The North American League Championship Series MVP award -- also known by its other title, the Soren Bjerg Appreciation Trophy -- will be announced in a month at the NA LCS spring finals in Miami.
Since its inception in the spring of 2014, the award has been given out eight times. Team SoloMid's mid laner, the aforementioned Soren "Bjergsen" Bjerg, was the first recipient and has won it four times, making him the only player in the league's history to win it more than once.
Outside of Bjergsen, the other four winners have either moved on to an entirely different league (Lee "Rush" Yoon-jae is a substitute jungler for KT Rolster in South Korea), are part of a team below .500 in the NA LCS (Noh "Arrow" Dong-hyeon on Optic and Kim "Reignover" Yeu-jin on Counter Logic Gaming) or, in the case of 2014 summer winner Yu "XiaoWeiXiao" Xian, essentially kicked out of the league following an elo-boosting scandal.
Using past trends and knowing that there is statistically a 50/50 chance Bjergsen is going to win it, I'm going to do my best to narrow down the field of over 50 players to the select few who have the strongest and most compelling argument to win the award.
Your team has to actually -- you know -- be good
If your team isn't good, you're not winning the award. Sorry, Tristan "PowerOfEvil" Schrage. Though you can build an argument for the German mid laner, who has been the heart and soul of his team, the fact that Optic is most likely not making the playoffs with three weeks remaining takes him out of the running. This also goes for players like Lee "Flame" Ho-jong and Samson "Lourlo" Jackson, who have had stellar seasons on below-average teams.
Of the eight times the award has been given out, no winner has been on a team below third place in the standings. Using that as our barometer, we can say goodbye to all the players on Optic, FlyQuest, CLG and Golden Guardians.
TSM, currently in sixth, still has a chance to get to that MVP zone; with a 6-6 record, a late run could put it contention for a third- or fourth-place position.
KDA is not the most important stat, but it is the easiest to look at
I know. KDA isn't the be-all and end-all when it comes to statistics. While having a high KDA is cool and something to show off when talking trash to your opponents in solo queue, the amount of kills and assists you have divided by your deaths doesn't always tell the whole story.
Yet, when it comes to the past NA LCS winners, a majority of them have been in the Top 5 of the KDA category; and at worst, the winner has had a KDA over 4. The MVP representative with the lowest KDA was XiaoWeiXiao. Back when he won the award with a scoreline of 4.5, he led his team from the top of challenger to one of the best teams in the pro league.
If we use the 4.5 KDA cutoff for this year's candidates along with the fact a nonplayoff team isn't going to get the award, that brings down our list of possible winners to 14 players. Most notably eliminated due to a lower than 4.5 KDA are two players who could be in contention when the season is done and dusted: Echo Fox's Heo "Huni" Seung-hoon (3.8), whose higher-than-average death total can be attributed to how much attention he forces the opposing team to give him, freeing up the rest of his teammates; and Zaqueri "Aphromoo" Black (3), a team leader commanding a new franchise to the playoffs in its first season while unlocking the potential of his younger bottom lane partner Cody "Cody Sun" to have a breakout split.
While both Huni and Aphromoo still have time to up their KDAs or even win the award outright with their current 4.5s, for this particular experiment of past trends I'm eliminating both at this point.
If you were actually born in North America, you're not winning the NA LCS MVP
The NA LCS MVP has been awarded eight times, and never has it actually gone to someone who was born in North America. Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng and Kevin "Hauntzer" Yarnell have been the closest, but neither could actually win the award over an import slot player. In Doublelift's case, he might have the biggest complaint of any player, having lost the award to Rush in the summer of 2015, when he was the only player in the league with over six kills a game and eventually went on to win the league title on CLG.
Rush, though, had the narrative behind him, as his electric, offensive style set him apart from the other junglers in the league, lapping his peers when it came to picking up kills.
Bjergsen, although a North American resident, is from Denmark. Rush and Arrow are from South Korea, and XiaoWeiXiao is from China. So, knowing that a North American is destined to never win the award, we can just go ahead and eliminate anyone still left who came from NA.
Bye, Smoothie. Bye, Sneaky. Bye, Doublelift. Bye, Apollo. Bye, Adrian. Bye, Hakuho. Bye, Altec. Bye, Dardoch.
If only you were born outside North America, you would have had a chance this split. Better luck in another region.
Cutting down the list
With the field narrowed down, let's take a look at the players who actually have a chance of winning MVP this season:
TSM's Bjergsen (Surprise, I know.)
TSM's Jesper "Zven" Svenningsen
Cloud9's Nicolaj "Jensen" Jensen
100 Thieves' Cody Sun (He's a Chinese-born Canadian. He's playing 32-dimensional chess.)
Echo Fox's Kim "Fenix" Jae-hun
Clutch Gaming's Fabian "Febiven" Diepstraten
When it comes to this list, the easiest two eliminations would be Cody and Zven. Although Zven has had a better last few weeks, due to a weak opening to the season and the narrative of TSM not having its best season, winning the award seems all but gone for this split. Plus, ask Hauntzer and Doublelift -- it's not possible to win the NA LCS MVP when you're on a team with Bjergsen.
Bjergsen is the best player in North America, so being a non-Bjergsen player on TSM and winning NA LCS MVP means that you'll need to have a season for the ages. Zven's 2018 spring is not one for the ages.
Although Cody has grown as a player and although he has become the offensive ace of his team, a lot of the credit is going to go over to Aphromoo. That's not to say Cody doesn't deserve some buzz -- even with everything going against him in the trend category, the award will more likely to go to Aphromoo if the team ends the regular season on a hot streak.
Leaving us with four mid laners, the next to go would be Fenix. When it comes to stats, Fenix has every right to say he deserves the MVP right along with the other names still listed. The only issue is that Fenix plays for Echo Fox, the current top team in the league, and votes will be split on the team. When it comes to being MVP, you want to stand out as the primary reason why your team is successful. With Echo Fox this split, some people will credit Fenix, others Dardoch, and some Huni. Even Altec and Adrian (who have been picking up momentum), the least likely to get votes from Echo Fox, can argue that they've been worthy of getting a vote or two when the season comes to an end.
If there was a "Comeback Player of the Split Award," Fenix would have it. But unless he pulls away from his teammates in the final weeks of the season, I don't think Fenix can get the award.
Febiven, Jensen or Bjergsen?
All three are European mid laners who are the backbones of their teams.
Although Bjergsen's numbers are as good as ever, I feel like, especially this season, he has fallen into the same category LeBron James finds himself in the NBA. Bjergsen has four MVP awards, and at this point in his career, unless TSM is far and away the best team or Bjergsen is having the best season of his life, it's difficult to see him winning. Voter fatigue is a real thing, and narratives like Jensen getting redemption for barely losing out on the award last split or Febiven moving to North America to help Clutch Gaming become relevant are flashier than Bjergsen's consistent dominance.
It's not fair that Bjergsen has to be perfect to dodge criticism, his lack of warding or roaming broken down to a science while other players can get away with it, but that's the weight that comes with winning the MVP award so many times. Your every move is exaggerated, and every loss, regardless of your performance, falls on your shoulders. At 6-6, it's hard to fathom another Bjergsen MVP win, outside of TSM running the table the last three weeks of the season and snatching a first-round bye from either Cloud9 or Echo Fox.
If I had to cast my vote right this second for MVP, I would go for Joshua "Dardoch" Hartnett. But knowing a North American won't win the award and that the Echo Fox players will split the votes (Huni or Dardoch? Adrian or Fenix?), my guess on how things will actually shake out, from going through past trends and looking at every player, is:
3. One of Rick Fox's adopted sons
Jensen has a top team that is probably going to finish in the top two. He's not North American. He has an extremely high KDA. He has the juicy narrative of losing to Bjergsen last season and coming back even stronger this split. It's all there for Jensen ... unless TSM runs the table the last three weeks and Bjergsen wins it again.
But that can't happen ... right?