I thought about doing a traditional "Top X Players at Worlds" ranking, but then you get to a crossroads where you have to rank a masterful, game-influencing support with a high-powered offensive dynamo in the mid lane. To make it a bit more streamlined (and avoid a few less pitchforks) I've decided to rank the top five players at each position going into the 2016 World Championships.
That'll create less disagreements, right?
Today we start with the top laners, and we'll work our way throughout the week until Friday with the best supports at the 2016 World Championships.
5. Lee "CuVee" Seong-jin
You'll see a trend where almost every position at the World Championships has three to four frontrunners ahead of the pack and then a sizeable gap to the second tier. It's no different with the top laners, and it was a difficult decision between Samsung's top laner, Splyce's breakout star Martin "Wunder" Hansen, a pair from China and Team SoloMid's Kevin "Hauntzer" Yarnell. After some deliberation, I sided with the region that has consistently brought the strongest top laners to Worlds. CuVee has been much improved in the second half of the summer split with the changing of the metas, and his performance in the playoffs and Regional Qualifier puts him slightly ahead of the clump of players in Tier 2.
4. Lee "Duke" Ho-Seong
If we were to base this ranking off skill ceiling alone, Duke would be far ahead in the second-place position, only behind the best player in the world. Sadly, this isn't about simply potential, and the three players ahead of Duke have had better ends to the summer split. Duke, like the majority of his SK Telecom T1 comrades, will need to be better if the defending world champions want a repeat.
3. Chen "Ziv" Yi
I'm not a fan of the ahq e-Sports team. I ranked them 14th -- sorry, Taiwan -- out of the 16 teams coming into Worlds, and I only had them over the two teams from the wildcard regions. As a whole, I don't think ahq are a good team. Ziv, on the other hand, the team's top laner, is a world-class player and the saving grace of the team. While you're going to hear a lot about Liu "Westdoor" Shu-Wei and his incredible mechanics, don't be fooled: Ziv, not Westdoor, is the heart and soul of this club.
2. Jung "Impact" Eon-yeong
Things can change quickly in League of Legends, and no point represents that more than Impact. Three months ago -- heck, two months ago -- Impact probably wouldn't even have been near the top five. He was coming off an uninspired run on NRG Esports, and he was just starting to learn how to play alongside his new teammates on C9. Since the domestic postseason, however, has there been a more dominating player in his position? He has been on a pace where he is picking up a solo kill in-lane against his opponent in almost every game. We'll see if it can continue at Worlds, but it's not like Impact hasn't done this before on the world stage. Remember in 2013 when his Jax play was key to SKT T1's first Summoner's Cup Finals victory?
1. Song "Smeb" Kyung-ho
I'm not doing a personal ranking of players at Worlds, so I'll state it here: Smeb is the best player in the world. He has back-to-back South Korean MVP awards, and he shed the stigma of being a second-place finisher by starring in the Tigers' win over KT Rolster in the summer LCK finals. All that's really left for Smeb to take care of is two things:
A. Win the Summoner's Cup
B. Defeat Faker in a best-of-five
The only thing you can take away from Smeb in his summer performance was that he didn't beat Faker to win his title. KT were able to pull back from a 0-2 deficit in the semifinals and upset SKT T1, leaving the team that had beaten the Tigers three straight times in the major finals watching from the sidelines.
ROX's ace said it best in the first episode of Riot's Legends Rising series:
"This time, if we're able to attend Worlds again, and able to get to the Finals again, I'd really like to meet and play against SKT," said Smeb. "Up until now, we've been beaten too many times by SKT."
"And so, on the biggest stage, we want to take revenge."