Another year of League of Legends has come and gone, with SK Telecom T1 once again raising the Summoner’s Cup above their heads. The 2016 All-Stars Event will be this season’s send-off, necessitating yet another round of recognition for this year’s top performers.
Earlier this year, I struggled mightily with the MVP awards, perhaps over-focusing on the concept of value to a team. For me, value comes hand-in-hand with flexibility and adaptability, and with League of Legends being a game of a seemingly infinite amount of variables to consider, there’s nothing in the way of a “wins above replacement” statistic by which to measure. Many of the factors in a particular value choice are unquantifiable things like teamwork or communication.
The All-Stars votes are a bit different. Some of them will simply be players that I want to see receive a bit more recognition in the community, or who I feel deserve to go based on their individual performances. There is a bit less of a priority on overall team value and more on raw talent.
2016 Award: Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong
At the beginning of the summer season, I applauded Cloud9 for finally committing to a new roster without former shotcaller Hai “Hai” Du Lam. This was the team’s third attempt, and the one that they would stick with after poor to middling results had sent the organization returning to Hai for the two seasons prior. That being said, even with the addition of Bok “Reapered” Han-gyu as their coach, I did not expect Cloud9 to do as well as they did in the summer season. One of the primary reasons they made it so far — the 2016 NA LCS Finals series against Team SoloMid — was Impact.
Before “top die” became the season’s most marketable catchphrase and Impact created his own lengthy highlight reel of solo kills that spanned C9’s summer playoff run and extended into their trek through the NA gauntlet to the 2016 World Championship, Impact was often the difference in a C9 victory. He had visible communication issues with Teleporting and in teamfights, but still managed to turn the tide of a game into C9’s favor with one or two late-game plays. As C9 grew as a team through the postseason, so did Impact’s communication and solo performances, both of which helped C9 make it to the World Championship.
All-Star Vote: Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong
In light of Impact’s value to his team, and his monstrous performances throughout the playoffs and gauntlet run, he’s my choice for NA’s top lane All-Star.
2016 Award: Kim “Reignover” Yeu-jin
When it comes to evaluating junglers in North America, Reignover has set the standard by which they’re measured since his arrival to the region this past spring. He’s creative, adjusts his pathing in the moment, and single-handedly carried Immortals to victory more than a few times this year.
Despite comparatively lackluster performances towards the end of the summer split, and Immortals’ continued inability to represent NA at an international event, Reignover was the best jungler in North America during the 2016 competitive season.
All-Star Vote: Jake “Xmithie” Puchero
I don’t think there’s a more unsung hero in North America than Xmithie. With Reignover, Team SoloMid’s Dennis "Svenskeren" Johnsen, and Cloud9’s Meteos stealing the show, Xmithie was one of the to performing and most consistent junglers in North America this past season. An instinctive and reactionary jungler, Xmithie might not be able to detail exactly why he does what he does in game, but manages to excellently track and take advantage of his opponents regardless. Even during Counter Logic Gaming’s struggles throughout the summer season, Xmithie was a bright spot on the team.
Reignover and Svenskeren will likely be the choices of most — if they’re willing to sacrifice a spot for Doublelift or Bjergsen to send Svenskeren — but my vote is for Xmithie.
2016 Award: Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg
Bjergsen is quickly reaching saturation levels in his region that can only be outdone by the likes of Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok for League of Legends as a whole. The recipient of many end-of-season awards and countless All-Star votes, Bjergsen is always a shoo-in. His presence atop best-of lists and various awards is all but guaranteed due to his popularity.
Yet, there’s no more deserving player in all of North America.
No other mid laner in the region can do what Bjergsen does for his team, and he only improved throughout 2016. Regardless of what champion or style his team needs him to play, Bjergsen delivers on a consistently high level that few players in NA can hope to match. This past year, Bjergsen carried his team through their spring growing pains, and shone both domestically and internationally this summer.
All-Star Vote: Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg
You could make a case for Cloud9’s Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen, especially when it comes to raw individual laning prowess, but Jensen’s overall impact for his team still pales in comparison to what Bjergsen does for TSM.
2016 Award: Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng
It’s difficult to believe that picking Doublelift could be contentious at this stage in the game, yet with Team SoloMid’s disappointing World Championship results fresh in the minds of many, it could easily overshadow what was previously a career season for the veteran AD carry.
At Worlds, his aggressive positioning was punished, especially against the likes of Royal Never Give Up’s Jian “Uzi” Jihao and Cho “Mata” Se-hyeong, yet it’s this aggressiveness that propelled him to greater heights domestically. Against Cloud9 in the summer finals, Doublelift shone on Jhin and Lucian, eeking out every last bit of damage that he could glean.
I still believe that the gulf between Doublelift and another top AD carry in the region is not as wide as many others perceive it to be, but Doublelift is still my choice for this year’s NA AD carry.
All-Star Vote: Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng
As Doublelift said himself onstage — and especially in light of his recently-announced hiatus — there’s no telling how much left he has in the tank. This upcoming year could very well be his last, and as a top performer in NA, there’s no other AD carry I’d rather see represent the region at the 2016 All-Star event.
2016 Award: Zaqueri “aphromoo” Black
Thinking all the way back to IEM San Jose, where the new lineup of Counter Logic Gaming first debuted, it’s hard to believe how much this specific team would achieve in 2016. It’s difficult not to attribute at least some of this success to veteran support aphromoo.
His individual playmaking aside, what aphromoo brings is a steady leadership presence that’s hard to quantify, and even more impossible to express in writing. Trevor “Stixxay” Hayes could easily be considered NA’s All-Star AD carry by many. If it weren’t for Doublelift’s phenomenal summer season, he would have a strong chance of winning the All-Star vote. This isn’t to take away from his individual performance, but much of this is due to the leadership and strong presence of aphromoo, who was by Stixxay’s side from his first game with CLG.
All-Star Vote: Zaqueri “aphromoo” Black
North America has many promising up-and-coming supports — C9’s Andy “Smoothie” Ta, Team Liquid’s Matthew “Matt” Elento, and TSM’s Vicent “Biofrost” Wang all come to mind — and Immortals’ Adrian “Adrian” Ma has been consistent throughout both splits. Yet, my vote is still for aphromoo, who sets the bar for other NA supports to surpass.
Emily Rand is a staff writer for theScore eSports. You can follow her on Twitter.