Since entering the North American LCS scene with Velocity in season 3 alongside teammates from maplestreet, NK Inc, Evaniskus, and Vileroze, Cristian “Cris” Rosales has struggled to find his footing in the big-boys league, ending his first two seasons with a cumulative 10-44 win-loss record. From there, he has consistently floated on the border of the LCS, re-qualifying through promotion again and again.
Like renowned LCS booster Alex Ich, Cris has been marked as one of the players that sets the bar for professional play. Despite his ability to consistently outplay and out-pressure nearly every Challenger top lane player, he has been underwhelming against the upper echelon of LCS players, unable to truly get a grasp over the nuances of top level play.
After dabbling in the challenger scene with COG, vVV, and Curse Academy, Cris once again found a place with Team Coast in 2014, finding greater success than with Velocity, being relegated at one point, but ultimately entering the NALCS again after defeating EnemyGG in September of 2016. After leaving the Coast roster, following the sale of the LCS position to NRG eSports, Cris found himself in purgatory once again. He would shortly play as a substitute with NRG eSports as they fixed their eligibility issues, then finding a home with the roster of Apex Gaming.
New Team New Dream
Apex dominated the 2016 North American Challenger Series with their roster of Cris, Shrimp, Eve, Keane, Police, and Xpecial, leading to a first place overall finish over Team Dragon Knights in the playoffs. Their roster brought together a mix of wise LCS experience and young international (Korean) talent under the coaching guidance of Brandon “Saintvicious” Dimarco and Park “BlisS” Johg-won.
The grueling promotion tournament saw Apex matched up in the first round against TiP, where the new challenger squad were touted as pre-match favorites by professionals and fans alike. Team Impulse looked like a revitalized squad in their series however, taking an extremely aggressive and risky approach to the midgame to choke out Apex’s resources and ultimately take the series 3-1.
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Apex’s previous strengths showing in the challenger series looked to be heavily nullified by the aggression of TiP, pushing Apex further back with each additional team-fight. For the first time, Team Apex were not on the top.
This series loss pitted Apex Gaming against Team Dragon Knights in the final match of the 2016 NA Promotional Tournament for the last LCS spot to fill the void left by Team Dignitas. This challenger final rematch would tell nearly the same story, Apex taking the series in dominating fashion. A balanced attack from the team, with impressive individual performances from each of Apex’s players led to a 3-0 clean sweep of TDK.
Outlook for Apex
Things are different this time around for Cris. The caliber of talent that he is surrounded with on his current team far outclasses anything he has previously experienced; if he can perform at an LCS level, Apex might be the dark horse to climb into the playoff picture come summertime. Since Dardoch’s ascension from the NACS, Shrimp has looked like the alpha jungler, and Eve has proven his own worth countless times. The internal competition between them will undoubtedly only improve the caliber of jungle play.
Keane and Xpecial have a chance to prove themselves again after being regarded as some of the best players in their position in North America at times. The creative champion pool of Keane, including picks such as Hecarim, Jarvan IV, and Graves in the midlane breathe fresh air into the often stale meta-game of professional League.
The biggest unknown remains for many fans: can Cris break out of his position of being ‘too good for challenger, too bad for LCS?’