“I think all LPL teams are very strong right now. From our scrims we feel like they are all very strong. There aren’t any weak teams in the LPL now.” This was a quote from Topsports Gaming’s Jungler, Xiong “Xx” Yu-Long, in a recent Score.gg interview done with him at this year’s Demacia Cup Winter.
2018 was an exceptional year for China. Royal Never Give Up won nearly every tournament of the year, and Invictus Gaming brought home the LPL’s first World Championship title to cap it all off. With the LPL expanding to 16 teams, could 2019 be China’s year to prove their dominance as the rule rather than the exception? Here are 4 Chinese teams that could make their big splash this year.
Topsports Gaming (TOP)
If you had to guess which two teams faced each other in the Demacia Cup Finals this year, you would probably guess Royal Never Give Up (RNG) and Invictus Gaming (iG). These two teams now represent the old guard for LPL. Both of them combined to win every single major tournament in competitive League of Legends last year. However, there’s a new contender looking to change that.
TOP faced off against iG in this years Demacia Cup Finals after a 2-0 sweep of them in the Winner’s Bracket Finals. Although they lost 3-1 in the Finals, TOP has improved dramatically for a new roster. Despite the fact that they were a playoff team last year, their new roster makes them true contenders for the title.
The key player here is Knight. Known as “the Golden Left Hand” for using the mouse with his left hand. Zhuo “Knight” Ding has the potential to be one of the greatest to play the game. Known for his flashy plays on assassins like Ekko and Irelia, Knight manages to turn around plays simply through his quick fingers. Joining him topside is their new top laner, Bai “369” Jia-Hao. Another example of a young player with good mechanics and a lot to prove, 369 could turn into the next top lane surprise like Zoom or XiaoAL.
TOP’s bot lane is perfect to round out this squad. They managed to pick up ADC Lee “Loken” Dong-wook from JD Gaming and Support Nam “Ben” Dong-hyun from Team WE. Both of these players are above average in their roles and won’t lose the game. Loken doesn’t have the strongest laning phase but he is extremely reliable in teamfights and Ben is great at engaging or peeling for his AD.
TOP’s best player last year was their jungler Xx. Outside of Ben, these players are very young and to see them go directly to the Demacia Cup Finals with 4 new players spells great things for this team. If Xx and Knight keep developing their synergy, expect TOP to have their best year yet.
Suning Gaming (SNG)
On paper, this is the team that won the offseason in China. SNG managed to get the greatest mid and support players in Taiwan’s history; Huang “Maple” Yi-Tang and Hu “SwordArt” Shuo-Chieh, respectively. Maple and SwordArt are very close, having gone to the same school as each other as well as turning the Flash Wolves into an international name.
However, equally as impressive is the addition of marksman player Han “Smlz” Jin. Smlz, for those who don’t know, is considered to be the best ADC in China not named Uzi. While Uzi plays to completely smash the enemy lane, Smlz usually plays very conservatively in lane and waits til mid and late game teamfights, where he really shines. His champion pool is startling, excelling on champions like Kog’Maw that rely on superb orb walking as well as high skill shot accuracy champions like Jhin.
These 3 household names are joining one of the best top-jungle duos of last season. Top laner Xie “XiaoAL” Zhen-Ying and jungler Yang “H4cker” Zhi-Hao, were a big reason why SNG was able to make it back to the playoffs despite the summer split absence of Knight. While last season most teams played bot side focus, H4cker ganks for XiaoAL in the top lane to set him up for a big carry performance.
People want to see a player like Smlz make it onto the international stage. He has been such a force domestically but has never had the chance to display that outside of China. So getting players like Maple and SwordArt who have had international success and teaming them up with one of the most dominant top-jungle duo’s in China might make that wish come true for Smlz.
JD Gaming (JDG)
JDG is all about the Dumpling Brothers. Dumpling? Brothers? Well, i’m glad you asked. JDG was able to beat RNG in the regular season standings last year because of the emergence of two players; mid laner Zeng “YaGao” Qi and top laner Zhang “Zoom” Xing-Ran. Before 2018, even people in China hardly knew who these guys were. However, on the brink of 2019, Zoom and YaGao are a duo that deserves to be compared to Rookie and TheShy in terms of sheer talent. Zoom at times last year bested even TheShy in the top lane and YaGao racks up solokills on champions like Leblanc and Zoe.
The big addition this year is the arrival of Vietnamese jungler Đỗ “Levi” Duy Khánh. Because of the loss of Loken and especially Clid, on paper most would expect JDG to be much weaker coming into the season. Levi is the wild card that determines how good this team will be this season. We haven’t seen him play at his true potential in a year, but at his best he is the kind of carry jungler that you build your whole team around. It could potentially take a while for Levi to adjust to China and the team, so bringing in Sung “Flawless” Yeon-jun ensures that they have a good jungler if Levi doesn’t immediately click with the team.
The other big question this year for JDG is the ADC role. During the Demacia Cup, Ju “Bvoy” Yeong-hoon was criticized by many for his laning phase and positioning in teamfights. In response, JDG decided to sign former World Champion Gu “imp” Seung-bin. While imp in the past has been a superstar, he hasn’t played at that level in three years. As of this writing, imp has a Korean Challenger account in the Top 100 so the mechanical ability is still there, the question is will he have the drive to return to his former world class form? Paired with support player Zuo “LvMao” Ming-Hao, all imp and Bvoy have to do is let JDG’s strong topside do the carrying. And if Levi shows his former level of play, this team can go from above average to contender for the top team.
FunPlus Phoenix (FPX)
There is a rumor going around that the team that has been really smashing scrims in China right now, did not even participate in this winter’s Demacia Cup. That team would be FPX. The reason? It might have to do with the recent addition of Super Carry Kim “Doinb” Tae-sang. Doinb is exactly the kind of player that FPX needs to go from an average team to a real contender. Known for champion ocean including the likes of Kled and Renekton mid as well as his unorthodox builds, Doinb has grown from a young talent into a star player that can be a leader.
Doinb joins a roster very similar to his former team Rogue Warriors in that FPX last year mostly played through their bottom lane. ADC Lin “Lwx” Wei-Xiang is one of the better marksman players in China and has shown that you can rely on his carry ability, and support player Liu “Crisp” Qing-Song has played with LWX for 3 years now. Top laner Kim “GimGoon” Han-saem is your prototypical, won’t win you the game but won’t you lose you it either, type of player. He is well rounded enough to play carries but FPX will shine by putting him on the Urgot/Ornn and letting Doinb and Lwx/Crisp wreak havoc.
The big question mark on this team is the jungle position. FPX’s Taiwanese jungler Chen “Alex” Yu-Ming has been listed inactive. This leaves us with junglers Chang “Xinyi” Ping and Gao “Tian” Tian-Liang. Xinyi is famous for going 66 and 0 on the Ionia server in May 2016, while Tian hasn’t seen play since this year’s Spring Split due to the emergence of H4cker for SNG. While Xinyi played in the Summer Split this year, the team eventually chose Alex over him. Both of these players are unproven on the stage, but if they are able to not be a liability, Doinb may finally get to play on the Worlds stage.
Featured Image Courtesy of tw.news.yahoo.com
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