The start of the 2019 Spring Split for the North American League of Legends Championship Series is less than a two months away. Though it has been a while since any of the teams have played a competitive match, each team has been busy during the off-season adding new players to improve their rosters.
Here are the 7 roster changes that will have the biggest impact on the upcoming LCS season.
Counter Logic Gaming, one of the North America's oldest League of Legends teams, had a very disappointing year in 2018. Missing out on playoffs in both the Spring and Summer Splits, it was clear that CLG needed to make some drastic changes. These changes started late in the summer of 2018, when the team parted ways with Ziks, their long time coach. During the off-season, CLG continued to make roster changes. The most notable of these changes is the addition of Optic Gaming's old mid-laner, PowerOfEvil.
While CLG certainly had many issues last year, Mid Lane was certainly one of the biggest ones. Huhi, their old mid-laner, was well known for playing supportive champions. While not necessarily a bad thing, it forced CLG into one-dimensional strategies where they relied heavily on their Bottom Lane to carry most games. PowerOfEvil was the primary carry for his team last year, and his addition ensures that CLG will have multiple carry threats next year.
Clutch Gaming has been busy during their off-season. Of their five starters last split, only their Jungler, Lira, is returning for the 2019 season. It is impossible to know how this brand new team will function together, but their is one player that stands out among the rest. Echo Fox's Huni has been confirmed to be replacing Solo as Clutch's top laner.
Huni has proven himself to be a world-class player, dominating opponents in Europe, South Korea, and North America. While on Echo Fox, Huni has consistently shown that he has the ability to take over games, especially when he gets help from the Jungle. If he can form synergy with his fellow South Korean Jungler Lira, then he certainly has the opportunity to carry Clutch Gaming to respectable finishes in the 2019 season.
Team Liquid was the undisputed best team in North America last year, finishing in first place during both the Spring and the Summer splits. The team however, fell slightly short of expectations during the World Championship. As a team that was put together for success not only in North America but also on the international stage, it was clear that something would need to change for the 2019 season.
The team made two additions to their roster, the first of which was adding Gen.G's Support Player, CoreJJ. CoreJJ is not the only Korean player that is making their way over to North America for the 2019 split. However, it is important to keep in mind that this will be his second time playing in North America, having played for Team Dignitas in 2015.
One of the biggest concerns for teams when picking up Korean players is getting them comfortable in their new country, but CoreJJ's previous experience in North America makes this less of a concern. Furthermore, while Liquid certainly had a dominating year last year, their support was one spot that could certainly be improved. This makes CoreJJ an even more attractive pick up for Team Liquid.
If Team Liquid was the undisputed best team in North America last year, then Golden Guardians were the undisputed worst team. Finishing last in both the Spring and Summer Splits, Golden Guardians certainly had a lot of work to do over the off-season.
The most noteworthy pick up for the Golden Guardians leading into the 2019 season is the addition of Team Solo-Mid's top laner, Hauntzer. While not the most dominate player, Hauntzer has been a consistent force in the top lane for years. This consistency is something that the Golden Guardians lacked in 2018 and will be a welcome sight. The Golden Guardians can only improve upon their dismal performance last year, and the addition of Hauntzer is certainly a step in the right direction for the team.
Optic Gaming was another team that struggled in the 2018 season. Despite a few flashes of brilliance throughout the year, they failed to make the playoffs during either split. Because of this, it was clear that the team was going to need to make some drastic changes for the upcoming 2019 season.
Few League of Legends players are more well-known than Crown. As a part of the Samsung Galaxy roster that won the World Championship in 2017, Crown has a well-earned reputation as a dominant mid laner. While some Korean players struggle with their transition over to North America, Crown has proved that he has the mechanical skill that can help him out-play many of the opponents that he might face in North America.
This is the second time Team Liquid appears on this list, and for good reason. Few roster changes were as shocking as the announcement that Jensen would join Team Liquid. Once again, it is hard to claim Team Liquid had a weak link considering their dominating season last year, however Jensen is definitely an upgrade when compared to Liquid's old mid laner, Pobelter.
This move for Jensen is also interesting for what it means for Cloud 9. Despite going through a variety of roster swaps over the years, Jensen has always been the center piece of the Cloud 9 roster. By picking up Jensen, Liquid has not only improved their own roster, but potential dealt a major blow to the roster of one of their main rivals in North America.
100 Thieves is another team that had an impressive season last year. Having impressive finishes in both splits last year, one might not expect huge changes from this team. However, like Liquid, 100 Thieves is a team that has always expressed ambitions to preform on the international stage. While making it to the World Championship, they fell short of expectations, showing that there is clearly room for improvement.
What better way to improve a roster than adding a World Champion to the roster? Bang is one of the few players in the world to have won the World Championship not once, but twice. Furthermore, the AD carry position was by far the weakest point for 100 Thieves last year.
Bang is not only a huge upgrade for 100 Thieves, but is a player that out-classes the majority of other North American players in his position. His skill, as well as his experience on the international stage, will certainly be an asset to 100 Thieves as they look to make another run at international success in 2019.
This has been one of the most interesting off-seasons in the history of the North American LCS. All 10 teams have made at least one change to their starting roster, with some making as many as four. Additionally, many teams have added players from different regions, including ex-World Champions, ensuring that North American fans will have plenty of new players to cheer for in the upcoming season.
Be sure to tune in on January 26th when the first week of the North American LCS Spring Split kicks off!