Record: 12-0 | League: LCK | +/-: --
Griffin's reign as our No. 1 in the Global Power Rankings came close to an end when it barely scraped by SK Telecom T1 in the marquee match of the year. Although Griffin was outmuscled by SKT, it was the ingenuity and quick thinking of team leader Lee "Tarzan" Seung-yong that led to Griffin keeping its unbeaten streak in 2019 alive. A double teleport Nexus rush in the third game was the difference-maker.
With SKT and Sandbox Gaming out of the way for Griffin on the regular-season schedule, the road to an 18-0 season and clear advancement to the spring final seems all but confirmed. It will take a massive upset from one of the unprovens in South Korea to stop Griffin's march to become the first team in LCK history to go through the regular season without a defeat.
After their instant classic last week, it's not only SKT that is crossing its fingers for a rematch.
2. Topsports Gaming
Record: 9-2 | League: LPL | +/-: +2
Last week we mentioned how Topsports Gaming was improving its macro play bit by bit, but the team can easily outplay opponents in a one-on-one, 2-on-2, or even 1-on-2 skirmishes. Topsports' series against both FunPlus Phoenix and Suning Gaming had examples of knowing where to be on the map, how to leverage the advantages, and weird and wacky outplays. Only a team with the level of talent that Topsports has could get away with turning around some of the situations that it does. Still, the team is a bit messier than we would like. Would a hypothetical Topsports/Griffin matchup devolve into skirmishes, or would it rely on trading blows in late-game 5-on-5 teamfights? We want to see it.
3. Invictus Gaming
Record: 8-3 | League: LPL | +/-: --
This was a week where iG did exactly what it was supposed to do: beat Victory Five and Team WE. In this cluster of strong Chinese teams (and a rising SK Telecom T1, even with its loss to Griffin) we still think iG is one of, if not the best, team in China. It also has it relatively easy this week with only one match against Vici Gaming. Let's just hope iG starts Yu "JackeyLove" Wen-Bo to avoid another LGD Gaming-like slip.
4. SK Telecom T1
Record: 9-4 | League: LCK | +/-: +2
How does a team that lost a match last week move up in the rankings? Simple: all it had to do is play in one of the best best-of-three matches in League of Legends history and narrowly avoid taking out the No. 1 team in the world that hadn't lost this year.
The "dream team" tagline has haunted SKT sometimes this split, as each of its map losses comes with criticism of every player on the team. This is a team expected to be playing in the 2019 world championship final in eight months, and anything but fighting a team like Griffin or Invictus Gaming for the Summoner's Cup would be considered a failure for a squad built around the game's greatest in Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok.
The potential on paper is finally translating to play on Summoner's Rift, and next time SKT play Griffin, a moral victory won't be enough for Faker & Co. SKT expects to be playing in the LCK spring final versus Griffin, and it wants to be the one to end Griffin's legendary run.
5. Royal Never Give Up
Record: 7-2 | League: LPL | +/-: --
There's no better sign that RNG is back than a win over the LPL's formerly undefeated team FunPlus Phoenix. RNG largely took wins off weaker teams to climb in the power rankings, but last week's win over FunPlus gives the team another boost. Everything is working with Hung "Karsa" Hau-Hsuan as the solo jungler, as well as Jian "Uzi" Zi-Hao as the main carry. With the LPL on the newest AD carry itemization focused patch, expect RNG to skyrocket from here.
6. FunPlus Phoenix
Record: 8-2 | League: LPL | +/-: -4
FunPlus Phoenix had just cleared the hurdle of Invictus Gaming and was on its way to securing that top spot in the LoL Pro League by running the gauntlet of iG, Royal Never Give Up, and Topsports Gaming. As a few analysts had expected, the worst matchup for FunPlus was certainly RNG, which basically downloaded FunPlus after Game 1 and attacked mid laner Kim "Doinb" Tae-sang. Against Topsports, FunPlus focused on its early game from draft, and Doinb's Righteous Glory Ryze took center stage next to Lin "Lwx" Wei-Xiang's Lucian. Topsports adjusted by picking its own strong bot-side laning matchups (Kalista) or going for a strong pushing mid lane with Knight's Corki to keep Doinb in lane. Slowly, teams are learning how to adapt to FunPlus and it will now need to find more ways to play its Doinb-focused style, or branch out completely.
7. JD Gaming
Record: 7-3 | League: LPL | +/-: +6
Until last night, this spot was going to Bilibili Gaming. Then it lost to Team WE. In last week's ranking, we discussed how it hurt a bit to be placing BiliBili so high, especially above teams like, say, JD Gaming. When we last left off with JD Gaming in the top 10, the team was just below the TOP/iG/FPX/RNG cluster. They're still in that same situation -- not as strong as the likes of TOP or iG, but could still take a game or even entire match on a good day. Against a team like SinoDragon that relies on teamwork and jungler Wang "Xiaopeng" Peng to win, we saw JDG overwhelm in teamfights with aggressive plays from Zeng "YaGao" Qi. We don't see JDG overcoming the top LPL teams, but we also don't see it dropping all that much.
8. Team Liquid
Record: 13-1 | League: LCS | +/-: +1
When a South Korean import slot player comes to North America, it's always a dicey proposition. Most of the time, the hype is greater than the impact the import slot player does on the actual playing field. This isn't the case with former world champion and two-time world final Jo "CoreJJ" Yong-in. The star support's re-entrance into the LCS has been nothing short of game changing for his new Team Liquid, which currently sits at a dominating position atop of NA with a record of 13-1. A three-peat and return trip to the Mid-Season Invitational is inching ever closer for Liquid, and a league MVP for CoreJJ should not be too far behind.
9. G2 Esports
Record: 13-3 | League: LEC | +/-: -1
Well, G2 is certainly doing it again. G2 is undoubtedly the strongest team in Europe, but that doesn't mean the team is untouchable. After a relaxing start to the season, G2 is beginning to be punished for lackadaisical drafts and gameplay, dropping another match to Splyce last week. That puts G2 at 13-3 for the season, which is still great and continues to lock it in the top 10. In a solo match format, G2 is bound to lose some games, but the team can't forget to take its competition seriously once the playoffs arrive.
Record: 10-4 | League: LCK | +/-: --
It's hard to put a finger on how good Sandbox Gaming really is. At times, the team feels like a byproduct of a weakened LCK, one where all three of last year's world representatives are fighting it out at the bottom of the table not to fight in the relegations alongside the wingless Jin Air Green Wings. Yet, right when you're about to write off Sandbox, it has a week where it dispatches fellow rookie organization rival Damwon Gaming in impressive fashion before putting up a competitive bout with Griffin.
Sandbox isn't going to wow fans with its macro, and it sometimes can tunnel vision on neutral monster objectives, but it has served the team well this year. It has found hidden gems like Park "Summit" Woo-tae and Jang "Ghost" Yong-ju from the proverbial trash heap, watching them mature into some of the best players at their position in only a few short months. Summit might be the best top laner currently in the LCK, and Ghost, highly-touted prospect turned bust on CJ Entus and BBQ Olivers, has turned his career around on Sandbox.
As strange as it sounds to say, Sandbox Gaming might be a legitimate threat to make it worlds this year as a South Korean representative.