Free agency officially opened on Monday for every region of the professional League of Legends system. A number of storied, experienced players were rumored to be on the market this year, from G2’s Perkz to Suning’s SwordArt to Cloud9’s Licorice. In North America, as per usual, most of the conversation was dominated by the question of which players would be imported, following a long string of rumors that Perkz was going to Cloud9 in place of their current mid laner, Nisqy.
That deal seems to be all but done at this point, with G2 announcing that Perkz was leaving the team and Cloud9’s owner Jack Etienne tweeted a GIF of a contract being signed with “It’s official!” written on it so … that deal seems like it’s just waiting to be announced at this point. As for Nisqy, he apparently will be exported back to Europe to replace Fnatic’s Nemesis, who despite having a great deal of excitement coming into Fnatic has struggled to meet expectations. That deal hasn’t been confirmed, but it’s been what most people in the scene have been saying on Twitter and streams for a bit.
Another interesting North American deal comes from TSM, who is rumored to be buying out Evil Geniuses’ top laner Huni. Huni is one of the more controversial players in North America; after being signed to a deal that was supposed to be 2 years and 2.3 million dollars with Clutch Gaming, he ended up on Evil Geniuses after just one split. Huni is a very up and down player, who in recent years is just as likely to lose games for a team as he is to win. That’s not a great trait and it’s a little surprising to see TSM going out on a limb for the veteran player, though it is important to note that he has North American residency so this does open up an import slot.
TSM, despite being first place in the LCS in 2020, is looking like one of the more changed teams. Legendary mid laner Bjergsen has moved to a coaching role, and while jungler Spica and bot laner Doublelift seem to be staying, it would be a surprise to most of the scene if they continued with their support from 2020, Biofrost.
Beyond the deals that are known, there are many talented players who are stepping into free agency this year. Most of DRX, the second place Korean team last year, are now free agents. This includes their star mid laner, Chovy, and support, Keria. Both of them are young, talented players with international experience, a very good recipe on the free agency market. Fnatic’s Rekkles will reportedly also be exploring free agency this year, so it will be interesting to see if G2 could try and poach him given their lack of a bot laner.
Given that free agency has only just begun, there are still relatively few completed deals. Despite this, it seems like many top teams will be shaken up going into next season and with the many item changes that have already happened in the offseason, it might be difficult to accurately predict what the meta will be and therefore what teams will excel. Despite this, it actually feels pretty easy to create predictions for North America; assuming the Perkz deal is secured and nothing weird happens, Cloud9 is quite clearly a top two team. Alongside Cloud9 is Team Liquid, who is rumored to be signing Santorin in the jungle and Alphari in the top lane, and who would likely be at least top three with that lineup.
From the outside, it feels like TSM may be slipping. While Brokenblade wasn’t the most consistent top laner in the world by any metric, Huni has been a disaster on every team he’s been on recently and it feels like a weird decision to sign him in a world where Licorice is also a person who doesn’t take an import slot and is available.
While the importing of foreign players for the LCS will continue to be a controversy, there is no question that it will continue. Imports are not something any LCS team would be willing to give up without a fistfight of some kind, as it seems like the scene has effectively decided that is the best way to make a good roster. Now, the only question that seems to really need to be answered for the LCS is whether or not a team will make a bigger signing than Cloud9’s presumed signing of Perkz.