Immortals prepare for return to LCS stage

The rumors began in the weeks prior to the 2016 League of Legends Championship Series season: Immortals were the team to beat.

They had entered their first split as an organization and were poised to take North America by storm. Their players included the powerhouse former Fnatic top-jungle duo of Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon and Kim “Reignover” Yeu-jin, and were getting along unusually well for a brand new lineup. Immortals proceeded to have a 17-1 spring split, razing through the regular season before faltering in playoffs.

Going into the 2020 season, Immortals are returning with significantly less hype and more than a bit of baggage.

The organization was denied their initial attempt at LCS franchising in 2017, and now makes a re-entry through the acquisition of OpTic Gaming. Gone are the scrim rumors and community approval. Coach Thomas “Zaboutine” Si-Hassen has emerged an oddly polarizing figure complete with community accusations of nepotism with this year’s Immortals roster, which features two French players in top laner Paul “sOAZ” Boyer and mid laner Jérémy “Eika” Valdenaire (Zaboutine is also French).

While Immortals won the race for the highest-value domestic player in the 2019-20 free agency race, jungler Jake “Xmithie” Puchero, they lost the war of community opinion with the entirety of their lineup. Not only are the acquisitions of both sOAZ and Eika being ripped apart by North American fans, but Zaboutine and Immortals are also under heavy criticism for signing Johnny “Altec” Ru to the bot lane position — Altec has not played professionally since 2018 summer with Echo Fox.

The only player who has flown under the radar completely, and therefore escaped scrutiny, on this new Immortals lineup is support Nickolas “Hakuho” Surgent.

“I feel like it’s been very controversial for no reason,” Zaboutine said of Immortals’ offseason moves. Zaboutine and Immortals General Manager Keaton Cryer worked closely together to build this specific roster, starting with the two veterans they ended up signing in Xmithie and sOAZ.

“The first thing is that when you build an NA roster, you have the allocation of the imports,” Zaboutine said. “One position to me that’s very decisive is the jungler, especially the relationship between the jungler and the coach because the jungler is going to dictate the game.”

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