Ranking the IEM Katowice Players - Top Lane
For me it almost feels predicted which teams are the best heading into IEM but I think it's more interesting comparing the players. I wanted to spend some time examining and ranking all the players compared to their competition. From the Top lane to the support I wanted to give an analysis on where I think these players stack up against each other. The qualities I'm looking for when ranking a player are, how vital they are to their teams victories, diversity of play styles and strength of their champion pools, and a very general "how good do they look". Keep in mind this is just my opinion and if you want to look at just my rankings I will provide my list up front, with analysis below.
Top lane is one of the most deceptively stacked match ups at this tournament. When making this, almost all of these teams have very strong top lane talents who are very good at multiple styles of play and have varying champion pools, with some players having picks that the others might not play at all.
- Smeb - GE Tigers
- Shy - CJ Entus
- Fredy122 - SK Gaming
- Dyrus - Team Solomid
- Steak - Yoe Flash Wolves
- Cabochard - Gambit Gaming
- Balls - Cloud 9
- Aluka - Team WE
Smeb - GE Tigers
Smeb right now is probably the strongest top lane in both Korea and arguably in the entire world. What I like about him most is that he's shown ability to play and carry with a number of different top lane styles and champions from playing giant tanks like Gnar, Maokai, and even bringing in the Dr.Mundo, but also on the more carry type mages like Lulu. One champion that I do think he's stamped his name on is his Rumble. Although sometimes it's weird to talk about who is the best "x" champion in the world, Rumble is a champion that I think many of these top lane players play and is something that will become a very contested pick, depending on the team match up. My advice for any teams right now, don't let him have it, his equalizers are always on point and he knows how to win in the straight 1v1 and also the lane swap. Ban out his Rumble because this man is probably the best Rumble in the world right now.
Shy - CJ Entus
CJ has been a team that when they are on their game they look outstanding but have been showing signs of inconsistency. Shy is a player that is just this, moments of amazing play but signs on inconsistency when he has an unfavorable match up or when he falls behind. That being said,Shy is one of the better players on CJ, and when he gets ahead and does well he is always one of the key parts to CJ's wins. I think part of the reason you see domestic issues where you see him go 1/7/2 or something is you look at who he is against, TrAce, Marin, Duke, the above mentioned Smeb, all Top Lanes who I consider to be the best in the world right now. I think with slightly less competition Shy has a chance to really shine, however this is still a tournament with other strong Top lane players, so if he relaxes there is a chance for him to fall.
Fredy122 - SK Gaming
Fredy has for a long time been one of the strongest Top laners in Europe, and it always amazes me to see how he can carry teams even from very large gold deficits. Personally it was very hard to rank my 3-5 because all three players, Fredy, Dyrus and Steak are so good and are the rocks that their teams can depend on. The reason I put Fredy as my number 3, is because of how much of a carry play maker he is. SK is a team where all their players have stepped up with the addition of Forg1ven and their roster remake at the beginning of the season but Fredy even in SK's losses always tries to make big plays, and is a player that I would argue still does well.
Dyrus - Team Solomid
It's only been recently that I've really cemented the reason why putting Dyrus at my 4th place spot makes as much sense as it does. Everyone has always sung the praises about how much of a rock he is, how much he can play anything for his team, however lately teams have been pitching a tent against Dyrus, trying to keep him down. But even with sometimes 3 even 4 people ganking him every game constantly, Dyrus still comes out of lane phase with the items he needs and often times even a gold lead compared to his enemy top laner. I say this but I should also mention how much Dyrus does just outright win his lane. His play is the definition of having a rock of a player, so even if other players on this list are considered to be more of a "carry" Dyrus is the Swiss army knife of top lane players.
Steak - Yoe Flash Wolves
It makes sense that most people would be surprised that I might argue Steak to be near the top of my list but especially this year Steak has become one of the most aggressive top lane players in all of LMS. His deep diving style as I would describe it, might catch teams unprepared to deal with giant chaotic team fights that LMS teams thrive in. For western fans they make the joke about how Wickd is the big Irelia player, well in LMS Irelia is a staple top lane pick that is usually the first or second choice for top lanes, and Steak is I think the best Irelia player in his region. He is brilliant at understanding the limits of his dive champions, and his ability to pick targets and staying on them allows the other big play makers on Yoe to kill everything around them. We'll see how much this forcing team fight style does on an international stage, but if teams allow Yoe to play their game, I don't see other teams being able to out team fight them right now especially with the amount of momentum they have right now with domestic success. That being said if teams are ready to deal with his aggression, I've seen Steak dive way to deep and die with getting little more than a bit of damage done.
Cabochard - Gambit Gaming
Cabochard is one of the newer additions to Gambit, and I think one of the most promising additions to the team. The last weeks have been a joy watching him bring out the flex top lane Morgana, and his Kennen has been the one in the EU LCS that has impressed me the most. When Gambit got their team together and went on there crazy climb to the top of the EU LCS, Cabochard has come out and made a name as a peeling team fight monster with the above mentioned Morgana and Kennen. Gambit as a team is a bit hard to read on how good they will do, but I think the first match they will have against CJ will tell us if they are one of the top teams at IEM or one of the bottom. People will shout about Gambit's history at IEM, so hopefully that same insane fighting spirit is with them.
Balls - Cloud 9
It's really weird for me to put balls almost at the bottom of this list when you consider who this guy is and what his own personal accomplishments are. However if you've watched Cloud 9 play lately, Balls has been one of the weakest members on a Cloud 9 that has been struggling to come back into form. Even when we saw Cloud 9 on their recent hot win steak, I still saw a lot of weakness from Balls in both lane and in team play. I haven't really seen him find a play style or champion that has brought him a lot of success, and I say this with knowing that his signature champion is Rumble, which has seen good play from him. But if you look at who he is against, well Cloud 9's first game is against Smeb's Rumble, so either C9 bans it away or risks giving it up. Hopefully he has gone into IEM with this weaknesses in mind and understands how to fix those problems.
Aluka - Team WE
Honestly I don't have much to say about Aluka, he's outclassed in basically every way by other top laners at this tournament. It's honestly been a little hard scouting WE and how they win since they've won a total of 8 games out of 30. However what I can say about Aluka is that I've only seen him play 3 champions, Maokai, Gnar, and some Sion, and he's very much used as a brick wall for his team and an initiator, and he's actually very good at that. What I worry about is that Gnar has fallen out of the meta because of the nerfs so I wonder if he has practice on the Hecarim or Lissandra, or any of the other big top lane picks right now. Aluka from what I've seen does what he needs of his team, but I think this competition is very stacked so we'll see if he's adapted his champion pool.