Before the Summer LPL Playoffs, I expect few people had Suning picked to make it to worlds. Former world champions, FPX and iG were both clawing for the third and fourth spot, and many; including myself; figured their recent clutch performances would get them there. But in dominating fashion, V5 took down FPX, leaving Suning to beat V5, and make it all the way to the semifinals. That’s where their luck would stop though, leaving them in a 3-0 dumpster thanks to TES. Their final performance being so lackluster left many, once again, to pick G2 ahead of them, expecting a decent quarterfinals finish, but not much else. Once again, Suning has proved doubters wrong, showing that strong rookies, and the best worlds storyline (look at huanfeng’s backstory) are enough to destroy established players. Even now, many people are predicting a repeat of the summer finals 3-0, even in the face of a TES that showed some weak spots. The question remains; how much have Suning improved, and how well will TES perform?
Once again, we will start at the top side of the map, and work our way down. Beginning with 369 v. Bin, the top lane will likely be the most volatile matchup of the bunch. Known for his Gangplank, and other carry top laners, Bin has made a name for himself; both regionally, and now internationally. The Gangplank barrel that secured them the first seed out of Group A will live as one of the craziest plays in worlds history. But in his matchups with 369, and TES, he hasn’t been able to accomplish much. While he can perform incredibly well on champions like Gangplank, his overall pool is much smaller than 369’s. I highly doubt we’ll see a repeat of Sion v. Ornn in the top lane, as he doesn’t really play either of those champions. So instead, it’ll shift to carry v. carry, and while that may be in Bin’s wheelhouse, he’ll still have a hard time outmatching 369. 369 is only matched by Nuguri in his flexibility, and overall ability to play the top lane. Almost every game in the summer, he was gifted the counter pick, and given jungle pressure, because as soon as he snatches a lead, he doesn’t let go. This was seen in the earlier TES series, where he got counter pick every time, and completely neutralized one of Suning’s greatest carries. One of the two consistent worlds performers on TES is 369, and the other is his jungler. So even in a world where Bin gets his champions, I don’t see more than one game going in his favor; especially following a series where he got destroyed in lane by Zoom.
While top lane looks to be decided already, the jungle is one place that Suning might have the edge. SofM came into the tournament as a good jungler, but has quickly made an argument for best jungler. His creative builds, smart pathing, and willingness to scrap over anything have all worked to perfection thus far. In my opinion, his performance is what edged them over G2. Karsa, on the other hand, has been on and off. His group stage performance wasn’t up to par with what I was expecting, but the last three games of their FNC series are some of the most passionate, strong-willed jungle games I’ve ever seen. It seems as though he needs his comfort picks, over the meta picks to perform well (with the exception of Nidalee), so if they ban him out, or simply pick away his comfort, I can see a world where SofM starts to dominate that 1v1 matchup. The issue comes when you look elsewhere, and specifically towards the mid lane.
Knight has consistently been touted as the greatest player in the world, by many analysts. His versatility, consistency, and ability to carry are all unmatched, which is saying something about a mid laner. Angel, on the other hand, might be Suning’s weakest link at an overview. The champion pools illustrate the matchup incredibly, with Angel playing five total champions this tournament (including four Galio games), while Knight has played nine (only playing two games of Sylas and Orianna). It’s important to note that their number of games is identical; both playing eleven thus far. Angel has seemingly been put on supportive mid lane duty, with the exception of an Akali game, and a few Syndra games. But for the most part, his duty is to aid SofM in getting gold and pressure. You can see this in the gold and damage numbers, with his damage and gold % both being almost identical to his jungler’s. Knight is almost the opposite story. He sports the second highest damage and gold on his team, he loves to innovate on carry picks like Nocturne, and while he roams, it’s typically for himself or 369, and not for Karsa. The numbers and champions tell a story of Knight prevailing over Angel, and this is with Knight supposedly underperforming, and Angel improving, so unless that gap closes real quick, there’s likely no hope for Suning’s mid.
The bottom lane is the other big opportunity for Suning to garner a lead. While many respect JackeyLove as one of the best carries in the world, his performance against FNC was abysmal at points. On the opposite side, huanfeng single-handedly dismantled JDG in their quarterfinals series. If both of these trends continue, we could see a hole in TES continue to widen, but rather than depending on the ADCs themselves, the fate of the lane is in the hands of the supports. A lot of JackeyLove’s poor performance was off the back of yuyanjia borderline-inting in their FNC series. The Tahm Kench game broke the worlds record for most deaths in the first twelve minutes, I believe, and there was no way JackeyLove could play the game with that performance. Swordart on the other hand looks to be playing at peak form, which is saying something, as he’s a seasoned veteran. So outside of the ADCs, it looks like Suning are favored way above TES in the bottom lane, and unless they continue to pick lanes like Ezreal Karma for TES’s bottom lane, it’ll likely be a strong point for Suning in this series.
When looking at the teams themselves, they both play a similar style: very top-heavy in the early game, with ADCs that provide all the late game damage, and the willingness to fight for anything. The issue is that, even though TES have shown some weaknesses, and can be outpressured in some areas, it’s hard to see a world where Angel wins, or Bin wins, and when both solo laners have no pressure, the bottom lane lead can’t be transitioned into anything else. So, barring a catastrophic failure from certain TES players, they’ll most likely hold on to large advantages in this series.
Will Lee Sin be contested?
As far as this specific tournament goes, Lee Sin hasn’t been a priority pick for anyone. Hard carry junglers like Nidalee and Lillia are being prioritized over him. But both SofM and Karsa have broken him out to immense success. He might be the reason TES are still in this tournament. It’ll be interesting to see how the jungle pick-bans develop. If Lee Sin isn’t seen from the start, I could definitely see him picked later on, by whichever jungler is losing.
How well can Bin lane, and/or perform?
Bin’s overall game has been one of the main reasons for Suning’s current success. His Gangplank play in teamfights has been ridiculous at points, zoning off entire teams by himself. But his laning against JDG was not convincing, and outside of Gangplank, he hasn’t been able to take over games as anyone else. I’ve heard from multiple players that scrims have shown Bin as one of the best top laners in the world, but so far we haven’t seen it. If he can pull early advantages out from the 1v1, Suning have yet another shining spot in their team, but if he starts to lose, that blemish will be hard to cover up from the bottom lane.
What will Angel’s job be?
So far this tournament, Angel has felt like a second support for the squad. He’s been consistently performing, but on previously-mentioned supportive champions like Galio. If their idea for him is to neutralize Knight by playing safe and matching pressure, I can see that happening, but I don’t think that will win them games. It’s like playing to win vs. playing not to lose; the first is much stronger and more confident, and will get you a lot farther. If they put him on Galio duty for the whole series, I don’t see a Suning victory.
Will Suning continue to make strides?
With a couple of group stage exceptions, Suning have been on the skill climb for almost six months it feels like. Almost every game they learn something new, and add it to their arsenal. At this point, they’re up there with teams like TES as some of the best teamfighters in the world. But without another big boost, they’re still not up to par with what could be the best overall roster in the world. They need to step it up one more time, and maybe another after that, if they’re going to reach the pedestal.
Despite the outstanding improvements made by Suning over the past few months, and the arguable underperformance from key members of TES, it’s hard to see that 3-0 summer gap being bridged. I think the experience advantage on the side of TES; specifically with Karsa; is something to not be overlooked. He almost single-handedly brought them to this point with his last three games in the FNC series. Also, they’re less likely to underperform, as they’re playing into a team they’ve known, and are comfortable with. I think the bottom side of Swordart and huanfeng will lead them to a few early leads, unless TES can find better performances from yuyanjia, but the rest of the map is almost universally worse. I see one of those leads taking them to a victory, but aside from that, better solo lane play is more reliable, and will lead TES to a 3-1 series victory.