The League of Legends World Championship play-in stage begins Monday in Seoul, with 12 teams competing for the final four spots at the game's premier tournament. With the tournament approaching, ESPN broke down the rosters and picked the best players at each position. These difference-making stars could make or break their teams' world title dreams in South Korea.
Here are the top supports entering this year's tournament.
1. Hu 'Swordart' Shuo-Chieh: Flash Wolves
SwordArt is the only player from the League Master Series ranked in the top five in his role coming into this World Championship and the only LMS player to ever be ranked No. 1. Despite coming from a weaker region, SwordArt dazzled internationally at both the Mid-Season Invitational and Rift Rivals 2017 with his immaculate vision control and strong roaming sense. Cho "Mata" Se-hyeong, Shi "Ming" Sen-Ming and SwordArt are all good enough that any one of them could be ranked No. 1, but this year SwordArt made the biggest difference and carried the most weight for his team.
SwordArt spent years shackled by AD Carry NL, but he recently had his laning ability and champion pool opened by his new partner, Liu "Betty" Yu-Hung. Before it seemed that SwordArt was limited, but really, his team just necessitated too much from him. Nowadays, he has more to work with in the bot lane and transitioned excellently from working with Hung "Karsa" Hau-Hsuan to working with Kim "Moojin" Moojin, and losing almost nothing for team synergy as a whole.
SwordArt isn't as flashy and his greatest plays lack visibility, but his impact on the Flash Wolves is clear. Some Taiwanese pundits might even postulate that G-Rex's Lin "Koala" Chih-Chiang is a stronger native support. But when SwordArt sat on the bench this year, Flash Wolves looked nothing like themselves, dropping games against the very dregs of Taiwan. He won his very first MVP award this summer and distinguished himself as Taiwan's best support. It's a close shave at support worldwide, but SwordArt is clearly what makes his team great and has consistently shown a significant impact that just edges out Mata and Ming.
2. Cho 'Mata' Se-hyeong: KT Rolster
If there is one player in the world who knows how to win big in South Korea, it is KT Rolster's Cho "Mata" Se-hyeong. In his first-ever domestic season, he walked the royal road and won with MVP Ozone. The next year, Mata went to the first World Championship ever held in South Korea and won that too with much of the same core built on Ozone. Mata might already go down as the GOAT of the support role, but another title on a championship-strarved club like KT Rolster might put it down in ink.
3. Shi 'Ming' Sen-Ming: Royal Never Give Up
Drawing attention and getting noticed on a team with Uzi is already difficult. This difficulty increases exponentially when you're Uzi's laning partner, playing side by side with one of the best bot laners in the world and likely the focal point of your team's strategy. Even Mata had visible synergy issues with Uzi while on the team -- the two often looked better when Mata was roaming and Uzi was in the 1v2 than in a straight 2v2 lane.
Yet Ming stepped up to this challenge and then some when he began starting for the team in 2017. The well-regarded former Young Miracles support doesn't simply acquiesce to Uzi's whims; he is a true partner to the strong-willed bot laner in and out of lane. Ming is what makes RNG's 2v2 so formidable and his synergy makes for the best laning duo that Uzi has ever been a part of in his storied career. Ming can play a variety of support champions and styles, and his control over RNG's bot side has only grown this year. Obviously, Uzi is still the star of the RNG show, but Ming allows him to shine that much brighter.
4. Jo 'CoreJJ' Yong-in: Gen.G
It was only a few short years ago when Jo "CoreJJ" Yong-in was a struggling AD Carry in North America on Team Dignitas. Since transferring back to his home region of South Korea and switching to the support role, he has been one of the top players at his position since 2016. Two World Championship finals and a Summoner's Cup later, and CoreJJ is still considered one of the elites at support in the world. Although his playmaking might not be up there with the other players on this list, don't fret --- when the Kench is unbenched, there is no scarier bottom lane duo than Gen.G's.
5. Tian 'Meiko' Ye: Edward Gaming
It's been a rough split for EDG. The team has frequently looked disjointed and out of sync, with many expecting EDG to fall to JD Gaming in the regional qualifier. Yet EDG persevered, and one of the major reasons is their all-star support: Meiko.
This still likely has been the toughest split of Meiko's career, as EDG struggled in adapting to patch changes throughout summer. Meiko's strength not only relies on his flexible champion pool or his strong engage sense but his leadership for the team, especially now that Ming "Clearlove" Kai seems to have taken a back seat, as jungler Chen "Haro" Wen-Lin has become the team's default starting jungler. This means that Meiko's leadership is as important as ever, and it's one of the reasons EDG is here at the World Championship.