More than ever before in recent memory, the League of Legends Pro League bears the weight of expectation after a solid showing at the Mid-Season Invitational by Team WE led to a Rift Rivals win for China. The two teams that compete on Friday for the LPL Summer Split crown, Royal Never Give Up and EDward Gaming, have both already secured 2017 World Championship berths -- this battle is about pride and seeding for the League of Legends World Championships.
RNG's AD Carry, Jian "Uzi" Zi-Ha (20 games played, 9.3 Kill/Death/Assist ratio, 669 Damage per Minute), is undoubtedly one of the greatest players in the history of the Chinese region to ever grace Summoner's Rift. Leading China to two consecutive World Championship finals appearances in 2013 and 2014, Uzi has made a name for himself despite coming up short in both finals. His aggression has made him a household name worldwide, dominating laning phases and teamfights with relative ease. When it comes to domestic performances, however, Uzi has never managed to dominate like he has on the global stage. To this day, Uzi has never won a domestic title of any kind, despite having some of the best mechanics in the world. Teams have bent over backwards to accommodate him, building team compositions completely around whatever champion he is playing and funneling resources to him -- during the summer regular season, he commanded 27.3% of the teams gold, the most on the team.
That's not to say that Royal Never Give Up live and die by Uzi; mid laner Li "xiaohu" Yuan-Hao has had a career split thus far and is just behind Uzi in terms of damage delt (30.5%) on RNG. Dominating on champions like Taliyah and Cassiopeia, xiaohu carried RNG through a rough patch earlier in the split. This helped him earn league-leading 12 MVP awards throughout the season, which puts him tied with EDG's historically strong mid laner, Lee "Scout" Ye-chan.
In many ways, both Scout and xiaohu are comparable in several categories, with both dominating the competition with an array of control mages. While Scout has more MVP performances on unique champions at nine than xiaohu's five, both come into the finals on hot streaks. In taking down Team WE, xiaohu was fierce throughout the series, including a ridiculous performance in Game 5 as Corki when he just about had to 1-vs-5 to put RNG in the finals. Meanwhile, Scout was consistently solid in EDG's 3-2 series win against Invictus Gaming, matching up well against IG's mid lane ace, Song "Rookie" Eui-jin. These two both have the potential to hard carry games, so it will be interesting what, if any, strategies the pull out to elevate their mid laners.
While both teams are loaded with star power, there are some lingering doubts hanging over some of these players' heads. For RNG, jungler Liu "Mlxg" Shi-Yu games played, has been hit-or-miss in the past, playing well in the spring split regular season but having zero impact in the finals when it mattered most. He has to square off against EDG icon, Ming "Clearlove" Kai, who has consistently been one of the top junglers in the world. RNG doesn't rely on Mlxg to create early leads, since all of Mlxg's lanes generally win their respective head-to-head matchups, but with no guarantee of that in light of EDG's talent, Mlxg will have to step up for RNG -- which means not dying so often (20.6% death precentage on his team in the regular summer split). Similarly, EDG AD carry Hu "iBoy" Xianzhao has looked solid enough thus far in the playoffs, but what happens when he faces off against the uncrowned king of the LPL?