This article is part of our Beyond the Game series.
The first ever NA LCS Scouting Grounds draft was held Saturday, a historic moment going into the new era of the NA LCS. All 10 teams were given an opportunity to select players from the Scouting Grounds combine for an exclusive window to sign them to what will presumably be academy teams. Here’s how the draft went down:
The organization that made the biggest impact at the draft was Cloud9, which bought the No. 1 and No. 3 picks in addition to holding the No. 9 pick. With the first pick, Cloud9 picked up League, a talented jungler who worked with Cloud9’s Scouting Grounds team, Team Cloud. League was expected to be drafted high by analysts due to his almost-veteran poise, despite being a young player. While this move might’ve been expected, C9’s third pick, AD carry Ash, was a surprise to most. Ash, who worked with Cloud9 on Team Cloud at the combine, had arguably one of the worst showings of all players at the event. Working with Ash must’ve given Cloud9 inside information, because trading all the way up to pick what was ostensibly the worst AD carry at the event seems surprising, but we should trust that manager Jack Etienne knows something the general public doesn’t. Rounding out the trio of C9’s picks was jungler Blaberfish from the OpTic-run Team Ocean. Blaberfish didn’t have an outstanding performance at the event, but that can be attributed to a bad meta where he couldn’t play aggressive champions and was instead forced onto tanks like Sejuani and Gragas. With two potential junglers and an AD carry picked up for C9, its academy team will presumably look to build around these new acquisitions, or possibly try to trade one of its junglers to another squad.
The only other org with multiple draft spots was the Houston Rockets owned Clutch Gaming, which came away with the fourth and sixth picks. With the fourth pick, Clutch Gaming picked up support Vulcan from Team Ocean, which was run by OpTic. Vulcan had a great showing throughout the event, picking up Player of the Series honors in the finals. Clutch Gaming might not exactly need support options for the future with a stalwart like Hakuho on the main roster, but this is still a solid pickup for an academy team. With its other pick, Clutch Gaming chose to take a risk on mid laner Palafox, also from Team Ocean. Palafox was the highest ranked mid laner coming into the event, but, with no prior competitive experience, fell all the way to last pick in the Elemental Drake draft at the start of the event. Palafox played well throughout the tournament, displaying good game sense, and emerges as one of the biggest surprises of the event, showing what Scouting Grounds is all about in terms of discovering talent.
In general, the takeaways from the draft gave insight as to how most teams will approach building an academy team. All four junglers from the event were drafted to teams, with Team Infernal jungler Zika going second overall to Echo Fox while veteran NintendudeX from Team Mountain getting snapped up by CLG with the tenth and final pick. Echo Fox will look to build around its young aggressive jungler, who was compared to TSM’s MikeYeung with an aggressive champion pool and eagerness to grow as a player. CLG, meanwhile, will look to NintendudeX to bring veteran leadership to its academy team, especially since main roster jungler Reignover loves to work with other players, and NintendudeX used to team with Darshan all the way back on Good Game University in the early days of the NA LCS. The rest of the picks in this draft showed that teams want main roster stars to start passing on their knowledge to the newcomers, with TSM drafting mid laner Ablazeolive to study under Bjergsen, 100 Thieves drafting top laner Kaizen to learn from Ssumday, and Team Liquid drafting AD carry Value as Doublelift’s assumed protege. It might be a while before we see these players on the NA LCS stage, but the future looks bright for NA talent after the inaugural Scouting Grounds draft.