As the regional leagues prepare to start the 2022 League of Legends esports year, it is time to look ahead. What major team-based storylines will fill this year of the world’s biggest esports. What players have stories that need to be told and what they are chasing will be examined. Across all the regions, a few teams will be brought up to examine how their potential stories will impact the 2022 League of Legends season. It will be a flash forward into the future of esports. Storylines drive narratives and how we examine results in a given year, so why not set the table for the discussion. Now, it is time to flash forward. This time, a trip to the region of the reigning world champions is in order. This is all about the LPL.
Un-Swapping Lanes In Search Of Glory (RNG)
One of the greatest organizations in Chinese esports history is once again chasing the world title after falling short of the World’s title last year. The organization’s results in 2021 were a return to form after a disappointing year in 2020. Last year, return to glory was tied to a role swap. Long-time RNG midlaner Li “Xiaohu” Yuan-Hao flexed into the top lane so that the organization could bring in former eStar midlaner Yuan “Cryin” Cheng-Wei. Despite winning MSI, Cryin’s performances were not able to stand up to the top midlane talent. So in 2022, they are un-swapping the lanes to bing in great talent topside.
Throwing The Swap In The Bin
For RNG, their plan for 2022 almost seems like addition by subtraction on the surface. By returning Xiaohu to the midlane, the team no longer has to worry about their midlane play standing up to the best in the world, he proved that only a few years ago. While the game has changed, it is abundantly clear that he can still play. His top lane replacement is someone who can more than play, Chen “Bin” Ze-Bin.
The former Suning and Weibo top laner will bring his aggressive style to this team and help provide a potentially greater advantage in the top lane. Much like Xiaohu last year, he will need the resource to help them win games. He may be able to take a supporting role at times, but he will end up being the focus of the team. That is not a bad thing though, everyone remembers what he did during 2019 Worlds when he got resources. By bringing him in RNG thinks he can do the same thing as well.
The Fate of RNG
In the end, RNG’s results in 2022 will be decided by the top and mid-lane play. If Bin can synergize with the rest of the roster while still providing the same advantage, RNG may finally claim the world title they have been chasing. Or if Xiaohu returns to and thrives in mid, RNG can win Worlds. If both don’t happen though, especially the Bin portion of the equation, RNG may not even make Worlds. With the depth of top lane and mid lane talent in the LPL, one of the two players failing could spell disaster for this team. For RNG, their 2022 hopes lie in swapping the lanes.
Returning To The Top In Search Of Redemption (Top Esports)
Entering 2021, Top Esports looked like they would once again be top competitors for the World Championship. That was not meant to be though. A solid spring split was followed by a disappointing summer split, and before they knew it, they were out of Worlds contention. With that level of fall-off, changes needed to be made.
Topping Off With New Blood
The biggest changes to Top’s roster came on the top side of the map. During the offseason, long-time jungler Hung “Karsa” Hau-Hsuan and top laner Bai “369” Jia-Hao exited their respective roles. In their steads, a trio of new additions are now part of the fray inside Top. Inside the jungle, former TT jungler Wang “Xiaopeng” Peng and former FPX jungler Gao “Tian” Tian-Liang. While Tian will likely get the starting nod, it is not out of the question that he is supplanted at some point. Some people believe that Xiaopeng may be the better fit for the roster, but only time will tell.
Meanwhile, the addition of Zhang “Zoom” Xing-Ran is a potentially massive addition. While 369 is one of the highest regarded top lakers in the world, he crumbled when the team crumbled. Zoom is as steady of a top laner that potentially exists in the world. He is arguably the best tank player in the world, but he can play everything. No matter what way the top lane meta goes, Top Esports will in safe hands.
The Power Of The Known
While the changes they made are significant, who is staying around is very important. The steadying force in the midlane, Zhuo “knight” Ding, is back and ready to claim the world title that has eluded him for years. By winning that title, he would cement his legacy as one of the top mid laners in modern League Of Legends. He’ll look to continue his punishing methods in 2022 with Top.
Aside from the chess piece in the mid lane, Top’s bot lane is returning for another season. Alongside Wang “Zhuo” Xu-Zhuo in the support role, the iconic Chinese ADC Yu “JackeyLove” Wen-Bo is sticking around. The diversely talented bot lane will look to continue to gain advantages on the rift. Notably, a return to form for top could potentially yield JackeyLove his fourth top four at Worlds in his six-year career. That would give him arguably the best career by any ADC in LoL esports History.
Top’s Race To the Top
Top Esports changed their roster not necessarily out of need, but because change is healthy. Karsa and 369 both had good runs on top, but things change. In the shoes they left behind, players just as good, if not arguably better took their place. This could very well just end up changing very little for the team, but it could change everything. Top Esports are one of the most interesting LPL teams in 2022.
Chasing Mentors and Legends In Search Of Glory (EDG)
The reigning world champions enter 2022 with the same roster as last year. Given that they are the world champions that should mean EDG is without storylines. With EDG though, that is quite the opposite. EDG is a team with a storyline ripe with league’s past, present and future.
The Journey To Repeat
The obvious front-facing storyline for EDG is they have the opportunity to be the second team ever to win back-to-back Worlds titles. From 2015 to 2016, T1 were the kings of the World, the won two World titles, a MSI title and three splits. That is a level of dominance on both a domestic and global level not seen in modern League Esports. EDG enter the year with the same starting five they won the title with last year. They have amassed mountains of pre-existing chemistry while the rest of the LPL went into a state of flux this offseason. That would make them one of the favorites to win the LPL Spring Split. If that happens, they could be well on their way to chase the first perfect season in LoL esports history. That isn’t the only storyline with the reigning champs.
Scout Chasing The Legacy Of His Mentor
The most compelling subplot though is Scout chasing the legacy of his mentor Faker. Scout began his career under the T1 banner back in late 2015 during the hay day of T1. While he was not the starter, he gained invaluable experience from being around and working with Faker. He has said as much over the years. He has a relationship to him that few other mid laners have. There is no better example of that them when he called beating Damwon in the 2021 Worlds Grand Final “revenge” for Damwon beating Faker. Now with one world title under his belt, and the chance at another, he has the opportunity to grow closer to matching his mentor’s legacy. A World’s Grand Final match between the two would send their relationship full circle. For Scout, 2022 is personal.
A Legend Returns In Search Of His Unclaimed Crown (BiliBili)
While a team like EDG kept their entire roster from last year, BLG made almost neater wholesale changes in search of glory. For their entire existence, they sat in the middle of the LPL pack and felt like they were happy to be there. Not good enough to win LPL, but not god awful and at the bottom of the pack. That sentiment has seemingly changed in 2022 and the org is pushing all of their chips into the middle of the table in search of glory.
Outside of WeiWei returning in the jungle, this entire roster is new…kinda. After a year away from playing for Rare Atom, mid laner Chu “FoFo” Chun-Lan is back on BLG. His performances last year were as expected, thus BLG bringing him back into the fold made total sense. With a solid force in the mid lane, the rest of the roster grows from there. The addition of Chen “Breathe” Chen from WE in the top lane provides another stabilizing force that the team can play around when necessary. Add former FPX support Liu “Crisp” Qing-Song and the roster is filled with very talented players. Though there is one lane that this team will live and die by.
The Return Of The King With A New Apprentice
The biggest story of the LPL offseason by far was the return of ADC great Jian “Uzi” Zi-Hao. The former RNG bot laner retired in the middle of 2020 after a great career as one of the most talented players ever. The one thing he never won was a World title though. The fire to achieve that seems to have grown again and Uzi is back in the LPL. Now part of BLG, he has a super team around him that has one goal in mind, win worlds. If Uzi can come in and win that title, he will be cemented as one of the three or four greatest players ever. The shadow looming over him though is the addition of former Beyond Gaming ADC Chiu “Doggo” Tzu-Chuan. Both players are extremely talented players who can carry the entire game. While Uzi will take over eventually Doggo will get a chance to prove himself vs top LPL talent on a regular basis. Given the fact that Uzi’s status is uncertain, it is impossible to go wrong with Doggo. Together, they will look to bring BLG their first world title in team history.
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