Photocredit: Lol esports
This is a list of what I consider to be the top 10 (best/most important) players that will be attending MSI this weekend. I will explain my opinion of why I list players in the order that I do, and close the article with a list of notable emissions and marquee matchups to look out for.
Because this is a top 10, some of your favourite players might not be on this list, and some very important players for worse/less favoured teams might be omitted as well. Before we begin, I’ll list the ‘Power-Rank’ of the teams that are attending, and appropriately, higher ranked teams will have more players. This is not a list of the best players by team.
1- SKT (T- MaRin, J- Bengi, M- Faker, A- Bang, S- Wolf, Sub- Easyhoon)
2- EDG (T- Koro1, J- ClearLove, M- Pawn, A- Deft, S- Meiko, Sub- Pressumably U)
3- TSM (T- Dyrus, J- Santorin, M- Bjergsen, A- WildTurtle, S- Lustboy, Sub- Reginald)
4- Fnatic (T- Huni, J- ReignOver, M- Febiven, A- Steelback, S- Yellowstar, Sub- Kektz )
5- AHQ (M- Westdoor, S- GreenTea, Irrelevant)
6- Besiktas (Irrelevant)
One important thing to keep in mind is that the only team that will, presumably, be using lots of subs is SKT, who will use Easyhoon until SKT lose. Perhaps Pawn will sub out if he becomes ill.
What defines MSI, for me, is the lack of any all-star junglers. There is no Dandy, no KaKao, no modern day Spirit on a good team. Given that there are very few carry junglers being played, and the lack of ultra-high-level junglers at the tournament, attention is turned more towards the laners, and specifically, the importance of the top-lane matchups when smite/tp are involved.
Faker remains the best and most consistent player in League of Legends history. He can play pretty well anything, and the attention that he demands in game and in pick-bans allows the rest of his team huge leeway in their play. Faker absorbs so much attention that carries such as bang and MaRin get a comparatively easy time when the Season 3 Champ is in lane.
He’s also extremely aggressive, prompting bengi to play in a general vicinity around mid- with a sharp focus on objective control. Faker’s aggressive playstyle and necessity to keep him pinned against the wall at all times means that, while he doesn’t have the best stats, he allows his team-mates to thrive. There isn’t much to be said about Faker that hasn’t been said.
A compelling argument could be made for Deft performing better than Faker is at the current moment in time. Given that Faker didn’t even have to play the finals vs GETigers, and Deft’s shoulders proved broad and his back strong, it’s relatively clear that Deft is doing almost all the carrying on EDG.
EDG did not look like the best team in the world in their finals against LGD. They lost lane-swaps and were fairly convincingly outmanoeuvred early on, and only won because of extremely well coordinated and systematic teamfights (especially around baron). The crux of all these teamfights was Deft, who, despite being denied Jinx, consistently showed superb awareness of his surroundings and smashed through fights.
The thing about Deft is not that he is the flashiest, most aggressive, and most dominating player in the game. But his days of giving up easy kills in lane while on SSB are long over, and he plays methodically and systematically, taking every edge to accelerate him to a place of utter dominance in team-fight environments.
And history has proven that a huge focus on bot-lane, trying to keep Deft down, is ineffective. Deft can get curb-stomped in lane, and still come out and tear through fights later on. This quality (shared by his team-mate dade in the past) is a big element of what made SSB so dominant.
This may or may not be the most controversial person on this list, but MaRin is, to me, the best and the most important Top-Laner attending MSI. I feel as though Ms. Frosk and Ms. Moser may impale me on Qiangs for placing MaRin above Koro1, let me explain.
MaRin’s play in the GETigers series was exceptional. When floundering, GE tends to focus heavily on top-lane, and MaRin does a really good job of not feeding, or even getting behind. He has a very large champion pool and exceptional TP timings. Most of this goes for Koro1 as well, but the reason MaRin makes the list above him is the flexibility with which SKT use him. One game, he is a pony running through the backlines, and another he is playing his 11-1 Maokai and forming a resolute tank line.
Not to mention that he’s shown his snap decision making to be top-notch as well. I still think that his proxy-play in game 4 against CJ was one of the best plays of 2015, and his distraction technique fuddled up CJ enough to allow SKT to survive. In a team that revolved around Faker, MaRin has stepped up admirably to provide that secondary star role that was sorely missing from SKT last year.
Fundamentally, all of TSM’s hopes and dreams lay on the shoulders of this Great Dane. For all of Lustboy’s good plays later on, most of their early-game relies on snowballing Bjergsen through coordinated 3-4 man ganks. The importance placed on this midlaner might be the highest of all teams attending MSI.
For all his great plays, flashy moves, and reliability, Bjergsen doesn’t crack the top 4 of this list because of several reasons. Firstly, the aforementioned focus that he receives every single game makes it quite hard to know how he will perform when, presumably, other teams are keyed into this plan. Secondly, the tank meta really doesn’t do Bjergsen any favours, with some of his Urgot/Cho’Gath games looking relatively sub-par as compared to his assassin/burst mage play.
Finally, the level of competition in the midlane is extremely high. Bjergsen will have to play against Pawn, Easyhoon, Febiven, and potentially Faker. This is a very strong cross-section of midlaners, and most of these players have the tenacity to keep having high influence in the game even when camped. Without being able to completely subjugate his opposition, will Bjergsen stand above?
However, he does make this list above Pawn and Easyhoon. He does this because he is the very most important player on TSM, and the hopes of the best western team live and die on his performance. When was the last time that Bjerg played poorly and TSM won? Bjergsen needs to perform, unlike someone like, Pawn, who has an extremely strong cast of team-mates that alleviate pressure.
Koro1 is placed above a great many big names in my book. Perhaps if the meta was different, he would be lower. But the TP and engage priority given to Top Laners at the moment is extremely fundamental to winning the game. As the meta has shifted to tanks, and again shifted to smite/tp tops, jungler focus has gone top-side as well. But Koro1 is no benefactor of a consistent Jungler presence, instead, he shows himself to be the final boss of the ‘China Talk’ coined ‘Chinese Mafia’- the three Chinese players on EDG that run around the map and snowball Pawn/Deft. He is always there to support his team at every turn, and manages to stay even or ahead of his competition despite often being pulled away by his Don.
However, he is placed below MaRin, and it may be by no fault of his own. In the LGD series, EDG played their lane swaps pretty poorly, and when Koro1 was not given any affordances, he looked a little lost. Not to mention that the Chinese Mafia seemed a little off-kilter that night as well, allowing 3 man ganks on Pawn consistently. Was this a communication breakdown? Koro1 still played teamfights amazingly, notably spacing out the enemy extremely well to keep Deft safe.
A big ‘wow’ moment for me is when Koro1 managed to effectively stall all five LGD members at baron when Pawn had one of the most hilariously awful ults I’ve ever seen.
Oh Pawn. You are known in the west as Faker’s kryptonite, despite really only shoving him in the dumpster in one series that arguably wasn’t very important. You gained something of a reputation throughout the last year as a ‘play-anything’ sort of player, and you managed to stay relevant in the LGD series despite being camped so fiercely that LGD was looking into hiring some building contractors. You’re even one of my favourite players of all time.
However, you find yourself #6 on this list. You find yourself past the half-way point, despite, for all states and measures, probably being one of the best mid-laners in the world. Hell, on a purely even playing field, you’re probably still better than Bjergsen. So why are you so low on this list?
Well, it might be because of your mixed bag of performance, and the team-mates you have around you. Some games, Pawn looked great, but was still over-shadowed by Atlas-esque feats of Deft. Some games, such as your Lulu game, looked pitiful and awful. It seemed that you brought out lots of weird picks to pull your opponents off kilter, and those picks almost always revolved around burst-mages and assassins, which doesn’t sit very well in this meta.
But you are still a great player, and despite some ill-fated TF ults, you did do extremely functional work in EDG teamfights. You did well to isolate important targets, even when you shouldn’t have (please don’t play Lulu). You managed to have an impact on the game despite being camped almost every game. But let’s face it- you need to be a touch more consistent.
I really wanted to give this one to Wolf and Bang, but if I’m being honest to myself, that’s because of Bang’s performance in the last 3 series he’s played, where he did well with comps built entirely around him. Bang has played extremely well, and probably deserves a spot on this list, but will have to settle for being the second best ADC at MSI instead.
Wolf, on the other hand, is top billing support at MSI in my eyes. He takes this spot because of how well he coordinates with his team and runs around the map while also keeping bang even or ahead in his lane. I might be completely off base here, but I think shotcalling is delegated between him and Bengi as well (I can’t find the source for this, sorry).
What wolf brings to the table is consistency. MaRin struggled in the past with always having the same game-impact, and Bang has been ramping up, but Wolf has kept on- notably innovating certain picks as well, such as Kennen support. He is never afraid to engage when he needs to, peel when he needs to, and run around after bengi to ward, when he needs to.
If this were Game of Thrones, this is the moment where King Thooorin would order my immediate execution and force my girlfriend to stare at my impaled head while letting her know the cost of such high treason as placing ClearLove above all other junglers.
And if we had a spirit, or a dandy, or a kakao, then ClearLove would be left happily on his pasture to graze. But I think that he’s the best jungler at MSI. Let’s examine why.
For a long time, ClearLove was known as a herbivore jungler, someone who farms up and has an impact late into the game. Despite being the most-winning-est player of all time in League of Legends, he’s always been put down because of the incredible support system around him. He’s had the best ADC in the world on his team 3 times (WeiXiao, Namei, Deft). He’s always had good midlaners. People put him down for the same reason I rated Pawn so low.
But this season, something changed within the Cow that was ClearLove. He started making early plays, being aggressive, and snowballing lanes hard. He did all this for most of the season, while maintaining his monstrous team-fighting presence. And while he did have a sort of reversion in the playoffs, his team-fighting seemed as sharp as ever.
And that is what defines ClearLove. He’s not the best jungler around- he doesn’t make super flashy plays all the time, he doesn’t make you want to jump off a bridge the way that dandy/kakao do. But what he does is ensure that his team, year after year after year, make it late enough in the game to where he can maximize his particular skill-set and completely control the pace and tempo. I feel as though ClearLove is keenly aware that he always has the best ADC in the world on his team, because he would be damned if you touched his precious baby in big fights.
ClearLove’s style can be dreary, it can be boring and seem ineffective. But I challenge you to find a teamfight that EDG win where this jungler isn’t creating zones, spacing out players, and all around doing everything right.
Who are the stars of TSM? Who are the most important and the best players on that team? Bjergsen, of course, is the best player in the west. But the second best player seems clearly to be Lustboy. Lustboy dips dives and dodges in teamfights to set up extremely crisp engages. He dons his suit and tie and is the best secret service that the oft suicidal Turtle could hope for. He does well with his jungle harass and has great roams to snowball Bjergsen. He sets up engages for TSM admirably.
Lustboy really does, to me, feel like the glue that holds TSM together. Without Lust, I’m not sure if TSM would be the best team in the west. I don’t think Bjerg could carry it all by himself. Lust does so much, especially in the early game, to help keep his team relevant, and you can always count on his strong engages or timely disengages to keep other teams on their toes.
On one hand, it feels criminal to be placing Yellowstar so low. On the other hand, it feels wrong to place Yellowstar/Lustboy above players such as bang, and Meiko. But here he is, the player many tote to be the best support in the west.
He’s been to every EU LCS final, winning 4/5. He built up a completely rookie team around him, and still won. He made it to the Semifinals at worlds. Of all western players, he is the most decorated.
So what about Yellowstar keeps him from the importance of Bjergsen, or the impact of a MaRin or a Koro1? Well, the strategies that Fnatic won EU LCS with this season were, simply put, very messy. The games were played loose and fast, there seemed to be little foreword planning, and the way that the games played out rivalled a basketball game for the amount of throws performed. Yellowstar is a shining beacon of consistency in terms of results, but his team has never looked so disorientated and uncoordinated as it does today.
Earlier I made much ado about coordination and clean play, and that’s something that Yellowstar’s team lacks. Might it be from his own shotcalling? Whatever the case, Yellowstar has to prove himself to be adaptable and solid as a support to have a good showing at MSI. He has to re-evaluate and reconfigure his team’s approach in order for them to place above fourth.
But that’s what lands him on this list. Fnatic is still a team that can make an upset happen, and if it does, it will be mostly thanks to Yellowstar.
Febiven– A good midlaner, to be sure. Probably the best in Europe, and the second Star on Fnatic. But faced up against the competition that is present at MSI, he will have to perform better than he ever has. He also suffers in that he doesn’t always snowball a personal advantage into a win.
Easyhoon– Is a very good midlaner. He plays well and he even changed his passive play-style to dumpster GETigers. He doesn’t make this list because he isn’t Faker. He’s not as important as Faker and his inclusion goes to show the skill of the players around him more-so than his own, at least historically.
Meiko– The third Member of the Chinese Mafia is a great support, but he is nowhere near as imperative to the success of EDG as the rest of its members seem to be. He does exactly what he needs to do, and if EDG do win, perhaps I will re-evaluate leaving him off the list.
Bang– The only reason I left bang off this list was because of Faker. Bang is a good player, especially in most recent series. He had one of the best performances ever in Game 4 vs CJ. His Kalista is great. But Faker affords him so much in terms of cooldowns and pressure that it might cover up for some of bang’s flaws.
Koro1 vs MaRin.
This matchup will, in my eyes, be the most important of the game, because I feel as though the pressure on the map and the rotations that follow will be defined by the use of teleport and the ability for these toplaners to affect other members.
However, EDG proved quite weak in laneswaps…
Bjergsen vs Eastern Midlaners (Pawn/Easyhoon/Faker)
Bjerg is the most important member of TSM. Fundamentally, he will need to get ahead in this matchups or at least stay even if playing a Kog’maw or similar in order to have his team win. SKT showed strats revolving around bang, but TSM has not. It’s all on Bjerg.
ADV. Eastern Midlaners
Dyrus vs MaRin/Koro1.
To be honest, this isn’t a matchup that Dyrus can win. What Dyrus needs to do here is not get absolutely crushed, and not feed like mad. What Dyrus needs to do is to have good TP timings (unlike recently), and be able to play smite/tp champions. What Dyrus needs to do is make sure that these Toplane monoliths don’t just go ham on the entire enemy team.
ClearLove vs The Cow.
Please CL, please don’t give into the temptations of the herbivore. Please let’s see that aggressive, play-making jungler that showed up during the season. Please. Please prove Thoooooorin wrong. It’s all we’ve ever wanted.
ADV. The Cow