As the import conversation has gained steam again in the LCS (and outside the LCS), I have been struck by how little actual conversation is happening. There are certainly two sides here and they are talking at one another, but I am not sure anyone is truly listening either way. It’s been a frustrating thing to watch in a growing industry with potential, but seems, at times, to still be run by manchildren. (I say manchildren intentionally because the teams with prominent women in leadership, like Flyquest and Evil Geniuses, have stayed mostly out of the mud. Coincidence? Probably not). Right now, there is the “NA players are terrible and we need to replace them all to compete internationally” side of the argument represented by Reginald, and then the “any change to the import rule would bring about the end of NA talent development and interest in the game” represented by the majority of journalists working in the scene. They are both built on the same two misconceptions: that there are hundreds of Korean, Chinese, and European players who are better than every North American player in the LCS right now and North American fans wouldn’t root for a full team of imports. That is, frankly, bullshit. Vulcan and Blaber could play in any league in the world. Licorice, Aphromoo, Tactical and Huhi would make it in the LEC. Then there are plenty of players who act as “residents” in North America from other countries currently who could play in every league in the World like Ssumday, Impact, Santorin, CoreJJ that North American fans root for because they win. It’s impossible to prove, but I promise you if a team of imports was winning Worlds under the TSM logo their fans would be going nuts in NA. That argument feels totally made up.
I am pro-loosening of the import rules for totally different reasons than being argued by the most vocal owners right now. I actually believe raising the standard of the league helps NA talent development. We have seen this with soccer in the US. As rules around how much teams can spend and on who have loosened, we have also seen the popularity of the sport in the US increase and the quality of players developed here become better. Part of that was simple internal competition, another part was accepting that the NA ways of doing things needed to at least try to model what was working in the other countries in their academy systems. That took bringing players and coaches from that region to lead about some of the best ways of doing things. We have already seen the tremendous benefit having CoreJJ in North America has brought to the overall health of the scene. His experience and investment in making North America better has shown what amazing things the right player can bring. Will every team sign someone like CoreJJ in a changed system? Nah, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth a shot. If a North American player or fan sees teams from their region consistently performing at international competition, even without representatives from their home country, are they not excited about the prospect of the future of NA LoL. The LCS will still always be the league where it is easiest for NA players to rise to the top. Look at the EPL. There’s a reason most English players decide to stay home and get to play on some of the best teams in the World. It’s actually an advantage for them that their home league imports some of the best players in the world.
So, here’s my solution. It looks a lot like the rules of MLS or EPL and involves a compromise for both sides. These rules would have to be applied to every league in the world because Riot is the central authority for all leagues. Every team gets 3 import slots. All teams have to start 1 homegrown player in every match. Homegrown players are classified as any player who was born in the region they are competing in or an international player who has been in the team’s academy system and in the country for at least a year. Import spots become tradeable or purchasable. I.E. If TSM wants to have 4 imports on their team they will need to buy or trade a prospect for an import slot from Golden Guardians. This allows teams who feel like they have the money to build superteams to compete internationally to try and do it, but maintains some incentives for the other teams as well. It also heavily incentivizes internal talent development for playing for your first team or to be purchased by other teams. LCS doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel, nor should they.
Alright, into what you came here for, my Western LoL early bets:
Bet: Mad Lions ML (-170) vs. FC Schalke 04
Mad Lions are too damn good to keep losing to teams that are worse than them. If I were their coach, we would be having a series of meetings about what our goals while clips of all of Carzzy and Humanoid’s ridiculous solo deaths played in the background.The point being obvious. This team is better than that. They have a +3.4% GSPD and a sort of average Early Game Rating. Last season, they had much better stats in both categories and if they start to clean it up, should improve in both as the season goes on. Schalke’s stats have trended in the opposite direction. After starting the season with a positive GSPD and wins against the best teams in the league, they have plummeted to 5-8 with a -2.2% GSPD. They might be slightly better than that, but I think it’s closer to their actual level. I have Mad Lions closer to a -200 favorite in this matchup and I think the two teams’ talent is probably closer to -250. Take the scary value with Mad Lions.
Bet: Rogue ML (+125) vs. G2
I have a feeling this is not going to be a popular bet, including among my peers in the LoL betting world. But either you believe in the numbers or you don’t and I do. I don’t believe G2 has some sort of cosmic power over every other team. They are better than every other team at a few key things (teamfighting, skirmishing), but they are certainly not flawless. The numbers have these as the same teams: both are 11-2 with +9% GSPDs. Rogue is slightly better in the early game, G2 is slightly better in the late game. They have the number 1 and 2 players at their positions in nearly every role between these two teams. Will G2 beat Rogue in a 5 game series? Absolutely yes. This would be a hammer G2 spot in that scenario, but are they really nearly 60% to win in a one-off regular season game? I just can’t get there. There’s nothing left to break down with these two great teams. I am just taking the one with the plus by their name.
Bet: Misfits ML vs. Astralis parlayed w/ SK ML vs. Vitality (+112)
This is a parlay of two teams who should be making a push to enter the playoffs in the LEC against the worst two teams in the league. Misfits has been a total anomaly to me all season. They have the same GSPD as the Mad Lions and Fnatic, but are 5-8. It’s kind of incredible to watch them throw away game after game. However, last weekend I think they found a way to win in the late game: Kobbe on safe, scaling, back line damage. The Kaisa and Samira didn’t really fit him, but Ezreal, Ashe, and Jinx are perfect. If the rest of the team can keep getting their sizable early leads, and he can carry through their wildness in the late game. This is a good team. Good teams beat Astralis. SK, too, has found themselves in a perfect meta. Tynx, while very capable of playing the farming junglers, is a super-duper star on the ganking Skarner and Hecarim. Couple that with Treatz just getting better every week and this team is legit good. Are they the top 3 team in the league their record says they are? Probably not. But you don’t need to be top 3 to beat Vitality
100 Thieves ML (-140) vs. Evil Geniuses
I am legitimately concerned about 100 Thieves as a real LCS championship contender. In fact, I am pretty confident they are not, but at some point, they are going to get tired of losing to teams that are worse than them and go back to their strengths. I would expect that to be this week. If they pick Damonte TF, Ryze, or Galio in this game, I am pretty confident that they will win. Evil Geniuses went on a nice run of form in the LCS Lock in that probably had them slightly overrated coming into the season. For whatever reason, since the beginning of Jizuke’s tenure, this team has moments where they look completely disconnected and make elementary mistakes. To me, that’s the kind of teams that 100 Thieves have pulled off their “heists” against by just having better players in the late game. I would expect that to be the case again here. The stats also have these two as the biggest pretenders of the top 5 LCS teams, but 100 Thieves as the better side.
CLG ML (+105) vs. Immortals
This one is really just about a feeling. I have a feeling that CLG is going to be much better in the second half of the season. There’s just one too many pretty good veterans on this team for them to stay this bad. If they were in the LEC, I would say they were dead. But in the LCS, we have seen teams of veterans whose best days are behind them consistently finish in the playoffs because the bottom teams in the LCS are just really bad. With that said, Immortals are also a team of mostly veterans. There’s not a lot to examine here. I think this game is a near coinflip and we get a little plus money on CLG.
TSM ML (-115) vs. 100 Thieves
There are two contenders in the LCS– Team Liquid and Cloud9– and then one mini-contender in TSM. This team has really started to find themselves in the last few weeks. Huni has played much more under control. Spica is starting to flash that superstar potential again. Swordart has found his niche. PowerofEvil is same old reliable Powerofevil. Lost is fine. It’s what I have to imagine Reginald had in mind when he put the team together. Despite having a near 1 kill to death ratio, they have a +4.2% GSPD. That’s pretty impressive and suggests the team is getting non-kill related advantages, usually a good tell for a smart team. 100 Thieves just isn’t getting sizable leads on their opponents in the regular season and have won a lot of games with very minimal advantages or slight deficits. In pretty much every sport in the world, a point differential is heavily correlated to the team’s quality. 100 Thieves’ GSPD says they are a lower quality team than TSM. I have TSM as -140 faves here and love them at -115.
Cloud9 ML (-135) vs. Team Liquid
This year I have tried to apply some principles from other sports to LoL and one of those has been the “revenge game”. Revenge games are generally overblown when it comes to teams that are not close in quality. However, there is something to revenge between two teams that are close. Cloud9 and Team Liquid are quite close statistically speaking and talent-wise, but Liquid won their last matchup and the Lock-In Tournament. At this point, I think Cloud9 will be very prepped going into their match with TL and want to beat them pretty badly. I am also starting to believe that Cloud9 is the better team over the longterm. Blaber and Perkz have been of legitimate international quality so far and have played some of the best games I’ve seen in any league this year. I am not sure TL has that kind of ceiling. They are unbelievably solid at every position, but do they have the “it” factor that C9 does? I would expect Blaber to overwhelm TL in this one with revenge on the mind and C9 to roll.
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