The opening weekend of North American and European League of Legends action saw six recently graduated Oceanic Pro League players take to the rift across the LEC, LCS and LCS Academy.
While this is not the first time players from Oceania have stepped up to play in major regions (see: Victor “FBI” Huang and Lawrence “Lost” Hui), the sheer number of oceanic players now being given an opportunity to regularly showcase their talent on an international stage was cause for celebration amongst OPL fans. By contrast, the international community had eyebrows raised. Question marks hung over the validity of signing so many players perceived to be from a weaker region, particularly at the expense of veteran players and known quantities. By the close of opening weekend, the oceanic exports had delivered convincing arguments in their own favour.
The prospect of signing players from Oceania became more attractive for North American organisations in November of 2019 after Riot Games updated their rules on the importation of non-resident players. The update granted organisations an additional import spot for their academy team, with the caveat that it could only be filled by a player from a “participating emerging region”. Suddenly, importing a player from Oceania did not impinge upon the single, valuable non-resident player spot available to NA Academy teams.
As a consequence, three of the five members of Mammoth’s 2019 World Championship play-in roster found homes on NA academy teams. Top laner Ibrahim “Fudge” Allami and bot lane Calvin “K1ng” Truong joined Cloud9 Academy, while Stephen “Triple” Li stepped in to the mid lane for FlyQuest Academy. Both teams recorded wins in their opening matches this past weekend.
A fourth member of the 2019 OPL championship winning Mammoth squad made the direct transition from the OPL to a major region league. When he took to the rift as Support for Origen, Mitchell “Destiny” Shaw became the first OPL player to compete in the LEC. Destiny looked at home on the Origen roster, demonstrating proficiency on Rakan and Nautilus during the team’s victories over Fnatic and Schalke 04 respectively. There were no signs of nerves from the new support – Destiny could be seen flashing forward to engage enemies, and expertly threading the needle with Nautilus hooks.
In his post-game lobby with Eefje “Sjokz” Depoortere and Jakob “YamatoCannon” Mebdi on day 1 of the LEC, Origen’s bot lane Elias “Upset” Lipp spoke highly of Destiny.
“…I’ve been pretty happy with him so far. I think that he is not just good in the game, but he has a really great attitude and is really looking to learn from everyone on the team because obviously he comes from a weaker region. I see weekly improvement. I was super happy with the way he played today. Hylissang definitely did not play better than him, and Hylissang is considered to be one of the best supports.”
Former Bombers mid lane and 2019 oceanic representative at the Mid Season Invitational, Tommy “Ryoma” Le also made the leap from OPL to a major region. He impressed new 100 Thieves League of Legends GM Chris “Papasmithy” Smith enough to earn a place on the team’s starting roster for the LCS.
Ryoma was given no time to ease in to the LCS. He faced off against NA’s golden boy in the mid lane “Goldenglue” when 100 Thieves played Golden Guardians in the third match of the LCS Spring split. By the mid-game, Ryoma’s Zoe was three levels and multiple kills behind Goldenglue’s Le Blanc. Instead of making desperation plays, Ryoma stuck to the game plan. His Sleepy Trouble Bubbles and Paddle Stars were enough to delay fights, create significant problems for Golden Guardians, and help keep 100 Thieves competitive in (what could only be described as) a messy match.
In the end, 100 Thieves claimed victory after a win in a fight around Elder Dragon. Ryoma finished the match on a respectable 4/1/9 record. He did not carry the game, but there was no doubt that he needed to be carried.
During the LCS Spring Split, Ryoma will face off against another former OPL champion – Shern “Shernfire” Tai. Shernfire last competed in the OPL in 2018 as part of the Dire Wolves roster. The team won both OPL titles that year and represented Oceania at the World Championships. Shernfire was initially signed as the Jungler for Team Liquid Academy. However, issues with Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen’s visa saw Shernfire called up to the LCS to face Cloud9 in Team Liquid’s first match of the 2020 spring split. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the LCS debut that Shernfire had hoped for. The team lost to a confident-looking Cloud9. Two days later, Shernfire tasted victory when Team Liquid defeated TSM.
The opening weekend of the LEC, LCS and LCS Academy was one of great success for the recently exported Oceania players. While the performances of these players may not yet answer all the questions around the signing of minor region players, they promise an exciting future.
Make sure you tune in to support all our oceanic representatives when they play internationally.
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