close-up of Team Liquid League of Legends player Bjergsen's face
close-up of Team Liquid League of Legends player Bjergsen's face

Team Liquid, 100 Thieves score top marks in LCS offseason

by Xander Torres

The offseason is coming to an end as League Championship Series (LCS) teams prepare for the upcoming 2022 Lock In tournament which starts Jan. 14. As teams addressed their needs and roster woes in preparation for the 2022 seasons, some teams improved with huge offseason acquisitions while others played it safe with budget signings. Here’s how they graded against each other leading into the LCS’s 10th season.

Team Liquid: A+

Photo credit: Riot Games

Team Liquid played second fiddle to Cloud9 and 100 Thieves last year and the team is arming itself for a full-scale comeback in 2022. Despite being one of the best teams in North America, Team Liquid made huge sweeping changes with none more prominent than the signing of mid laner Soren “Bjergsen” Bjerg, who many consider to be the greatest LCS player of all time. Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen hardly lacked for star power in the mid lane, but a move like this proves that Team Liquid’s goals are greater than being “good enough.”

Alongside Bjergsen, top laner Gabriel “Bwipo” Rau and Steven “Hans Sama” Liv come into the fold as Team Liquid’s newest European talents. Both players are stars known for playing pivotal roles on internationally competitive teams, and that type of track record is necessary to make a push outside the LCS. On paper, Team Liquid won the offseason and everyone will be watching to see how this superteam performs.

100 Thieves: A

Photo credit: Riot Games

Ahead of the 2022 season, 100 Thieves maintain the entirety of their championship roster with the addition of one young phenom -- top laner Milan “Tenacity” Oleksij. 100 Thieves’ offseason was far from sexy, but maintaining a championship roster while signing a potential upgrade in the top lane is a strong and commendable approach for winning another title in North America.

100 Thieves surprised North American fans last year by defeating Team Liquid in the 2021 LCS Championship finals, earning the organization's first ever LCS title. That’s cause for celebration, but 100 Thieves failed to make a significant splash at the League of Legends World Championship, finishing 3-3 in a group with T1 and the eventual world champion, EDward Gaming. The current changes don’t reflect an active push toward competing internationally, but winning at home should always be a team’s first priority.

Immortals: A

Photo credit: Riot Games

Immortals were in and out of playoff contention for most of last year, but, surprisingly, made the most positive changes out of any bottom-half LCS team. PowerOfEvil and Jason “WildTurtle” Tran are immediate upgrades compared to David “Insanity” Challe and Quin “Raes” Korebrits, giving the roster a more consistent identity around players known for mid-game teamfighting.

On top of that, Immortals maintained their crucial support system of Andrei “Xerxe” Dragomir and Mitchell “Destiny” Shaw, alongside top lane carry Mohamed “Revenge” Kaddoura. While perennial contenders like TSM and Cloud9 made experimental roster changes, Immortals directly upgraded key carry positions that often waxed and waned last season. Immortals might not be at the top of the LCS this year, but they deserve an A for succinctly addressing their roster woes.

Evil Geniuses: B

Photo credit: Riot Games

Evil Geniuses were often competitive in 2021 but ultimately finished 5th-6th in their quest for the North American crown. In a surprising move, Evil Geniuses chose not to re-sign star mid laner Daniele “Jiizuke” di Mauro and instead promoted Academy mid laner Joseph “Jojopyun” Pyun to the main LCS roster. The move signals the org is set on developing homegrown stars like AD carry Kyle “Danny” Sakamaki.

Perhaps more importantly, Evil Geniuses fortified their jungle and support with the additions of Kacper “Inspired” Sloma and Philippe “Vulcan” Laflamme. Both players have been mainstays at Worlds the last few years and bring clear mechanical upgrades to an already strong roster. Jojopyun stands out as the team’s primary gamble, but the additions of Inspired and Vulcan balance out the risk, making for a strong offseason from Evil Geniuses.

Dignitas: B

Photo credit: Riot Games

As another outside contender from last season, Dignitas made clear upgrades to a roster that was often in flux last season while maintaining key contributors in top laner Aaron “FakeGod” Lee and AD carry Toàn “Neo” Trần. Veteran support and shot-caller Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black made the move to FlyQuest, but Dignitas managed to sign a small mechanical upgrade in Vincent “Biofrost” Wang.

Looking at Dignitas’ more prominent signings, former PSG Talon jungler Kim “River” Dong-woo made a name for himself on the international stage last year as a strong early-game jungler. European mid laner Ersin “Blue” Gören is a less accomplished player but brings stability to a role that Dignitas struggled with last season. Dignitas didn’t sign world beating talents to fix the team’s issues, but the current roster should operate on a higher level and carry the team to a more consistent place in the standings.

Cloud9: B-

Photo credit: Riot Games

Cloud9 made it to the knockout stage at Worlds for the first time since 2018 but still opted to shuffle its lineup for the 2022 season. Park “Summit” Woo-tae, Kim “Berserker” Min-cheol, Kim “Winsome” Dong-keon and Jonah “Isles” Rosario are among Cloud9’s newest faces. The organization also made the unconventional decision to role swap star top laner Ibrahim “Fudge” Allami into the mid lane. With the loss of highly decorated mid laner Luka “Perkz” Perkovic, the move is an immediate downgrade with potential upside in the near future.

Cloud9 is bringing a lot of new talent into the mix, but none of the moves stand out as clear upgrades from last year’s Worlds qualifying roster. There’s no telling whether Fudge will be as good as Perkz in the mid lane or whether Summit will be as good as Fudge in the top lane, and the bot lane appears to be a competition between four players. Change is good and Cloud9 might come out better for it, but newly hired head coach Nick “LS” De Cesare has a lot to prove with this roster.

TSM: C+

Photo credit: Riot Games

TSM narrowly missed qualifying for the world championship last year, and for North America’s most popular team, that’s unacceptable. TSM shifted both mid and bot lane, opting for relatively unproven talent from China’s League of Legends Pro League (LPL) in mid laner Zhu “Keaiduo” Xiong and support Wei “Shenyi” Zi-Jie, in addition to former Team Liquid AD carry Edward “Tactical” Ra.

TSM’s success largely circulated around jungler Mingyi “Spica” Lu last year, and his return was a must for a successful offseason. The loss of primary carry and mid laner Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage and support Hu “SwordArt” Shuo-Chieh, though, means that the team is practically starting from scratch. Even so, TSM retained its most important player and looks committed to developing a star roster rather than buying one.

Golden Guardians: C

Photo credit: Riot Games

Golden Guardians were among one of the worst teams in the LCS last year and have accordingly overhauled the majority of their roster. Mid laner Nicholas “Ablazeolive” Abbot is the only returning player after delivering breakout performances late last summer. The focus for Golden Guardians appears to have shifted to immediate improvement with veteran players Eric “Licorice” Ritchie, Lawrence “Lost” Hui and Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung anchoring the team.

Rounding out the new additions is European Regional League jungler Milo “Pride” Wehnes, who most recently won the PRM Pro Division 2021 Winter Cup with MOUZ. The lineup itself feels like an island of misfit toys with a mix of veterans with turbulent careers and younger players getting ready to shine in the limelight. Licorice, Lost and Olleh all have had performance issues in the past, but they are clear upgrades for Golden Guardians. Even so, the lineup lacks the firepower to be anything more than an outside playoff contender barring some explosive chemistry from Ablazeolive and Pride.

Counter Logic Gaming: C

Photo credit: Riot Games

Counter Logic Gaming is a difficult team to assess. On paper, last year’s lineup of Finn “Finn” Wiestal, Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen, Eugene “Pobelter” Park, Jason “WildTurtle” Tran and Andy “Smoothie” Ta should have contended with the upper half of the league at minimum. Instead, the lineup drowned in 9th place during the spring and 10th place in the summer. CLG’s new roster is a complete overhaul featuring players that are more well-known for their time in Academy with the exception of former Evil Geniuses jungler Juan “Contractz” Arturo Garcia.

Based on names alone, the roster is a downgrade from last season, but it might be the breath of fresh air that Counter Logic Gaming needs to be competitive this year. Thomas “Jenkins” Tran and Cristian “Palafox” Palafox made some noise in the LCS last year, and the bottom lane of Fatih “Luger” Güven and Philippe “Poome” Lavoie-Giguere won the most recent Proving Grounds event with Team Liquid Academy. Counter Logic Gaming gets a passing grade this offseason for indexing on strong budget talent with upside.

FlyQuest: C-

Photo credit: Riot Games

FlyQuest only made positive moves this offseason, but in the grand scheme of the league, it’s hard to be excited about what this lineup is bringing to the table. FlyQuest maintained the electric combo of Colin “Kumo” Zhao and Brandon “Josedeodo” Joel Villegas and directly upgraded support by bringing in longtime shot-caller Aphromoo, but they did little to address mid lane and AD carry for the upcoming season.

Johnson “Johnsun” Nguyen is the definition of a serviceable AD carry -- and maybe that’s all FlyQuest needs with Josedeodo and Kumo -- but it’s hard to compete without several proven carry threats. French mid laner Loïc “toucouille” Dubois might end up being that threat, but it’s too early to say with it being his first season in North America. FlyQuest’s offseason was inoffensive, but playing it safe after finishing in 9th place is underwhelming.

Lead photo credit: Riot Games

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