Still reeling from Korea’s DAMWON Gaming winning the 2020 World Championship, the entire Chinese region will be looking towards the LPL (League of Legends Pro League) Spring split
Still reeling from Korea’s DAMWON Gaming winning the 2020 World Championship, the entire Chinese region will be looking towards the LPL (League of Legends Pro League) Spring split to begin seeing which sides could be the next to challenge on a global stage and take Worlds back to the game’s largest league.
Competed in by a whopping 17 teams, China’s LPL is the largest league of its kind and puts the top talent in the game’s biggest region against each other over months of action in order to crown the best team in the country.
Play kicks off on Saturday 9th January with the regular season. This stage sees a double round-robin where each matchup is decided in a best-of-three series with matches held across various venues. Some teams play from their own home arenas, while the rest of the teams play from a Shanghai studio.
Holders Top Esports get the action underway, kicking off the first match of the season against Worlds runners up Suning in what will be a massively interesting spectacle; one that will go some way in showing who has had the better preparation and changes during the off-season.
The regular season concludes on Sunday 28th March, after which the top 8 sides go on to the playoffs.
Though the exact playoff format has not yet been officially confirmed this time around, the LPL usually carries out a single-elimination knockout bracket. 1st and 2nd seeds receive byes to the semi-finals, 3rd and 4th seeds earn byes to the quarter-finals and 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th begin by facing each other in round 1.
Each playoff matchup is decided in a best-of-five series, however no date has so far been announced for the grand final.
All matches through both the regular season and playoffs will be streamed live at twitch.tv/lpl.
Despite winning the Summer 2020 iteration of the LPL and heading into Worlds as one of the favourites, Top Esports failed to even reach the grand final and will now be intent on making amends this season. Keeping all 5 members (while adding support Zhuo and academy ADC Photic) should give them an advantage over sides that have opted for more sweeping changes and may be beneficial in looking to build on the success from last year rather than moving in an entirely new direction.
Only making a single change was Worlds runners up Suning, who made an unexpected final appearance after failing to make the LPL Summer final earlier in the split. Veteran support SwordArt became a free agent over the off-season and, following drawn-out negotiations, eventually made the move to North America’s Team SoloMid. Replacing him is ON (formerly Owo) who makes the step up from Suning’s development team to take a starting place this season.
The last Chinese World Champions, FunPlus Pheonix, still hold 3/5 of their 2018 winning roster, however it’s a newcomer in the top lane that is leading the headlines. A Korean prodigy and Worlds holder with DAMWON Gaming, Nuguri has made the lucrative move over to China having seen his contract expire in the LCK. The action-packed league should suit him to the ground, where lane dominance is key and solo kills are a common occurrence.
On the topic of former World champions, Invictus Gaming still have two solo-lane stars of their own in top laner TheShy and mid laner Rookie (the only remaining members alongside support Baolan from their 2017 World Championship victory). They will be looking for improvement on their lacklustre quarter-final exit in the Summer playoffs, after which they were beaten 3-1 by LGD to dash their Worlds qualification hopes.
Spring 2020 winners JD Gaming were unfortunate to be matched up with Suning in the World Championship quarter-finals back in October. Since then they have kept hold of their starting roster, extending the contracts of a number of players, and also added mid laner xiye and support Mystic to their line up. With both newcomers having starting roles in their former sides, it remains to be seen how they fit in the roster and whether or not JDG will employ a rotating 7-man squad.
Coming off of a Summer 2020 win and keeping their roster together means that, on paper, Top Esports are among the clear favourites to take the title once again. Their star-studded roster includes LPL Summer MVP knight in the mid lane and former World Champion JackeyLove as ADC and the pair will look to propel their side to another league title.
On the other side of the coin, rosters that stick together can easily stagnate as practice and coaching techniques become monotonous. Many teams over the years have kept rosters unchanged for unnecessary lengths only to see previous heights never again hit, rather than making tough changes earlier in order to continue growth.
Whether Top will be the former or the latter should begin to show quickly, with a huge match against Suning to kick off the season and give fans their first glimpse at the back-to-back title hopefuls.