Today I would like to guide you through my thoughts concerning the performances of the various toplaners at Worlds that made appearances in the quarterfinals and beyond. Before delving too far into this, please be aware that the meta did evolve somewhat between some of these series - for example, Aatrox and Urgot were pick/ban in response to each other for the majority of the group stages coming into this stage of the tournament, and Viktor made a sudden appearance in the second half of our quarterfinals matches. I will support my thoughts with some statistical analysis, though I welcome discussion and your own thoughts, especially in regards to the toplaners I didn’t touch on!
1. IG TheShy
“Is there anyone better than you in the toplane?” “Nope.”
Boasting an absolutely phenomenal minion kill lead at 15 minutes of 43 versus Fnatic in Game 2 of the Finals, it shouldn’t be a surprise for anyone to see China’s new Korean king of toplane (and World Champion!) sit comfortably at the top of this list.Whilst his CS differential for the tournament (+6.4 on average) is inflated by that dominating Game 2 Finals performance, TheShy found himself ahead in minion kills at 15 minutes in over 60% of his games.
Coming into the finals with a well-earned level of confidence, Invictus Gaming’s solo queue superstar in the solo lane took Western fans unfamiliar with the LPL by surprise. Renowned for his Riven and just as disgusting on Jayce, TheShy has proven himself to be the best toplaner in the world, both for this tournament, and for the next few months at least.
2. G2 Wunder
Considering the fact that we are looking at the performances of toplaners that made it through every stage of the tournament leading up to them being knocked out, a discouraging semifinals showing from the G2 Esports squad versus the eventual World Champions is still not enough to erase Wunder’s phenomenal group and quarterfinals stage performances.
Whilst his damage share is low in relation to the other top laners on this list (24.4%, a solid 2-3% behind Bwipo/TheShy), we have to keep in mind that Wunder was G2’s win condition in multiple splitpush scenarios this tournament and this statistic is a direct collateral of that. G2 tended to draft the likes of Aatrox, Akali, and Camille for the Danish prodigy, and it was his repeated presentation of being a consistent threat in the sidelane that facilitated more than one victory for the lineup - especially a very notable Camille victory that tilted Flash Wolves off of what seemed like an easy trajectory through Group A.
5. AFS Kiin
Perhaps the latest victim of the Worlds Top 20 curse, Kiin’s performances coming into this tournament were more than enough to write home about - a rookie toplaner that could challenge TheShy, with an LCK finals appearance already on his resume.
Whilst he himself did perform fairly well - and introduce the incredibly obnoxious Viktor top to the Worlds stage - Kiin’s team faltered around him, and it quickly became apparent that his performances weren’t enough to keep the LCK’s (briefly) only hope alive when matched versus teams with equally over-performing toplaners. Boasting a frankly frightening damage share of 30% on average, Kiin’s statistics despite being on a losing team (getting 3-0’d by a North American team was not something expected of any LCK representative) are testament to not only his own prowess but also his teammates’ lack-thereof (sorry Kuro).A consistent 15 minute CS lead in more than half of his games suggests that the Afreeca Freecs’ toplaner had much more to show, but when considering that this was whilst playing versus the likes of Phong Vu Buffalo (who weren’t inclined to play around top very often), a floundering Flash Wolves, and while playing Viktor top versus Cloud9, one has to wonder what to expect if we ever do get that hyped Kiin versus TheShy matchup. I’m sure in the event that we do, the first 15 minutes will be very eventful - regardless of how many times AFs’ Kuro dies to IG’s Rookie.
Until then, Kiin. I have no doubt that this up-and-coming toplane prodigy has so much more to show in the upcoming season, and I’m sure we can all look forward to it - but this tournament was not what we were hoping for.
7. IG Duke
Imagine being a World Champion and being told that you would play second fiddle to a rookie coming into this year - and I’m not just talking about the fact that the true star of Invictus Gaming (and subsequent primary receiver of resources) is veteran midlaner Rookie. No, Duke has been at the top of his game since his Season 6 victory as part of SK Telecom T1 - unfortunately, this apparently only applies to tanks.Relegated to back up duty behind solo queue prodigy TheShy (number 1 on this list), Duke has had an unfortunate tournament in part to a meta defined by champions not named Ornn or Sion. Firmly securing comparatively easy group stage victories against the likes of G-Rex, Duke’s only playoffs appearance following a tragic tiebreaker loss to Fnatic was in Game 4 of Invictus Gaming’s series versus KT Rolster. Used effectively as relief in order for TheShy to be able to catch his breath (or rest his arm) this tournament, his group stage performances and presence on the World Champion roster were enough to warrant a comparatively higher placement than some may expect, though a ridiculously low average damage share percentage of 17% - around 10% lower than his counterpart and teammate TheShy - shows just how much this IG roster left everyone’s favourite bubblegum-chewer hanging out to dry in the rare occasions he did get to play during this tournament.
Honorable Mentions: FNC Bwipo (4), C9 Licorice (6)
If Bwipo - and Fnatic - had put up less of a disastrous World Finals performance, I would definitely have him comfortably in either the 2nd or 3rd spots on this list. However, his constant hemorrhaging of resources - notably in Game 2, before he was subbed out for soaZ, the game where TheShy accrued a ~50 cs lead at the 15 minute mark - also made him lose some degree of the prestige he carried throughout the rest of the tournament. Good performances across the board, his ability to play a supportive role (setting up kills/objectives for his team) whilst on more traditional carry toplaners is something that cannot be understated and he continues to grow. 6 Solo Kills this tournament is also considerably high for a professional toplaner, further demonstrating the bright future that this occasionally overaggressive rookie has in front of him.
Cloud9’s Licorice also performed to a similar standard as Bwipo, exemplifying the trademark aggression we’ve come to attribute to the young toplaners making statements for themselves this tournament. A relatively low damage percentage of 19% is a result of Shen, Ornn, and Singed being some of the North American talent’s pocket picks this time around, and a negative CS, gold, and experience differential at the 15 minute mark obfuscates just how much this up-and-coming talent did to drag his team kicking-and-screaming across the finish line on more than one occasion. In fact, it is a combination of these statistics and the fact that Licorice was not killed for first blood in even one of C9’s games that shows how safe and controlled the newcomer was in his play despite all the attention he was receiving from enemy teams.
Toplane this tournament was an absolute pleasure to watch for a spectator, but an absolute terror to behold for a tank player that doesn’t enjoy playing Sion every game. Strong, varied, carry-oriented champion pools came into play - the aforementioned Urgot/Aatrox pick/ban conundrum accompanied by flex picks such as Irelia and Akali then led into Viktor top coming into prominence due to scrim results. As well as this, most of these toplaners are very young rising talents heralded as mechanical gods in solo queue - who knows what a couple more years alongside (and playing against) some of the more experienced veterans featured on this list will do for them?
I, for one, can’t wait to find out.
Statistics courtesy of Games of Legends, images courtesy of LoLEsports on Flickr