review
LPL Spring 2021 Review

Following the disappointment of Suning’s Worlds final loss to Korea’s DAMWON last season, China’s LPL looked to regroup for Spring and see which side could top the league and earn the shot at international redemption in the Mid-Season Invitational.

Lee "Couple Sodi Pops" Jones
Freelance Esports Writer
19th Apr, 21·☕️☕️ 8 min read
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Following the disappointment of Suning’s Worlds final loss to Korea’s DAMWON last season, China’s LPL looked to regroup for Spring and see which side could top the league and earn the shot at international redemption in the Mid-Season Invitational.

Tournament Winner: Royal Never Give Up

rng win

Despite not entering the tournament as one of the favourites, Royal Never Give Up (RNG) blew expectations out of the water during the regular season, dropping only 2 series as they topped the ladder with a 14-2 record.

Finishing first earned them a much-deserved bye heading into the playoffs, one that pitted them against Worlds 2019 winners FunPlus Phoenix in the upper bracket. FPX themselves had had to beat both Rare Atom and JD Gaming to reach this point of the playoffs, and a subsequent 3-0 victory knocked RNG down to the lower bracket.

In RNG’s way back were LPL holders Top Esports, whose own 3rd place regular season finish was relatively underwhelming. It eventually took RNG a full 5 matches to get the better of TES before having to go to game 5 once again with EDG in the following round, completing two 3-2 victories and setting up a rematch with FPX in the grand final.

The final’s first game was comfortably secured by FPX and a repeat of their 3-0 thrashing was on the cards. However, despite Nuguri’s best efforts to solo carry the match, game 2 saw RNG level the series and begin their fight back.

RNG gained momentum in the third match, winning the quickest so far in the series with a 26-minute victory, before going on to slaughter FPX in the last match with a 22-minute stomp that secured the game, series and title for the veteran organisation.

Featured Match: Royal Never Give Up 3-1 FunPlus Phoenix (Playoffs Grand Final)

playoff final

Once game 1’s champion select was complete, all eyes were on the top lane. Newly roleswapped Xiaohu was to pilot Jayce against World champion Nuguri’s Irelia, a skill-based matchup that was to set a fierce tone for the series. Perhaps unsurprisingly both teams made sure to focus early efforts on the top lane, with a 5-minute tower dive from RNG onto Nuguri followed up by a 10 minute gank from Tian to take down Xiaohu.

It was later Nuguri, along with mid laner Doinb, whose double teleport to catch out Cryin earned FPX the first baron of the series, however the resulting teamfight did not go their way as RNG’s Gala (who had been funnelled turret and minion gold) cleared up the scraps to help gain his team 2 kills.

With subsequent fights going much the same way (FPX on top until GALA pumps out insane damage), the 28-minute mark saw the sides neck and neck in gold. Crucially, FPX were able to pick off GALA in the next two skirmishes, finally allowing them to take control in fights and ultimately win the game after a 32-minute baron and ace.

fpx player

Heading into game 2 and an identical top lane matchup looked much more one-sided on this occasion. Nuguri’s usual lane dominance finally showed up in the finals as he solokilled Xiaohu in a 1v1 before astonishingly taking him down again in a 1v4.

Despite RNG’s top lane losing heavily during these early stages, support Ming’s Nautilus roams were able to gain them advantages elsewhere and his team were able to fully take control of the match after a 23-minute baron.

Finally, a 30-minute teamfight, in which Ming’s hook onto Nuguri greatly nullified FPX’s damage, led to a clean ace for the 3-time LPL winners as they were able to close out the match and bring the series to 1-1.

Game 3 saw Xiaohu somewhat opt-out of the skill matchup against Nuguri, this time choosing to pilot Gragas into Jayce, as the focus shifted entirely onto the bottom lane. An early 2v2 which looked to be going in FPX’s favour miraculously turned into a double kill for GALA’s Kai’Sa. On closer inspection, it was a missplaced ward just outside of the tri-bush that prevented a single auto-attack from Lwx and allowed RNG to win the skirmish. What a mistake that turned out to be!

https://clips.twitch.tv/FrigidArbitraryHornetOpieOP-DJ7s953-KaHY9Tt3

An 18-minute dragon fight later led to an ace for RNG, and a teamfight only minutes later saw GALA stay alive against all odds to claim an unlikely pentakill and take his score to a staggering 8/0/2 within 21 minutes.

This ultimately proved to be the difference for RNG as Kai’Sa then secured another 2 kills at the dragon (FPX perhaps underestimating GALA’s damage), before taking baron and winning another teamfight moments later to end out the game and put themselves at series point.

winner stadium

Momentum was the name of the game for RNG in the 4th match of the series as the side looked aggressive from the outset, securing 14 kills (including 6 onto Nuguri) and a lengthy 7k gold lead within 14 minutes.

FPX looked to fight back, picking up a few catches here and there, and continued to contest objectives to their demise. A 17-minute dragon attempt was quashed by RNG and a Sett engage from Ming onto Tian led to yet another teamfight win.

Finally, without even a dragon soul or baron buff, RNG strolled up the mid lane to force the matter onto FPX and a TP flank from Xiaohu triggered the beginning of the end for the former World champions. First, carries Lwx, Nuguri and Doinb were killed and Tian and Crisp soon followed, opening up a bare Nexus for RNG to claim their first LPL title in 2-and-a-half years and book their place at this season’s MSI.

Featured Player: EDG Viper

viper

Despite his side crashing out in the semi-finals of playoffs, Edward Gaming’s bot laner Viper was deservedly crowned Most Valuable Player in his first LPL split. The former Griffin man picked up the joint most Man of the Match awards (10) during the regular season, tied only with RNG jungler Wei.

The Korean had just made the move to China following a short stint with Hanwha Life Esports in the LCK, and playing so well in his inaugural split meant that he also picked up the Outstanding Rookie award as well as making the 1st All Pro Team.

Best Bet

RNG to win the LPL

Having long been dwindling from their LPL and MSI championship-winning heights, few had expected RNG to make such a dramatic turnaround this split and huge credit must go to Xiaohu for helping to pull this off after a roleswap. The former mid laner has been with the side since 2015 and has continued to stick with them through thick and thin.

With other strong sides including Top Esports, JD Gaming, FPX, EDG, Suning and more, it was hard to see a world in which RNG could make a serious fight for the title and to see them top both the regular season and playoffs is a surprise to say the least!

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