Lucas “Santorin” Tao Kilmer Larsen, who first came into the public’s eye jungling for Team SoloMid, with which he won IEM IX World Championship Katowice, NA LCS Spring Split 2015, and placed 2nd in favor of CLG in NA LCS Summer Split 2015, only to bust out of the World Championships and leave the team, announcing his retirement, was a part of the relegated NRG eSports NA LCS team. I say “was” because Santorin announced on his Twitter account, @SantorinLoL, that he’s a free agent, looking forward to continue his career in League of Legends.
Following a disastrously bad NA LCS Summer Split 2016, where the NRG eSports roster of Diego “Quas” Ruiz, Lee “GBM” Chang-suk, Oh “Ohq” Gyu-min, Alan “KiWiKiD” Nguyen, and Santorin went 4-14 and had to play in the relegation tournament, the team experienced a couple of further crushing 3-0 losses against Cloud9 Challenger and Echo Fox in the 2017 NA LCS Spring Promotion Tournament. As a result, NRG eSports will have to compete in the NA Challenger Series next Split. Whether due to the player’s or organisation’s wishes, Santorin will not participate in this new downgraded venture.
This brings up an interesting subject to discuss. Why is it that when a team gets relegated, it’s roster inevitably gets downgraded from what it was in the LCS? One of the main reasons, in my opinion, is that LCS teams get a stipend from Riot Games for participating in the LCS and have an easier time attracting sponsors to help pay for the team’s expenses. This influx of money from Riot and sponsors just about allows owners to hire stronger and higher-profile players to, hopefully, compete with the best of them.
Once a team gets relegated to the Challenger Series, however, all of that dries up or becomes much less, until the team can make it back into the Riot’s Premier League. While playing against Challenger teams, the organisations get paid much less + sponsorship opportunities dry up due to the low interest in the Challenger Series. You can’t use CS broadcasts to push Razer products when barely anyone watches CS, as an example. As a result, it’s much harder to justify paying LCS-level salaries to your players. The eAthletes themselves are most often not interested in taking a paycut either. After all, they can try to find another LCS team, willing to let them play.
Another reason is that Challenger Series usually has less skilled players than LCS, so fielding a full LCS-worthy (though it’s actually borderline when a team got relegated) roster seems like a waste of resources when a little bit above-the-norm bunch of Challenger players could do just fine for much less money, providing a monetary safety cushion for the org. If the team qualifies for the next Split of LCS, they can buy up a stronger roster once again and try their hand at the highest level of Regional competition once again.