The League of Legends offseason got moving today into full gear yesterday, as teams began the transactions that will decide their fate in the upcoming League Championship Series Summer Split. From rumors of a new "super team" to the dissolution of a favorite squad, a lot happened in one 24-hour period.
Here's everything you need to know.
Ninjas in Pyjamas released their League squad, Europe’s top Challenger team, infusing the potential player pool with free talent. NiP was considered the favorite to make it through the Spring Promotion series and qualify for the League Championship Series, but suffered an upset loss to the last ranked LCS team Millenium in a close 3-2 series.
The move came amid rumors that another “super” team would follow in the footsteps of Alliance last season, filling its roster with hand-picked stars—in this case, it would be the best players from NiP joining players from other LCS squads.
NiP mid laner Erlend “nukeduck” Våtevik Holm and support Alfonso “Mithy” Aguirre Rodriguez seem to be spearheading the “super” team talk. If the rumors are true, they'd be joined by Copenhagen Wolves marksman Konstantinos “FORG1VEN” Tzortziou and superstar mid laner Alexey “Alex Ich” Ichetovkin of Gambit Gaming, as reported by Richard Lewis of EsportsHeaven.
The team could potentially compete under the NiP banner, though sources seem conflicted on whether that will be the case. NiP did not retain Holm or Rodriguez’s contracts and is keeping mum on the issue, promising to announce more on their League future soon.
The biggest news is Ichetovkin’s potential transfer. The Russian has competed with his four Gambit Gaming teammates since 2011, when they burst onto the League scene as Team Empire and began dominating Europe’s best. But this past season was Gambit’s worst, as the team placed fifth in LCS and nearly fell to relegation. Ichetovkin, one of the game’s biggest stars in the mid lane, could be seeking a change of scenery. The proposed lineup swaps him to top lane, giving him a new look at the game.
Since NiP failed to qualify for the LCS, the new team would need to spend the split in the Challenger series to have a shot at the top division. But that would exclude them from the important Summer Split, which qualifies teams for the ultimate goal: the Season 4 Championships. It seems unlikely a star like Ichetovkin would give up a chance at worlds, but Lewis’ source believes he may want a break from the rigorous LCS schedule to spend more time with his family.
One potential solution would be to acquire an LCS spot from an existing team. But earlier this year, Riot instituted rules to prevent such a thing after NiP attempted to acquire the defunct Lemondogs spot in the Spring Split. Both NiP and the super team’s Holm separately deny trying to acquire a spot in such a way this season.
The proposed team’s jungler is tabbed as either Cloud 9 Eclipse’s young prodigy Tri Tin “k0u” Lam or NiP jungler Johan “Hulberto” Johansson, but there are issues with either selection.
Lam is too young to play in the LCS, so the team would either need a sub or be forced into Challenger.
Johansson presents a different obstacle. Section 3.2 of the LCS rules states that no team may compete in the LCS with more than two players from a starting lineup of a different LCS team in the past two splits and Challenger series. With Johansson, Holm, and Rodriguez all on NiP’s prior roster, the new squad would be required to play under the NiP banner. Again, without a spot in LCS.
Another potential obstacle may be the contract status of Tzortziou. The Copenhagen Wolves standout is still under contract with the team, though teammate Joey “YoungBuck” Steltenpool confirmed they are working out the details of his contractual release.
NiP’s other talent is in limbo. Marksman Aleš "Freeze" Kněžínek is now a free agent after what he describes as being “backstabbed” by his former teammates. Kněžínek had the chance to join last year’s version of the “super” team, LCS squad Alliance, but declined to stick with NiP. Now, the players he showed loyalty to are leaving him behind.
Morten “Zorozero” Rosenquist, long considered one of Europe’s elite top laners, was a top candidate in American powerhouse Counter Logic Gaming’s search to replace the departed Zach “Nientonsoh” Malhas. He turned down an offer to join the squad to finish his final year at school, OnGamers reported.
“One of the reasons is that I'm not satisfied with my motivation and gameplay lately,"
he told OnGamers. "Another is that I miss my friends and family. Last of all, I also miss the element of having a daily scheme. Don't get me wrong the past year where I have been playing has been wonderful.”
CLG looks to be turning towards Korea now for their new potential top laner. Shin “Seraph” Woo Yeong, a substitute on Najin White Shield, will fly in for a tryout, where the team will test his communication in English and chemistry with the team.
Rosenquist isn’t the only one leaving League behind. Supah Hot Crew benched their support, Maxime “Migxa” Poinssot, and he subsequently left the team, citing a lack of motivation after reaching the LCS.
“I was in Esports for the human experience, especially for travelling, and I have to say that my best time in esports was my amateur time when I was travelling with my french team, TCM,” Poinssot said. “We had almost no pressure because there was only few money, we were friends so we had a lot of fun[…] and it was ten times more interesting than staying in a gaming house every day playing twelve hours LoL per day, having consistent pressure on you.
"[B]ecause every LCS player knows that he will get benched if he doesn't perform.”
H/T Esportsheaven, OnGamers | Photo via Ninjas in Pyjamas