The new LPL season has arrived, and with it, a new set of power rankings.
The random group draw format makes it easier to line up teams within their group and give a rundown. Not much has changed for teams between splits, however, which will make it much more fun to throw every team together for a more complete power ranking and lament the apparent group imbalance.
My fellow western world LPL analysts would say I got incredibly lucky predicting Royal Never Give Up to top Group A, but OMG fans won’t overlook how low I rated their favorite team. WE and EDG surged, and QG couldn’t solve their top and bottom lane problem. With the top rosters staying more or less the same, only a few major changes have a chance of upsetting the balance. I fear a predictable split.
Lucky to Be Here Tier
12. DAN Gaming
DAN Gaming’s roster and play leave a lot of questions. While a depressing bottom lane talent trough in the LPL will give DAN an unexpected boost, and Jeong “Karin” Soojong’s flair for flash has carried them through LSPL, DAN have gaping holes in strategic play and champion puddles rather than pools.
In Demacia Cup, new top laner Xiong “Moyu” Huidong took the stage, but seemed like a downgrade from Guo “Lies” Haotian, who has struggled on important picks like Rumble. Substitute mid laner Zhao “q1” Ahwei is mild insurance if Yu “Ggoong” Byeongjun starts to flag in the LPL’s stacked lineup of mid laners, but neither grant much confidence.
Vici Gaming weren’t a good team. By all counts, they also suffered from major internal strife, making a subpar roster even worse. DAN had the added bonus of facing them in the promotion tournament on a particularly bad day. More recently in Demacia Cup, DAN dropped early to LGD Gaming, and chat brimmed with Chinese fans expressing sadness for Liu “PDD” Mou, and his LSPL team, Young Miracles.
After a year in a half of failed LPL qualification series, YM had the misfortune of facing LGD instead of Vici Gaming in the Promotion Tournament, despite a higher seed. That all leaves me feeling like DAN still have yet to prove they even deserve their spot in the newly-franchised LPL.
Bottom Jumble Tier
The largest tier in my list is full of teams that could just as easily easily grab the bottom rungs of the playoffs ladder as sit out the final competition for Worlds. Despite heavy investment and some strong rosters, a lot of these teams lack consistency, a sense for stable conditioning, or just fundamentals in strategic play. Though I chose the final placements I did, these teams could easily upset one another without me batting an eye.
11. Newbee Gaming
Why so low on Newbee? The same team that upset Invictus Gaming in the LPL Playoffs is the same team that drops games to relegation-level teams. Jungler Baek “Swift” Dahoon’s demanding style still requires stable lanes he doesn’t have, and he’s prone to throwing any advantages all away in an early skirmish. Newbee also lack confident midgame transitions.
Newbee’s roster remains full of options in every position, though I’m not sure any of them are good. Newbee’s three AD carries all give me a wary underwhelmed feeling. Top laner Fan “Skye” Qifang still threatens to replace the under-appreciated Bao “V” Bo. The team surprised themselves by making Top 6 in playoffs, but I’m not sure Newbee can contend with some of the other LPL rosters’ sparse new changes.
10. LGD Gaming
I do think LGD will be better this split, but “better” after placing last in their group doesn’t provide a high level of confidence. Mid laner Yu “Cool” Jiajun shows every sign of being hungry to place at the top of the standings, and LGD always have the talent to do so. Perhaps replacing Wei “We1less” Zhen will give the team a rejuvenated sense of appreciation for the game, but I think LGD’s problems are systemic.
Regardless of Head Coach, LGD’s pick and ban phase has the same problems it always does with prioritizing carry picks early and a lack of coherency. LGD never seem to make a major push until they can “lose face,” and without the threat of relegation, one wonders from where they might draw motivation.
9. Suning Gaming
It’s easy to place the new kids near the bottom. Suning come with an esteemed backing that many Chinese fans will recognize from their successful chain store and recently purchased soccer team. But they lack a lot of experience, and they’ll have the same problems closing games as most teams newly promoted from the LSPL.
Suning have taken on rookie jungler Yang “H4cker” Zhihao (previously known as MopPeT), which I appreciate a lot as investment for the future, but it won’t get them results this split. Fan “Avoidless” Junwei, despite his cleverness and experience, has occasional moments of time wasting or hesitation that hold him back. Mid laner Li “dian” Guopeng has a promising future, but is mostly propelled by raw skill and not enough reins. The same sorts of half-praise can be given to Suning’s top and bottom lanes.
Suning has the talent to be good, but not the experience. It’s hard to expect much from them in their first split.
8. Snake Esports
Despite a terrifying loss to a TGA team, Snake have seeds to sow. Like Suning, they have a talented, but young roster. Though all their players are experienced, they lack focus outside playing around Lê “SofM” Quang Duy, who has the unfortunate tendency to play glass cannon and feed.
I’d rather not put too much blame on a single player, since I don’t think any one member of Snake is holding the team back. They have major gaps in how to use Teleport, how to coordinate in team fights, and how to maintain a 1-3-1 when Baron is in play. The pieces are there, and Snake have had time to reflect, which is the only thing that keeps them in playoffs range.
7. JingDong Gaming
Though JD would no doubt rather sit higher on the list with their major investment, none of the recent roster changes give that level of confidence. Beyond just roster changes, JD struggle to play around their existing strong players, and rather than work to execute lane swaps well, they’d rather put Kan “Kabe” Homan on tanks and botch red buff area collapses.
Kim “Doinb” Taesang gained a lot of recognition for leading a team of new players to playoffs this Spring, but the “new player” excuse doesn’t hold for the coming split. JingDong need to pull themselves together and learn how to make their pieces work or they’ll find themselves with an even more disappointing placing than last split.
The strategic gap Tier
The top six all feel like they could almost make the World Championship this year. The problem is, based on last split, there’s a significant gap in understanding strategy and how to use pressure between the top three and the next rung down. Welcome to the next rung.
6. Invictus Gaming
In theory, this team should be higher. As the team that made the smartest offseason roster changes, iG feels a lot like Song “Rookie” Euijin, Lee “Duke” Hoseong, and their school for troubled teens. Though promising, new jungler Gao “Ning” Zhenning has spent the past year and a half unable to break into the LPL with LSPL team Young Miracles. High pressure situations seem to make his decision-making worse, spurring him to make poor invade attempts or engage disadvantageous fights.
Chen “West” Long, certainly an AD carry upgrade, is still young and requires a lot time to learn more of the competitive landscape. Rookie, Duke, and support Wang “Megan” Liuyi will remain the roster’s core, and that’s only assuming iG don’t make more continuously puzzling roster changes with their bench players.
With solo laners like Rookie and Duke, iG should be good. But they’re still iG. They’re still vulnerable to mid lane camp strategies, and the new young element will make it even harder for them to find consistency.
5. I May
I May can be a frustrating team to cheer for — or against. The continuously claim that none of their players are good, and they only get by with an insane level of tenacity. That tenacity got them to the Demacia Cup final, but it has also earned them their fair share of doubters and dissidents, especially with frequent pauses and technical issues bringing about remakes.
I May seem to have a strong understanding of jungle and support synergy and how to use this pressure to influence mid. Shek “AmazingJ” Waiho becomes an important backbone, and if he fails, the team tumbles until they can get the right Teleport flank later on for a surprise teamfight. They’re good-ish, but the LPL has enough actually good teams for I May not to make Worlds this year.
I suppose I’ll be eating my words again at the Regional Final.
4. Oh My God
OMG may have lost to I May in the Demacia Cup quarterfinal, but they were playing with a substitute (as did most top four LPL teams). They also have a relatively consistent level of talent that would allow them to push for top three. The issue comes in the slow pace at which this team has managed to make strategic improvement.
Though OMG’s ability to manage side waves has improved, they still lack basic understanding of how to manage minion waves to set up ganks, when the jungler should sacrifice experience for lane pressure, and how to set up Baron well. This OMG team might surprise again, but the gap between them and EDward Gaming and Team WE during the LPL playoffs seemed daunting. I doubt, given their track record, they’ll improve enough to earn a Worlds spot.
Unlike every other major region, the LPL doesn’t feel like it has a definitive best team. For most of last split, I actually felt there was a game of rock paper scissors between EDward Gaming, Royal Never Give Up, and Team WE. The way each team played around their jungler defined a different style. Team WE, I felt, were the closest to the ideal way of playing the game, but their draft fumbles and Zhao “Fireloli” Zhiming’s improvements in tracking the enemy jungler gave EDG a strong matchup. Royal Never Give Up’s solo lane-centric approach gave them an ability to destabilize EDG’s obsession with taking the bottom lane turret before ten minutes, but their underfed jungler often made an easy target for WE.
3. EDward Gaming
Despite all of the above remaining true, EDward Gaming have some of the biggest holes in their roster of any of the top four teams. Jungler Fireloli seems to have studied his opponents’ pathing, closing some of his problems in the role, but he still lacks some of the finesse and ability to build himself up to what Ming “Clearlove” Kai had at his peak. The latter jungler continues to fail to find his place in a new meta with more time between camp clears.
EDG added two young rookies in the top and AD carry roles, which could make them larger contenders in future splits. In the meantime, despite EDG’s lofty legacy of success, it feels like the first time they will make the World Championship as LPL’s third seed team instead of first or second, if they make it at all. At the moment, they hinge too much on mid laner Lee “Scout” Yechan and support Tian “meiko” Ye, but this isn’t a winning formula, especially for a team that gives up so many resources in the top and mid role just to let bot lane rotate earlier. If you build up your mid laner only to set him behind by pulling him from a lane, it’s hard to ensure a win.
2. Royal Never Give Up
Almost no team in the LPL understands a 1-3-1 composition better than RNG — which is troubling because even they often devolve for unexplained reasons. RNG like to overuse their Teleports to force situations that don’t need to be forced. Perhaps they’re used to drafting compositions that require an early and seamless finish, but letting pressure breathe on the map is often a better choice than skirmishing with a numbers disadvantage when you know you’ll lose.
At the Demacia Cup, Liu “Mlxg” Shiyu already showed improvements to his pathing. He gave up less farm and was more competitive in early skirmishes, allowing RNG to get back into the game from a deficit. But their strongest players in top and mid over-grouped for catches, which cost them objective control on top side.
It’s also hard to rate RNG as the top team in the LPL when they had several “illnesses” and unresolved issues with their roster that, despite not having prevented them from taking top two, will hold them back on an international stage.
1. Team WE
In the wake of their disappointing MSI run and failure at Demacia Cup, Team WE should still come out on top. This split promises to be even more about intelligent jungle pathing, though the biggest change may be an emphasis on area of effect combos. WE’s teamfighting can give them a legup, and the other aspects of their play have steadily continued to improve throughout the year.
I still can’t fully stand behind WE if they lose sight of their identity. Over-tunneling on ganks and falling behind the enemy jungler doesn’t suit Xiang “Condi” Renjie, so it’s surprising when he occasionally does it. Though mid laner Su “xiye” Hanwei’s map control has improved, he still needs to work on cooperating with the team in fights. The rest of the roster continues to struggle with maintaining stability, and WE tend to draft losing lane matchups too often.
Nevertheless, WE still look like favorites for another LPL Championship with RNG fumbling their lane assignments as games drag on. They’ve risen up as EDG wanes to start a new era of the LPL — let’s just hope it’s a good one.
You can follow Kelsey Moser on Twitter @karonmoser.