Exploring LoL’s long history of roster switches

(Image credit: Riot Games)

As the next split approaches and with roster change madness at its peak, it’s easy to recall roster swaps from the past—the heated anger when someone supposedly betrayed a team by jumping ship to another roster, or the sadness when a leader stepped down from a role. I vividly remember following professional League and watching some of the first big roster swaps. I commented to a friend at the time, during Season 3, that this felt like the first time that League had felt like a real sport, with people choosing their team based off things like ‘business sense’ and ‘economic viability’ and ‘branding’ and not ‘playing with my friends’ and ‘having fun’. The trend has only increased since then, with more money entering the scene and more at stake when a player signs a roster. Let’s take a look at the recent roster changes of note.

The EU switcharoo

There are plenty of roster changes in Europe, but there are a couple to hone in on. They are Origen’s bot lane switch up, the new duo lane for G2, and the return of an old veteran.

OG and G2 were the two teams fighting for first place in the spring finals and the chance to represent Europe in the Mid-Season Invitational. We all know how that story went—G2 won by a hair, flamed out at MSI, and vowed to come back stronger. That they did... by recruiting OG’s bot lane, Zven and Mithy. Zven and Mithy were considered the mechanical backbone of the team, and their loss will be keenly felt in the split to come.

There’s also the personal aspect, where feelings overwhelm what the players may have been dealing with. Zven and Mithy were a core part of Origen, and all of the players considered each other friends. They lived together, relied on each other, and according to Amazing, they found out about the roster swap through Reddit along with their fans. There’s a level of personal betrayal here, and often, people don’t think of players as other human beings—it's hard to consider how things like a strenuous personal environment, or a clash in values could seriously impact a player.

This isn’t necessarily a moral failing on the part of fans. It’s hard to get a glimpse at a genuine insight of the players. We see their personas through social media or windows of their practice lives through streaming, but we don’t see the truth of their experiences. Even teams with reality shows carefully edit the footage.

There’s also the issue that fans can struggle with concepts like being unhappy in a team house. These guys are living the dream, right? When you look up to someone and see them as an idolized figure, it’s hard to see the human realities of the situation: personal ambition and stress, unhappiness and worry, dollar signs and career length. 

Origen have picked up FORG1VEN and Hybrid. It remains to be seen how well both G2 and OG will do with their new lineups, but the situation is likely complicated, painful, and more than it appears on the surface.

Photo credit: Riot Games

Photo credit: Riot Games

Shocking roster swaps from the past

This most recent roster change up joins a long list of similar upsets. Here are some of the most memorable player movements from the last few years, and a reason why they stick around in the collective fan memory longer than most.

The CLG revolving door: Link, Nien, Seraph, Dexter... I could write an entire article on the constant rotations that CLG suffered up until their newest iteration, which represents the first time in ages that their roster has looked strong and united for two splits in a row. CLG had a major morale problem, and while it’s easy to point fingers at Doublelift (as fans have been known to do), the problem was likely much larger and based on the team’s infrastructure. Maybe one day there’ll be a tell-all account of CLG before they found their footing and established a proper team environment. For now, the best thing we have is the creatively named “Donezo Manifesto”, a 17-page letter from former mid laner Link. There were problems with the players, with the coaches, with the management, with the communication between all of those parties. Their current state is an inspiring story—to go from such a tortured state to the best team at NA and second place contenders at MSI is no small feat.

The end of the Imaqtpie era: Imaqtpie was considered to be one of the last of the old guard from the days when players were players, and not professionals. He stepped down because of the increasing conflict between those two ideals. Luckily, he still graces us through Twitch, amid a near constant stream of requests that he returns to the big stage. Unfortunately, those wild days seem to have passed.

The TSM that should have been: in a column about roster changes, I’d be totally remiss not to discuss Doublelift’s controversial move to TSM. He was the last of the CLG revolving door, and it was the biggest roster change of all time. Doublelift had been the backbone and carry of CLG for four years, through some of the roughest times of his life and the roughest times of the organization’s life. When he left for TSM, he was joined by Yellowstar, the captain who led Fnatic to victory, and one of Europe’s strongest junglers, Svenskeren.

 It should have been a hit, a guaranteed win. Yet it wasn’t.

Doublelift certainly seems happier on TSM, and if he’s an inside agent playing the long game, he has yet to reveal that hand (I’m just kidding). With a new, young support at his side and TSM proving that they can come together for playoffs, he might have time to redeem himself as the right choice for TSM and prove that he wasn’t the common factor across so many struggles. Doublelift’s story is far from over, and that's a feat for someone who has been in the game for so long.

This won’t be the last season of roster mixups, and there may be a crazier set to come. No matter what you think of each change, it’s that strive to improve and find the perfect combo that pushes competitive League forward. Who knows what the future will hold?