China's inability to win a world championship has never been about a lack of talent. Even before the mass influx of Korean pros onto Chinese shores, China's servers were packed with talent. The region's struggles, on full display to anyone who watched the 2015 League of Legends World Championship, are rooted in an inability to maximize said talent.
One can stick a group of five promising names on paper, but at the end of the day, it's still a piece of paper with five names. It remains to be seen whether China will have learned their lesson, or continue grabbing talent where they can and create their ideal paper teams. At the end of the day, what matters more for most of these teams are not the names on the roster, but the support and motivation behind them.
Top Lane: Lee "Flame" Ho-jong (Longzhu)
Jungle: Zhu "TBQ" Yongquan (OMG)
Top Lane: Jang "MaRin" Gyeong-hwan
Top Lane: Choi "Acorn" Cheon-ju
Top Lane: Lim "Jinoo" Jin-woo
Jungle: Xie "Eimy" Dan
Mid Lane: Wei "We1less" Zhen
AD Carry: Gu "Imp" Seung-bin
Support: Chen "Pyl" Bo
Coach: Lee "Heart" Gwan-hyung
Following their face-plant at the world championship and subsequent showing at IEM San Jose, it's difficult to be excited about LGD. Their problems, jungler aside, were not due to lack of talent, but a lack of coaching and coordination.
The most significant roster move that LGD made for 2016 was ridding themselves of jungler TBQ, who was unable to perform domestically or internationally at a serviceable level. Much of LGD's strategy was born of necessity in hiding TBQ's weaknesses, which also gave additional resources to mid-laner We1less. We1less and new LGD jungler Eimy have worked together previously, but their relationship was very We1less-centric. Additionally, Eimy is known for his reckless nature, and while he is an upgrade to TBQ, he makes equally bad mid- and late-game decisions.
In spite of already having a versatile top laner, LGD also signed SK Telecom T1's much-celebrated 2015 shot-caller, MaRin, in the hopes that he can shore up the team's weaknesses.
LGD indubitably has a stacked roster, their challenge will be in finding a way to distribute resources that encourages in-game synergy and organization. This is a team with a lot of loud voices that all want to be heard, and a poor track record of taking the game seriously. The roster moves are solid, but they don't guarantee LGD's success.
Grade: B-plus. They have a lot of talent, but the most significant upgrade for LGD may turn out to be the signing of Heart as a coach. If he can reign in all of these loud voices, he'll be a contender for coach of the year.
Jungle: Kim "Beast" Joo-hyun (none at this time)
Support: Coa "CoLiN" Hai (none at this time)
Mid Lane: Lu "BAKA" Fan (inactive, technically still on roster)
Top Lane: Li "Flandre" Xuanjun
Jungle: Liu "ZZR" Yuan
Mid Lane: Ceng "U" Long
Mid Lane: Park "TANK" Dan-won
AD Carry: Yang "kRYST4L" Fan
AD Carry: Tan "Martin" Qi
Support: Kwak "Ella" Na-hoon
Support: Peng "Jia" Jiawei
Coach: Chen Linjun
In season's past, Snake has shown a strong sense of identifying any roster weaknesses and shoring them up accordingly. The 2015 Spring team relied on acquiring specific champions for mid-laner BAKA and jungler Beast, so Snake signed former EDG mid, U, who controlled the lane beautifully, allowing Snake to give more resources to top laner Flandre. While rumors had U retiring and attending university, recent signs point to him staying on the team for the upcoming split, which is incredibly important for Snake's team fighting and jungle pressure.
They lost jungler Beast, but former jungle substitute ZZR -- who was arguably better regardless -- should fill in fine. Flandre remains as the team's somewhat eccentric top laner and shot caller, and both kRYST4L and Martin reprise their roles as Snake's AD carries, supported by Ella. A notable signing for Snake is former NaJin e-mFire mid-laner TANK, who was less than impressive in the more recent KeSPA Cup, Admittedly. he was not given much practice or attention during his time on the team.
Grade: B. TANK was likely in case of U's departure, but keeping U is a smart decision. Snake didn't need much roster shuffling going into this season, what they need is a better champion select coach.
Qiao Gu Reapers
AD Carry: Mao "MasterMao" Tianhao (none at this time)
Top Lane: Bao "V" Bo
Top Lane: "Alone"
Jungle: Baek "Swift" Da-hoon
Mid Lane: Kim "Doinb" Tae-sang
Mid Lane: Bae "dade" Eo-jin
Mid Lane: Kim "Borisal" Yeong-hoon
AD Carry: Yu "Peco" Rui
AD Carry: Jian "Uzi" Zhihao
AD Carry: Wang "LL" Zijun
Support: Zhang "Mor" Hongwei
Coach: Park Yong Woon
Newbee's latest foray into League of Legends resulted in the sponsorship of the fairly successful Qiao Gu Reapers roster. Their first order of business was acquiring star Chinese AD carry, Uzi.
Offseason rumors had Uzi hopping from OMG to RNG, but the AD carry ended up on Qiao Gu, largely thanks to their new sponsor's deep pockets. Uzi is coming off of his best domestic performance in spite of the lack of OMG's success. However, the weary LPL watcher will recall Uzi's time on OMG as ill-fitting at best. OMG had a delicately balanced system, which was disrupted by Uzi's inclusion. Qiao Gu is similarly balanced, not in play style, but in the fact that the team had a preexisting system that emphasized their strengths as a unit. QG's manager has said that TnT will start over Uzi; an infuriating prospect, as it puts one of China's best on the bench. Additionally, dade recently signed on for QG's reserve team, and will be second in line to Doinb, a worse player in nearly all respects aside from his ability to support Swift.
Previously, Qiao Gu's strength as their team-fighting, thanks in large part to Doinb's role as jungler Swift's right-hand man with TnT firing from the backline. Uzi will indubitably shore up some of their laning weaknesses, but their team fighting will likely suffer a bit as he acclimates himself to the team.
Grade: C. Qiao Gu was a delicately balanced team; Uzi doesn't have the best track record of entering a team with preexisting style or synergy. Dade on the reserve team is a particularly questionable choice.
Top Lane: Jang "Looper" Hyeong-seok (RNG)
Jungle: Xiang "Condi" Renjie (Team WE)
Jungle: He "DreamS" Zhihong (EPA)
Mid Lane: Bae "dade" Eo-jin (QG)
AD Carry: Han "SmLz" Jin (OMG)
Support: Tenyang "Ruo" Tianxia (none at this time)
Top Lane: Feng "XY" Yuxin
Jungle: Jang "yolo" Hyeon-su
Jungle: Han "Scenery" Hong
Mid Lane: Ko "Raphael" Jae-hyun
AD Carry: Xu "qPqTq" Mingshu
Support: Jin "Savoki" Hao
Support: Lu "Lovecd" Junfen
Coach: Yeon "Sin" Hyeong-mo
A loose collection of players that never seemed to coordinate well, Masters 3 was not a strong team in 2015. Last year's Masters 3 centered around former Samsung mid-laner, dade. If dade did well, Masters 3 would likely win. If dade did poorly, a loss was almost guaranteed. Jungler Condi guided the team as best he could, but Masters 3 was rarely fun to watch, aside from the occasional standout dade performance. This team always lacked an identity, and with dade's departure, they now lack a star.
Fresh off of their LPL qualification with Hyper Youth Gaming, jungler yolo -- formerly of Imagine and Winterfox fame -- and mid-laner Raphael joined Masters 3, likely forming the core of the team. Yolo will be aided by Juejue, rechristened Scenery, who stepped in for Loveling during OMG's 2015 struggles. Their bot lane isn't bad; AD carry qPqTq performed well as PentaQ on WE Future, and he'll be the player to watch on this team.
Overall, there's not a lot to say about this roster. In a group with the likes of LGD, Qiao Gu, Snake, and an interesting looking WE roster, M3 probably won't see much success.
Grade: C-minus. Masters 3 was already a fairly uninteresting team to watch, and that trend will likely continue with this roster. qPqTq could have some memorable performances.
Top Lane: Shek "AmazingJ" Waiho (Edward Esports)
Top Lane: Jeon "Ray" Ji-won (no team at this time)
Mid Lane: Kang "BaeMe" Yang-hyun (Edward Esports)
AD Carry: Xie "Jinjiao" Jinshan (Edward Esports)
Top Lane: Tong "Koro1" Yang
Top Lane: Chen "Mouse" Yuhao
Jungle: Ming "Clearlove" Kai
Jungle: Zhao "Fireloli" Zhiming
Mid Lane: Heo "PawN" Won-seok
Mid Lane: Kang "Athena" Ha-woon
AD Carry: Kim "Deft" Hyuk-kyu
AD Carry: Qin "rq" Bohan
Support: Tian "Meiko" Ye
Coach: Jung "RapidStar" Min-sung
When EDG struggled in 2015, it was due to substitutions that fractured the unity of Koro1, Clearlove, PawN, Deft, and Meiko. It remains nebulous as to how much of this was to train up less-experienced players and how much of these moves were necessary injury substitutions, but the bottom line is that EDG was a far less cohesive team at the end of 2015 Summer than at its start. EDG moved AmazingJ, Baeme, Jinjiao, and Ray back down to their LSPL team, but hasn't shown a commitment to refocusing on their starting core either, which is somewhat worrying. Korean mid-laner Athena, from recent IEM Cologne winner Ever, joined, presumably as PawN's backup in case of unforeseen illness or injury, although they didn't really need a new mid. Additionally, the ever-present Fireloli remains as a backup, rq is their new AD substitute, and Mouse rejoined, this time as a backup top, for their reserve team.
In spite of a poor world championships performance, the team has shown more dedication to practice and improvement than nearly all other teams in China. However, their largest offseason loss is that of their coach, Aaron, and it remains to be seen whether new coach Rapidstar will be able to steer the team in the right direction.
Grade: C. The loss of Aaron is huge, as he was one of the region's most successful and intelligent Chinese coaches. Their performance may depend on whether they'll continue to rotate through substitutes or focus on the core of their roster.
Jungle: Lee "Spirit" Da-yoon (Fnatic)
AD Carry: Qu "Styz" Ziliang (no team at this time)
Top Lane: Ke "957" Changyu
Top Lane: Peng "Aluka" Zhenming
Jungle: Wang "WuShuang" Haili
Jungle: Xiang "Condi" Renjie
Mid Lane: Su "Xiye" Hanwei
Mid Lane: Chen "mrsj" Zhiyuan
AD Carry: Jin "Mystic" Seong-jun
Support: Yoon "Zero" Kyung-sup
Support: Ke "Conan" Yi
Coach: Kim "HooN" Nam-hoon
Coach: Lee "firebathero" Seung-eun
Another Chinese team that was defined in 2015 as a star Korean import with jungler Spirit, Team WE seemingly will suffer in the vacuum he left behind. Spirit was WE last year, hard carrying the team to supposedly impossible heights given their overall lack of talent and less-than-capable top laner, Aluka.
However, Spirit's departure has opened up some interesting avenues for the team. The signing of Zero -- ex-KT Rolster, Star Horn Royal Club, and Team King support -- is one of the stronger offseason moves by any team in China, provided that Zero is motivated. Zero will join Mystic to create a stronger Korean-speaking bot lane. WE will run with a Chinese jungler; either former M3 jungler Condi or Wushuang.
With 957 presumably replacing the much-maligned Aluka in the top lane, WE's drafting and overall ability to pressure the map improves dramatically. Aluka could play only a handful of champions and lacked any amount of team fighting prowess. Without a jungler that WE feels like they must hard carry, and a top laner with more versatility, look for their coordination to improve.
Grade: A-minus. Hyping up WE is all too often an exercise in futility, but this roster looks both strong and interesting, provided that 957 starts in the top lane while Mystic and Zero are the primary bot lane duo.
Top Lane: Yang "Duji" Hao (none at this time)
Top Lane: Wang "Carry" Zujing (Unlimited Potential)
Jungle: Chen "World6" Yutian (Unlimited Potential)
Mid Lane: Wang "Hetong" Bin (Unlimited Potential)
Mid Lane: Peng "Peng" Yibo (Unlimited Potential)
AD Carry: Pi "Xuan" Xiaoxuan (Unlimited Potential)
Support: Cho "Mata" Se-hyoung (RNG)
Top Lane: Zhu "Loong" Xiaolong
Jungle: Choi "DanDy" In-kyu
Mid Lane: Lee "Easyhoon" Ji-hoon
Mid Lane: Li "Punished" Yuanhui
AD Carry: Xu "Endless" Hao
AD Carry: Li "Vasilii" Weijun
Support: Duan "Duan" Deliang
Coach: Yoon "Homme" Sung-young
For two years running, Vici Gaming has had some of the most high-profile Korean import signings. Last year it was the Samsung White duo of jungler DanDy and support Mata. This year they plucked Easyhoon from Faker's shadow in hopes that he can coordinate with DanDy, forming the core of their 2016 team.
Easyhoon is the type of player who will always ensure that mid is a strong control point on the map for his team. While he has sometimes received criticism for his lack of aggression, there's no doubt that Easyhoon excels at zone control both in and out of the lane. He's a strong, reliable addition to Vici, and someone on whom DanDy will come to rely. Vici's additional acquisition of Loong, previously of Unlimited Potential, is another strong pickup and ensures that DanDy will return to the jungle for 2016 Spring.
Losing Mata does hurt. Neither Endless nor Vasilii are strong AD carries, and Mata kept them safe from themselves for the most part. Mata also coordinated well with DanDy, especially where vision was concerned. That being said, Mata had more than a few attitude problems, which may have had an adverse affect on the team as a whole. Now paired with new support Duan, Vici's bot lane is definitely weaker; however, their group -- RNG, EDG, and possibly HYG aside -- has some of the weaker bot lanes in the region.
Grade: B-minus. Retaining DanDy, and putting him back in the jungle, will help and the acquisitions of Easyhoon and Loong are strong. Unfortunately, Vici's bot lane is weak and teams should easily capitalize on this.
Energy Pacemaker All
Top Lane: Kim "GimGoon" Han-saem
Top Lane: Fu "Star" Yang
Jungle: He "Rabbit97" Zhihong
Jungle: Kim "Amel" Nam-hoon
Jungle: Huang "Crisis" Zhen
Mid Lane: Bong "Republic" Guen-tae
Mid Lane: Fan "EShen" Chao
AD Carry: Zhang "Romantic" Cheng
Support: Xia "JieZou" Heng
Coach: Anakin "Ana2k" Yuen
Along with Hyper Youth Gaming, Energy Pacemaker All was one of two LSPL teams to qualify for the 2016 LPL Spring. Their strength while in the LSPL centered around jungler Crisis and his ability to apply consistent pressure to help dictate the pace of their games.
In the offseason, EP.A has shown an odd affinity for hoarding junglers, and it's somewhat worrying that Crisis has seemingly been benched for Soist, now renamed Rabbit97 (and formerly DreamS of Masters 3), with the import jungler Amel also on the bench.
Their most significant and interesting pickup is the import Republic, who spent 2015 on Taiwan's Machi E-Sports. Lauded as an incredibly talented mid-laner, Republic is a strong pickup, although it's unclear as to how much his presence will improve EP.A's overall outlook in this group.
Grade C. Energy Pacemaker All's offseason moves, Republic aside, are confusing, and don't make much sense given what their strengths were throughout the LSPL season.
Royal Never Give Up
Top Lane: Fan "Skye" Qifang (ZTR Gaming)
Top Lane: Yan "LetMe" Junze
Top Lane: Jang "Looper" Heyong-seok
Jungle: Liu "Mlxg" Shiyu
Jungle: Choi "inSec" In-seok
Mid Lane: Zhou "Sask" Yixiang
Mid Lane: Li "xiaohu" Yuanhao
AD Carry: Wang "wuxx" Chen
AD Carry: Zhu "NaMei" Jiawen
Support: Cho "Mata" Se-hyoung
Support: Le "LeY" Yi
Coach: Kim "Fly" Sang-chul
Coach: Kim "VicaL" Sun-mook
Throughout 2015, RNG was an odd, scrappy team that had a handful of talent and little to no strategy or guidance. In this offseason, they seemingly grabbed whoever they could find and stuck them on their 10-man roster in the hopes that something would stick.
The most interesting signing is Namei, erstwhile fan punching bag for the past two years following his disappointing performance with EDG at the 2014 World Championship. Namei had stated that he would retire, so it's curious to see him on an LPL roster for 2016. He'll be paired up in the bot lane with either Mata or Ley, although it remains to be seen whether RNG will use Namei or Wuxx, a fairly talented AD carry in his own right, for the majority of their matches.
InSec is an odd acquisition. With the signing of top laner Looper and the aforementioned Mata, inSec will likely not see much playing time until he gains landed Chinese status for 2016 Summer. Additionally, mlxg has shown raw talent, but needs work on his decision making. Mata may help him in this regard, or they could easily end up at odds with one another. One of the bright spots on Star Horn Royal Club in their 2015 LSPL season, Sask joins talented youngster Xiaohu in the mid-lane. LetMe and Looper look to split duties in top.
Grade: B-plus. This roster is intriguing. It could be a dumpster fire, or it could be fantastic. Regardless of whether they implode or succeed, RNG should be an interesting team to watch.
Top Lane: Zeng "Pokemon" Tao (none at this time)
Top Lane: Gwon "Yongsoo" Yong-su (none at this time)
Jungle: Lee "KaKAO" Byung-kwon (none at this time)
Top Lane: Liu "Zzitai" Zhihao
Jungle: Ge "Kid" Yan
Mid Lane: Song "RooKie" Eui-jin
AD Carry: Tang "Time" Jintai
Support: Liu "Kitties" Hongjun
Support: Cai "mo" Bo
Coach: Won "Mafa" Sang-yeon
Of all Chinese teams that had enough talent to succeed in 2015 -- regardless of their actual success -- Invictus Gaming took the furthest step back this offseason and their outlook for 2016 Spring is bleak.
At their best, they relied on the core of their two Korean imports, jungler KaKAO and mid-laner RooKie, to steer the team. RooKie improved immensely over the 2015 season, becoming one of the LPL's strongest mid-laners with an incredible highlight reel by the end of the year. Invictus Gaming counted on his synergy with KaKAO, while the bot lane of Kid and Kitties was serviceable at best, and former mid-laner Zzitai learned how to play top.
Therefore, it was a shock to iG fans when the Week 1 rosters were released with AD carry Kid in the jungle position and no KaKAO in sight. Kid received much-warranted criticism for his performances throughout last year, and most expected him to be benched for AD carry substitute Time. Time is indeed iG's new AD carry, but Kid will start as their jungler with no jungle substitute on the team. Unless Kid is somehow miraculously a hidden jungle talent, iG's performance will suffer significantly from their already inconsistent tradition.
Grade: D. All that needs to be said about this team's outlook is "Kid jungle."
Top Lane: Gao "GoGoing" Diping (retired)
Jungle: Yin "LoveLing" Le (retired)
Jungle: Yan "Juejue" Hong (Masters 3)
AD Carry: Guo "san" Junliang (retired)
AD Carry: Jian "Uzi" Zihao (QG)
Support: Hu "Cloud" Zhenwei (retired)
Top Lane: Hu "Xiyang" Bin
Top Lane: Yang "Dark" Jubao
Jungle: Zhu "TBQ" Yongquan
Mid Lane: Yu "Cool" Jiajun
AD Carry: Han "SmLz" Jin
AD Carry: Zhang "bei" Yuze
Support: Liu "5" Shiyu
Support: Luo "Luo" Ciri
Coach: Luo "BSYY" Sheng
OMG had the right idea going into 2015. With most other teams forming Chinese-Korean hybrid rosters, OMG firmly stuck to the idea of an all-Chinese roster to aid in communication and team-building. Unfortunately, their established core of GoGoing, Loveling and Cool failed to mesh with Uzi, resulting in a lackluster mess for the majority of the year.
This year, OMG remains committed to the idea of a homegrown roster, yet none of their legacy players, save Cool, remain. Smlz was signed as their starting AD carry, in spite of promising play from bei (previously known as North) in the Demacia Cup. They'll be paired with 5, aka Amazing. Jack of all trades Xiyang remains in the top lane, and unfortunately has a few champion pool issues, and much-maligned former LGD jungler TBQ is joining the team as well.
Overall, while OMG's apparent commitment to facilitating communication for their team is commendable, their offseason moves are puzzling and lack excitement.
Grade: D-minus. Unless this roster somehow clicks miraculously, there's little to care about with this group.
Hyper Youth Gaming
Jungle: Jang "yolo" Hyeon-su (Masters 3)
Mid Lane: Ko "Raphael" Jaehyun (Masters 3)
AD Carry: Feng "ZangAo" Guanghua (none at this time)
Top Lane: Xu "17" Zhao
Jungle: Ye "march" Jiabin
Mid Lane: Shin "gosu" Hyuk
Mid Lane: Kan "JoJo" Yiutou
AD Carry: Li "XQ" Yingjie
Support: Yu "x1u" Jie
Coach: Yoon "Homme" Sung-young
The LSPL runners-up to Energy Pacemaker All, Hyper Youth Gaming were a fun but messy team to watch due to flashes of strong team fighting and an oft-reckless nature.
Headlining their 2016 group is AD carry XQ, who was retained from their 2015 LSPL Summer roster. XQ was one of the better AD carries in the LSPL, stepping up througout HYG's playoff run that resulted in their LPL qualification. Look for XQ and support x1u to continue their synergy and team fighting prowess.
HYG lost both jungler yolo and mid-laner Raphael to Masters 3. They then acquired Chinese jungler Milky, now renamed march, and Korean mid-laner gosu. 17, a top laner who struggles with champion pool issues, is a notable weaker link that remains on the team following the offseason.
Grade: C. Yolo was a surprisingly important part of this team's aggressive nature, and losing him along with Raphael will likely disrupt their synergy. While they were fun to watch in the LSPL, they don't have an assembly of talent to get far in the LPL, although look out for XQ.