7 things to watch in LCS 2021 as NA league’s 'new era' begins - Dexerto
League of Legends

7 things to watch in LCS 2021 as NA league’s ‘new era’ begins

Published: 14/Jan/2021 6:18 Updated: 14/Jan/2021 10:41

by Isaac McIntyre


The LCS and its shiny new “Lock In” event are just around the corner, and it’s looking like the North American League of Legends competition is in for another cracking year ⁠— here’s seven things to keep an eye on as the league returns.

Finally, the League of Legends Championship Series is back. After a rollercoaster free agency period, and what felt like a very lengthy offseason, the premier North American competition is back in all its glory.

This time around, things are a little different. Nailed-on stars like Yilliang ‘Doublelift’ Peng and Søren ‘Bjergsen’ Bjerg have retired, and new star figures like Luka ‘Perkz’ Perković and Hu ‘SwordArt’ Shuo-Chieh have joined the league.

The LCS has also switched formats, in an effort to step into a “new era.”

With all this change, it can be hard to keep up with everything heading into the new season. Luckily, we’ve broken down the seven most important League of Legends storylines in 2021 — here’s all the biggest things to watch in LCS 2021.

Watch Now: LCS Lock In Preview w/ Amazing

Can Perkz succeed in North America?

This is the big one, the question on every fan’s lips: can eight-time European champ Luka Perković make the jump into the LCS, and bring the same impact, flair, and total domination he’s become renowned for in his glittering six-year career?

Cloud9 had a rollercoaster 2020. In Spring, they returned to the LCS throne for the first time since 2014, and looked destined for Worlds glory. Five months later, they were watching the year-end event on television like everyone else.

It was a sting that forced Cloud9 into dramatic action.

That action turned into a multi-million dollar buyout for G2 Esports’ biggest star, their Croatian captain. Now he has to prove his $8.1m worth.

For our money — and Cloud9’s it seems — it looks all the world like Perkz will adapt. He’s played against plenty of LCS mid laners in his day, and has old friends like Zven and Mithy beside him at C9 to boot. We’ll just have to wait and see.

How Perkz settles in Los Angeles will play a big role in Cloud9's performance in 2021.
Riot Games
How Perkz settles in Los Angeles will play a big role in Cloud9’s performance in 2021.

SwordArt must embrace TSM leadership role

TSM have gone all out in 2021, picking up Taiwanese commander Hu ‘SwordArt’ Shuo-Chieh to lead their new-look lineup. The Worlds runner-up slots in the North American title holders on a rich $6 million deal over two years.

Overall, the TSM lineup is a solid one, though question marks potentially hang over Huni. The real puzzle for the 2020 champions will be figuring out how to make all the pieces — including boom jungler Spica, veteran German star PowerOfEvil, and rock-solid bot laner Lost — work in unison to a common goal on the Rift.

Keep a close eye on SwordArt in the LCS Lock-In tournament. How he settles in will determine how brightly TSM shines this year, without a doubt.

Swordart has been a key voice in every League of Legends roster he's been on.
Riot Games
Swordart has been a key voice in every League of Legends roster he’s been on.

Can new LCS rookies replace Doublelift, Bjergsen?

This year, a new batch of LCS rookies have been dropped into the competition’s grinder, and have a chance to prove if they can shine. This time around, it’s all the more important too; huge names have left the LCS, and new “stars” need to emerge. Luckily, there’s a few to watch:

  • Toàn ‘Neo’ Trần (Dignitas)
  • Christian ‘Palafox’ Palafox (FlyQuest)
  • David ‘Diamond’ Bérubé (FlyQuest)
  • Nicholas ‘Ablazeolive’ Abbott (Golden Guardians)
  • Aiden ‘Niles’ Tidwell (Golden Guardians)
  • Ethan ‘Iconic’ Wilkinson (Golden Guardians)

Last year saw young stars like Victor ‘FBI’ Huang, Mingyi ‘Spica’ Lu, and Edward ‘Tactical’ Ra explode onto the main stage, solidifying themselves as top long-term prospects. Hopefully we can see the same again from this next batch.

Golden Guardians are putting their stock in youngsters for LCS 2021.
Riot Games
Golden Guardians are one team putting their stock in youngsters for LCS 2021.

Will next wave of OCE stars make the cut?

Four new and returning Oceanic faces have been added to America’s top league in 2021, after changes to the import rules made them LCS residents.

These include Astralis star Mitchell ‘Destiny’ Shaw, who cut his teeth in the LEC last year, as well as Ibrahim ‘Fudge’ Allami, Quin ‘Raes’ Korebrits, and Lawrence ‘Lost’ Hui, last seen flying the Echo Fox flag for a stint between 2017 and 2019.

Combined, these OCE stars boast more than 500 competitive League games in North America, Europe, and Australia. Will they make the cut?

Fudge has been tearing up LCS Academy for the past year with Cloud9.
Riot Games
Fudge has been tearing up LCS Academy for the past year with Cloud9.

Can FlyQuest’s roster “click” in 2021?

FlyQuest has “excitement” written all over it heading into their new LCS campaign. The activist organization was 2020’s surprise package, making (and losing) the big dance in both Spring and Summer, and booking a team-first ticket to Worlds.

Heading into the new year, FlyQuest has changed gear slightly. Their star-studded team suffered a not-so-shocking fate as it was picked apart by Team Liquid, Team SoloMid, and Evil Geniuses in the offseason, and they’ve had to rebuild slightly.

What they’ve come up with — Licorice (Cloud9), Josedeodo (Rainbow7), Palafox (C9), Johnsun (Dignitas), and Diamond (C9) — is very interesting.

For an org that was being tipped early to miss playoffs, their roster inspires a lot of confidence. Licorice and Johnsun have tons of LCS experience, and Palafox and Diamond are being billed as next-gen stars. Keep a close eye on FlyQuest.

Watch Now: Best Players to Watch @ LCS Lock In

Could Team Liquid return to the top?

The most simple question many are asking is, “can four-time LCS champs Liquid” get back to their best, and claim another title?

TL were the best LCS had to offer at Worlds 2020, led by youngster Tactical, and they’ve only improved with Alphari and Santorin on the top side of the map. Expect great things from the team that reigned over North America in 2018 and 2019.

How will the pro meta shape out?

We’ve heading into one of the most interesting professional metas League of Legends may ever have; Riot have blown up the item system for their flagship title, and everything is powerful, versatile, and downright busted.

Expect damage, and lots of it. Pro stars have always had a way of finding the biggest avenues of power, and League 2020 is all about that.

Right now, strong picks like Jhin, Samira, and Yone reign supreme in solo queue. Olaf has dominated the LPL, and in the LCK, Aatrox and Kai’Sa have proven unstoppable. Akali and Lucian are also so dangerous they were banned in all five games.

These should be the draft battles in the LCS, either in bans, or first-locks.

League of Legends

Ablazeolive on his LCS call-up: “You have to take risks on younger talent”

Published: 19/Jan/2021 12:39

by Andrew Amos


Golden Guardians’ new Mid Laner Nicholas ‘Ablazeolive’ Abbott isn’t a LCS household name yet. While LCS 2021 expectations are low for the rookie squad, he has high hopes of proving pundits wrong.

Worlds 2020 ended on a sour note for North America, more so than any year previously. The region’s failures were being exposed on a platform like never before, and changed was needed.

As it was all going down in Shanghai, Ablazeolive was sitting back home, patiently waiting for a potential call-up to the LCS. Five years after he made his competitive debut in NACS with Zenith Esports, it finally came.

Abbott is one of three rookies Golden Guardians put faith in for LCS 2021. They didn’t take long to impress, beating CLG in their first game at Lock In. Despite the experience gap between the two squads, the youngsters looked like the veterans.

“I actually wasn’t as nervous as I thought I would be. I was a lot more nervous in my Academy debut. I’m not sure why, I’m still trying to figure that one out, but I felt really comfortable,” he told Dexerto.

Ablazeolive playing for Golden Guardians Academy in LCS 2020
Paul de Leon for Riot Games
It took five years and hundreds of Academy games to get his LCS call-up, but Ablazeolive is hungry to make up lost time.

The 22-year-old has been on the cusp of LCS stardom since 2016, but never actually got the go-ahead. It was taxing at times, but Ablazeolive never lost sight of that dream.

“I had a very positive outlook after 2019. I thought from when I was talking to people and their opinions of me, and my own interpretations of my own strength, I thought I was pretty likely to get into the LCS in 2020, and when that didn’t happen, I was pretty disappointed.

“Golden Guardians as an organization showed faith in me and saw the potential and took a chance on me — and I’m very glad that I’m able to show them they were right in choosing me as their Mid Laner.”

Shaped by Bjergsen

Although he never was on stage against the best, behind closed doors, he had the best mentor you could ask for ⁠— Soren ‘Bjergsen’ Bjerg. Two years on TSM Academy with the star Dane taught Ablazeolive not just invaluable lessons in-game, but off the Rift too.

“Naturally, he was really good in-game, and nobody would be surprised to know I learned a lot from him. However, the most important thing he taught me was to not be as nervous on stage. He showed me how to get over it, talked to me, and helped me work it out. I was very grateful for that,” he explained.

While he won’t get the chance to play against Bjerg on stage after his retirement, Abbott isn’t concerned about not giving his tutor a send-off. Instead, he’s trying to build the same reputation himself.

“I like to think he retired because of me. He started out as this unreachable goal and I didn’t know how I could improve and get better than him. While it’s sad I won’t be able to play him, I’m not upset. I’d still feel confident against him, like I’d be confident against any other Mid Laner.”

Ablazeolive playing for TSM Academy in LCS 2019
Colin Young-Wolff for Riot Games
Ablazeolive won LCS Academy Spring 2019 on TSM Academy while under Bjergsen’s wing.

LCS 2021: Year of the rookies?

Ablazeolive is trying to turn around the perception of NA Mid Laners as a whole too. There’s been a distinct shift in the NA mindset this off-season — away from importing every half-decent European player. Instead, the focus has become on local, homegrown talent.

Golden Guardians is the epitome of that, but they’re far from the exception. Immortals, Dignitas, and FlyQuest have all done the same. This is especially true in the Mid Lane, with six North Americans finally outnumbering their European counterparts for the first time in years. This investment in Academy players, in Ablazeolive’s eyes, is the only way NA can redeem themselves internationally.

“That’s the only way NA can rebuild itself. Relying on imports and other regions to supply our good players isn’t going to be a realistic strategy to become dominant or even competitive at Worlds. You have to be able to take these risks on these younger talent, and I think this year, a lot of teams have done that which is very surprising,” he said.

“It’s great that we have so many [Academy Mids] coming up, because it’s always been a meme that NA Mids are really bad, but it’s also because no one tries to play them. Maybe if we play and get the exposure and practice, then we can show our improvement.”

Ablazeolive playing for Golden Guardians Academy in LCS 2020
Colin Young-Wolff for Riot Games
Worlds isn’t on the horizon yet for Ablazeolive. However, LCS playoffs are.

All eyes on LCS 2021 Playoffs

It’s a long-term plan, but it’s one that ultimately could shift where NA ends up in the global power rankings. Worlds might seem like a distant dream for Ablazeolive for now, but he’s at least confident Golden Guardians can defy expectations and really show what homegrown talent can do.

“A lot of people aren’t expecting us to make Playoffs, but personally from scrims and how we’ve been playing, I’d actually be quite surprised if we didn’t make Playoffs. A lot of the teams, at least starting off, don’t look like they’re fully together yet.

“This isn’t going to be the same Golden Guardians in five months, or three months. We’re going to get better ⁠— the difference between us at the beginning of scrims and now is mind-blowing, and that’s very directly attributed to our coaching staff helping us out individually and as a team.”

Golden Guardians next play against the top-of-the-table 100 Thieves on Friday, January 22 at 4PM PT.