Spring and summer champions have been crowned across all the League of Legends regional competitions, which means it's time to determine the best team in the world. To get you caught up before the start of worlds on Friday in Shanghai, here's a breakdown of the biggest storylines, strongest teams, who to watch and more from South Korea's League of Legends Champions Korea, China's League of Legends Pro League, Europe's League of Legends European Championship and North America's League of Legends Championship Series.
South Korea (LCK)
Teams qualified: DAMWON Gaming, DRX, Gen.G
What's the LCK's biggest storyline going into worlds?
Is this the beginning of a new generation for League of Legends' winningest region? Since 2013 when South Korea won its first championship behind SK Telecom T1 and its ace mid laner Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok, the region has been primarily known for its counterpunching, methodical style of playing the game. With the young guns on DAMWON Gaming usurping the old guard and speedrunning their way to a first-ever domestic title, times could be changing in South Korea behind the pace of their new champions. Watch out for DWG's three-headed carry monster of Jang "Nuguri" Ha-gwon, Kim "Canyon" Geon-bu and South Korean MVP Heo "ShowMaker" Su to take games over early and often en route to 20-minute victories.
Which are the strongest LCK teams?
Obviously, the aforementioned DWG are the team to keep your eyes on from South Korea. They bring a different swagger to the world championship often not seen from No. 1 seeds coming from Seoul, and backed by their all-out aggression and slick mechanics, they're the perfect combination of brutality and finesse.
The second-best team coming from South Korea is actually their No. 3 seed, Gen.G Esports, which plays much more of the standard style the region is known for. Every player on the team knows their role and what they need to do to get the job done. The team's ultimate win condition is their late-game, carrying ace, Park "Ruler" Jae-hyuk, who won a world title the last time worlds was in China in 2017.
South Korea's third team, DRX, play like a poor man's DWG, but they have a cheat code named Jeong "Chovy" Ji-hoon in the mid lane. If some of the slumping DRX players pick it up at worlds and Chovy continues playing like one of the best players in the world, they have the potential to knock out anyone in the competition.
Who do I want to get in my group?
DRX, no question. Although they have one of the scariest players in Shanghai in Chovy, the rest of the team is exploitable, especially their play on the top of the map with rookie jungler Hong "Pyosik" Chang-hyeon and inconsistent sophomore Choi "Doran" Hyeon-joon. Whereas Gen.G and DWG function like well-oiled machines -- DWG playing quickly and Gen.G letting Ruler farm items -- DRX sometimes looks like five players playing individual games instead of a singular team working toward a common goal.
You never really want to draw a South Korean team in your group, but if there is one that has the potential to flop and give games up to weaker opponents, DRX is the clear answer.
What's their playstyle?
DWG are all about pushing the pedal to the metal. They play like an F1 race car, zipping around the map with a luxury engine that is the envy of almost every organization in the world. DRX try playing like that, but they lack, well, the parts and coordination to make it work. When the stars do align, they're world beaters, but other times their spastic, unorganized style finds them careening into a wall instead of winning matches.
Gen.G don't play as slow as they used to, but they still love to play around Ruler in the bottom lane. Luckily for them, they have a jungler in Kim "Clid" Tae-min who can snowball lanes, particularly Ruler's, in the early-game and one of the best mid laners in the world Gwak "Bdd" Bo-seong who excels in pressuring his side lanes with champions like Twisted Fate and Galio.
Who should I watch?
Chovy is a one-man army. There's always the chance that DRX starts playing together as a unit as they did early in the summer split, but even if a majority of their members keep stumbling, Chovy is always a delight to watch work his magic in the mid lane. When it comes to lane domination, there are few players at the world championship who can even come close to Chovy, as the DRX mid laner regularly finds himself in large leads early by lane control alone.
Like Chovy, Nuguri is a lane-dominant tyrant in the top lane, pushing under opponents' turrets and doing his best to make their lives a nightmare. He's one of the top players in South Korea in getting solo kills, and his attacking playstyle ranks him as one of the strongest top laners in the world coming into the world championship. After winning the LCK's summer final, Nuguri experienced pneumothorax (collapsed lung) and underwent successful surgery, opening the door for him to compete in Shanghai with his team.
-- Tyler Erzberger
Teams qualified: Top Esports, JD Gaming, LGD Gaming, Suning
What's the LPL's biggest storyline going into worlds?
When a region is on top, the natural storyline going into their next international event is whether they can stay there. The LPL has won nearly every international event they've been invited to over the past two-and-a-half years, including the 2018 Mid-Season Invitational (Royal Never Give Up), 2018 LCK-LPL-LMS Rift Rivals, 2018 Asian Games, the 2018 world championship (Invictus Gaming), the 2019 world championship (FunPlus Phoenix), and most recently, the Mid-Season Cup (Top Esports). It's not the same domination that South Korea's LCK once had, but everyone will be aiming to take down the top Chinese teams to see if they can end the LPL's worlds streak at two.
Which are the strongest LPL teams?
The two strongest LPL teams are the top two seeds that qualified for the world championship from the region in Top Esports and JD Gaming. These are also the two teams that have generally been at or around the top of the standings in the LPL all year. Both were spring finalists with JDG emerging victorious, and TES got their revenge in a rematch during the summer finals. It's difficult to talk about one without the other in the context of the 2020 LPL since they've both pushed each other and generally have been evenly matched.
TES's strengths are more obvious. They have one of the most individually stacked lineups in the world and arguably the best player in the world in Zhuo "knight" Ding. Most importantly, even if the meta changes while at worlds to become more bot-lane-focused with Xayah or Kai'sa picks, TES will be perfectly fine adjusting to this due to the strength of their bot laner Yu "JackeyLove" Wen-Bo. Meanwhile, JDG are better in practice than on paper. They tend to draft and play well around their own weaknesses, but like FPX before them, this actually makes them scary to face given how they typically will bend without breaking.
Who do I want to get in my group?
Both Suning and LGD Gaming had inconsistent summer splits. In Suning's case it was in spite of a fairly strong regular-season record where, more often than not, they were able to hold back and out-teamfight their opponents when they made mistakes. Go back and watch their first summer series against LNG Esports and then watch their most recent series against LGD that qualified them to worlds and you can see just how far they've come. Suning had talented players who didn't seem to truly click until the playoffs.
Similarly, LGD reached the summer playoffs thanks in large part to the efforts of jungler Han "Peanut" Wang-ho and mid laner Su "Xiye" Han-Wei who are the two stars of the team. It took improved performances from top laner Xie "Langx" Zhen-Ying and increased coordination to get them to worlds. Neither team should be a pushover, but they both have exploitable weaknesses and don't as easily cover their mistakes as either TES or JDG.
What's their playstyle?
The LPL has a reputation for being bloody, and with good reason. In the recent JDG-TES summer finals series, both teams offered up some interesting Level 1 fights that led to many kills. However, it's worth noting that while TES is the bloodiest team among the LPL representatives, all four teams tend to play a bit slower than what people imagine the LPL to be -- i.e. Level 2 ganking junglers like the now-retired Liu "Mlxg" Shi-Yu. LPL bot laners will still constantly look to trade kills aggressively, and these teams will fight unexpectedly, catching non-regional opponents off guard. If there's one thing that defines these four teams it's their proficiency at teamfighting and skirmishing.
Who should I watch?
Zhuo "knight" Ding (mid lane, Top Esports): Knight is being called the best player in the world for a reason. People have been waiting for him to make it to worlds since his LPL debut two years ago.
Zhang "Zoom" Xing-Ran (top lane, JD Gaming): Most watch JDG for jungler Seo "Kanavi" Jin-hyeok, and that's fair, but for a teamfighting team like JDG, there is no better top laner for them than Zoom, who is probably the best Ornn player in the world and has recently reiterated that he can play pretty much any champion the team needs.
Lê "SofM" Quang Duy (jungle, Suning): I was torn between naming SofM or Suning's prodigious rookie bot laner Tang "huanfeng" Huan-Feng. In the end, I went with SofM because fans have been waiting to see him at worlds since he joined Snake Esports in 2016, and with no Vietnamese teams at this year's championship, SofM will carry the hopes and dreams of his region with him. He's also just a fun jungler to watch, even while power-farming.
Su "xiye" Han-Wei (mid lane, LGD Gaming): Xiye returns to the worlds stage at a time where the meta will likely suit him well, even with recent Twisted Fate nerfs. The one-two punch of Peanut and Xiye is what has made LGD a worlds team, and if they're to advance in this tournament, Xiye will certainly be a large contributor.
-- Emily Rand
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Team qualified: G2, Fnatic, Rogue, MAD Lions
What is the LEC's biggest storyline going into worlds?
Whether or not G2 Esports will be able to get to their second consecutive worlds final. It has been a rough year for G2. At the beginning of the year, the team experimented with sending Luka "Perkz" Perković back to the mid lane and moving Rasmus "Caps" Winther to the bottom lane. It didn't go well. While Perkz excelled at his former position, Caps didn't perform as well as an AD carry as Perkz did in 2019. G2 still won the finals of the spring playoffs, but it became apparent the team needed to swap back to what worked last year. So they did.
The summer split was rocky for G2, although as they did in the spring, they won the summer finals. Early in the summer, Perkz's father died, leading to a disruption in the team as the star took some time off to grieve. When he returned, G2 worked to figure itself out, but it became clear: Caps was once again one of the best players in the LEC. Caps won the league's summer MVP award, and G2 made a run through the playoffs losers bracket after they lost to Fnatic early in the summer playoffs. They head into worlds with momentum, but whether that's enough to defeat international teams remains to be seen.
Which teams in the region are the strongest?
Look out for G2 and Fnatic. Yeah, maybe we say that every year about these two, but 2020 has been challenging for both. Yet somehow -- as they always do -- they placed top two in the LEC. When they're clicking, G2 shows the brilliance that made them 2019 Mid-Season Invitational champions and 2019 worlds finalist. That version of G2 is scary, and they can overwhelm many teams. Meanwhile, Fnatic's playoff identity showed some of the best performances of mid laner Tim "Nemesis" Lipovšek's short pro career, and Martin "Rekkles" Larsson regained his title of Europe's best AD carry. When the pressure is on, G2 and Fnatic seem to step up more than their fellow LEC teams.
Why is the LEC sending four seeds to worlds this year?
Riot announced earlier this year that because the LEC and LPL both have performed consistently high at international competitions -- the past two MSIs and world championships have been won by either an LPL or LEC team -- both regions would get four seeds. Since the regional finals no longer exists in Europe and championship points only matter for seeding, the top four teams from the summer playoffs qualified for the world championship.
Who do I want to get in my group?
Rogue. They're the third seed coming out of the LEC, which should in theory make them stronger than MAD Lions. But, Rogue's playstyle is more ironed out, which makes MAD Lions a bit more unpredictable. Rogue are a good team, but they struggled all season when the odds were against them and the pressure was on. Don't count them out, but among the LEC teams, they're the one who is easiest to study up on and beat.
What's their playstyle?
Well, for G2 and MAD Lions, they both look like they take a lot of notes from the LPL teams. They're aggressive, play through their strong laners -- Caps and Marek "Humanoid" Brázda -- and move as a team across the map. Fnatic and Rogue are a little bit more predictable. They like to play aggressively through their junglers but also enjoy a good late-scaling game. Europe has a dynamic set of four teams and the region itself doesn't have as much as a single playstyle.
Who should I watch?
Caps. This season's world championship has one of the best classes of mid laners for international events in recent memory. The LEC MVP mid laner, who's had a banner summer to say the least, could find himself against Zhuo "knight" Ding, Søren "Bjergsen" Bjerg, Jeong "Chovy" Ji-hoon, Jang "Nuguri" Ha-gwon, Tristan "PowerOfEvil" Schrage, Nicolaj "Jensen" Jensen and others. It'll be interesting to see how Caps matches up against such a stacked class and how he performs. If G2 goes far, it'll be because of Caps.
-- Jacob Wolf
North America (LCS)
Teams qualified: TSM, FlyQuest, Team Liquid
What's the LCS's biggest storyline going into worlds?
It's the same storyline every year: how will NA do at worlds? Will a team make a miracle run like Cloud9 in 2018, or will all the teams flame out as has been the case in many, many, many, many other years? Before answering that, let me draw attention to something else:
The biggest storyline from the LCS this season might actually be about the team that isn't going to worlds, Cloud9. If you only pay attention to the LCS at worlds, then you are still very familiar with Cloud9, who had an impressive semifinal berth in 2018. Yet despite going 17-1 during the spring split and losing only one game the entire spring playoffs, then going 9-0 to start summer, Cloud9 failed to qualify for worlds.
How on earth can that possibly happen?
Well, the root cause is changes to how LCS teams qualify for worlds in 2020 compared to previous years. The regional finals were eliminated, and spring split results would not matter. The top three teams from the 2020 summer split playoffs would be the ones representing the LCS at worlds.
The arrival of the summer playoffs coincided with Cloud9 going on a cold streak. C9 went 2-5 in their final seven games of the regular season. They got bumped to the playoffs losers bracket after a loss to FlyQuest (more on them later), then eventually knocked out of the postseason (and worlds contention) by TSM in a decisive 3-1 series.
Here's the kicker: TSM now includes Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng, who famously publicly vented about the first half of the season being inconsequential a few months ago. So, the team that dominated spring (and most of the season) ended up getting eliminated from worlds contention by the team who includes the guy that said spring split doesn't matter.
What a story.
Which are the strongest teams in the LCS?
FlyQuest were the most consistent team in the LCS in terms of results. Though they didn't win a championship this year, they made it to the spring and summer finals. Tied for second in the spring regular season, the team beat Golden Guardians, TSM and Evil Geniuses in an impressive losers bracket run to make the grand final, where they lost to C9. In the summer, FlyQuest kept the momentum going, placing third in the regular season but this time staying in the winners bracket the entire playoffs. They beat Evil Geniuses, C9 and Team Liquid en route to a second straight grand final.
For you fellow stats nerds out there, FlyQuest was impressive when looking at the numbers: second in the LCS in team kill-to-death ratio (1.10) and average gold differential after 15 minutes (365). A first Baron rate of 71% -- first in the LCS. FlyQuest also led the league in lane control percentage (50.4%). AD carry Jason "WildTurtle" Tran led the LCS in KDA (minimum 10 games played) with a 9.6. Jungler Lucas "Santorin" Tao Kilmer Larsen led the league in kill participation (80.3%) and first-blood percentage (61%). Mid Laner Tristan "PowerOfEvil" Schrage led the LCS in overall kills (83), and support Lee "IgNar" Dong-geun led the LCS in assists (179).
What I'm trying to say is, the team was pretty consistent.
It wasn't all smooth sailing for SeaQuest (more on this below): Wildturtle was subbed out for Brandon "MasH" Phan early in the split but returned a few weeks later. Coach David "DLim" Lim told ESPN that WildTurtle worked on some things while on the organization's Academy team and came back stronger.
Who do I want to get in my group?
Let's be honest, this is the question you're really asking yourself, right? You've read this far trying to glean clues to answer this very query. Every year it's the same thing -- hope for North America, NA underperform, NA get laughed at by the rest of the world. At this point, many League fans around the globe don't even consider NA to be a region worth being concerned about. The players in NA certainly don't feel that way, but the perception is well-established.
2020 is a weird year. None of NA's qualified teams have the same hype that Team Liquid had going into last year's worlds. Do any of the teams have the same potential that C9 did in 2018? TSM peaked in the LCS summer playoffs, but worlds is very different.
We probably will get a worlds final featuring two LPL teams or maybe including the LEC's G2. The X Factor to all this is the Shanghai bubble. How will teams play in these conditions -- without the pomp and circumstance and audience of a normal worlds, while still playing on LAN? How will quarantine affect them? What about the lack of crowd noise? Lots to think about. Maybe that ends up working in NA's favor. Who knows? The probability of a deep NA run at worlds is always lower than NA fans would hope. This year is no different.
Who should I watch?
Team Liquid could actually have a better worlds result in 2020, with much less hope than they did in 2019. After parting ways with Doublelift before the summer split, they brought in a new coach, longtime LCS analyst Joshua "Jatt " Leesman. TL's previous head coach, Jang "Cain" Nu-ri became a strategic coach, Chris "Croissant" Sun became the new assistant coach and Edward "Tactical" Ra replaced Doublelift as the team's starting AD carry.
For the entire summer split, TL battled for top spot. In Week 8, after a two-week tie for first with C9, TL pushed ahead and ended the summer split atop the standings with a 15-3 record. TL swept Golden Guardians in the playoffs to punch their ticket to worlds. Two tough Game 5 losses ended their LCS summer split title hopes, but for a team that missed the playoffs in the spring split, this was a resounding success. Team Liquid swept the summer split awards, with Jatt & Co. earning Coaching Staff of the Split honors, Tactical winning Rookie of the Year and Jo "CoreJJ" Yong-in being named MVP of the split. The former world champion with Samsung Galaxy in 2017, CoreJJ also landed on the LCS First All-Pro Team.
Also, definitely watch TSM. With Doublelift reuniting with his old TSM buddies Soren "Bjergsen" Bjerg and Vincent "Biofrost" Wang, the LCS's old guard is looking for worlds glory, and Doublelift is looking to exorcise his worlds demons, especially the disappointment of 2019. If TSM make a run at worlds, it would be extremely entertaining and one that nobody would have predicted even a month or two ago!
And don't forget about SeaQuest ... what's SeaQuest you might be wondering?
This was the most wholesome initiative to come out of the LCS this year from a team, and it was awesome: FlyQuest did some fantastic charity work each split, "rebranding" as TreeQuest in the spring in an effort to help plant 10,000 trees over the course of their efforts during spring, and SeaQuest in the summer in an effort to help the Coral Reef Alliance. It was stuff like this that made it hard to root against Sea/Tree/FlyQuest. If you're looking for the feel-good team to root for from NA, it's definitely this team. Also root for them if you're a fan of the Milwaukee Bucks, because both teams are owned (in part) by the same people.
-- Arda Ocal