The North American region is turning over a new leaf, by investing more in its talent.
Last year was yet another year that left League of Legends Championship Series (LCS) fans wanting more when it came to the League of Legends World Championships. For a second straight year, the North American region failed to get past groups with each team that it sent out, leaving much to be desired.
In the first week of the Worlds group stage, all three of the North American teams had just three wins collectively. Once in the second week, FlyQuest showed a bit more life, Team Liquid put themselves in a position to qualify past the group stage but had their dreams slashed by Suning Gaming, and Team SoloMid went completely winless, 0-6.
With yet another subpar year comes along the vicious North American cycle of “this region has to invest more in their talent, “no more recycling players”. Each time the cycle gets brought up, everyone rants and raves, but only a few do something about it.
We’re the only team to field five North Americans this year and we’re very proud of that
- Director of Esports and Head of Performance at Dignitas, James Baker
The clear frontrunners for investing in North American talent have been 100 Thieves and Cloud9. 100 Thieves with their LCS, Academy, Amateur, and 100X, and Cloud9 with their LCS, Academy, and Amateur teams as well. Jack Etienne, CEO of Cloud9, has been one of the more outspoken individuals — and owners — when it comes to North America putting work into its own native talent as well as getting it out there for the world and the region to see.
“I, of course, from the beginning of Cloud9, have been heavily in support of developing North America — our region —, always been involved in the Challenger Series [and] have heavily been involved in our Academy Series. Very heavy investment in supporting these leagues,” Etienne told reporters at a press conference. “This year, we got involved in the Amateur system, which has also been very fun and really exciting as well as we have our training grounds program which focuses on kids 13 and up to learn how to play team sports and make League of Legends better.”
Cloud9 has shown clear results of this. Players like jungler Robert “Blaber” Huang — who is the clear frontrunner for MVP for the 2021 Spring Split —, support Tristan “Zeyzal” Stidam, current Cloud9 top laner, Ibrahim “Fudge” Allami, and many others have put themselves in the limelight as strong players for the region.
100 Thieves has continuously put their part as well with their many rosters. Their Academy roster has been consistently at the top of the Academy league, and many of their former members like Aaron “FakeGod” Lee and Max “Soligo” Soong have moved on to the LCS.
But one team that is being overlooked, often due to their poor placings in the past and lack of real “superstar” is Dignitas. As it stands currently, Dignitas is the only team with five native North American players for the 2021 Spring Split — two of those members happen to be FakeGod and Soligo. Every single player from the top lane to the bottom lane is from North America; not a single one was from another region and became a North American resident either. Something that Director of Esports and Head of Performance at Dignitas, James Baker, has taken great pride in.
“When we looked at the roster options this year, there were many paths that we could take — obviously, some of the rumours came out. But the one that excited us the most was absolutely the same roster you see playing for us today,” Baker said in an opening statement at a press conference. “It’s a mix of veteran players and amateur players, and it’s three players in particular that we think have a very bright future ahead of them in the LCS. We’re the only team to field five North Americans this year, and we’re very proud of that.”
Dignitas are also the only team to give another chance to controversial North American native jungler, Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett.
“And we are also the only team to — in my opinion — to give Dardoch a real chance. Before, I feel like he’s been forced into rosters that don’t make sense to him, and we’ve gone, and we’ve sat down, and we’ve taken the time to understand him throughout the whole summer last year and also in the offseason. And that’s allowed us to build a roster around him where he is a true leader on the team. And I think we’re seeing the benefits of that in the first few weeks of the LCS,” said Baker.
Maybe this year, now more than ever, the North American region has finally begun to wake up and quit using the same old players over and over again. As evidenced by nearly half of the players from last year no longer being on the league. The region having frontrunners like Cloud9 and 100 Thieves, followed now by Dignitas, is a great way for the region to turn around. Perhaps this might be the first step in the right direction for one of the “four major regions” to begin performing well internationally.
Images via Riot Games