Off of the back of an MSI victory for Royal Never Give Up, China’s LPL is once again the world’s undisputed strongest region
Off of the back of an MSI victory for Royal Never Give Up, China’s LPL is once again the world’s undisputed strongest region and its teams are now to fight it out to be crowned the latest champions and earn all-important Worlds qualifying spots.
Kicking off on Monday 7th June, China’s League of Legends Pro League (LPL) begins with a single round-robin regular season in which each head-to-head is decided by a best-of-three series. Matches are generally held at Riot’s Shanghai LPL Stadium, though some teams instead host matches in their own arenas:
Regular season competition is set to run until Sunday 8th August, after which only 10 of the 17 teams will move on to the playoff stage. All playoff matches are decided by best-of-five series.
Playoffs get started with two separate gauntlet phases, each single-elimination, with one competed by seeds 9, 8, 5 and 4 and the other by seeds 10, 7, 6 and 3. The two victorious teams then progress to a double-elimination bracket against seeds 1 and 2 for the chance to reach the grand final.
The grand final will then see a single further best-of-five series decide on the region’s latest champion, and ultimately decide which will head into this season’s World Championship with the greatest expectation on their shoulders.
As well as the LPL winner, the team with the most Championship Points over the entire season will also automatically qualify for Worlds. Championship points are given for placings both across the Spring and Summer split and award the most consistent side with a Main Event spot at Worlds. The next four highest points earners will qualify for the Regional Finals later in the split, a mini-tournament used to decide the final two Worlds spots.
All matches throughout the split are streamed at twitch.tv/lpl and, for the first time, a co-streaming option from player-turned-streamer IWDominate is also on offer for viewers.
Unlike the drama seen in other major regions, leading LPL sides made little changes in the Spring to Summer off season, instead opting to build on existing work done with their rosters as they head into the more important half of the season.
Alternatively, most top sides have promoted academy/substitute talent into their main roster to provide both alternative options as well as competition for the starting players. Such moves include Invictus Gaming top laner neny being promoted to rival TheShy and Suning’s Assum challenging bot laner huanfeng.
Some roster moves did occur, however, including the signing of Qingtian for Top Esports from China’s development league, set to play as substitute to 369.
A transfer set to please European fans in particular is that of jungler Shad0w joining LGD Gaming. The former MAD Lions player made the World Championship on a largely rookie roster last season, only to be harshly released at the end of the season after failing to impress at the tournament.
Rather than try his luck on another LEC or ERL side, the Milan born player instead turned to his family’s Chinese origins to become the first European player to sign for an LPL side. This comes 2 years after his first offer from the region, at that time turning down a move to EDG!
Despite the changes made around the league, the favourites for the title will mostly be those that topped the tables in Spring. Holders RNG will understandably rate their chances at retaining the trophy, while the rest of the region’s historically competitive teams will have high hopes at snatching the title away for themselves.
Having won the LPL Spring split and then gone on to take the organisation’s second-ever international trophy with the Mid-Season Invitational, Royal Never Give Up unsurprisingly enter the Summer split as one of the clear favourites.
Their dominant 2021 so far saw them top both the regular season and playoff phases of the LPL before winning the region’s first MSI title since an Uzi-led RNG did so in 2018.
In a league with such impressive resources, it’s no surprise that there are often a number of teams vying for the top spot. Those expected to rival RNG include Worlds 2019 winners FunPlus Phoenix, 2020 World Championship runners-up Suning, 2015 MSI champions EDward Gaming and 2020 LPL Spring and Summer winners JD Gaming and Top Esports.