by Dillon “MeLlamoBigD”
If you’d like to get to know some of the players and teams participating in the Risen’s Champions League this month, look no further! Dillon is highlighting what the top ten teams are (in his eyes), as well as the players to watch on each team so that you can follow along during the season!
1. Sola Fide (sF)
Apollo (Player to watch)
Zeyzal (Player to watch)
It goes without saying that sF is easily the front runner in this split of Proving Grounds. With a roster full of star-studded LCS and Academy players, anything below a finals appearance would be a massive let down for this team. Pound for pound, an argument can be made that these players could be placed into Academy or even LCS and still produce wins as a five man unit.
In their debut this past weekend in the Challengers Uprising New Year’s Showcase, sF managed to secure a relatively easy first place. Their only moment of true weakness came in the earlier stages to an over performing ANEW Rising team. While it’s clear that this team has the individual skill to wipe the amateur scene, it’s not outside the realm of possibility to see them drop a few individual matches to other elite level squads.
Apollo said it best during an interview following the close series against ANWR, “We were just making kinda silly mistakes I think. Essentially it was just us getting caught on sides and taking fights we shouldn’t be taking… That’s kind of a problem with our team, we’re a little too scrappy.”
If this team faces a team such as ANEW, ANWB, or BRG, there is a world where their overconfidence ends up becoming their downfall. However, for now, expect to see this team dominate the initial stages of Risen’s Champions League. Their true challenge comes during the playoffs where they are forced into playing teams that are on a similar skill level without the distractions of needing to prepare for other teams.
2. ANEW Esports (ANEW)
V1per (Player to watch)
AnDa (Player to watch)
Similarly to NAT, ANEW has managed to put together an insanely impressive roster compared to the majority of their competition. This team features many of the same pieces that NAT has, albeit to a slightly lower caliber.
Their main advantages come from their topside of the map when compared to teams like ANWB, NAT, and BRG. V1per is a player that has been in and out of the professional scene for a few years now with arguably stronger performances than Dhokla. In addition, AnDa provides a veteran presence that players like Winston and Leenk simply don’t have yet.
The main reason that this team doesn’t initially receive first place is because of their bottom side of the map. Value is a player that has shown he has immense skill through both the collegiate and pseudo-amateur (Twitch Rivals, etc.) scene. However, it’s hard to say that he has what it takes to match up against the likes of Apollo and Zeyzal. For ANEW to upset a team like NAT, their topside would need to play at expectations while simultaneously having Value, Big, and 5fire over perform.
While certainly possible, I will need to see this roster have some matches under their belt before I can confidently say whether or not they have a shot at reaching for the crown. This roster caught a lot of people off guard. It’s time to see whether or not they have what it takes to dominate Proving Grounds like they were built to do.
3. ANEW Blaze (ANWB)
Allorim (Player to watch)
Breezyyy (Player to watch)
ANWB is a bit of a wildcard for me… on one hand, they have Allorim and Breezyyy, two players who have seen professional play and know what it takes to win. However, their experience is equally countered by DarkWings, Raheen, and Leenk being relatively new to the absolute highest levels of amateur.
While they have been around for a number of splits, it’s hard to give them the upper hand against the likes of AnDa, Tuesday, and others. This roster will likely play around having solid macro decisions mixed with a high level of individual skill coming from players like Allorim, Leenk, and DarkWings.
Expect to see this roster make a strong push towards playoffs and a subsequent deep run, but winning the championship against teams like ANWB and NAT will be a tall order for these guys. Regardless, it will be exciting to see ex-pro players like Allorim and Breezyyy come into the scene and match up against the best talent NA has to offer!
4. Barrage (BRG)
Fanatiik (Player to watch)
Gorica (Player to watch)
Barrage was a team I struggled with placing compared to a lot of the other teams. On paper, the roster sounds fantastic. It has two pieces from the former Supernova roster (alwaysplanahea and PCL), two pieces from NA Academy (Gorica and Fanatiik), and Winter, who has been a mainstay in NA amateur for years at this point. PCL and Fanatiik played together on a previous iteration of Supernova as well. There will likely be residual synergy that gives this team an added advantage during the early stages of Proving Grounds.
However, my struggles with placing this roster stem from me being uncertain how these players, namely PCL and alwaysplanahea, match up against the absolute top tier teams in ANWB, ANEW, and NAT. While I am confident that those two players can dominate lane and pick up wins against middle of the pack squads, I simply can’t say the same when they’re up against players like Allorim and Tuesday.
For that reason, I believe that Barrage is the first team in what I’ll temporarily call the “Upper Middle Pack.” Teams that have a solid shot at making playoffs and doing damage, but will in all likelihood not lift the trophy unless a dramatic shift occurs in the way that the top teams play the game together as a team. If they are going to pick up wins against the top teams, expect to see over performances from their solo laners combined with a control-oriented style of jungle/support synergy from Fanatiik and Winter.
This roster is the most “underdog” roster that has a shot at the title, and it will be exciting to see the damage they can do against the other Proving Grounds squads.
5. Cloud9 Amateur (C9AM)
eXyu (Player to watch)
CptShrimps (Player to watch)
C9AM is one of the new professionally partnered amateur teams, and arguably the most exciting one coming into 2021. While 100X took the crown in 2020 for player development and amateur dominance, C9 has their eyes set on getting together hungry rookies and molding the next generation of North American talent.
For those that watched Champions League during the fall split, players like CptShrimps and Tempos will ring a few bells. CptShrimps was part of a dominating Just Randoms roster that took first place in Risen and dominated Upsurge, cementing their dominance in the final split before Proving Grounds changes were introduced. As for Tempos, he was part of an ISU roster that placed 3rd in both Upsurge and Risen.
For me, personally, the biggest question mark on this roster comes from their jungler, eXyu. C9AM is the first truly elite level team that he is on, meaning that his experience playing at the highest level is limited compared to the other junglers that dominate this top ten list. However, what eXyu lacks in direct competitive experience, he more than makes up for with flashy mechanics and incredible game sense. During his debut in the Challengers Uprising New Year’s Showcase, eXyu was a large part of the reason behind his team placing second just behind NAT.
If he keeps up performances like that, it is easy to see him becoming the next Kenvi and dominating the Proving Grounds scene. I am excited to see what this group of players can do, especially under the guidance and protection of an organization like Cloud9.
6. 100 Thieves Next (100X)
Goo (Player to watch)
Young (Player to watch)
With such a dominating performance during the 2020 Scouting Grounds Circuit, it’s hard to place 100X anywhere below first or second place going into Risen Champions League. However, with so many other organizations (professional and amateur) leveling up their rosters with former professional players and insane solo queue talent, it’s hard to justify predicting a return to dominance for the 100X squad.
Due to their entire roster getting spots in Academy or LCS, 100 Thieves had to start from the ground up once again and build a roster aimed at creating the next generation of prospects for professional play. At first glance and before any matches are played, it seems they have managed to find diamonds in the rough once again despite losing their whole roster just a few months ago.
Goo is a jungler that dominated in Risen Champions League last split, showcasing performances that seemed eerily reminiscent of watching high level mechanical Chinese junglers. In addition, Instinct and Young have been brought on to round out the roster while still maintaining both youth and an insane level of talent.
7. Evil Geniuses Prodigies (EGP)
Srtty (Player to watch)
Tomio (Player to watch)
Any top ten list would feel incomplete without the inclusion of EGP somewhere in the rankings. While they are the lowest team on here compared to the other professionally partnered amateur teams, that’s more so because of their recent arrival into the space as opposed to their potential skill ceiling.
It is obvious that this team can do some serious damage, especially compared to the other Upper Middle Pack teams that are included here (basically everyone between 4 and 10). The major advantage this team has is that theIR players have experience playing together before both under Zenith Esports as well as EGP. During their time together, they managed to place first in Upsurge and second in Risen, solidifying that this team is not one that you want to mess with.
With players like Tomio, Aspect, and Srtty, it’s easy to see why fans of NA amateur would want to see this team perform well. This team is full of likeable personalities that play damn good League of Legends as well. A combination that makes EGP become an instant fan favorite underdog to make a deep playoff run.
However, it’s important to be realistic with expectations when it comes to this team. Against teams like NAT and ANEW, it’s hard to theory craft a scenario (especially in Best of 5…) where they have the firepower and experience to pick up an upset. There is certainly potential to beat them in individual games, especially during the regular season, but once playoffs roll around it’s hard to predict EGP over any of the top three or four teams in the tournament.
Expect to see this team get off to a hot start due to their previous experience playing together, but a deep playoff run would definitely surprise most people familiar with the amateur space.
8. Sign Us Please (SUP)
Jozy (Player to watch)
Freeze (Player to watch)
I honestly don’t have much to say about SUP simply because I haven’t seen these players play together much at all outside of spectating solo queue. However, it feels wrong to not place them somewhere on this list simply due to their sheer mechanical and individual skill combined with their experience playing in NA amateur.
Players like Jozy, CP Freeze, and Gweiss have been at the top of their respective positions in amateur for what feels like an eternity now. Had this roster been built six months ago and played in the Fall split of Upsurge and Risen, I think this team would have a very healthy shot at winning the whole tournament. However, it simply isn’t enough to be pairing top solo queue talent together (without a coach may I add…) when you’re up against former professional players that are playing under heavily organized staff. While it makes sense for publicity’s sake (hence the name “Sign Us Please”), expecting this team to win the tournament would be shocking to me.
There is definitely room for them to take games off other Upper Middle Pack teams (I see them shaping up well against the three different professional amateur teams). However ,it’s unrealistic to expect more than that. Jozy will dominate the jungle against Junglers that are worse than him, Gweiss will pick dominant support champions and influence the map, and CP Freeze will win his mid lane matchups because that’s what these players do.
I don’t think they can pull off this kind of a game plan against teams like BRG, NAT, ANEW, and ANWB. Time will tell, but expect to see SUP towards the top of the Risen standings and making a real push for playoffs later on into the season.
9. Revival (REV)
Concept of x
Sybr (Player to watch)
Sudzzi (Player to watch)
Towards the bottom of the top ten list, teams start becoming similar to the old amateur scene. A culmination of incredibly talented solo queue players that come together under one organization and try their hand at playing together as a five man unit. To me, that is essentially what Revival is doing with this roster.
Sybr is a very talented jungler, Sudzzi has been a dominant amateur mid laner, and Scoooped has performed exceptionally well on various rosters in the past. However, it’s hard to actually see a clear identity for this team and how they’re planning to win their games against high level opponents. Teams that are created like this scream one thing to me: playing and winning based on individual skill. These types of rosters used to work in past splits of amateur (Just Randoms is a perfect example…). Now it feels impossible to create a roster based on out skilling opponents that is composed purely from solo queue talent.
While this team’s goal is most likely not to win Risen and simply to be scouted and noticed by the plethora of eyes on these games and teams, it’s important to ground expectations in reality and state things how they are. This roster has a lot of talent and will likely have a shot at upsetting certain teams based on mechanical skill alone. But, at the end of the day ,it’s unrealistic to hope for anything more than a solid regular season and potential entrance into playoffs for these guys.
These players will likely have eyes on them from other, more competitive, amateur organizations and assuming they play well, expect to see them get signed to higher level teams soon.
10. Mirage (MIR)
DNA (Player to watch)
Meech (Player to watch)
The final team on this list is Mirage, a mainstay in amateur League of Legends here in North America. This team is a bit of a wildcard, with not much being known about certain players outside of their performance in the Challengers Uprising New Year’s Showcase.
Dragoon is a player that has been in and out of the amateur/low tier Academy space for a while now, and it’s good to see him getting another shot on a high level roster. While his performances at CUP were not amazing overall, he certainly was not the worst performing top laner and it’s safe to expect him to be among the upper half of top laners here in Risen. DNA and Meech also had very solid performances this past weekend at CUP, carrying their team to a few victories in close and intense matches.
Their jungler, BE Hunter, is newer to the team and did not play during the CUP tournament over the weekend. However, he has played an exceptional season in Collegiate, helping Bethany reach the top ten of collegiate teams (top five depending on who you talk to). He is a solid addition to the team. Once we get more footage from them playing, expect to see them shift around the rankings based on how Hunter is meshing with the squad. I expect to see this roster place in the top half of Risen for certain, but I don’t think they can hold a candle to the likes of NAT, ANEW, or even the professional amateur teams.
I hope I am wrong about my placement, but this team feels like a relic of past amateur splits and these players need a little more development before they are ready to challenge the upper echelon of NA amateur.
Dillon “MeLlamoBigD” has been around both Risen and NA amateur for two years now. He is most known for playing on a variety of teams (Miami University mostly) and casting (SGC 2020, Risen Champions League, etc.) high level amateur games. He will be part of the content creation team for Risen Champions League, keeping you all up to date on what has happened and what to expect going into the very first Proving Grounds 2021 tournament!