The 2017 League of Legends season finished roughly a week ago with Samsung Galaxy ending the three-year dynasty of South Korean rival SK Telecom at a packed Bird's Nest in China's capital. The ending scene was the game's poster boy, Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok, slumped in his seat, hands over his face as Samsung celebrated its victory only feet away.
So you know what means, right?
Time for 20 way-too-early predictions for the 2018 season. Teams can't even officially sign players for another week, and that it means it is perfect timing to bust out my crystal ball and try to see what the future holds for us in the coming until the Summoner's Cup is contested once again.
Prediction No. 1: Introducing the 2018 SKT T1
Why not start out with a big one? I'm betting on wholesale changes for SKT like the last time the organization failed to win the world title in 2014, and I'm saying everyone in the starting lineup sans Faker is getting removed.
Not bold enough for you? I'll even call my shot. Here's the starting lineup that SKT will field on opening night of the spring LCK season:
Top Lane - Kim "Crazy" Jae-hee (BBQ)
Jungle - Kim "Beyond" Kyu-suk (MVP)
Mid Lane - Faker
AD Carry - Park "Teddy" Jin-sung (Jin Air)
Support - Lee "IgNar" Dong-geun (Misfits)
SKT copied all of IgNar's champions after facing him at Worlds so it might as well sign the real thing.
Prediction No. 2: Ambition retires, becomes an assistant coach on Samsung and has DanDy take over his duties as starting jungler
Kang "Ambition" Chan-yong got his revenge on Faker, won a world title after playing the most professional games of any South Korean player in League history, and oh, what's that? He also got married in 2017 to the woman he met through playing? There is no better way to go out for Ambition. He retires, joins the coaching staff, and Choi "DanDy" In-kyu, who was last seen playing in the minor leagues of North America makes his triumphant return back home to the club he won a world title with in 2014.
Oh, and for good measure, I'll make a bonus prediction that Bae "Bengi" Seong-woong will follow in Ambition's footsteps and join SKT as an assistant coach.
Prediction No. 3: KSV Esports buys Longzhu Gaming's roster and spot in the LCK
This is pretty straightforward. KSV Esports is investing into the South Korean esports scene, and there's no way it doesn't get involved with how popular League of Legends is in the country. Longzhu needs an org that can give it stability, and KSV needs a spot in the league with a roster strong enough to contend from the start. Sounds like a match made in heaven.
Prediction No. 4: Peanut leaves the LCK to play abroad
2017 wasn't a good year for Han "Peanut" Wang-ho. His stock couldn't have been higher following his previous year with the ROX Tigers and it couldn't be much worse exiting his stint with SKT. His style never fit with SKT, and while a majority of the LCK teams would jump backwards to sign the star jungler, I think he will take a break year to experience some foreign cooking. There's no better way to get your groove back than to go make a ton of money in a league overseas while beating up people below your mechanical level without even being able to communicate with half your teammates. Peanut won't win Worlds in 2018, but just like a high school graduate taking a "gap year" to backpack across Europe before worrying about university, he'll have a whole lot of fun.
Prediction No. 5: Over seven starters from the EU LCS leave to play in other regions ... and Europe still outperforms North America
I don't need to really explain this one. The community will first act like it's a death blow to Europe, and by the second week of Worlds comes to an end, those same people will be laughing at the NA LCS. As is tradition.
Prediction No. 6: Fnatic beats G2 Esports in the EU LCS spring final to end the Samurai's domestic dominance
The final I thought we'd get in the most recent EU LCS season will become reality this spring. G2 Esports will lose a few members and suddenly become the darlings of the league, with the region rallying behind its wounded king. Fnatic will keep most of its roster intact following a good Worlds performance and defeat G2 in four games.
Prediction No. 7: Eric "Licorice" Ritchie will win NA LCS rookie of the split, unanimously
The EUnited top laner is one of the best homegrown prospects NA has ever had, and I'm going to jump in early before people start anointing him the best top laner in the region. Get ready for a spicy Kevin "Hauntzer" Yarnell and Licorice rivalry in 2018.
Prediction No. 8: One of the four new NA LCS franchises will meet TSM in the NA LCS spring final
I don't know which one, yet I like my odds in taking the Cavs, Warriors, Rockets or Optic to get a crack at ending TSM's string of championships. TSM will still probably win in the end because it's TSM, and as long as it isn't a major international competition, it generally is a good idea not to bet against TSM.
Prediction No. 9: FoFo becomes the savior of the Taiwanese scene
Taiwan hasn't looked too hot lately, but don't fear, Chu "FoFo" Chun-Lan will be here come 2018. The LMS MVP will win his first domestic title in the spring before having a breakout performance at the Mid-Season Invitational.
Prediction No. 10: Invictus Gaming win LPL spring
Invictus Gaming can finally field its prodigy AD carry Yu "JackeyLove" Wen-Bo when 2018 starts, and I'm going to tip the boys in the black and white to defeat RNG in a spirited final. Also, I'm going to predict there will be rumors of Song "RooKie" Eui-jin possibly joining an LCS team or returning to LCK but will eventually sunlight to nothing, and the superstar mid laner will get to hold the Chinese league title for the first time.
Prediction No. 11: KSV (former Longzhu) defeat Invictus Gaming in South Korea to win Mid-Season Invitational 2018
I don't know if South Korea will host Worlds next year, so I'm at least going to give them a Mid-Season Invitational. The most successful region in League deserves another major international event, and the fans will go home happy as KSV defeats Invictus in a five-game classic to keep the streak of South Korean international victories alive. In other news, NA will once again fail to make it to the top four of the tournament; the region as a whole groans.
Prediction No. 12: TSM's streak of NA LCS Finals ends at 11
Why not? It has to end sometime, right? Surely, with all the money coming into the region, TSM can't keep making every final. Right?
Wait, scratch that. Redo.
Prediction No. 12: TSM's streak of NA LCS Finals goes to 12
Prediction No. 13: One of the new European or South Korean players coming to NA will win the summer MVP award, beating out Soren "Bjergsen" Bjerg in a close race
Take your pick. I'm guessing there will be like 40 of them, so I feel confident in my odds.
Prediction No. 14: Teddy wins LCK summer MVP
After a rocky first split where the Korean netizens want the old SKT back, Teddy becomes a household name in the summer by putting up some of the biggest numbers an AD has ever produced in the LCK. SKT win the regular season, play KSV in the final, and get revenge for 2017.
Prediction No. 15: Samsung Galaxy eliminates KT in the South Korean Regionals for the third straight year
I'm sorry, KT fans.
Prediction No. 16: Worlds will be heading back to Europe
If South Korea isn't hosting Worlds that means it's probably going to Europe, and I would be OK with that. If other regions are going to take its talent, the least they can do is come back to Europe to play at Worlds.
Prediction No. 17: NA only goes 4-6 in the second week of the World Championships
I like to be optimistic.
Prediction No. 18: SKT beats Fnatic and Samsung beats Invictus Gaming in the Worlds semifinals from Paris
Yes, I'm calling the trilogy. I'm all-in. If we had to have a rematch, I want to see the rubber match now. Samsung won last year and SKT took it home in 2016. The Riot skins team won't be too thrilled at this result.
Prediction No. 19: Cloud9 and one of the four new NA LCS franchises will make the knockout stage for NA at Worlds
Neither will actually make it to the top four, but at least it's something. After predicting TSM to go far at the last two World Championships, I'm playing it safe in 2018.
Prediction No. 20: SKT defeats Samsung 3-2 at Wembley Stadium to win the Summoner's Cup
Faker will cry for the second year in a row at the Worlds final. This time, though, it'll be tears of joy. A year of work will end with Faker and his revamped SKT defeating Samsung in front of the biggest crowd in League of Legends history at Wembley. The SKT dynasty of old is over ... and the new one begins in 2018.