After the first three initial rounds, the LPL top four has been decided. Top Esports and JD Gaming will join Victory Five and RNG to form the four teams that will play in the double-elimination bracket. Today’s article will cover all four teams, talking about their journey so far and how they got here. It will also cover which player is key to their success in the playoffs. While all five players are essential to each team’s performance, there are some players who will need to pull a bit extra weight if they will want to make it to MSI. Without further ado, here are the LPL top four teams and their key players.
Victory Five – Number 1 Seed in Round Robin
Coming into 2022, Victory Five merged with European org Ninjas in Pyjamas, and while they can’t officially rebrand until summer, the merge has been a success. They went from a 0:16 Summer Split to a 14:2 record this spring. After bringing in five new players, Victory Five became a force to be reckoned with. Rich has been stellar this split, Ppgod and Photic became one of the best bot lanes, and Rookie and Karsa seem to have been meant for each other. To further drive home V5’s dominance, Rookie was the Spring Split MVP.
With all that said, now is the most important part of the split. They’ve done well for themselves coming this far already, but they can’t afford to take their foot off the gas. The other three teams in the LPL top four are just as hungry for this win as V5 are. Victory Five are also the only one of the four teams that have never won the LPL. Having the LPL trophy as the first in your trophy case would be quite the start to V5’s and NIP’s merging.
Victory Five’s Key Player: Photic – Bot Lane Carry
While it might be surprising the team with the regular season MVP doesn’t have said MVP as their key player, there is a reason for this. Rookie and Photic both ended the split with an equal amount of MVP of the match performances, with 10 apiece. While Rookie may have had the biggest impact, Photic was the main question mark surrounding V5’s new team. When he played for Top Esports in 2020, he was indecisive and often viewed as a liability. However, when he returned to the LDL for 2021, he showed that he deserved another chance in the big leagues. In the LDL Summer Split of 2021, he was the All-Pro Bot Lane Carry, picking up MVP 12 times during the regular season. But when he was announced for V5’s new super team, many still had their questions.
However, it didn’t take long for these questions to be put to rest. Fans and analysts soon realized that Victory Five could rely on Photic as much as they could rely on Rookie. This was a breath of fresh air, especially for Rookie, who was struggling as IG’s sole carry for the past few years. Photic once again was the All-Pro Bot Lane Carry of the split this spring, but this time in the LPL. Now, he is facing the best bot lanes that the LPL has to offer. RNG’s Ming was the All-Pro support of the split. Missing was the third All-Pro support of the split, with Hope putting on many great performances. And while neither JackeyLove nor Mark made it to the All-Pro teams, Photic has a score to settle with JackeyLove, as he was replaced by the Chinese prodigy on Top Esports in spring 2020.
Top Esports – Number 5 Seed in Round Robin
Victory Five’s opponent in the first round of the double-elimination will be Top Esports. After a really poor start to the split, Top Esports got into shape at the right time and took playoffs by storm. Their top laner, who became rookie of the split, joined the team after the Lunar New Year. Mark, their support, also joined around the same time. Tian was splitting time with Xiaopeng, and neither Knight nor JackeyLove were performing at the level that was expected of them. However, when all the correct pieces of the puzzle started playing together, the team performed at the level that many expected them to perform at.
Top Esports won seven matches in a row, only dropping their eighth to IG. This allowed the previously 2:4 team to get back in the playoff race. They then wrapped up their final week with 2 more wins. Starting their playoffs run in round 2, they took down BLG 3:1. They then faced LNG, the last team in the regular season to remain undefeated, and smashed them 3:0. Now, they will face off against Victory Five, the number one seed of the regular season. This match should be an amazing one.
Top Esport’s Key Player: Wayward – Top Lane
Another surprising player to make this list, Wayward is Top Esport’s key player. While Knight and JackeyLove both have their work cut out for them, Wayward plays a crucial part in Top Esports game. Up against Rich, Bin and 369, the rookie top laner is up against two LPL legends and the All-Pro top laner of the split. The reason why he is so important to Top Esports is due to how he plays the map. During the entire spring split, he exerted massive amounts of pressure onto his opposing number. Often playing Graves, Jayce or Tryndamere, Wayward often gets the matchup he wants in the top lane. However, instead of relying on Tian to help him dominate the side-lane, he simply takes it by force. His aggressive playstyle frees up the rest of the map, allowing Top Esports to dominate.
The truth is, Top Esports always were a win lane win game type of team. However, in 2021, 369 was making too many costly mistakes, and earlier this year, Zoom wasn’t up to snuff either. Now with Wayward, Top Esports have a top laner that can smash his lane, Knight playing with an unleashed Tian, and JackeyLove and Mark playing an oppressive style in the bot lane. Despite his rookie status, Top Esports rely on Wayward not giving the enemy top laner an inch. So far in playoffs, he faced off against Breathe and Ale, two top lane carries. Now in the final four, Wayward needs to keep up his level of performance, if Top are going to make it to MSI.
Royal Never Give Up – Number 2 Seed in Round Robin
It seems like RNG’s era of domination is back. With only Xiaohu and Ming remaining of the older RNG rosters, the legendary team is back in the LPL top four. Finishing as the second seed in the round-robin, RNG finished with a respectable 12:4 record. However, this is where things get interesting. Of their 4 losses, only one was to a top-tier team, which was their loss to Victory Five. Their first loss was to FPX, a team that got smashed in the first round of playoffs. Speaking of which, another loss of theirs was to Rare Atom, the other team that fell in the first round of playoffs. And the forth team they lost to? That would be Team World Elite, a team that didn’t even make it into playoffs.
This displays RNG’s biggest problem, their consistency. They can go toe-to-toe with any team no problem, but sometimes it feels like they can get complacent and randomly lose matches that they were clear favourites. But this also shows that when RNG have to respect their opponents, they can always fight and are ready to go the distance. And when it comes to top-tier opponents, the LPL top four is about as good as it’s going to get.
RNG’s Key Player: Xiaohu – Mid Lane
A true legend that will go down as one of the greatest mid laners in Chinese history, Xiaohu was a monster this split. While his other team members struggled every now and again, it felt like every match Xiaohu managed to find advantages, or at worst, go even. And to think that a year ago he was playing in the Top Lane, dominating the league from a different role. Xiaohu has always performed at the top level but was often living in Uzi’s shadow on RNG. Now, he’s the star of the show, leading his team from whichever role he happens to be playing. While the number one mid laner when to Rookie, who had a monstrous split, Xiaohu dominated the vote for second place, cementing his place in the second All-Pro team. The other RNG member that made it was Ming, who made it as the number 1 support.
Xiaohu will have to continue dominating the mid lane if RNG want to go far in the LPL top four. While his first matchup is against Yagao, who isn’t exactly an All-star mid laner, his other opponents will be Rookie and Knight. When it comes to LPL mid laners, Rookie is the only one who currently has the same victorious legacy as Xiaohu, not to mention he managed to eclipse the RNG player and become the number 1 All-Pro mid laner. Meanwhile, Knight is the other mid laner that will undoubtfully go down in history as one of the best Chinese mid laners of all time. It will be up against these players that Xiaohu will begin his climb back to the top.
JD Gaming – Number 3 Seed in Round Robin
By far the most surprising team to be here, from an off-season perspective, JDG outperformed everyone’s expectations. After losing Zoom and picking up 369, who was struggling on Top Esports, and rebooting their bot lane, many expected JDG to struggle to even make playoffs. However, Kanavi put on his best performances since his 2020 domination, and his new bot lane turned out to be amazing and worked out swimmingly. After an average start to the split, JDG started to ramp up right before the Lunar New Year. And while their loss to Top Esports did cool their jets, they managed to get back in sparkling form and made it into the LPL top four.
JDG also have a very different approach to how they play the game, especially compared to the other three teams they are up against. While the other teams rely heavily on their solo laners and the prowess they can bring, JDG rely on their jungler to carry them across the finish line. Kanavi, who will be JDG’s key player, would always set the tempo that JDG would play by, making sure that he was leading the charge as one of the two players that remained from the JDG team that made Worlds. Missing, the new support, also plays a crucial role in this, pairing up with Kanavi and allowing him to dominate the jungle even further.
JDG’s Key Player: Kanavi – Jungle
After his dominating season in 2020, Kanavi struggled to find himself last year. Coming into this year, many questioned if he would still be able to compete with the upcoming LPL talent. The answer to this was an astounding yes. No one was expecting Kanavi to be the All-Pro jungler of the split, especially after the start that Tarzan had. But Kanavi kept at it, and managed to keep up with the level of his performances. And at the end of the day, that was always his biggest problem. Kanavi has always been good, but it was his consistency that was an issue. But this split, that was no longer the case. JDG only lost five matches this split, and only one of them was to a team that failed to make playoffs. Kanavi has come a long way and has matured into an amazing player.
And yes, having an upgraded bot lane does make it easier to perform. Missing took the support role and made it his, syncing up perfectly with his star jungler. But at the end of the day, it was Kanavi’s performances that brought JDG to the LPL top four. Their victory over Weibo Gaming proved that they belong up here with the likes of RNG, Victory Five and Top Esports. However, the real tournament begins now. None of these teams will want to give an inch, and the pressure is on. If there ever was a time for Kanavi to step up to the plate and silence the haters once and for all, it would be now.
And that concludes the look at the LPL top four teams. The action of the double-elimination playoffs begins on Friday, the eighth. Victory Five and Top Esports will start off the action. You won’t want to miss it!
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