(Entirely Subjective) Top 20 Players at Worlds
At Worlds this year, we're set to see the top teams in the world(at least, a fair number of them) face off. These teams are composed of some of the strongest League of Legends talent there is, but until we see them face off starting in just a few hours, we won't quite know how they stack up.
That being said, here's who I think the top 20 players at Worlds are, and how they might perform.
20. Bengi (Jungler, SKT, #1 LCK)
At the bottom of my list, we have the player commonly considered Faker's personal ward-bot, Bengi. For over two years, his largely consistent, solid play has focused on ensuring that the world's best player is able to survive laning phase, and carry the game. As brilliant as Faker's career has been, it would not be so impressive without Bengi's contributions; the past two spring seasons are prime examples of the impact Bengi's performance, or lack thereof, has on SKT's success.
With a fairly shallow jungler pool at Worlds this year, Bengi has the opportunity to shine. Though EDG's Clearlove is a stronger individual jungler in the group, Bengi's impact can be just as great if he can help give Faker the advantage over long-time adversary Pawn. For the rest of the group and beyond, only a handful of junglers should be close to a match, and SKT's solo lane strength, supported by Bengi, should carry them far into this tournament.
The first of two NA LCS stars on my list, Doublelift is one of the longest-tenured players in the scene, and though his teams have not been on the Worlds stage since his Epik Gamer days, he's still one of the strongest players the west has to offer. Paired with Aphromoo, CLG's bot lane is among the strongest in the laning phase, certainly among the west, and their occasional, usually well-tempered, aggression in lane has the potential to disturb the weaker Asian bot lanes. This will be key, as they will need to offset the disadvantages they'll face on the top side of the map, especially at the jungle position.
CLG, as a #1 seed, is posited as a favorite to make it to the quarterfinals, but they'll need to survive the underrated KOO Tigers, the Flash Wolves, and the strongest wild card ever, Pain. If any lane on the map is to perform here for CLG, it'll be their bot lane. Doublelift shouldn't need to be at the height of his powers in groups, but if he can see his top form realized once the bracket stage arrives, it's feasible, though quite unlikely, that CLG pulls off an upset, perhaps against an Origen or Fnatic squad having scraped through the group stage.
18. Pyl (Support, LGD, #1 LPL)
LGD's fourth star, he loses a couple of spots, admittedly, because LGD could easily be here with a weaker player. But the overall lack of supports on this list should tell you that he is, at very least, a valuable commodity.
Paired with Imp, one of the all-time great ADCs from Korea, Pyl is often allowed to make plays around the map. This will be especially useful for the top lane matchups that LGD will face, as Acorn is already the cream of the crop at the championships. With Pyl's assistance, Acorn should rise head and shoulders above the rest of Group D, while the weak jungler pool will prevent other teams from answering efficiently.
If Pyl's overall map presence at Worlds is consistent with where it was domestically, he'll be a major factor in their successes. As it turns out, however, LGD's group includes a few supports who themselves would prefer to roam rather than be locked in lane with their ADCs. That being said, I'd not be shocked if we ended up with Group D having it's own seperate 2v2 meta, with top laners and supports paired together. If that's the case, Pyl may miss his shot to stand out. Should LGD escape groups, and they almost certainly will, his competition will be significantly less dynamic going ahead. The bracket stage will be where Pyl has to leave his mark.
The top-rated NA player on my list is the European star mid from SoloMid, Bjergsen, who all but single-handedly carried a flagging TSM squad to the international stage. Considering that TSM fell at least partly through very poor mid-centric pick and ban strategies, it's not shocking that his performance at MSG was rather underwhelming. What was mre shocking was that TSM moved away from ther tried-and-true domestic strategy of giving Bjerg a strong pick and letting him carry, and towards a strategy of putting their strongest player on supportive champions who tend not to carry on their own. This didn't work at MSI, and it didn't work against CLG. TSM will need to bring new ideas and fresh performances from Bjerg's supporting cast if they have even the slightest hope of making the bracket stage.
Stuck in a group with GodV, Xpeke, and Nagne, Bjergsen could easily be top 2 here. The problem is that every other team has a significantly stronger set of outside lanes, and also a more active, if not outright stronger, jungler. Admittedly, Bjergsen makes this list despite a likely last-place group finish, because, on the basis of individual performance compared to team performance, he may be the biggest outlier in the whole tournament. Several players on my list had one or fewer teammates in my top 20. Few, like Bjergsen, had none in my top 35.
TSM's strategy going ahead, as simple and counterable it is, has to be giving Bjergsen all the tools to carry they possibly can. If he can get ahead and put pressure on other lanes through roams, he may give WildTurtle enough help for him to manage to clean up a couple of big teamfights, and maybe steal a win or two. Anything beyond that is extremely unlikely. But if you're looking for a player who will, guaranteed, be their team's top performer, look no further than Bjergsen.
16. Yellowstar (Support, FNC, #1 EULCS)
The man with the most games played at Worlds all-time, with top-2 and top-4 finishes under his belt, Yellowstar is no stranger to high-pressure matches. His individual mechanical play is not the the highest among all supports at Worlds, but his work as a catalyst for Fnatic's map play can't be disregarded. His veteran presence helped a team of largely young, unestablished players grow, and, largely, clear up their glaring weaknesses.
In groups, where Yellowstar will need to show up huge for Fnatic is in their vision game and teamfighting first and foremost. Against teams like IG and C9, they'll need vision advantages to ensure that they can take and win fights against teams with top-tier shotcalling, while he'll need to keep Fnatic conservative and focused on taking, and capitalizing on, small advantages against AHQ, who should only be even at jungler.
Looking ahead to the bracket stage, Fnatic should be the best of the west, having shown with their weaker spring roster that they can stand up to top Asian teams on any given day. Top Asian teams like SKT, LGD, and EDG should still be favored, but a friendly bracket placement could see Fnatic make a decent run for the finals. Against those teams, where Fnatic will be unable to win through sheer talent, Yellowstar will need to be at his best as a game manager, something he's shown he can do time and time again. There's a reason he keeps making it back to Worlds.
15. Febiven (Mid, FNC, #1 EULCS)
The second of back-to-back Fnatic talent, Febiven was an unproven talent just a year ago. But in the time since, he's qualified for LCS with fellow Worlds participants H2K, won Europe twice, gone toe-to-toe with Faker (and come out looking strong), and nearly had a perfect season. All the while, amidst so many team accomplishments, it is Febiven who has grown the most on this team. From an assassin-heavy pool to being as well-rounded as current EU mids go, and transitioning from being a second carry to being the focal point of the team, Febiven has worn many hats for this team. At his second major event featuring top Asian teams, Febiven will be expected to folow up his MSI performance with something even more impressive.
In a group with IG, C9 and AHQ, Febiven is a top-2 mid laner alongside Rookie. But Fnatic is the team in this group with the most talented side lanes, and only KaKAO should put major pressure on ReignOver to perform. Where Febiven will be expected to perform will be in the bracket stage. Following his great performance against Faker and SKT this spring, much will be expected of him when Fnatic meets players like GodV, Pawn, and Faker himself. Fnatic should have a single side-lane advantage against both SKT and EDG, and, perhaps, an advantage in the jungler vs LGD; so it will be the mid lane matchups that each potential series will be decided.
Febiven has proven that he can carry against even the best player in the world. Should he perform to his peak level again, Fnatic's ceiling may be as high as anyone's. But their fate rests with Febiven.
14. Marin (Top, SKT, #1 LCK)
SKT's second star, Marin's move between being primary and secondary carry as Faker and Easyhoon have swapped in and out of the lineup this year has shown, if nothing else, his relative adaptability to his team's needs. However, where he lacks in that same area is in his champion diversity. Especially in the summer, he focused largely on but a few hampions in each meta, with 25 of his 41 games on Maokai and Rumble alone. Considering the Juggernaut changes on 5.16, since which we have not seen SKT, it's hard to predict how he will adapt his champion pool or play style.
Meanwhile, Marin tends to be the member of SKT who is fed the most gold, so he should fit in, at least in that way, within the new meta. However, his damage percentages leave a lot to be desired for how much gold he gets. Some of that is based on champion picks like Maokai, but there is a lot more to it. Against this class of top laners, Marin will be set to look rather poor if SKT makes the late stages of Worlds. Outside of EDG's top lane questions, nearly every Asian team, and a couple of Western teams, have more efficient top laners. If Marin does not start doing more with his resources, and does not adapt to the strong top lane champions of 5.18, SKT could be in trouble.
Marin is not on tis list because I expect him to do well, but because he needs to, should SKT remain favorites for long.
13. Pawn (Mid, EDG, #2 LPL)
Faker's personal kryptonite, Pawn has made quite a name for himself over the last two years. One of the returning world champions this year, and one of just two from last year's Samsung White team, along with Imp from LGD, Pawn has seen as much success on the Worlds stage as anyone. In fact, his 88.2% win rate in games at Worlds is highest all-time, as last year's SSW team was perhaps the most dominant team in the history of the annual event. But his individual play was never what made SSW the best team; rather, it was DanDy and Mata's vision control and roams and Imp's teamfighting. Pawn was merely an accessory to the manslaughter.
This time, Pawn's teammates aren't head-and-shoulders above the competition, as the Korean Exodus made its mark in a big way. Where Pawn was allowed to make mistakes and be generally just decent in the group stage last year, protected by stellar vision and surrounded by great lanes, he needs to be much stronger this time around. Whether Koro1 or AmazingJ starts in the top lane, EDG will be at a defecit against SKT in groups, and just about any team expected to make the bracket stage.
Pawn is still merely the third-best player on EDG, however. He will be but a tertiary carry threat behind the likes of Deft and Clearlove; Clearlove owning the early-mid game, Deft the late-game fight carry; which will keep him from being constantly pressured. The flexibility of EDG's carry structure will be paramount, and Pawn will need to hold his own against Faker, GodV, and others if EDG wants to make a run.
12. Piccaboo (Support, KT, #3 LCK)
KT's much-lauded mid-summer acquisition, Piccaboo is rightfully cited as the player who turned KT from a mid-tier Korean team for much of the year into a powerhouse of the qualifying season. Not only did he help unlock Arrow's late-game carry potential, which we had seen glimpses of last summer, but his top-lane roams allowed Ssumday, as well, to reach his potential.
Without standouts at mid and jungle, KT will be required to win through superior vision and adaptation to the new meta. Considering their groups opponents LGD and OG, this could prove to be a major issue. Soaz has proven himself able to play in this meta through a strong set of qualifying performances, and Mithy has been an important table-setter for OG; while Acorn's lengthy, solid career in the top lane is proof of his ability to survive change.
Whether or not Piccaboo has a similar impact for KT at Worlds as he did in Korea, it may not be enough to hold off two very talented teams in their group. Even if they do make it to the bracket stage, Nagne and Score will be outclassed at a point by stronger jungle/mid combinations, unless major upsets happen. Look for Piccaboo to make some big plays, but don't expect KT's contention to last.
11. Rookie (Mid, IG, #3 LPL)
One of several top Korean playersto move to China at the start of this season, Rookie has had among the most success, qualifying for Worlds ahead of notable former Samsung allies Dade, Spirit, Heart, DanDy, and Mata, among many others. His continued partnership with KaKAO has been easily the greatest catalyst for IG's qualification for Worlds, even as IG's performance has been rather inconsistent.
With Zzitai and Kid at top lane and ADC, Rookie is the de facto carry of this team, which could pose problems if Zzitai is underwhelming following recent patches. IG is one of the teams with official competetive experience on 5.16, so they may have an edge in that area, but other Asian top laners tend to have strong track records of adaptation, with Acorn and Ssumday surviving through several metas.
Where IG has an advantage ofver many other teams is their outstanding jungler/mid synergy and individual talent. Few teams have strong players at both roles, with only FNC in their group boasting an above-average pairing. IG should, with a fairly easy rest of their group, manage to make it to the bracket stage largely on talent, and partly through their teamfighting, its roots in the old KT Arrows. Past groups, IG should likely run into a wall, as other top teams willl have stronger overall talent, especially in outside lanes. But KaKAO and Rookie will not go down without a fight. A fight they intend to win.
10. GorillA (Support, KOO, #2 LCK)
One of the two Najin veterans tasked with taking Smeb and co. to the top tier of Korean teams, GorillA has done his job admirably this season. His preference for engage supports, especially Alistar, this summer set the tone for KOO's aggressive play. He and Smeb are the soul of the team, each standouts at their roles heading into Worlds. Following a fairly poor result last year with NWS, GorillA is looking for redemption at his second Worlds.
As with many other top supports at Worlds this season, his strength comes not from the 2v2 lane, but from overall map pressure. Against top teams with strong vision control, however, KOO's jungle/support combo will need to establish more vision control than has been their style, else their aggression could do more harm than good. With 12 champions played in 42 games this summer, GorillA is an adaptable player, but he makes mistakes, which top teams can capitalize on. In groups, this shouldn't be a major issue, but top teams with superior vision will punish KOO eventually.
A fair predicition would be for KOO to finish in the quarterfinals, but if their aggression, leb by Gorilla, works out, this is a team that could surprise.
9. Deft (ADC, EDG, #2 LPL)
One of the biggest names of the Korean Exodus, Deft is known as a very safe ADC, with positioning superior to perhaps all but WeiXiao in LoL history. With EDG's early threat in jungler Clearlove, Deft is often safe to farm lanes for much of the game, before EDG turns to teamfights to close out the game. And once those teamfights come, Deft shows his true colors, as a fantastic mechanical ADC who can output huge amounts of damage safely.
The biggest problem Deft has faced this season is the quality of EDG's teamfights outside of him. A glaring weakness of the summer playoffs, which led to EDG's need to perform in the regonal qualifier, was his team's poor fight engagements, ked by badly-timed or poorly-positioned teleports from Koro1. Time will tell if a possible turn to AmazingJ at Worlds will help fix this problem, but Koro1 is the stronger top laner in individual play, so it may be a bit of a catch-22 for EDG. But even when EDG found terrible fights, Deft was often able to find a few consolation kills on his own towards the end through his great positioning.
EDG's bot lane is the strongest in their group, with Meiko edging out Wolf, and Deft being a more dynamic, harder-carrying Bang. Should their top laner, whoever that may be, contain Marin sufficiently, EDG will have the edge to win their group over SKT, and position themselves well for the bracket stage, setting up a matchup with KT, CLG, IG, FNC, or OG; any of those matchups is more than winnable for EDG, with Deft being the stronger ADC in all of them. Ultimately, this is Clearlove's team, but Deft will be the one pushing it to its limits.
8. GodV (Mid, LGD, #1 LPL)
The most talented third star at Worlds, GodV's flexibility is a huge boon for LGD's strategy and teamplay. With world champion Imp at ADC and semifinalist Acorn in the top lane(heck, even Flame on the bench), LGD is in no way lacking in star power. GodV's status as a secondary carry belies the potential he has to be the main star of a top team. Against top domestic competition in Pawn, Rookie, Doinb, and others, GodV may be the very best.
At Worlds, GodV is grouped with Nagne, Xpeke, and Bjergsen, three notable players, if not the most terrifying competition, given the circumstances. Against KT and OG, who each have solid to great outer lanes, GodV s the deciding favtor, a mid laner who demands the attention of the enemy team, and who will prevent any of his teammates from being focused down by the enemy junglers. His willingness to play, and excellence on, both assassins and control mages alike means he can be a threat to the enemy team in any game, at any time.
LGD being the most star-studded team at the championship sets them up for a strong bracket sage run, where only a handful of teams should pose a significant threat. As perhaps the only team with true carry threats from every lane, LGD may be the favorites to win it all, and GodV is the player who makes it so.
7. Acorn (Top, LGD, #1 LPL)
Where Imp is the dynamic carry of LGD, Acorn is the consistent, stalwart backbone. Though we've not truly seen him perform since the Juggernaut changes a couple of patches ago, Acorn's adaptability and longevity suggest that he should have no issue on the Worlds stage. A semifinalist at last year's championships, he's one of the strongest top laners in terms of teleport usage and gaining laning advantages. This will be paramount in the Group of Death, where he'll need to contend with the likes of Soaz and Ssumday, while he'll be demanding Santorin's attention against TSM.
As long as Acorn performs adequately, LGD's baseline talent will carry them into the bracket stage, but Acorn never performs merely adequately when it matters.
6. Smeb (Top, KOO, #2 LCK)
Like ReignOver from FNC, Smeb is a 2015 revelation following a poor 2014 with IM. Building a new team to challenge for an LCK spot going into 2015 following the Korean Exodus, Smeb came out swinging, pulling out picks like Riven which hadn't really been seen in over a year at top level competitive play. All year, he has challenged the standard play of top teams, and forced teams to always keep an eye on the top lane.
Following a poor international showing back in the spring at IEM Cologne, and a few months of struggling, KOO tuned it around in summer, eventually earning the number 2 seed from KR. But we've not seen Smeb on 5.16 or later, and KOO's last slump came with the introduction of Cinderhulk, so it remains to be seen if KOO can succeed here. But if anyone on this team will respond well to a major meta change, it'd likely be Smeb.
In Group A, Smeb should be the strongest top laner, perhaps followed by fellow carry top laner ZionSpartan of CLG. Otherwise, Smeb should dominate the top lane in the group stage, and move on to be an above-average bracket stage top laner. There, however, his supporting cast may begin to be outperformed nearly across the board by teams like LGD, EDG, and SKT. An ideal finish is top 4, a great accomplishment for Smeb and co.
5. Clearlove (JG, EDG, #2 LPL)
EDG has several carry threats, but at Worlds, junglers will come at a premium, and no jungler is a carry threat quite like Clearlove. Like LGD, EDG is fairly stacked with talent, with Pawn and Deft at the conventional carry roles. However, Deft and Pawn don't carry by dominating their lanes, even against domestic competition. Rather, they carry by cleaning up kills in teamfights, set up by Clearlove.
Clearlove is a farm-heavy jungler who allows his self-sufficient laners to fend for themselves, while he prevents the enemy jungler from exerting his own impact on the early game. Then, when the time is right, he and his team group up, and he dives the enemy team, opening them up for Deft's well-known teamfighting. This has allowed EDG to perform quite well domestically, if not always consistently, but it remains to be seen if EDG's laners can survive on their own against world-class opposition. If they can, Clearlove will shine as the top jungler in the class.
4. Ssumday (Top, KT, #3 LCK)
The highest-ranking top laner on my list, Ssumday has been the focus of KT's strategy during their rise in the summer season. even before the Juggernaut changes came into play. With more supportive players like Score and Nagne on the team, and recent addition Piccaboo at support, a lot of resources are focused onto Ssumday. KT's 8-1 match record since the middle of the summer season has much to do with Ssumday's efficiency, and his great teamfighting sets up Arrow to get kills and become a major threat in the late game.
Ssumday is one of the very best top laners at Worlds, and will appear as such if KT continues to play around him. His Teleport usage is better than many of his contemporaries, which will play a major part in how KT fares against OG and LGD in the Group of Death, two teams with standout top laners themselves, but perhaps more traditional carries. If Ssumday is unable to output damage and set up fights the way he did domestically, KT may fail to reach the bracket stage.
3. KaKAO (JG, IG, #3 LPL)
This probably looks like a mistake, and I can understand the doubt. But KaKAO is the player who makes his team go. Considering his team's rather weak bot lane, and good-not-great top laner, KaKAO will be relied upon as a top jungler at Worlds. Luckily for his team, this year's class of junglers is not particularly strong, and Group B is no exception. What IG lacks in overwhelming individual talent, they make up for with reliable engage and world-class teamfighting, and KaKAO is the backbone of both of those qualities, something he's retained from his days with KT.
IG has a decent group, with only Fnatic a true contender for first, but IG's inconsistency is a possible roadblock to the bracket stage. The Bo1 format will see IG sink or swim. As this team lacks international experience, they could easily falter, but KaKAO's veteran presence will be a major factor in their performance.
2. Imp (ADC, LGD, #1 LPL)
Another of the previous world champions on this list, Imp is the returning to his third Worlds, this time with LGD. Like last year, he is the star carry on the most talented roster in the world. What sets him apart from many other carries is that he consistently gets results, despite his dynamic marksman playstyle compared to most of his fellow countrymen. Though this was previously supported by the incredible vision control from his former teammates DanDy and Mata, he has managed to transition to LGD, with minimal struggles along the way.
With the meta favoring top laners at the moment, we'll see whether he has the same presence for LGD this year that he did for Samsung White last year. LGD's solo laners this year are even stronger than Samsung's last year, so they should have no problem advancing through the bracket stage, even if, contrary to every other occasion, Imp doesn't show up in a big way.
1. Faker (Mid, SKT, #1 LCK)
2 years of international experience, a world championship, and the definitive mid carry of, now, two world-class teams. There are three world champions on my list. but the others are surrounded on their teams by several top players at their roles at Worlds. But on SKT, there is just one bona fide star.
SKT's fate rides entirely on Faker's performance. Rarely has his team, especially this configuration, managed victory despite a poor performance from him. That margin of error will disappear against top competition like LGD and EDG.
Last time Faker appeared at Worlds, the mid lane was king, and his full power was on display. This time, however, the top lane is the center of attention, and he may be forced to play second fiddle to Marin. Against this class of top laners, that's reason enough to doubt that SKT can win.
However, if Faker is in prime form, the road to the championship will run through SKT.