With a trip to Worlds within striking distance, a number of North American teams refused to sit still during the month-long offseason. After Team SoloMid ran through the spring's competition and won the region's championship with ease, the winds of change began to blow. Even Cloud9, a team that hasn't made a roster move since their inception, shook up their starting lineup in the hopes of having a better chance at moving on to worlds Worlds.
While a few of the offseason's roster changes have already began to pay off, a new lineup alone is not the key to success. Those changes can certainly pave the way for a team to explore new dimensions and playstyles, but it can also take away a squad's inherent strengths if that new player doesn't fit.
Here's a look at how some of the new acquisition are fairing one-third of the way through the regular season.
Cloud9: Walking into the World of Pros
The offseason's most talked about transaction was C9's changing of the guard in the mid lane. Shot-caller, captain, and two-time NA LCS champion Hai stepped down from his starting spot to transfer into a management role, bringing in European amateur and illustrious solo queue player Incarnati0n. The move also saw Meteos switch into Hai's old position as main shot-caller.
Cloud9 knew that the first few weeks were going to be difficult, and they bet on their chances to make the playoffs and Worlds for a softer regular season record. In C9's four NA LCS seasons, they've never failed to get a first round bye. With a 2-4 start to the season couple with CLG and TL's quick 5-1 starts to the split, their four season run might finally be over.
After losing four in a row (an LCS record for C9), they were able to finish off the the third round of the campaign with a win over the equally motionless Team 8. Incarnati0n, who was expected to come in and bring an aggressive, carry style to C9, has been playing more mages and long-range champions through the first three weeks, not playing any of the assassins he was famous for in solo queue. His transition from the amateur scene to the world of pros hasn't been the easiest as he currently sports the third lowest KDA of the region's starting mid laners (Team 8's Slooshi and Dragon Knights' Bischu are the only mid laners below him).
The closest example to what C9 hopes happens is what happened with Team Liquid last year. In that scenario, Incarnati0n would be Piglet, the new, radical element to the team that wants to carry and needs time to become a true ace. The biggest difference between the two of them is that while Piglet had a slow start to his NA LCS career, he was a former world champion with a pedigree of being one of the most explosive AD Carry's in League of Legend's history. Incarnati0n's results and performances all come from solo queue and playing online, so he still needs to show that he can actually evolve from an online hero to an actual threat in the pros.
So far the trade of Hai for Incarnati0n would be a failure to anyone watching the games, but this record isn't a surprise to any of the players. They knew the gamble they were taking, and we'll have to wait until the final week of the regular season to see some real results from the change in the roster. If C9 can at least grab one of the six playoff spots and head into the postseason with a bit of momentum, that is all they need to make their run in the playoffs.
Gravity: Rocketing Upwards
Gravity entered the season with a C9-lite move. A playoff team last season, they got bounced in the first round by Team Impulse in four games. With Cop wanting to move into a coaching role and Saintvicious retiring from professional play, they picked up Altec from the recently relegated Winterfox and Move, a Korean from China's secondary league. And as with C9, they welcomed in a new shot-caller, Bunny taking up the role along with his new partnership with Altec in the bottom lane.
Their first week was an average one. Altec looked good and capable in the first two games, his pairing with Bunny getting off on the right foot. Move, the most inexperienced player on their starting roster, was the biggest issue. He made a few flashy plays and appeared to be an upgrade on the mechanical side of things, but his naivety to the pro scene cost them in the first round with an ample amount of mistakes and mistimed fights.
Since their 1-1 start, Gravity have been one of the league's best teams, as they are 3-1 in their last four games and are tied for second place. Bunny's move to shot-caller seems to be the right decision.
Move, a negative presence at times in the first week, is starting to learn his way around the professional scene. Similar to Impulse's Rush's first season as a rookie, Move possesses an unrelenting aggression and knack for finding fights, but he prefers to grab assists and help his carries around him than Rush's preference to carry. There is still room for improvement for Move and the rest of Gravity, but unlike C9, their gamble seems to have already paid off. Instead of battling for a Top 6 spot and a possible semifinal appearance, Gravity feel like a team that is shooting for the stars this season.
New York City, we might have a problem come September.
Team 8: Relegation Wars
Team 8 were the blue-collar, everyone-picks-up-the-slack team from last season. Any player could be the carry in any game they played, having everyone on the team come up big to take them from preseason relegation candidates to being in a playoff spot for a large part of the season. This season, T8 wanted to change their lineup and brought in Nien for Maplestreet, the former having almost led Team Fusion to the NA LCS in a close 2-3 loss to Dignitas in a best-of-five promotional match.
Nien was supposed to bring in an additional threat to the T8 roster, posing a bigger carry option at the AD Carry position. While Incarnati0n hasn't been the best in the first few weeks, Nien and T8 have experienced an even worse start. Through his first four games, Nien is 1-3, and currently sits at the bottom of all ADC's when it comes to stats, only having 10 kills compared to 18 deaths in four games.
With Coast eliminated last season and Dignitas already at more than half their wins from the Spring split, Team 8 now sit at the precarious position they were picked to be at last campaign: fighting to not be auto-relegated.
Tyler "Fionn" Erzberger is a staff writer for The Score eSports who covers the North American LCS and Korea's Champions. You can follow him on Twitter.