On the first of April 2015, Riot Nick Allen published an article concerning the re-evaluation of the suspensions for different high elo League players. This article was later confirmed “100% not April’s fools” by Riot Magus. Among those news, there is one that has been particularly noticed : Incarnati0n‘s suspension has been lifted, making him eligible to play for the Summer Split of this year.
But who is he ? Nicolaj “Incarnati0n” Jensen is a challenger Danish League of Legends midlaner, who held the number one spot of the soloQ ladder on several occasions over the last season, achieving a 63 wins for 4 losses record on one of his accounts. He was banned from playing in any Riot-affiliated competition in January 2013 for unacceptable behavior in-game, implication in DDoS attacks, account sharing, utilisation of botted accounts and use of a Refer-a-friend fraud. However, he has shown an above-average behavior in soloQ and has not been involved in any violation of the Summoner’s Code since January 2014, thus the suspension end.
“I’d say that based on my experiences in the past months, my level of play is as high as that of Froggen.” – Incarnati0n (onGamers interview, July 2014)
The rise of a talented European midlaner : high expectations.
By the end of every split since he was banned, a lot of people hoped for his suspension to be lifted, and for good reasons. It is a tradition for Europe to be a nest for young talented midlaners. For instance, new players such as FNATIC Fabian “Febiven” Diepstraten, SK Hampus “Fox” Myhre have impressed a lot of people during the previous split. Incarnati0n himself is definitely one of those extremely skilled players. While he is mainly known for his assassins’ plays, playing Ahri, Zed or Fizz last season, he has diversified his champion pool for season 5, thus showing his ability to adapt to the meta. For instance, mages such as Viktor and Syndra are currently his most played champions in season 5.
He himself thinks that he is at least as good as Henrik “Froggen” Hansen, arguably “the guy to beat”. Indeed, the latter is often considered as the best European midlaner since season 2. Despite their different playstyles, Froggen being a fairly passive laner, therefore never really losing his lane, and Incarnati0n defining his playstyle as “calculated aggression”, the fact that he sees himself on the same level as the “Anivia god” goes to show how confident he is in his own level of play.
“After playing some games with Diamond, he’s definitely the jungler I enjoy playing with the most.” – Incarnati0n (reddit AMA, October 2014)
A European talent leaving to live the American dream… again.
While many European fans were really enthusiastic seeing a new talented midlaner possibly joining the EU LCS, thus making the already harsh competition that is the European midlane even more interesting, we most likely won’t see it happening. Although he has been a coach for SK gaming throughout the 2014 Spring and Summer splits, and despite the fact that he stated in his reddit AMA that Danil “Diamondprox” Reshetnikov is the jungler he looks up to, Incarnati0n is up to something else. Richard Lewis, journalist for TheDailyDot, announced yesterday that, according to sources close to Cloud 9, Incarnati0n will be going to North America to replace Hai “Hai” Du Lam in the NA LCS. He will therefore follow the tradition of young talented Danish players moving to successful American teams, a trend started by Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg and followed by Lucas “Santorin” Tao Kilmer Larsen, respectively midlaner and jungler for Team SoloMid.
This move may be heartbreaking for Cloud 9 fans, since they currently are the team with the longest unchanged roster, but we can imagine that Hai is okay with his replacement and probably chose him personally. Indeed, his opinion is really important for Jack Etienne, owner of Cloud 9, who “consults Hai when he wants to make a big addition.” While the team will lose their main shotcaller, arguably the best in North America, Hai has been underperforming a bit lately when he’s not playing Zed. The facts that he suffers from a wrist injury and had lung problems in the past probably are the main reasons for his slump. In the long run, a mechanically gifted midlaner who can learn how to shotcall from the best, Hai being a possible coach, could possibly rocket Cloud 9 to the top of the North American LCS, and even turn them into strong contenders internationally, just like Bjergsen did for TSM.
“I’d like to think I’d be in the higher ranks [of the LCS], surely able to give everyone a run for their money, but playing offline is a different experience than playing online so I really can’t answer that without speculating.” – Incarnati0n (reddit AMA, October 2014)
Living up to the hype and reservations.
The fact that he has held the number one spot of the European soloQ ladder on several occasions goes to show that he is indeed a strong mechanical player. But the past has shown that being a good solo player doesn’t make you the best contender in the LCS. Let’s have a look at the current challenger standings as far as the EU LCS midlaners are concerned. In the number one spot, we have ROCCAT Erlend “Nukeduck” Våtevik Holm, followed in the 13th position by GIANTS Isaac “Pepiinero” Flores, and ex-LCS MYM Marcin “Kori” Wolski in the 14th place. Then we have Incarnati0n in the 16th place, GAMBIT Felix “Betsy” Edling in the 38th place, and finally Febiven in the 44th position. We can observe that the 3 best ranked players are playing in the three teams that finished at the bottom of the EU LCS standings in the Spring Split regular season, with Kori being relegated to the challenger series. What we can learn from this is that right now, the competitive scene is much more about teamplay than individual skill. Back in season two or three, midlaners like Moscow 5 Alexey “Alex Ich” Ichetovkin or SKT T1 K Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok could almost single-handedly carry games if they were ahead, but the meta has shifted into a more objective-focused game where coordination is key.
It is also important to note that Incarnati0n is not the first strong soloQ player to join the LCS without any previous competitive experience. Players like Carl “ForellenLord” Lückmann, who was the first to hit 3 000 elo back in season 2, or Adrian “Kerp” Wetekam, who has been at the top of the European ladder several times, has joined the competitive scene without much success in the past. This is because playing offline is different from playing soloQ, for the nerves of the players are really important. Many players are well-known “chokers” when the pressure is too high on their back. Team Liquid Christian “IWillDominate” Rivera has stated that his teammate Kim “FeniX” Jae-hun is “a god in scrims”, but the latter has yet to live up to this statement in the LCS. The hype created around Incarnati0n puts even more pressure on his shoulders. He needs to perform or people might replace the expression “to pull a Nukeduck“ by “to pull an Incarnati0n“.
“I think I’d definitely be able to live up to some of the hype that preceeds me, solo queue isn’t the best indication of skill but it’s an indication nonetheless.” – Incarnati0n (reddit AMA, October 2014)
As a conclusion, I’d say that, while North American fans can be excited about the likely arrival of Incarnati0n in the NA LCS, we shouldn’t expect too much of a competitive rookie, or at least not in the first weeks. He may be able to adapt quickly, just like TIP’s jungler Lee “Rush” Yoonjae did, and therefore become a real carry for his new team, but he might as well fail to perform and be the cause of another hype train crash.