TOP versus Suning. Karsa versus SwordArt. This matchup is filled with an incredible amount of storylines: former Flash Wolves teammates now pitted against one another, the continuing rise of the LPL, the heartbreaking rags to riches story of Huanfeng… it is quite something. That’s all peripheral though - what’s central is that both of these team’s are really good.
However, only one of these LoL giants will have the honour of carrying the LPL’s legacy into the finals. We take a closer look to see who has the better shot.
"I have this picture in my head of me holding the trophy, and I'll do anything to see that dream come true."— LoL Esports (@lolesports) October 23, 2020
The #Worlds2020 Semifinals kick off this Saturday (3AM PST/12PM CEST/6PM CST)!
🎶 "Lux" by @taubertryanpic.twitter.com/am1DLlAjRu
TOP Esports Vs. Suning Gaming
25/10 10am BST/11am CET
(Picture: LoL Esports)
TOP Esports came into the tournament as one of the favourites and were imperious in groups, emerging with a 5-1 record. Then Fnatic happened. TES were desperately close to falling out of the tournament after going down 0-2 to the LEC 2nd seed, and had to claw their way back into the series via a reverse sweep. Hardly the dominating performance expected out of the tournament favourites.
Conversely, outside of game one, Suning confidently outmuscled JDG in their quarter-finals, leveraging SofM’s talents and a stellar performance from firebrand Huanfeng and veteran SwordArt in the botlane. It’s meant this matchup, with all its peripheral storylines and friends turned rivals, is a hell of a lot closer than it may have seemed two weeks ago.
TOP’s strengths lie in their impeccable carries, 369, Knight, and JackeyLove. All are arguing for best in-role, with Knight in particular having made a name for himself as the best performing midlaner in the world prior to the tournament. Add in veteran jungler Karsa, one of the best facilitators in the role, and a world-class roster is what you’re left with. Even when their backs are against the wall, the raw talent of this roster is something to behold -
Their issue has been consistency in recent matches - this is not a midlane carry meta, and Knight has had a somewhat quiet Worlds as a result, Karsa’s preference for a more facilitating style hasn’t been the best fit for the meta, and yuyanjia has had some of the worst performances out of the support role we’ve seen the entire tournament. Raw talent and strength in their given playstyles have gotten TOP this far - it might even win them the championship - but make no mistake, there are absolutely flaws to exploit.
(Picture: TOP Esports, Suning Gaming)
Kelsey Moser’s video on Fnatic’s path to beating TES prior to their quarter-finals called out the issues well: an inflexibility in playstyle, suspect drafting, and the meta trending to laners supporting the jungler rather than vice-versa. It’s the last point that really rings true - TES loves to draft for teamfights rather than strict lane priority, and Karsa tends to path to counter his opponent rather than to further his own advantages. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, nor is it necessarily a bad thing, but it does trend away from the perceived “optimal” way to play the gam
Suning certainly don’t share TOP’s issues about playing through their jungler - Suning live and breathe SofM. The jungle priority meta and hard-farming playstyle have been a gift from the Riot heavens to the LPL third seed, who have seen their grandstanding jungler go from strength to strength with impeccable CSD versus his opponents and increasing confidence from their rookie solo-laners alongside the aforementioned botlaner of Huanfeng. Talented, hungry rookies spearheaded by a tenured superstar in the jungle and a legendary support in SwordArt make Suning a team to be feared.
Suning still have their fair share of issues, though. SofM has only one gear and it is forwards… with the pedal firmly to the floor. It’s what makes him so exciting, so individually dominating, but also what can make him (and by extension, SN) so mercurial. There are few plays this man doesn’t take, and of those he lands more than he misses. The problem lies with what happens when SofM does miss. Suning look like a completely different team if SofM is either a non-factor or otherwise contained.
That’s easier said than done, however, and while Karsa is one of the absolute best at tracking the enemy jungler, his style of looking to counter-gank and shadow rather than aggressively invade could well see SofM come out to a significant advantage. Of course, if Karsa can more reliably pull off what JDG and Kanavi did in game 1 of their quarter-finals versus Suning, then Suning may find themselves in desperate straits.
You: Bin Gangplank play!— Kelsey Moser (莫凯西) (@karonmoser) October 16, 2020
Me, an Intellectual: Zoom has better wave management, has insane engage sense, can 1v4 and live, and exerts major pressure with his advantage
The second glaring issue for Suning is their solo lanes’ bloodthirst. Angel and Bin have put out impressive DPM stats and made numerous highlight plays, but more experienced laners have found ways to manipulate them in lane, and their eagerness to make hero plays has left them with egg on their face concerningly regularly. Zoom for instance, managed Bin’s Gangplank early on with noticeable finesse, and the likes of Knight and 369 certainly have the calibre to repeat that experience on Sunday.
*Jhin ults behind you*— LoL Esports (@lolesports) October 16, 2020
"nothing personnel, kid" pic.twitter.com/LclfymKw21
Taking it all into account, the series should be close… but a jungle-centric meta where mid’s value is more in how well they provide support rather than hard carrying, coupled with a glaring weakness in yuyanjia give Suning an edge. Just.
Perhaps that is something of a shocking conclusion, but the LPL first seed are unlikely to take said judgement lying down. TOP have more than enough talent to prove the naysayers (including this article) wrong, and lessons learned from their Fnatic series may give them the edge required to silence SofM in the jungle, but if Karsa defaults back to Jarvan again… well, better LPL analysts than us have called into question TOP’s draft priorities.
Featured Matchup: Karsa Vs. SofM
In a meta determined by junglers, SofM and Karsa should absolutely demand your attention. If Karsa can control his opponent and allow his solo-laners dominance to shine through to teamfights, then TES march towards the finals can continue. If SofM starts getting ahead? Then TES better be prepared to buck the meta, or Suning will quickly usurp the pre-tournament favourites.