although this team might not have the same highs as a CLG with their moves, Flyquest have gone from being overlooked to a team that might be ready to become one of the more exciting squads to watch in the LCS. As shown by the past few world champions, a team needs an identity before it can start winning championships, and this is the start of one for Flyquest.

Golden Guardians: C

  • Top: Kevin "Hauntzer" Yarnell

  • Jungle: Can "Closer" Çelik

  • Mid: Greyson "Goldenglue" Gilmer

  • ADC: Victor "FBI" Huang

  • Support: Yuri "Keith" Jew

Is this roster going to make the playoffs? Probably not. Will they finish last? I wouldn't put it past them. Am I oddly excited and happy about this eccentric, somewhat makeshift roster? Yes, I actually am.

When almost every team in the LCS, including the ones without the funds or rosters to compete, is trying to make the playoffs or maybe emulate a Clutch Gaming Cinderella-like run to worlds, Golden Guardians are fine not being great. They're OK experimenting. They'll trust in Goldenglue to see if he has what it takes to be a legitimate starter in the LCS. Keith, their sub AD carry, is now starting support, in maybe the weirdest move of the offseason. Closer is coming over from Turkey. FBI is staying on as starting AD carry from Oceania.

This team is just plain weird, and I love it. Golden Guardians are OK not making the playoffs and seeing what they have with the players under their umbrella, and that's not a terrible thing. Not everyone can be Team Liquid, and Golden Guardians are one of the only teams that understand that.

Immortals: C

  • Top: Paul "sOAZ" Boyer

  • Jungle: Jake "Xmithie" Puchero

  • Mid: Jérémy "Eika" Valdenaire

  • ADC: Johnny "Altec" Ru

  • Support: Nickolas "Hakuho" Surgent

This is the opposite of the Golden Guardians roster. Immortals are a team with which I'd be surprised if they were last in the league but aren't investing in anything that could sprout into something spectacular. You kind of know what you're getting from all of these players, except for Eika, who comes over with some strong results from the French domestic league. This is the type of roster that might make the playoffs and surprise a few teams, but it'd also be a surprise if this same starting five played together in 2021. This is one of the older rosters in the LCS, and with that, there are positives and negatives. sOAZ and Xmithie are two of the more respected players in western League of Legends history and are accustomed to winning. Immortals will answer in the spring how far veteran leadership and experience can carry a team.

100 Thieves: B+

  • Top: Kim "Ssumday" Chan-ho

  • Jungle: William "Meteos" Hartman

  • Mid: Tommy "Ryoma" Le

  • ADC: Cody "Cody Sun" Sun

  • Support: William "Stunt" Chen

This is the roster that has given me the most to think about this offseason. When I first heard rumblings of this starting five, I was disheartened. Why not invest in a non-import mid laner if you're going to pick someone up from Oceania? The closer we get to the start of the season, however, I've started to get excited about what the Thieves are doing. They're betting on a mechanically gifted prospect from the smallest professional region in League of Legends with Ryoma coming over from Oceania, and they're putting him in a position to succeed from the start by pairing him with experienced and motivated players.

If you're Ryoma, there probably isn't a jungler (aside from possibly Xmithie) that you'd want to pair up with in your debut season than Meteos. Ssumday is going to want to prove himself after wallowing in Academy last season, and Cody, per usual, will spend a large majority of the season not being talked about until we look back at his stats at the end of the year and realize he's as reliable as they come in the bottom lane.