Friday, January 10, 2020

LPL Spring 2020 Pre-Season Tier List

LPL Spring 2020 Pre-Season Tier List

Welcome to 2020!

This list attempts to organize the teams in a region by relative strength and isn't necessarily how I think the standings might exactly shake out. Often there are worse teams that finish higher or better teams that finish worse or both. Think of it like a rating system consisting mostly of what we know and a little of what I think could happen, for better or worse.

Tiers defined:

F Tier - I'm not sure I'll give any of these out but it's mostly reserved for uniquely bad situations like maybe an expansion team or team from a smaller, weaker region at a large tournament or something.
D Tier - Non-playoff teams that have next to no shot without a borderline miracle developing to have a chance at playoffs. Not all regions will have these. Often rebuilding teams, teams with large rosters and constant swaps of subpar players, or straight up awful teams.
C Tier - Non-playoff teams that need a lot of things to go well to have a shot at competing domestically. Often these teams are trying and competing but lack the players/skill to really compete with the stronger teams. Sometimes will beat middle of the table teams but will also drop some games to worse teams.
B Tier - Teams that might make the playoffs or might just miss. Most of the "middle of the table" teams fall into this category. Often they either do one thing well but have weaknesses or they're a pretty solid team that just doesn't have the skill/ability to be much better than they are.
A Tier - Likely playoff teams that could contend for a title if a few things go their way. Usually solid teams with a weakness or high upside teams with multiple question marks.
S Tier - World championship caliber teams and/or teams that are substantially ahead of their region. S+ rating indicates teams that I feel have a great chance at winning the world championship.

China is going to be incredibly interesting this year and I feel it's almost the worst region to start off with because there are a lot of teams that blur the lines defined by my tiers. There are a handful of teams that I think are one question answered away from being a tier better than I have them and that I feel are probably 75% likely to answer that question and advance. The LPL is going to be ridiculously competitive. Last year there were about 5 or 6 teams that were significantly better than the rest of the field. This year I think the list of likely playoff teams goes as deep as 11 squads. 

That said, there are almost always disappointments and let downs and my list attempts to lay these teams out while putting a fair amount of weight on the teams that have the fewest unknowns. I try to bake in some ceiling/upside but in the Spring split it tends to be the teams with the fewest question marks that succeed while others are figuring themselves out. I also take some liberties with teams that I think are inbetween. Invictus for example, I think are VERY LIKELY to be an S+ Tier team but I'm putting them in the S Tier until we see how the new bottom lane shows in comparison to the previous iteration.


F Tier

17 ) eStar

Projected Starters: ??? Wink (ADC, formerly Smile from RNG)
Subs: ????
Rumored Roster: CJJ (from Young Mircale), Wei (from Young Miracle), Cryin (former RNG and Young Miracle), ShiauC (former Flash Wolves)

So the original plan was for the LPL to add two new teams this offseason but I guess they've changed plans and have only added one, that we know of (as of this writing 1/4/2020). eStar is owned by investor and Young Miracle owner PDD and have only confirmed a single player, Wink, as of this writing. There are some rumors floating around and I listed those above but that's all we have. The season starts in 9 days.... I know Young Miracle have been a gold mine for prospects over the years but this rumored roster isn't really much even with that taken into consideration. This is somewhat unprecidented territory. We're basically going to have a team that's been thrown together in a couple weeks competing against arguably the best region in the world... This could be historically bad.


D Tier

16) Rogue Warriors

Projected Starters: Holder, Haro, Ruby, ZWuji, Ley
Subs: Crazy (top), WeiYan (jungle), Wuming (mid)

Unless Rogue Warriors are seeing something I'm not this was an unforgivably bad offseason by their management to not secure some more talent. I'm not sure what the financial situation of the team is so I don't want to completely ignore that but come on now... We saw last year that ZWuji is the real deal. When a marksman stands out on a bad team it's impressive because typically that role requires the most assistance from your team to succeed so the fact that ZWuji is differentiating himself to such a drastic degree on such a horrible team makes this feel quite a bit like Teddy being stuck on Jin Air for all those years. They weren't completely silent. They added Crazy from the SKT system as well as standout Challenger Korea mid laner Ruby (formerly Fact) from VSG. So they briing in a few Korean prospects to challenge Holder and presumably Wuming as well as a new support in Ley (formerly L1ght from Victory Five). There's a chance the new talent combined with ZWuji's immense talent is enough to push this team into the C Tier but in a region as competitive as China the margains are going to be extremely thin and unless my evaluation of this talent is severely off (certainly possible), then RW are showing up to a gun fight with a butter knife.

15) LGD Gaming

(because of this ridiculously large roster I'm going to just list in the projected starters who I personally would be starting because I have absolutely no clue who LGD will "start" and I'll talk about that below)

Projected Starters: Garvey, Peanut, Yuuki, Kramer, Killua
Subs: Cult (top), Lies (top), BadeMan (jungle), Kui (jungle), Fenfen (mid), Chance (support), Pyl (support), RD (support)

LGD had an extended roster last year and spent a huge chunk of the calendar year experimenting with different lineups to the point where LGD couldn't ever settle into any kind of rhythm. Competition within a team can be good, it can push people to continue improving and not get too comfortable in their job but when you are constantly changing things up it often turns out to be more detrimental than not. LGD legitimately have 13 players under contract right now. Under most circumstances you could call this "rebuild mode" but a lot of these players aren't new or young talents, most of them been around the block and most of them didn't really have a lot of success along the way. 

There's the possibility of the "us against them" or "no one believes in us" mentality bringing this crew of castouts together. There's the possibility that the dust settles and eventually they settle on a five man squad that looks pretty good. There is some talent on this team I just don't trust this organization to learn from their past mistakes. If I trusted them to actually stick to their best five man roster then I think this team probably belongs in the next tier up and would even have an outside chance at B tier if that specific roster had some good developments but I just don't see that happening. The LGD/Paris Saint-Germain organization is reputable and their DotA2 team has been killing it in recent years but their League of Legends team, whilst having a storied history, has a lot of stink on them recently from the match fixing scandal to the constant swaps to the constant malaise that's seemed to set over this team in recent years making their games just miserable to watch. LGD need a complete overhaul from top to bottom and that didn't happen so I'm afraid it's just going to be more of the same.


C Tier

14) Team WE

Projected Starters: Poss, Beishang, Plex, Jiumeng, Missing
Subs: Morgan (top), Coten (top), Teacherma (mid/support)

The offseason for WE was defined by the departure of longtime star ADC Mystic to Korea. Not only was he their best player over the past few years but they became a team that was defined by playing around him. It's going to be really interesting to see WE without him.

Team WE haven't used the starting roster I'm projecting yet in Demacia Cup I think because Plex likely wasn't in the house/practicing with the team yet. The standouts on this squad is Beishang who started off pretty hot in his debut but did seem to fall off a bit. Maybe that's because the league figured him out once they got some film but I'm optimistic for his future. Plex performed pretty well during his time on LNG last year and played top lane in the Griffin system the year prior so he is appealing and talented option as the homogenization of solo lanes continues. 

This team has showed well during Demacia Cup but I think that's more a symptom of offseason tournament variance and the game itself having a ton of variance baked in right now. In the grand scheme of things this team doesn't look very good to me. There's some continuity from last year which I think might lead to a decent start but I think this team is going to have to figure out their new post-Mystic identity and that might take some time. Mystic is an outstanding player but I do think it was time for this team to move into the 21st century so to speak. It's good for mediocre or bad teams to get good at one thing and at least have that one thing but it can end up stunting any development if that's all you have. I think WE are going to have some growing pains but this will be a better move for them long term. Perhaps they'll have a stronger Summer split.

13) Dominus eSports

Projected Starters: Natural, Xiaopeng, Xiye, Gala, Mark
Subs: Xiaowei (mid), Bless (jungle)

Dominus were a strange beast last year. After a great showing in what, unfortunately, amounted to losses against the stronger teams in the league earlier in the season they looked primed to be a team that's significantly better than their perception. The metagame shifted severely out of favor for them when Changhong was rendered fairly useless with tank top laners being very rare. Changhong felt like the leader on this team and when he was struggling so did the team so they had a rough finish. In steps Natural, a prospect top laner that had an excellent second half and suddenly this team looked like they could hang with the group of teams contending for playoffs. Ultimately the hole they had dug themselves was just too deep at that point but they made a late push and nearly earned the 8th seed.

Dominus have added Xiye, former mid laner for Team WE for many years, but have otherrwise retained their roster from last season. If Dominus can build on their second half performance they'll be a solid team with a lot of continuity but I tend to think that while Xiye has been a great player over his career that the level of competition in the LPL this split is so high that it feels like Dominus have a somewhat capped ceiling based on their individual talent. They'll end up being one of those solid "good but not great teams" that should take care of the bottom dwelling teams with ease but just don't have the horses to race with the playoff teams. Unless Natural can take the next step in his growth and Xiye can recapture some of his youth I just don't think Dominus have the chops necessary to be a playoff team.

12) Victory Five

Projected Starters: 997, Xiaohan, Mole, y4, Max
Subs: Windy (solo lane), CLX (mid)

Victory Five were another fascinating team from last year. They were seemingly ahead of the curve compared to the rest of the world in their willingness to have a more fluid and undefined "solo lane" role with Mole, Windy, and Otto having flexible champion pools and the ability to draft for solo lane matchups. This has become, in some ways, a new norm across the globe as the roles of top and mid become less set in stone. Victory Five's problem was that their players were simply not up to the level of the top teams in the LPL and with the region elevating yet again I think Victory Five, similarly to Dominus, are in a situation where they have a lot of continuity but not a lot of upside. Y4 is the standout talent here. If this team can find a way to play around him then we might have something but I think Victory Five will be clearly worse than the rest of the teams ahead of them on this list.


B Tier

11) Suning Gaming

Projected Starters: Bin, SofM, Angel, Weiwei, SwordArt
Subs: BiuBiu (top)

Suning were everyone's preseason darlings last year. Many, myself included to a degree, even touted them as the newest challenger to the top of the LPL. With a load of talented players including a few LMS imports in Maple and SwordArt this team looked primed to add yet another competitive team to the playoff picture but things simply never came together for this team. Suning never felt like they were on the same page. It's hard to tell but this felt like it was primarily a coaching issue. Did some of the players underperform expectations? Yes, SwordArt inparticular did not impress compared to what he's shown over his career but this team just felt like they didn't know what to do and were just playing solo queue a lot of the time. They lose H4cker but bring in veteran SofM, a downgrade for sure but you could certainly do worse. Bin, top lane standout from Suning's LDL squad will get a chance to start and the rest of the team remains the same. These moves are all fine but Fury returning as head coach gives me some pause.

If you combine these moves with the fact that the LPL has elevated it's depth of competition yet again it's hard to confidently say Suning are a playoff contender but I'm taking a different angle on this. There was clearly a ton of frustration on this team last year. You could physically see it on the players faces over and over last year. Sometimes even groups of great players just don't work out for whatever reason. I almost think Suning just needed a reset. Last year spiraled out of control for them. Bring in a few new faces but don't completely revamp things and have an entire offseason to come in fresh and I'm willing to offset some of these perceived downgrades. Suning should be much better than the bottom of the table strictly on talent alone but their ceiling will depend largely on whether or not they can blend talent and strategy and that's a coaching responsibility.

10) LNG eSports

Projected Starters: Flandre, Xx, Maple, Asura, Iwandy
Subs: Duan (support), Light (ADC)

It's difficult to tell which bottom lane we'll end up getting from this LNG squad so while I've listed one here I'm going to treat this preview as if the bottom lane was collectively one unit.

LNG, formerly Snake, were a bit of a surprise to me last year. Korean import Plex impressed once he was thrust into the starting role and a lot of the familiar names on this squad like SofM, Flandre, and Asura had solid seasons. They even knocked off Invictus Gaming in what many would argue was the biggest upset of the entire calendar year in the Summer Playoffs to force Invictus to play through the gauntlet for their Worlds spot. What they lacked in fundamentals they made up for in confidence and decisiveness, a characteristic that, if lacking, can end you in the LPL. 

They bring in Xx from TOP who should be a strict upgrade but will be interesting to see outside of the context of the dominant solo lanes he had on TOP. Maple from Suning who had a tremendously disappointing season feels like he could use the fresh start and change of scenery. Light steps up into a potential starting ADC role from the LDL as does Iwandy. I like this look this team has. Some redmeption stories, some hungry young LDL players, a stud jungler that's looking to prove it wasn't just the Knight/369 show, a blend of grisled veterans and high potential youths, and hopefully the same confidence. My only reservation with this team is coaching which was a pretty big barrier last year but one they were able to overcome anyway.

9) Vici Gaming

Projected Starters: Cube, Aix, Forge, iBoy, Maestro
Subs: Zdz (top), Chieftain (jungle), Zeka (mid)

Perhaps the biggest news of the LPL and LCK offseason was the departure of Kkoma, likely the greatest coach in the history of the game, from the most storied franchise in the history of the game, SK Telecom to his new position at Vici Gaming. It felt a little bit like the League of Legends equivalent of Bill Belichek leaving the Patriots to go coach in the XFL. Vici have been a bottom dwelling team for multiple years now. More than the other players they've added, which we'll get to in a minute, I think this team needs a culture change and whether or not Kkoma can bring that is the biggest variable in Vici's season to me. Bringing a down-and-out, bonafied loser and cultivating a winning culture could be all this team needs. 

Vici retained Aix and Cube and also added iBoy from EDG, Forge from Invictus Academy, and Maestro from LNG. Departing is their strongest asset last year in bottom lane Puff and Southwind who moved to Invictus. These additions all make a lot of sense. Forge was a highly anticipated prospect and got some time starting in Rookie's absence last season and while he had a bit of a rough time he was also thrust into a team, Invictus, that wasn't adjusting to their substitutes. In other words, most people would look bad playing the old school Invictus style with it's razor thin margains for error and blistering pace. He looked like a player that might have been overwhelmed but potentially great. iBoy, while arguably EDG's worst and highest variance player, is almost definitely an upgarde in terms of raw ceiling and Maestro was solid when we saw him. 

This team looks pretty good. As a matter of fact when all of this started coming out a lot of people were becoming highly optimistic of Vici. But now, a few weeks removed from this and with a clearer overall picture of the LPL this season I'm beginning to have my doubts. Forge looked absolutely dreadful in all but a few of the Demacia Cup games he played and while offseason tournaments aren't always a great gauge for things to come, sometimes you see some concerning characteristics.  In good news, Cube looks utterly dominant on his specialty Mordekaiser, a pick that even after nerfs is going to be a force to be reckoned with for the first few patches this season and Vici actually had a fairly good result even without Kkoma present yet.

Perhaps it will take some time but I look at this roster and then look at the rest of the LPL and I've gone from optimistic, perhaps because of the exciting news and energy of the offseason, to ... "ehhh." I think Vici are going to have to play closer to their ceiling than not for a playoff spot. I have a lot of faith in Kkoma to fix a lot of the philosophical issues Vici have had but I also don't want to overreact and slot this perennial loser from worst to playoff spot just because of an interesting offseason. I'll say I'm cautiously optimistic.


A Tier

8) EDward Gaming

Projected Starters: Jinoo, Jiejie, Scout, Hope, Meiko
Subs: Aodi (top), Xinyi (jungle), JunJia (jungle)

EDG are marching out more or less the exact lineup from last year except Hope will be the full time starting ADC with iBoy leaving. Hope didn't perform well and the team overall did not look good in the games that he played last season. Whether or not that's a product of unfamiliarity back then or Hope's overall ability will be the biggest question mark for EDG this season. Overall I look at this team and the quality of players besides Hope is simply too high for them not to be a playoff team. Combine that with a degree of continuity and I just can't see this team missing the playoffs unless something catastrophic happens. That said I'm not entirely sure how high their ceiling is. I'd be interested to see if EDG, a storied franchise in Chinese League of Legends, could land someone like JackeyLove but as it stands they're already going to be much better than many teams in the league even with the questions of aging veterans and Hope.

7) BiliBili Gaming

Projected Starters: ADD, Meteor, FoFo, Jinjiao, XinMo
Subs: Kingen (top), Moonlight (support), Wings (ADC)

BiliBili lose one of their best players in Kuro, someone that's been tremendously underrated and miscast over the course of his career but they do add arguably the best player from the LMS in FoFo to the fold as well as Kingen from the LCK and some support prospects. BiliBili largely keep the structure the same and possess some outstanding talent just like they did last year. The biggest question with this squad is whether or not their seemingly out of place Korean-style controlled, macro-oriented philosophy on the game that somehow worked so well for them last year is even remotely close to a playable style in the current form of the game. You might recall I said something similar last year and they made it work anyway but the pendulum has shifted even further in the snowballing direction. Games are more or less decided on the first fight right now and it's going to be interesting to see whether or not this team can adapt or not. I actually think BiliBili have a reasonable chance to crash and burn and might be the team on this list I'm most likely to be incorrect about but at the end of the day I look at the quality of players and experience and think that this team can't possibly be a non-playoff team unless they just refuse to adapt (like WE or Gen.G last year).

6) Royal Never Give Up

Projected Starters: LangX, XLB, Xiaohu, Uzi, Ming
Subs: Yuekai (top), S1xu (jungle), Betty (ADC)

The verdict still seems to be out on whether or not Uzi will be taking extended time off or just shifting back and forth with Betty but I absolutely love the move to bring in a proven veteran when you have an aging star with health problems. RNG struggled mightily any time Uzi was out of the lineup so from that standpoint I love this move. We also saw this team take down the Demacia Cup with Betty playing all of the games. Initially when the Betty signing happened and Uzi was said to be having more health problems I thought that, along with Karsa leaving, that this team was going to struggle to find their new identity for a little while. That could certainly still be the case but it appears that the "getting to know each other" phase has been skipped right over. I still think that this team is going to have it's struggles for a bit. XLB and S1xu might be outstanding prospects from the LDL and XLB looked excellent during Demacia Cup but once teams get some film we might see that the absence of Karsa, one of the best at his position to ever play the game, will be felt more than we might think based on recent results. Overall RNG still have a stacked roster from a talent perspective and I can't see them not being a playoff team. I'm keeping them out of my S Tier because the jungle situation and Uzi situation are just big enough to question marks to give me pause.


S Tier

5) OMG

Projected Starters: Curse, H4cker, Icon, Smlz, Cold (formerly Five)
Subs: Kane (ADC)

I absolutely love it when a team does exactly what you want them to do in an offseason. Myself, along with my colleagues from The Gold Card Podcast were pretty high on OMG early last year with Curse and Icon showing that they're potentially world class talents in the solo lanes but ultimately the jungle and bottom lane proved to be such massive liabilities from the constant shuffling of players and generally awful overall play that it was just too much to overcome for the two young budding stars. OMG promote coaching staff from within from their LDL team OMD, pick up stud jungler H4cker, and veteran bottom laner Smlz while retaining support Five who renamed to Cold. 

To me this is the perfect blend of continuity, retaining the proper talent, dropping the weaker players, and bringing in players that are not only excellent, but perfect stylistic fits for the players you retained and want to build around. H4cker is at his best when paired with premium solo laners to get them ahead. He's had a lot of success in his career with this formula and he's stepping into a situation with two young talents that are prime to breakout seasons. Smlz is an experienced ADC that's seen it all in the LPL but most importantly has had the most success as a low econ, secondary carry. He's tremendously efficient often making a lot with a little. He's the ADC version of an excellent weakside top laner which is a perfect fit for how OMG are going to want to play the map. 

I'm expecting some growing pains as this team learns how to be a winning team but OMG are set up to be my most confident dark horse selection in any of the four major regions this year. I was perhaps a little ahead of myself during last season but the time is now. A perfect offseason, a couple solo laners prime for breakouts, continuity, a few excellent veteran's present to guide the young kids, and overall premium player talent all add up to an S Tier team to me. I don't think there are as many unknowns on this roster as people might think and the overall name brand value of OMG being a bad team over the last few years is going to make them an extremely undervalued team going into the season. Hope on board the bandwagon! 

4) TOP eSports

Projected Starters: 369, Karsa, Knight, Photic, QiuQiu
Subs: Moyu (top), Yuyanjia (support), Aki (jungle)

TOP were arguably the second best team in China over the course of the summer last year but unfortunately were denied a spot at the World Championship in the gauntlet so a lot of people aren't aware of just how good this team was. 369, Xx, Knight, Loken, and Ben was one of the single best lineups in any region in the world last year and they certainly delivered. Knight and Loken are two of the best carries on the planet. Period. 

TOP bring back their stud solo laners in 369 and Knight but lose their bottom lane of Loken and Ben as well as monster jungler Xx. Normally these would be huge losses but in the jungle they've acquired the services of one of the best to ever pay the position and one of the few players I'd call an upgrade over Xx in future Hall of Famer Karsa. Karsa with this these solo lanes is going to be absolutely terrifying for enemy teams to plan for and play against. It's one of the most disgusting top lane trios on the planet going into this next season so TOP will retain that angle but the bigger question comes from the bottom lane. Loken was quietly one of the best carries in the world last year and the synergy between he and Ben was a huge part of TOP's "Triple Threat" of having dominance in all three lanes AND the jungle. QiuQiu got some play last season as a sub and looked pretty good so I'm optimistic that he might only be a slight downgrade but the bigger question is newcomer Photic. Photic is extremely young having just turned 17 in October and already has a Summer Split of LDL play for TES's Challenger team under his belt. He didn't look particularly great in Demacia Cup but given his age I'm confident he'll grow into a great player. 

To me TOP are simply too talented and their biggest question mark is a 17 year old phenom with a lot of hype about him. Loken leaves some tremendous shoes to fill but the top side of the map is just so stacked that I can't see TOP not competing for a title come seasons end. If Photic ends up being pretty good then look out!

3) Invictus Gaming

Projected Starters: TheShy, Leyan, Rookie, Puff, Southwind
Subs: Ning (jungle), Baolan (support), Fate (support)

There are a lot of questions about exactly what the Invictus lineup will look like. Will it be Leyan or Ning? Are the Puff/Southwind duo the starters or is it going to be some different combination? A lot of people mourned the departure of JackeyLove but for as great a player as he is he was a high variance, risk taking player. It fit for the style IG liked to play but as they evolved over the course of last year it began to fit less and less. Leyan is also a big question mark. He didn't perform well at Worlds or during the Demacia Cup but now presumably has the full time starter job until we know otherwise. Invictus also added SK Telecom stage coach to replace Coach Kim. One great coach for another, albeit with much different styles. I tend to think that Coach Kim might have had a better style for the current state of the game so that will be an interesting development to track.

The bottom lane situation is interesting. Early in the offseason people, myself included, were very excited to see this duo on a good team. Maybe it's the lack of offseason news but it almost felt like we were trying to convince ourselves that they can straight up replace Jackey and Baolan. I'm not sure they can but I do know they shouldn't be a liability. The other angle is are Puff and Southwind actually as good as they look or was it just that they were stuck on a terrible Vici team and it's easy to look good? I for one find it incredibly impressive when a bottom lane can look impressive on a bad team because it's the most difficult place to play with weaker help. Bottom lane tends too rely a lot of the rest of the team early in the game and Puff and Southwind still performed well. That said, much different look and approach to this lane than JackeyLove and Baolan for sure. I'm not denying that it's a downgrade in the bottom lane it's just that I'm not sure how big of one it will be.

I'm going to keep this one simple. Invictus should probably be at the bottom of this tier or in the A tier but the truth of the matter is that TheShy and Rookie are actually that much better than pretty much anybody at their positions in the world that I'm actually confident that they can overcome these question marks almost by themselves. Leyan will be a year improved, Puff and Southwind shouldn't skip a beat and might, dare I say it, impress some people. For a roster with so many questions it might seem shocking that I have this team this high but just look at the overall talent on this roster... There's enough continuity, they replaced a great coach with a great coach, they limited the damage that the loss of their bottom lane could potentially have caused and their jungle should be a year improved and more experienced. Invictus are still in a championship window and I expect them to be in the conversation yet again.


S+ Tier

2) JDG Gaming

Projected Starters: Zoom, Kanavi, Yagao, Loken, LvMao
Subs: 705 (top), Peace (support)

JDG were one of the more infuriating teams to follow last year. Specifically they drove me to the brink a handful of times with tremendous upsets followed by tremendously bad performances. I hated JDG last year! The thing is JDG are another team that did EXACTLY what they needed to in the offseason. Imp, as good a career as he's had (and we love him for it), was downright terrible last year. At times it looked like he was intentionally throwing it was that bad. Zero respect, tunnel vision, brain turned off, terrible decision making. Imp lost JDG almost every single one of their games by himself and while there were a handful of spike carry performances the amount of games he lost almost singlehandedly had to be in the 90%+ range. I actually don't think I could have come up with a better player than Loken to add. Loken does everything. He's a bonafied superstar. You retain the Korean bottom/jungle communication setup that you had last season, you retain Kanavi after that whacky offseason fiasco with Griffin management, and Kanavi looked excellent when he played last season showing great promise. JDG also retained Zoom, Yago, and LvMao who are all great players each with some niche pocket picks to make drafting against them difficult. 

Again, continuity, a blend of young growing players and veterans, fixing the exact problem which, in this case was a MASSIVE problem, and adding a bonafied superstar in the process. JDG feel like they're going to go from a -5 ADC situation to a +10 situation and if you consider that almost all of their losses last season were due to ADC liability that's terrifying. Unless Zoom, Yagao, and LvMao fall off a cliff this is going to be a worlds contender. 

1) FunPlus Phoenix

Projected Starters: Khan, Tian, DoinB, Lwx, Crisp
Subs: GimGoon(top),  Xiao7 (top), Mingjing (jungle), April (ADC)

I absolutely love when a team doesn't rest on their laurels and constantly seeks to improve. FunPlus Phoenix obviously won the World Championship and did so in dominating fashion against one of the best teams I've ever seen in G2. It was the culmination of constantly improving over the course of the year and demonstrating that you don't always need to be the most tactically sound if you master your craft. The Juggernaut returns and this time with upgrades! GimGoon as tremendous last season and was one of the best weakside top laners in the world. He constantly improved over the course of the season and developed FunPlus into a true five threat team. That said, Khan is an upgrade. Maybe you don't want to mess with the chemistry but Khan is one of the best players in the world at any position. He can carry, tank, play weakside, strongside, has incredible instincts and is in his prime. This also will allow both GimGoon and Khan to practice and improve as well as keep them rested and make preparing for this team an absolute nightmare. I love every single part of this move.

Not only did FunPlus add one of the best players in the world to bolster their ranks but the current state of the game is even better than the meta during the World Championship they just won. Think about that....

Unless we see the most ridiculous hangover ever FunPlus look like the best team on the planet yet again and while I'm sure the game/meta will change, unless it's a complete 180 degree turn I don't see any reason why FunPlus aren't the best team in the world come MSI.


As I mentioned earlier the order of these teams isn't necessarily where I believe they'll finish but rather a relative comparison of quality, upside, and the fewest question marks. The tiers are what is important but if I had to actually guess finishing power rankings it'd be as follows:

F Tier

17) eStar
D Tier

16) Rogue Warriors
15) LGD

C Tier

14) Team WE
13) Dominus
12) Victory Five


B Tier

11) Suning
10) LNG
9) Vici Gaming
A Tier

8) EDG (A-/B+)
7) BiliBili
6) RNG
S Tier

5) OMG 
4) TOP
3) Invictus
S+ Tier

2) JDG
1) FunPlus Phoenix

The LPL has, in my opinion, roughly eleven potential playoff teams and six almost definite non-playoff teams and I believe that there is a pretty clear cutoff between the B and C tiers. 

1 comment:

  1. Watching some IG games I think they need to be S+ tier. One of the best. Theshy is a God and is just multiple standard deviations above his competition.

    And the ADC on IG looks to be really good. Saw him frame-perfect cleanse a Varus ult on MF with cleanse -- it's those type of mechanics that point to future success. They were also practically favored