eSports
Emily Rand, Tyler Erzberger, Xander Torres 5d

2019 League of Legends preseason global power rankings

esports

Hello! It's been a while, hasn't it? How've you been? Did you have a good holiday? We did, and we had a wonderful time watching all the roster shuffling and crazy offseason movements. And now it's time to rank what we saw in our League of Legends preseason global power rankings.

For the the preseason rankings, we're nixing the "World Contenders" stuff and getting right to it, so ... let's get right to it.

1. Invictus Gaming

Record: 0-0 | League: LPL | +/-: --

You probably knew it was coming, but here it is anyway. iG takes our top spot not only for being the reigning world champions, but for managing to hang on to that championship lineup -- even after some doubts about Wang "Baolan" Liu-Yi -- and its recent Demacia Cup victory over Topsports Gaming. The team enters the LPL with preexisting synergy and success, when most other lineups will likely take time to grow, and some will never come together completely. Although iG did stagnate in the LPL, it won the world championship in a meta that suited it and by learning to adjust to its opponents. This powerhouse lineup is still relatively young and still has immense potential for even more growth as players like Yu "JackeyLove" Wen-Bo continue to come into their own on the LPL stage.

2. Griffin

Record: 0-0 | League: LCK | +/-: --

While Gen.G, KT Rolster and the Afreeca Freecs were felled (in that order) at worlds this past autumn, fans of South Korean LoL looked back at the regional gauntlet with wistful sighs. A common saying after Gen.G bombed out of groups was "If only Griffin had made it." This statement was repeated more and more as each South Korean team dropped out. As scrim results trickled out, Griffin was touted by western teams as one of the most difficult scrim partners.

Now KeSPA Cup champions without dropping a game, Griffin is the default hope of South Korea. More important, Griffin has a stronger chance than some at changing to a more aggressive, solo-lane-focused playstyle if necessary. Jungler Lee "Tarzan" Seung-yong still needs a bit more work, but his growth over one split was already exponential. There's no reason to believe he won't continue to drive the team forward into a style that keeps its strong teamfighting while also taking advantage of opponents earlier. Regardless of whether Griffin can restore South Korea's LoL honor, Griffin begins LCK spring as the best in the region with its preexisting synergy and motto of "five as one."

3. Royal Never Give Up

Record: 0-0 | League: LPL | +/-: --

Unfortunately, RNG's lineup suffered a few downgrades, the main one being the loss of top laner Liu "Zz1tai" Zhi-Hao. Although Zz1tai wasn't as well known to western audiences, he was a key player for RNG in the LPL season as well as one of the oldest IDs in all of China despite being 21 years old. Top laner Yan "LetMe" Jun-Ze is currently taking a leave of absence, so RNG's starting top laner will be the former face of Bilibili Gaming, Shek "AmazingJ" Wai Ho. AmazingJ has come a long way since worlds 2015 with EDG, but he does lack the versatility of Zz1tai or the steadfast nature of LetMe.

There will likely be a lot of ire for placing RNG here, but it has to be reiterated that they were one of the best teams, if not the best, if one is looking at 2018 as a whole. It has managed to keep most of that lineup, including the powerhouse bot lane of Jian "Uzi" Zi-Hao and Shi "Ming" Sen-Ming, along with mid laner Li "Xiaohu" Yuan-Hao and both junglers in Liu "Mlxg" Shi-Yu and Hung "Karsa" Hao-Hsuan. Yes, the team failed at worlds, but it should still be one of the strongest teams in China, and the world, especially at the start of the season.

4. SK Telecom T1

Record: 0-0 | League: LCK | +/-: --

There's no getting around how incredible this roster looks on paper. More important, it combines one of the best up-and-coming South Korean players in bot laner Park "Teddy" Jin-seong with a group of veterans that includes Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok and Cho "Mata" Se-hyeong. Not simply a "superteam," South Korean fans have dubbed this lineup the "dream team." On paper, it's the strongest of all LCK lineups this spring.

Translating that onto the Rift will likely be difficult at times. There will be communication issues, as we saw from disjointed map movements and top laner Kim "Khan" Dong-ha's teleport timings (a remnant of his Kingzone days) in SKT's unexpected KeSPA Cup loss to DAMWON Gaming. However, this roster has enough raw talent to smash most lineups in South Korea and time to solve these issues as the split goes on to best the rest. This is the lineup that everyone is talking about for a reason.

5. Gen.G

Record: 0-0 | League: LCK | +/-: --

It's likely a bit surprising to see Gen.G up this high, especially if you remember anything about its recent worlds performances. Yet Gen.G looked to be one of the stronger South Korean lineups going into the split, mainly because it kept the core of its lineup in Lee "CuVee" Seong-jin, Song "Fly" Yong-jun and Park "Ruler" Jae-hyuk while promoting support Kim "Life" Jeong-min to the starting roster. Han "Peanut" Wang-ho turned down overseas offers to be part of this South Korean team and by all accounts is a very vocal leader. While it remains to be seen whether Gen.G can grow and improve throughout the split, the team's initial chemistry from the existing core will likely make it a top South Korean team in the first few weeks.

6. Topsports Gaming

Record: 0-0 | League: LPL | +/-: --

Thanks to its pickup of the best Chinese mid laner available in Zhuo "Knight" Ding and the addition of a new bot lane duo in Lee "LokeN" Dong-wook and Nam "Ben" Dong-hyun, TOP are the new hotness. It's the team that everyone is talking about in the LPL, especially after finishing second to iG in the recent Demacia Cup tournament. The most important thing to remember about TOP is that its transformation actually began in 2018 LPL Summer, as the team rose through the ranks as an unlikely playoff contender, thanks to good performances from top laner Xiong "Moyu" Hui-Dong and jungler Xiong "Xx" Yu-Long. The addition of rookie top laner Bai "369" Jia-Hao looks to be another great pickup. TOP seem not only committed to picking up strong South Korean players, but focusing on developing young Chinese talent as well. This roster already looked good in Demacia Cup, and now it will have an entire split to continue improving.

7. G2 Esports

Record: 0-0| League: LEC | +/-: --

Well, G2 didn't win worlds like Carlos "Ocelote" Rodriguez promised, but it still achieved more than anyone could have imagined -- a semifinal berth at the World Championship. Coming into 2019, G2 will have even more firepower after the blockbuster acquisition of Fnatic's worlds finalist mid laner Rasmus "Caps" Winter. It's not only an upgrade at midlane, but a significant upgrade down bottom, with G2's mid laner Luka "Perkz" Perkovic role-swapping to AD carry. Fnatic were the kings of Europe and earned the right to be thrashed by Invictus Gaming, but G2 has the most talent to open the year.

8. Suning Gaming

Record: 0-0 | League: LPL | +/-: --

Although Suning looked a bit rough in the Demacia Cup, it has a very strong lineup on-paper that should only continue to improve together. Snagging the former Flash Wolves core of Huang "Maple" Yi-Tang and Hu "SwordArT" Shuo-Chieh along with former Rogue Warriors bot laner Han "Smlz" Jin are all great additions to what was already an excellent top side in Xie "XiaoAl" Zhen-Ying and Yang "H4cker" Zhi-Hao. Again, this lineup could take time to come together, but based on its most recent Demacia Cup performances, it already has the talent and tools to go far.

9. KT Rolster

Record: 0-0 | League: LCK | +/-: --

KT Rolster's strongest offseason pickup is Gwak "Bdd" Bo-seong, who has been at the top of his position in South Korea for over a year now and will be a rock in the KT mid lane. This gives KT a remarkably strong top side between Bdd, jungler Go "Score" Dong-bin and top laner Song "Smeb" Kyung-ho. Score will be backed up by former Jin Air Green Wings jungler Eom "UmTi" Seong-hyeon, who has a lot of aggressiveness but needs pathing guidance. The main unknown for KT will be former Vici Star Gaming/Unlimited Potential bot laner Byun "Gango" Se-hoon (previously known as Skatch). Although he'll be partnered with an aggressive, playmaking support in No "Snowflower" Hoi-jong, they're not likely to be as strong as the combination of Kim "Deft" Hyuk-kyu and Mata.

10. Fnatic

Record: 0-0 | League: LEC | +/-: --

Coming in as the second-highest-ranked Western team, Fnatic is still near the top of the world after its dazzling performance at the World Championship. After such a result, Fnatic would normally sit atop all Western teams, but there are questions to be answered following the departure of Caps and the arrival of replacement mid laner Tim "Nemesis" Lipovsek. Still, Fnatic has strong sidelane foundation in Gabriel "Bwipo" Rau and Martin "Rekkles" Larsson anchoring the top and bottom lane to make up for any dissonance at the start of the season.

11. Team Liquid

Record: 0-0 | League: LCS | +/-: --

When free agency began worldwide this offseason, Team Liquid was the first team to pull the trigger on a massive move. Gone is stalwart mid laner Eugene "Pobelter" Park and in is world semifinalist mid laner Nicolaj "Jensen" Jensen coming over from Cloud9. Jensen was the centerpiece of the most successful North American team ever at an international event, and Team Liquid, who thought they'd be the ones making a deep run at worlds before failing to even make it out of groups, got its man, who they believe can bring them to the promised land. While Jensen has found success on the international stage, his domestic cupboard remains empty, and his move to Team Liquid is a direct move to try and fix that as soon as possible in the spring.

To round out the squad, the team signed another international hero, Jo "CoreJJ" Yong-in, a two-time worlds finalist who won the Summoner's Cup in Beijing in 2017. He'll return to L.A. where he is no stranger, not only having made it to the world finals in the City of Angels in 2016 but playing in the LCS once before with Dignitas back when his position was AD carry. The move to the lane-dominant veteran support is in hopes that it can help the team's crown jewel, Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng, who is coming off his first league MVP honor, finally get over the hump of the group stage at major international competitions.

12. EDWard Gaming

Record: 0-0 | League: LPL | +/-: --

Somehow, some way, EDG always manage to sneak into the playoffs, world championship, and therefore, the power rankings. Even when the team looks one-note -- seemingly playing only to take down its bot-lane turret before 10 minutes -- it manages to get far split after LPL split. EDG held onto the entirety of its 2018 player roster, and while it lost NoFe, added former RNG coach Lee "Heart" Gwan-hyung. This is a strong lineup, especially with Lee "Scout" Ye-chan's improvement in 2018. The big question for EDG will be whether it can diversify their playstyle and adapt to opponents better. EDG should start strong, but the question will be in whether it will be able to continue to improve and adjust towards the end of the split as other lineups start to come together and gel.

13. Afreeca Freecs

Record: 0-0 | League: LCK | +/-: --

One of Afreeca's more interesting pickups is not a player, but former ROX Tigers and EDG coach Jeong "NoFe" No-chul who will presumably be onstage with the team under head coach Choi "iloveoov" Yeon-sung. Iloveoov's spartan practice schedule is now infamous, thanks to Afreeca's underwhelming worlds performance and noted mental issues, so it will be interesting to see if that shifts at all and where NoFe, who has seen success in both South Korea and China, fits into all of this. The new lineup boasts former KT mid laner Son "Ucal" Woo-hyeon while hanging onto Lee "Spirit" Da-yoon and, most importantly, top laner Kim "Kiin" Gi-in.

14. Misfits

Record: 0-0 | League: LEC | +/-: --

In 2018, Misfits were occasionally exciting, always inconsistent. Whether that stemmed from inherently streaky players like Darin "Alphari" Barney and Chres "Sencux" Laursen remains to be seen. In 2019, Misfits features the well-decorated Paul "sOAZ" Boyer and Kang "GorillA" Beom-hyeon, as well as returning European mid laner Fabian "Febiven" Diepstraten. Misifts now possess a plethora of veteran talent to surround AD carry Steven "Hans Sama" Liv and look set to take Europe by storm in 2019.

15. JD Gaming

Record: 0-0 | League: LPL | +/-: --

Many dedicated LPL viewers and analysts expected JDG to make it to the 2018 World Championship. Instead, EDG pulled off another EDG miracle and eaked its way in. JDG were the best team in China that few people were talking about, with an insanely talented top side in Zhang "Zoom" Xing-Ran, Clid, and Zeng "Yagao" Qi, known affectionately to western fans as "Toothpaste" due to the meaning of his in-game ID. JDG lost Clid to SKT this offseason, but more importantly they lost its bot laner Lee "LokeN" Dong-wook to TOP. Neither Ju "Bvoy" Yeong-hoon nor Gu "Imp" Seung-bin are likely to have as strong of an impact in the bottom lane. JDG could turn out to be a good team, but that will require better integrating former Rogue Warriors jungler Sung "Flawless" Yeon-jun or former 100T Academy jungler Đỗ "Levi" Duy Khánh onto the lineup. JDG have a lot of strong pieces, but until we know how it will perform together, the team drops a bit from where they were in 2018.

16. Cloud9

Record: 0-0 | League: LCS | +/-: --

Possibly the most difficult team to rank this preseason is Cloud9. While C9 did make a spirited run to the world semifinals and retain four of its five starters and head coach, it did lose its best individual player in Jensen when the Danish star mid laner decided to transfer over to Team Liquid. In his stead is Belgian mid laner Yasin "Nisqy" Dinçer coming over from Europe and Splyce, most known to North American fans for his stint on Team Envy in 2017. Although the move on paper is a downgrade, Nisqy has been a reliable mid laner everywhere he has gone, and the infrastructure coming from Cloud9 and partnership with renowned head coach Bok "Reapered" Han-gyu might be what's needed to take Nisqy to the next level of his career.

As a whole, C9 will most likely do as it has the last four years. It will have times in the year where it is solid, times in the year where it looks like the best team in the entire western region, and then times where it looks like the team has forgotten to play the game entirely. But, at the end of it all, per usual, we should expect C9 at the world championships in Europe, making it through to the knockout stage with a puncher's chance of returning to the semifinal stage.

17. Damwon Gaming

Record: 0-0 | League: LCK | +/-: --

Sneaking in as our last South Korean team in the Top 20, DAMWON is a bit of an oddity. DAMWON lacks the same finesse and coordination that got Griffin through the first part of its own rookie split, but certainly have the raw talent, especially in jungler Kim "Canyon" Geon-bu. This lineup enters the LCK very much in tact, and at the start of the split, synergy rates highly, especially while other lineups are still trying to gel. Touting DAMWON as the next Griffin is a bit of a high bar, but we think DAMWON will perform well at first.

18. Vitality

Record: 0-0 | League: LEC | +/-: --

The heroes of the 2018 worlds meta and winners in all our hearts, Team Vitality still comes into 2019 as a heavy hitter among Europe's finest. Vitality's aggressive style should remain in the new year, but the team added a new question mark in Korean jungler Lee "Mowgli" Jae-ha. Mechanically, there's no doubt that it's an upgrade over Mateusz "Kikis" Szkudlarek, but a new language and player in a role that revitalized the team might keep Vitality from contending with the best right out the gate.

19. FunPlus Phoenix

Record: 0-0 | League: LPL | +/-: --

FunPlus Phoenix slides into the Top 20 at No. 19 with a roster that, cliché as it is to say, has a lot of upside and potential. The addition that has turned heads is former Rogue Warriors mid laner Kim "Doinb" Tae-sang who leaves his mark on every team he plays for and has a unique mid lane style. Although FPX kept the most of its lineup, the swap from Yu "Cool" Jia-Jun to Doinb will mark a shift for the team in playstyle. Still, this FPX lineup is really interesting on paper, and until we see the rest of China play, this gets them into the Top 20.

20. 100 Thieves

Record: 0-0 | League: LCS | +/-: --

Rounding out our top 20, we have the most successful new brand of 2018 in 100 Thieves. The Thieves came out in their first year and made a domestic final in their very first split, eventually getting swept by Team Liquid in Miami. Still, the team made it to worlds and won a few games before meeting the two teams that would go on to play in the grand final, Fnatic and Invictus Gaming. For 2019, the team is retooled, with the team's ace Kim "Ssumday" Chan-ho sticking with the team by signing a new deal in the offseason.

The biggest acquisition the team made in the free-agency period was clearing up its messy bottom lane issues by grabbing two-time world champion Bae "Bang" Jun-sik. Bang will be no stranger to the style 100 Thieves executed in 2018 with their drawn-out, late game ways, having conquered the world with a similar plodding and methodical style with SK Telecom T1. To contribute to the team's one-two punch in the top and bottom lanes, the Thieves picked up veteran Choi "Huhi" Jae-hyun, a mid laner perfectly suited for the team's current makeup with his constant roaming and playmaker mentality.

Oh, and Drake co-owns the team now. Hopefully, his newfound esports fandom has a better result than when he cheered for the Toronto Raptors ... or the University of Alabama's football team ... or when he showed up to cheer on Connor McGregor at his last UFC fight where he lost. Good luck, 100 Thieves.

^ Back to Top ^