How the Mighty Coin is Creating Chaos in the 2021 LCS Offseason
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As a continuation of The Weird and Wild 2021 LCS Offseason, I’ll be breaking down all the exciting roster shifts that took place within the European equivalent of LCS, the LEC.
Similar to the previous LCS teams, I’ll be placing each newly formed LEC roster within one of five categories:
- Power Brokers: These organizations have made massive moves that will cost them a ton of money but will put them in position to win their respective leagues and make it to Worlds. The tremors from their impact will be felt in every other roster move.
- Appreciating: These organizations have made roster changes that will either put them in a better position financially, competitively, or both. They are teams that will be on the rise and will likely be contenders for Worlds slots.
- Neutral: These organizations have made roster changes that put them in a slightly better or worse position financially, competitively, or both. However, these changes are not enough to truly move the needle from last season’s results and will likely leave them outside of realistic contention for Worlds slots.
- Depreciating: These are organizations that have made roster changes that either put them in a worse position financially, competitively, or both. They are groups on the decline and might be fringe contenders for Worlds slots or rebuilding teams.
- Coin Flip: These teams have taken significant risks in their roster construction for next season. They might have the talent to be contenders but also carry enough risk to underperform. Their changes mean they will have unpredictable, high variance final results this year.
No teams really gutted their rosters or decided to sell their talent in pursuit of a rebuild, so I don’t expect too many teams to finish extremely far below their final position last year.
With all that said, let's dive a bit into the players that were acquired or divested and talk about the impact on their new homes.
Alphari (New, Team Liquid)
Perkz (New, Cloud9)
Carzzy (New, MAD Lions)
Vitality tops the list as the biggest mover and shaker in the 2021 offseason. Not only have they replaced three of the five players on their starting roster with bona fide superstars, but they also began these machinations during Worlds Semifinals, an entire week before the tournament was even over. Vitality made huge waves by bagging the duo of Perkz and Alphari with massive contract offers, and then proceeded to make their waves even larger by giving this duo some leeway to choose who their teammates tobe for the upcoming season.
Perkz and Alphari worked quickly, and it was not long before the announcement broke that Carzzy would be joining their team from the back-to-back defending LEC Champions MAD Lions and linking up with his former EU Masters Support, Labrov. With Selfmade sticking around as the Jungler, Vitality’s roster was completed mere days into the 2021 offseason.
To sign three players with this amount of pedigree is unheard of for any organization in a single offseason. Prying this much talent from three different organizations that all made it into the group stages of the 2021 World Championship takes massive ambition, a good dose of luck, and lots and lots of money. It’s impossible to say what the total outlay for Alphari, Perkz, and Carzzy was at the end of the day, but if we use Perkz’s $2 million a year contract with Cloud9 (C9) as a base, we can safely assume it’s a massive sum.
The big question for Vitality is how much is left in the tank? Severing ties with a lot of players and spending so much money at once has been a recipe for long-term disaster for several esports organizations in the past. Vitality likely doesn't care about the long-term. This roster was built for one thing and one thing only — domination.
Adam (New, Fnatic)
Cinkrof (New, Karmine Corp)
xMatty (New, Karmine Corp)
Since BDS are a new team in the LEC they technically have nowhere to go but up. To be fair, we will compare them to the team whose spot they have acquired, Schalke 04. Schalke finished last year in last place, which means…BDS have nowhere to go but up! That being said, they have also acquired some pretty exciting talent to improve upon last year’s results. Losing Broken Blade to G2 will be a big hole to fill, but Adam is about the best replacement you could imagine after a very solid rookie season with Fnatic.
Furthermore, acquiring two players from perennial EU Masters champions Karmine Corp will continue to push BDS in a good direction focused on youth development and improvement over time. With Nuclearint and Limit still around to provide experience and guidance to their young teammates, I am optimistic that BDS will have a better season this year and are headed in the right direction overall.
Wunder (New, G2)
Razork (New, Misfits)
Humanoid (New, MAD Lions)
Fnatic finished last season on a very sour note, as unfortunate circumstances drove a wedge between the players right before Worlds. While this drama has continued to unfold over the course of the offseason, Fnatic has been hard at work building a new roster that, to my eyes, is even more exciting than the one they fielded last year. The new top side of Wunder, Razork, and Humanoid is brimming with creativity, aggression, and mechanical skill, and all three have play styles that should gel extremely well. Pair this with the best bottom lane in the LEC in the form of Upset and Hylissang, and Fnatic are looking like one of the early league frontrunners and a shoe-in for a spot in the 2022 World Championship.
Excel Esports (XL)
Finn (New, CLG)
XL received a much needed injection of energy and purpose after a dismal start to the last split with the introduction of Markoon and Advienne. These young, aggressive players will have a full split to make their mark and try to finally push XL over the hump and into the playoffs for the first time in three years. Will it be enough? Is the addition of Finn and full split for XL’s young core the right formula to get them out of seventh and into the dance? In my opinion, the answer is no.
Remember, this is essentially the same roster XL fielded in the summer split, and I don’t think Finn is a big upgrade on Czekolad after a tough year on CLG. The magic provided by Markoon and Advienne’s arrival had already begun to fade by the time summer split came to an end, and I think teams will have this young duo better scouted this time around. When things get tough and early leads don’t manifest, XL’s roster doesn’t really possess the playmaking or mechanical skill to overcome a lot of teams in the LEC, which leads me to believe this season will be similar or potentially slightly worse than it was last year.
Misfits Gaming (MSF)
Shlatan (New, Misfits Premier)
Neon (New, Schalke 04)
Misfits is a tricky team to place following their offseason roster moves. We’ll start with the bad in the form of Razork’s departure to Fnatic. Razork was the impetus for most of the Misfits’ early games, building early leads with bold, aggressive pathing and playmaking. Losing him is like losing the tip of your spear, which will make piercing enemy defenses to build leads harder.
On the bright side, Misfits have retained the services of the insanely experienced Vander and the extremely talented solo lane duo of Hirit and Vetheo. These three players provide a strong core that should be able to help their new jungler, Shlatan, adapt and grow quickly. They also acquired Neon from Schalke 04, who has stood out as an excellent ADC over the last two splits while playing for a struggling team. I think these moves are enough to counterbalance the loss of Razork, and Misfits look primed to at least replicate, if not outperform, their best ever split from last summer.
Gilius (New, FA)
Sertuss (New, Misfits Premier)
SK is another team that was tricky for me to place, but their residence in the neutral section comes largely from the reality that there is little place for them to go but up. Summer split felt doomed from the outset when SK role-swapped their best player from spring split, Treatz, from support to jungle. This, along with a slew of other roster moves, turned out to be an accurate premonition as they slumped to ninth place.
Even with Treatz returning to his best role as the team’s support, the rest of the roster moves do not inspire a great deal of hope for progress. Sertuss is talented but certainly an unknown variable in mid lane. Gilius is exactly the opposite, bringing a guaranteed spurt of early season energy that will fade as the split wears on. It is a tale as old as the LEC itself and not one that makes me believe this team will finish any better than they did last year.
Dajor (New, Fnatic Rising)
Kobbe (New, Misfits)
Astralis was close to finally reaching the playoffs in the summer split, but fell short at the final hurdle. All things considered, summer was a big success for Astralis, and they had a split they can look to build on this season, which is exactly why I am so concerned about their prospects for this upcoming season.
A good handful of Astralis’ wins last split can be attributed to waiting for the late game inevitably of MagiFelix’s Corki or a heavy carry performance from the excellent Whiteknight., I believe they overperformed their expected results by a bit, something I don’t think will happen again. Kobbe is an improvement on Jeskla at ADC, but I don’t think the role is important enough to stop teams from spending resources to ensure Whiteknight can’t carry before picking apart the rest of the roster. My fingers are crossed from another stellar season from Astralis, but my head is telling me we’re in for a regression.
Broken Blade (New, Schalke 04)
Flakked (New, MAD Lions Madrid)
Targamas (New, Karmine Corp)
It has been a topsy turvy offseason for G2, which was inevitable given the aspirations and personalities in the organization. It started with the announcement that G2 would be overhauling its roster, with only Caps and Jankos remaining from the star-studded rosters that marked the most successful European team in League of Legends history. From that moment on, it felt like G2 was linked to every major free agent on the market as they looked to reload instead of rebuild.
After several months of unsubtle courting from G2, Broken Blade was the expected acquisition, and he should fill Wunder’s shoes quite nicely after hard carrying most of Schalke 04’s wins last year. Despite the solid start, though, G2 were unsuccessful in their pursuit of Hans Sama and supports like Kaiser, and ended up signing rookies Flakked and Targamas to round out their bottom lane. These two players are young, hungry, and talented, but having someone like Hans Sama stolen away by an LCS team cannot be seen as anything but a letdown.
Moving from such a flexible, talented, and reliable roster to one with two rookies will almost always be a downgrade at the outset. There’s no doubt that Flakked and Targamas can step up and return G2 to their pedestal at the top of the LEC ahead of schedule, but this offseason marks the end of an era of true domination, which can only be seen as a move down the pecking order until proven otherwise.
MAD Lions (MAD)
Reeker (New, BIG)
Unforgiven (New, SK Gaming Prime)
The offseason has been a time of unrest for the two time defending LEC champions. There were moments in which it seemed like MAD might lose up to four members of their starting roster from 2021, a shocking shuffle from a team that was so successful over the entire year. In the end they only lost two players in Humanoid and Carzzy, but losing any pieces from a title winning roster has to be seen as a downgrade on paper. Elyoya was never going to leave the squad, but holding on to Kaiser will be a big boon for this roster after he saw interest from several organizations in the LEC and overseas. Securing his signature will ensure MAD can keep some of their style and drafting from last season intact, and Kaiser will surely be able to help new ADC Unforgiven adapt to life in the LEC a bit quicker. The big question mark will be Reeker in mid lane, who will have to fill the shoes of one of the best three mid laners in the LEC last year. It’s a tall task for such a young player, but MAD have always prided themselves on finding young talent and giving it the guidance it needs to grow. If they have chosen their replacements wisely yet again, MAD should be able to remain near the top of the table and potentially even threaten to continue their streak of LEC titles. That said, any changes to a two time championship roster means the odds to make it three in a row will be stacked against them.
Malrang (New, Damwon Kia)
Jackspektra (New, Cream Real Betis)
Rogue had a tumultuous offseason but still ended up holding onto three of their five starters from last season. The two departures, however, are highly notable given they come in the form of MVP jungler Inspired and top-tier ADC Hans Sama. A team with Rogue’s pedigree could easily attract top talent, like Vitality did with Carzzy, but instead opted to replace arguably the best ADC in the league with a rookie in Jackspektra.
While it’s undoubtedly a downgrade on paper, ADC is the most plug-and-play role in professional League of Legends. The far more interesting move was the decision to bring in Malrang from Damwon Kia. Malrang is an extremely talented jungler, gated last year only by the fact that the player in front of him, Canyon, is the best jungler and likely one of the best five overall players in the entire world. Malrang will certainly bring the skill and understanding that Inspired gave the team, but once again the big question will be communication.
Jungle is the role that requires the most coordination and communication in the game, and Malrang and company will have to overcome the language barrier. It’s worked in the past for LEC teams. Trick had a great stint with G2, and Reignover is legendary for his time on Fnatic. Yet, there have also been examples like Mowgli on Vitality that have been disappointing at best. It’s not as big a bet as the ones taken by C9 or TSM, but it is a risky bet nonetheless that could see Rogue remain as top contenders in the LEC or slip down the rankings towards mid- table mediocrity.
This offseason feels like a turning point for professional League of Legends. The pace of recruiting and commitments has sped up exponentially, and teams that have monetary strength refuse to wait around for their competition. These organizations will continue to define the pace and pressure of each successive offseason and force those with fewer resources to turn to shrewd acquisitions and young talent lest they be totally overwhelmed by sheer volume of currency. With this offseason finally completed, all that is left to do is wait to see if these teams’ investments, whether via internal talent or the buyout market, will pay off in 2022. Those that succeed will be confident in replicating their success come November, but those that struggle will have to learn how to live in a market now dominated by the mighty coin.