It has been quite a while since Immortals last saw the LCS stage, but the historically-successful organization is finally back! Taking over Optic Gaming’s spot from last year, they’re looking to start off strong in 2020, and it’s looking… unlikely.
If you only glance at the top side of the map, things look amazing, so let’s start with them! Possibly the most interesting addition to all of LCS this year is European top-laner sOAZ. Finding success as early as the season one championship, sOAZ has stayed atop the European league for essentially the entirety of League of Legends’ history. Through winning the EU LCS I believe six times, he’s gone to endless world championships; including one world final; and done it often through carrying as well. Despite now being more of a tank player, he is the only European player to win the 1v1 tournament at an all-stars event, and is famous for picking up new, mechanically-intensive champions into the top lane before anyone else; including champions like Jayce and Kha’zix. Sadly, last year he finished eighth and ninth in Europe at the end of the two seasons, but that was due to a lot of internal issues with the team, and had little to nothing to do with his own success. I mean, a few months prior to that, he ended at second in the world. So as long as he didn’t forget how to play League of Legends in the past twelve months, Immortals somehow managed to snag one of the biggest legends in the world.
sOAZ (second from left) at the World Championship Finals in 2018.
There’s nothing better than adding one European legend to one North American legend, and that’s what happened this year, with Xmithie joining Immortals as well. While he hasn’t reached the same international heights as his new teammate sOAZ, Xmithie is probably the greatest jungler in North American history; with his only arguable competition being Meteos. He’s now won six regional titles (four in a row), has one finals MVP, and has been placed on the first all-region team three times. Not only that, but he’s done it with two different organizations as well, taking CLG and TL both to those heights. Many will continue to say that mechanically, he is very lackluster, and while I don’t disagree with that, I will say he is maybe the best team-playing jungler I have ever seen. He takes the reigns and becomes the head decision-maker for all of his teams, so considering they end up winning championships, I’d say he’s pretty good. Looking in a vacuum, I’d say anyone with the dynamic duo of sOAZ and Xmithie would have a chance to get second or even first in North America, but nothing exists in a vacuum…
When looking to the mid lane, you’ll find long-time French player Eika: someone who has not played in a high-level professional league since Spring of 2016. Because of this lack of performance and therefore data, many, including me, have nothing to compare him to; but those who do, are not improving my confidence. According to Locodoco, while talking to Esports journalist Thorin about the new Immortals roster, all those who’ve spoken to him have compared him to Pobelter, saying he’s not mechanically great, but is a solid team player. Now, good team play is obviously not a negative, and Pobelter has been a successful North American mid-laner in the past, but when that’s the highest praise you can give someone, that’s an issue. And Pobelter is not even on a starting roster right now, I suppose for a reason. So this luke-warm introduction is giving me serious doubts.
Continuing this pattern of semi-innactive pro players we have Altec in the bottom lane, who hasn’t been on a professional team for about eighteen months. Like sOAZ, Altec has been a player in the pro scene since around 2011, but unlike sOAZ, he has about nothing to show for it. Tracing his tournament performances back eight years, the best success I can find is a fourth place finish in the 2017 North American Summer Playoffs. Now, you may say that’s good; and domestically, it’s okay; but North America being the worst of the major regions means he’s achieved fourth in the worst region. Playing for eight different years and coming up with that is not gonna win you any recognition, and it certainly hasn’t. Never have I seen Altec as a consistent issue on any team, but he hasn’t been reliable either, and that consistent inconsistency has me — as well as everyone — concerned.
Last but somehow-not-least we have support Hakuho. Hakuho is another staple in NA LCS, but a bit of a more recent one. Coming onto the professional scene in 2016, he joined teams like Renegades and EnVy, who would soon leave the League of Legends scene completely. Quickly after that though, he would join Clutch Gaming and become a part of the Apollo + Hakuho bottom lane duo; one that would last for about three entire years. Once this part of his career happened, things started moving, and he became maybe the most well-known Morgana and Thresh player within North America, with certain pros claiming he never missed a Morgana Q in solo queue. That being said, he had a similar issue to Altec, where I believe he’s only gotten a third place trophy inside of the LCS: a very limited success in four years of attempting.
Former bottom lane duo Apollo (left) and Hakuho (right).
All in all, this group of five is incredibly polarizing. At the top, you have the most accomplished European top-laner of all time and the most accomplished American jungler of all time. In the middle and bottom lane, you have a player who hasn’t made a professional roster in over three years, one who hasn’t made it in a year and a half, and a mechanically-strong support who hasn’t done better than a bronze medal. If the strengths were swapped, and instead were in the bottom and mid lane, I’d have more hope. But as we’ve seen more and more that top-side focus fails in today’s meta game, I don’t think their concentration of skill is that optimal.
Unlike some teams, the poor outlook doesn’t really stop here. To start, none of these players have ever played together. The closest we have is sOAZ and Eika both being French, and while speaking the same language is always nice, that’s not an inherent friendship. The best I can say here is Xmithie, as stated earlier, is an outstanding team player. All those who he’s around seem to enjoy him and if you’re building an all-new team, that’s a good presence to have. Similarly, that’s how Eika has been described with his comparisons to Pobelter and other team-based mids. On the opposite side of the coin though, you have sOAZ, who despite having immense successes, has constantly found himself at the center of controversy and arguments, whether it’s with Fnatic and fighting with Bwipo, to just demanding certain champions and playstyles even if it’s not what’s best for the team. This part of him has tapered off a little bit, but with the Misfits’ performance in Europe last year, I don’t think it has gone away completely. The bottom lane is a bit of an unknown for me, as I haven’t exactly heard much about the personality of either Altec or Hakuho. Not hearing anything is probably better than hearing something bad, but no information means no conclusion can be drawn.
Finally, when looking to the coaching staff, you have Zaboutine, the former coach of Optic Gaming for the past two seasons. His consistent presence in the league does show that he knows how to coach, but the lacking success of the teams he’s coached says otherwise. While I won’t say he’s had access to the world’s best talent, the best his team has done was this past split, barely squeezing into sixth place before getting destroyed by CLG in the playoffs. Each year before that, they failed to enter the playoffs, either getting seventh or ninth. So the coaching history isn’t mind-blowing. Just as the players haven’t played together before, the coach has no prior coaching experience with any of these players either, so the meshing has yet to be proven. This isn’t a team full of harsh personalities necessarily, but with no connections build between anyone, and a historically-unsuccessful coach, there’s little to be happy or positive about.
Head coach of Immortals, Zaboutine.
There are obvious things to love about this team, and even more obvious things to hate. The strong top side shows at least something to play around, but three out of five being potentially-lackluster leaves a majority of a roster full of faults. A lack of inherent chemistry doesn’t mean they won’t get along; but when you’re dealing with a majority of teams that kept their same core, and even brand-new teams like Evil Geniuses have three players who’ve played together before, it isn’t a state that provides much confidence. At least if they had gotten actual Pobelter, they would’ve had the old jungle-mid duo of himself and Xmithie. But instead, we got the French counterfeit.
The greatest thing they might have is a team of five who all have a strong veteran status in the scene they’re from. The problem is, most of those statuses aren’t of strong players. Instead, they’re proven mediocre. I see very little room for substantial improvement in any of these old players, so at that point I’m left with everything I’ve been shown. And unless sOAZ can become the top lane carry no one in the world can be, I’m seeing a ninth or eighth place here for the Immortals roster.