Top 10 Western roster changes of 2015

 

     With a more than ever moving competitive scene, it is hard to put together a list of the 10 most important western transfers of 2015. There are some that may deserve a spot on this top, but are still going to be overlooked for I can’t put them all. 

     In order to come up with such a list, I had to choose which criteria I should take into account to have an unbiased and coherent decision-making process. The key factors I considered are the astonishment created by the roster change, the results that followed  these changes – if there have been some already -, the competitive relevance of the players and teams involved, and the “on paper” potential of the newly formed teams, both regionally and internationally. 

Without further ado, let’s begin the list.


10. Martin “Rekkles” Larsson to Fnatic (May 14th)

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     If there is one big name to know when talking about European eSports, it is Fnatic. And indeed, in League of Legends, they are the West’s most legendary team in terms of overall results, both regionally and internationally. But in the end of 2014, the structure started to crumble. In the finals of the Summer Split playoffs, they lost their first LCS split ever to Henrik “Froggen” Hansen’s team Alliance. After this failure, the team went on to have a disappointing showing at the season 4 Worlds championship where they didn’t manage to make it out of groups. Following these events, the team members decided to split up, captain and midlaner Enrique “xPeke” Cedeño forming a new squad with toplaner Paul “sOAZ” Boyer: Origen.

     Following the proverb “If you can’t beat them, join them”, young swedish AD carry Martin “Rekkles” Larsson decided to leave Fnatic and to sign with Alliance, which then re-branded into Elements, for the Spring Split of 2015. But, after a catastrophic split, filled with almost weekly roster changes and disappointing performances, the formerly-called “Super-team” finished in 7th place and could not qualify for the playoffs. Rekkles, who held the record for the most kills of the LCS, was not able to display a true carry performance under these circumstances and was therefore heavily blamed for Elements’ failure.

     Meanwhile the new Fnatic team won the split thanks to their newly acquired rising stars : Korean duo Seong “Huni” Hoon Heo and Kim “Reignover” Ui-jin, and midlaner Fabian “Febiven” Diepstraten. They were guided by the only remaining member of the old Fnatic: captain and shotcaller Kim “Yellowstar” Bora. The obvious weak link of this new line-up being french AD carry Pierre “Steelback” Medjaldi, the structure decided to call back their former ADC, who wanted to leave Elements anyway. With Rekkles being a way better player than Steelback, while having a similar playstyle, they went on to win the Summer Split in the most dominant fashion ever during the LCS era, winning all of their regular season games. Later on, they had a great showing at the season 5 Worlds championship where they reached the semi-finals, only to lose to runners-up KOO Tigers from Korea.

“When you’re put in a tough position – which we were in Elements (…) – it gets you to a points as a person where you get very frustrated” Rekkles (Interview with summoners-in, June 2015)


9. Lee “GBM” Chang-suk to NRG eSports (November 16th)

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     For those unfamiliar with Lee “GBM” Chang-suk, also known as GankedByMom – name which he came up with after his mother repeatedly caught him playing in the middle of the night – he was the midlaner for the LCK team Jin Air Green Wings during season 5. He was not only known for his tendency to wear bow-ties on every occasions, but also for being one of the worst Korean players during season 3 and 4.

     GBM started his professional career with CJ Entus Frost in 2013. During his time with CJ, he was harshly criticized for being a “two trick-pony”, being only able to play Zed and Orianna, on which he didn’t even manage to perform. He eventually left the team and was picked up by Jin Air Green Wings Falcon. But once again, his team had a terrible season, and many blamed GBM and his passive playstyle for it. After the announcement by Riot of the prohibition for structures to have sister teams, Jin Air was forced to keep him on their main roster, for their other midlaner Son “Fly” Yong-jun had been signed by chinese team Young Glory. But this time, he improved in a surprising fashion.  Despite an overall inconsistent season from Jin Air Green Wings, GBM was, along with his jungler Lee “Chaser” Sang-hyun, one of the best players of the roster. And when he had to face elite players such as Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok or Shin “CoCo” Jin-yeong, that’s really impressive. He also widely expanded his champion pool and managed to carry several games, especially during the Korea Regional Finals where his team exceeded all expectations, besting both NaJin and CJ Entus, only to lose to KT Rolster in the finals.

     And now, he has joined the newly formed team NRG eSports. The organization, which bought its NA LCS spot for the Spring Split of 2016 from Team Coast, has acquired other talented players to play alongside GBM. Star AD carry Johnny “Altec” Ru, formerly playing for Gravity, and Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong, season 3 world champion with SKT T1 K, and toplaner for Team Impulse in 2015 will join the Korean midlaner on this squad. With such big names, you have to expect a lot from this very promising roster. The only key point that could prevent them from dominating the opposition is the language barrier. We saw what happens when players don’t speak the same language during the season 5 Worlds championship: the Chinese teams that had these communication issues quickly crumbled. But if he manages to adapt quickly enough, GBM may be one of the contenders to become the best North American midlaner in season 6.

“A dream I’ve had since I was young was to travel the world. But I’ve never been out of the country even once. Even the prospect of going to the States makes me happy” GBM (Translated interview for DailyGame, August 2013)


8. Nicolaj “Incarnati0n” Jensen to Cloud 9 (May 8th)

Incarnation Cover

     When talking about huge expectations, one must think of Nicolaj “Incarnati0n” Jensen, now known as Jensen, going to Cloud 9 before the Summer split. The danish midlaner was mostly recognized, from season 3 onwards, as one of the best Solo Queue players on the EUW server. He held the number one spot of the ladder on several occasions, and was known for regularly beating the best LCS midlaners on assassins such as Zed or Fizz. But, up until mid season four, he never got the chance to face them in a competitive match.

     Indeed, in January 2013, he was banned from playing in any Riot-affiliated competition for  “unacceptable behavior in-game, implication in DDoS attacks, account sharing, utilization of botted accounts and use of a Refer-a-friend fraud”. The young talented player was known for being toxic and inclined to let go of his anger by reacting negatively and verbally harassing his teammates. During his ban, he has been the unofficial coach for SK Gaming for the Summer Split of season 4. At the time, the SK team was really promising, and they managed to finish the split in 3rd place, therefore qualifying themselves for the Worlds championship. Unfortunately, Jensen was not allowed to coach them there.

     But on the 1st of April 2015, his ban was eventually lifted after he had been showing a better attitude in SoloQueue and no violation of the Summoner’s Code since January 2014. Immediately, Cloud 9, who needed a replacement for their captain and midlaner Hai “Hai” Du Lam, signed him to take his place. However, Jensen did not manage to either reproduce his SoloQueue prowess or adapt his playstyle to that of their farm-heavy jungler, William “Meteos” Hartman. Therefore, the team, that was once the best in NA, had a mediocre split due to the lack of both synergy between the teammates and decision-making abilities from their new midlaner. But that’s when Hai, North America’s best shotcaller ever, came back and allowed Cloud 9 to barely qualify for the Regional Finals which was their last chance to go to the Worlds championship. And they did. They managed to perform a “Cinderella run”, as many call it, and astonishingly upset Gravity, Team Impulse and Team Liquid. At the Worlds championship, although they did not manage to make it out of groups, they still showcased a decent performance. It took him some time, but Jensen finally displayed his ability to carry games alongside AD carry Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi.

“If we continue to improve I expect we will be one of the top teams at the end of Summer.”  Incarnati0n (Interview for News of Legends, May 2015)

To learn more about Jensen, check out my article about him released in April 2015.


7. Lucas “Cabochard” Simon-Meslet to Vitality (December 14th)

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     That is one hell of a new team that French structure Vitality announced on the 14th of December, after buying Gambit Gaming’s spot for the Spring split. Firstly, they signed one of the best European bot lanes of season 5, Peter “Hjärnan” Freyschuss and Raymond “KaSing” Tsang from H2k-Gaming. But the rest of the roster is just as good. In the midlane, they acquired Erlend “Nukeduck” Våtevik Holm, who played for Roccat in season 5, and earlier for Lemondogs, the squad that dominated most of the Summer Split back in 2013. In the jungle, Vitality has contracted Ilyas “Shook” Hartsema, who was a key-part of Alliance’s success during their rise to the top in season 4. However, he has often been called inconsistent, even during their peak, and he did not display a particularly great performance during his brief time in Elements and Copenhagen Wolves in season 5. But his teammate Nukeduck ensured that he started practicing a lot more than he used to and is now really good. (Interview with Thooorin, December 2015)

     Although I could have had any of these players on my list, I chose to focus on Lucas “Cabochard” Simon-Meslet. The French toplaner, who used to play for Gambit Gaming, has shown multiple times that he is among the best in the West at his position. You could arguably put Paul “sOAZ” Boyer and Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon above him last plit. But with the latter leaving Europe, and the fact that he is still young and has room to improve, he may overcome his French counterpart sOAZ, and therefore rise to the top. In Gambit Gaming, even when they had Konstantinos “FORG1VEN” Tzortziou, one of the best European players of all time, as their AD carry, the team played a lot around their toplaner, giving him most of the resources and jungle pressure. Danil “Diamondprox” Reshetnikov would gank the toplane all the time so that Cabochard could carry games with picks such as Kennen or Fizz. And so he did.

     But there are still question marks with this team. How will they be able to play together, and will they play around Cabochard as much as Gambit Gaming did ? Midlaner Nukeduck has also been known for asking for his jungler’s support a lot back in his Lemondogs days, so there might be some conflicts on this matter. The botlane however, has always been self sufficient in H2k, and should be able to hold its own well enough. In any case, this new Vitality roster has a lot of potential. If it goes well, Cabochard will probably be able to carry his team to a top 4 position in Europe next season.

“I would like to say I’m the best, but you could argue Huni played better last split. I’ll just have to show even more next split.” – Cabochard (Interview for News of Legends, September 2015)


6. Lee “Rush” Yoonjae to Cloud 9 (November 19th)

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      Cloud 9 were the kings of season 3 in NA. They qualified for the Summer split of the LCS in 2013, with unknown players, and ended the regular season with an impressive 25 wins to 3 losses record. Led by the formidable shotcalling of their team captain and midlaner Hai “Hai” Du Lam, and the prowess of their jungler Will “Meteos” Hartman, they went on to a top 8 finish in both season 3 and season 4 Worlds championship. But during the year of 2015, the team started struggling. After  Hai was replaced by Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen, the team that once was one of the best in NA faltered. Hai came back as the jungler to be the shotcaller again, which allowed Cloud 9 to barely qualify for the season 5 Worlds championship, but it was more a temporary band-aid than anything else.

     That’s when Lee “Rush” Yoonjae comes into play. For the next season, he will be the jungler for Cloud 9. He played for Team Impulse last season, and what a performance did he display. Originally known for being at the top of the Korean Solo Queue ladder, he has demonstrated his mechanical skills by hard-carrying a lot of games during this year, alongside veteran toplaner Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong. Especially acclaimed for his Lee Sin and Nidalee plays, he was definitely a MVP worthy player.. Despite his midlaner Yu “XiaoWeiXiao” Xian getting banned during the Summer Split due to eloboosting related activities, Rush still managed to lead his team to a 4th place finish at the end of the year, barely missing the qualifications for the Worlds championship.

     The Korean jungler may be the one to bring Cloud 9 back to the top of the NA LCS. Although he did not click well with Meteos in game, Jensen has shown big improvements in his performances lately, even with Hai as his jungler. So with a very aggressive jungler that likes to help his laners snowball, Jensen and ADC Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi could be able to carry Cloud 9. With Hai staying in the team as a support in order to remain the shotcaller, until newly acquired substitute Michael “BunnyFufu” Kurylo takes his place, this new line-up seems strong and nicely balanced. Despite their loss in their first series of the Intel Extreme Masters Cologne against H2k-Gaming, they should become once more one of the best North American squads once they have time to practice.

“If I learn some more map control and vision control, I can be the best in NA” Rush (Interview for onGamers, February 2015)


5. Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage to Origen (November 13th)

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     Origen is a team that was formed on the ashes of the season 4 Fnatic squad. Midlaner Enrique “xPeke” Cedeño Martínez wanted to build his own team and was followed by toplaner Paul “sOAZ” Boyer. These are both European legends who participated in the Season 1 Worlds championship’s finals, and remained at the top of their position in Europe ever since. They were then joined by veterans Maurice “Amazing” Stückenschneider, who used to play jungle for TSM, and Alfonso “mithy” Aguirre Rodriguez, former Lemondogs support. Finally, they contracted talented Solo Queue AD carry Jesper “Niels” Svenningsen. And this was a roster full of potential, with one rookie that turned up to be extremely good, and four very experienced players. After propelling themselves to the top of the Challenger Series, they easily qualified for the Summer split of European LCS. There, despite an amazing regular season, they lost to their former teammates, Martin “Rekkles” Larsson and Bora “Yellowstar” Kim from Fnatic in the finals of the playoffs. But they still managed to take the 3rd spot for the Worlds championship by winning the European Regional Finals afterwards.

     During these Worlds Championship, they played really well, securing a top 4 place, only losing in the semi-finals to SKT T1, the Korean team that won the whole tournament. But despite these good results, xPeke did not play as well as he used to in previous seasons. The fact that he had to manage the team as its owner, while still playing professionally, meant that he had less time to practice than his teammates and opponents. Therefore, after Worlds were over, he decided to sign in a new player to share the midlane with him: Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage. This young german player has been a revelation of the year 2015. He qualified for the Spring split of the season 5 LCS with the Unicorns of Love, and managed to carry his team, along with jungler Mateusz “Kikis” Szkudlarek to the finals of the playoffs, where they lost to Fnatic, just like Origen in Summer.

     Not only is he incredibly talented, he’s also a perfect fit for Origen. The team that was already really strong and didn’t play that much around their midlaner, basically found a better version of xPeke. They both play a lot of control mages such as Viktor or Orianna, and they both like to farm a lot and to scale while letting their team do the aggressive moves. Only PowerOfEvil has shown that he is a lot better than Origen’s captain. During their series in the European Regional Finals, he solo-killed xPeke on multiple occasions, and we already saw that this roster works great together. Indeed, less than 10 days after announcing their new midlaner, Origen won their first tournament, Intel Extreme Masters San Jose, without dropping a single game. If the Spanish owner lets PowerOfEvil play most of the time, this team may very well be the one to win the LCS next split.

“Last time, with UoL, I reached second place in Spring split. This time, I want to win it.” – PowerOfEvil (Interview for theScore eSports, November 2015)


4. Lee “Spirit” Da-yoon to Fnatic (December 17th)

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     Lee “Spirit” Da-yoon is one of the best junglers Korea has ever bred. Originally on MVP Blue in 2013, which later became Samsung Blue, he has been for a long time overshadowed by his sister team, Samsung White, and its star jungler Choi “DanDy” In-kyu. Considered by many as the best Samsung team because they had the most experienced players, this idea was swept away when Blue beat White in the finals of Champions Spring 2014. Then, they managed to consistently beat their sister team thanks to intelligent macro plays and exquisite teamfighting abilities. Spirit was, along with midlaner Bae “dade” Eo-jin, the primary engager and therefore created space for his midlaner and his AD carry Kim “Deft” Hyuk-kyu to output a lot of damage and win them the fights. Until they were beaten by Samsung White during the season 4 Worlds championship in the semi-finals, Samsung Blue was undoubtedly the best Korean team, and Spirit was one of the best junglers in the world.

     But then, after the “Korean Exodus”, due to the prohibition by Riot for structures to have sister teams, Spirit and all the other Samsung players left for China, where the wages were insanely high. While some of them found great teams, such as Deft and Heo “PawN” Won-seok going to Edward Gaming, China’s best team, the Samsung Blue jungler joined World Elite. Only this team was obviously a low-tier one. Therefore, he had to showcase his ability to hard carry games by himself with high mobility picks such as Rek’sai and Nidalee. He was the only reason World Elite managed to make upsets, such as almost beating EDG during the Spring split playoffs quarterfinals, or besting the GE Tigers, Korea’s best team at the time,  at the Intel Extreme Masters Katowice of 2015. But unfortunately, he really could not do much with his lower-tier teammates.

     After going to China, most likely for the very high salaries that the team offered, it was really a big surprise to see Spirit sign with Fnatic. The structure just lost its two Korean stars, Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon and Kim “ReignOver” Ui-jin, supposedly because it could not pay them as much as other organizations in North America and China. Therefore, people who expected the Spirit to join Fnatic were called delusional. Yet he did join the European team. This time, he does not want money, he wants to win. And Fnatic may be his best shot, for they are historically the best Western team in terms of both international and regional results. But, despite him being a clear upgrade over ReignOver, can this team be as good as the previous one ? Toplaner Huni has been replaced by Korean Noh “Gamsu” Yeong-jin, formerly from Dignitas, and support Bora “Yellowstar” Kim by Lewis “NoXiAK” Simon Felix. Both these new players are probably worse than their former counterparts. We saw at Intel Extreme Masters Cologne that, despite an overall promising performance, the lack of communication will have an important role in the success of this team. But having one of the best Western coaches, Luis “Deilor” Sevilla, the new roster should easily find a new decision-making system. If Spirit can learn English relatively quickly and someone else takes the shotcalling role, this new roster should be scary.

“My goal? As of right now, winning a championship, no matter what.” – Spirit (Interview for OGN Plus, October 2015)


3. Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon and Kim “ReignOver” Ui-jin to Immortals (December 8th)

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     These two form one of the most famous jungler-toplaner duos of season 5. Yet back in 2014, they were barely known by a few Westerners. Kim “ReignOver” Ui-jin started his career as part of Korean team Incredible Miracles back in 2013. During his first competitive experiences, the jungler learnt the bitterness of losing, for his team never qualified for the playoffs of Champions. Back then, he was even nicknamed “GameOver”, because he had a tendency to get caught in the late game and therefore throw games. After leaving IM, he trialed for SKT T1 jungle’s position alongside Lee “Rush” Yoonjae and Bae “Bengi” Seong-woong, but the latter eventually got the spot. Therefore, at the end of 2014, ReignOver was teamless. Meanwhile, Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon never officially played on a team, but was part of the Samsung organization as a practice partner for Blue and White. He also tried-out for the toplane spot of SKT T1 and Samsung main teams, alongside his friend Song “Smeb” Kyung-ho, now playing for KOO Tigers. Just like ReignOver, he was not retained.

     It was only in January 2015 that they were both signed by European organization Fnatic, which needed to find replacements for four  players who just left. Nobody expected anything from these “no-names”, but they shocked everyone. In his first competitive split of all time, Huni dominated the toplane thanks to the help of his jungler ReignOver. Together, they carried the new Fnatic line-up all the way up to the finals of the Spring split, which they eventually won against the Unicorns of Love. Huni was given the “Rookie of the split” award for the Spring split of 2015, for his teleport plays were a huge part of his team’s success. At the Mid-season Invitational, they almost defeated Korean elite team SKT T1 and its midlaner Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok, the best League of Legends player in the world. Then, they went undefeated during the Summer split regular season, which they eventually won against Origen. Despite an overall disappointing performance from Huni – especially against his friend Smeb – , but thanks to a great one from ReignOver and midlaner Fabian “Febiven” Diepstraten, this line-up secured a top 4 place during the 2015 Worlds championship.

     But, surprisingly, both these players decided to leave Fnatic in the end of 2015. Rumors have been spread saying that the European structure wasn’t willing to offer them a good enough salary, and therefore let them go. Anyway, they decided to leave for North America, where wages are way higher. And it’s newly formed organization Immortals that signed them. This team, founded by a consortium of gaming, media, and tech investors, bought its LCS spot for Spring Split from Team 8. Huni and ReignOver will there join former Team SoloMid AD Carry Jason “Wildturtle” Tran, season 5 Summer split Champion Eugene “Pobelter” Justice Park and Team Impulse’s ex-support Adrian “Adrian” Ma. While these players have all been apart of top 4 NA teams in 2015, they are undoubtedly worse than their Fnatic counterparts. It’s both surprising and disappointing to see the Korean duo go to a team that won’t exploit their talent to its full potential compared to their previous one.

“I just want to win the NA LCS.” – Huni (Interview for theScore eSports, November 2015)

“If Huni needs help, I will be there. If I need help from Huni, he will always Teleport for me. Best duo.” – ReignOver (Interview for theScore eSports, November 2015)


2. Konstantinos “FORG1VEN” Tzortziou to H2k-Gaming (December 23th)

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     During season 4, Alliance was called the “Super-team” for its roster had among the best European players at each position. And despite a slow start, this team eventually won the Summer split of LCS. But this year, H2k-Gaming is the new “Super-team”. The structure, that was already top 3 in Europe and participated in the season 5 Worlds championship, kept its two solo-laners: toplaner Andrei “Odoamne” Pascu and Ryu “Ryu” Sang-ook, who was at one point one of the best midlaners in the world. Then they got rid of the rest of the line-up. First of all, the team acquired Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski, arguably the best European jungler, and Oskar “VandeR” Bogdan, a very mechanically gifted support player. These two were the backbone of Roccat and the main reason, alongside Erlend “Nukeduck” Våtevik Holm, they won any games at all. With consistent solo-laners and a solid Jungler/Support duo, all they needed was a great AD Carry to complete this All-stars roster. So they simply signed the best one.

     Konstantinos “FORG1VEN” Tzortziou is probably the most individually skilled European player to ever play competitively. He started his LCS career  in the Spring split of 2014 with Copenhagen Wolves, alongside jungler Maurice “Amazing” Stückenschneider, now on Origen. While the team was not really successful, the Greek AD carry was promptly noticed for his tendency to win the lane in a dominant fashion in almost every single game. After one split, the team failing to beat Alliance in the quarterfinals of the playoffs, FORG1VEN left. For a few months, he played in semi-professional leagues back in Greece. But in the beginning of 2015, he was picked up by German organization SK Gaming, which already had a top 3 team and solid players such as jungler Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen and toplaner Simon “fredy122” Payne. Together, they dominated the regular season thanks to FORG1VEN‘s ability to farm a lot and crush his opponents in the laning phase. But, during the Intel Extreme Masters Katowice, Korean team GE Tigers figured him out and banned his lane-bullies Lucian, Graves and Caitlyn, which led SK Gaming to a loss. Afterwards, the team displayed a disappointing performance at the Spring split playoffs, for all the other teams mimicked the Tigers’ strategy and ban-targeted the FORG1VEN. Frustrated by the lack of results, he left SK and joined Gambit Gaming for the Summer split. But with this line-up playing more around its toplaner Lucas “Cabochard” Simon-Meslet than him, infrastructure issues at the beginning of the split, and a temporary ban by Riot on the Greek player because of his negative attitude in Solo Queue,  the results weren’t so great and the team did not even qualify for the playoffs.

     But with this H2k roster, there’s a new hope for FORG1VEN. This time he has a good line-up with elite players at every position. But that’s not the main reason why this team looks really scary. This time, he has teammates that perfectly fit his playstyle. He is a player that needs his allies to play a more supportive role, and to let him carry the game while giving him most of the resources. And Odoamne is precisely known for being a self-sufficient toplaner that can effectively play tank and peel for his AD Carry. Jankos and Vander already have a great synergy together, which will allow the jungler, known for his early game prowess, to successfully focus on the botlane. All this team needs to do is to give FORG1VEN the tools to demonstrate his godlike mechanical abilities and win the teamfights by outputting enormous amounts of damage while dodging every skillshots thrown at him. And in case he can’t carry the game, he still has wild-card Ryu, who has already demonstrated his ability to snowball leads and to win games by himself in certain scenarios. The expectations are huge with this team, but it may be FORG1VEN‘s last chance to be a winner. If he doesn’t manage to win with this team, he won’t have any excuse anymore.

“When you’re winning, it’s really easy. But when you are losing for way too long, it’s unbearable at some point.” – FORG1VEN (Interview with Thooorin, September 2015)


1. Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng and Bora “Yellowstar” Kim to Team SoloMid (respectively October 31st and December 11th)

Doublestar

     These two have to be the most shocking roster changes of 2015 “by far”. If Fnatic is the symbol of European League of Legends eSports, then Team SoloMid is its North American counterpart. It was formed in early 2011 by Andy “Reginald” Dinh to challenge George “HotshotGG” Georgallidis’s team Counter Logic Gaming, which was at the time the best Western team. And he quickly managed to surpass his rival. Now, we can say that Reginald has run one of the most successful North American organizations with the overall best results regionally. But, following his loss to CLG in the finals of the season 5 Summer split and a disappointing performance at the Worlds championship, the owner decided to remove everyone from his team except for midlaner Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg. Starting with this true “Solo Mid” scenario, he built the NA “Super-team”.

     Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng has been the face of Counter Logic Gaming for as long as he’s been playing with them. The American AD carry has managed to consistently remain at the top of his position since 2011. Although he had not won a single tournament until this year’s Summer split, he has always been able to showcase his impressive mechanical skills and lane dominance, especially with his partner Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black, with whom he formed the “Rush Hour” botlane. Nobody expected him to join his all-time rivals, TSM, and part ways with CLG after winning his first tournament ever. But surprisingly he did.

     Aphromoo may be the best North American support, but Doublelift will be joined by an even better one. Bora “Yellowstar” Kim simply is the best European player of all time in terms of shotcalling, experience and achievements. Not only has he been part of every single Worlds championship – making it to the finals once, and to the semi-finals twice -, he has also won five out of six LCS splits with ten different players. After Fnatic had to rebuild in the beginning of 2015, he was the only member to stay and still managed to lead his rookie teammates to a win and a great international showing at the Mid-Season Invitational. Having played for Fnatic since January 2013, it was really astonishing to learn that he left to play with North-American Team SoloMid.

   These two players will join arguably the best Western midlaner, Bjergsen, one of Europe’s finest jungler Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen, and rising toplaner Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell. Although they lost to Origen in the semi-finals of Intel Extreme Masters San Jose, while Yellowstar wasn’t with the team yet, this roster is very promising. With the two exceptional carries that are Doublelift and Bjergsen, led by the excellent shotcalling abilities of Yellowstar, the other two players only need to hold their own against their opponents and to help these three do the rest. Knowing the great level of infrastructures and coaching staff that Team SoloMid has, this line-up is the best chance North America will ever have to win a major international tournament, for it is on paper one of the strongest roster the West has ever seen.

“I really like that it’s a fresh start. (…) So far everyone’s been super nice to each other.” – Doublelift (Interview for GameSpot, November 2015)

[About rebuilding the team] “Imagine yourself in front of the Everest mountains that you have to climb in a very short period of time, with a huge storm approaching, and you get an image of what was ahead of us. – Yellowstar (Farewell message to Fnatic, December 2015)