North America has never fallen quite so hard as they did at Worlds last year. While the LCS, which prior to last year was known as the NALCS, has never succeeded at Worlds, there had been promising signs. Cloud9 had spent years known as North America’s best hope for international success, and other teams like TSM had managed to fight their way out of groups before. Most importantly, only a few months earlier at MSI, Team Liquid bested 2018 World Champions Invictus Gaming for second place, leading many to believe they’d be a force to be reckoned with at Worlds.
Unfortunately, they were wrong. Clutch Gaming, Cloud9 and Team Liquid floundered at Worlds, ending at 0-6, 1-2 and 3-3, all eliminated before playoffs even began.
And yet, coming into 2020, if you looked at the fans, you’d never see the failure. North American fans are used to failure; until 2018 — bar the first Worlds, which most don’t count — a North American team had never made it past the quarterfinals. Most North American teams have never even made it out of groups, including fairly undisputed best North American player, Doublelift. No matter how poorly the teams did the year before, fans will always enter the season believing, beyond a doubt, that their team will be the one to win it all.
As teams hit the stage for the first weekend, expectations were high, and many players rose to the challenge. One standout was rookie player Johnsun, Dignitas’ starting bot laner. He played last year on Team SoloMid’s Academy roster, but these first two games were his first games ever in the LCS, and he played extremely well, helping his team to a 2-0 week. He played Senna and Ashe, finishing the week with a 10-1-10 KDA.
Another standout was Fly Quest’s jungler Santorin. A veteran player with over half a decade of pro experience, despite only being 22, Santorin had struggled for several years after leaving TSM in 2015. He floundered in Europe, lasting just three weeks on H2K before being kicked after a 1-5 start. Santorin returned to North America in 2018 on Fly Quest, where he’s been ever since. Despite a decent season last year, Santorin never looked as good as he did this week, ending with an 11-5-21 KDA on Rek’Sai and Lee Sin. The key for Santorin will be avoiding another season of downhill performances, but his Week 1 was certainly a good start.
Then there was Cloud9’s midlaner, Nisqy. An import from last year, the midlaner was pretty good in 2019, helping Cloud9 to a second place in summer and a Worlds appearance. He started this season on what’s quickly become his signature pick, Veigar, and bodied Team Liquid and their midlaner, the ex-Cloud9 Jensen. In the team’s second game, he played another favorite, Zoe, and helped shut down another ex-Cloud9 midlaner, this time GoldenGlue, helping guide his team to a 2-0 week that helped to quiet some of the doubters around the new C9 lineup. Nisqy’s next test will be to prove that he can play things that aren’t Veiger or Zoe, as his hero pool has seemed somewhat limited in the past.
Finally, there was the Player of the Week, Froggen. Another member of the 2-0 Flyquest lineup, Froggen was absolutely dominant, finishing the week 10-2-11 with an incredible performance over both CLG and Evil Geniuses. Froggen, who’s always been a good player, showed another level this week, dominating his opponents and playing incredibly clean League of Legends as he led the underdog team to victory.
While these players’ performances Week 1 cannot be understated, it’s the weeks that are still coming that are going to show what teams will rise to the challenge and be able to fight to improve North America’s reputation.
Ashton Stansel is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.