Since claiming a World Championship title in season two, the League of Legends Master Series has been considered a major region. But a lot has changed since then, including what it means to be a major region. And the LMS just doesn’t seem to fit that mold anymore.
Of the 13 regions competing in this year’s League of Legends World Championship, five are labeled as major regions. Those regions include the LCK, LPL, LCS, LEC, and LMS. And as a reward for their status, each is given three seeds at Worlds. Comparatively, every other region, with the exception of the VCS, is allowed only one seed.
Which region is considered major is based on a variety of factors. But one of the main factors is having consistent international success. For the last several years the LMS has barely skated by as an international competitor.
Decline of the LMS
In season two, the Taipei Assassins became World Champions and put the LMS on the map. The team and the region were considered world class and have been considered a major region ever since. Their reign, however, ended abruptly.
The Taipei Assassins didn’t make it to worlds the following year. Six years later, only three LMS teams have made it past the group stage. The last time was in 2015 when Flash Wolves and AHQ both advanced. Still, the LMS has remained a major region.
Outside of winning season two, a large part of the continued relevancy of the LMS is thanks to Flash Wolves. Despite having made it past groups only one time, Flash Wolves have arguably been the strongest LMS team. They attended Worlds every year since 2015 and hold five LMS titles. And at Worlds, they would typically struggle against the other major regions but were clearly a step above the minor regions.
What made Flash Wolves a threat was the combination of star players, Hung “Karsa” Hao-Hsuan, Huang “Maple” Yi-Tang, and Hu “SwordArt” Shuo-Chieh. Unfortunately for Flash Wolves, by the start of 2019 all three had left the team and the LMS to join the LPL. Without their core players, Flash Wolves weren’t able to make Worlds this year. These players on Flash Wolves gave the LMS a fighting chance internationally for four years. With them gone, it’s hard to believe the region has anything left to show.
Minor region vs major region
Recently the LMS hasn’t had much success at Worlds, but how does that compare to the other major regions? For starters, the LCK has won Worlds five times. Last year, the LPL earned its first title and has consistently made it past groups and beyond. A European team was crowned the season one champions and finished second last year. Even the LCS, which has also struggled internationally, made it past the group stage multiple times and even reached the semifinals last year.
On the other hand, LMS teams have failed to make it out of groups since 2015. Comparatively, the last time a minor region made it past groups was in 2016 when the Russian team Albus NoX advanced to the quarterfinals. Considering its lack of success, the LMS looks more like a minor region rather than major.
Additionally, the LMS is the only major region that doesn’t consist of at least 10 teams. The LMS has eight teams just like almost every other minor region. This could be due to a variety of reasons like funding or visa issues. Regardless of the cause, the league isn’t growing.
In fact, it’s common for LMS players, like Karsa, Maple, and SwordArt, to leave and join the LPL. And who wouldn’t? The region is stronger, and there’s more money in China. On top of that, there’s typically no language barrier for LMS players, so it’s easy to move. It seems like the LMS is used as a scouting ground for the LPL. And if players are constantly leaving the LMS, then of course it’ll be difficult to expand.
Maybe the LMS doesn’t exactly match up with the other major regions in terms of success or growth. But now there are talks of the region being completely removed given its current state. Last week, Hong Kong Attitude owner Derek Cheung said this might be the last year for the LMS. And in May an LMS caster said the same thing.
If the LMS is being considered for removal, it’s clear the region isn’t holding its own against the other major regions. It hasn’t been confirmed whether the LMS will disband. While it would be shocking to see the LMS completely disappear, it wouldn’t be surprising to see it downgraded to a minor region.