LoL Off Season 2019 Review

League of Legends Off Season 2019

Playground for Millionaires and New Arrivals

November and December are usually quiet times in the League of Legends, as there is little more than an entertaining All-Star event between the Worlds Finals and the beginning of January. This year, however, this time slot was probably colored by the largest roster roulette ever seen. One major factor is the change seen in North America two years ago, and a year ago in other major leagues, where the franchise model was changed. Each organization applied for a seat in the league and paid a membership fee of millions of euros, while gaining certainty about the league's position and share of advertising revenue. Now the teams are getting their first taste of advertising revenue and creating sponsorship deals with a permanent league seat. As a result, the organizations' goals and ways of achieving those goals have evolved.

North America

The LCS League has been the most talked about this offseason. The rosters of big organizations have gone new and two new organizations have joined. Echo Fox lost its league position due to the racist and inappropriate behavior of its shareholder and this place was awarded to Evil Genius, a world-renowned esports organization. Another change is the return of Immortals to LCS when it acquired the OpTic Gaming backend organization. The third new name will also be seen on the playing field when Clutch Gaming rebranded itself to LCS's cult following Dignitas. When combined with the arrival of new teams, the fact that the successful successor TSM completely covered the summer season and stayed out of the Worlds, and that the Worlds qualifying teams underperformed, so the match is ready. Each line-up in the league has undergone changes, with only a few remaining half of the players who played last summer.

LCS has become known in recent years for playing a large number of import players. What's interesting about this year is the fact that according to LCS rules, a player who has played four full years in North America will no longer occupy the alien quota and many players have arrived in the early days of LCS and thus will not occupy the quota. Only two import players can be on the team at a time. Importers have traditionally come from either the top players in the European LEC League or Korea from players who want to succeed overseas or have not been placed in a team that would fight for a Worlds seat in Korea. This situation has aroused debate mainly because it has created really unreal situations for teams and roles. For example, in the opening squad of ten teams, there is only one mid-player born in North America, and in the top six of the league's top six, only one player is born in North America. It is also very significant that there is a high probability that only one North American player will be seen in the entire league.

If the increase in foreign players in the league and the difficulty of marching young players have spoken, so has the spending of organizations. North American organizations compete for players with up to millions of euros in salary offers and share issues from international organizations. Riot Games had to renew its rules on player shareholding in order to eliminate this aspect of player lure. A sad example of money wasting comes from Dignitas (formerly Clutch Gaming), who represented LCS at Worlds in the fall. After the main event of the season, it offered Heo "Huni" Seung-hoon a salary of as much as $ 2.3 million over two years, whether a Korean player or not. Other players on the team were either sold or released. However, it is clear that no organization can pay millions for each player, and so Dignitas was in great difficulty of getting an attractive line-up around Hun.

As a solution, the team hired veterans Henrik "Froggen" Hansen and Zaquer "Aphromoo" Black, as well as Jonathan "Grig" Armao and Johnson "Johnsun" Nguyen. In the eyes of many, this line-up is weaker than the previous one, and it can be safely said that it puts the team in a weaker position compared to the others, as teams have strengthened almost on the sidelines with their acquisitions.

Noteworthy is the fact that there will be no new Korean players joining the league this spring. When the franchise model started a couple of years ago, Korean players came in to fill the foreign quota and teams hired Korean coaches to get the most out of the players and reduce the impact of the language barrier. Today, more players are coming from Europe. In the spring we see Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen from Fnatic to Team Liquid and Kasper “Kobbe” Kobberup from Splyce to TSM. LCS also allowed in its revised rules one extra foreign player if this player comes from the wild card league. So it is expected that at least the Academy rosters will receive some new blood around the world.

Travel to LCS

The flood of imported players means that it will be harder for newcomers to get into LCS. In North America, each team has an Academy team, but for the sake of honesty, they primarily turn around players whose language skills they want to develop or players who have two players in the organization. Sure, Cloud9, for example, has done a good job with its academy and has raised many players to LCS, but that's more of an exception than the rule. Actually, the only way to get to the Academy is through the Scouting Grounds event, where the best ladder players are invited. There are hardly any amateur tournaments and there are actually only inter-university tournaments / leagues below LCS and there are very few LCS level players. So, for North American promises, the only way to get on with your career is to play well in the ranking games and thus get a spot on the screen. However, when a screen is received, the player should be part of the team and may be the first time the player is playing on an organized team. LCS lineups now have about 60 players attached, including one North American newcomer. It really tells you about the functionality of everything essential.

Europe

In Europe, the franchise league has been in operation for a full year and its effects are beginning to show. In Europe, however, the approach has been quite different from that in North America. Like LCS, there are fewer Korean import players in the LEC than in the past, but the overall number of import players in the LEC has dropped significantly. There will be five players from outside Europe throughout the LEC League this spring. That's just as much as Team Liquid alone has imported players in its ranks. In Europe, the franchise model has given organizations the certainty that a place in the league will continue to exist in the coming seasons and has the courage to recruit young players to the teams and build the club's future. With one newcomer to the LCS for the spring, the LEC can put zero after that. About one in five players are newcomers or have played a maximum of one full season before the spring season. There are more newcomers than we have seen in years.

Why are there strong entrants in Europe and not in North America?

There are many reasons for this. First of all, the amount of money that organizations have in Europe does not match what big American organizations have budgeted for in the league. That is why teams need to look for talent in a very different way when expensive import players have been perceived for several years to be worth nothing more than the money it takes to acquire them. However, money is not the biggest explanation. Europe has a well-built league structure with national / continental leagues. These leagues include the Academy teams from the LEC teams, but also a large number of smaller organizations. The best of these leagues meet twice a year for the European Masters and this tournament is a great showcase for promising players. Through the leagues and their lower divisions, players get to compete in a team environment from a very early stage, and after a breakthrough, they are already accustomed to a team environment and transitioning to LEC or LEC team academy is far less painful than a player playing for the first time in the neighborhood of. A much more effective league structure allows talent development and organizations to scout talent. There is also a long tradition in Europe, for example, on the football side of talent development, and sponsors are also more conducive to teams taking young promises under their wings.

Is the European LEC League the perfect place to play?

No way. While it is easier for a young player to make a growth story in Europe and break even at the LEC level in the absence of import players, Europe has its own troubles. Anyone who has played ranking games on European servers will immediately notice one thing: in Europe, you often do not treat your players very kindly. Of course, it also affects team building. Finding group dynamics plays a very important role. A good example is Fnatic, which reached the Worlds Finals every year and this year's playoffs. However, a year ago, Rasmus “Caps” Winther and Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen, as well as head coach Joey “YoungBuck” Steltenpool, left the team. Everyone was leaving because of problems within the team that could never be solved in two years. Another challenge to build a team is the fact that LCS offers European top players absolutely no cheeky salary offers.

In international tournaments, Europe has shown very brilliant clippings with teams made up entirely of European players. The success has been better than in the years when many Korean import players were playing in Europe. One reason for this has certainly been the development of a European club team organization. Many electronic sports organizations work with, or at least get inspired from, traditional clubs in traditional sports. The well-being of the players, the building of group dynamics, the relaxation in the action and the quality of coaching have taken the European League of Legends tremendously forward. It is interesting to see when LCS starts to become interested in European coaching, as almost half of LCS coaches are now imported from Asia. Also noteworthy is the fact that G2 Esports is the only one of the top league teams to leave in the same line-up for the spring 2020 season as it did a year ago for the spring season. So, with the exception of G2, there have been changes in all major teams over the past year.

Korea and China

Korea and China have traditionally seen traffic every winter break. Now, for the top teams, the traffic was perhaps even more normal as SKT decided to release (or not negotiate new contracts) the turmoil and mischief surrounding the entire team and Griffin that emptied the line-up. Thus, there was an extraordinarily large number of players in the Worlds on the free market. In both leagues, there has been a trend for a couple of years now that experienced and successful players end up playing with other successful players in top organizations, along with teams in the league consisting mainly of newcomers and young players. A good example is DAMWON Gaming and Griffin, who represented LCK in the Worlds. The same trend seems to continue throughout the spring season and top players (and coach) have mainly moved from one top team to another. There has been a slight increase in traffic from Korea to China, but also to a much lesser extent than in the past.

Major transfers during the Off Season

Europe

Alfonso “Mithy” Aguirre Rodríguez: Origen -> Fnatic (coach)

Joey "YoungBuck" Steltenpool: Fnatic (coach) -> Excel Esports (coach)

Oskar “Selfmade” Boderek: SK Gaming -> Fnatic

Steven “Hans Sama” Liv: Misfits Gaming -> Roque

Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen: Fnatic -> Team Liquid (NA)

Daniele “Jiizuke” di Mauro: Team Vitality -> Evil Geniuses (NA)

Kasper “Kobbe” Kobberup: Splyce -> Team Solomid (NA)

North America:

Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black: 100 Thieves -> Dignitas

Sun "Cody Sun" Li-Yu: Dignitas -> 100 Thieves

Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett: Immortals -> Team Solomid

Jake Kevin “Xmithie” Puchero: Team Liquid -> Immortals

Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen: Team Solomid -> Cloud9

Bae “Bang” Jun-sik: 100 Thieves -> Evil Geniuses

Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen: Fnatic (EU) -> Team Liquid

Daniele “Jiizuke” di Mauro: Team Vitality (EU) -> Evil Geniuses

Kasper “Kobbe” Kobberup: Splyce (EU) -> Team Solomid

Korea

Jeong "Chovy" Ji-hoon: Griffin -> DragonX

Lee "CuVee" Seong-Jin: Gen.G -> Hanwha Life

Han "Peanut" Wang-ho: Gen.G -> LGD Gaming (China)

Kim "Khan" Dong-ha: SKT -> No convention

Kim "kkOma" Jeong-gyun: SKT -> No convention

China

Hung "Karsa" Hao-Hsuan: RNG -> Top Esports

Han "Peanut" Wang-ho: Gen.G (Korea) -> LGD Gaming

Yu "JackeyLove" Wen-Bo: Invictus Gaming -> No contract

Cameron Carr image

Cameron Carr

22 December 2019

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