The announcement of the official LCS awards is around the corner, but you don’t need to wait: Oracle’s Elixir’s unofficial awards are here!
Tim Sevenhuysen and Cody Gerard have each selected their top 3 finishers in three award categories: Most Valuable Player, Most Improved Player, and Rookie of the Year (2019). Below, we present our picks for your edification, entertainment, debate, and fire-starting material.
Most Valuable Player
Tim: 1. Impact, 2. Svenskeren, 3. CoreJJ
Cody: 1. Doublelift, 2. Svenskeren, 3. Impact
Remember when Impact on carries was a meme? Remember when Svenskeren was a TSM ward? Remember when Doublelift’s trophy case was a joke? None of these things are true anymore, and all of these players have since developed themselves into pedigreed, elite players, deserving of MVP votes.
Impact has thrived this split, and with none of his customary reliance on safe, tanky champions. Instead he has thrived on lane dominant carry picks such as Aatrox, Jayce, and his always solid Gangplank. For this reason Impact is at or near the top of the league in almost every major statistic among top laners. He ranks 1st in GD@10 and DPM, 2nd in CSD@10, and 3rd in XPD@10, all while receiving among the lowest CS share post 15 minutes and share of team gold among top laners. In this way, Impact truly isn’t too different from his tank days: he makes a lot from a little, only now, it’s become even more, and that has propelled him to the heart of the MVP discussion. In a true value, raw value sense, it may not get any better than Impact. But despite the award’s name, value isn’t the only consideration that goes into the choice, and for that reason, Impact only makes it to 3rd on my list.
Svenskeren has been C9’s difference-maker this split. He ranks at or near the top of the league in nearly every early game statistic among junglers: GD10, XPD10, FB%, even DPM. All the while, he’s shown tremendous versatility as a player, the most important thing for a jungler. He has not relied on Xin Zhao and Lee Sin-type champions to top the early-game charts, either; he’s had plenty of games on the Sejuanis and Trundles of the world. However, his strong pathing, game smarts, and knack for incredible efficiency land him among the top junglers in the league regardless of what he plays. While he is surrounded by other strong players on Cloud9, he is the life blood of the team and undoubtedly their most valuable player, in addition to the 2nd most valuable in the league.
Despite the impressive splits put together by Impact and Svenskeren, though, it is my belief that this award can be given to none other than Doublelift. At this point, I don’t think there is really much question: Doublelift is the best player in North American history, imports included, and his performance this split has only furthered that assertion. He finished at the top of the league in almost every meaningful basic statistic, not just among ADCs, but among all players. He finished 3rd in GD10, 2nd in XPD10, 3rd in DPM, 1st in EGPM, and 5th in Damage Share. While he tops only one of these categories, he is the only player who finishes near the top in all of them. His all around prowess and raw ability to carry has allowed him to stand out even in Team Liquid’s five-superstar lineup and makes him, without question, my summer split MVP.
Impact has been the best weak side top laner in North America for a long time, which always paired well with having Doubelift on the other side of the map. This split, though, he added another dimension to his game, stepping up as a much stronger laner. Just compare Impact’s -91 GXD10 in Spring to his +291 GXD10 in Summer (1st among Top laners). He maintained his ability to lose lane gracefully, but his newfound (or rediscovered?) assertiveness has given Team Liquid the flexibility to play top lane as strong side when they want, or to isolate the top lane as a 1v1 and have it win, which hadn’t really been an option in the past. Perhaps most importantly, Impact’s improved laning has removed some pressure from the bot lane, forcing enemy junglers to make harder choices instead of camping bot lane while safely assuming that Impact wouldn’t snowball on the other side of the map.
Impact led all starting top laners in KDA, GXD10, and DPM. And consider the fact that his damage output didn’t require the team to keep funneling farm into him to maintain his snowballs: he only picked up 7.9 CSPM and 23.8% CS%P15 for 22.3% gold share, some of the lowest numbers among top laners, since Doublelift and Jensen soaked the farm instead.
Impact’s ability to self-sacrifice and carry anyways, his evolution into a more complete player, and his huge visual impact make him my choice for 2019 Summer MVP.
The Svenskeren-for-MVP narrative seemed to kick into gear pretty early this season, and carried a lot of momentum. The praise was well deserved: he was a key driver of Cloud9’s success in finishing 2nd in the regular season. The most noteworthy aspect of Svenskeren’s play this split, for me, was the intelligence of his early pathing. Time and time again, his pathing brought him to the right place at the right time to ward off a bot lane dive, or win a scuffle for a scuttle crab, or angle into top lane for an early gank, setting up a snowball for himself or Licorice or both. Once he had a lead, Svenskeren was good at continuing the pressure and extending snowballs.
With Svenskeren, we have the rare luxury of comparing his team’s performance with him against their performance with his backup, Blaber. It’s arguable that Blaber stood out individually even more than Svenskeren did, but despite Blaber’s highly visible personal contributions, Cloud9’s 2-2 record in his games shows that Svenskeren’s value was more than skin-deep.
There are still some rough spots in Svenskeren’s play: he hasn’t eliminated the tendency to solo invade the jungle and put himself in dangerous positions, his team fight initiations aren’t as reliable as some other junglers, and his 25.4% death share is higher than I’d like to see. But his ability to control the game early and play to win conditions so consistently with his pathing far outweighed those imperfections this split, and he deserves the credit he’s received for bringing Cloud9 to second place in a season where they could have easily fallen much further down the standings.
CoreJJ is a great player, and had a great split. He and Doublelift terrorized the 2v2s, especially, racking up big gold leads and knocking down towers so Team Liquid could get control of games early on. CoreJJ and Doublelift shared a 44% First Blood rate, 3rd in the league among players with 5+ games (behind Santorin’s 67% and Svenskeren’s 47%), and they often didn’t need a jungler to help (Xmithie’s FB was 33%), earning a lot of 2v2 kills just by outplaying their opponents. Beyond the lane phase, CoreJJ was central to a lot of Liquid’s play, as evidenced by his 78.8% KP (2nd among Supports). He’s as good a playmaker as ever, and as versatile a Support as you’ll find in the league.
So after all this, why did I rate Impact above CoreJJ in my list? Simply put, Impact’s influence on Team Liquid’s outcomes was more visible, easier to identify. This was a top laner’s season to shine, and Impact shone brighter. As for Svenskeren, I’d argue that CoreJJ is a better player than Svenskeren, but Sven was more valuable to his team’s success, warranting a higher placement on the list.
Rookie of the Year (2019)
The Rookie of the Year award highlights the strongest new players in North America across the entire 2019 calendar year. Unlike the official Rookie of the Split award, our Rookie of the Year includes players who entered the league in either Spring or Summer, since this allows for a larger pool of candidates and gives the emerging players more time to take root and prove their value over a more meaningful sample of games.
Tim: 1. Wiggily, 2. V1per, 3. Vulcan
Cody: 1. Wiggily, 2. Vulcan, 3. V1per
Wiggily finished a distant 3rd among three rookies in the Rookie of the Split voting for Spring, behind the two other players listed here, with V1per being the winner and Vulcan the runner up. In summer, the story could not have been more different. Throughout the split, Wiggily was unquestionably the best player of the three, and in my opinion, his performance was more than enough to flip this on its head. V1per has merely been a league-average top laner in all phases of the game, with middling laning metrics across the board. Vulcan has been slightly better, ranking in the top half of the league among supports in most metrics, including vision control and in the laning phase, but much like V1per, he has not truly had a split worthy of note. Still, I see it as enough to pass him for second on the list.
Wiggily, meanwhile, has bordered on elite at times. He has played well in all phases of the game, not limiting himself in terms of playstyle or champion pool. His vision control metrics put him near the top of the league among junglers, and he’s had success on champions ranging from Sylas to Trundle to J4 to Sejuani. His growth from an extremely risky, carry-oriented jungler, to a versatile, reliable player that CLG can lean on when they need to has spearheaded their climb up the standings from missing playoffs in spring to a strong championship contender in summer. This would not be possible without Wiggly and so, despite his poor spring split, he is easily my choice for Rookie of the Year.
CLG’s rise to prominence this Summer can be attributed to many different factors. The addition of Ruin created another threat and produced more balance on the map. The coaching of Weldon and Irean clearly played a significant role, too. And then there was Wiggily‘s emergence as one of the LCS’s better junglers. It’s often said that “it’s not how you start, but how you finish that really matters.” We’re giving out our Rookie award for the full calendar year, and Wiggily was nothing special in Spring, but his Summer was so strong that for me, he deserves the title as the best new player of 2019.
As rookie of the split for Spring, V1per made a strong case for himself as the next big thing in NA talent. His Summer was much the same as his Spring, but with weaker team performances around him. FlyQuest struggle to make.proper use of V1per as a carry top laner, which is partly an indictment of their macro and inconsistent recognition of win conditions, and partly a commentary on V1per as a player who only truly shines when he is set up with a certain amount of resources. The next step for V1per is to add more dimensions to his game, and take more leadership in shaping how his team plays the map.
Vulcan had to work through some pretty big adjustments this year, starting 2019 with Piglet and then moving forward with Cody Sun after Clutch’s roster change. He handled the transition well, and rounded into a better player over time, certainly a player worthy of an LCS starting slot. Vulcan’s progression has largely mirrored the improvements of his team as a whole, though not to the extent that I’d call him the driver of those improvements. Cody Sun, Lira, and Huni warrant more of that spotlight, but Vulcan is doing his part as a valuable contributor. Most noticeably for me, Vulcan’s engage sense still needs some refinement–he pulls the trigger a little too readily–but that’s not the worst tendency to have, and it fits in pretty well with the roster around him, since Clutch have a good balance of primary aggression from Vulcan and Huni and secondary followup from Lira and Cody Sun.
Most Improved Player
The “Most Improved Player” award celebrates a player whose Summer split performance showed the greatest degree of improvement compared to Spring. It is intended to reward players for “breaking out” as new and upcoming stars in the league, or for overcoming slumps to make a return to prominence.
Tim: 1. Wiggily, 2. Biofrost, 3. Meteos
Cody: 1. Wiggily, 2. Cody Sun, 3. Nisqy
Is there really any question as to who should receive this award? Wiggily’s turnaround from spring to summer is among the most spectacular transformations of a player I’ve ever seen in such a short period of time. He evolved from someone who arguably would have been more of an asset to his team on the bench, to someone his team could always rely on. From a coin-flip, one-speed, one-style player, to a player who has shown strength in every single facet of the game and with every single style he has been asked to play and job he has been asked to do.
Still, despite Wiggly being the clear winner, there have been some other players who have shot themselves up the positional power rankings this split who merit discussion. In third place I’ve put Nisqy. While he was far from a liability in spring and was even above average in many cases, he’s shown a marked improvement in summer, turning himself into one of the better mids in the league. Still, his overall decent level in spring prevents him from placing higher on a improvement-based list.
Cody Sun finishes 2nd despite the fact that he hardly played in this year’s Spring split, being limited to two very unimpressive games in the last week of the season. Still, his improvement even over last year is impressive. In summer, he has come out and turned himself into one of the better ADCs in the LCS, finishing behind only Doublelift in GD10 and leading the league in XPD10. The only thing that truly holds him back from being elite is his often mediocre to below average team fighting.
Still, neither of them can hold a candle to Wiggily’s improvement. To go from barely a replacement level player in spring, to one of the top 2 or 3 junglers in the LCS in summer, is truly as impressive a feat as the first year jungler could have hoped for. Whether he can maintain this form and continue to develop as a player will remain to be seen, but if he does, we may have the next elite North American jungler on our hands, the first in a very, very long time.
How many good things is it necessary to say about Wiggily‘s performance this split, especially in light of where he came from just a few months ago? From his numbers to his playmaking highlight reel to the way he’s slotted into CLG’s overall macro and team play improvements, his value has skyrocketed across the board. Encouragingly, Wiggily hasn’t just stood out as a mechanical player, like so many of the young domestic junglers who have caught our eyes in recent splits. By playing a more well-rounded, team-enabling game, Wiggily gives me hope that with more of the right environment and coaching, he’ll be able to continue developing into a real lasting talent for years to come.
Biofrost‘s inclusion on this list is less a comment on his individual performance in the Spring split than it is a way to recognize his role in driving his team’s surprisingly strong Summer. His pairing with Wiggily was an anchor point for CLG’s success, especially their work together as the team’s initiation duo. Much of Wiggily’s own improvement can be tied to his ability to coordinate with his Support, and Biofrost should get his share of the credit for that, not only as one of CLG’s veterans but as the engine of so much of their play.
This Summer, Meteos had the kind of breakout performance you might associate with a young player who finally found a way to make things “click.” Look no further than his progression from a 1.9 KDA and 58.6% KP in Spring to a 3.6 KDA and 78.5% KP, numbers that definitely didn’t come from his teammates carrying him, by the way.
The slight difference, of course, is Meteos’s stature as one of North America’s longest-standing veterans, and his blazingly bright performances in the earliest phase of his career. But hey, this isn’t a reward for “best season of his career”, it’s an award for “most improved”, and Meteos made a big jump forward between Spring and Summer. If he keeps up this pace, maybe he really can recapture those 2013 glory days.
Images courtesy flickr.com/lolesports