2018 NA AL Spring Split Power Rankings
The North American Academy League is starting this week. We’ve broken down the teams and have laid out how we think they’ll finish the Spring Split. Let’s take a look.
The Academy League is finally here and starting off with a bang already. With ten Academy teams ready to duke it out, only four will attend the Spring Playoffs. The matches will not be shown on Thursdays, but will on Fridays.
With the rosters being completed, I did everyone a favor and ranked the teams based on potential, experience level, previous performances, support staff, and reliability. I also broke down the weapons each team bring to their first split in the debut of the Academy league.
Let’s take a look.
#10 Golden Guardians Academy
Golden Guardians is an organization owned by the NBA team Golden State Warriors, which is based in Oakland, California. Not much is known about the Golden Guardians Academy roster except Xpecial, the veteran support player that has been playing since the first season.
Jungler Potluck and mid laner bobqin were both substitutes for eUnited, and Jurassiq briefly played on Zenith eSports and Team Gates. The player bobqin has been playing on different teams since Season 3 and was on the Canadian collegiate team UBC eSports for two years. Their top laner, Jenkins, is unknown. If Golden Guardians Academy wants to secure many (or any) victories, Xpecial will have to do everything he can to teach and guide these inexperienced players along.
#9 Echo Fox Academy
The Echo Fox organization is amazing without a doubt. Rick Fox, the owner and founder, has shown genuine care for his players over the years and has defended the esports name whenever he could.
But the organization is fielding an inexperienced roster, and this decision could be a double-edge sword.
If the organization can train their players and give them the confidence they need, this team could get out of the bottom two, but I do not see this happening in their Spring Split.
Top Laner- Allorim: He played on Team Gates during the NA CS Spring Season but suffered a horrendous 0-10 record. While that record speaks for itself, he played an aggressive playstyle. He had a 65% kill participation and 25% of his entire team’s damage. I believe (and hope) this player will get better during this season on Echo Fox Academy, but since his win-rate last year was 0%, there is literally no way he can do worse.
Jungler- TheOddOrange: If you watch any professional player’s stream, you’ve probably seen this guy’s name more than once. He’s a great jungler in Solo Queue, but his performances last year would say otherwise. Like Allorim, he was on Team Gates during spring season and suffered a 0% winrate. He played mainly Kha’zix and Lee Sin, but dealt 15% of his team’s damage. Like Allorim, he has potential to be a better player, but without a veteran player on the team to guide them, the coaching staff has to buckle down if they want TheOddOrange to flourish this spring.
Mid Laner- Damonte: If you paid attention last year to Echo Fox, then this name should be familiar to you. Damonte replaced Froggen during the series against Immortals and Team EnVyUs, but he only won a single game out of five. Despite this, he is the only player to have played on the LCS stage and has the most experience on his team. He has been part of the Echo Fox organization for two years and now is the best time for him to prove himself on the Rift.
AD Carry- Lost: If you don’t know who “Lost” is, then you’re not the only one. He is the first New Zealander to play outside of the OPL region. This guy is impressive, and it is no wonder Echo Fox picked him up. He was on Legacy Esports and went 8-2 during the 2017 OPL Split 2 Season. Unfortunately, his team got 3-0’d by the Chiefs during the Playoffs and could not attend Worlds. During the Split 2 season, his Kalista went 6-0 with a 10.11 KDA. This player is a great AD Carry, but how he does in Academy League will depend on how he can overcome homesickness and synergize with new teammates.
Support- Papa Chau: Beyond much older fans of the game, not much is known about this player, but he has been playing on CS scene since Season 4 on Also Known As and Dream Team. He has not played on a team for nearly a year and a half, and he has to play with an international player right off the bat. If Echo Fox is looking to get out of 9th place, the bot lane will need to get rid of their growing pains fast. Or else they’ll just look lost.
All of Echo Fox Academy’s members can grow, but a lack of veteran players will surely hurt the team. The staff was lackluster for Echo Fox squad during the NA LCS, and it’s hard to tell how well they will help the squad out. It’s possible that EF.A performs beyond my expectations, but I don’t see them placing above 7th place.
#8 OpTic Gaming Academy
OpTic Gaming is a well-known esports name across the world. The organization mainly invests in FPS games like CS:GO and Halo, but have invested into DOTA 2 also. With this being the organization’s first split, they recruited a diverse roster in their Academy team with two international players, two from NA Scouting Grounds, and one unknown player.
Top Lane- Dhokla: Like “Lost” from EFA, Dhokla comes from the OPL region; however, he counts as a native player. Dhokla played on Sin Gaming and went 7-3 during the Split 2 season, but fell in the quarterfinals of the playoffs against the Chiefs. He enjoys playing aggressive champions who wins lane, but he can play tank champions like Shen well. Dhokla does well if he gets ahead during the laning phase, but he will have to learn how to play from behind if he wishes to improve and nab more victories for this squad.
Jungler- Kadir: Kadir is a player from Europe, but previously played on the Turkish team ÇİLEKLER. Unlike his international teammate, he did not have a good performance and his team went 0-6-8 overall. He shifted from team to team since Season 5 before his debut on ÇİLEKLER, so judging his strength is a difficult task. Kadir needs a good environment to improve and grow as a player, and I am sure the NA AL will be just that place.
Mid Laner- Palafox: The NA Scouting Grounds was amazing overall. With so many spectators and organizations watching the tournament, each player on the four teams needed to overcome the pressure and shine above the rest of the competition to stand out, and Palafox did just that. Not only did he get first place with Team Ocean Drake, but he showed off an amazing Azir and Orianna. However, this is where things get serious, and Palafox has no experience on a CS stage. Along with teammates with a little experience, Palafox will have to learn fast how to work with his teammates to grab victories when it matters more.
Support- Winter: Another player to shine from the NA Scouting Grounds was Winter, the support player for Team Mountain Drake. Previously a top laner for Fiction eSports during Season 5, Winter took his experience with tank champions and converted it to engage support champions. While he only played a mage champion once and lost that game, his Alistar had a 100% winrate and his Rakan had a good 4.0 KDA. But while Winter has proven himself on the Rift, his ad carry hasn’t quite yet.
Ad Carry- Andy: Andy is another unknown player. Bot lane synergy is important in this game, but support and jungler synergy is important as well. How Winter gets along with both Andy and Kadir to dominate the lane and vision control will be crucial to the success of OpTic Gaming Academy, and how well this enigma blends into that puzzle will likely tell the story of this team’s season.
OpTic Gaming Academy’s potential is high without a doubt. Palafox and Winter showed us they were the best players on the Scouting Grounds, Dhokla is already a great top laner, and I have faith that Kadir just needs the right team to excel. Andy is the unknown factor for me, and I expect OG.A to grow later than usual. This season, the team will be weak. Next season, the team will be a monster.
#7 100 Thieves Academy
100 Thieves is the second organization that is affiliated with an NBA team: the Cleveland Cavaliers. It was founded by Matthew “Nadeshot” Haag, a former pro Call of Duty player. The main 100 Thieves team is stacked, and the Academy team has a few players who standout among the rest. Notably, Levi from the SEA region joined the Academy team to ease him into the NA region smoothly. That’s quite a fire to play with.
Top Lane- kaizen: Kaizen is another Scouting Grounds player who played for Team Ocean Drake. He had a great performance on his Shen and managed a 78% kill participation with it. While he had a few good games with Jayce and Maokai, kaizen showed no other defining traits. He is a great laner and can hold his own, but Levi’s poor English might mess up coordinated ganks, which is a synergy this team hopes to see grow quickly.
Mid Lane- Linsanity: Linsanity is another player who got a spotlight in the Scouting Grounds by playing with Team Cloud Drake. While his team got 4th place, his performance said otherwise. Linsanity performed exceptionally well against Julien on Team Infernal Drake and was up in CS even when they lost. Linsanity has some experience on the CS stage as he played with Team Gates for a few games, but he is still inexperienced.
Support- Whyin: Whyin got the short end of the stick during his stay on the Gold Coin United roster. He was the substitute support player and got to perform with the team when MadLife needed to get his visa problems renewed. His next appearance was seven months later when MadLife was getting targeted and tilted during the NA LCS Spring Promotion series for 2018. Whyin played for MadLife, and he got a pitiful six games in total for the 2017 season. Whyin and Rikara were the bot lane of Gold Coin United, but both players remind me of the Wildturtle and Xpecial bottom lane on TSM. Rikara has a tendency to jump into teamfights as Tristana, and Whyin has an aggressive presence during the laning phase. With previous synergy in the 100 Thieves bot lane, these two will easily be the best bottom lane for the first few weeks. How Whyin grows with Rikara will be key to 100 Thieves’ victory, but Whyin needs to learn how to communicate with Levi for warding and invading to bring home W’s.
Everyone loves Levi for good reason. He is arguably the best Jungler in the Academy League, and he crushed TSM three times easily last year. However, Levi needs to adjust in the NA region and get used to communicating more in English. The entire 100TA team revolves around Levi because of how important Jungler communication is. On paper, this team lacks a shotcaller and will have to rely on Levi to carry the team to victory. His play will hopefully do the talking for him.
#6 CLG Academy
CLG Academy made an interesting decision coming into the Academy League. The team took part in the NA Challenger Series during summer last year with the same roster they are fielding now. OmarGod left the sister team to join the main Counter Logic Gaming roster at the last two weeks of summer, but he rejoined the Academy team after CLG picked up Reignover. The Academy team had a terrible performance last year and only won against Delta Fox, so the decision to keep their roster the same is reasonable to allow their members to gain more experience and growth.
Top Lane- Fallenbandit: Despite the team having a lousy 6W-16L, Fallenbandit played a diverse amount of champions in those games. He showed off a good Shen during his games along with Fiora, Rumble, Gragas, and Kennen. However, Fallenbandit could not keep up with his other CS top laners and finished with a 1.9 KDA. His CS differential at 15 minutes was at a -9.9 CS on average, but he dealt 23.5% of his team’s damage.
Jungle- OmarGod: When Dardoch left CLG and OmarGod filled the hole, everyone quickly criticized how OmarGod played during his time. However, I think he had a good performance for a player who played professionally that year. He played Gragas, Sejuani and Olaf well and finished the LCS season with a 3.9 KDA with a 69% kill participation. If he can use the experience from playing in the LCS in the Academy League, it’s possible he can lead his team higher in the rankings.
Mid Lane- Tuesday: Compared to the other mid laners in the Academy League, Tuesday is not as strong as them. That’s okay, though. What he lacks in flashy plays, he makes up with a diverse champion pool. He had a stellar performance on Ekko and played Viktor, Lucian, and Galio. Unfortunately, he had a 2.2 KDA and was down in CS during the laning phase, but he maintained a 68.4% kill participation and dealt 27.3% of his team’s damage.
AD Carry- Zag: Zag’s performance last year was a disaster. He played Varus four times and lost, his Caitlyn is a hit-or-miss, and he had an 8.0 KDA with Twitch in the game he lost. He finished the season with a 3.4 KDA and dealt 22% of his team’s damage, which is less than his top laner’s damage. With a 58% kill participation, Zag needs to step up to the plate this time.
Support- Fill: The support player of this bot lane has a weird champion pool. While his Thresh and Karma performance were good, he also played Brand and Sejuani support in his games. Unfortunately, they did not land him any victories, but it shows his confidence to whip out those champions to surprise the enemy and flex pick. He had a 2.5 KDA at the end of the season and had a 68% kill participation.
While CLG.A did awful in the North America Challenger Series, they built up synergy as a team way before the other Academy teams. This should allow the team to have a head start and, with the proper staff, get them victories in the beginning. However, every single member needs to buckle down and improve because they only have one year worth of experience overall. OmarGod has the most experience after playing on the LCS stage, so everyone should look at the team to see if he used that experience to help his teammates.
#5 Clutch Gaming Academy
Clutch Gaming is the third team that is owned by NBA team, the Houston Rockets. They have been part of the esports scene for a little over a year and built a strong scouting system, which shows in their rosters. They picked up Febiven and LirA in their main roster, and Piglet and Moon in their Academy team. These two players have a great amount of LCS experience, and CG.A filled the remaining slots with potential talent.
Unfortunately, the players “Maxtrobo” and “Sun” have little information and experience playing professionally. Maxtrobo was a sub on Tempo Storm and never played, while Sun had little experience playing back in Season 5.
Support player “Vulcan” was a sub on CLG Academy before his debut on the NA Scouting Grounds on Team Ocean Drake. He only played Lulu, Braum, Taric, and Rakan, so his champion pool is not as diverse. His Lulu’s KDA was 8.0 in the three games Vulcan played her, and his average kill participation was 78.6%. He has a passive playstyle and makes mistakes frequently, but he is laning with one of the strongest AD Carries in NA and has a buddy jungler by his side. With these two veteran players each teaching Vulcan new strategies, he will grow to become a strong support player by the end of the season.
Overall, CG.A has a strong team with Piglet and Moon, who are also teaching their inexperienced members on how to play the game professionally. While Piglet has issues that made other teams opt to not pick him in their main roster, Moon is not known to be a carry jungler. This means that the team is a dark horse in this League, as they will either perform really well with Piglet or not make it to playoffs.
#4 Team Liquid Academy
In this league, nothing can be said to be certain, except death, taxes, and Team Liquid in fourth. Like Clutch Gaming Academy, this team put in two players who are veterans of the game: Hard and Mickey. Hard jungled for Echo Fox the year before, but Mickey came from the LCK. He played for Afreeca Freecs during Season 6 and ROX Tigers during Season 7. I don’t expect Mickey to play the entire NA AL as Riot imposed a rule that allowed teams to switch members before games. With the main Team Liquid roster running four players who has NA as their residency, Team Liquid is free to switch between Pobelter and Mickey.
Team Liquid’s other members are “V1PER“, “Shoryu“, and “Joey“. All three are new to the professional scene, but they are in good hands if Team Liquid is taking care of them. The team will scrim with the main roster at least once, and laning against legendary players that have gone to Worlds will teach the players something new.
I would place the team lower, but like with CG.A, Mickey will carry the games harder. Since TL.A have three members who have not played outside of Solo Queue, the games will rely on Mickey in the early weeks until the other members improve. The improvement should not take long because of Team Liquid’s staff and funding, so the three members should be at the top of the fresh players by the time the split ends.
#3 FlyQuest Academy
FlyQuest had a weird performance last year. In spring, they placed 4th during the playoffs. During summer, they placed 7th during the season and 3rd in the gauntlet. Flame and Fly went to the main roster while Keane and Shrimp joined the Academy team.
Keane and Shrimp are a unique duo and have competed together in NA region for a while. Keane got NA residency and Shrimp played with DetonatioN FocusMe in Japan during spring last year. Their team members include “iMysterious“, “Erry” and “JayJ“, and have little experience compared to some players on the other teams. Erry and JayJ are the bot lane of FQ.A, and have competed on Toronto eSports in the attempt to get into the spring split of the NACS. While they lost, they have built up synergy already. iMysterious played on Zenith eSports in the past, but his has a poor record overall.
I placed FlyQuest high because Shrimp and Keane are monsters in League. The bot lane already has synergy together and will do well against their competition. iMysterious hasn’t played on stage for a while, but he will perform fine as long as the split ends. With Shrimp and Keane, FQ.A will concentrate on getting these two ahead and carry the game.
#2 Cloud9 Academy
Cloud9 Academy hit a home run with this roster. Goldenglue and Keith are both decent players in their role, but it’s hard for them to succeed at their roles when NA is where talent is attracted rather than grows. Their three other teammates are no strangers to league either.
Top Lane- League: Debuting in the NA Scouting Grounds, League joined Team Cloud Drake (who was sponsored by Cloud9) and performed remarkably. He mainly played bruisers, but his performance on Maokai and Cho’gath were great to watch. His Maokai had an 86.7% kill participation, and his Cho’gath had a 13.0 and 15.0 KDA in two games. With his knowledge on his champions, it’s no wonder Cloud9 still picked him up after the team’s 4th place finishing.
Jungle- Wiggily: When I was watching the summer NACS, Wiggily made me nervous as a GCU fan. Wiggily was a monster on Tempo Storm for good reason. His main champions are early game and he constantly invades jungles at the right times. His Elise was his most played champion and finished with a 4.63 KDA. His Rek’sai had a 73.2% kill participation, and he was always there when he was needed, having a 50% first blood participation. He’s a great player, but his performance on tanks is lackluster.
Support- Zeyzal: Before his debut on eUnited, Zeyzal used to play on Zenith eSports and joined as a sub support player on Cloud9. He did not play at all while he was on those teams, so his performance during the NACS caught the attention of Cloud9 again. His performance during the summer split stood out as he mainly played tank supports. Braum was Zeyzal’s most played champion and averaged 11.29 assists with a 6.31 KDA. His kill participation was at 67.1% and had a high 41.3% of his team’s wards.
Cloud9 Academy picked up a killer roster that has great potential and already built in experience. Westrice is their head coach, and he has been involved in League since Season 1. I wouldn’t be surprised to see C9.A appear in the playoffs or some of these members appear on the LCS stage next split.
#1 TSM Academy
TSM picked up the roster for this Academy team that is filled with talent and potential. In my earlier article about the TSM Academy team. TSM’s goal is to be #1 in both the LCS and AL stage, and they created a roster who can do just that.
On paper, top laner Bradini and jungler Grig don’t look strong compared to the rest of the competition, but they had moments of great play on the LCS stage. Both have synergy to coordinate ganks from being teammates before, and being picked up by TSM fuels their resolve to become better players even more. There’s a reason TSM picked these two up, and I expect to see it by the first week.
While Palafox from OG.A won the NA Scouting Ground, Ablazeolive is arguably the better mid laner. His strong performance on Malzahar and Ryze from the scouting grounds will be crucial in the current meta where Zoe reigns. With his previous plays on Azir and Leblanc from his time on Nova eSports, I’m sure Ablazeolive will pull these out during the league and bust those fools.
MrRalleZ is one of my favorite European AD Carries of all time. His performance on Jhin puts Sneaky’s fame to shame. His Jhin ended the spring split with a 12.0 KDA and dealt 31.3% of his team’s damage in one of those games. By watching the TSM scrims, coaching style, and reviews with the main roster, MrRalleZ grew along with the team. The TSM Academy squad will look at him to carry their games, and he has shown that he can do that.
Shady may not appear to be the strongest member, but he can get better as the season progresses. He played several mage supports during his time on Phoenix1, but the meta has shifted towards tanks. Fortunately for Shady, his support stats are good. He had a 73.2% kill participation and managed 39.5% of his team’s wards during his run on P1. Playing with the superstar Arrow must have taught Shady some strategies that will help him with MrRalleZ and the team.
Overall, this team might not seem strong on paper, but they will be the strongest in the league by the time the split ends. While the coach has not been revealed yet, I believe in Andy to hire the coach that will propel these players into 1st place.
That’s my prediction on the placements of each team at the end of the Spring split. NA AL looks promising with all of these terrific players looking to grow better as a player. The first match streamed will start at 15:00 PST on January 19th between Team Liquid Academy and TSM Academy. You don’t want to miss out!