Kicking off the professional League of Legends Summer season on Friday, June 5th, is our first major region league, China’s LOL Pro League (LPL).  Before each season I look at each team in detail to try to determine their expected trajectory over the course of the season based on a number of factors. Just like in many traditional sports, our biggest edge frequently comes early in the season before the books and public have a chance to adjust to results as long as we have the correct read on a team.

To help define a team’s strength relative to the rest of the league I use a letter grade tier system rather than specific rankings. It paints a clearer picture and gives context to a pre-season evaluation. The fourth best team and third best team in a league might be a significant distance apart in overall quality but a straight up numbered list doesn’t provide that context.

Before we get started, let’s define my tiers:

 

Tiers defined:

 

F Tier – I’m not sure I’ll give any of these out but it’s mostly reserved for uniquely bad situations like maybe an expansion team or team from a smaller, weaker region at a large tournament or something.

 

D Tier – Non-playoff teams that have next to no shot without a borderline miracle developing to have a chance at playoffs. Not all regions will have these. Often rebuilding teams, teams with large rosters and constant swaps of subpar players, or straight up awful teams.

 

C Tier – Non-playoff teams that need a lot of things to go well to have a shot at competing domestically.

Often these teams are trying and competing but lack the players/skill to really compete with the stronger teams. Sometimes will beat middle of the table teams but will also drop some games to worse teams.

 

B Tier – Teams that might make the playoffs or might just miss. Most of the “middle of the table” teams fall into this category. Often they either do one thing well but have weaknesses or they’re a pretty solid team that just doesn’t have the skill/ability to be much better than they are.

 

A Tier – Likely playoff teams that could contend for a title if a few things go their way. Usually solid teams with a weakness or high upside teams with multiple question marks.

 

S Tier – World championship caliber teams and/or teams that are substantially ahead of their region. S+ rating indicates teams that I feel have a great chance at winning the world championship.

 

D Tier:

Victory Five

Arrivals: Biubiu (top), Weiwei (jungle), SamD (ADC), Xinyi (jungle)(renames to Ping), ppgod (support), ZYF (support)

Departures: Max (support), Aliez (top), HanYi (head coach)

Projected Starters: Biubiu (top), Weiwei (jungle), Mole (mid), y4 (ADC), ppgod (support)

Substitutes: Xiaohan (jungle), Ping (jungle), CLX (mid), SamD (ADC), ZYF (support)

Odds: +20,000 to win Summer, +15,000 to win regular season

It’s difficult to tell which direction this team is going to go with its starting lineup with all of the arrivals and departures so take those projected starters with a grain of salt.

Victory Five are coming off of the worst single season in professional LOL history so it can’t really get much worse for them. They took a “kitchen sink” approach to this offseason, adding a bevy of players from experienced veterans to fresh prospects. For a team that did as poorly as they did it’s the correct approach however it’s a bit disturbing to me that it took them until June 1st to fire their head coach with the season starting in just a few days. Assistant coach and former head coach Suannai will likely take over his former position but this is the kind of move that shows the organization might be a bit clueless.

All-in-all, Victory Five added some talent and serviceable starters in Biubiu and Weiwei which should be a pretty big upgrade over last season’s fare. They’ll be better but this team is still likely to finish last place albeit with probably a handful of wins this time around. This season should be about finding players to build around in the future so I want to see some of these prospects like SamD and ppgod get plenty of starting time to see what they’re made of.

 

C Tier:

Dominus Esports

Arrivals: Helper (ADC), Mitsuki (support), Xiaowei (renames back to Twila)

Departures: Mark (support), Xiye (mid), GALA (ADC),

Projected Starters: Natural (top), Xiaopeng (jungle), Twila (mid), Helper (ADC), Mitsuki (support)

Substitutes: Bless (jungle)

Odds: +6500 to win Summer, +7100 to win regular season

Dominus are turning over a new leaf and going young which I think is the correct move for a team that has stagnated over the past year. I didn’t have much to write on Dominus in my roster moves article the other day but they’ve since brought in a new bottom lane, the duo of Helper and Mitsuki from their LDL team Dominus Y. If nothing else this should bring some fresh blood, new energy to the equation. GALA and Mark were actually a decent duo lane in the LPL and rarely a detriment which fit when Dominus were playing top-centric like they were during the Spring split. The new bottom lane probably brings more upside but they’ll also be taking their lumps as they get acclimated to a challenging bottom lane scene at the LPL level.

As discussed on The Gold Card Podcast last week, my biggest question with Dominus’ outlook for Summer is whether or not they’re going to try to develop their overall team game or just remain a linear, “one-trick pony” and keep playing all-in top-centric. Sometimes when you get a team that starts to win under a new coach like they did it’s tough to voluntarily stop wanting to do that but I think Dominus are at a crossroads. They can continue to hone the one thing they’re good at or they can use their time to work on other things and likely struggle in the short term for potential long term benefit. We’ll know pretty quickly based on their film which direction they’ve chosen. If they remain top-centric they’ll probably be able to beat up on some other bottom of the table teams which will make them appear better than those unable to adapt to playing against it, but good teams will know what to do and take care of business as we saw last season. When you’re playing a sub-optimal strategy, even if it’s best for you, you’re going to struggle against the stronger teams and that’s where I feel Dominus will fall if they take that approach.

 

Rogue Warriors

Arrivals: Youdang (jungle)

Departures: none

Projected Starters: Crazy (top), Youdang (jungle), Ruby (mid), ZWuji (ADC), Ley (support)

Substitutes: Holder (top), Haro (jungle), Wuming (mid)

Odds: to win Summer +8000, +10,000 to win regular season

Yet another projected starting lineup to take with a grain of salt. We could see Youdang right away or he could sit behind Haro as he gets comfortable.

Rogue Warriors were one of the underdog darlings of the LPL last season. Their aggressive, in-your-face stylings helps them take a game in half their series and score a few upset victories against teams like RNG, Vici, and EDG as well as take games off of FPX, TOP, and Invictus. Unsurprisingly I have this team similarly rated this time around. On one hand, I want to see Rogue Warriors take some more shots at young talent but they’re not necessarily a bad team as they currently stand so it’s difficult to justify “blowing it up” for a full rebuild.

Ruby turned out to be a pretty solid and steadily improving player over the course of the Spring season which is probably the best takeaway they had but they need some more consistency out of the top lane and jungle positions. ZWuji had an unexciting season relative to his high expectations and will have to elevate his performance to previous highs for this team to have a shot at playoffs. I can actually see a path to success for this team. Crazy and Holder have both had standout performances but they’ve both been remarkably inconsistent. If Ruby continues to play at a decent level or improves, the top lane gets consistent and they can get production from either jungler then this team could probably hang with the B tier teams but until I see it, they’re staying in C tier.

 

LNG Esports

Arrivals: Steak (head coach), Jia Zi-Zheng (analyst), Lin Tao (manager)

Departures: Asura (ADC), Cyo (head coach), Liao Jia-Ming (analyst)

Projected Starters: Flandre (top) Xx (jungle), Maple (mid), Light (ADC), Duan (support)

Substitutes: Chenlun17 (top), Iwandy (support)

Odds: to win Summer +15,000, +20,000 to win regular season

Dropping Asura felt like a strange move to me but Light was better than he showed during the few performances he had in late 2019. LNG always feel like they should be a better team to me and perhaps the new coaching staff will unlock some of the potential I see in this roster. A big part of their problem last season was that they’d leave themselves very little room to maneuver in the draft, frequently going all-in on very late game scaling teams. You saw the few times it work but it’s not a sustainable strategy in a region that so thoroughly punishes early game dillydallying. While Steak hasn’t been an elite level coach, he’s been solid over the course of his career and I actually expect LNG to improve on last season’s disappointing performance. Unfortunately, the league is very competitive. Like Rogue Warriors and all of the C tier teams, I can see a path to the playoffs for this team if a few things go right but I don’t think it’s very likely. I’m going to talk more about the depth in the C tier later in this article.

 

B Tier

Suning Gaming

Arrivals: View (jungle), ZYB (analyst), HunnyPark (manager)

Departures: Biubiu (top), Weiwei (jungle)

Projected Starters: Bin (top), SofM (jungle), Angel (mid), Huanfeng (ADC), SwordArt (support)

Substitutes: View (jungle)

Odds: +4900 to win Summer, +5500 to win regular season

Suning were one of those classic examples of a team with numbers that lie to you. Many of their underlying metrics for both their players and the team overall were surprisingly strong but they were just never able to put it all together. You could argue either side of regression here. If you think they start to meet statistical expectations than they’ll be improved, if you think the numbers regress to match the play we saw they’ll be similar or worse.

With that in mind, Suning were still a competitive team and I’d expect that to be the case again this split. Whether we see new jungler View is still up in the air. For whatever reason, SofM gets a lot of criticism but I thought he was fine this season. Still, if View can step in an provide some impact at the position then that could be another path to an improved Summer performance by Suning. Assuming he’s a similar player or small upgrade I still have Suning on the outside looking in for a playoff position in a competitive middle of the table.

 

Oh My God! (OMG)

Arrivals: Aliez (top), Sora (support), Chen Jia-Wei (coach)

Departures: Kane (support)

Projected Starters: Curse (top), H4cker (jungle), Icon (mid), Smlz (ADC), Cold (support)

Substitutes: Aliez (top), Sora (support)

Odds: +4900 to win Summer, +5500 to win regular season

Perhaps the most intriguing addition to OMG, other than Aliez and Sora and subs, is a new coach. I haven’t been able to find any reliable information on them but OMG’s biggest problem last season was how stubborn they were from a philosophical standpoint. OMG have great laners, they want to play a lane-centric style, much like Origen, but they don’t have the same level of discipline. It’s also significantly harder to play that style in a league with the caliber of players that the LPL has. OMG need to loosen up at least a little bit and become a more versatile and proactive team or they’re going to struggle against the good teams again just like they did this season. They’re also going to drop the occasional game to teams that are the polar opposite stylistically, such as Team WE if they don’t learn to scrap and create plays on their own. I’m not asking them to become 2018 Invictus or anything but they need to develop at least something or they’re going to end up just like they did this season, with losses to the good teams and enough losses to mediocre and bad teams that it knocks them out of playoffs.

 

Team WE

Arrivals: Shanks (mid), Changan (coach)

Departures: none

Projected Starters: Morgan (top), Beishang (jungle), Plex (mid), Jiumeng (ADC), Missing (support)

Substitutes: Poss (top), Teacherma (mid), Shanks (mid)

Odds: +2100 to win Summer, +2500 to win regular season

The power of friendship! Team WE managed to surprise a lot of people with their skirmish and roaming style this season. If you’re outclassed in lane then why lane? That was the thought process and it proved more effective than people think in Season 10.

I get the feeling that a lot of people are just assuming this team is going to fade away into mediocrity again  but I actually think Team WE have a good read on the game in general right now as well as some talented players that quietly overachieved expectations while Teacherma was taking the world by storm with Aurelion Sol and friends. Morgan was a surprisingly good top laner that steadily improved as the season went on, a welcome progression from his struggles last year and the combination of Jiumeng and Missing were quietly one of the best duos in the league this season albeit with a lot of help from the mid lane roaming.

Eventually Team WE were “exposed” by TOP Esports in the playoffs but first consider how good TOP are in hindsight now that we’ve seen them win the MSC and then remember that Team WE made the mistake of giving over Syndra twice in that series. Team WE took a game and was still competitive in another one in that series.

Either Teacherma will develop another champion or two or we’ll see a committee approach to the mid lane that will bring Team WE similar success. The thing about “solving” or “figuring out” a team like this is that they’re still going to force the issue and make you uncomfortable. Team WE will be in the playoff conversation and I think this team is actually being a tad underrated coming into the season because of how they finished. They aren’t going to win the LPL or anything but I could see Team WE in the playoffs again.

 

BiliBili Gaming

Arrivals: Jinjiao to support, Wings (ADC), 13est16 (jungle)

Departures: Vortext (sub)

Projected Starters: Kingen (top), Meteor (jungle), FoFo (mid), Wings (ADC), Jinjiao (support)

Substitutes: XinMo (support), ADD (top)

Odds: +3900 to win Summer, +4300 to win regular season

It feels like BiliBili were preparing for a big free agent ADC and didn’t land it. Jinjiao moving to support was announced almost a month ago and it wasn’t until late last week that 13est16 and Wings were called up from the academy roster. Feels like they missed out.

Regardless, BiliBili were actually looking significantly better in the second half of the season and with a completely different style (although game times wouldn’t tell you that) than they were in the Summer when they finished 3rd. This team is good, they have a lot of talented players and it took their coaching staff awhile to figure out how to utilize everyone and play around Meteor but once they did BiliBili were dangerous. This team isn’t going to be a league winner but they’ll almost certainly be better than they were in the Spring when they lost almost half their season to subpar performances before turning it on just a bit too late to crack top eight.

I’m unsure whether or not Wings and XinMo will be the bottom lane or, if Jinjiao is going to be playing ADC again because they missed out on a free agent, or if it’s Wings and Jinjiao. We’ll find out quickly but I would not rule out ANY of these possibilities when thinking about BiliBili in week one. I still think Meteor will be the starting jungler, he’s a stud.

 

LGD Gaming

Arrivals: Langx (top), Garvey (top), Mark (support), Xiye (mid), Maizijian (head coach)

Departures: Fenfen (mid), BadeMan (jungle), Chance (support), Cult (top), ZanDarc (head coach), Kim Teemo (asst coach)

Projected Starters: Langx (top), Peanut (jungle), Yuuki (mid), Kramer (ADC), Killua (support)

Substitutes: Garvey (top), Lies (top), Xiye (mid), Mark (support), Alu (support)

Odds: +2100 to win Summer, +2500 to win regular season

LGD landed arguably the biggest free agent in the offseason in Langx which will be an immediate and substantial upgrade at a position of dire need. They also added some depth in Xiye and Mark who may actually end up being the starters. Personally I think Yuuki is a stronger player than the perpetually overrated Xiye although not by much. Mark was a solid player and could prove a better fit for Kramer than Killua but time will tell. I rate the two similarly.

The end of the Spring season was much better from LGD than the beginning and unlike seasons past, they stuck primarily with one iteration of their roster for an extended period of time which was a welcome sight. However, they were a bit of a feast-or-famine team. When Peanut was able to make things happen early in the game, LGD were in contention, when he didn’t was a different story. It’s also worth noting that seven of LGD’s fifteen wins came with Kramer piloting the extremely powerful Senna to an undefeated record, most of which came during their late surge winning streak.

It’s going to be interesting what the new coaching staff does with this team. I liked the previous staffs approach to drafting and in-game navigation but that doesn’t mean that this staff can’t also be an upgrade. Langx gives them some much needed help in the top side of the map making what was a liability into a strength against MOST LPL teams which will create leverage elsewhere that they simply didn’t have this season.

I’m optimistic about LGD for the Summer but perhaps not as much as a lot of people. I’ve seen comparisons drawn to JD Gaming’s addition of Loken in that it took a position from a -10 to a +10. I agree with this, but unlike JD Gaming, LGD didn’t have a foundational four players on the rest of their roster. Kramer and Peanut had outstanding seasons and it’s reasonable to expect similar performances from the seasoned veterans but with questions at support and a mid lane situation that amounts to “good, not great” I’m skeptical for just how high LGD’s ceiling is. Still, this is a clear upgrade and I see LGD as the team with the most potential of the B tier teams and the one most likely to earn a playoff position.

 

eStar Gaming

Arrivals: Fenfen (mid), DanDy (head coach), J (manager), HeyBye (manager)

Departures: Alu (support)

Projected Starters: Xiaobai (top), Wei (jungle), Fenfen (mid), Wink (ADC), ShiauC (support)

Substitutes: CJJ (top), Rat (ADC)

Odds: +1300 to win Summer, +1400 to win regular season

To me, eStar are the most interesting team to dissect moving into the Summer season. First, they lose star mid laner Cryin, a player that impressed me more and more the further the season moved on and perhaps even most in some of their losses. Clearly a massive loss, especially given the highly synergistic style the eStar play. The rest of the team remains intact and they bring in the versatile and serviceable Fenfen to replace Cryin and former pro player DanDy, one of the best of all time in my opinion, as the new coach.

What’s perplexing about eStar is that a few of their players were just straight up studs. ShiauC played arguably the best season of his long and storied career, rookies Wei and Xiaobai dominated all over the map, and Wink managed to uphold some of the best ADC numbers in the world even with constant action, typically not a scenario ADC’s fare well in. But even with stud players, they played in a way that demanded good teamwork and chemistry and that was their edge on the field.

I’ve never been more wrong about a team based on my pre-season evaluation than I was about eStar. Even through the beginning portion of the season, their “one-trick pony” strategy of diving bot at the same time in the same way every single game felt predictable and solvable to me but it took teams a long time to figure that out. eStar continued to evolve and adapt as the season went on.

Clearly Cryin is a huge loss and I’m not entirely certain that the synergy which made eStar such a potent force will be there to the same level especially right away. This is going to lead to a lot of overreaction if they have a rough start but I’d trust this team gets it together sooner rather than later. We’ll know pretty quickly just how much of an impact Cryin had for this team but I also think people are forgetting that Fenfen is an experienced and versatile player, capable of playing a number of different champion archetypes and styles. Maybe eStar arent a top six team but I still think they’ll be a playoff team and I wouldn’t rule out that Fenfen steps in an has a career season given his surroundings.

 

A- Tier:

Vici Gaming

Arrivals: Leyan (jungle), Loong (coach), Liet (manager), Tacita (manager)

Departures: Chieftain (jungle), ZDZ (top), Maokai (coach)

Projected Starters: Cube, Leyan, Forge, iBoy, Hang

Substitutes: Maestro (support), Zeka (mid)

Odds: +3100 to win Summer, +3500 to win regular season

Leyan received a ton of criticism on Invictus Gaming in part due to the shoes he was filling at the time when he stepped into the full time position and the overall expectation of greatness that the team has. At the time, Ning was a great player and the team was elite with title winning expectations. When Leyan came in and was just fine, that’s a massive disappointment in the eyes of many. Invictus are a difficult team to play for, it requires a very unique combination of players to play with TheShy game in and game out. When it’s working, they’re one of the best teams on the planet. It hasn’t been working.

While Leyan might not be an elite talent, he is still one of the better junglers in the LPL and he’ll be reunited with former Invictus Young teammate (as well as Invictus main roster for a short time), mid laner Forge. Invictus had to have seen something special from the duo to push them into the spotlight when they started on the main roster for IG during injury/hiatus concerns last Summer. I’m intrigued.

Leyan is still just 17 years old and has a lot of room for growth. A new environment away from the restrictions of TheShy and with a familiar mid lane could work wonders for him. I’ve got my personal gripes with Forge’s play but overall he produces results and has a unique pool of specialized champions that will fit well with a jungler like Leyan.

Another thing to keep in mind with Vici is that coach Kkoma did not get a full offseason with the team due to concerns over the pandemic after the Demacia Cup. With an extended offseason and his first full LPL split under his belt I can only assume that he has learned a lot. Over the years, Kkoma has utilized information and experience better than arguably any other coach. It’s why SK Telecom were always better later in tournaments, seasons, and playoff runs, and seemingly always had the solution regardless of his roster construction.

I’m fairly bullish on Vici this season. I’m rating them a cut above the rest of the B tier, essentially saying that they’re making playoffs no question. I still don’t think they’re quite on the same level as the top teams but it wouldn’t surprise me to see Vici move up closer to or even surpass teams like EDG, RNG, and maybe even Invictus if they falter.

 

A Tier:

EDward Gaming

Arrivals: BBD (ADC)

Departures: Jinoo (top, retired), Xinyi (jungle, renamed to Ping)

Projected Starters: Aodi (top), Jiejie (jungle), Scout (mid), Hope (ADC), Meiko (support)

Substitutes: BBD (ADC), JunJia (jungle), Xiaoxiang (top)

Odds: +1000 to win Summer, +1100 to win regular season

When you consider the situation EDG had to go through, losing part of their roster to quarantine and having to replace them on short notice and one of the replacements being an import (JunJia), it’s quite impressive that EDG had the season that they did. Aodi appears to have developed quite a bit from his time on Vici and has become a complete player, able to play strong and weak side as well as a variety of champions. What’s going to be interesting is whether or not EDG choose to “not fix it if it ain’t broken” and keep the Aodi+JunJia combination together or shift to the higher upside Jiejie now that they have some time to develop chemistry. Hope also turned in a monstrous Spring split perfomance but EDG appear to be interested in giving BBD another try on the main roster. I’m not sure how much time he’ll get but it’s a situation to monitor.

A lot of time when an unexpected player like Aodi has a standout performance people either overreact and expect too much, or under react and attempt to discredit their achievements. We’re seeing more of the latter. I also think that Jiejie is a better jungler overall than JunJia but EDG didn’t want to disrupt what was working late in the season and during a playoff run. If the two can mesh well then EDG will have an upgrade at a position that is weak relative to the others in the LPL overall. Jiejie is a top four or five jungler and people seem to have forgotten that having not seen him for an extended period of time since last Summer. Additionally, the rock-solid Scout had a few shaky performances this season primarily due to some huge, memorable errors. I’d expect a bit of a return to form from him as well. I also think EDG have one of the best coaching staffs in the LPL and have been consistently good for years.

EDG are being a bit underrated.

 

Royal Never Give Up

Arrivals: Cryin (mid), 705 (top), New (top), Shawn (manager)

Departures: Uzi (ADC), LangX (top), Yuekai (top), San Shao (manager)

Projected Starters: 705 (top), XLB (jungle), Cryin (mid), Betty (ADC), Ming (support)

Substitutes: Xiaohu (mid), S1xu (jungle)

Odds: +1200 to win Summer, +1300 to win regular season

So we still don’t know whether or not this is going to be a time share situation in the mid lane or of Cryin is actually the sub or if Xiaohu is starting not but I’m operating under the assumption that Xiaohu is either taking time off, preparing to retire, or just taking a backseat to allow Cryin to take over. Xiaohu turned in one of the best individual seasons of his career this season even though RNG somewhat disappointed as a whole so this move felt a bit strange to me but Cryin was also a beast this season and brings a different style and feel to RNG while bringing some more youthful energy to the team. My only question is whether or not this coaching staff, the reason for almost all of their losses last season, will properly utilize him or just try to turn him into a different player. This is a legitimate concern and must be kept in mind. Be careful assuming rational coaching.

RNG went from an awkward offseason losing Langx and not renewing Uzi’s contract, perhaps due to imminent retirement, to a team that I’m quite excited about. Zoom was clearly a monster once he returned to JDG but don’t forget about 705 who stepped in and was one of the better top laners in the league for a majority of the season. XLB started off hot before the combination of film on him allowed other teams to adjust and his coaching staff putting him in awful positions in the draft that would have made even the best junglers struggle. Betty turned in a career best performance and similar to Xiaohu, that’s saying something for such a long and storied career.

If we assume the coaching staff learns from their mistakes in the Spring, and that’s a big “if” mind you, then I think RNG are probably the fourth best team in the league, perhaps better. In the first half of the season, RNG looked like one of the best teams on the planet before they completely fell off a cliff in large part due to poor drafting. This roster has enough talent on it that it’s difficult for me not to see them in the playoffs.

 

Invictus Gaming

Arrivals: IceCoffee (analyst)

Departures: Leyan (jungle)

Projected Starters: TheShy (top), Ning (jungle), Rookie (mid), Puff (ADC), Southwind (support)

Substitutes: Reheal (support), Baolan (support)

Odds: +350 to win Summer, +400 to win regular season

Invictus looked awful at the Mid-Season Cup. There’s just no way around it. Obviously the level of competition there was extremely high but Ning was severely outclassed and elite teams were able to exploit TheShy. The formula has been laid out. This isn’t new. To me, Invictus desperately need a new jungler unless Ning can get back into the swing of things but I wouldn’t necessarily rule that out. Being back in the starting role full-time could work wonders and clearly Leyan wasn’t working from a stylistic standpoint so why not go back to what worked before. Still, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Invictus bring in a free agent or prospect if things start off rough.

The thing people, including myself when making this list, seem to forget is that Rookie is still really REALLY good and so are Puff and Southwind as a bottom lane. TheShy is, well… he’s TheShy. I think this season may have been a wakeup call for him. As stubborn as he is, he has to see that things need to change, he needs to develop or the team does. He’s still an immensely talented player, make no mistake.

I’m placing Invictus rather high on this list because part of me believes that can’t possibly be worse than they were at the Mid-Season Cup and that this team still finished in first place despite an overall inconsistent Spring performance. To reiterate, they finished first place and weren’t even that good relative to what they could have been… think about that. If Ning can get back to 80% capacity then I think Invictus will remain, perhaps begrudgingly, in the top four “elite” teams. They still just have a unique style and feel and while I think the LPL has figured them out, most teams can’t actually put the solution into practice against them. It takes an elite team to consistently exploit them and it’s important to remind ourselves that they can look bad against high level teams, but not every team is on that level either.

 

S+ Tier:

FunPlus Phoenix

Arrivals: none

Departures: none

Projected Starters: Khan (top), Tian (jungle), Doinb (mid), Lwx (ADC), Crisp (support)

Substitutes: GimGoon (top)

Odds: +230 to win Summer, +250 to win regular season

After being dominated by TOP at the Mid-Season Cup I think a lot of people are going to immediately crown TOP as the defacto #1 with no questions asked but to me, the top three teams in the LPL are all still evenly matched and very good. I don’t think there’s that clear of a distinction.

Interestingly, Khan started every game at MSC and looked really good so it may finally be that FunPlus are ready to roll with him as the majority starter for the foreseeable future. I don’t see GimGoon going anywhere but Khan with more time with the team could prove to bring another element to FunPlus that they haven’t really had, someone that’s more important to focus on than Doinb.

Simply put, this team is really good, the top three in the LPL are all unquestionably good and there isn’t much to discuss since they didn’t change much.

 

TOP Esports

Arrivals: none

Departures: Photic (ADC) Aki (top) leave to academy

Projected Starters: 369 (top), Karsa (jungle), Knight (mid), JackeyLove (ADC), Yuyanjia (support)

Substitutes: QiuQiu (support), Moyu (top)

Odds: +160 to win Summer, +200 to win regular season

TOP dominated the Mid-Season Cup and are the current odds favorite to win the LPL Summer. It’s certainly tough to argue against them. However, I do want to warn against assumption here. TOP may have won that tournament, and dominated in the finals but they also got arguably Karsa’s best performance of the year in that series and he’s had trouble with consistency so far this year. Other than that this team is really good. As with FunPlus Phoenix there isn’t a lot to say about the top LPL teams, they’re all exceptional. Perhaps the only question is who the full time support will be or whether it will remain a time share  between QiuQiu and Yuyanjia.

 

JD Gaming

Arrivals: none

Departures: 705 (top)

Projected Starters: Zoom (top), Kanavi (jungle), Yagao (mid), LokeN (ADC), LvMao (support)

Substitutes: Peace (support)

Odds: +230 to win Summer, +250 to win regular season

Again, all three of the top LPL teams are exceptional. I personally prefer JDG of the three which is why they’re the final team on this list as I favor superior jungle play to almost any other situation and Kanavi is a maniac. Yagao is the “weak link” if there is one on this roster but as we saw in the Spring finals, that doesn’t mean he can’t outplay the other elite guys like Knight and Doinb either.

 

Tier List

S+: JDG, TOP, FPX

A: Invictus, RNG, EDG

A-: Vici

B: eStar, BiliBili, WE, OMG, LGD, Suning

C: LNG, Rogue Warriors, Dominus

D: Victory Five

There is a fairly large gap between the elite three and the field. Any of the teams in B tier are capable of making the playoffs, potentially two if one of the top seven falters.

Futures Strategy

Unfortunately the futures market for the LPL Summer season appears rather sharp. Even upon further, more detailed analysis there are very few positions I like with the league as top heavy as it is and the middle of the table wide open. The three most undervalued teams based on my evaluation are Vici, EDG, and BiliBili but it’s tough to see any of those realistically winning the regular season or the split outright.

I don’t see them posted anywhere but if you have “to make playoffs” props available and can get good looks at teams like Team WE and Vici those feel like solid investments given the outright markets for those teams. Another angle you could play is picking two of the top three and fading the other come late season but the margins on that are probably not worth the investment for most people and that bankroll could be used for better things.

I’m passing on anything for the LPL Summer season but if I had to take a few long shots they’d be on EDG, RNG, and Vici Gaming to win the regular season. Each of these teams possess the upside and talent to contend with the elite teams over the course of a season. Sometimes you get a bit of a hangover from the top teams and given that they played a tournament just last weekend you could see a slow start that could provide at least some equity to these teams right on the outside. If you’re bullish on LGD I could see a position on them in this spot as well.

As with all futures, be aware that the hold is frequently high so unless you have a strong position in mind it’s best to stay away.

My Picks:

No wagers

I’ll be back later this week on Thursday with my first daily picks post as we kick off the Summer season. I look forward to seeing you then!

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