April 13, 2019, will go down as one of the more important dates in League of Legends history. Over a span of 18 hours with only around 30 minutes when no League of Legends was being played, nine titanic matches occurred around the world, including seven domestic finals.
It began with SK Telecom T1 and Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok regaining their title as rulers of South Korea and ended with a match for the ages in which Team Liquid completed an LCS three-peat with a reverse sweep of Team SoloMid in St. Louis. None of this included what happened the next day, when G2 Esports became the first LEC champion by sweeping Origen in one of the quickest finals in League of Legends history.
There were a lot of games. I stayed up 34 hours (yes, I counted) to watch all of the games on Saturday and then used replays of the Sunday games to catch up on the action I missed while I was sleeping. I have opinions.
Here are Tyler's Takes coming off a weekend to remember in League of Legends:
Team Liquid vs. TSM was the greatest best-of-five in North America LCS history
We've had some doozies in the LCS, but with a take colder than the Night King in "Game of Thrones," I'm declaring Saturday's final in St. Louis as king in North America's lore. It featured two of the best players in the region's history, Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng and Soren "Bjergsen" Bjerg, playing to become the first player in the LCS to win six championships. We had the highs and epic lows that have shaped NA as a region. It went a full five games after TL fought back from an 0-2 deficit. To top it off, we had an all-timer for the fifth and final set, in which Nicolaj "Jensen" Jensen made good for past final follies and the pressure got to former world semifinalist Jesper "Zven" Svenningsen in the worst possible moment.
G2 Esports are legitimate contenders to win the championship at the Mid-Season Invitational
While this might have been a bit spicier before the weekend, I'm not going to act as though it's brave to call a team with a slew of world-class talent on its roster that embarrassed Origen with a 17-minute blowout to win the European championship a title contender. Whereas TSM and TL both showed they were very good teams in their final, G2 walked into Rotterdam, Netherlands, and showcased their talent ceiling compared to the rest of the world. Origen is a great team; when they have a plan, they know how to execute it, and at worst, they're a B-plus side with the talent to get up to an A when needed. Origen is a team that makes the quarterfinals at the League of Legends World Championship before losing to a title contender. They're not a bad team, but G2 made them look like a bottom feeder in a fledgling region.
Rasmus "Caps" Winther and Martin "Wunder" Hansen look like they could be top-five players at the Mid-Season Invitational, and Luka "Perkz" Perković, though not the best pure AD carry, has turned the bottom lane position into his own personal playground. They play fast. They play their own style. SK Telecom T1 and the Chinese champion will be tough, but if Caps is holding the MSI trophy in Taipei, Taiwan, I'm not going to bat an eyelash.
Phong Vũ Buffalo are a top-five team at MSI and TL's biggest challenger for the knockout rounds
Sorry, Taiwan, I know you're hosting the semifinals and finals, but I think it'll be the host of the opening rounds, Vietnam, with the best chance to send a team to the top four this year. Taiwan's LMS is not in a good place. Two of three LMS teams got shut out at worlds last year, and Flash Wolves lost their two most important players in the offseason to China's LPL. LMS might not even make the group stage at MSI this year. In their place, the Buffalo, who went a respectable 2-4 at last year's worlds and bring back the same starting five, look to have improved and will have the home crowd behind them in their quest to make noise at MSI.
I still think TL is too talented and experienced to not make it into the knockout rounds for the second consecutive year, but if there's a team out there that's going to make NA cry, it'll be the Buffalo. If Sergen "Broken Blade" Çelik caused TL problems in St. Louis, then PVB ace top laner Phạm "Zeros" Minh Lộc is going to give them nightmares at MSI.
The best two top laners in the world will do battle in the Chinese final this weekend
If you didn't already know, I have a man crush on Invictus Gaming top laner Kang "TheShy" Seung-lok. He is without a doubt the best top laner in the world, a reigning world champion and has a chance if he keeps up his form to become the GOAT of the top lane. He's that good. Yet he might finally have a worthy rival in the LPL in JD Gaming's Zhang "Zoom" Xing-Ran, who has done everything but drag his team to the domestic final. In their climactic fifth game against FunPlus Phoenix in the semifinals, Zoom's Gangplank accounted for over 40 percent of his team's damage in a carry performance to end all carry performances. His teleport flank behind FPX to seal the deal for his team will be replayed thousands of times in MSI promo packages if the No. 8 seed JD Gaming can upset iG in the final.
Since the game's inception professionally in South Korea, the title of world's best top laner has always been held by someone from the country known as the mecca of esports. South Korea has produced legends at all positions, but when it comes to top lane, the country has continually created superstars. TheShy is next in the long lineage of South Korean players to hold the best top in the world title, and he'll be defending it against Zoom in the LPL final. Outside of possibly OMG's Gao "Gogoing" Di-Ping in late 2014, this is the first time I remember a non-South Korean player battling to become the world's best top laner. Regardless of who leaves China and heads to MSI as LPL's representative, he will be the player to beat in the top lane when the group stage begins.
Please just copy how LCK does its finals opening and closing ceremonies. Seriously, just copy it.
After watching final after final this weekend, I believe more strongly in this take than ever -- please, everyone, copy how LCK does finals. Riot Korea took over from cable company OGN for this year's LCK, and you know what it did? It straight up copy/pasted how OGN did finals in the past. It had a few highlights to warm up the crowd, a few stats, a three-minute trash-talk segment in which players talked about who they were facing, and then the players' walk out was anchored with a short intro video.
I love what the LEC did this year in terms of production, but I thought its intro was overproduced and you could barely see the players with the lighting being used. LCS had both teams come out at the same time and then went through positional handshakes, followed by Bjergsen and Doublelift shaking hands for the sake of storyline purposes.
Stop overthinking things. One team comes out or does a cool pose. Everyone applauds. An announcer calls out each player and they wave at the crowd, and the crowd cheers. Repeat with the second team before making the two teams stand with arms folded across the chest for 30 seconds awkwardly as the camera gets a cool shot of the action. LCS, LEC and other regions all have good things about them -- I especially like how LCS handles postfinal interviews on stage with Ovilee May interviewing the winning players in director's chairs -- but I think we've gotten to a point where we can all simply agree LCK does finals the best. Everyone already draws from LCK, might as well just copy what that league does.
CoreJJ is the best support going to MSI
Yeah, I said it. There is no better support at MSI than the pilot for North America's best team. Really, there isn't too much competition for Jo "CoreJJ" Yong-in to begin with. I like Mihael "Mikyx" Mehle and think he's a strong support player, but his wrist injuries notwithstanding, I don't put him in the same class as a man who already has two worlds finals under his belt and a Summoner's Cup to show for it. CoreJJ isn't a world champion who came to North America for a final payday before retiring. He's still in the prime of his career and is playing at a similar level to when he won that world title two years ago in China. In the final versus TSM, it seemed like Doublelift had his own cheat code, with CoreJJ always there with a Braum shield or secret service-level protection on Tahm Kench.
The only support who can compete with CoreJJ is Cho "Mata" Se-hyeong, another former world champion and almost undoubtedly the best support to ever play. I think it's close and wouldn't argue if someone said Mata was the superior player to CoreJJ going in to MSI -- that's what happens when there are only two major international events per year -- but if you're telling me I can either take CoreJJ or Mata, I'm going with the safer pick. CoreJJ is best on champions like the aforementioned Kench and Braum, whereas Mata's Alistar and engage-happy champions are more his speed. You can't go wrong with either, unless you're looking for the best support at MSI, in which case, any choice besides CoreJJ is wrong.
There is no best player in the world as I write this. No one has done enough to separate himself from the pack. It's an empty throne.
If you haven't already noticed, I really like "Game of Thrones," and with the final season having premiered Sunday, I'm going hard with these references. Right now, the "Iron Throne" of League of Legends doesn't have anyone sitting on it, in my opinion, and I can't remember a time when the competition felt this wide open. Usually it either has been Faker sitting on that throne, laughing down at those trying to usurp him, or there were one or two contenders, like during last year's MSI, when it felt like a two-horse race between Jian "Uzi" Zi-Hao and Gwak "Bdd" Bo-seong. This time, it feels like there could be 10-plus people who have a legitimate claim at sitting on the throne.
As previously mentioned, Invictus Gaming's TheShy is a force of nature in the top lane, and I'd be a fool to overlook his teammate Song "Rookie" Eui-jin. But wait, is Rookie even the best mid laner in China? We have the prodigy Zhuo "Knight" Ding and league MVP Kim "Doinb" Tae-sang. In South Korea, Faker wants everyone to know that he's on his boat making his way back for his crown, and yet, is Faker even the best player on his team? Park "Teddy" Jin-seong finally escaped Jin Air purgatory and is the most consistent player in the world at this very second, playing each game at the level expected of a world-class carry. And even though they both lost to SKT in the playoffs, I don't think Lee "Tarzan" Seung-yong or Kim "Deft" Hyuk-kyu think they should be left out of the conversation. Then you go over to G2 Esports and it's hard to pick a single player from their roster of superstars, with Caps probably being the closest to the throne. And I'm sure if you asked Doublelift, he'd demand to face each of one of these candidates and call them trash afterward.
There has never been more parity in League of Legends, and that's what makes the upcoming MSI so exciting. By the time the champion is crowned in Taiwan, we could see someone take those necessary steps to become the king of this new world ...
Yeah, no, I'm betting on Faker. I've learned my lesson and parity is overrated. See you next time.