LPL Spring Split awards -- RNG cleans up

Hung "Karsa" Hau-Hsuan of Royal Never Give Up is still one of the most dominant junglers on the Rift. Courtesy of Riot Games

China's League of Legends Pro League is filled with well-known stars, prodigious rookies and up-and-coming talent who just had their breakthrough season. Here are our own 2019 LPL spring awards.

Top lane

Xander/Emily: Kang "TheShy" Seung-lok, Invictus Gaming

Since winning the League of Legends World Championship, Invictus Gaming reverted back to their 2018 regular season selves. They're still a top team in the LPL, but they will consistently follow up on bad fights and play fast and loose, presumably knowing that they can best most opponents mechanically. In most situations they're correct. iG ended the split in second place with a strong 11-4 record that only looks "bad" when you compare it to their previous two splits at 18-1. Last year mid laner Song "Rookie" Eui-jin was still the star of iG despite TheShy's top lane performances and untimely hand injury that many still think cost them the 2018 LPL spring title. This split, the star scales have tipped more in favor of TheShy. He has been tearing apart the back half of the split as iG's permanent top lane starter since their Week 7 sweep of Victory Five. TheShy can somehow turn the worst 1-on-2 into at least a trade kill and snowballs his advantages to carry his team.

Jungle

Xander/Emily: Hung "Karsa" Hau-Hsuan, Royal Never Give Up

For much of last year, Karsa was in the discussion for the title of "Best jungler in the world" and that prestige hasn't worn off. RNG finished in fourth place this split and it's hard to imagine a world where it achieves that result without Karsa's steady early-game control and miraculous late-game performances. There were a few moments this split where Karsa chose a bad fight or missed a smite, but overall, his presence on the Rift resulted in numerous comeback wins post-Uzi's return.

Mid lane Xander/Emily: Zhuo "Knight" Ding, Topsports Gaming

The main problem with the mid lane category in the LPL is where to put Kim "Doinb" Tae-sang, who is integral to FunPlus Phoenix's success, but not necessarily the best overall mid laner in China. Then you have the likes of iG's Rookie, Team WE's Su "xiye" Han-Wei, and RNG's Xiaohu.

Yet, no player in the LPL had more pre-split hype than Knight on Topsports Gaming. Even casual LPL viewers knew of him and his solo queue prowess, even if they had never seen a match of his when he was on Suning last year. The fact that Knight was able to deliver upon, and in many ways exceed, this hype is the most impressive part of his spring split performance. His incredible mid-lane control gives his entire team breathing room to make mistakes and maintain any accrued advantages. Although Knight's performance has dipped a bit as of late, he was still the best mid laner in China for this past regular season.

Bot lane

Xander/Emily: Jian "Uzi" Zi-Hao, Royal Never Give Up

Going into the bot laner award we kept thinking to myself that there had to be another AD carry who overcame Uzi, especially since Uzi took his regularly scheduled break before the Lunar New Year. Team WE's Jin "Mystic" Seong-jun was strong, as was Topsports' Lee "LokeN" Dong-wook, and Hu "iBoy" Xian-Zhao remains an integral part of EDward Gaming's overall playstyle. Yet at the end of the split, we still couldn't think of a bot laner who has played better across the board than Uzi.

Support

Emily: Shi "Ming" Sen-ming, Royal Never Give Up

It is a bit awkward to have three RNG members as first choices but Ming is another pick for top of his position due to his consistency and flexibility. Karsa, Ming, and Xiaohu have kept the team steady, even while struggling in certain series, or overcommitting to a certain playstyle. There are a lot of other strong support performers in the LPL, including talented rookies like Sinodragon's Ling "Mark" Xu, or players who seem to be hitting their stride like FunPlus' Liu "Crisp" Qing-Song, and of course, old standbys like EDward Gaming's Tian "Meiko" Ye. Many people incorrectly think that Uzi carries Ming, but Ming is a star in his own right.

Xander: Meiko, EDward Gaming

Meiko has had his fair share of ups and downs in the LPL the last few years, but at the end of the day, he is still an elite support. Ever since Ming "Clearlove" Kai returned to the lineup, Meiko seemingly has the confidence to be the vision-focused support he was during EDG's best days. As a team that remains focused around bot lane, Meiko maintained control of the lane and more importantly, his teammate and hyper carry iBoy. There's an argument to be made for RNG's Ming this split as always, but Meiko's contribution to a revitalized second-half EDG can't be ignored.

Rookie of the split

Emily: Bai "369" Jia-Hao, Topsports Gaming

You know the LPL is strong when there are so many excellent candidates vying for the Rookie of the Split Award. I considered Sinodragon's Wang "Xiaopeng" Peng and Team WE's Jiang "beishang" Zhi-Peng, but ultimately settled on Topsports Gaming's 369.

Direct from the team's sister LoL Development League team, King of Future, 369 first started for Topsports in the Demacia Cup in last December. He had just turned 17 years old on Nov. 5, 2018. Even in his Demacia Cup games, 369 impressed. This past split he's been a valuable part of TOP's teamfights and has had surprisingly strong coordination with the rest of the team. He's excelled on a wide variety of champions from Vladimir and Sion to Renekton and Jayce. Alongside star mid laner Zhuo "Knight" Ding, has been key factor in earning Topsports third place overall this past regular season.

Xander: Xiaopeng, SinoDragon Gaming

SinoDragon Gaming came into the league as reigning LDL champions and quickly snapped up a playoff berth in its first split of the LPL with strong team synergy and young talent. Among them jungler Xiaopeng stood out as the hottest new carry jungler in the LPL, often dazzling viewers with his Kindred and Nidalee. Combined with mid laner Huang "Twila" Ting-Wei's unique champion pool, Xiaopeng engineered creative early games for SDG and made the team unpredictable during the early laning phase. It's hard to imagine a Sino team without his presence.

Split MVP

Xander/Emily: Kim "Doinb" Tae-sang, FunPlus Phoenix

This is a bit of a contentious pick but from where I'm standing, there is no way that FunPlus would have won the regular season split without Doinb. We don't think they are a peerless team, but we do know that Doinb is integral to their success. Although we weren't as down on jungler Gao "Tian" Tian-Liang as others, the fact that Doinb's mid-lane presence has made Tian look like a superstar is a significant point in Doinb's favor. Doinb has always been a jungler's mid laner, and this is more apparent than ever on the current lineup.

Doinb's dominion over Funplus, and subsequently the LPL split, raises age-old questions that RNG has heard over the years with Uzi like whether it's necessarily a good thing that the team is so reliant on one player. Yet, remove Doinb from the FPX equation. The rest of the team is still strong, especially the bottom lane of Lin "Lwx" Wei-Xiang and Liu "Crisp" Qing-Song -- but they wouldn't have finished first without Doinb.