The old guard returns with new faces: LPL at Worlds 2021 preview
The LPL are pretty much shoo-ins for the Summoner’s Cup at Worlds 2021 — or at least a spot in the final. However in 2021, with old dog organizations like EDward Gaming, FunPlus Phoenix, and RNG returning to the world stage, new faces will have to lead them to past heights.
China has already made an impact in international League of Legends in 2021 with a second MSI trophy now in RNG’s cabinet. However, China is not just a one-team region, and RNG isn’t even China’s best squad.
The rest of the world will have to deal with China’s many threats — both old and new — in yet another strong contingent heading to Iceland at Worlds 2021.
Here’s a quick debrief of what to expect from the LPL at Worlds 2021. Be sure to check out our Worlds 2021 hub and our post-draw preview with commentator Zack ‘Rusty’ Pye.
You can find our previews of the other regions by clicking the links below:
EDward Gaming (Seed #1)
Last Worlds appearance: 2018 (Quarters)
Best Worlds finish: 5-8th (Four times: 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2018)
- Li ‘Flandre’ Xuan-Jun (Top lane)
- Zhao ‘Jiejie’ Li-Jie (Jungle)
- Lee ‘Scout’ Ye-chan (Mid lane)
- Park ‘Viper’ Do-hyeon (AD carry)
- Tian ‘Meiko’ Ye (Support)
- Yu ‘JunJia’ Chun-Chia (Jungle)
EDward Gaming are a name you’d be familiar with if you followed League esports in 2014 to 2018. They were always in contention for a World title, having housed household names like AmazingJ, Clearlove, PawN, Scout, Deft, and Meiko. Outside of one triumph at MSI 2015, they always floundered though.
In five appearances, they have made it to the quarterfinals four times and never progressed. Only one series, back in 2014, even looked remotely close. After 2018, things went even more south for them, not even being a playoffs threat in the LPL for the most part.
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However, in 2021, their fortunes have changed. With Scout still on the line-up all these years later, EDward Gaming have transformed back into the beast that got China’s first bit of League silverware in 2015.
With their best roster in years, they will be hungry to live up to their predecessors like Invictus Gaming and FunPlus Phoenix in finally claiming the one trophy that has eluded them for years: the Summoner’s Cup.
Player to Watch: While Scout is still kicking around on the roster (and was certainly a strong performer), you cannot look past Korean AD carry Viper. He has single-handedly transformed this roster into the beast of the LPL with a slow, methodical playstyle around him. It took him some time to get going, but as he enters Worlds with a full head of steam and a redemption story for the ages, Viper might finally get to prove what he couldn’t on Griffin back in 2019.
FunPlus Phoenix (Seed #2)
Last Worlds appearance: 2019 (Champions)
Best Worlds finish: 1st (2019)
- Jang ‘Nuguri’ Ha-gwon (Top lane)
- Gao ‘Tian’ Tian-Liang (Jungle)
- Kim ‘Doinb’ Tae-sang (Mid lane)
- Lin ‘Lwx’ Wei-Xiang (AD carry)
- Liu ‘Crisp’ Qing-Song (Support)
- Ping ‘xiaolaohu’ Xiao-Hu (Top lane)
- Wie ‘Shenyi’ Zi-Jie (Support)
FunPlus Phoenix’s 2020 collapse was a surprise to most in the League community. The 2019 World Champions missed out on Worlds completely. However, they are back and they are ready to take the world by storm once again.
While they didn’t manage to get a title in the LPL this year — falling short in second in both Spring and Summer — they have found some consistency they missed in 2020. With Nuguri in the roster over Khan, FPX have doubled down on their hyper-aggressive ideology around the game, pushing for individual advantages in every lane.
It was that ruthless playstyle that got them the Summoner’s Cup in 2019 when they blitzed G2 Esports, and it’s one they’ll need to continue if they want to bring it back to China. Most teams will struggle to stop the onslaught FPX will eventually subject them to — both in a BO1 and a BO5.
Player to Watch: Kim ‘Doinb’ Tae-sang was the best mid laner of the LPL 2021 Summer split, with a 7.4 KDA. However, it’s not Doinb’s KDA that makes him stand out, it’s his broad champion pool. From Malphite to Yasuo to Ryze, and everyone in between, there’s nothing Doinb won’t play to get his team ahead.
Royal Never Give Up (Seed #3)
Last Worlds appearance: 2019 (Groups)
Best Worlds finish: 2nd (2014 as Star Horn Royal Club)
- Li ‘Xiaohu’ Yuan-Hao (Top lane)
- Yan ‘Wei’ Wang-Wei (Jungle)
- Yuan ‘Cryin’ Cheng-Wei (Mid lane)
- Chen ‘GALA’ Wei (AD carry)
- Shi ‘Ming’ Sen-Ming (Support)
- Zhang ‘Yuekai’ Yue-Kai (Mid lane)
RNG came relatively out of nowhere after a disappointing 2020 to storm back up the LPL table in 2021 and secure not only their fourth domestic title, but their second MSI cup too. However, the ebbs and flows of the year meant a terrible Summer start forced them into the Regional Finals to qualify for Worlds.
It wasn’t the most direct route, and they’re here now. The last time they were in Iceland, they tasted plenty of glory. Sure, they had an easier path than most through Groups, but they showed up when it mattered and clobbered the likes of PSG Talon and DWG KIA in the way to their throne.
It’s a different RNG from the one we got used to seeing with Uzi. While the team still plays through the bot side with GALA, it doesn’t feel like all the resources are devoted down south. They can still play through their other lanes, including the enigmatic Xiaohu who has flexed from top to mid to top more times than you can count.
It might not be Uzi’s RNG anymore, but if they manage to get the Summoner’s Cup, you know it’ll be dedicated to the biggest player to ever come out of Chinese League of Legends.
Player to Watch: Xiaohu has been a rock for this RNG team for years, being thrust into any role he’s been needed in. While he’s at home in the mid lane, his proficiency on carries like Lucian and Jayce has made him a massive lane threat in the LPL. If he can shine in a region which has no shortage of excellent solo laners, then at Worlds, there’ll be expectations for him to step up massively.
LNG Esports (Seed #4)
Last Worlds appearance: Debut
- Hu ‘Ale’ Jia-Le (Top lane)
- Lee ‘Tarzan’ Seung-yong (Jungle)
- Xie ‘icon’ Tian-Yu (Mid lane)
- Wang ‘Light’ Guang-Yu (AD carry)
- Liao ‘Iwandy’ Ding-Yang (Support)
- Du ‘Kedaya’ Bang-Rong (Support)
LNG are a total wildcard heading into Worlds 2021. The Chinese roster is making its debut at the international event. Having existed as Snake Esports before 2019, the squad was always around middle of the pack in the LPL.
However, in Summer 2021, they put on a show with a strong 7-0 start to net a place in the playoffs, and eventually the Regional Finals. They continued that streak of upsets, and in the most unlikely of underdog stories made it to Worlds over the likes of Team WE, Rare Atom, and Suning.
Only one player on this roster has Worlds experience, and that’s Tarzan. His showing on Griffin in 2019 left much to be desired after the Korean squad’s early exit. However, after taking a break and returning to pro play in 2021, he’s looking better than ever.
LNG will be hoping to at least avoid the curse of LGD in 2020, where the Chinese fourth seed almost lost in Play-Ins to Japan’s V3 Esports. Unlike most of the other Chinese teams, they prefer a slower approach to the game to allow Light to scale into things. This playstyle difference could be either a boon for LNG, or lead to their early demise.
Player to Watch: Lee ‘Tarzan’ Seung-yong is the king of the jungle in the LPL. After a year off the Rift, he’s looking better than ever, and has practically carried this team of LPL prodigies (plus icon, formerly OMG’s mid laner) to the highest peak in all of League of Legends. If LNG want to make it out of Groups, or even Play-Ins, Tarzan is going to have to pull out all the tricks.