by Tanner Kinney The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the opinion of Byte or Byte's editorial board. Season 9 has (almost) begun, and that means it’s time for another year of drama, suspense, OMEGALULs, fully-stacked tears, and dozens of clown fiestas. The meta of the previous year became admittedly pretty stale, despite the previous Worlds Championship being one of the most high-octane tournaments in terms of action around the map. I feel I can speak for a lot of people in hopes that the meta of season 9 will be less focused on murder and more focused on better teams winning games. I personally don’t think Riot will do it, but they’ve surprised me before. Like with Patch 8.11, which made my duo partner nearly quit the game. Onto the power rankings, these were decided after a pretty lengthy discussion with a panel (Discord server) of experts (my friends), based off of a few qualities. We looked at the potential of the teams and the previous results of the teams and their individual players, along with keeping in mind the volatility of certain rosters and players. Although these are ranked traditionally, we grouped them into three groups since it is, admittedly, a pretty close call: The Top Three, The Middledogs, and The Bottom Feeders. Let’s just get into it.
The Top Three
1. Team LiquidI know, this is the shock of the century. The best team in North America gets only upgrades for their roster, and they’re still the best team? Quite frankly, I’m shocked. The team retains its top laner Impact, jungler Xmithe, and bottom laner Doublelift. In addition, they picked up Jensen, formerly of Cloud 9, and CoreJJ, World Champion and former member of Dignitas. They have either the best in each role or the second-best in each role, so it’s hard to find a reason they aren’t number one. My only hold out is seeing what kind of synergy the new members have, but I have faith they will perform domestically, then fail to get out of groups at MSI. Again.
2. 100 ThievesI’ve slept on 100 Thieves before, and they exceed expectations. Then they drop a good player, then another good player, and then they show up for their vacation in Korea off the back of a strong Spring Split. Fans were outraged at 100 Thieves for quite a while after the PR disaster surrounding Cody Sun and Meteos leaving the team, but they’ve pulled it around for this split. They got a serious upgrade in the bot lane with Bang, and brought former CLG Huhi and Aphromoo back together for high quality roams. For once, I have faith in the Thieves to do well. I think the only thing I’m concerned about is Bang going on vacation in North America, picking up a paycheck in beautiful Los Angeles. I don’t think he’ll be like Piglet though. At least, I hope he won’t be like Piglet. But we’ll get to him later.
3. Cloud 9Cloud 9: Worlds 2018 Semifinalists, first North American team to do so since the creation of the LCS, and they are sitting at a comfortable “run the gauntlet” 3rd place, again. Their comeback in the summer split was something of magic by 4D Chessmaster Reapered, bringing in rookies, tanking the first half, and motivating their good players to do even better and make it to worlds. The team has made no changes aside from losing Jensen, picking up the young former midlaner of Splyce, Nisqy. That’s expected to be a downgrade, but not enough to really tank C9 if they continue to perform at their Worlds level. We’ll see if they actually do that though, or if Reapered will need to motivate his roster with some crazy swaps.
4. Team SolomidTo say that Team Solomid (TSM) had a rough 2018 season would be an understatement. This team that was absolutely stacked with talent got booted in Spring Split quarterfinals by some weeaboo playing Thresh, and in the summer they brought it back toward the end but lost out in the gauntlet to Cloud 9. The team got blown apart for 2019, retaining only Bjergsen and Zven. They picked up an upgrade for support in former Echo Fox Smoothie, a new jungler with former OpTic Akaadian, and a new top laner with Turkish solo queue talent BrokenBlade. This roster looks great, but they also have a lot of questions surrounding them. Will BrokenBlade perform to expectations? Will Akaadian perform to the level of his rookie split? Will Zven and Smoothie have great synergy? I would say if the answer to all of these questions is “yes,” then TSM will be a top three contender. Otherwise, they’re just better than the over average teams.
5. Counter Logic GamingCounter Logic Gaming also had a rough transition into franchising, betting on ReignOver for two splits in a row and underperforming wildly. It was only after roster changes were made at the very end of the summer split that the team started to look like it had some life. Now, with a significantly different roster, CLG is actually not looking so bad. This team has made some decent upgrades to their jungle with the promising rookie Wiggly and in midlane picking up OpTic’s only shining star in PowerOfEvil. The team doesn’t look like it’ll be a split winning team, but they’ll definitely make playoffs at the very least, which is a massive improvement from last split.
6. Golden GuardiansThe Golden Guardians, defenders of the 10th place spot, also went to blow up their previous roster in a spectacular way. They may have kept the underwhelming Contractz in jungle and Heimer one-trick Deftly in bot lane, but have picked up an actual team around them. Fan-favorite (and former superstar) midlaner Froggen is joined by TSM’s Hauntzer and Team Liquid’s Olleh to create a roster that should get into playoffs but seems just average. They won’t get to the top, but they won’t drown. They might even get to semifinals if TSM underperforms again! If anyone is a dark horse team, it is the Golden Guardians.
7. Echo FoxEcho Fox was very promising last split, and performed fairly well, but they self-destructed toward the end. On top of that, controversies within the organization and their dropping of Fenix and Altec turned the once popular underdogs the enemy of the people. It was cathartic to see them faceplant at the end of summer last year, to say the least. This split, they’ve essentially adopted Clutch Gaming’s old roster with Solo, Apollo and Hakuho (for top, bot and support respectively), while bringing back Fenix and picking up fan-favorite Kind Boy, Rush. This team, since it has the core of old Clutch, likely won’t outperform old Clutch. At the very least, I think there’s a chance they can surprise people again in quarter finals, but the lack of big talent on the roster makes me doubt how high they can climb.
The Bottom Feeders
8. Clutch GamingSpeaking of Clutch Gaming, here they are at the bottom of the table. Clutch similarly blew up their roster after a disappointing summer split, seemingly trading three of their players for Echo Fox’s Huni and Damonte. They also promoted their academy botlane in Piglet and Vulcan to the big leagues. The only returning member is the anchor of Clutch last split, who somehow is still employed despite how terribly he did in the previous split. Perhaps Piglet requested it, but otherwise it doesn’t bode well for a team that already doesn’t look great on paper. Huni can be an amazing player, and supposedly Piglet can be as well, but these two have such massive lows that it’s hard to argue they can get into playoffs. If Echo Fox last year was the mental boom team, this year is Clutch. I don’t have faith in the roster to perform, and maybe they will, but I can’t give them the benefit of the doubt.
9. OpTic Gaming
(No, they don’t have a YouTube video. I don’t know why.) Also known as: Crown Gaming. OpTic’s roster last year certain underwhelmed the diehard GREENWALL, and even with them almost reaching playoffs in summer, they fell just short. There were some impressive players stuck with some imports cashing in paychecks. So, OpTic made the decision to swap out their great midlaner for former World Champion Crown and their mediocre jungler for both Meteos AND Dardoch. This team still has their anchor in the botlane with Arrow, their average support with Big, and their promising top laner Dhokla. This roster shouldn’t be bad right? Unfortunately, I have a gut feeling that their expensive import in Crown is just here to go on vacation and cash in a paycheck. Why would he come to North America otherwise, especially OpTic of all places? With Arrow being potentially the worst in the League as well, this team could end up having no threats in place. Maybe I just don’t have faith in Crown, but realistically this roster lives and dies based on how he does. I don’t think Crown will get OpTic to playoffs alone. As it turns out, OpTic is using their academy ADC in Asta. I don’t know what that means for OpTic, but I don't think it's much.
Introducing our starting lineup for Week One of #LCS:Top: Dhokla Jungle: Meteos Mid: Crown ADC: Asta Support: Big#OPTWIN #GREENWALL pic.twitter.com/NnE83SVzbE — OpTicLoL (@OpTicLoL) January 24, 2019
10. FlyQuestFlyQuest made it into playoffs last split with some surprisingly good play, but their roster was always kind of weak. So, what changes did FlyQuest make? Well, they picked up the notorious middle-of-the-pack midlaner Pobelter and a Riven one-trick (okay, he was good in Academy) in V1per. This team, with solid players like Santorin, WildTurtle, and even their support in JayJ, would in the past be a playoff contending team. But the League has evolved since franchising, and nearly every other team has some highlight player. Echo Fox have Rush and Hakuho, Clutch has Huni, OpTic has Crown, Golden Guardians have Froggen, etc. What sort of power player does FlyQuest have? Are they just hoping V1per can dumpster kids like it’s solo queue? I personally don’t think so. But hey, I’ve been wrong before, and maybe I’ll be wrong here, but I don’t think they’ll perform to the level of the rest of the League. And those are the rankings, feel free to send me emails when TSM ends 8th place and OpTic smashes everyone. I’ll appreciate those emails before I delete them. Personally, this was hard to judge because every team is looking pretty solid and has the potential to surprise everyone (FlyQuest aside). It really is just based on gut feelings and, as we’ve seen in the past, teams will take time to get their stuff together for playoffs. At the very least, I can be confident in saying TL is first place. If they don’t end first, I’ll only play support Amumu for an entire month. Apologies to my solo queue teammates in advance. Make sure to tune into the LCS, and watch out for more LCS recaps in the future.
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