It's that time of the year again, as the regular season ends and votes are tallied up to determine the best players of the split. Like my Spring Split votes, I find it necessary to justify my votes for the sake of transparency and to spark discussion on the topic.
Of eligible candidates, I evaluated similar criteria to last split: the player's stats over the season, the player's importance to their team, the player's performance relative to their peers, the player's mechanical skill and champion diversity, and the player's burden outside of their positional duties (e.g. shotcalling, coaching, media which exhibits their leadership qualities).
NA LCS Top Lane Votes:
Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho (Team Dignitas)
Lee “Flame “Ho-jong (Immortals)
Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell (Team SoloMid)
Last split, Ssumday had growing pains as he adjusted to a roster and culture that he wasn’t accustomed to. He rolled with the team as the primary focus and primary carry. Even without the same attention and need to carry that he was burdened with in Spring, the top laner had an outsized influence on the game in Summer. He put up similar statistics and adjusted well to a tank meta through his expert use of the reworked Maokai.
His teleports and teamfight positioning has been immaculate all split, able to jump into skirmishes on time and in better positions than his top lane counterparts. He zones the enemy team and puts them in precarious circumstances. I’ve charted a couple of those example in a previous article. This is in stark contrast from his threat as a splitpusher on picks such as Fiora in the Spring Split, and a compliment to his adjustment as a larger team player.
As a result, Ssumday is more complete, and has easily operated as the most versatile and talented top laner of the split. In my mind, he edges Flame due to not only statistical differences, but the vast champion mastery difference (Flame’s 9 versus Ssumday’s 16). Hauntzer beats out the rest due to his oddly good statistics, though the eye test demonstrates that his play was sorely lacking compared to his elite Spring Split.
NA LCS Jungler Votes:
Jake “Xmithie” Puchero (Immortals)
Nam “LirA” Taeyou (EnVyUs)
Juan “Contractz” Garcia (Cloud9)
Okay, now it’s clear as to who won the Dardoch-Xmithie trade. Xmithie has been the most consistent and highest performing jungler, taking a team from 7th place to a playoff bye to grand finals. His prowess in helping redefine the Immortals macro game alongside coach Kim “Ssong” Sangsoo has been evident in the way that he has readjusted where Immortals play around. By shifting away from a top lane focus pioneered by his predecessors, Xmithie has used his jungling to allow his teammates to grow into roles of greater prominence. He has liberated his support to roam freely to affect the map and made his teammates look stellar in teamfights through his expert positioning on tanks. Xmithie has piloted through an everchanging jungle meta and adjusted well in both a period of carry jungle picks and tanks. He has even greater intuition and game sense, able to adjust well in itemization and vision on the fly in order to accommodate his team.
LirA and Contractz have been stellar in their own rights. LirA has continued to prop up a team that has gone through constant change in key positions and an underwhelming solo lane proposition. Beyond that, he has some of the most efficient early games and most consistent ability to get his team ahead in the early game. Contractz plays effectively around winning lanes now, and executes powerful roams and dives with his winning lanes. He also has adjusted well to a tank meta from the carry meta that he is familiar with and made his name in. Their statistics in key jungler aspects have also been comfortably in the top three in most cases.
NA LCS Mid Lane Votes:
Søren "Bjergsen" Bjerg (Team SoloMid)
Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen (Cloud9)
Choi “Huhi” Jaehyun (Counter Logic Gaming)
It is undeniable that Jensen had an amazing season. It was statistically one of the most efficient mid lane performances ever seen in the NA LCS. However, holistically, Jensen is a less complete player than Bjergsen, and Bjergsen put up relatively similar numbers with greater efficiency while taking up a more prolific shotcalling burden than his contemporaries. That is the slim margin by which I adjusted my vote.
However, there are some other defining features of Jensen's story that I just do not buy as a spectator. The narrative that Jensen has access to zero help from teammates is incredibly overblown, considering the strength of his jungle and support, who have the greatest impact on the potential of a mid laner of the other positions. Andy "Smoothie" Ta and Contractz are easily top three in their position in the entire league, while the same can’t be said for Bjergsen, who has access to average players in those positions which can influence his lane the earliest. Contractz also spent early portions of Summer hovering around mid to protect Jensen and his dominating playstyle.
NA LCS AD carry Votes:
Yilang “Doublelift” Peng (Team SoloMid)
Cody “Cody Sun” Sun (Immortals)
Johnny “Altec” Ru (Team Dignitas)
Based on last split’s results in AD carry and MVP voting, one would never have guessed that the following would occur: That my vote would have no imports, and that my vote included a 2017 Spring Split rookie. Such is the case, however, and it’s with good reason. Altec was my third choice despite his lower game total because of his insane statistical and in-game impact for Team Dignitas, having high gold generation and damage production statistics on a team that is normally top lane focused. He has been exceptional in his short period with Dignitas.
The rise of Cody Sun has been exceptional viewing. Previously a player with horrible mispositioning habits, Cody has evolved from the later parts of the 2017 Spring Split to be a formidable AD carry alongside Kim "Olleh” Joosung, who has adopted a playmaking style that gives Cody room to breathe. Couple that with high jungle proximity and the ability to snowball himself into comfortable positions in the mid game and it’s hard to look past him to other options. Very high gold efficiency, CS stats and damage stats put Cody a step above most. But not Yilang “Doublelift” Peng.
Doublelift has made a swift return to the top, demonstrating the same elite statistics and skills that made him the best North American AD carry last year. His play has not dropped off, and he fell into a favorable hyper carry meta which exemplified his insane positioning and game sense. His laning has also been stellar, but it’s this aforementioned positioning in teamfights that is a joy to watch. AD carries not only in North America, but around other major regions, should look to the Team SoloMid star for tips and inspiration on what good teamfight positioning is.
NA LCS Support Votes:
Kim “Olleh” Joosung (Immortals)
Andy “Smoothie” Ta (Cloud9)
Nickolas “Hakuho” Surgent (EnVyUs)
Not a lot of statistics define a good support. The limitation of most statistical categories may be the largest gap in League of legends data collection. However, with the eye test and statistics we do have access to, it’s really easy to determine the top performing supports.
Olleh has been a monster on this revitalized Immortals squad. His one blemish is his suspect champion pool, which most notably is completely missing Rakan, a champion that would seem tailor-made for such an aggressive playmaking support.
Smoothie has carried forward his strong Spring Split into similar statistics. His shotcalling ability has some value still, though at times it looked like Cloud9 were lost in transitions after using up their early game strategies at Rift Rivals and needing to transition to more mid-late game focused compositions.
Hakuho is a vote that not many of my colleagues have, but his actual play has been refreshing. Alongside his jungler and AD carry, Hakuho has demonstrated a proficient ability to roam and get deep vision during points of the game where that shouldn’t be allowed. Overall, he is easily the best laning support in the NA LCS, and the numbers backup that claim somewhat. Some of the lowest in-lane death totals, some of the highest warding stats and top-tier XP and Gold differences at 10 minutes in the league make him very potent in the bottom lane and worthy of a third place vote despite his team’s record.
NA LCS Coach of the Split Votes:
Kim “Ssong” Sangsoo (Immortals)
David “Cop” Roberson (Team Dignitas)
- Parth Naidu (Team SoloMid)
There are many different people who lambast the Coach of the Split award, and for good reason, as there are virtually very few signifiers by which we can determine the efficacy of a coach, something that my colleagues have constantly communicated. However, there’s enough there to merit an external deduction on what exactly constitutes ideal coaching in its current inception. Those traits are pick and ban, public-facing content with the players and staff that speak to the coach's qualities and the coach being the main factor for visible improvement of the team.
These votes are the three that I felt have expanded the horizons of their team the most with the information that I do have. David “Cop” Roberson has revitalized Dignitas, making the right roster moves, boosting morale, and adjusting to metas with a smooth transition that would make Stevie Wonder jealous. Kim “Ssong” Sangsoo has been evidently amazing in involving the Korean players of Immortals and bringing out the best in the domestic core in a time that was meant to be a rebuilding period for the organization. Now, the team’s macro has never been better, and the team went into playoffs with favorable matchups and a good amount of preparation. They’ve also been equally savvy to Dignitas, making shrewd adjustments with the pieces they do have, rather than sourcing out the correct pieces from outside of the organization.
Naidu has kept domestic success and a winning form while also shifting TSM into an experimental phase in order to improve their ability to adjust easily to new patches. This type of savviness is something which must be commended, especially as he continues to see success in the team.
Rookie of the Split Votes:
Yasin “Nisqy” Dincer (EnVyUs)
Mike “MikeYeung” Yeung (Phoenix1)
Omar “OmarGod” Amin (Counter Logic Gaming)
This was by far the worst rookie class that the NA LCS has seen in quite some time. But there is no one to blame in particular. The need for abject stability in the face of uniquely devastating consequences in franchising can cause even the wealthiest of organizations to fall back on the familiar to ensure that they have the best chance of making it to 2018. I conducted this vote knowing that MikeYeung, a player that I have been particularly optimistic about for the better part of two years, would probably win. The Riot narrative was too strong, too driven towards this homegrown talent. He’s an amazing carry jungler who has raw mechanical skill and honed it to some extent in a team-oriented fashion.
But he wasn’t the best rookie we saw this split.
Nisqy, was a serviceable midlaner that got basically zero resources in the mid lane after middling laning stats. He made up for it with above average farming, and an absurdly outsized damage percentage, especially considering the gold given and the shift to control mages that he played due to his low resource role. Nisqy also almost beats MikeYeung in stats that MikeYeung should be absolutely dominating in given the roles played both postionally and stylistically, including Kill participation (68.6% vs 74.5%), and Wards cleared per minute (0.19 versus 0.22). The latter statistic is especially damning towards MikeYeung, as he boasts some of the worst collective vision statistics recorded by a jungler this split.
Hype be damned, and also: Rift Rivals doesn’t count.
Most Valuable Player Votes:
Jake “Xmithie” Puchero (Immortals)
Søren "Bjergsen" Bjerg (Team SoloMid)
Nam “LirA” Taeyou (EnVyUs)
There are a plethora of different metrics people can evaluate when it comes to MVP and they are all worth exploring and legitimate. As a result, there are easily upwards of seven potential candidates for the award.
When I think of value, I think of a player’s relative output to a team relative to the average player in their position, and relative impact to their team itself. Further, I think of a player’s intangibles and influence across the split. With this in mind, Xmithie is the clear winner to me. But before this, let’s go through the other votes
Lira also gets a vote on my end because of his demonstrable value not only as a top jungler in the game but taking the mantle of having to be the main strategic coach for his entire team, dictating the flow and priorities of the entire squad. This is something with which he should not be tasked but he has taken to it with much aplomb.
The omission of Jensen and inclusion of Bjergsen on my list in particular may come as a surprise to most. To discuss one here is to inherently discuss the other, as their amazing performances have run parallel across the entire split. The choice was clear through the metrics by which I decided on my MVP votes. If you consider mechanics as the base by which you build upon someone’s importance to the team, it’s evident that Jensen wins out. He has great stats and a champion pool that rivals his colleagues. Once you get past that, though, it’s hard to provide more arguments for Jensen’s inclusion.
Jensen also has not been a vocal presence on Cloud9, as it has been noted that he doesn’t contribute much to shotcalling. His team plays around him with a large amount of control mage picks, but his peripheral statistics outside of gold efficiency and kills have not been clearly a step above his teammates.
Xmithie wins the MVP in my mind because of the sheer difference in expectation versus reality. Almost everyone, myself included, saw the trade of Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett and Xmithie as a clear downgrade for the Immortals roster. It was unclear how exactly Xmithie could provide for a faltering Pobelter and the growing pains of Cody Sun. He also had to deal with two drastically different metas, and kept a consistent performance regardless.
His stats aside, the value in Xmithie seems to be the shift in focus by the jungler to be more control-oriented, letting his lanes thrive. Xmithie is able to perform both a carry and tank role for his team, and is further able to control the game through stellar mid-late game shotcalling. The Immortals macro, when they’re not goofing off as it seemed they were in Game 1 of their series against CLG, is some of the cleanest work that NA has ever seen. Most of that can be attributed to Xmithie in-game.
He is also a factor in keeping spirits up in the team, something that was lacking because of the conflicts with Dardoch. His intuition is incredibly sound, able to innovate in NA with interesting picks (Jarvan IV) or itemization choices (Knight’s Vow and later Ardent Censer on tank junglers). Xmithie is the truly the outlet by which his team thrives, and has been throughout the entire regular season split. He is truly deserving of this award, and NA's first ever native MVP award winner in my mind.
Gabriel Zoltan-Johan is a news editor at theScore esports and the head analyst for the University of Toronto League of Legends team. His (public) musings can be found on his Twitter.