The League of Legends Season 6 has finally come to an end. The Season of Upgraded Masteries, Mid Season Magic and the death of marksmen viability in Solo Queue is finally over. With SKT being crowned champions of the World for 2 consecutive years and 3 overall, the 2016 World Championship left us with a bittersweet taste. Bitter because western teams couldn't find the glory they were looking for, yet sweet because it was one of the most competitive tournaments we have ever seen in the Pro LoL scene. Including the teams that didn't make it far in the tournament, we had all the NA teams. With the exception of C9 that made it past of groups (only to lose with a 3-0 to Samsung Galaxy in the Quarters), all NA teams couldnt make it past of groups. But with Season 6 ending, so does the consideration of NA as a weak nation to the rest of the world, and we are going to explain why.
1) Raise of LCS funding
This is the biggest "buff" the Western LoL scene has ever seen in its championships. Not only is Riot about to double the total prize after approximately 3 years of fixed rewards, but promised each team an additional 50.000 dollars (at least) per split from "digital goods", as well. Last month, almost every LCS team from both EU & NA agreed to send a letter to Riot co-owners Marc Merill and Brandon Beck, and some heads of the esports scene, in order to adress some problems regarding the current state of LCS. Regarding the monetization of the teams, most of the problems seem to be solved now.
With the raise of the prize pool Riot provided the teams with, it's reasonable to think that the players will have more desire to win. With the 1st place prize now being 100.000$, this leads to every team and player aiming high in Season 7. The raise of the prize pool might not only have immediate advantages for the teams, but will as well set the standards of different games in the eSports scene.
2) Korean Imports
Flame? Ssumday? Looper? Chaser? Do you need more to be ensured we will witness a fantastic NA LCS Season? Having Korean players on multiple line-ups will not only upper the skill ceiling of the teams, but will as well make American players practise a lot more harder in order to be able to face them. In addition to that, Korean players in NA can help teams work and operate just like in Korea, thus leading to an upgrade of the whole organization.
However, a major problem with Korean imports is the language barrier. Most Korean players speak barely any English, which makes it hard to communicate with their mates during scrims and on the LCS stage. Despite that, most Koreans don't take more than a split to adapt to the USA environment and learn the language, so if not in Spring, in Summer the competitiveness of the NA LCS will skyrocket.
3) Korea does NOT have only 2 powerhouses anymore
Despite having Samsung Galaxy in the final of the 2016 World Championship against SKT, 2 teams were widely known as the best Korean teams so far. SK Telecom and ROX Tigers. Despite the fact that these teams fail to show their true power during the regular season (mostly SKT), they dominate almost every team they compete against on the international stage for 2 years now. In the offseason however, we have seen a lot of roster shuffling between teams, and we should all agree that the LCK made a change for the "better". MaRin moved onto Afreeca Freeks, Peanut on SKT, Pray and GorillA on Longzhu, and Smeb onto kt Rolster. Now, instead of having the best players on 2 teams, Koreans have gone onto many different teams, making this year's LCK "the region without a favorite".
Given that, in addition with the fact that only 3 Korean teams are eligible for the World Championship every year, leaves a lot of big names out of the table. This is why all non-Korean teams will have a chance at making it further into the World Championship than ever before.
4) Revenge is a Dish Best Served Cold
Ever since the start of the LoL World Championships in Season 2, NA teams have failed to advance past the quarterfinals. The only Western teams that have ever made it into the semifinals are 2012's Moscow 5 and CLG.Europe, 2013's Fnatic, 2015's Origen and Fnatic, and this year's H2K. This makes Europe the only region that has ever competed in such a high level in an international event.
Given the fact that Europe got a lot less Korean players than NA in this offseason, I believe this will make NA the only Western region that will be able to stand against Korea's super-teams next year. It is up to them to show how much are they seeking revenge and how thristy they are for international recognition.
To sum up, I would just like to clarify that this is my personnal opinion and does not mean it will turn out to be true. I just made some logical deductions with the things that happened in the offseason and more.
No matter what happens, I believe we all agree that this year might be the one that "the gap is really closing". With all these roster changes and many more that happened during the offseason, the ΝΑ LoL scene will probably be the most interesting region to watch.
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