20 players to watch at worlds
Any discussion of "best" players is always divisive, as there are many facets to evaluate a player on. Peak performance, consistency, adaptability, carry potential – all are important, but which is "best?" Dade vs Froggen – peak play vs consistency.
Evaluation is especially difficult when combining players from all over the world. Separate leagues, with their own competition level, style of play, and storylines. Add in the new patch – 5.18, with the addition of juggernauts – and the meta may be completely different.
That said, here are 20 players I consider most impactful going into worlds. They aren't necessarily “best”, though all have a chance to be. I hope to consider them best after the tournament – many have exhibited inconsistency issues in the past. But as a fan, I want to see the best League of Legends of the year in the coming month, which will require these players at their peak.
Finally, some caveats:
I tried to balance by role, even though some will be more important than others. ADC may be weak, but a great ADC can still dominate the game (see LGD vs EDG). Final tally: 5, 3, 4, 4, 4
Second, I tried not to pick too many from a team (max 3). Some of the LPL or OGN teams may be stocked full of superstars, but only so many can shine.
Finally, I have inferior knowledge of the LMS or IWC. I picked players based on recognition from other sources. These include Summoning Insight, TheScore Esports, LoLesports, Reflections, and FollowEsports.
Some honorable mentions.
Acorn/Koro1 – solid Asian toplaners. They can do much with little, and even carry when given the chance. I found them lacking in terms of impact for their teams, in part due to the overall strength of individual play in EDG and LGD.
Zzitai/Marin – Opposite problem as above. They have a decent impact on team success, but need the highest focus. They don't qualify as best, either on their team or for the role.
Bengi – Maybe I'm still shaded by 2014. But I just don't consider him good. I believe his 2015 resurgence is partly attributable to the loss of OGN jungle talent – arguably the top 4 (Dandy, Kakao, Spirit, Swift) junglers left for China. I wonder if his solid performance will falter against the likes of Clearlove or Kakao.
Kami – I don't know how good he is. Supposedly very. I don't believe he is a top 5 mid at the tournament, but would love to be proven wrong. Stomping Brazil and the IWC is one thing, but put him against Faker or Rookie (or just Pobelter and Maple) and he may be outclassed.
Pawn – His extremely strong laning is central to EDG when they are at their best. But if he performs poorly, they can still win. So I question his impact and status within the team and role.
Pray – Very good in the early spring, but has dropped off since. Maybe I'm underrating again, but I feel the drop in talent level of OGN ADCs contributed much to his rise. Plus, his team is really good at setting him up.
Other good western players – I'll not list them out. Many apologizes to all, but the lower level of competition in their leagues makes me discount their status.
Now that the introduction is complete, lets get to the list. Players 20-11 are below; 10-1 will be added at a future date.
The ranking of faith. I could (and maybe should) put someone like Pray in this spot; we will see once Group A plays out if the faith is rewarded.
Doublelift is the best player on the best NA team. Maybe not the most important, with the top lane focused meta. But he has historically shown the ability to play like a top ADC, and if he does, CLG may make a surprise run deep into the tournament.
This ranking is based on hearsay from LMS experts (as will be all LMS rankings).
AN may be overrated like Doublelift. The current meta makes it difficult to judge ADC's, unless they are crazy dominant. Many have great statistics, but really they just right click on targets set up by their teams. AN does belong to that lineage, but backs up the kills statistic with damage dealt.
AHQ have proven their ability in the international scene, and AN is their main damage threat. He is well rated by LMS analysts, and gets routine scrim practice against top LPL and OGN talent. Lets hope we get to see a top performance so that group B turns into a blood bath.
Ranking solely based on his performance in the EU LCS finals and Worlds Qualifier. And what a performance it was. Soaz is best on unusual carry champions, like Gangplank; and he showed that skill as (arguably) the best Gangplank player in the world.
Going into the worlds patch, with its crazy top lane meta, we may get the chance to see Soaz at his best. He'll need to meet or exceed his previous peak to match Ssumday and Acorn in Group D.
The great western carry top laner. Yellowstar may be the backbone, but Fnatic's aggressive plays originate from the top. Huni's rise from unknown to great is well documented, as is his team's dominance of their region. But international play is the true challenge for a great player.
Group B is (in my opinion) the most interesting group, with no clear cut favorite. Fnatic are well regarded, but have lost to AHQ in the past. IG alternates between world domination and utter listlessness. The competition between these three should be close, with a Cloud 9 team ready to play spoiler. Huni (and Fnatic) will have a chance to show their greatness is real.
Karsa is a strong carry player in the weakest role at worlds. The support-jungle duo is very important currently, but at worlds support will carry most of that burden. Karsa is an exception to this.
Similar to Doublelift, stellar play from Karsa could carry the Flash Wolves in a surprise run. Considering the jungle talent in Group A, his path should be easy.
Best mid in NA since his arrival. Carried his team to the last 4 LCS finals. TSM's only hope. Bjergsen's career has been a polarizing one, and he is very difficult to rank in an international context.
Bjergsen is generally able to hold his own, or at least not lose, even against the best international competition. Unfortunately, his team is another story. And with a solo-carry performance unlikely against the likes of Godv, xPeke, and Nagne, Group D looks like the group of TSM's death.
How you rate Yellowstar depends on how you value shotcalling and team leadership. He is the heart of Fnatic, with more experience than many other teams. His roaming and vision control are impeccable, and he can turn a random ADC into one of EU's best.
But he doesn't have the track record as a flashy playmaker against top competition that great supports routinely exhibit. This world championship will be known for the strength of its supports; its up to Yellowstar to prove he belongs at the forefront of that discussion.
The aforementioned “playmaking against high level competition.” PYL has been known as a great support in China for much of his career. In fact, much of the reason for Imp joining LGD was due to the presence of PYL.
LGD has the best set of laners in the world. But PYL is the shotcalling and roaming glue that holds them together. In his case, we even have proof – LGD was a bottom four team in LPL while he was out for surgery. Its easy to underrate support players, especially when everyone is strong, but we shouldn't all into that trap with PYL.
The best LMS player, a ranking that is backed up by performance. He has received offers from LPL teams, and spends his free time patrolling the high levels of Korean solo queue. Looking back to MSI, the “best” Western team, with their top lane carry of Huni, ended decidedly in second place against Ziv and AHQ. I look forward to their rematch, and hope Ziv again holds his own for AHQ.
Gorilla has a track record of consistently strong play on a wide range of champions. He is arguably the best Janna player in the world, and excels at the finesse style required for her success. His zoning and shielding abilities provide safety to Koo's strong midgame rotational plays. But he can also make the crazy mechanical outplays on champions like Thresh and Alistar.
Koo Tigers are known to be a team where the sum is better than the individual parts – but then again, support has always been a role with greater impact than it may appear. Gorilla's play has carried them to this point, and will continue to show up at worlds.
Part 2 coming soon.