A Worlds 2020 rematch: Suning vs. Top Esports set to kick off 2021 LPL Spring Split

Seventeen Chinese teams will battle it out for the regional title.

Photo via Riot Games

Over two months after the finals of the 2020 World Championship ended in Shanghai, League of Legends season 11 is finally here. And the LPL will be the first regional league to officially launch the game’s 2021 competitive season on Jan. 9. 

China’s scene gained more attention from international fans after Invictus Gaming won the 2018 World Championship. And last year, rookies dominated and brought new blood into the league. China lost the Worlds title, however, when the region’s last representative, Suning, faltered in the finals and fell to DAMWON Gaming in October. 

After their loss, the players were obviously disappointed. But Suning top laner Bin already had his eyes on the future. “Although we lost this year, we will be able to come back next year and grab the win,” Bin said. The tone was set for the next season.

The 2021 LPL Spring Split will kick off with a highly anticipated match featuring two top teams that have a lot to prove. Suning will take on Top Esports in a best-of-three on Jan. 9. Some League fans might think that Suning, the team that beat TES on their way to the finals of Worlds 2020, will grab an easy victory. But it likely won’t be that simple.

Following a disappointing loss to Suning in the semifinals of Worlds, the LPL Summer Split champions TES got some form of redemption by hoisting the Demacia Cup, the last tournament of the year held in December. They rolled over every team they faced, too. TES proved that they’re still title contenders ahead of the 2021 season, despite not meeting many fans’ high expectations at Worlds.

Suning, on the other hand, had an underwhelming performance in the Demacia Cup. The young lions fell short by losing their first series to ViCi Gaming 3-0. Contrary to what the score shows, though, the first two games were tight. But Suning’s performance faltered as ViCi players became more confident. Their opponents showed better cohesion and punished jungler SofM at every possible opportunity. 

Suning and TES have the potential to beat each other. Ultimately, tomorrow’s match will likely come down to which team takes the lead in the early game and who shows the most synergy as the match progresses.

Suning has to fill the void left by SwordArt

Photo via Riot Games

Even if the Demacia Cup was a tournament with nothing at stake for the regular season, it allowed League fans to see some of the new LPL rosters in action. Suning recently signed ADC Xie “Jinjiao” Jin-Shan, although Huanfeng remains on the roster too, and promoted support Luo “ON” Wen-Jun to the starting roster. Despite Jinjiao competing in the Demacia Cup, Huanfeng will remain the starting ADC for Suning’s next match. Many fans, though, will have their eyes on the team’s new starting support. 

After watching Suning’s performance at the Demacia Cup, it appears that former support player SwordArt, who left the team for TSM in November, was the cornerstone who held the players on this squad together. Suning, a team that was previously known for their decisive plays, looked all over the place in their series against ViCi. The casters’ guess was that the team was missing SwordArt’s shotcalling, which was a crucial part of Suning’s success, particularly in the early stages of their games last season.

Suning’s new starting support, ON, may also need some time to adjust to the LPL’s level of play and schedule. He established himself as a promising prospect when he competed in the academy league (LDL) for Suning-S. He was promoted as a substitute in June and was ultimately appointed to be Suning’s main support player in November. After ADC Huanfeng, he’s the next Suning rookie to be put in the spotlight for 2021. Although his fellow bot laner Jinjiao is more experienced, he might need some time to find his initial form in the role too because he played as Bilibili’s support in 2020, even though he’s primarily been an ADC throughout his career.

In any case, Suning should be an exciting team to follow in the next LPL split. They’ll enter the 2021 season with a much different narrative, going from underdogs to favorites who are burdened with high expectations. Their rise throughout the 2020 season was exceptional, but they didn’t grab a title despite defeating many top regional and international teams. In 2021, they might prove that they’re serious contenders to qualify for the playoffs and even secure a regional title. This journey will start by facing off against TES.

Top Esports aim to reclaim the regional title

Photo via Riot Games

Contrary to Suning, TES are used to being the favorites. They saw similar improvements in performance last season, but it happened quicker. TES missed the Spring Split title by only one game to JD Gaming and then grabbed it for good in the summer. When they hoisted the cup on China’s stage in August, they established themselves as serious contenders for the Worlds title. 

But after their disappointing journey at Worlds, TES made some adjustments to its roster and staff. The org parted ways with head coach Luo “Crescent” Sheng, who’s still a free agent, and welcomed Chen “WarHorse” Ju-Chih to replace him. He previously coached FPX for two years, including when they won the 2019 World Championship title. He’s known to put a heavy emphasis on structured drafts, which should be beneficial for his new team.

As for TES’ roster, only one player changed in the bot lane. Although Liang “yuyanjia” Jia-Yuan remains on the main roster, Wang “Zhuo” Xu-Zhuo now joins him in the support role. He belongs to the group of rookies from the LDL who are set to debut in the LPL in 2021. After last season with WE Academy, Zhuo made his debut with TES on stage during the Demacia Cup. He showed great synergy with bot laner Yu “JackeyLove” Wen-Bo, offering him enough space to dominate with tanky supports like Alistar and Leona.

Despite having a 1-7 record against Top Esports during the 2020 regular season, Suning found a way to defeat them at Worlds and can likely do it again. But they’ll need to play together in teamfights, which is one of their biggest strengths, and try not to lose the lead in the early game by using efficient shotcalling, which can be one of their keys to victory.

On the other side, TES’ strength lies in their solo lanes and individual plays. The bot lane could be their biggest question mark, but JackeyLove is well known for playing some of the strongest ADCs in the meta, like Jhin and Miss Fortune. Overall, they’ll need to showcase a good form and build the best drafts to win their first LPL series of the season.

TES will face off against Suning to start the 2021 LPL Spring Split on Jan. 9 at 3am CT on the LPL’s official Twitch channel.

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