Riot hosts 16 teams at it’s annual League of Legends World Championship. These sixteen seeds are allotted to the five major regions, with two spots being open to minor region circuits. Since season three, four of the five major regions have had the pleasure of being allotted three spots. SEA during this time collected two, with Taiwan receiving one slot during Seasons 2 and 3. In Season 4, SEA collectively received the two seeds, with Taiwan claiming both rather easily. Eventually, Season 5 rolls around and SEA is relegated to wildcard status while Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macao form the LMS region. The LMS inherited the major region status and had two seeds confirmed later in the year.
People first began questioning the fairness of the seeding when Hong Kong Esports looked very promising as a steady third seed for the LMS. This was also at a time when the best North American teams were performing quite poorly, compared to the rest of the world, so the sentiment was amplified. When the Flash Wolves and ahq made it out of groups, surprising the Western world, the question became posed once more. However, people shouldn’t rush to the conclusion that three seeds for the LMS is plausible. While there were three teams worthy of being at Worlds this year, that doesn’t necessarily translate to the legitimacy of three seeds. I don’t believe it is the right time, but it isn’t so black and white.
The LMS is not as consistent as other regions when it comes to producing three teams. Historically, the teams that would have gone with the regional representatives have been quite weak. Season 3 would have had Wayi Spider and Taipei Snipers go along with the Gama Bears, teams that I don’t believe would have been very competitive. Season 4 would have had Taipei Snipers go with ahq and TPA, and were a relatively weak team. The split from the GPL has made the LMS more internationally competent and ahq and Flash Wolves did well this year, but it is important to consider the state of the region and it’s talent, not just recent results. This may very well still be a honeymoon phase.
TPA’s Chawy was one of several players banned for eloboosting in 2015.
The talent pool in TW/HK/MO is a standout when discussing the region’s viability at having three seeds. Players are constantly lost to military conscription and elo-boosting bans while some players understandably have no desire to go professional. Salary is currently quite low compared to major regions and education is a much safer bet. These three factors, in combination with a low population, makes it difficult to consistently produce players of Karsa or Ziv’s caliber. Imports are necessary to supplement talent and those are toss ups as well.
The small talent pool only makes it more impactful when household names retire, often crippling a team and weakening the region. One strong player retiring throws off competition, with Winds leaving TPA being the most recent example. It singlehandedly took TPA out of the running as a top team and made the first half of Summer less competitive. During Spring and over half of Summer, it was questionable if any team could really become the third competitive team. While HKE had a great turnaround halfway through the split, it isn’t something that can be counted on year-in and year-out.
Summer Split Standings- Wins/Losses/Ties/Points
At the current moment, HKE has no roster and TPA is lacking positionally, and the teams below them are frankly not too competitive. No bottom four team was able to 2-0 a top four team during the regular season as they could only manage the occasional split. Considering the rosters of top teams are up in the air, it is questionable if any team will really rise to the challenge in 2016. Soon, it may even be questionable if the league will be at all competitive in a number of years.
TPA may retool well in top lane and support, Midnight Sun or Machi may realize their potential, and the Gama Bears may even create a fantastic roster in their return to Taiwanese Esports, but that is far too many “mays.” The league has not proven its consistency yet or whether current success is sustainable. As a long time spectator of the GPL/LNL/LMS, I want to see three seeds as much as the next guy, but I don’t see it as being feasible quite yet.