North America's new look: LCS at Worlds 2021 preview - Dexerto
League of Legends

North America’s new look: LCS at Worlds 2021 preview

Published: 1/Oct/2021 17:01 Updated: 6/Oct/2021 9:41

by Ben Mock

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LCS teams have struggled to make an impact at Worlds in recent years. However, 2021 might be the North American league’s year after a strong showing from the Worlds-bound 100 Thieves, Team Liquid, and Cloud9.

NA speedrun no more? Heading into Worlds 2021, the North American contingent is stronger than in years before. With a brand new champion and returning old faces, NA might just stand a chance of a decent performance at Worlds.

If you haven’t caught any of the action this year, here’s a quick debrief of the LCS squads in attendance at Worlds 2021.

Be sure to check out our Worlds 2021 hub and our post-draw preview with commentator Zack ‘Rusty’ Pye. You can find our previews of the other regions by clicking the links below:

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100 Thieves (Seed #1)

100 Thieves with LCS trophy
100 Thieves
Can 100 Thieves capitalize on their successful rebuild with a strong showing at Worlds?

Last Worlds appearance: 2018 (Groups)

Best Worlds finish: 12th (2018)

Main Roster:

  • Kim ‘Ssumday’ Chan-ho (Top lane)
  • Can ‘Closer’ Çelik (Jungle)
  • Felix ‘Abbedagge’ Braun (Mid lane)
  • Victor ‘FBI’ Huang (AD carry)
  • Choi ‘huhi’ Jae-hyun (Support)

Substitutes:

  • Milan ‘Tenacity’ Oleksij (Top lane)

100 Thieves return to Worlds at the end of a three-year rebuild. They’ve turned themselves into an LCS champion under the guidance of caster-turned-general-manager Christopher ‘Papasmithy’ Smith.

After finishing fourth in Spring 2021, 100 Thieves added LEC midlaner Abbedagge and Cloud9 head coach Reapered, proceeding to storm to an 18-9 Summer split record. They carried their momentum into the playoffs, reaching the Grand Final and sweeping Team Liquid in less than 90 minutes.

100 Thieves, after years of tinkering, finally have a roster that clicks. Franchise mainstay Ssumday provides a solid option in the top lane. Turkish jungler Closer has blossomed into an absolutely terrifying option between the lanes. Abbedagge has proved to be the midlaner 100T had been looking for throughout their rebuild. Meanwhile, FBI and huhi make an incredibly effective bot lane pairing.

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However, what the team can do on the international stage remains to be seen. Their Spring finish means they weren’t present at MSI, and they have only made Worlds once before. While four members of the squad (Reapered, Ssumday, Closer, and huhi) have experience at Worlds, they still carry North America’s stigma with them and are not expected to make a deep run. However, they remain the best contender from the LCS at Worlds 2021.

Player to Watch: Closer went from being a middle-of-the-pack jungler in Spring 2021 to being god-tier in Summer. Having cut his teeth in Turkey before joining the LCS in 2019, Closer has worked his way into becoming the league’s best jungler since joining 100 Thieves ahead of the 2021 season. A master of the currently prevalent assassin meta, Closer turns the jungle into a death trap whenever he’s in it. His performance, especially if teams are underestimating the LCS, could help 100 Thieves upset the apple cart.

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Team Liquid (Seed #2)

Team Liquid Spring 2021
LCS
Will Team Liquid finally break the curse of not making it out of groups at Worlds?

Last Worlds appearance: 2020 (Groups)

Best Worlds finish: 9th (2020)

Main roster:

  • Barney ‘Alphari’ Morris (Top lane)
  • Lucas ‘Santorin’ Larsen (Jungle)
  • Nicolaj ‘Jensen’ Jensen (Mid lane)
  • Edward ‘Tactical’ Ra (AD carry)
  • Jo ‘CoreJJ’ Yong-in (Support)

Substitutes:

  • Jonathan ‘Armao’ Armao (Jungle)

Team Liquid and being eliminated in the group stage of Worlds, name a more iconic duo. Team Liquid have been to Worlds three times (2018-20), heading headed home after the group stage every time.

Ahead of 2021, Team Liquid tweaked their lineup, bringing in Alphari and Santorin. It seemed to pay off as they won the season-opening LCS Lock-in Tournament. However, from there it was a slow decline into ‘good, but not good enough’. They missed out on MSI after finishing second to Cloud9 in Spring. They missed out on the LCS top seed after finishing second to 100 Thieves in Summer.

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The biggest thing that has hurt Team Liquid is their lack of spark, especially during Summer. While players like Closer at 100 Thieves and Kyle ‘Danny’ Sakamaki at Evil Geniuses were shining bright, Team Liquid looked dull, and actually finished fifth in the Summer regular season.

Team Liquid may be the weakest team from the LCS at Worlds 2021. Both Alphari and Santorin missed a month of the Summer split for various reasons. Their 3-0 sweep at the hands of 100 Thieves definitely raises questions about the team. Liquid just don’t feel like a team that is ready to compete alongside the top sides from around the world. They feel destined to continue their love affair with group stage exits for a fourth consecutive year.

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Player to Watch: CoreJJ is the heart and soul of Team Liquid. One of the best supports in the LCS, he is also only one of two TL starters whose time on the team predates 2020. His preference for champs like Leona makes him perfect for the dive comp play the team favors, but when the team around him feels lacking, there is only so much he will be able to do.

Cloud9 (Seed #3)

Cloud9 Spring finals
LCS
Spring champions in the LCS, can Cloud9 succeed at Worlds?

Last Worlds appearance: 2019 (Groups)

Best Worlds finish: 3rd-4th (2018)

Main roster:

  • Ibrahim ‘Fudge’ Allami (Top lane)
  • Robert ‘Blaber’ Huang (Jungle)
  • Luka ‘Perkz’ Perković (Mid lane)
  • Jesper ‘Zven’ Svenningsen (AD carry)
  • Phillipe ‘Vulcan’ Laflamme (Support)

Cloud9 made the most talked-about signing ahead of the 2021 season, as they dropped a reported $5 million to bring Perkz over from G2.

The signing worked at the start of the year, with Cloud9 winning the Spring split and going to MSI, where they finished fifth. But that’s when things started to fall apart. They went from 13-5 in the Spring regular season to 15-12 in the Summer regular season. The return of Zven to the starting lineup didn’t give the team the boost they were probably hoping for, and there were also issues with inconsistency from players like Perkz. This led to them having to run the Loser’s gauntlet after being dumped into the lower bracket by Team Liquid. They made it to Worlds at the expense of TSM but have had to settle for the Play-Ins.

Cloud9 have shown flashes of brilliance at times, but worrying inadequacy at others. It doesn’t feel like a team that is fully ready to compete just yet, despite their Spring title. Like with Team Liquid, Summer revealed the flaws in Cloud9 as they fell well short of defending their Spring title.

They should make it out of Play-Ins, but that is by no means a guarantee if their consistency issues persist. A slip up against a team like Unicorns of Love or DetonatioN FocusMe, who beat them at MSI, could spell doom for Cloud9. If they do make it into groups, this isn’t the team that finished third-fourth in 2018. Expectations are low for Cloud9, and even then, they could fail to meet those.

Player to Watch: Fudge rules the toplane. The Australian spent 2020 honing his skills in the C9 academy before being promoted to the main roster ahead of 2021. He only improved as the season progressed, arguably becoming the best top laner in the league in the Summer split. However, top lane is an unpleasant lane. If his team continues to struggle around him, it’s going to be a cold and lonely Worlds for Fudge. However, in a season where Cloud9 was inconsistent, the top lane was one constant they could rely on.