Perhaps Echo Fox felt uncomfortable, rather unfamiliar with their position at the summit of the NA LCS? There are very few reasonable explanations that account for the organisation’s decision to drop star jungler Matthew “Akaadian” Higginbotham in favour of unproven rookie Jonathan “Grig” Armao.
Echo Fox announced that they would be lining up without their usual starting jungler ahead of a tough weekend of fixtures, with back to back series against Counter Logic Gaming and Cloud9.
The organisation were initially cagey to provide any clarity on the decision, with team owner owner Rick Rox simply pointing towards the team’s incentive to utilise the entirety of their ten man roster:
Akaadian has defined his role as one of Echo Fox’s two primary carries alongside mid laner, Henrik “Froggen” Hansen. The duo were instrumental in the team’s impressive start to the NA LCS Summer Split campaign, utilising their mid/jungle synergy to defeat both FlyQuest eSports and Team Liquid in Week 1.
By contrast, Grig (formerly known as “Grigne”, but changed to comply with Riot Games’ offensive names policy) had, until very recently, been a part of Echo Fox’s challenger team, Delta Fox.
Grig and Delta Fox finished fifth overall in the NA Challenger Series Spring Split, competing in the NA summer open qualifiers to regain their place in the NA CS.
Grig formed part of a ten man Echo Fox roster after Delta Fox signed a roster of high profile streamers to play under the team banner.
To his credit, Grig produced a promising display for his first LCS appearance against Counter Logic Gaming. A worthy adversary for Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett, Echo Fox’s debutant was decisive in his movements across the rift, even able to lead the FOX roster to victory with some clutch Lee Sin moments in Game 2.
Critically however, Grig was unable to contain Dardoch’s Rengar in the opening game of the series and lost out in a smite battle in Game 3 to cement Echo Fox’s fate.
The Cloud9 series presented far fewer positives. Conducive to some rash shot calling, Echo Fox proceeded to throw a seemingly insurmountable lead in both Game 1 and 2, first opting for a solo-queue style approach to ending Game 1 and in turn leaving their base exposed, before yet another disastrous baron play handed victory to C9 for the series’ conclusion.
Though the reasoning behind Grig’s involvement ahead of Akaadian remains unclear, the decision has split opinion within the Echo Fox fanbase.
Whilst fans are pleased to see the Echo Fox organisation following through on its ideals for a ten-man roster, Grig did not offer the team anything strategically different to Akaadian, nor did he appear to be mechanically superior. As Echo Fox suffer a drop in the NA LCS standings, all eyes will be on Akaadian for his expected return ahead the team’s next set of fixtures.
The NA LCS Birthing Grounds Of Team Liquid
Matthew “Akaadian” Higginbotham
Matthew "Akaadian" Higginbotham played Jungle on the Team Liquid Academy roster between February and April of 2016, until the beginning of May where he was replaced by Galen "Moon" Holgate. He is now doing very well on the Echo Fox roster and was classed as one of the best rookie Junglers in the Spring Split.
Benjamin “LOD” deMunck
Benjamin "LOD" deMunck is the current AD Carry for Team Dignitas and played with Team EnVy throughout last year. This has been LOD's breakout to his professional career, but it hasn't been his first attempt. First playing for Team LoLPro he was picked up by newly branded Team Curse as their substitute AD Carry. He stayed with the team throughout the entire of season 4 before eventually leaving for greener pastures.
Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black
Zaqueri "Aphromoo" Black may just try and forget his stint with Team Curse as he left Counter Logic Gaming in late Season 3 to join the team for less then a month before returning home where he has remained to this day. Aphromoo has constantly been called the best Support in North America and a contender for best Support in the west.
Johnny “Altec” Ru
Johnny "Altec" Ru was the AD Carry for Curse Academy from January until July in Season 3 when he was picked up to be a substitute for Team Solo Mid. He has been on many other teams such as Cloud 9 Tempest, Evil Geniuses and Gravity.
Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett
After one of the most public departures from a team, Joshua "Dardoch" Hartnett left Team Liquid last year and traded places with Kim "Reignover" Yeu-jin to join the Immortals squad. Dardoch is one of the best examples of Team Liquid birthing a strong national talent and letting them go.
Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell
Kevin "Hauntzer" Yarnell may now be classed as one of the best Top laners in North America. However before he was known as Team SoloMid's backbone he played top lane for Team LoLPro and stuck with the team when they branded as Curse Gaming, eventually leaving for Team Gravity.
Galen “Moon” Holgate
Galen "Moon" Holgate has somewhat of a similar story to Keith. Originally playing for the Liquid Challenger roster, he was bumped up to the main roster when Joshua "Dardoch" Hartnett was suspended for poor attitude. However the team seemed to fall apart without Dardoch and he was taken off suspension and Moon was retired back to the Challenger roster.
Eugene “Pobelter” Park
Eugene "Pobelter" Park has had multiple stints with Curse rosters, originally playing for their main roster he left to join Meat Playground, however he rejoined shortly afterwards and joined the Curse challenger line-up. He bounced around other teams for quite a while before landing back on Curse for less than a month in October at the end of Season 3.
Andy “Smoothie” Ta
After a disappointing start to Andy "Smoothie" Ta's collaboration with Team Liquid, he jumped between the main roster and the challenger roster. Team Liquid wanted to utilize both rosters, but Smoothie ended up playing on the challenger roster almost non-stop. He left the team in April 2016 and shortly after was picked up by Cloud9 who he has stayed with ever since.
Derek “Zig” Shao
Derek "Zig" Shao has been with the Team Liquid organization the longest of any player on the list, staying with the organization almost two years, playing on both the challenger and main roster of both Team Curse and Team Liquid. He left team Liquid in Season 6 to join Phoenix 1.
He currently still plays Top lane for Phoenix 1 and they are tied third in the North American LCS
Yuri “Keith” Jew
Yuri "Keith" Jew has somewhat of a sad story to begin his league career. Used by both Team Liquid and Team SoloMid when their previous AD Carries weren't performing up to scratch, Keith would come in, perform really well and then his competition would begin playing well again. He helped Liquid overcome a rough 1-3 start in the spring split of season 6.
Apollo “Apollo” Price
Apollo "Apollo" Price is now a well known name in the North American LCS, however this wasn't always the case. His time with Team LoLPro was so unknown there isn't even a certainty on the time he spent with them. He left the team to join Team Impulse in December of 2014 and he now plays for Team NV in the North American LCS.
Lae-Young “Keane” Jang
Originally playing for the Oceanic version of Team Curse Lae-Young "Keane" Jang wanted bigger things and eventually moved on to the Curse Academy roster. He stayed with the team until the end of Season 5, when he left to join Team Gravity and has stayed with the team through all its rebrands ever since.
David “Cop” Roberson
David "Cop" Roberson is one of the veterans on this list, not only has been been playing on professional teams since at least season 1, his skill also transcends the rift. Playing with Team Curse and moving to Curse Academy from December 2011 all the way through until January 2015, his most recent team has been Team Dignitas where he has returned to coach the team during their 2017 Spring Split.
William "Stunt" Chen is the youngest player of the bunch, now representing Immortals. He was one game away from qualifying for the LCS with Team Liquid Academy last year in the summer split promotion. Going to a full 5 games, Stunt and the rest of TLA failed to qualify for the 2017 Spring Split.