(This is part 1 of a 2 part article)
Austin ‘Link’ Shin - CLG Mid Lane
Link was and always would have been the first name on this list. The long-standing CLG mid laner has spent the entirety of his LCS career under intense pressure from fans of other teams, and more recently, fans of his own. Poor performances in the regular season, followed by a pounding in the playoffs, were not easily forgiven and many predicted the player to be gone sometime during the off-season. Despite rumours circulating, the player remained a part of the starting CLG lineup for 2015.
Last chance saloon would perhaps be a little too kind for Link right here, seeing as another disappointing split would see him painted as a monster in the eyes of CLG fans, the ones who once loved him. Though he has underperformed in the past, not all of CLGs misfortune has been inherently his fault. Problems with finding a stable roster, especially in the jungle position, has given link a difficult environment to thrive in. Brief insights into this disruptive work environment could be seen last year when CLG starred in 'Chasing The Cup'.
CLG have assured their fans (yet again) that their lineup for the upcoming split is the best its been for a long time. The acquisition of Zionspartan should work to relieve some pressure on Link to carry, because the chance of Seraph doing that was extremely low. The Dexter-Xmithie swap is harder to judge, however if the rumours are true in that Dexter and Link didn't mesh very well personally, Xmithie could help even further. Fans and experts alike have grown bored of waiting for Link and CLG to reach this ‘potential’ that they speak of, it’s 2015, time to nut up or shut up.
Jesse ‘Jesiz’ Le - Team Coast Mid Lane
Another mid laner makes his way on to the list. Jesiz is returning to the LCS after being given the boot from SK Gaming after a lacklustre season, despite the team doing just about enough to participate at Worlds. Why is it then that a mid laner who had just finished participating at the World Championship, can only find a home on a challenger team in another region beside his own?
Jesiz was an unremarkable fish in a pond full of sharks. Europe has always been known as a region with an unusually high amount of talent in the mid lane position, and Jesiz was never considered on the same level as some of the others. When you think of European mid laners in 2014, you'd be hard pressed to place Jesiz near the top of that list. The general consensus is that the former SK man is fairly good in a passive lane situation, but fails to shine elsewhere. He has since signed for Coast in North America and just barely earned promotion to the NA LCS through the expansion tournament with fellow former EU LCS player, Impaler.
North America may be a little kinder to Jesiz, though he’ll still be up against some of the best solo lane players the West has to offer. The likes of Bjergsen, XiaoWeiXiao, Pobelter will likely give him nightmares, while new blood such as Fenix and Keane are looking strong headed into the split. While Jesiz does need to perform to keep the critics off his back (and his team in the LCS) the pressure may be alleviated somewhat when you take into account the team he has behind him. Not much is expected of them and Coast may find themselves struggling this year, but I believe that Jesiz and Impaler could end up being shining lights in what is going be a long season for the Coast crew.
Ales ‘Freeze’ Knezinek - Copenhagen Wolves AD Carry
The curse is broken and the critically acclaimed best non LCS AD Carry for the whole of season 4 finally makes it back into the big leagues. You can’t lose in the LCS promotion tournament if you bypass it completely, and that’s exactly what Freeze did by signing with Copenhagen Wolves after the departure of Woolite to fellow LCS outfit, ROCCAT. After spending the entirety of season 4 condemned to the challenger scene during his series of unfortunate events, Freeze can now hopefully pick up where he left off.
A lot of time has passed since Freeze was last in the spotlight, and the role of AD Carry has strengthened. This season Freeze will be up against the likes of Rekkles, Rallez, P1noy, Forg1ven and more. Once upon a time you’d say that Freeze could take any of them on, but Esports moves quickly and now the pressure is on for the former NiP player to try and match them. Another factor to look at it is the supports each has to lane with, and I find it difficult to put Unlimited anywhere higher than the middle of the pack, if he's having a good day.
Unfortunately for Freeze, it’s fair to say that Copenhagen Wolves are not exactly in the strongest shape heading into the split. The team recently lost their long time coach ‘Ducky’, who was and is known to be a fantastic addition to any team, who moved with Woolite to ROCCAT. The odds are against Wolves to achieve anything more than survival in the upcoming split, and a strong performance from Freeze to prove that he really does belong in the LCS will be vital to that goal.
Mike ‘Wickd’ Petersen - Elements Top Lane
Wickd will have to be in his element this season to put on a performance worthy of such a team. A bad joke and I know it, but the point remains that the former Alliance lineup once again has one of, if not the best lineup on paper going into the split. The fans have been on Wickd’s back for a very long time, and there’s reason for that.
A poor performance at Worlds compounded a frustrating season for Wickd and Alliance. The team formed up intending to be the best in the west, and while they dominated Europe (eventually), they had trouble on the global stage. Wickd in particular struggled to keep up when it came to performing on champions other than his signature Irelia.
A crucial point has arrived in the LCS where real challengers are emerging. Elements, SK Gaming and ROCCAT all look to be in positions to make pushes for the #1 spot. Of those 3 teams you’d have to say Fredy was king of the top lane, but it remains to be seen how Overpow will transition. Wickd has been the brunt of criticism for a very long time, and if anyone can deal with it and return to form it is a veteran like him. Wickd isn’t the only one on Elements that needs to bring his A-game this split, but he’s the one with the shortest rope.
Fabian ‘Febiven’ Diepstraten - Fnatic Mid Lane
Proclaimed by many to be the prodigy that the west has dreamed of, Febiven finally gets his chance in the LCS. After months upon months of hype and players calling him one of the best in Europe, he now has a chance to prove it. Febiven initially qualified with H2K Gaming, who obliterated the challenger scene, however rumours of unrest proved to be true when he made a switch to the new-look Fnatic. In a team of risks, Febiven is a major one, given his tendency to struggle to match his online performances, while playing offline.
Febiven looked comfortable in the expansion tournament, and in a weekly environment when the pressure is much less than a standalone tournament, these nerves may not show up as a problem during the split. Nevertheless he will still be expected to match some of the top solo laners in the region, and if he fails to do so, ‘fans’ will take no time in calling him a flop, and an overhyped failure.
That’s the harsh life of an Esports pro. Fnatic have taken a risk with Febiven and another 3 fairly unknown players with limited competitive experience, which means the Spring split could go either way for them. Either this unit gels quickly and the individual talents are able to form a cohesive team, or they could be outdone by the devastating lack of experience, again both individually in some cases but majoritively as a team. If the synergy takes time to develop then strong individual performances will be vital to Fnatic keeping up with the rest of the pack. Febiven has easily dispatched of the talent in the challenger scene, but the LCS is another level, it’s time to see if this kid is the real deal.
This is part 1 of a 2 part article. Stay tuned for the 2nd half which will feature 5 more LCS players who need to step it up in the 2015 Spring split. Image Credits go to Lolesports and FNATIC.
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