League of Legends enjoyed another incredible year of pro play action across Europe, North America, Europe, Korea, China, and the rest of the world, including huge wins, heartbreaking losses, and, most importantly, individual glories — here are the top five LoL players that defined the 2021 season.
China may have pulled off one of the most incredible Worlds victories via an incredible five-game fightback from EDward Gaming over reigning champs Dawmon Gaming, but the 2021 season wasn’t just one series.
Across the full calendar year, superstars from Royal Never Give Up, EDG, Damwon, T1, G2 Esports, MAD Lions, Cloud9, 100 Thieves, and dozens more teams shone bright, dominating across Summoner’s Rift in their domestic competitions and LoL’s biggest events, the Mid-Season Invitational and the World Championship.
In those teams stood titans, true standouts of the year that led the way for their lineups and swung the balance in favor of their squads when it mattered most.
5 — Closer
100 Thieves may have exited Worlds 2021 with a whimper in Group B, but up until their struggles in Reykjavik, the North American champions had sizzled, and right at the heart of the team’s strong LCS season was Can ‘Closer’ Çelik.
The Turkish playmaker had plenty of superstars behind his side, including Kim ‘Ssumday’ Chan-ho, Victor ‘FBI’ Huang, and new German signing Felix ‘Abbedagge’ Braun, but what had them ticking over game after game was their explosive jungler. In particular, Closer roared to life in the LCS Championship, especially in a brutal one-hour, 24-minute victory over Team Liquid in the opening rounds.
Closer’s immense end to the year earned him a place in the league’s second All-Pro team, and the LCS Finals MVP award for his immense playoff performances.
4 — Elyoya
Javier ‘Elyoya’ Batalla is the second western jungler on our top five list, and perhaps an even bigger influence on the Rift for MAD Lions than Closer was for his North American team, if that’s possible.
The Spanish star enjoyed an incredible rookie season in Europe’s top league, leading his MAD Lions team to back-to-back split titles and claiming the Rookie of the Split crown in Spring. In Reykjavik, Elyoya helped his LEC team to a fourth-place finish in MSI before they returned to the same stomping ground for a quarter-finals exit at Worlds.
The 21-year-old dictated much of the LEC’s jungler meta for the entirety of 2021, lifted the Lions above heavyweights G2 and Fnatic, and held his own against international rivals twice, too — a truly stunning first year for the rookie jungler.
3 — Gumayusi
Speaking of star rookies, T1’s AD Carry wunderkind Lee ‘Gumayusi’ Min-hyeong blew fans away in Korea’s league and overseas at Worlds with his huge 2021 campaign.
Gumayusi had been in T1’s development academy for the better part of three years, competing as a trainee in 2019 and 2020 before a shock debut in the LCK Regional Finals at the end of 2020. That surprise debut didn’t result in a Worlds campaign, but Gumayusi locked in an international run just 12 months later.
At Worlds, the 19-year-old battled alongside Lee ‘Faker’ Sang-hyeok to an incredible semi-final run before they lost to Damwon Gaming. The general consensus, however, was that T1 could easily have won the five-game series, with Gumayusi a figure-piece in the Korean titans nearly dethroning the world champs. One particular highlight was his Jhin outing in game three, where he picked DWG apart.
Gumayusi has already shown us his play style and incredible levels in Korea and abroad, leaving us asking: How far can the LCK’s latest young wonder go?
2 — ShowMaker
Heo ‘ShowMaker’ Su might not have replicated his 2020 successes on DWG KIA this year, falling short at both MSI and Worlds 2021 in painful five-game series losses, but the Korean mid laner added another dimension to his play in 2021, adapting to the new style of League of Legends with ease.
No longer just a carry mid laner alongside his “polar bear” jungle sidekick Kim ‘Canyon’ Geon-bu, ShowMaker was forced to stand up in 2021 and carry DWG KIA on both flashy and utility picks. There is now no doubt ShowMaker is the best mid laner in the world, and he’s no slouch at bot lane either.
In 2022, whispers of ShowMaker coming for Faker’s throne will only get louder as the enigmatic star looks to leave his lasting mark on the scene.
1 — Viper
Viper was already a fan favorite for many League of Legends viewers after his exploits on the popular Griffin team that took the LCK by storm in 2018 and 2019, but Park Do-hyeon has now well and truly established himself as a household name with his immense 2021 season, crowned with a Worlds title.
EDward Gaming fell short in their Spring campaign, grinding to a third-place finish, but that was just a learning experience for Viper and his teammates. In Summer they came back stronger to win it all, returning EDG to their long-absent LPL throne and clinching the legacy org’s first-ever LoL world championship, a momentous occasion for China and its fans in which Viper had a heavy hand.
On a personal level, Viper enjoyed his best League season in years with EDG, clocking up a cool 5.79 KDA and dishing up an incredible 1163 kills and assists across 121 games on his way to multiple trophies.
Forget Uzi, Rekkles, and Deft — the bot lane has a new ADC king.
The 2021 season will be memorable for many reasons, and not least of all these five incredible LoL stars, who each bent the domestic and international competitions on Summoner’s Rift to their will across the calendar year.
Heading into 2022, keep your eyes on Viper, Showmaker, Closer, and the rest of our list — when they shine in-game, League of Legends looks like an art form.
Be sure to check out the rest of Dexerto’s Best of 2021 series, for the best players, influencers and games of the year.