NA LCS Spring Split in Review

by Tyler "Fionn" Erzberger Apr 24 2015
Thumbnail image courtesy of Dennis Gonzales / theScore eSports

The confetti has been dropped and Team SoloMid are preparing for their trip to Tallahassee to see if they can win their third straight tournament at the Mid-Season Invitational. Promotional matches to decide the final two teams for the Summer season will go down this weekend, and the rest of the teams in North America are diligently looking over their rosters to see if there needs to be any moves before the new season kicks off at the end of May.

Before we look towards the future, let's take a step back and review what we learned throughout the chaotic journey of the past four months that led to Team SoloMid's capturing their third championship title.

Team SoloMid: How the West Was Won

There is little left to talk about with TSM. A rocky IEM San Jose loss to the Unicorns of Love put a bleak outlook on how they'd do in the NA LCS Spring Split, but as we now know, the Unicorns got to the EU LCS finals and TSM won their region. Add in that they won the IEM world championship over World Elite and practically went wire-to-wire as NA's top team all season and there is little to really dissect with TSM's season.

The coaching was solid. The team's chemistry was the best in NA, coming back countless times in games through strong team play. Bjergsen won his second MVP award, continuing his reign as the best player in North America. Santorin, the biggest question mark for TSM heading into the season, turned out to be one of their biggest strengths, winning Rookie of the Season and forming a sound partnership with the NA MVP.

Cloud9: Changing the Game

The biggest question after C9's 1-3 loss to TSM in the NA LCS Grand Finals was if they would make their first roster change in two years. This was answered yesterday, long-time captain and shot-caller Hai stepping down as a player and moving into a management role.

Before, their towering NA LCS record and accolades were enough to quiet the murmurs of needing a roster move but we're now at the point where Cloud9 have lost their last two NA LCS Grand Finals to TSM and had the worst season of their LCS careers, slumping for a majority of the season before turning on the afterburners in the final two weeks to snag a Top 2 seed. Hai leaving the team might be a difficult change they'll need to get used to next season, but it could be the rejuvenation they need to strike back against SoloMid.

With the end of their record as the longest unchanged roster in professional LoL history, this is a decision that everyone knew would come at some point — I mean, nothing great can last forever — but maybe not this soon. Meteos and Sneaky are still considered two of the best players at their position in the West, and a more active carry-oriented mid-laner might be the weapon needed to take C9 to the next level.

Team Liquid: The Summer of Hype

Liquid were the most disjointed team in the Spring season, even more so than the excessive swings of Cloud9. The hype was there before the season even started, as they added former world champion Piglet to a roster that looked good enough on paper to stop the seemingly endless run of TSM vs. C9 finals. What happened was a regular season filled with roster drama, Piglet under-performing, and the rest of the team not connecting correctly with their prized AD carry.

This was rectified in the playoffs, as Liquid steamrolled CLG with Piglet and then lost a close 2-3 series to Cloud9 before ending the season on a high note with a third place win over Team Impulse. While their absolute goal of winning the NA LCS didn't happen this season, they've now set themselves up for a Summer season where they enter as possible secondary favorites to TSM depending on what C9 do in the off-season.

The hype was out of control and eventually fizzled out during a lackluster regular season this time around, but the hype will return again this Summer with Liquid finally looking like the team people wanted to see for the first four months of the season.

The Middle of the Pack: Kill or Be Killed

Now we come to the four teams in the middle of the pack who can either make a run for Worlds in the Summer season or fall down to the promotional matches.

Team Impulse ended the regular season with momentum and even handled Gravity well in the quarterfinals, but finished with two Bo5 losses to end the season against TSM and TL. As noted many times throughout the season by the team itself, they were always seen as a 'summer team,' meaning that while they did a great job in their first season together, the Summer season is really where they think they'll shine. While they'll need to shore up their communication, I'd be hard pressed to say any other team in NA was as exciting to watch as TiP this split.

In an age that was supposed to be golden, CLG are where they were at the end of 2014: ousted in the first round of playoffs, without a coach, and inquiries about if they need to shake up their roster. Everything was great for CLG at the start of the season, yet everything came crashing down as usual for the perpetually potential-ridden team that still hasn't shown the ability to perform in the postseason. ZionSpartan was a great addition to the team and will be a key to their potential success in the Summer season, and they'll either need a coach that can mentally prepare them for the playoffs or make a lineup decision to bring in someone who can perform in the postseason.

Gravity and Team 8, to me, are in the same boat. They were two rookie teams who performed above most expectations, Gravity making the playoffs in fifth place and Team 8 avoiding the relegation rounds with a sturdy rookie campaign. Bunny made himself into one of the new exciting stars with his play-making abilities for Gravity, and Porpoise was one of the unsung heroes of the season with Team 8 at the jungle position in his first season as a pro.

The Promotional Combatants: Three Wins to Revival

Dignitas and Winterfox, the two NA LCS promotional teams, will face off with Team Fusion and Team DragonKnights this weekend respectively to see who will move onto the Summer season and which will fall into the Challenger circuit.

Looking back on their seasons, constant roster shuffling can be pointed out as reasons why they're now facing the looming guillotine of the relegation. Both teams took chances on bringing in Korean imports without a lot of professional experience in Korea, hoping that their prospects would grow into stars given the right environment. Neither worked as planned, Winterfox moving around their players hastily around all season long and the duo of Korean imports from Dignitas not lighting up the score sheets like they wanted.

Still, through all the changes and hardships, each team only needs to win a single Bo5 to make it back into the Summer season and have a shot at making up for their disappointing start to the year. For Winterfox, this spot is nothing new, the team going to their fourth straight promotional relegation match, having won the first three. Dignitas are a different story, being one of the oldest and respected NA LCS organizations, and only one bad day and three losses away from losing it all and falling into the Challenger scene.

If the pair do make it back into LCS, you'd hope they lock down their rosters for next season and try to not juggle players in an out as constantly.

Team Coast: The End of the Road

Team Coast lost a lot of games. Some close, most in terribly bad fashion, and they were auto-relegated with a week to go before the end of the regular season. They tried to recoup their losses and sent their best two players down to a newly acquired challenger team, Final 5, but even the additions of two capable LCS players weren't enough for the F5 team to make it into the promotional rounds and give Coast another chance at making it back.

What we will remember this Coast team for is their consistency. When you expected them to lose, they did. That's not to say that their players were the worst we've ever seen or will ever see in the LCS, but there is little doubt that they've taken the mantle as the worst team in NA or EU LCS history. Sometimes, no matter how many decent parts a team has put into it, the end product is going to end is a mess.

One win. 17 losses.

We won't forget about you, Team Coast.

Tyler "Fionn" Erzberger is a staff writer for The Score eSports, and he covers the North American LCS, Champions Korea, and much more. Yes, the ending of this article was a reference to the final scene of The Breakfast Club, one of the best movies ever created. You can follow him on Twitter.