A preview of the League of Legends World Championship
The World Championship (also known as Worlds) is the second of two yearly international tournaments in the League of Legends Esports scene, where players compete on franchised teams for fame, pride, a considerable salary, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash prizes.
22 teams from 12 regions (The Vietnam Championship Series couldn’t send their 2 teams due to covid travel restrictions) will compete for the ultimate prize in LoL esports, the 70-pound Summoner’s Cup. The tournament will start with the play-in stage starting October 5th, before advancing to the main stage groups which will take begin on October 11th before eventually ending with the finals on November 6th. As the teams prepare to do battle in Reykjavík, Iceland, let us look at our participants and how they got here.
This piece will preview Group C of the main event. This group might be the one the most up for grabs. Although there is a clear favorite for first, the race for 2nd could prove perilous as one team is known for volatility while the other has question marks surrounding them. The first team to be drawn in was…
Name: PSG Talon
Roster: Hanabi (Top), River (Jungle), Maple (Mid), Unified (ADC), Kaiwing (Support)
Region/Seed: PCS (TW/HK/MC/SEA) #1
Summary: Complete and utter domination of an entire region with a small stumble at the end.
PSG Talon is a merger between the Hong Kong organization Talon Esports, and one of the biggest names in football, Paris Saint-Germain. The fledgling organization has been to every final in the PCS’s short history and has only lost one. They have made a name for themselves on the international stage for never having their full roster, putting up an incredible showing with the subs anyway, and bringing glory to the region when it was in its darkest hour.
After the League Master Series faded from the glories of old and lost relevance on the international stage becoming little more than jobbers to the major regions, the LMS would be forced to merge with the minor League SEA Tour. With the best years of the region seemingly behind them, PSG Talon stepped up to the plate and crushed the Worlds 2020 Play-in stage with 2 subs and didn’t get last in the hardest group of the tournament. They took a game off the LPL 2nd seed and a pre-tournament favorite in JD Gaming! They made quarterfinals at this year’s MSI over Cloud 9 with a loaned ADC! They almost took Royal Never Give Up to 5 games! PSG Talon has reinvigorated interest in the former LMS region thanks to their success.
As for how they have been doing domestically…. To say that PSG Talon has dominated the PCS in 2021 would be like saying that Tom Brady is a “pretty good” QB. Technically true, but the understatement of the century.
Taking the 2020 roster and upgrading it by adding Flash Wolves legend Maple to it has worked wonders, as PSG Talon have been perhaps the single most dominant team in domestic play in the entire world. They cruised to a perfect 18-0 regular season as almost every single player was the undisputed best of their role. The team averaged a 2.81 KD Ratio and had an average 3.3k gold lead at 15 minutes. To put it simply, if there was an important individual stat, PSG Talon and their players were leading in it. PSG Talon primarily won their games the way many of the LMS giants of old created their dynasties. By simply being better mechanically then their opponents in every single role. The only one who could be considered a weak point would be the top laner Hanabi. And even that that is mostly because he plays weak side most of the time and tends to be hot or cold. Every other player is the undisputed best in their position. Most of them by incredibly large margins. Unified, while not a lane dominant ADC like the challenger for best PCS ADC Doggo, brings an incredible amount of utility to the team by being able to play the laning phase almost by himself. This allows PSG to unlock Kaiwing to roam around the map, and he is probably the best roaming support in the PCS. River is an absolute beast and is one of only 2 junglers in the world to get a pentakill in summer (Rogue’s Inspired is the other). And Maple is looking like his rough stint in the LPL never even happened as he stomps the other 9 mid laners into dust like he would back on Flash Wolves.
In their 18-game season, 2 of them were close contests, all the rest were just stomps from start to finish. When combining their record with Spring split and discounting MSI as that was an international tournament, PSG Talon hadn’t lost a game since February 20th. They were on a 43-match winning streak entering playoffs. Almost every single PSG Talon player got 1st team All Pro. Winning the PCS seemed more like an inevitability more than anything. And this was reinforced by the quick 3-0 sweep of the 5th seed J Team. Almost all of PSG was better than their opponents by massive margins, (only close lane was top as expected. Rest was the only non PSG to make all pro) but Unified and Kaiwing stood out by completely dominating all 3 games. A PSG Talon title seemed all but certain.
So, imagine everyone’s surprise when the 2nd seed Beyond Gaming took them down in a hard fought 5-game series 3-2. Not only did they snap the 46-match win streak, but BYG would take an entire series off them and put PSG in danger of not making Worlds. Game 1 would be the usual PSG Talon quality with dominant performances in all lanes. But Beyond Gaming were better on the day, mostly due to their ADC Doggo, who subbed in for Unified at MSI 2021. His Aphelios would rip through the hearts of PSG in game 2 while Maple was stuck on utility and unable to 1v9. Hanabi would take over game 3 on Gangplank to put PSG at 2-1. Maple would almost carry PSG to victory on Ryze in game 4, but BYG’s 5v5 power was too much to handle. Game 5 was scrappy, but in the end, Hanabi had a poor game and BYG’s jungler Husha found a beautiful Diana ult at a dragon fight that would allow them to run over the game.
Any doubters of PSG Talon would be quickly silenced as their do or die rematch against J Team would be a return to form with another 3-0 stomp. Maple’s Zoe would obliterate games 1 and 2, and Hanabi’s Gwen would crush game 3. J Team were barely even a speed bump on the road to PSG punching a Worlds ticket. The true test would be the battle for a main stage berth with a rematch in the finals against Beyond Gaming. This would be yet another series that would go the distance. But PSG Talon would secure their 3rd PCS title 3-2 thanks to the heroic efforts of Kaiwing and Maple. Doggo would make it a contest by carrying BYG to victory in games 2 and 4, but Kaiwing would go deathless on Braum while protecting his entire team and kicking off fights in game 1, while Maple’s Xerath would get an early double kill by working with Kaiwing and Unified to completely take over the game and never give BYG a chance to play. In game 5, everyone would be on form. Hanabi’s Ornn was unkillable and found many clutch knocups, River was another part of the unstoppable frontline and would carry the early game. Unified and Kaiwing would stomp Doggo and Kino. And Maple would be the star of the show going 5/0/8 in the final game of the series. BYG would only get one tower, 2 dragons, and 1 kill. PSG Talon would take everything else on their way to a championship.
Expectations: The biggest question mark of the tourney. They’ll either shock everyone or bow out early.
PSG Talon are going to be going into uncharted territory. They will field their whole roster from the start. With no risks for outside influences messing them up, and a dominant domestic season, why are people hesitant to believe in PSG Talon? Why would it surprise people if they got out of groups, much less actually go far at Worlds?
The answer is simple. We have all heard this story before.
The LMS was famous back in the day for being extremely top-heavy. Teams completely stomping the region during domestic play is nothing new. Even going undefeated wasn’t unique. Maple himself did it twice on Flash Wolves in 2017 and 2018. How did those teams fair in international play? 4-6 at MSI making it out on tiebreakers against TSM before being swept as an afterthought by SKT and 3-3 at Worlds losing to G2 in a tiebreaker match. The best the LMS did since it was called the LMS (the region actually won Worlds back in season 2) was quarterfinals at Worlds. And most teams weren’t even that lucky. On top of being the first of the 5 major regions (back when it was a major region) to not make it out of Play-ins (2017 HKA), LMS/PCS teams at Worlds have gone a combined 12-49 at the main group stage of Worlds.
They have yet to make it out of groups since then. The main reason being because the main strategy of “be better than your opponents” doesn’t work if you aren’t better.
Despite the poor historical context, I still have faith that PSG will at least make the group exciting, if not do even more. I think the PCS in recent years has shown that they aren’t going to just lie down and die anymore. While I think getting out of groups will be a challenge, I am not ready to write them off just yet. They have some very good players in Maple, Kaiwing, and River. Perhaps Unified will 1v2 laning phase like he has so many times in the past. PSG Talon getting out of groups would be a shocker to many, but I believe that they are fully capable of doing so. That MSI showing is hard to forget after all. I’m just not ready to fully believe as I have been burned before.
Roster: Adam (Top), Bwipo (Jungle), Nisqy (Mid), Upset (ADC), Hylissang (Support)
Region/Seed: LEC (Europe) #2
Summary: A rollercoaster ride of a regular season led to a playoff run worthy of a film adaptation.
To say that this team has had a difficult path to Worlds with many challenges and doubters along the way would be a very large understatement.
For those not in the know, Fnatic is one of the oldest organizations in European LoL, being here since season 1 and even winning the first ever World Championship all the way back in 2011. Fnatic have been one of two teams to rule over the LEC with an iron fist, alongside bitter rival G2 Esports. They have made 9 out of 11 World Championships, and going into 2021, only 1 team not named G2 or Fnatic won a title in Europe. As for their recent accomplishments, they made it to the World final back in 2018 (lost 3-0 to LPL rep Invictus Gaming), but ever since losing Caps to G2, they have been playing 2nd fiddle to their rivals. It got even worse in the off-season, as after getting reverse swept at Worlds quarterfinals by China’s TOP Esports, the unthinkable happened.
Their franchise ADC and one of the greatest western players of all time Rekkles joined G2. With the super team that already beat them 4 straight times in finals getting an upgrade by handicapping their only competition, pre-season predictions had the LEC as G2’s world and everyone else just living in it.
Fnatic themselves made 2 changes in the off-season that had their fanbase hesitant. They replaced Rekkles with Upset, an ADC who while one of Europe’s most skilled, never actually won anything. And they got a new mid laner in Nisqy. He was coming off a disappointing year at C9 and with how much talent is in the regional leagues, some fans thought Fnatic could’ve done better.
And those tempered expectations would prove right in spring split. Fnatic only finished 9-9 and barely scraped into the playoffs before being swept by Schalke 04 Esports. The organization had missed finals weekend for the first time since 2016. If they wanted to challenge for a title, changes had to be made.
Fnatic would shock the world by letting go of their jungler Selfmade, signing Karmine Corp’s (an incredibly popular French league team) EU Masters winning top laner Adam, and swap their top laner Bwipo from top to Jungle. These were seen as high risk, high reward moves. That spring roster didn’t look capable of challenging the top teams, but to make so many changes mid-season? And siging a rookie and immediately promoting him while roleswapping a key player? Fnaitc would either return to glory or be the walking punchline of the league.
They would have an interesting regular season. They started off with two poor losses to Misfits and MAD Lions, before upending Rogue in the last game of the week with Bwipo’s teleport Karthus jungle. After the slow start, Fnatic would go on a tear in weeks 2 and 3 as they went undefeated and stomped both their old jungler Selfmade with a crushing match against Vitality and their main rivals G2. Bwipo was looking to be right at home on the roleswap, Adam wasn’t crumbling under the pressure of playing at the big leagues, and the Upset/Hylissang bot lane was one of the scariest in the league with almost unmatched early aggression. They weren’t dropping games to teams they should easily beat anymore. Fnatic would establish themselves as one of the top teams in the LEC over the course of the split and after beating G2 again in week 6, Fnatic clinched playoffs and had a chance at a top seed being 10-3.
Unfortunately, the final two weeks would show that Fnatic had yet to fully iron out their weaknesses. Although their early playmaking would win them plenty of games, the agression didn’t have an off switch. This flaw would cost them dearly as they would lose 4 of their final 5 to drop all the way down to 5th place and start in the loser’s bracket. There would be no second chances. It would be make or break with 3 best-of-5’s standing between them and Worlds. The team had talent. Adam picked up rookie of the split and 2nd team All Pro alongside Hylissang, and Bwipo, Nisqy, and Upset all got 3rd team All Pro. These were good players, but that task seemed herculean especially with the drastically reduced momentum by the poor end to the season.
Little did we know that we would witness a playoff run that would go down in LoL esports history.
The first match was a grudge match against Vitality. Selfmade vs his old teammates, LIDER vs the team that people wanted to pick him up. The storylines just wrote themselves. Vitality would crush game 1 with a Diana/Yasuo composition that ran over a fight at dragon 18 minuites in and never stopped rolling. Game 2 would be equally as one sided, but this time it would go Fnatic’s way. Bwipo and Nisqy would be the superior mid/jg 2v2. Upset and Hylissang would get help bot lane and begin to carry. LIDER was too far behind to do anything. The Upset and Nisqy would continue to stomp in game 3. Ryze and Ezreal would go a combined 15/0/16. Vitality never even stood a chance. The trend of alternating one sided games would continue into game 4. This time Vitality would do the stomping as Selfmade’s Diana would one-shot any member of Fnatic he could find. The final do or die game 5 would be yet another one-sided affair. Upset, Bwipo, and Nisqy all vastly outperformed their Vitality counterparts to advance to the next round 3-2. It was great that Fnatic won the series, but they still had 2 more to go. And their next opponent had no intention of letting them through easily.
Misfits Gaming was up next. Given that Misfits had recently taken 1st seed Rogue to the brink and only lost because Inspired decided to put the game on his back, Misfits seemed to be favorites going in. This series would be another back-and-forth nail biter. The series would go a full 5 games. Most of the individual games were even for most of it but one team would win a key fight and take over the game. Game 5 saw Adam’s Cho’Gath serve as an unkillable tank while Nisqy’s Twisted Fate would roam around the map and Upset’s Aphelios would free fire into Misfits. Fnatic would take it in the final game without much contest to win the series 3-2. Thanks to the MAD Lions being good, this would set up one of the most hyped League of Legends matches in the game’s 11-year history.
Fnatic vs G2 with the final World Championship seed on the line. One of the most storied rivalries in esports with the highest of stakes. Rekkles vs his old team. The two old kings. Fanbases ready to kill each other and eternal bragging rights being the ultimate prize. The LEC couldn’t have had a better playoff bracket if they tried to script it.
And the series did not disappoint. Game 1 saw Jankos get 5 kills before 15 minutes and he would completely run over the game on Lee Sin. Fnatic would try to fight back, but him and Wunder were simply too strong. Game 2 would be a reversal of fortune as Nisqy’s TF would always stun a critical member while Upset would rip through G2 on Tristana. The game was a complete stomp as Upset went 13/0/4 as he tied up the series. In game 3, Fnatic had complete control over the early game. Bwipo was carrying on Lee Sin, Upset and Nisqy were still great on Tristana and TF. Hyli was still landing crucial engages. They had a 5k gold lead and were well on their way to going up 2-1. Unfortunately, Fnatic would overextend at 20 minutes as they had done so many times in the regular season. Giving G2 that lifeline would be a mistake as Caps and Rekkles would put G2 at match point. Despite the throw, Fnatic’s mental was unaffected. Fnatic would dominate game 4. TF/Tristana was as deadly a combo as ever. Bwipo and Adam got in on the fun by stomping their opponents. Fnatic had an 11k gold lead at 17 minutes. The game wasn’t even close. Perhaps it was fate, but this series was going to end in the only way it ever could have. A do or die game 5 for a Worlds spot. In front of 843 thousand viewers, something magical would happen.
Fnatic would trust Adam, the rookie of the split, enough to pick his signature Darius. This is a champ that just doesn’t see play at the top levels, but Adam made a name on it while on K Corp. It was practically his signature pick alongside his Olaf top. Fnatic would pick him his signature champ as he stared down one of the most storied top laners in Europe on the other side.
And he delivered. After 1 early death, he would pick up a kill after Wunder overstayed. Adam would take over the top lane as he solo killed Wunder in his rookie year in the biggest game of his life. The rest of Fnatic would be just as on form. Bwipo would get a beautiful flash Trundle pillar onto Caps to stop him from realm warping the team away and allowed Fnatic to kill 4. Nisqy’s Twisted Fate was as deadly as ever. Upset would outperform the man he replaced. Adam would stop another realm warp. The 19-year-old rookie would take his team to Worlds going 7/2/7 in the final game on his signature pick against EU’s most storied top laner. Fnatic would upset their biggest rivals 3-2. After having their franchise player stolen from them, they would knock the super team he joined out of Worlds contention.
G2 had never missed Worlds in their 6-year history.Not before Fnatic stomped game 5. All those risky moved paid off in the most satisfying way possible.
As for the rest of the playoff run, Fnatic would crush the 1st seed Rogue 3-0. Nisqy would be the man of the match as he completely dominated Larssen in all 3 games. Every Fnatic player was just better than their Rogue counterparts. They were barely even an afterthought. Unfortunately, the Cinderella story would end with a 3-1 loss to MAD Lions in the final. Fnatic were a good team, but MAD Lions refused to die and were just better overall. A solid finish for a team that had so few expectations going into playoffs.
Expectations: A solid team with clear strengths and weaknesses. Won’t be easy but expected to make it out of groups.
Fnatic is a team with a very clearly defined style and some very good players. Aggression is the name of the game with this team, as evidenced by having an average 1 combined kill per minute in the regular season of summer. The team is a mix of members who are very experienced on the international stage (Bwipo, Hylissang, and Nisqy have all been here before) and new faces. Upset finally made it to Worlds after so many times of being denied at the final hurdle, and Adam made it in his rookie year. The bot lane has been the key to many of Fnatic’s victories. Hylissang plays with no fear, will find great engages at all points of the game, and isn’t afraid to sacrifice his personal stats for it. He may have the most deaths of any support in the LEC, but his unmatched aggression is more than worth the price of admission.
Upset has paired particularly well with him as he has been one of the most dominant ADC’s in a league full of them. Upset had the highest KDA, lowest share of team deaths, 2nd highest GD,XPD and CSD@15 and is massively ahead of 3rd place, had triple the kills of any other ADC in playoffs, and had an incredibly high DPM. Nisqy has shut all his doubters up by matching and surpassing many of EU’s top mid laners. His complete domination of Caps in the final game of the series and the entire series against Rogue are hard to forget. And Bwipo seems like a natural fit in the jungle.
My main concern is that I’m not sure how well Adam is going to play at Worlds. Sure, it seems silly to doubt him after what just happened at playoffs, but at the end of the day, he is still a rookie and will be up against some of the best players in the world. I’m also not sure if Fnatic’s aggression will pay off against teams that can weather the early storm. Upset is also entirely new to the international stage, and with Fnatic sometimes being feast or famine, they are perhaps one of the most volatile teams at the tournament. They could just as easily bomb out in groups as they could make a deep run. In the end, Fnatic have done nothing but prove their doubter wrong this summer, so why stop now?
Name: Royal Never Give Up
Roster: Xiaohu (Top), Wei (Jungle), Cryin (Mid), GALA (ADC), Ming (Support
Region/Seed: LPL (China) #3
Summary: Slow start, incredibly dominant rest of season, underwhelming end
Royal Never Give Up is one of the oldest and most storied esports organizations in the LPL. They have attended 2 World finals in 2013 and 14 (lost both), are one of only 2 teams to win more than 1 LPL title, and have won 2 MSI’s, including the most recent one with a hard fought 3-2 victory over Damwon KIA.
Unfortunately, the grind of MSI left RNG little time to rest up for summer to defend their title. It showed in their early play. RNG started the season with a very concerning 1-5. The team didn’t have time to adapt to the meta, and were burnt out from playing a long international tournament. They even played down to competition for most of it with 8 straight games against minor regions that couldn’t challenge them. Their schedule was top-heavy to start off with an LNG on a hot streak, spring finalists FPX, and 2020 Worlds reps TOP Esports and Suning being teams they lost to. It was just a combination of poor timing and good opponents that put them in a big hole early.
RNG finally got it together in week 5 and never looked back for the rest of the regular season. They won their next 10 straight matches by a game score of 18-2. They feasted upon the middle and bottom of the pack and even handed fellow top teams and playoff hopefuls like Rare Atom and Edward Gaming convincing losses. The team had excellent map play and decision making, and top players in almost every position. The standout player was Xiaohu, who was still proving he was one of the LPL’s best top laners after making the roleswap at the beginning of the year. He was the key to many of their victories, as evidenced by him wining Player of the Week in his role for 4 straight weeks. He had the second highest average kills (4.1) and cspm (8.8) out of all top laners in the LPL. Their jungler Wei proved invaluable to their more macro focused style, with the second highest WPM (0.6) and highest WclearedPM (0.41) of all junglers. GALA was still a very good ADC, but the true star of the bot lane duo was Ming, who was putting the league on notice as one of the best support players in the LPL, if not the world even after all these years. He had the 2nd most assists in the entire LPL, and his engage champions like Nautilus, Leona and Rakan were some of the best in the world.
Royal Never Give Up ended the year 10-6 and 4th place in the LPL. Xiaohu and Ming got 1st team All Pro while Wei received a 2nd team nomination. Although they weren’t quite the favorites as FPX and EDG were just a cut above the rest for most of the split, they were seen as true challengers for carrying so much momentum and clicking at the right time.
Unfortunately for them, RNG would become the final victim of the LNG miracle run. The 8th seed that took out 2020 World Finalist Suning 3-2, and 2020 LPL #1 seed TOP Esports 3-1 would be the better team on the day. RNG would have an incredibly dominant early game in game 1 with an 8-3 kill lead and gold on Xiaohu and Wei, but Icon would pop Xiaohu before he could properly drop the Kennen ultimate, LNG would clean up the fight, take the Baron and get back in the game. They would win another baron fight at 34 minutes to take game 1. Ming and Xiaohu would have some clean plays in game 2, and LNG mid laner Icon would go 0/7/9. But Ale was a monster on Jax. He survived early game and got some good kills to become a terror in the late game fights. He was all but unkillable and could take out any member of RNG in a few seconds. RNG would avoid the 3-0 sweep thanks to Xiaohu’s ace in the hole Lucian top. He is 15-0 on it in 2021. He would go 7/2/10 and dealt 21k damage. In the game 4 draft, LNG would wisely ban Lucian and force Xiaohu onto a tank in Dr. Mundo. Tarzan would take over the early game on Lee Sin and push RNG to the brink, but the spring finalist GALA wouldn’t let his team die easily. A beautiful triple kill would stop LNG from ending the game.
Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be enough. Icon would bring all 5 members in a realm warp to catch GALA out in the mid lane. With one of the only players keeping them in the game down, LNG ran the rest of RNG over to take the series 3-1. RNG played their worst series of the year at the worst possible time and would be forced to go through the regional gauntlet to qualify for Worlds.
There, they would face Team WE, who were just coming off back-to-back 3-0’s from FPX and EDG to secure those teams Worlds berths. With WE being jokingly referred to as the LPL’s Worlds ticket office, RNG were still favored heavily to take the match and punch their tickets.
Fans would be proven right as RNG would hand WE their third straight 3-0 loss and obtain a spot at the main stage. RNG went a long way in restoring confidence in them as they really made the LNG loss look like a fluke. Game 1 would see Ming be his usual all-star self on Rell with no deaths and 72% kill participation. RNG would stomp game 1 as Cryin would have one of his best games of the year. WE had little hope and only got 3 kills and 2 towers in the quick 25-minute beatdown. The 2nd game would be much closer, but Wei would be the man of the match this time. He camped Xiaohu early to make him a very rich man early on. When WE found a good fight to secure Baron, Wei stopped the power play by finding a kick onto Elk. He would successfully enable every lane to do well, had great control over objectives and made the big plays when it mattered. In the final game, WE would make the same mistake a worrying number of teams had before them when playing against RNG. They left Lucian open. Weirdly enough, despite the game being about as one-sided as game 1, the Lucian wasn’t the main reason for it. Sure, Xiaohu absolutely stomped Breathe going 3/3/11 and ending with a 4k gold lead over him. The true star of the show would be GALA on Ziggs. He only played the APC 2 times before the gauntlet, yet he was a dominant source of consistent magic damage all 3 games. Considering just how comfortable he was on traditional ADC’s seeing him pop off on the unorthodox picks could add a lot to RNG’s draft versatility. He would go 7/0/9 in the final game, dealing 26.7k damage in the process. Almost7k more damage than his WE counterpart. With a 3-0 sweep fresh on everyone’s mind, RNG have done a successful job of erasing the LNG loss from memory and proving to everyone that the MSI champs are still a threat
Expectations: One of the strongest teams in the tournament. Couldn’t have gotten a better group if they got to choose themselves Easily a semifinalist if they achieve regular season form.
I think that aforementioned LNG loss is one of the only things stopping RNG from being considered a heavy favorite alongside EDG, FPX, and DK. It’s easy to forget that this was one of the most dominant teams in the LPL regular season after they shook off the MSI hangover and burnout. Although they may not have the best players in every role, almost every player is above average, and the team is even more than the sum of their parts.
RNG are like a well-oiled machine and that level of coordination makes me even less scared that they will fail to adapt to the meta. While that may have stopped them from completing the golden road back in 2018, this version of RNG feels like they have a set style that transcends the meta.
If they play it smart like they did in the regular season, RNG could easily be in contention for lifting the Summoner’s Cup. It also helps that RNG has two aces up their sleeve. Ming looked absolutely incredible over summer and the man is in contention, and in fact is probably a frontrunner for best support at Worlds 2021. He’s got game sense, mechanics, and can play both offensive engage supports, and defensive protective supports. In a group with two well established support players in Hylissang and Kaiwing, Ming could help carry RNG to greatness in the close games.
The true trump card for RNG however is Xiaohu. The man practically does it all. He has mechanics, a great champ pool with some unique pocket picks, works well with the team, and is fully capable of carrying the team on his back. He is also a top pick for best in his position at Worlds.
More importantly, look at the group he is in and the top laners he will be playing. PSG Talon’s Hanabi was the only PSG player to not make All-Pro, mostly plays weakside, and is prone to having cold streaks. Xiaohu is mechanically better than him. Fnatic’s Adam, for all the praises sung about him in the playoffs, is still just a rookie. Lane dominance isn’t his primary strong suit, his map play and early roaming was the key to kicking off that game 5 victory. Despite all the hype, in the LEC finals, MAD Lions’ Armut consistently beat him down inside of laning phase and out. And the team that would get drawn through this group from Playins? Hanwha Life’s Morgan? Easily the worst top laner out of the 4 LCK teams when the LCK sent a fairly weak group of top laners. He was the one who took some of the most flak for Hanwha’s incredibly weak Summer Split and he wasn’t exactly undeserving of it. If RNG don’t fall apart and keep the same form they have all year, Xiaohu is going to eat this group alive.
As for weaknesses, RNG does have a tendency to not do so well if Xiaohu isn’t ahead, but they have one main weakness. Recall that I said RNG has great players in almost every position. Notice how I was notably silent about the mid laner Cryin in the recap? That’s because although he has been a great team player, and is good at letting his teammates carry, he just isn’t an elite mid laner right now (still an incredibly young player). He was mostly uninspiring throughout Spring, MSI, and Summer. That MSI run was quite noticeable as in every loss but one (RNG vs DK game 4) He was the common denominator. He just didn’t stack up well to top mid laners like Maple, Humanoid and Showmaker. Icon tore him to shreds in the series vs LNG. While he’s far from the worst mid laner to ever make it to Worlds, and isn’t even close to worst mid at the tourney, if any lane is going to get exploited, it is going to be mid. Even with that one weakness, I can easily see RNG making a deep run.
The World Championship will kick off on October 5th with Korea’s Hanwha Life Esports vs China’s LNG Esports at 6am CST You can find the full schedule at https://lolesports.com/, and catch every match there, on the LoL Esports YouTube channel, or at https://www.twitch.tv/riotgames.