With the 2017 League of Legends season right around the corner, teams are locking in their rosters to take onto the Rift. Many have made upgrades, others have had on-paper downgrades, while some have huge question marks lingering over their heads.
These are some of the teams that I’m most fascinated by for the 2017 season.
KT Rolster (LCK) – The new super team
Song “Smeb” Kyung-ho – Top
Go “Score” Dong-bin – Jungle
Heo “PawN” Wong-seok – Mid
Kim “Deft” Hyuk-kyu – AD carry
Cho “Mata” Se-hyeong – Support
You absolutely cannot talk about roster swaps in the 2017 offseason without talking about KT Rolster. League of Legends’ new super team looks to be one of the most impressive rosters ever put together.
Smeb, considered by many to be the best top laner in the world, comes from the now-split ROX Tigers roster that earned a finals spot at 2015 Worlds and a semifinal berth in 2016. Trio of legends PawN, Deft, and Mata are all coming back from stints in China to regain their thrones at the top of Korea. Capping it off is Score, the only returning member of KT’s 2016 squad and in the process of securing a spot in history as one of the best junglers of all time.
As always with super teams, though, their success is dependent on their ability to put egos aside and do what needs to be done. Every player on this revamped KT Rolster roster has been the star player of their respective teams for years and will have to learn to not be the sole voice on the Rift.
If this KT Rolster comes together as a unit, they could be just the team to bring down the SK Telecom T1 powerhouse.
SK Telecom T1 (LCK) – Hello, Huni and Peanut
Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon – Top
Han “Peanut” Wang-ho – Jungle
Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok – Mid
Bae “Bang” Jun-sik – AD carry
Lee “Wolf Jae-Wan – Support
SKT isn’t planning to go down easy, though.
In a reverse “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” move, SKT has picked up two of the players that have given them the most trouble in the past couple of years: jungler Han “Peanut” Wang-ho and top laner Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon.
For those who don’t recall the 2015 Mid-Season Invitational, Huni and the rest of Fnatic shocked the world by taking SK Telecom T1 to five games in the semifinals in a matchup that nearly no one expected to be competitive. Huni was key to their success, making plays and carrying Fnatic on more than a few occasions. Since then, he’s remained in the conversation as one of the best playmaking top laners around, helping NA LCS squad Immortals to two incredibly strong regular season splits in a row.
Peanut, on the other hand, is a more recent bane of SKT. In his rookie split, he established himself as a top two (if not the best) jungler in the world, and he did it on his own terms. His scrappy, hyper aggressive style allowed him to mechanically outplay his opponents, and he did it nearly every time. Throughout the entirety of 2016, he was a massive thorn in SK Telecom T1’s side, giving them trouble at every stage of the season.
So, in order to rid themselves of those threats, SKT grabbed them both. They also happen to still have Faker on the roster, immediately making them World Championship contenders once again.
Fnatic (EU LCS) – Revitalized
Paul “sOAZ” Boyer – Top
Maurice “Amazing” Stückenschneider – Jungle
Rasmus “Caps” Winther – Mid
Martin “Rekkles” Larsson – AD carry
Jesse “Jesiz” Le – Support
Replacing four players, one of which is an all-time great and main shotcaller for the team, is always a tall order. Bora “YellOwStaR” Kim is gone, Fabian “Febiven” Diepstraten is gone, and Lee “Spirit” Da-yoon is gone. The players that defined Fnatic’s 2016 season are entirely out of the picture.
Fnatic seems to have a plan, though: Go back to the well.
For the top side of the map, they’re picking up two longtime veterans in top laner sOAZ and jungler Amazing. sOAZ was a member of the “classic” Fnatic roster, having played for the team from 2012 through 2015, earning three EU LCS titles along the way. Amazing has also had a long and storied career, having played for a multitude of teams on both sides of the Atlantic. Recently, he’s been on Origen with sOAZ, helping to establish them as one of the best teams in Europe from 2014 through 2016. Their veteran leadership is going to be key for the 2017 Fnatic to regain their former glory.
The biggest question for Fnatic will be the performance of rookie mid laner Caps. Known in solo queue circles as a gifted but emotionally charged player, his signing has been mired in controversy since in-game chat logs leaked earlier this year. He’ll have to grow significantly to represent the respected brand of Fnatic.
The only returning member from 2016 Fnatic will be Rekkles, one of the most controversial AD carries of the modern era. Considered by some to be one of the best players in his position in the world, but often derided as overrated by others, 2017 will be the year that makes or breaks Rekkles. He’ll have to seriously step it up as the primary carry for Fnatic if they hope to succeed in the new year.
Team Liquid (NA LCS) – Rising from the ashes
Samson “Lourlo” Jackson – Top
Kim “Reignover” Yeu-Jin – Jungle
Greyson “Goldenglue” Gilmer – Mid
Austin “Link” Shin – Mid
Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin – AD carry
Matthew “Matt” Elento – Support
Documentary film Breaking Point painted a picture of Team Liquid as a team on the brink of collapse. Centered around former jungler, the immensely talented but troubled Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett, the film showed a roster on the brink of destruction. Clearly, something needed to change in 2017.
And change they did. Liquid brought in Reignover, effectively trading Dardoch over to Immortals for him. Reignover represents a change in jungle style for the team, one of brains over brawn. Known for his ability to pair well with the aggressive pushing style of now-former teammate Huni, Reignover is a master of being in the right place at the right time. He may not have the flashy playmaking ability as his predecessor, but he’ll certainly be able to help out the occasionally struggling Lourlo in the top lane.
The only two players on this roster that have worn the LCS Liquid colors before fill their bot lane. Piglet and Matt spent the 2016 Spring Split together and were quickly gaining recognition as one of the better duos in North America. Piglet’s veteran leadership (and World Champion ring), combined with Matt’s mechanical prowess and potential down the line make them one of the lanes to watch coming into the 2017 season.
Liquid’s mid lane is the biggest question mark here. They’ve signed two players that have been out of the LCS for a while in Goldenglue and Link. While Goldenglue has been playing in Challenger for Team Liquid Academy (and, by some accounts, improving greatly), Link hasn’t played professional League of Legends for more than a year and a half.
The pair will be sharing time in the mid lane position as co-starters, a strategy that hasn’t often worked well outside of Korea. Finding the balance between the two players will be vital to Liquid’s season, particularly if they have distinct play styles that can be useful in different situations. It’ll all come down to if Goldenglue can keep up his Challenger performances and if Link still has what it takes to play at the highest level of the game after so long away.
For more on the 2017 League of Legends season, keep it right here the Yahoo Esports LoL hub.
Follow Taylor Cocke on Twitter @taylorcocke.