Jess Colwill, December 16, 2016

Here's What Riot Changed for the League of Legends NA LCS in 2017

From letters to Riot from team owners, to team owners being threatened by Riot, the desired changes to the LCS format have been a hot topic for a few months now. At last, Riot has spilled the beans on the upcoming changes, which differ for North American and European regions.

Upon reviewing the changes to the North American format, it's clear that the differences are extensive. But are they enough to make the teams and their players happy?

Arbitration

First up, Riot will be introducing a third-party arbitrator and expedited conflict resolution. This will allow the teams to contest a ruling on a rules violation before a neutral third-party including presenting evidence, reviewing evidence against them, and making their arguments.

This new expedited arbitration is only available for rulings including a suspension for one or more games or a fine of $10,000 USD or more. For more complicated issues, teams will have to make use of the traditional system of arbitration, the main difference being the time allowed for evidence gathering and presentation, which will increase costs to the team in turn.

Whether teams decide to go for expedited or traditional arbitration, the third-party arbiters will be JAMS, a respected dispute mediation service. Hopefully they have someone on staff who understands the complexities of League of Legends!

New Digital Goods

“Creating more opportunities for fans to show their allegiance with in-game content has long been a goal,” Riot’s press release reads. “And in 2017, we believe we can take some further steps in this direction.”

Furthermore, every LCS team is guaranteed a minimum of $50,000 of product revenue per split, in addition to existing revenue from team icons. In particular, as the press release notes, this guaranteed income will help out new teams while they grow their fan bases.

Head Coach Protection

Head coaches are being recognized as the important figures in their team’s success that they are. As such, coaches will now have the same contract requirements and poaching protection that players have and will be listed on the Global Contract Database.

Inactive Roster

Riot is now allowing teams to have up to three “inactive” players on their rosters. Citing the increasing complexities of roster management and work eligibility they said that they had “sought a solution that will allow pros to be committed to a team (and gain poaching protection) while still applying for their work eligibility or serving out the end of a suspension.”

The three inactive players still count toward the team’s maximum of ten rostered players and will not be able to play in a League match until they are able to be moved up to the Active Roster.

Prize Pool

The LCS prize pool will be increased to $200,000 per split.

“With rising salaries and minimum compensation requirements in the NA LCS, prize pools aren’t the main driver of competition,” Riot said. “However, we want to continue to provide improved compensation as our League continues to grow and mature.”

LCS-Challenger Sister Teams

“We’ve always had two goals with Challenger: offer an organized semi-pro league where aspiring pros can develop their talent, and create a path for the best new teams in North America to make its way into the LCS.”

With this in mind, Riot says, teams will still be allowed to operate a Challenger team. However, these teams will no longer be permitted to participate in the Promotion Tournament.

Team’s Challenger rosters will be allowed to participate in the Challenger Playoff and earn prize money. However, in the event that they would qualify for the Promotion Tournament, they will be skipped over in favor of the next highest placed team that doesn’t have a current LCS team affiliation.

Relegation

Relegation has been a hot-button topic in many of the debates surrounding the LCS changes, with many teams wanting to lose the current relegation system altogether. Others like G2’s Ocelote believe in the relegation system, but think it needs to be tweaked in order to make it fairer and balanced.

Well, tweak it they have. “We believe it’s important to the overall health and entertainment value of the NA LCS to balance the relegation risk that teams face with a competitive and engaging league.

“With new organizations entering the NA LCS, we want to provide opportunities for teams to grow by building their fanbase but still ensuring the best teams remain in the League.”

The LCS team that places 8th will no longer be sent down to the Promotion Tournament. The Promotion Tournament will now consist of the 9th and 10th placing teams and the 1st and 2nd placing Challenger teams. As such, the PT will now be in a double elimination, best of five format. Riot put it best when they said “Win twice you’re in. Lose twice you’re out.”

What do you think of these changes to the North American LCS system? Is Riot on the right track, have they nailed it on the first try? Or missed the mark completely? Let us know in the comments below, and don’t forget to check out the changes to the European LCS system as well.

Oh, and check out our piece on the best League of Legends matches of 2016.

Jess Colwill

Jess is a writer and dog-lover from the eastern coast of Australia, who loves playing games (particularly anything by BioWare), listening to metal, baking, and fostering rescue dogs while they wait for new homes. You can find her on Twitter at @notsocryptic.