After a disappointing Worlds finish, the return of three historic organisations and the usual roster swapping mayhem, North America’s League of Legends Championship Series is back for the 2020 season
After a disappointing Worlds finish, the return of three historic organisations and the usual roster swapping mayhem, North America’s League of Legends Championship Series is back for the 2020 season. With a spot at MSI on the line, ten teams will battle it out to prove themselves as the best in the region, nine of which will hope to knock Team Liquid off of the throne that they have held for the last two years.
Starting on Saturday 25th January, the LCS will begin with a 9-week, double round-robin regular season whereby each team will play two matches per week. With all games previously played on Saturday’s and Sunday’s, each Monday will also now feature select matches played on ‘Monday Night League’, alongside three NA Academy matches.
All games will be played at Riot’s Los Angeles LCS Studio and, once the regular season is complete, the top six teams will progress to the playoffs. A change to this season’s playoffs format has seen an overall positive reaction from fans, with Riot having now introduced a much-requested losers bracket. As always, all playoff matches are decided by best-of-five series.
To begin, the 1st and 2nd seeds face off against the 4th and 3rd seeds respectively. The winners of each two initial series advance, while the losers drop down to the lower bracket. Here, the 5th and 6th placed sides will play against the losers from 1st-4th, and the resulting two series winners will then face off against each other. The winners from 1st-4th in the upper bracket have a series of their own, where the victorious team will progress to the final and the loser will fall the lower bracket. The winning team of the last loser bracket series will be the next side to qualify for the final.
To end the split, the final series (to be held in a currently unannounced location) will not only earn the winners the LCS trophy but also qualification to the Mid-Season Invitational.
For longer serving fans of the LCS, the return of veteran organisations Dignitas, Evil Geniuses and Immortals will be welcome news. Though none had ever been crowned LCS champions, all three sides had at some point fielded fan-favourite players who will have undoubtedly provided viewers with memorable moments in the past.
Dignitas are taking the place of 2019 Worlds participants Clutch Gaming and have kept a hold of franchise player Huni in the top lane while adding further experienced talent with Froggen in the mid lane and aphromoo as support. Finishing the roster, and both looking to kick-start their careers, are jungler Grig and ADC Johnson.
Evil Geniuses made quite the splash during the off-season, offering a multi-million dollar buyout for Cloud9’s Kumo, Svenskeren, Deftly and Zeyzel. Ex-Vitality mid-laner Jiizuke has been brought in from Europe and three-time World champion Bang has joined to start in ADC ahead of Deftly.
Immortals have arguably the more unpredictable roster of the three, consisting solely of experienced talent in sOAZ, Xmithie, Eika, Altec and Hakuho (all of whom apart from Xmithie did not have an ideal 2019). The Frenchman in the mid lane is likely the most unknown player in the roster, having only competed at this level in Europe until 2016 before exploring the regional leagues.
Elsewhere, 100 Thieves saw the unexpected return or Meteos and Cody Sun, joining Ssumday, Stunt and newly imported Ryoma (who joins as the first OCE mid-laner to play in the LCS). Management changes have seen Zikz join from TSM as head coach, while the ex-LCK caster PapaSmithy has left his broadcasting role to become the side’s general manager (and likely had a large hand in bringing his fellow Oceanic resident to North America).
Fan-favourite side Cloud9 saw Blaber promoted to starting jungler after the loss of Svenskerenm, while Licorice and Nisqy stay in top and mid. Bot lane changes have seen Zven join from TSM in the hopes of resurrecting his career, while support Vulcan has arrived for one of the game’s largest buyouts after impressing on CG last Summer.
Two-time LCS champions Counter Logic Gaming have made two changes to their roster, losing mid-laner PowerOfEvil and bringing in Crown as his replacement while swapping previous support Biofrost with TSM’s Smoothie.
Another side to make two changes, FlyQuest will be sporting new players in the form of PowerOfEvil from CLG and Korean support IgNar from LEC’s FC Schalke 04.
Tipped to be one of the weaker rosters in the league, Golden Guardians have kept only Hauntzer from their 2019 starting roster, while FBI cements his place in ADC and will be joined by Keith as recently role-swapped support. Joining them is ex-Royal Youth jungler Closer and ex-Cloud9 mid-laner GoldenGlude, who becomes the only native mid-laner to earn a starting LCS spot this year.
The four-time-successive LCS champions Team Liquid have (unsurprisingly) made the fewest changes to their roster. In the hopes at securing yet another title and pushing for stronger international performances, jungler Xmithie has been allowed to leave and is replaced by former Fnatic jungler Broxah. The Dane joins having helped Fnatic to a quarter-finals finish at Worlds last year as well as a second-place finish in 2018.
Lastly, Team SoloMid continue to look to break their jungle curse by picking up the infamous Dardoch. Known for his fiery temper and strong mechanical play, many fans have called for TSM to try their luck with the native jungler for a number of splits and now is finally the time they have taken the gamble. The side will also field a new bot lane in EU import (and fellow Dane to Bjergsen) Kobbe, who will be joined by the returning support Biofrost who rejoins from CLG. Broken Blade keeps his place in top while franchise star Bjergsen has all but confirmed his stay with the side for the rest of his career having signed a new contract which sees him become part-owner.
When going for an all-out winner I usually keep my predictions fairly safe (mostly as I hate to be wrong!). This split, however, I can’t help but go out on a limb and root for the new look TSM. The unpredictability in the roster means that they have just about the same chance of coming together and conquering the league as they do faltering to a mid-low table finish.
Dardoch’s aggression may help Broken Blade to finally flourish, hopefully being able to come out of his shell more with a confident jungler who knows his place (rather than with the uncertainty between Grig and Akaadian last season).
Having committed to his new deal, this is the perfect chance for Bjergsen to prove that he is still the best mid-laner in the region. More importantly, he can prove that he is still the best overall player in the region having had the title snatched away from him with Doublelift’s recent dominance.
In the bot-lane, Kobbe joins as one of the best ADCs to have been playing in the LEC last season and should form a solid, safe bot lane with Biofrost as his new lane partner. Though much will be expected of him as is the case with any new import, his ability to play safe and allow Dardoch to open up the top side of the map for BB and Bjergsen will be equally as important as any carry performances.