The North American Academy League's second year is about to start and features a multitude of talented League of Legends players.
The North American Academy League is a League of Legends tournament featuring academy teams from each of the 10 LCS organisations. It is used as a developmental league, often as an opportunity for younger players to improve before perhaps one day making it into the LCS. It also features more experienced players who are trying to find their way back to the top tier of competition. It’s played twice a year, once in spring, and once in summer.
Games in the NA Academy League are played offline, however they aren’t officially streamed by Riot Games. Instead, the teams are able to stream their own games, usually ontheir own Twitch channels.
There are ten teams, each representing an LCS organisation: 100 Thieves Academy, Cloud9 Academy, Clutch Academy, CLG Academy, Echo Fox Academy, FlyQuest Academy, Golden Guardians Academy, OpTic Academy, Team Liquid Academy, and TSM Academy.
The format is a double round robin, so each team plays each other team twice over the course of the season. After that, the top four teams advance to the single elimination, best-of-5 playoffs to determine the overall winner. In the semi-final stage, the first places team from the league stage plays the fourth placed team. While second and third face off in the other semi-final.
Each season of the NA Academy League is played over nine weeks, plus a playoff period. The current season is running from January 17 - March 15. The 2019 Summer season will take place between June and August.
The Spring 2019 season is the third of the NA Academy League, which is the successor to the NA Challenger Series.
In Spring 2018, Team Liquid Academy came top of the table, however it was FlyQuest Academy who won the playoffs, beating Echo Fox Academy in the final 3-2. The other semi-finalist was Cloud9 Academy.
In Summer 2018, the format briefly moved to a six team playoff system. Cloud9 Academy came top of the table in the league stage, and also won the playoffs, beating CLG Academy in the final 3-1. Other teams who made the playoffs were Team Liquid Academy, FlyQuest Academy, Clutch Gaming Academy, and 100 Thieves Academy.
The NA Academy League has taken over from the NA Challenger Series, which ran from 2014 to 2017. Previously, the secondary tier of North American League of Legends acted as a feeder into the main LCS, where teams could get promoted and relegated based on their performance.
However, with the franchising of the LCS, the same 10 teams are now always in the tournament, and as such the Academy League mirrors that, having teams represent each of the 10 organisations in the LCS. The teams are more professional now than in the past iteration of the tournament, receiving more financial help from the organisations and Riot Games thanks to the franchising model.
So far, the Academy League appears to follow the same trends as the LCS, with teams who perform well in the LCS also performing well in the Academy League. For example, Team Liquid Academy and Cloud9 Academy have been performing well in both tournaments for the past couple of years.
Cloud9 Academy are the team to beat as the reigning champions of the NA Academy League, however they will face stiff competition from the other teams who have regularly made the playoffs.
Team Liquid Academy are the in form team right now, sitting in clear first place at the top of the table after six matches. They’ve won five and lost just one, to the aforementioned Cloud9 Academy. C9 Academy are in joint second alongside 100 Thieves Academy, TSM Academy, and FlyQuest Academy, who have all won four and lost two. TSM Academy appear to be inconsistent, as so far this season they have beaten Cloud9 Academy, but also had a surprising loss to last-placed team Golden Guardians Academy. If they can work out their small issues, they’ll definitely be in with a shot of winning the entire thing.
Notable players participating in the current season include Cloud9 Academy mid laner Greyson “Goldenglue” Gilmer, who has a career stretching back to 2013. Cody “Cody Sun” Sun has also had a career in the LCS, playing for Team Liquid and 100 Thieves among others. OpTic Academy has a number of veteran players too, including William “Meteos” Hartman, who has won multiple LCS titles during his career.
The first two weeks of the season ran on League of Legends patch v9.1, while week three was on patch v9.2. The big change in this patch is the addition of a new champion, Sylas the Unshackled, who is able to copy an opposing player’s ultimate ability and use it against them.
The patch also changed things around some of the more popular champions at the moment. It has nerfed the damage ratio on Aatrox’s Q, while increasing the recharge of his E. Galio’s Q has had its damage decreased and the cost increased, which his early E damage has been decreased. Irelia has had a number of changes, including the removal of her passive damage to shields at max stacks, the duration of her ultimate at higher levels, and her ultimate no longer disarms enemies. Meanwhile, Rakan’s armor has been decreased, as has his W dash speed, however it does activate faster upon reaching its destination.
Smart money would be on Team Liquid Academy to take the tournament given their recent form, and with players such as Michael “MikeYeung” Yeung on the team. The most likely team to challenge them will be the current champions, Cloud9. The players on the team have been together for a long time, and consistency will be key down the stretch.