NA LCS Franchising: Words of Advice For New Teams Entering

By Alex Whieldon
on Oct 25, 2017

Many fans and followers of the LCS have been paying close attention to any inkling of information that makes it through the various grapevines to tell us what to expect from the first year of LCS Franchising in North America. Unfortunately, not all of the teams were destined to make it as not all had the most funding. Even worse is that some of the rumored teams to have not made it through the process are one of the founding teams of NA, Team Dignitas, and a crowd favorite, Immortals. Granted, these are just rumors, but with no one denying these claims, it seems like they might be true.

With teams being kicked out, this means that there will be a lot of new faces coming in, but for the last time, if franchising works out the way Riot and all of the owners want it too. Some of the rumored teams have been OpTic Gaming, Nadeshot’s Cleveland Cavalier backed team, Golden State Warriors owner Joe Lacob, and the Houston Rockets backed team. For OpTic, they already have a massive following from their investments in several other video games, but for the others, they need to make a statement when entering the league. No team wants to enter with such a massive investment just to become the team that replaced IMT or DIG only to finish in last.

LCS Franchising - The Rumoured Departures and Why They Are Possibly Gone

IMT LoL Squad will not make it into the LCS due to the LCS Franchising

It is important that we talk about the rumors that were just touched upon before anything else because these are significant changes. If you haven’t been paying attention to Reddit or Twitter, the outrage over some of the teams not making it back into the LCS due to LCS Franchising has been monumental. Well, only for Immortals really. While people were a bit upset over DIG, no one really thought much about Team EnVyUs and Phoenix1 getting scrapped.

Why this is so instrumental is that the reaction from the community illustrates what fans and viewers want out of teams. DIG might have been around since the old days, but the lack of success as well as them having been relegated at one point left fans apathetic towards them being in the league or not. P1 was almost relegated just this split. Lastly, NV entered the league after the controversy of Renegades occurred. Each of these teams have one reason or another that they struggled to develop a consistent fan base. One of the recurring themes for these teams was that they failed to have domestic success and then failed to develop enough of a following to seem like a team worthy of a franchise spot.

LoL Worlds 2017 IMT Flame Fan

The only outlier for this train of thought is IMT. Granted, they haven’t been around the scene as long as a team like DIG, but they definitely had a lot more to work with. Since they entered the league, they were able to place high in the standing in NA and this year made it as an NA representative at the League of Legends World Championship 2017. This is a team that had massive success and due to this garnered a lot of popularity from viewers. But they made a massive mistake over the course of the year, and that was upset the owners of the league. Many have their theories about what happened, but it is almost certainly with regards to the Overwatch League. IMT owns one of the two LA spots, which means that they would be direct rivals with the NA LCS for attendance. Had IMT owned any of the other OWL cities, I doubt Riot would have cared much about IMT’s involvement with a competitor similar to their feelings about C9 owning the London OWL slot.

With all of these stated, still remember that it is all rumors about each of these teams not making it in. Until Riot and the teams make official announcements, take all information you hear with a grain of salt. There is still a world where all of the teams make it back in or one where some of the confirmed teams get a last minute message to deny them.

How To BE A Great Team

Like stated before, teams entering the league need to make a statement, especially if they have to fill the void that might be left by IMT departing. This means that they should take similar steps to what made IMT such a quickly famous organization in eSports. Honestly, the steps aren’t too hard. The first is about creating a successful team. Almost all of the teams that gain a fandom rapidly are those that were able to put together a roster with the perfect combination of experience and rookies. Just think back to Origen when they first entered EU and made it from Challenger to Worlds in a single year.

However, success is just one of the steps. A team can succeed but quickly fall apart without an organization that is actively trying to benefit their players. Look at the KOO Tigers or, currently, Longzhu Gaming. Both teams had amazing teams, but failures to pay the players and lack of sponsors made it so the teams fell apart despite being held together by the teams’ pure desire to win.

IMT CEO Noah Whinston

Yet, there was something to be admired from IMT on how well they treated their players. Being able to put together a team that can succeed is one thing, but having the level of respect to look out for them the way that IMT has is amazing. If you recall, IMT had a contract with Huni that could have stopped him from going to SKT and forced him to stay in NA, but they allowed him to go and pursue his dream. Even now, all of the players love being a part of IMT. Sure the success has been great, but the moment they heard the rumors, all of the players began tweeting about how sad they would be leaving their team, all talking about how well they were treated.

Teams need to make sure to replicate this if they want to slip into the IMT slot with minimal backlash and even grow to the same level they had. While many teams tend to try to be the best team out there, not many of them try to treat their players like they are the best out there. Hopefully, as time goes on and with more money, the players can be handled to the same degree as IMT, but only time will tell.

How To MAKE A Popular/Successful Team

This is something that everyone struggles with, yet all think that they know how to make the best team. Honestly, I don’t think that there is anyone out there that can make a team that will be perfect all year, every year simply because of the ever-changing meta and the growing talent that enters the scene as they get older. However, there are a few things that teams can do in order to gain a bit of popularity or aim for success that not many teams try to strive for.

LCS Franchising - The Popularity Path

LCS Franchising Popularity Path

Opting to prioritize quick fame for the team isn’t always a terrible idea, but it has to be done right. I feel that this is where a lot of teams seem to fall flat. Obviously, they have to aim for players they can get the right contract with at a price that is right for both the player and themselves. However, there are a lot of amazing players all over the world, let alone in your own region. It just depends on what you want to aim for.

If you look at how some teams gained popularity outside of purely victories in their regions, it was who they brought in. Look at Delta Fox as an amazing example for instant popularity. Not the best example as they couldn’t really win at all. But something better would be to aim for drafting a roster of purely players from NA. Having casted for many of the players in NA on the amateur scene, I can attest to the depth of players out there that it isn’t impossible to make a solid team out of players only from NA. I’ll work on something in the near future to talk about these players more as just a mention here would never do them justice.

Continuing the trend of popular things to do with a roster, imports might not be something that stands out. However, there are several free agents from more than just Korea that are out there that need to be explored by teams to set up a fantastic narrative for themselves. If you want to set yourself apart from a standard strategy, teams might need to look into importing players from more than just EU or LCK because it can make your team seem that much more unique from the rest.

LCS Franchising - Success Route

LCS Franchising Success Path

Success is something all teams strive for in the end. But for some reason, many teams end up making a team that can’t be amazing. Not because the players they picked up are bad, but because they didn’t do the research into all of the players when they created it. Such as drafting a team that has clear communication issues or one that has players that don’t get along. The worst is a team that is full of carry type players or supportive ones.

A team needs to have a great balance of everything. Importing players isn’t bad due to how it can bring in some great talent, it can be difficult if they can’t talk with their teammates. Even if they only have one person that they can communicate through, it is better than nothing at all. But at the end of the day, you also need to make sure that these players can enjoy playing together through victory and defeat. It will make it better for them when they lose to be able to pick themselves up and win the next one more easily.

Finally, you need to craft a roster that can balance each other out. The reason players like Xmithie are preferred to those like Dardoch is that supportive type players can fit into more metas easily. If they are a carry style, but the rest of your team is as well, they won’t be able to slide into a meta that doesn’t favor them as heavily. But this is also similar to a top laner like Khan. He is far better on the carries and struggles into the tanks, which forces the rest of his team to have to adapt to him. It is about getting players that can adapt while having one or two that can be the carries.

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