NA SPRING TEAM PREVIEWS
The first NA spring event is this weekend, and, like for the EU event, we will be previewing all 20 teams to see if the transfer window shook up the NA region at all. The spring split has 20 teams split across 4 groups for the initial group stage. After the group stage, the bottom team in each group is eliminated, and the rest move on to the knockout gauntlet. After the knockout gauntlet, only 8 teams will remain to face-off in the playoffs. Having seen this format play-out with the EU regional event, I enjoy the mixture of a round-robin system, with the single-elimination bracket for the weekend games. It lets teams who might not be considered "the top teams" to work their way into the playoffs and get a little warmed up along the way. Without further ado, let's jump right into the team previews, starting with group A.
Format: Team Name (Player Names) (S: Sub, C: Coach)
Team #1: Kansas City Pioneers
(rapid, BeastMode, Memory) (C: hawpsu)
The starters on this team have been together for the entirety of RLCS X but saw their most success so far in the Fall Split. They finished second in the Fall event #3 and placed 5-8th in the fall major, with their most recent placement of 7-8th in the winter major. Since the winter major, they have made one roster change, replacing their old coach, JG7, with a new coach in hawpsu. Hawpsu, at least as far as my research shows, is fairly new to the RLCS scene, with no previous playing or coaching appearances show up on his liquipedia. Still, it looks like he was involved in at least the Valorant scene before coming to KCP and has a background studying psychology, which could be a big mentality boost for a team that definitely has the skill to pop off and get on a hot streak. Any KCP fans will just want to hope the hot streak is in the playoffs.
Team #2: NRG
(GarrettG, jstn, SquishyMuffinz) (S: musty C: Sizz)
It should come as no surprise to anyone who has paid attention to RLCS in general over the last year or two, but NRG stays dominant. Their last roster move was before RLCS X when they picked up Squishy in place of Turbopolsa, who moved to Team Envy soon after. Since making that roster change, they have finished first, second, or third in each regional event, only excluding a 5-8th exit thanks to a sweep from Team Envy in the fall regional event #3. They most recently won the winter major, beating Rogue in game 6 after Rogue got the bracket reset on them in the first series. NRG has been right near or at the top for the entirety of RLCS X, and it is hard to see them slipping any further than third or fourth for any of the spring regionals. If you are still trying to fill out your NA team for fantasy, you might be able to snag whichever NRG player is in your price range because this team certainly isn't a one-man show.
Team #3: Oxygen Esports
(Toastie, Lj, Kraziks) (S: desi, C: Sadjunior)
Oxygen, formerly known as Jamal Jabary, has been a little more hit or miss than the other two teams in the group so far. Oxygen has made it to most RLCS X regionals, but they do not get the automatic buys like the other teams. The past regionals have seen them do very well in the closed qualifiers but then struggle to hit the main stage. Their most recent outing, though, might be a sign of improvement as in the winter regional event #3, they finished their highest placement so far in RLCS X with a 5-6th finish, just falling short to Team Envy. Hopefully, that, plus being picked up by a fairly well-respected org, can give the players the boost they need to hit the level of consistency they showcase in flashes.
Team #4: Pittsburgh Knights
(radoko, ZPS, sosa) (S: Flitz C: McLando)
The Knights have had some middle-of-the-road results in RLCS X so far, with only a 4th place finish in the winter regional event #1 as their highest placing, but they continue to do well enough that they secure points to keep making it to majors. They ended up 9-12th in the most recent winter major, losing 3-0 to Version1 in the losers bracket to be eliminated. Since October, they have not made any roster changes when they moved on from kinseh and brought in sosa, which means this spring split could be the deciding factor on if the Knights should make a move in the offseason. If they can bring good performance for one of the regionals, then they have a great shot of making the final major, and that could be their last opportunity of the season to really step it up.
Team #5: Stromboli
(AlRaz, Shadow, kinseh) (C: gReazymeister)
Stromboli was originally the team name and branding of what is now XSET but was revived in February of this year by AlRaz. He is now playing alongside Shadow, who most recently played for Charlotte Phoenix for roughly a year and a half, and kinseh, who we haven't seen in the RLCS since the fall major when he was with the Pittsburgh Knights. This could be an exciting team to watch as they are not a mishmash of rookies or anything, but instead, some veteran players have huge potential to make a run at any moment. I am especially excited to see the potential of gReazymeister as a coach. He is a very well-respected veteran who was at the peak of RLCS just a couple years ago, so he definitely knows how to get to the top; it's just whether he can lead this team up there that is the question mark. While this group may be a tough one for them, they have already swept Oxygen in the qualifiers for this regional, so they are absolutely coming in with some momentum.
Team #1: 72PC
(Jacob, Sea-Bass, Spyder) (S: Karma C: Josh)
72PC has been a team that has consistently made the regional tournaments but just can't seem to get things going once tournament time comes. Their most recent addition was the substitute Karma. Karma was Shadows duo for nearly a year and a half with Charlotte Phoenix until they were let go and went their separate ways. 72PC now has 3 fairly notable veterans on the squad, not to mention their coach Josh has also been in the scene for almost 5 years, which could be a lot of help in a late tournament if they get on a run. With the current skill-level of the RLCS, though, it might take a pretty big run for them to get anything notable.
Team #2: Alpine Esports
(percy, majicbear, jordan) (S: creamz C: miztik)
Alpine is a team I have a little bit of bias for, seeing as they are easily my favourite team to watch, but they have consistently this season just fallen short of the top spots. Their most recent finish, a 7-8th in the winter major, saw them only win once over Ghost Gaming, but this team has shown that they can definitely hang with the best it just takes the right day/weekend. They haven't made a roster change since they added their coach miztik back in July, but they haven't needed to make a roster change, really, as everyone has shown at least flashes of brilliance with consistency that's above-average. We will have to see how things play-out, especially in the group stages.
Team #3: eUnited
(ayjacks, tristn, Dappur) (C: Sub'N)
eUnited did not make the winter major, as they sit in 15th in the points rankings, but with such a big org in that position, of course, they were going to make a change. That change just happened to be picking up Dappur off the KCP bench. Dappur is a veteran player who always had some pretty big potential, but recently he has bounced around a couple of teams, not really finding a good fit. Alongside ayjacks and tristn, I think this team has a lot of potential, but I'm not sure if we will see it in the first regional. Most teams at the top have had a lot of time to mold and become a team, and hopefully, these players can do that this tournament while also seeing success.
Team #4: Susquehanna Soniqs
(Shock, tcorell, Roll Dizz) (C: PocketPsych)
Soniqs made the Winter major through a 4-team tiebreaker where they beat Loco, now known as Charlotte Phoenix, and they even managed to take a series off the Pittsburgh Knights in the major. It seems that they haven't been able to escape the 9-12th hole they've been put in. Roll Dizz has had to step up, though, as jruss retired in February, and he had to play in the winter major. He's stepping up again as the team's third for at least this regional, and I wonder if he will just go back to the coach role if they find a replacement. I also am not extremely particular with the RLCS X ruleset, so I'm not sure if picking up another player might cause them to lose their points, but maybe that's another thing that was stopping them. Regardless, this team has some pop-off potential, especially from Shock that we've seen in the past, and so they have a shot any weekend they are in the tournament. I'm not exactly sure who will be eliminated from this group, but if they don't show up, it's a strong possibility it's the Soniqs.
Team #5 Team Envy
(Atomic, mist, Turbopolsa) (S: Plip)
If you've been paying attention to the NA region this season, you should already know this team. Turbopolsa, after being removed from NRG, found an immaculate replacement in Envy as mist and Atomic have been meshing incredibly with Turbo's playstyle. This team has won a handful of regionals this season but hasn't been able to get the job done in either of the majors yet. Come the spring major, I think these boys will be hungry to prove why they are among the top teams once again.
Team #1: Charlotte Phoenix
(Andy, Beastaboniam, Delta) (C: FireRaptor)
Charlotte dropped their roster in February and proceeded to pick up Loco, the team the Soniqs beat to get into the winter invitational. The team has been getting progressively better throughout the winter regionals, though, making it to 7-8th in the winter regional #3, so the future might be looking bright for the Charlotte Phoenix. They are currently sitting 12th in the points standings, and if they continue to improve, they definitely won't need to go through qualification for the spring major. I think it'll be exciting to keep track of this team as they get a groove under a pretty respected org.
Team #2: PrideStark Empire
(Splashy, Porklet, Sharp) (S: celloh)
This team is a much newer team than some others but is full of some players looking to prove themselves. They made it through the qualifiers undefeated, beating Stromboli in their last game, so clearly, they are feeling warm for this weekend. If they can survive the group stage, they might be looking to do a lot of damage in the playoffs on the weekend, but I don't know much about them until then.
Team #3: Spacestation Gaming
(Sypical, Arsenal, retals) (C: Chrome)
Like Envy, SSG has had incredible success this season, but unlike Envy, they won the fall major. The winter major was not as kind, but they ran into a red hot Rogue team like many other teams. They haven't made a roster change since the acquisition of retals in July to replace AxB, which has seen them somehow get better than before. The players' chemistry is excellently complemented by Chrome's coaching style, and with all that talent, it's no wonder SSG extended their contracts until 2023. Who knows how much the scene will change until then, but SSG thinks this squad will remain dominant, and I wouldn't exactly doubt it.
Team #4: The Peeps
(Gyro, AYYJAYY, Allushin) (C: Moopy)
Gyro and AYYJAYY brought back the Peeps after they were both released from the Pittsburgh Knights and joined up with Allushin, who left after Turbo joining Envy pushed him to the bench. The team has been doing well this season, standing at 5th place in the points. They have just been on the edge of surpassing some of the Teams like Envy or SSG; they just seem unable to make it work when it comes to playoff time. Maybe with more spread-out games and the format changing, it might be a refresher for them, and they might be able to carry some more momentum going into the later games because I can't see them getting eliminated too early. If they see some improvement over the spring split, though, I could definitely see an org moving in to try and sign them. I'm just not sure who.
Team #5: Version1
(gimmick, Torment, Comm) (C: Fireburner)
V1 is made up of former Cloud9 teammates gimmick and Torment, with Comm, who came in after the Fall split to replace AxB. Since the addition of Comm, they have seen some slow progression, which I wouldn't have exactly expected considering these players' caliber. It might just say more about the RLCS scene than this team specifically, but considering all the players' history, it wouldn't exactly shock me to see them coming out of the gates swinging for the spring split. With SSG in the same group as them, they may look to get an early statement win in the group stages. They play each other in round 2 of day 1, but while SSG gets a warm-up game against PrideStark, V1 will be coming in fresh off a buy. That, in particular, might be an interesting game to watch, and I know ill be glued to the screen for it.
Team #1: G2 Esports
(Rizzo, Jknaps, Chicago) (S: dreaz C: Jahzo)
G2 was rumored to be making a change after they got beat pretty early by Rogue in the winter major, and since they haven't found the same success this season as in previous seasons. Rightfully, in my opinion, they didn't make any changes and are sticking with their long-tenured roster for the spring split. I think G2 might feel like they have a lot to prove going into this split, especially if they want to make it into worlds, but this group stage will be a great start since they get to end it with a rematch against Rogue. I can't imagine that game will be for who is getting eliminated, but it may very well be the difference between one team going to winners and one team going to losers.
Team #2: Ghost Gaming
(Freshness, LionBlaze, mectos) (S: Spoodah C: Fakey)
Ghost has been in an odd spot this season, mostly middling but staying close enough to the pack that they have made both majors. They were a part of the tiebreaker for the winter major but could only take one series off G2 before losing to both SSG and Alpine. I like the players on this team, especially the addition of mectos, who I've followed since he played for Chaos EC, but I have yet to see them all coordinate and have a great weekend to show that they have the potential to make worlds. Obviously, beating G2 was a good start, but considering how G2 kind of missed the mark for that whole major weekend, it shows it might have said more about G2 than GG. They are hoping for redemption, though, in a group that is pretty tough to make it out of, especially if Rogue keeps it up from the winter major.
Team #3: Nefarious
(JWismont, Ahduhm, Buddy) (C/S: Space Beer)
A middle to bottom of the RLCS team, they haven't made any roster changes since Buddy came back to replace Stokelyy in late November. Buddy is a player who has massive pop-off potential, and he's shown it in some games for Northwood University, who most recently won the CRL national championship in January. While this team has yet to have their shining moment this season, it's not impossible for them to come out and have a great showing or two to make it into the spring major. They start off the tournament against Rogue, so it'll be tough from the start, but we'll have to see if the team is up for the challenge.
Team #4: Rogue
(Firstkiller, Turinturo, Taroco) (C: CorruptedG)
Rogue has been absolutely hitting their stride lately, and I think it started with replacing the legend, Kronovi, with an absolutely nutty player in Taroco. Taroco is another player who played for Chaos EC that I was a big fan of, and I am thrilled to see him slot so perfectly into a team with some really high potential. They were able to beat NRG for the last winter regional event as well, so if any team is coming into this spring split with momentum, it has to be Rogue. If they make it through the group stages in the first place, then they get to play the second place of Group A, which is, in my opinion, the least strong group, so it might be a favourable tournament for Rogue.
Team #5: XSET
(Jpow, AlphaKep, hockser) (C: Trey)
XSET's best placement of the season happened in the fall regional event #2, and they then replaced tcorrell with hockser, who was coming over from eUnited. Since that roster change, they have bounced around the middle of the pack, finishing 9-12th at the winter regional event #3 but failing to make the winter major after making the fall major. They are not too far behind the points standings, though, as they currently sit in 14th place, just above eUnited and Oxygen. This group might be a tough one for them to pull out many victories in, but I'm not convinced they will be directly eliminated. I think it might come down to their game against Nefarious unless someone like Ghost just craps the bed fully. Nefarious and XSET play each other in round 2 of day one, so whichever team loses might have a chance to crawl out of the hole.
Hopefully, you guys have enjoyed these team previews, and hopefully, the weekend full of games is exciting! Also, for anybody reading this far you can tweet me @maachV and show me how your fantasy teams have been doing! I'll catch you guys next time.