League of Legends

League of Legends Worlds 2019 review: LPL reign supreme

League of Legends World Championship 2019 is now behind us, concluding another exciting year of competitive League of Legends. Twenty-four best teams from thirteen regions started their Worlds 2019 journey over a month ago with a goal to raise the Summoners Cup in front of the Paris crowd with the entire world watching. 

In the end, the Chinese champion FunPlus Phoenix conquered the competition, as they swept the finals against the hometown favorites G2 esports in a convincing fashion. 

As the dust settles, it’s time to look back and summarize what we have learned during the tournament and what we can expect going forward.

Worlds 2019 breaks viewership records

League of Legends Worlds 2019 broke multiple viewership records, including the most concurrent viewers and most hours watched for an esports event.

According to EsportCharts, during the semifinal series between G2 and SKT T1, 3,985,787 concurrent viewers tuned in, excluding Chinese and TV audiences. It means that the previous record, which was 2.3 million held by Fortnite World Cup 2019, got beaten by a whopping margin.

Worlds 2019 brakes viewership record

A rematch of this year’s MSI semifinal between G2 vs SKT T1 was the most anticipated matchup of the year, two storied franchises with some of the most popular players in the world going head-to-head on European soil.
The spectacle was guaranteed.

Even though the finals between G2 vs FPX wasn’t as hyped, it also got great results with just over 3.7 million concurrent viewers.

Worlds 2019 champion stats and META report

World Championship 2019 has been the most champion-diverse Worlds ever. The total champion count reached 99 unique picks and bans across the play-in stage and main event. That is 68,2% out of all champions in the game. It is an overall increase in comparison to the 2018 LOL World Championship where 63,8% of champions were contested.

Pantheon with 100% P&B rate at Worlds 2019
source: Riot games

Pantheon was the only champion of Worlds 2019 with a 100% pick-ban rate. The only time the Unbreakable Spear was let through was a play-in game between Mega esports and Lowkey esports. He was banned in all the other 119 games, exclusively on the red side. Qiyana was second with 90,6%, Xayah was third with 84,6% and Renekton was the fourth most contested champion with 80,6% pick and ban rate.

You can check the full list on lol.gamepedia.com.

Flexibility, flexibility, flexibility…

That’s right. Flexibility was the name of the game in 2019 Worlds. The ability to flex multiple champions across multiple positions is crucial in order to gain draft advantages. Furthermore, G2 and FPX were one of the most flexible teams in the World and their reaching the finals was no coincidence. 

Picks like Qiyana, Renekton, Gragas, Akali, Ryze, etc. were heavily prioritized because of their overall strength and ability to be played in different lanes. 

Turbulent top lane

Depending on different strategies and gameplans teams used during the tournament, top lane picks varied the most with 35 unique champions (excluding play-in stage). 

Out of the lane dominant champions, Renekton was the most contested one with 18 picks and 46 bans. Also, we saw a decent amount of Jayce and Gnar.

Regarding late-game scaling options, teams preferred Kayle and Vladimir, especially during the group phase.

On the other hand, teams that wanted to focus on playing around their mid and bot lanes used Gangplank the most. With 26 picks, the pirate was the most picked top laner of Worlds. Also, as the tournament progressed, Ornn became a viable option as a weak side top laner.

Jungle champion mini pool

Jungle METAs usually have the least diversity. Worlds 2019 wasn’t any different with only 15 unique jungle picks. However, there is another interesting thing about jungle META’s. Lee Sin is viable in most of them. 

Considering aggressive jungle picks were the preferable option, many Lee Sin games were expected, more so because of many mechanically-gifted players like Clid and Tian attended Worlds.

FPX Tian amazing Lee Sin play

The Blind Monk(42 games), together with Gragas(34 games), dominated the Summoners Rift’s jungle during 2019 Worlds. 
Next on the list were other aggressive junglers Elise and Rek’Sai.

It is important to mention that Qiyana was basically permabanned. However, she won 6 out of 7 games she was placed in the jungle.

Mid->Side “Lane Kingdom”

Mid lane is usually considered the most important lane“, as mid laners can utilize their priority to impact the rest of the map very quickly and effectively. 

Champions like Pantheon, Qiyana, AkaliLeBlanc, Ryze are all great at roaming and diving turrets early on in the game. Also, they are all very strong in lane, as well as in 2v2 and 3v3 skirmishes.

Syndra was also very popular due to her strength in all stages of the game (G2 also used her as a flex pick). Out of the hyperscaling options, Kayle was the only one worth mentioning with 10 mid lane games. 

Most of the champions mentioned above have one thing in common that was very important during Worlds: the ability to be dominant in a side lane during the mid to late game because of their dueling prowess. 

Queens of the bot lane

Just like last year, Xayah and Kai’Sa completely obliterated the competition in P&B rates during Worlds 2019. No other marksman can even challenge them due to how good their kits are. Between the two, Xayah is still a bit higher priority because she is slightly better in the laning phase and the safety her ultimate provides.

Still, they both had over 80% P&B rate with Kai’Sa being let through the ban phase 16 times more.

Another example of how strong Xayah is was her unbelievable 70,6% win rate.

Kai'sa and Xayah
Queens of the bot lane

Only other two marksmen worth mentioning are Ezreal and Varus who were mostly picked when queens were banned.

However, there were some other alternatives like Garen-Yummi and Yasuo-Gragas combos as well as mages like Heimendinger or Veigar

Playmaking supports

Since Xayah works best with her lover Rakan and Kai’Sa synergizes perfectly with Nautilus, these two were the most contested supports throughout 2019 Worlds. Nautilus had 70,1% P&B rate, although some were Doinb’s mid lane picks. Rakan took second place with 55,8%.

Next on the priority list were also some playmaking supports like Leona with 28,6% and Thresh with 22,1% P&B rate.

Another pick was Tahm Kench who was mostly paired with Varus. He was only picked 11 times but he has the highest win rate of the entire Worlds 2019 with 71,4%.

Interestingly enough, Tahm Kench wasn’t picked as a safe support that can save his ADC from a bad situation. LPL teams used it as a very aggressive pick to dive turrets as his Devour resets tower aggro.

Why is LCK still struggling?

The feeling after the group stage ended was that LCK is back. With all of the Korean representatives finishing at the top of their respective groups, a lot of people thought at least one of them would make the finals if not two.

We all know how strong all the Korean teams are, but due to the inexperience of Damwon Gaming and Griffin (their internal issues also played a part), SKTelecomT1 was the most likely to bring the glory back to Korea.

LCK couldn't bounce back from last year Worlds failure
photo via: Lol Esports Photos

A big problem with all LCK teams was their lack of proactivity when ahead, especially with Baron buff. Famous Korean low-risk slow macro play started to be exploited by more proactive teams.

A perfect example of that was SKT vs G2 series in the semifinals. Even though the games were mostly even in gold, SKT was up in tempo and had priority a lot of the time during the mid-game. 

Aside from game two, they were too passive, expecting that G2 would just give up priority for free. G2 managed to win the series 3 to 1, taking their first Baron just before game four ended. 

Additionally, some bad individual performances such as SKT’s Effort, GRF’s Sword and DWG’s bot lane in clutch moments were a final nail in the coffin for LCK in Worlds 2019.

LCK has dominated League of Legends for so long, and strong competition can only be good for League of Legends esports in general. Also, the times when everybody copied what Koreans do is in the past.

LCK as a region should acknowledge that, move forward, and be open to learning from other regions like LPL and LEC.

They shouldn’t be too worried though. Koreans still have the best talent pool in the world and I am positive they will dominate again in the future.

What is going on with NA?

Realistically, Clutch Gaming had no shot at getting out next to FNC, RNG and SKT. The result of 0-6 was expected, and anything else would have been a surprise. However, they didn’t give up and showed some good performances.

Even though Cloud 9 usually does pretty well at Worlds, it wasn’t so pretty this time around. G2 and Griffin are just better teams overall, and they didn’t give C9 much chance. Blaber starting 3 out of 6 games was also very surprising, because Svenskeren was the MVP of the LCS summer split.

It’s expected that C9 is going to make a lot of changes for the 2020 season. Zeyzal and Svenskeren are already out the door, and Sneaky is heavily rumored to be parting ways with the org as well.

Still, NA superteam Team Liquid was the biggest LCS hope all along. They won four straight LCS titles and they had a legit chance of making NA fans proud. 

Their chances went down a little bit when DWG was placed in their group as a fourth seed, although they were still confident of reaching quarters. 

It turned out that DWG and IG were just too powerful.

LCS disappointing performance
photo via: Lol Esports Photos

It is safe to say that North American League of Legends has some serious problems. The lack of homegrown talent is a serious problem. High ping and toxic soloq don’t help either. 

As the off-season rumors are already getting traction, it seems that more high profile Korean and European imports are making their way to NA. Tusin, Broxah, Kobbe, Rekkles and more are being mentioned as possibilities. 

Maybe all these imports push some NA teams towards good international results, but it definitely slows down their overall growth and harms the region longterm.

LMS and VCS status

Vietnam’s professional League of Legends league is now two years old. Their ultra-aggressive style of play didn’t have much success in Worlds 2019, but they surely still deserve a direct spot in group stages.
On the other hand, LMS has been underwhelming yet again. J Team had some solid performances, but AHQ didn’t prove they are worthy of second pool in Worlds draw.

Their best players and coaches going to LPL really hurt the region, and it doesn’t look like they will recover anytime soon. It feels that LCK or LEC having another team directly at the group stage has much more sense at this moment.

Smaller regions getting bigger

Enough with the negatives; let’s move on to some positive things from Worlds 2019.

Year in and year out we see so-called Wildcard teams improve as a whole. We didn’t have another Albus Nox Luna this year. None of them even qualified for the main event.

However, the overall quality of the games in the play-ins was quite respectful. 

Gambit vs CG
photo via: Lol Esports Photos

Gambit is the best example, as they were on the verge of qualifying to the knockout stage. GMB pushed Splyce all the way to five games in a thriller of a series. 

Teams like Mammoth and IsurusGaming can also be happy with their performances on Worlds 2019. 

Still, it is always a great learning experience for smaller region teams and it helps the development of the regions as a whole. 

Has the gap closed for LEC?

In contrast to LCS, all three European teams qualified for the knockout stage for the first time in Worlds history. Also, LEC has had a Worlds finalist for the second straight year, and I’m pretty sure it is not an accident or luck. LEC has been constantly improving as a region despite financial disadvantages compared to other major regions.

G2 esports played some amazing League of Legends throughout 2019. Even though FPX blocked their way to the golden road, they proved that a western team can challenge and beat eastern powerhouses.

G2 heavily impacted how teams play around the world with their proactive style and explosive mid games. They showed throughout the year that all five members can carry (and play Pyke as well).

G2 reach finals
photo via: Lol Esports Photos

Splyce had a very impressive showing at the World Championship 2019. After Gambit pushed them to 5 games in play-ins, they took advantage of having an easier group. Who knows how the tournament would have played out if Splyce won the group B first seed tiebreaker vs FPX.
Their Worlds 2019 journey ended in quarterfinals as SKT was too big of a challenge for LEC’s third seed.
It is rumored that the squad is, unfortunately, breaking up. Allegedly, a lot of players are thinking about leaving as Splyce goes through rebranding and will become Mad Lions in 2020.

It seems that Fnatic is going through some hard times as well. Some internal issues are being mentioned as a possible reason for them falling short to FPX in quarterfinals. 
Even though they had an amazing week two of the group stage, they didn’t really have the best showing overall. 
They were making draft mistakes, lacked proactivity and individual performances of some players were questionable as well. Still, they managed to get out of the group of death by knocking out RNG, and that can’t be ignored. 
Nemesis developed into a very good player, and he was their standout performer at Worlds. On the other hand, Broxah and Bwipo were far from their last year’s form.

All in all, EU’s results at Worlds 2019 don’t necessarily mean that LEC has surpassed LCK and LPL as a region, as they still have the best talent pool and probably the better league all in all.

However, I think it is fair to say that the gap has officially closed.

In the end, LPL reign supreme

For the second year in a row, Summoners Cup is going to China. 

Fun Plus Phoenix secured the title, led by their supercarry Doinb and finals MVP Tian

Many people weren’t so sure that FPX is capable of pulling it off after their not so convincing group stage performances. However, the Phoenix rose in the knockout stage and proved everyone wrong. They dropped only two games in the knockout stage, and without a doubt, they deserved to be crowned champions.
Teams didn’t have an answer to Doinb’s champion ocean. Also, Tian and Crisp were the best jungle-support duo. Together, they took over the map most of the time.

photo via: Lol Esports Photos

After the loss to TL in MSI semifinals, Invictus Gaming had an underwhelming summer season. They secured the third seed after two full 5-game series in China’s regional qualifiers. 

That left a lot of question marks on how good IG actually is. As soon as Worlds kicked off, the defending champions were back to their championship form, especially Rookie and TheShy, their star players.
After an exciting series against Griffin in the quarterfinals, it was time for all-Chinese semifinals. After four games, FPX proved that they are the best China has to offer and crushed IG’s dreams of defending the World title.

On the other hand, Royal Never Give Up didn’t qualify for the knockout stage for the first time ever. Even though they played well, Fnatic was just a bit better and went through.  
Uzi showed once again how dominant he can be, but three Ezreal picks on day two didn’t play to RNG’s advantages. He still led the tournament in cs per minute with a whopping 11.13.

This result opens up a question: does Riot’s draw format makes sense the way it is constructed right now? It raises eyebrows to see how some groups can be much more competitive than others, and they should think about changing it.

A cherry on top

All in all, League of Legends World Championship 2019 was a great ending to Season 9. It has been amazing to watch the esport moving forward and becoming bigger and bigger around the globe. 

Even though the League season is over, there are still interesting things to follow. The off-season is expected to be wild, and a lot of players will find a new home. 

Also, the 2019 All-star event will take place in Las Vegas from December 5th-7th. 

Which star will switch teams? Will LCK come back stronger next Worlds or will LPL accomplish a three-peat? Can a western team finally do it?

Feel free to share your opinion in the comments below.

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