It's the middle of the week, and you know what that means: Mid laners.
It's time to look at the best the mid lane has to offer at the 2016 League of Legends World Championships and which players will be challenging the greatest of all time, SK Telecom T1's Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok, in his attempt to win his third Summoner's Cup.
5. Lee "Scout" Ye-chan
Team: Edward Gaming
What better way to start the countdown than with Faker's former protege on SK Telecom T1? Scout was a highly sought after amateur on the solo queue ladder, and he joined SKT T1 last year to play backup for two of the best mid laners in the world, Faker and Lee "Easyhoon" Ji-hoon. Scout left his homeland of South Korea to join Edward Gaming in the middle of the year after being used sparingly by T1 and knowing his chances of ever eclipsing Faker as a starter were slim to none. EDG's Heo "PawN" Won-seok's constant health issues opened the door for Scout to take over, and he's grown throughout the short summer split.
Scout was primarily known for his explosive highlight reel play in solo queue, and he was forced to change into a safer, mage-centric player for a large part of the year behind the offensive talents of superstar AD carry Kim "Deft" Hyuk-kyu. Yet, in the summer finals, he was able to showcase his brash Zed play in a clear 3-0 victory over rival Royal Never Give Up. Although Scout was initially brought in to backup the two mid laners who have several world championship titles between them, he's begun cutting a legacy of his own as one of the fastest rising players in the world today.
4. Lee "Crown" Min-ho
Region: South Korea
Team: Samsung Galaxy
Next to Scout, Crown is another South Korean-born mid laner who has the opportunity to break into superstar status this tournament. When Samsung was in the proverbial dumps following the exodus of all its top talent from 2014, Crown was one of the few bright spots during the rebuild. A little over a year ago, the newly cemented Samsung starter made a name for himself by alternating heavyweight blows against Faker in a matchup between Crown's pocket Yasuo and the T1 ace's Ahri. It wasn't the most serious and clean game from the usually neat SKT T1 of 2015, but Faker challenged Crown, and Crown delivered, going 10/36 in a losing effort that ended the series 0-2.
Since that loss, Samsung and Crown have grown leaps and bounds as a whole. Crown prides himself on his work ethic as a pro-gamer due to his old days of wanting to become a StarCraft professional where the practice is even more strenuous. After failing to make the playoffs in the spring, Crown pushed himself to become a better player in the summer with an even wider champion pool. The ace of Samsung did just that, having one of the better summer seasons of any mid laner in the world. In his past six games during the South Korean Regional to get to the World Championships, Crown played six different champions, including his signature Viktor in which he went 10/0/4 in a winning effort over KT Rolster.
Samsung is not a team of many stars, but it surely has a budding one in the form of Crown. It took two full years to complete the rebuild of Samsung, and there is no better man to lead them into the future than the 21-year-old mid laner.
3. Huang "Maple" Yi-Tang
Team: Flash Wolves
Unlike the other two Worlds newcomers, this will be the third World Championships for the Flash Wolves mid laner. He came to Worlds in 2013 as an excitable rookie and was sent packing by Faker and SK Telecom T1 before he could even win a single game at the tournament. Last year, it was a better show of his talent, and the Wolves got all the way to the quarterfinals before ultimately losing to Origen in a relatively close 3-1 series. Back for his third shot at the Summoner's Cup, Maple is a veteran and has been consistently one of the top talents from Taiwan the past few years. His partnership with jungler Hung "Karsa" Hau-Hsuan can't be praised enough, and it's the pair's chemistry and raw power that has dragged the Wolves through inconsistency in the side lanes the past two years.
Although his spring split was good -- not great -- his summer split more than made up for it with a statline of 118 kills, 34 deaths and 60 assists in 28 starts en route to a domestic championship for the Wolves. The scarier thing, however, is that if J Team hadn't fallen apart at the end of the year, Maple wouldn't have had the best summer season for a Taiwanese mid coming into Worlds: Chu "FoFo" Chun-Lan, a 17-year-old prodigy, bested him. The standout rookie put together an even better regular season with a 8.3 kill/death/assist (KDA) compared to Maple's 8.2, and a higher overall damage per minute, as well.
Maple, though, experienced and battle-tested, got through the rough times while FoFo, a rookie, couldn't make it past the finish line. There are rumors that this could be the last run for Maple in Taiwan after getting offers from the LPL last year, and if so, he'll want to make this the perfect sendoff for a Wolves team that has consistently made it to the bracket stage of international competitions over the years.
2. Søren "Bjergsen" Bjerg
Region: North America
Team: Team SoloMid
It's been a long road for Bjergsen to get to this position. Last year, when he was depended on to be all the offense for Team SoloMid, he was shown he couldn't do it all. For how great of an individual player he was, his position as shotcaller while also outputting 40 percent of his team's damage was impossible to keep up. Teams knew how TSM played, and teams would focus in on Bjergsen and make sure he wasn't able to beat them.
Now, in 2016, with a fellow consistent damage threat in Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng, who has also taken a brunt of the shotcalling duties, Bjergsen is free to breathe and be the kind of talent he's always had the capabilities of becoming. Teams will still zero in on Bjergsen, but he's no longer playing a game where he always has to be the savior. This allows him to play a more free-flowing style across the map instead of always being hemmed in the mid lane. The added freedom helped Bjergsen clinch his third MVP award, and one of his better statistical seasons in history: 166/62/275 for a 7.1 KDA and a damage per minute (DPM) of 628. When you compare his 29 percent of TSM's damage output this split to last summer's 42.5 percent, you can see with a better team around him, Bjergsen is able to do more with less.
1. Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok
Region: South Korea
Team: SK Telecom T1
He might not be the best player currently in the world -- Song "Smeb" Kyung-ho and Ming "Clearlove" Kai say hi -- but that doesn't mean his spot as top mid laner has been wrangled away just yet. There are a lot of issues you can point out when you look at the SKT T1 roster -- a large amount of it in the jungle -- but Faker isn't one of them. In the toughest region in the world, he walked away with the most kills out of any mid laner (162) and second-place overall to only KT Rolster's sniper No "Arrow" Dong-hyeon, who played three more games in the regular season.
The amazing thing with Faker, though, as he's done throughout his career is what Bjergsen has finally started to accomplish on TSM: doing big things with little gold. When someone gets a large amount of his team's gold, you expect them to be able to output a high-level of damage. For Faker, he once again topped all mid laners when it came to DPM (677) and was second in the entire league behind his teammate Bae "Bang" Jun-sik. When it came to the percentage of gold he received from his team, Faker was 16th in the entire league. He's not only the type of player who can stand on his feet as an individual, but he's the type of player that props up the players around him. He takes less of the pie but is still able to deliver the numbers expected from one of the best, if not the best player in the entire league.
You have the likes of Scout and Crown getting better everyday, mechanical marvels like Maple and EDG's Li "Xiaohu" Yuan-Hao, and Bjergsen's evolution to becoming the best player the western region has ever introduced. But at the front of the pack is Faker, working just as hard for his third Summoner's Cup as his first.