This past week, Rogue Warriors won their first match of the split, Vici Gaming continued to rise through the standings, and FunPlus Phoenix struggled. Despite Top Esports' dominion over the LoL Pro League, and League of Legends as a whole, there is a lot of volatility in both gameplay and the standings shuffle.
Games played (how much are the standings lying to you?)
Once again, the standings are lying to you a bit. It's not as much as the start of the season, but now that we're well past the halfway point, it's good to take into account who has easier scheduling, who has tougher scheduling, and which teams have played the most series. Four weeks is still an eternity in the LPL so there's a lot of room for teams to move around, especially in nebulous middle of the standings from fifth-place Team WE all the way down to 15th place EDward Gaming. For reference, in 2020 LPL Spring, the lowest seeded playoff teams were Royal Never Give Up and Team WE who both had 8-8 series records.
As of Week 6, Invictus Gaming (7-3), Dominus Esports (1-9), and eStar (2-8) are the three teams who have played the most series at 10 total (after Day 1 of Week 7, they will be joined by Suning and Victory Five). If iG beat the weaker teams on their schedule in Oh My God (3-6), LNG Esports (2-7) that should guarantee them a playoff spot even if they lose to their stronger upcoming opponents in Victory Five (7-2), Top Esports (8-0), RNG (5-4), and Vici Gaming (5-3). Unfortunately for DMO and eStar, they both have tougher roads ahead of them having already played 10 matches and having only one and two wins respectively.
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Of the teams that played the least amount of matches thus far at eight - Top Esports, LGD Gaming, Vici Gaming, and Bilibili Gaming - LGD and Vici are the two to watch as this puts them in firmer control of their own playoff destinies by simply having more games left to play.
The rise of Vici Gaming?
Vici are a team forgotten by most western fans until someone remembers their unfortunate past results with players like Choi "DanDy" In-kyu, Bae "Bengi" Seong-woong, or Cho "Mata" Se-hyeong. More recently, most western fans only pay attention to them when they remember that former T1 coach Kim "kkOma" Jeong-gyun went there during this past offseason.
Currently, Vici are on a four-match win streak with victories over LNG, eStar, Rogue Warriors, and a surprising upset over FunPlus Phoenix. (I'd say shocking, but this is the LPL so we'll settle on surprising given that the only shock in the LPL right now would be if Top Esports fell to a team outside of the top four.) Part of their success is due to strength of schedule. LNG, eStar, and Rogue Warriors are 14th, 15th, and 16th respectively with five match wins between all three teams. More interesting was Vici's recent victory over FPX.
Whenever a middling-to-lower-tier team upsets a top team the question is always of whether the supposed better team played worse than expected or the supposed worse team is better than expected.
To that end, we have FunPlus Phoenix not contesting whatsoever for Elder Drake as if they forgot that it existed. They made many mistakes that game but this was the largest one. Credit should go to Vici for being a more cohesive teamfighting unit that could easily re-engage onto FPX and turn many fights and skirmishes in their favor.
It's not time to believe in Vici yet. We need to see more from them, especially more consistency or a more defined playstyle. I'm not sold on their jungle situation regardless of whether Li "Aix" Yang or Lu "Leyan" Jue is starting and Hu "iBoy" Xian-Zhao, while immensely talented, is still volatile. I don't want to take away from their FPX win, but Vici need to show more to be considered a danger for playoffs. If there's a place to start, it's with top laner Dai "Cube" Yi who has looked consistently good. He also has a surprisingly low death rate for a starting top at 19%, especially for someone with such a high kill participation at 67%(first of all starting LPL tops).
Early MVP front-runner: Song "Rookie" Eui-jin (Invictus Gaming)
Late last week I talked a bit about my front-runners for this split's MVP, Rookie of the Split, and First All-Pro Team winners. I won't delve into All-Pro front-runners since those are the most subject to change before the end of the split but I do want to talk about my MVP front runner: Song "Rookie" Eui-jin.
Invictus Gaming would be nowhere near the top of the standings right now if it were not for Rookie's presence on the team. He has single-handedly dragged iG over multiple finish lines this summer, putting on stunning performance after stunning performance. It's a bit odd to cite Rookie as an MVP candidate now after he had his worst showing of the split this past week against BLG, but iG are currently in fourth place and the reason they're that high at all is thanks in large part to Rookie.
Rookie has spent the majority of his time this split on Orianna, Twisted Fate, Azir, and Syndra (if it's not banned against him). These champions are somewhat behind his absurd damage per minute number of 630, which is first of all LPL mids and fourth overall behind two bot laners and, hilariously enough, iG's volatile top laner Kang "TheShy" Seung-lok. His champion choices and wave management also allow him to make the most of roam timings to help his side lanes or jungler Gao "Ning" Zhen-Ning
Early Rookie of the Split front-runner: Guo "ppgod" Peng (Victory Five)
Currently in the LPL, there is no other front-runner for this award that comes close to the performance or team impact that ppgod has had with Victory Five. V5 is a team effort -- mid laner Li "Mole" Hao-Yan and jungler Wei "Weiwei" Bo-Han should at least be on short lists for All-Pro and MVP discussions - but according to players and casters it's ppgod who arrived on this team with a strong voice and direction as well as good mechanics.