With the League of Legends Championship Series (LCS) nearing the midway point of the Summer Split, teams have started to separate themselves between the contenders and those who will be looking for a fresh start in 2019. One team, though, continues to defy labels, as they remain a true wild card on the Rift.
Golden Guardians currently sit with a .500 record, very much indicative of the unpredictability they bring on a weekly basis. After floundering at the bottom of the standings through most of the 2018 season, major changes to the roster have catapulted Golden Guardians into the playoff discussion, as they remain an up and coming team positioned on the edge of Playoff contention.
For the Golden Guardians, their success begins and ends with the play of their star mid-laner Henrik "Froggen" Hansen. Often regarded as one of the elite mid lane talents in the LCS by his peers, Froggen in many ways embodies the spirit of the Golden Guardians roster, with a plethora of unique champion picks that make him a dangerous and unpredictable foe for any opponent. Often pioneering new picks in the LCS, Froggen refuses to be defined by the meta and can often be found on champions such as Vel'Koz, Lux, and his trademark Anivia.
Blended with Froggen are a cast of misfits and former stars, from former Team Liquid support Kim "Olleh" Joo-sung to Team SoloMid's once-heralded top laner Kevin "Hauntzer" Yarnell. In tandem with jungler Juan "Contractz" Arturo Garcia (once considered a prodigy himself) and bot laner Matthew "Deftly" Chen, the lineup is a conglomerate of players who for one reason or another have found a second chance with Golden Guardians.
In a way, this combination has performed exactly as expected. Moments of brilliance paired with the same mistakes that cost many of these players positions on their former teams have created a tumultuous roster that can win or lose any time they load into the Rift.
For opponents of Golden Guardians, the drafting phase can be a nightmare of niche picks to navigate. Fearless when it comes to debuting new picks or strategies in the LCS, Golden Guardians willingness to go outside the meta has proven to be both a boon and a bane at times.
Right now, the Golden Guardians sit on the cusp of the playoffs. With every match having the potential to push them out of a playoff spot, it will be critical for the team to turn the corner over the next few weeks.
For Golden Guardians moving forward, the biggest challenge will be to find steady play from a roster full of players marked for their inconsistency. The talent on the roster alone gives them the potential to challenge the LCS elite, but to have all five players perform on a consistent basis will have to come quickly.
Contractz and Hauntzer will be looked to as points of improvement, as both were at one time considered top talents at their position but have been unable to regain that top form. Still relatively new to the LCS, Deftly has taken steps forward nearly every Split. Should he continue to improve he has the potential to be one of the LCS's best native talents in the bot lane. Olleh continues to be one of the most polarizing players in the LCS, with moments of excellence and at times plays that make fans and analysts scratch their heads in disbelief.
A team filled with players given a second chance, it is not too late for Golden Guardians to make a late-season push. Already the wild cards of the LCS, it would be easy to see the Golden Guardians either rise or fall over the next few weeks. The unpredictability surrounding their strategies and the ability to execute them at a high level means Golden Guardians may be the hardest team in the LCS to predict moving forward.