The 2018 World Championship is behind us, and League of Legends orgs are preparing for a lengthy off-season. That means roster moves; Lots and lots of roster moves.
With this off-season scramble ahead of us, here are 12 promising free agents that can make a splash in Europe and North America in 2019.
Whenever you mention League of Legends free agents, the name Froggen always seems to come up. The legendary European mid laner took a year-long break after his unsuccessful stint on Echo Fox, but he’s made it very clear he plans to come back in 2019. His brief 2018 EU Masters run proved Froggen still has the mechanics and game sense to be the pillar of a competitive League of Legends team, as Origen won many games by playing around their powerhouse mid laner. And considering he tends to live and breathe League of Legends, this mid-lane prowess isn’t going away anytime soon.
Of course, Froggen’s farm-heavy playstyle is often subject to criticism. But it’s hard to tell whether this approach came forth out of pure selfishness or the need to carry a subpar Echo Fox lineup. Whatever the case, Froggen has the raw talent to be one of the best mid laners in the West. The only thing left is surrounding him with the right players.
Levi once took the entire League of Legends scene by storm as the main carry of the explosive Gigabyte Marines. However, he fell off the radar when he joined 100 Thieves Academy. He lacked synergy with his North American teammates, and while Levi still employed a very carry-oriented playstyle, it wasn’t nearly as effective as it once was on Gigabyte Marines. Levi himself admitted he was a far cry from playing at his peak.
But fans still remember Levi’s dominance at the 2017 MSI and 2017 World Championship. He has already proven he can go toe-to-toe with the best junglers in the world, and he's had an entire year to learn English and adjust to playing in North America. So as long as a team is willing to make him the focal point of its roster, Levi can—and will—make a triumphant return.
Whenever Team ROCCAT stepped onto the 2018 EU LCS stage, they lived and died by Memento. The Swede is the definition of a high-pressure jungler, and his ability to find early ganks and secure massive advantages for his laners became the cornerstone of his team’s strategies. Unfortunately, ROCCAT missed the Summer Split playoffs because this was the only thing they had going for them, but Memento still managed to shine on the struggling lineup.
2019 will be his best chance to cement himself as a top-tier jungler. Now that ROCCAT are rumored to have been denied a franchising slot, Memento has essentially received a get-out-of-jail-free card to look for a better roster. And no matter what offer he chooses, he will certainly make his presence known.
Another promising free agent that’s likely to come from Team ROCCAT's removal is Norskeren. It’s hard for a support to gain traction, especially when his team tends to play around solo lanes, but Norskeren managed to stand out even in these circumstances. When he’s on playmakers, his skill shots seemingly become heat-seeking, and when he's on tanks like Braum or Tahm Kench, he turns into a guardian angel for his teammates.
He also formed a very potent tag team together with Memento. Ideally, a team would pick up him and the Swedish jungler as a package deal, but even if that doesn’t happen, Norskeren has already shown enough to stand on his own two feet.
The moment Ssumday announced he’s allowed to explore options, every western team had its eyes on him. Not only was he the biggest threat of 100T’s lineup, but he was also their only member that held his own at Worlds 2018. His mechanics are on point, and Ssumday can be downright oppressive if he gets his hands on high-impact picks like Gangplank, Darius, Jayce, and Aatrox. And unlike most carry top laners, he doesn’t fall off on tanks either.
Ssumday’s decision-making is head and shoulders above that of other NA LCS top laners, and he always seems to find a perfect flank or a way to soak up insane amounts of damage in teamfights. Of course, there is a possibility that 100 Thieves hold onto him for another season, but considering the number of offers he’s probably getting, that’s going to be a very difficult feat to manage.
He's got one of the best resumes of any North American top laner, and he's been a consistent terror even going back to his Dignitas days.
Let’s face it, Xpecial didn’t end his career on a high note. He didn’t have the best synergy with Arrow on Phoenix1, and his 2-16 run in the 2018 NA Academy Spring Split with Golden Guardians left a lot to be desired. To make matters worse, he spent the entire summer as a positional coach for Deftly and Matt, so it’s hard not to be skeptical for his return.
However, Xpecial can bring a lot of value to a League of Legends team. His wealth of competitive experience makes him perfect for a main or secondary shot caller position, and he still has the mechanics to climb to the top of the Solo Queue ladder. Combine that with the fact that North America isn’t exactly stacked with support talent, and Xpecial can act as a solid foundation for a variety of NA LCS lineups.
There’s no denying that SSONG’s time on TSM was nothing short of disastrous. Not only did he fail to get his players in sync on the Rift, but his drafts got so hectic that management had to bring in Lustboy and Parth to replace him on stage. That being said, the 2018 version of TSM was a giant mess in the first place, and if you look past that, SSONG has a lot of accomplishments under his belt.
For starters, he was the head coach of the most dominant ROX Tigers lineup, and it was under his guidance that Immortals managed to rebuild their team and qualify for Worlds 2017. A single failure doesn’t cancel out these achievements. And if SSONG gets on a team with a couple of Korean imports and players willing to follow his game plans, he will likely redeem himself from his failures on TSM.
Freeze is a name you just don’t hear anymore in the League of Legends scene. After breaking into the EU LCS as one of the best European AD carries with Ninjas in Pyjamas, he seemingly fell off the face of the earth. A huge reason behind this was wrist issues, which gave him the reputation of 'damaged goods,' and made him a very risky pickup for most LCS lineups.
Despite that, Freeze is still looking to make his comeback. He dominated the 2018 TCL Summer Split on Royal Bandits, and barely missed out on Worlds after a disappointing 3-1 loss to SuperMassive in the finals. Of course, TCL is a very different beast from the LCS, but Freeze is determined to challenge western AD carries for their spots. And considering how dominant he was in his prime, it’s very tempting to give him another shot.
When Nisqy first stepped onto the LCS stage, his debut was met with a resounding "meh." His level of play was decent, but he had trouble standing out among NA LCS mid laners, and—initially—this narrative held true in Europe as well. But Nisqy is not the same player he was at the beginning of his career. During Splyce’s struggles in the 2018 Summer Split, Nisqy was the only one consistently performing at a high level.
His laning phase is solid, and he’s not afraid to challenge his opponents in 1v1s, but his main forte is creating picks and finding clutch outplays, which became the foundation of Splyce’s mid game. It remains to be seen whether Nisqy could be a world-class carry, but he’s solid enough to be a great addition to most LCS teams.
It’s easy to dismiss the 2018 H2K lineup because of their horrid Summer Split. But if I had to find a single ray of hope on that roster, it would be Sheriff. The rookie AD carry proved himself as the next rising talent to follow in the EU LCS, and his late game teamfighting was the only thing H2K could reliably play around.
Now that he’s rumored to be out of the H2K prison, Sheriff becomes a very lucrative prospect for other LCS lineups. After all, he already managed to shine on the worst team in the league, and he can only get better if you surround him with strong teammates.
The only thing left is finding an org that won’t be discouraged by the murky legacy of H2K.
Speaking of players that shined on bad teams, meet Kold. Unicorns of Love was a giant mess in 2018, but if they won any games, it was largely because of their jungler. Despite the fact that he had to work with very shaky laners, Kold broke open games time and time again, setting up his teammates with a strong early game.
Of course, that’s not the only thing he has going for him. Kold is a battle-hardened veteran, and you can count on him to use these instincts to pull off clutch smite steals and do the right thing in teamfights and skirmishes. And while he couldn’t quite 1v9 on UOL, there’s no telling what he can accomplish on a team with competent laners.
It’s hard to imagine anyone other than Fnatic letting go of a player of sOAZ’s caliber. Granted, he isn’t the type to single-handedly carry a game, and he often leans towards tanks and bruisers instead of more mechanically intensive champions. But you’d be hard-pressed to find a smarter top laner, and harder pressed to find one with more impressive history.
sOAZ is a natural at finding great teleport plays and game-changing teamfights, and his combination of natural talent and veteran experience allows him to seamlessly outmaneuver enemy top laners in the later stages of the game.
The fact that he’s kept up such a high level of play throughout his career and found success through so many team, meta shifts, and balance changes gives him a solid claim to being the best western top laner in League of Legends history.
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