These power rankings my projection of the North American teams current level, hence TSM is docked by not having many competitive games to scrutinize, whereas a team like Curse benefits considering their practice regimen has been well documented. Moreover, these are my opinions only and I welcome discussion on them. Without further ado, here we go!
#1 Curse Gaming
Yes, Curse gets the #1 overall ranking, and to be honest I agonized over this decision for quite a while. For me, it comes down to the fact that I ‘know’ how good Curse is, the other teams just have a bunch of question marks surrounding them, Curse does not.
Curse has probably the best pair of solo laners in North America between Voyboy and Nyjacky. Voyboy has transformed himself from CLG outcast to the best top lane player in North America, while Nyjacky continues his evolution as a player, finally harnessing his elite talent. Curse is almost impossible to ban out, with Voyboy by himself drawing many bans, which may leave Nyjacky several strong champions to pick from. Saint has his flaws as a shot caller, but Curse is willing to take the good with the bad and follow his calls to the letter. Cop and Elementz have played together for a long time now and have a good synergy, and while Cop has bad games, he is pretty consistent in general. Curse also has several intangibles that will help them. The practice regimen from Curse has been in place for a few months now leading up to their qualification and they have continued it since their qualification. Curse also possess a really good team spirit, and you feel like the Curse guys are actually all friends and would hang out together even if their weren’t co-workers. Cursealso benefits from having a reasonable amount of consistency over the past few months and their experience and chemistry have never looked better.
The traditional thought of Curse’s weakness is that their bot lane is weak. I think that is slightly unfair as I believe Cop is just a much more passive AD carry. Yet Cop is underrated by many, yes he is no Doublelift or even qtpie, but think about fnatic; the strength of their team is their solo lanes allows their AD carry to succeed and it is much the same with Curse. Elementz seems to have improved his play recently but he is somewhat error prone. A bit more aggression from Cop would be nice occasionally, but playing within his comfort level is also fine. Curse is also traditionally a bit of an inconsistent team that plays down to the level of their opponents. See Curse beating Gambit Gaming, but losing to MyM, as well as notable victories over Korean teams. That is something that needs to be rectified in a format of bo1s that do not allow mistakes.
#2 Counter Logic Gaming
Counter Logic Gaming has a roster that has undergone a great deal of change recently so it is hard to get a true read of how good their team currently is. What you can know is the team has Doublelift, so they have someone who can carry games almost single handed.
I mean what more can you say about Doublelift? He’s a world class AD carry player that has no equal in the North American scene. Other teams are often so afraid of him that they will try to 2v1 to make sure their AD carry is not being outclassed. Chauster has also been a revelation in switching to his new Jungle role, providing a presence in the jungle that has been missing since Saintvicious left the team all those months ago. Link will have to replace jiji, whose reputation had been exceeding his play in recent months, CLG will hope the super talented Link will live up to his talent and that jiji’s experience will not be missed. HotshotGG for all of his flaws, is one of the best in the world at 1v2 lanes and still draws bans onto his Nidalee. CLG also draws strength from having a superb organization behind them, though having Hotshot at the head of it is suboptimal, still having a gaming house and financial backing does have its advantages. CLG also has the advantage of having a general team strategy that can be briefly described as ‘protect the Doublelift.’ While this doesn’t always mean running a 4 protect 1 teamcomp, what CLG likes to do is use 4 members to create space for Doublelift to farm and let him get up to a level where he can take on the opposing team. Lastly, Chauster is also probably the best team captain in North America and knows how to direct his team with skill and style.
CLG have had an inordinate amount of roster changes for what has been a successful team in the past. Since December, Locodoco, and Jiji have left for Aphromoo and Link which are both fairly major changes. Link by all accounts is a very talented player, but he is not tested on the biggest stage and will be put to the test of being a premier player on a premier team. While Aphromoo and his transition to support is currently a work in process, his talent as a gamer cannot be questioned; though his aptitude at support can be. Certainly, he has had his moments, landing some very nice Sona ultimates recently, but has really shown a tendency to overextend and get out of position in lane and in teamfights, but realistically he will do nothing but improve, the question will be if that will cost CLG in some early games. HotshotGG is not really a liability, but something that CLG always have to gameplan around, his adroitness at 1v2 matchups is cancelled out by his subpar 1v1 lanes that will often need attention from Chauster.
To me Dignitas and TSM are pretty much 3a and 3b, I rate Dignitas higher at this point because I’ve been able to observe them more recently. Dignitas has been pretty quiet in their preparations for season 3. Outside of Scarra, none of their players stream much so it has been hard to get a glimpse of how Dignitas is performing after IwillDominate left the team. Still from what glimpses we do get, Dignitas appear as stable as ever and a team not to ever take lightly.
Outside of Scarra, Dignitas is underrated hugely on an individual level. Qtpie, Patoy, and Crumbzz are all top tier talents in North America, but very rarely get brought up in the conversation surrounding the most individually talented players. Patoy is criminally underrated, especially because few people talk about supports, but for me he is the best support player in North America and it is not even that close. Qtpie is also extremely solid and is well known for playing unorthodox Ad carries that may throw a wrench into the opposition’s plans. While having IwillDominate leave the team was probably not the best thing for Dignitas, what it has allowed is the return of Crumbzz to the jungle where he was previously so strong. Scarra while probably slightly overrated by his legions of fans, is still a very good mid lane player. Dignitas also has something that few teams in North America have; the ability to theorycraft new teamcomps that are often very effective. Remember the 4 supports for Kog meta? Remember roaming Taric support? (okay that one didn’t quite go over so well….) but the fact remains is that Dignitas is one of the few teams that can absolutely formulate their own strategy despite whatever the metagame is. The acquisition of Pulse gaming is also really smart; it allows Dignitas to practice strategies inhouse vs. a pretty good, if not quite LCS caliber team.
While all I see from Kiwikid has done nothing but impress me, he doesn’t have much experience playing against top tier laners, or have much LAN experience, both of which could be a potential setback. While no one doubts Scarra’s talent, he has been in something of a prolonged slump, which has seen his level of play decline. There is no doubt that Scarra can get back to his former level of play, it remains to be seen how quickly it will come back to him. Dignitas also has to rectify their long-standing ability to throw seemingly won games. Dignitas in the past has had some absolute Olympic level throws and in the LCS format, every win is precious. Overall, Dignitas doesn’t have too many obvious weaknesses, but I’m still not completely sold on them.
#4 Team Solo Mid
Yes being at #4 will get the TSM fanboys mad, but everything that TSM has shown to us since the S2 championships has been less than impressive. The talent is there, but one wonders if the game and the scene have just passed TSM by. Certainly it will not be a shock if TSM regain their perch atop the North American scene, but at this current moment they are the weakest of the ‘Big 4.’
TSM has had the good fortune to keep their roster together ever since the addition of Dyrus, this means that the team has had a very long time to develop team synergy. TSM has tons of LAN and tournament experience to build upon and knows deep down that they need to improve, which has been made evident through the ubiquitous Vlogs that the team produces. TSM also possesses top tier talent in Dyrus, Chaox and Xpecial. Though those three may not be at the absolute top of the North American scene, they are all still very, very good players. Dyrus in particular has endured his fair share of scrutiny from the public, but outside of Voyboy there is no one that is at his level in North America, currently. Chaox and Xpecial haven’t quite been as unstoppable as they were at points but underrate them at your own peril. Reginald has his flaws as a mid laner, but as a shot caller he is still very effective at setting the tempo of the game in TSM’s favour.
A well-publicized long absence from training in December and January has really appeared to hurt their preparations for the LCS. TSM has tried to take stock of their team and strategies after several high profile losses, but one wonders if they have learned the wrong lessons. TSM at their best was when they were playing team compositions that fit their aggressive strategies – see Kayle/Karthus as well as TSM’s global ultimate strategy with Shen/Karthus/Nocturne. Instead of making that a core component of their gameplay, TSM has tried to replicate the successful styles of other teams to less than spectacular results. TSM has not been the same team since they have been knocked off their perch as the #1 team in North America. To me, Oddone and Reginald are the weakpoints of TSM, Oddone simply hasn’t been able to get back to the days where his Maokai was banworthy, and Reginald has a very unique aggressive playstyle has been figured out by most.
#5 Good Game University
GGU aka Team Dynamic are perhaps the biggest threat to break into the top 4 in North America. Their roster underwent a fair amount of changes but has emerged stronger.
The team gets it’s impetus from NindendudeX who is one of the most feared junglers in North America and who draws bans onto his Olaf and more recently his Elise. Nintundude specializes in aggressive junglers and from that he dominates the laning phase and the tempo of the game. ZionSpartan for a long time has been one of my favourite top lane players to watch, able to play a variety of champions with aplomb and dominate this lane, of course his champion of choice recently has been Nidalee. Shipthur may not be a big name, but he brings a style all his own, which is difficult to prepare for in a best of one. I am Anjo and Dontmashme are a decent, if unspectacular bot lane, which is fine, when they have strong jungle presence and solo laners. GGU also has what appears to be a very strong team spirit and meshes well as a group even after the departure of several long time players.
GGU lacks truly outstanding players, outside of perhaps NindendudeX. Zionspartan is capable of carrying when he plays well but they don’t have a single player on their team you can point to and say “that guy can carry GGU to victory.” This isn’t inherently a weakness; it means that the team needs to perform well as a team to win. Key players such as Shipthur and I am Anjo are essentially unknown commodities outside of their performance in the North American qualifiers, which were strong, admittedly. GGU are also one of the worst teams at playing from behind, as they tend to lose their focus when having to defend objectives. Overall GGU is pretty much the definition of a solid, if unspectacular team, yet they have a good base to grow with and could be a strong team come the later months of the season.
#6 Team FEAR
Yes I know they are Team Vulcan now, but I refuse to use what is the worst name in e-Sports currently. FEAR was something of a surprise in the s3 qualifiers, as though everyone knew they were good, their level of play was quite impressive. They also broke a streak of underperforming at LAN events and will use this to their advantage in s3.
Anyone who watched the s3 qualifiers remembers the animated expressions of Zuna during teamfights, and that is the kind of leadership and teamwork that can really propel a team forward. FEAR when at their best plays a furious, skirmish based style that allows them to take advantage of the chaos that they create. Team FEAR are also notably hard workers, putting a lot of effort into their games and that work ethic is rewarded more often than not in League of Legends. FEAR lacks a true star, but Mandatorycloud might be a budding one in mid lane. Known for his ability to play a stunning amount of champions and play them all well, Mancloud is an excellent talisman to build a team around. Zuna has for many been a revelation as an AD carry performing extremely well, even in comparison to the talents of Aphromoo. Part of this is because muffinqt is the definition of a solid, stable support in bottom lane, capable of making plays or bailing out his teammates.
Much like GGU before them FEAR lack a true top level talent to build around like CLG does with Doublelift. Mandatorycloud may or may not get there, but right now he isn’t. Xmithie, while he has improved recently, has always stood out to me as being in the lower tier of professional junglers. Usually against top competition he is due for 1 or 2 mistakes a game which is not good enough when FEAR needs to make no mistakes in order to win. FEAR also have a large experience gap to close with the top 4 and even their ‘bottom 4’ compatriots GGU. Simply put Dig, Curse, TSM and CLG are vastly more experienced teams and do not get rattled in the way that FEAR does, occasionally.
The former Brunch Club secure a major sponsorship and will look to fulfill their sponsor’s ambitions. Complexity is a big name in eSports and their sponsorship will mean the world to the team. This team is not here simply to make up the numbers; Complexity is a legitimate team that has to be taken seriously week in and week out.
Having Complexity sponsor your team is not just a boon to your confidence it is also a huge benefit. You get an experienced organization behind you that can take care of all the administration of getting a teamhouse and arranging all the little details. Complexity, for being the 7th team qualified does have its fair share of talent. Lautemortis provides that solid and steady presence in the jungle. Not the most aggressive of junglers he nonetheless knows how to provide the right balance of map control and farming. Lautemortis also appears to be the shot caller of the team and he is an experienced hand at leading a team (see Legion). I believe that Brunch U has the potential to be a really solid AD carry and that he can be a pillar to build a team around and be successful. The team really has room to build their teamwork and playstyle and they should have tons of room to grow as a team. Complexity should also theoretically be able to practice with Complexity academy, but that has not been confirmed by any source.
While Complexity has room to grow it is pretty clear that they aren’t quite there yet. Considering we are only evaluating for the moment it makes no difference how much potential there is to be unlocked. Complexity has been formed out of what is essentially a Solo Queue all-star team and while they have been together since December, they really have not had enough time to become a true team and establish all the relationships necessary to compete at the top level. I believe that this team will be competitive in time, but I wonder about Nickwu and Chuuper potentially being weak links, as their play was not the strongest at times in the qualifier, though of course they both did have their moments.
#8 Team Marn
The sentimental favourite of many, Team Marn was a surprise to qualify for season 3 and to me they are currently the weakest team in the LCS. Of course Marn has made a reputation out of proving their doubters wrong.
There will be many doubters of Team Marn, but few will doubt the team spirit around the team which has been nothing short of remarkable during their run. Their confidence appears evident in any of their media appearances and it is clear that they do not believe that they are the weak link in the NA LCS. Being a part of Team Marn also has the fringe benefit of bringing a lot of fans to their team; and I believe they are probably one of the most popular NA teams based on their personalities, playstyle and incredible backstory. While this seems like the most minor strength imaginable, for a new team I think it could be critical. Marn has also done a good job in acquiring the best substitutes for his team. No, I don’t mean Marn himself, I mean Nientonsoh. Nientonsoh is an excellent ad carry but he is also capable of playing other roles and if Heartbeattt falters at all, Nien will be a strong replacement. Marn also capable of being unconventional, which is great in a bo1. It was Heartbeattt’s impressive Urgot play that propelled Marn into season 3 when their backs were against the wall, expect more meta-breaking picks from Marn to try to create advantages against more skilled teams. Marn are also one of the few teams that seem capable of playing from behind and forging a comeback even in the most dire situations.
To me the #1 red flag for this team was having the team owner and figurehead come on to Reddit to ask for money from fans just weeks before the start of the season. Not only does it smack of desperation, it shows that in comparison to the more established organizations, Marn still has a long way to go. Team Marn has to deal with a real lack of experience in playing at the top level. Unlike even teams like Complexity who have players like Lautemortis, Team Marn really has no one that has top level experience. While this may seem odd considering I praised the pickup of Nientonsoh, I actually believe he is Marn’s most talented player so having him on the bench is actually a huge weakness. Marn basically have to be more than a sum of their parts unless their talent gets substantially better they are outgunned by many if not all the teams in the LCS.