Year after year, Worlds provides an opportunity to marvel at some of the greatest League of Legends players in the world. Usually, the headlines are made by the superstars with countless years of total experience under their belts.
But every once in a while, a young player strikes the scene like a bolt of lightning, breaking out on the international stage in impressive fashion.
Throughout Worlds history, there have been some notable rookies to break out on the international stage. In 2017, Rasmus “Caps” Winther helped carry Fnatic through a gauntlet of tiebreaker matches, leading the organization to its second quarterfinal appearance in a span of three years. At Worlds 2013, then-rookie Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok made a statement as the most promising young star in the world when he and SK Telecom T1 blazed a trail to the Summoner’s Cup with an impeccable tournament record of 15-3.
No matter which young player you focus in on, it’s important to remember that everyone was a rookie once. Some rookies just made bigger splashes at Worlds than others. Here’s four to keep an eye on at this year’s tournament.
Tactical – Bottom Lane, Team Liquid
Edward “Tactical” Ra emerged from the shadows exactly when Team Liquid needed him to. After the midseason departure of Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng, TL was strapped for answers, but Tactical answered the call to action emphatically. Stepping into massive shoes, he helped carry the team to a record of 15-3 in the Summer Split, while serving as the only young player on a roster filled to the brim with veteran talent.
Alongside LCS MVP Jo “CoreJJ” Yong-in, Team Liquid was able to create a bottom lane environment where their young star could shine to the fullest extent. Tactical posted a KDA of 4.9 in 31 games this Summer (including playoffs), while the regular split saw him outrank every other bottom laner in North America in CSM, GPM, and DMG%.
At the World Championship, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to fully expect Tactical to continue his hot streak. He’s spent the better part of the last three months taking opposing North American bottom lanes to task. Now, he’s fully equipped to take on the best from the world. Even with a group of incredibly capable veteran players surrounding him at every position, Tactical has blended right in seamlessly. Even though he’s spent just a few months playing at the highest level, Tactical is walking into Worlds like he’s been there before.
Shad0w – Jungle, MAD Lions
MAD Lions were the new kids on the block in the LEC this year, and out of all the young, promising players that the roster sports, Zhiqiang “Shad0w” Zhao stands out coming into the World Championship. Not only will his prowess in the jungle be tested by his contemporaries at the Play-in Stage, but if MAD Lions were to advance to the tournament’s main event, Shad0w would be one of the only junglers at Worlds who isn’t a tested veteran.
Throughout the regular season, Shad0w showed that he was able to hang tough with some of the strongest junglers in Europe. In his first full season in the league, looked like a seasoned player right alongside his colleagues. This Summer, Shad0w was named to the LEC All-Pro team, as his 3.8 KDA—3rd best among LEC junglers—and impressive mechanical abilities to boot were enough to earn the respect of the league. Time and time again, Shad0w and the MAD Lions showed that although their roster was filled with unproven prospects, the team was still a force to be reckoned with.
And now, after proving his caliber on the domestic level, Shad0w will look to the international stage, where the greatest junglers in the world are waiting in the wings. At Worlds 2020, look for him to rise to the occasion and prove why a team loaded with rookies can compete on the international stage.
Keria – Support, DRX
The LCK doesn’t have a Rookie of the Year award, but if it did, Ryu “Keria” Min-seok would have won it without question. The up-and-coming 17 year-old DRX support made his professional debut earlier this year after Park “TusiN” Jong-ik left to join KT Rolster this past offseason.
During the domestic portion of the season, Keria led DRX to 78 wins, with a winning percentage of 64 percent throughout the course of the year, and a total KDA of 4.3. Beyond that, he made his name on engage-heavy, flashy supports like Thresh, Bard, and Nautilus. Additionally, his 22.0 KDA across sven games on Yuumi this Summer showcased a level of versatility with a pocket pick that’s usually only seen on players with years of development and practice under their belts. Keria, however, already plays the role of battle-hardened veteran incredibly well.
Partially, that’s because of his laning partner. Throughout 2020, Keria has definitely grown alongside his legendary lane partner, Kim “Deft” Hyuk-kyu. The duo proved itself to be one of the strongest lane partnerships in the LCK, dominating the domestic scene from the very get-go.
Now, on the international stage, Keria will look to prove that him and Deft can bring that same level of dominance to the World Championship as they stand toe to toe with the best duos in the world. Despite the stark difference in experience between him and not only his lane partner, but his potential adversaries, as well, Keria has already made his case as to why he should be treated with the same level of respect as some of the most experienced players in the professional scene.
Carzzy – Bottom Lane, MAD Lions
Another piece of the MAD Lions puzzle, Matyáš “Carzzy” Orság represents a shining example of how MAD Lions invested in young talent and watched it pay dividends as the year progressed. On a team with four rookies, Carzzy stood out as a potential superstar in his first year playing at the highest level of professional League.
Throughout the Summer Split, Carzzy posted a KDA of 4.4 and a DPM of 543, both of which ranked high among all qualified LEC bot laners according to gol.gg. Beyond that, Carzzy’s mechanical skill in a carry position is a massive factor when it comes to his renown. In a league with a ton of young, promising players, Carzzy stands out as a stalwart prospect.
And now, as MAD Lions heads into the World Championship, the team will look to its young stud in the bottom lane. As Carzzy goes, so do the MAD Lions. If the team is going to have a successful run thorough not only the Play-in Stage, but the tournament’s main event, as well (should they qualify), it will be on the back of a player in Carzzy whom the team has lived and died by all season long.