11 Mar 2021 10:06 AM +00:00

Thorin’s Top 20 League line-ups of all-time (10-1)

After five seasons of competitive play and countless domestic championships contested, deciding upon the top 20 League of Legends line-ups of all-time is a difficult task and one not undertaken lightly. 

Firstly, I narrowed my quest by making it line-ups and not teams, to limit each entry to a specific five players who spent a specific duration of time playing together, not teams with rotating doors at certain positions. 

Secondly, I've weighed each team's success along with their style of play and relative excellence.  This is not merely a list of winners and their first places compared and contrasted.  I've sought to determine the excellence of a team in their approach and level of play, as well as the number of shiny trophies and medals they acquired along the way.  This is, of course, a highly subjective list, as it should be, so I've gone to great lengths to make each entry as much as about my own understanding each team's greatness as it is about the team's factual accomplishments. 

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These are my top 10 League of Legends line-ups of all-time. 

Part 1: 20-11Part 2: 10-1 

10. Taipei Assassins (TPA) - Active period: April 2012 to January 2013

Line-up:

Top - Stanley

Jungle - lilballz

Mid - Toyz

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ADC - bebe

Support - Mistake 

Accomplishments:

2012 NVIDIA Game Festival (2nd)

2012 GPL Opening Event (1st)

2012 StarsWar 7 (1st)

2012 Season 2 TW Regional (1st)

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2012 Season 2 World Championship (1st)

2012 GPL Season 1 (1st)

2012 IPL5 (3rd) 

TPA did have some early unacknowledged success, upsetting the pre-ClearLove and Fzzf World Elite at StarsWar 7, but it was, of course, their miraculous run at the Season 2 World Championship, culminating in the title, which they are best remembered for.  They then followed that feat up with a very respectable top three finish at IPL5.  While TPA did benefit from some of the Worlds play-off rounds being Bo3 and some inspired play from Toyz, who was not appropriately target banned, their World Championship came thanks in large part to their strategical and tactical understanding of the game. 

One of the first to apply effective split-pushing, they frustrated a number of teams and their level ones were innovative and kept perhaps better teams off-balance from the get-go.  Their time at the top was short-lived, thanks to factors outside of the server meaning the team could simply not stay together, but they did accomplish something special and it was a win for strategy and infrastructure as much as those great - and they were great - Orianna shockwaves. 

9. Oh My God (OMG) - Active period: May 2013 to October 2013

Line-up:

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Top - Gogoing

Jungle - LoveLin

Mid - Cool

ADC - San

Support - Pomelo 

Accomplishments:

2013 NVIDIA Game Festival (4th)

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2013 LPL Spring (1st)

2013 WVW National Elite Cup (1st)

2013 StarsWar 8 (1st)

2013 IEM VIII Shanghai (3rd-4th)

2013 Season 3 CN Regional (2nd)

2013 Season 3 World Championship (5th-8th)

2013 WCG CN Qualifier (1st) 

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When OMG first came on the scene, the landscape of the Chinese region had World Elite, the best team in LoL, firmly entrenched in dominant fashion atop the throne, on a sick streak of series won stretching months back into 2012.  WE's style was to use slow pushes to abuse map pressure and to play for the late-game so monster ADC WeiXiao could dominate most effectively.  Initially, many other Chinese teams struggled to adapt, seeking simply to emulate WE.  Then came OMG, whose style was early grouping and aggressive tower-diving.  Short-circuiting the control of WE, OMG would become the new top dogs of China. 

At the time, exposure of Chinese LoL was at a low in the West.  World Elite were known for having competed in the West and internationally in general, so most knew of China mainly from having seen IPL5 or the CLG.EU vs. WE quarter-final at Worlds.  As a result, OMG's brief run of dominance in China, seeing them win LPL, the WVW National Elite Cup and StarWars 8, was not fully appreciated as the rise of a new dominant force. 

It didn't help matters that OMG's Worlds story saw them overshadowed by the Cinderella run of Uzi's Royal Club.  Royal somehow snapped into sizzling form and won the Chinese qualifier.  OMG would impress with a win over SKT in the group stage of Worlds, but drawn against Royal in the quarter-finals, they would be eliminated before the semi-finals.  Had OMG been drawn against any of the other three top seeds waiting at that phase, it's very likely OMG would have finished at least top four in LA. 

After Worlds, a spirited NaMei performance allowed Positive Energy to edge OMG out and deny them back-to-back LPL titles.  China's second truly great line-up would attempt to fix matters by bringing in a new Support and this edition of the line-up was no more. 

As a team, OMG's dive style was facilitated by the impressive mechanical play of Mid laner Cool and Jungler LoveLin.  The top half of the map was very much their focus, as Top laner Gogoing made up the other part of the OMG trinity of stars.  Support was always a position they struggled at, with LoveLin having departed from that role to play Jungle.  Their ADC (San) was a very solid clean-up player who knew his limits and his role in a region where he faced monsters day in and day out.  OMG were not the best team in Chinese LoL history, but they were the best at a specific point in time and are certainly a candidate for the most entertaining line-up in history. 

8. EDward Gaming I (EDG) - Active period: February 2014 to December 2014

 

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Line-up:

Top - Koro1

Jungle - ClearLove

Mid - U

ADC - NaMei

Support - Fzzf  

Accomplishments:

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2014 International Esports Tournament (1st)

2014 LPL Spring (1st)

2014 IEM Season IX - Shenzhen (2nd)

2014 LPL Summer (1st)

2014 Season 4 CN Regional (1st)

2014 Season 4 World Championship (5th-8th)

2014 NVIDIA Game Festival (1st)

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2014 NEST (2nd)

2014 National Electronic Sports Open (1st)

2014 Demacia Cup S2 (1st) 

EDG are primarily a team with a superlative domestic record, in what was easily the second most high level competitive region in LoL: China.  Over the course of 2014, they not only won both LPL splits, but they won five other LAN titles and made the finals of a total of nine offline events for the year.  Such dominance ever surpassed the greatness of World Elite's late 2012 to early 2013 run against their countrymen. 

What's more, EDG did it without having a cadre of stars.  ADC NaMei was the best Chinese player, but outside of him the team won thanks to their team-play and understanding of macro play, not simply out-muscling the silverbacks of the Chinese region.  Taking their cues from coach Aaron, who had previously coached WE, EDG would master the ability to survive into the late-game and then win with intelligent team-fighting.  Thus, the cycle turned again, with EDG taking back the crown from OMG that OMG had wrenched from WE's hands. 

International results lacked, as EDG failed to progress to the final four at Worlds, but they did still push finalists SHRC to five games in the quarter-final and they were far and away the best Chinese team for the rest of the year.  Again, international competition is its own beast and domestic results deserve appreciation on their own merits, especially of such magnitude and on such a scale as EDG's in 2014. 

7. EDward Gaming II (EDG) - Active period: December 2014 to present

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Line-up:

Top - Koro1

Jungle - ClearLove

Mid - PawN

ADC - Deft

Support - Meiko 

Accomplishments:

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2014 G-League (1st)

2015 Demacia Cup Spring (1st)

2015 LPL Spring (1st)

2015 Mid Season Invitational (1st)

2015 Demacia Cup (1st)

2015 LPL Summer (4th) 

This edition of EDG can scarcely be compared to the previous one, sharing little more than the same name and two players.  Even those players are not the same as they were in the all-Chinese line-up.  Koro1 shifted from primarily a utility Top laner to a hybrid carry who could reasonably have a claim staked on his behalf as the best Top laner in the world around the MSI. 

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Jungler ClearLove has always been criticised for his aversion to tanking, preferring to find farm and enter late-game team-fights as an additional carry, more akin to a greedy Support in Dota than the low econ Junglers that Korean LoL has repeatedly produced over the last few years.  In this line-up, ClearLove could be seen, prior to the arrival of Cinderhulk, playing aggressive warrior style Junglers and putting pressure on early, even showing off on Lee Sin at times.  He was one of the definitive edges EDG held in their MSI win. 

The most similar position in this EDG lies at ADC, where Deft shares tendencies with NaMei.  Best known for late-game team-fighting and prone to occasionally dying in lane, both were frighteningly effective at outputting damage once the latter stages of a game arrived.  Deft has since shifted to showing more early game prowess, particularly early on in this Summer split, but he seemed to be utilised similarly to NaMei earlier on. 

The largest difference is at the Mid lane, where PawN is a duelling one-on-one specialist, known for counter-picking the Mid lane match-up routinely and then playing a risky and aggressive style.  U, the Chinese Mid who occupied that spot in 2014, was far more at the safer, farming utility Mid end of the spectrum. 

This edition of EDG was not only able to win the LPL championship, but go beyond the accomplishments of the all-Chinese squad, winning a significant international competition, beating the best Korean team in a Bo5 along the way.  That result meant a lot for the Chinese region and showed the extent to which the Korean talents had been integrated into the EDG blend. 

6. Azubu Frost/CJ Entus Frost (AZF/CJF) - Active period: June 2012 to March 2013

Line-up:

Top - Shy

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Jungle - CloudTemplar

Mid - RapidStar

ADC - Woong

Support - MadLife 

Accomplishments:

2012 OGN Champions Summer (1st)

2012 Season 2 World Championship (2nd)

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2012 OGN Champions Winter (2nd)

2013 IEM VII Katowice (3rd-4th)

2013 IEM VII World Championship (2nd) 

As brilliant as MiG Blaze was, it was Frost who stood as the first truly great Korean team, all things considered.  This line-up reached three straight finals, winning OGN Summer and finishing runner-up at the Season 2 World Championship.  Few teams can boast the level of consistency Frost displayed.  They could be beaten, but it took world class play from the opponent, Frost would not simply be bullied and back down. 

Marked by an early emphasis on vision control, their primary star was Support player MadLife and his transcendent play-making more than made up for the ADC inadequacies of Woong.  Even that much maligned name brought something of intrinsic value, as his pick-ban understanding both helped Frost maintain an edge on a variety of opponents and also win their famous blind pick specialty.  Top laner Shy went from a precocious rookie to the best player in the world at his position in the span of a few months. 

Frost were a team who had just enough skill to play at a world class level and then supplemented that talent with a team-played orientated approach and ability to fight from behind that made them an unwaveringly consistent team in their performance.  They didn't win many titles, but they were always a tough match-up.  The original kings of Korea. 

5. Moscow Five/Gambit Gaming (M5/GG) - Active period: December 2011 to June 2013 and November 2013 to May 2014

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Line-up:

Top - Darien

Jungle - Diamondprox

Mid - Alex Ich

ADC - Genja

Support - GoSu Pepper (Edward) 

Accomplishments:

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2012 IEM VI Kiev (1st)

2012 IEM VI World Championship (1st)

2012 Dreamhack Summer (2nd)

2012 ECC Poland (1st)

2012 Season 2 EU Regional (1st)

2012 Season 2 World Championship (3rd-4th)

2012 Tales of the Lane (3rd)

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2012 IPL5 (4th)

2013 IEM VII Katowice (1st)

2013 IEM VII World Championship (3rd-4th)

2013 MLG International Exhibition (2nd)

2013 EU LCS Spring (2nd)

2013 IEM VIII Cologne (1st)

2014 IEM VIII World Championship (3rd-4th)

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2014 EU LCS Spring (5th) 

For the first nine months of 2012, Moscow Five took Europe and the world by storm.  Winning four of their first five offline tournaments, their aggressive style, marked by powerful counter-jungling and instinctively brilliant team-fighting, made them a handful for any opponent.  They would stamp their claim to the title of world's best team with a 32:6 game record in offline play prior to the Season 2 World Championship. 

The Worlds title which would have been the centrepiece of their dominance never arrived, thanks to the shock of TPA's strategical understanding, but M5 had still soared to a dizzying height in a historical context.  While their period as Gambit Gaming was not of the same quality as their M5 run, they always found a way to return to relevance and compete with the top teams.  Famously good after boot camps and in offline competitions, this five man line-up finished top four in 14 out of 15 offline events, with only their final one breaking that streak. 

M5 dominated and innovated, Gambit Gaming competed and clutched it out and the fans were the true winners at every turn.  Diamondprox changed the Jungle position forever, Alex Ich captained some of the most frenzied yet effective team-fighting ever witnessed and Genja seemingly commuted from an alternate dimension monthly with his understanding of a meta that existed for nobody else but him.  One of the magical line-ups, who existed at just the right time and the likes of which will never be seen again. 

4. World Elite (WE) - Active period: September 2012 to December 2013

Line-up:

Top - CaoMei

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Jungler - ClearLove

Mid - Misaya

ADC - WeiXiao

Support - Fzzf  

Accomplishments:

2012 Season 2 World Championship (5th-8th)

2012 WEM (1st)

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2012 IEF (1st)

2012 GIGABYTE StarsWar League (1st)

2012 TGA Grand Prix Winter (1st)

2012 IPL5 (1st)

2012 G-League Season 2 (1st)

2013 GIGABYTE StarsWar League Season 2 (2nd)

2013 NVIDIA Game Festival (1st)

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2013 LPL Spring (4th)

2013 Asian Indoor-Martial Arts Games (2nd)

2013 IEM VII Shanghai (1st)

2013 WCG China Qualifier (2nd)

2013 NEST (2nd)

2013 LPL Summer (3rd)

2013 WCG (3rd) 

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Most Western LoL fans know that World Elite's dominant performance at IPL5 propelled to world number one status, but what is less well understand is that their virtuoso run through the world's best teams came in the midst of one of the most stunning domestic runs of all-time.  Following their elimination from the Season 2 World Championship in the quarter-final, Misaya's men began a 33 series win streak and managed something in the realm of an 85:13 game record (over 86%).  Much of that was against Chinese opposition, but it also included international play at IPL5 and WEM. 

The star who pushed WE forwards and defined their style was WeiXiao, the best ADC and perhaps the world's best player outright.  Mechanically perfect, as far as one could be at that time, his strengths were catered to and amplified by a unique style of purposely drawing out games to the late-game, sometimes outright refusing to take towers, so as to prolong the laning phase and get their carries even more fed.  When they did team-fight, players like Misaya and WeiXiao were fearsome enemies indeed, while ClearLove would emerge from the Jungle's fog of war, where he had been power-farming for 35 minutes, as a legitimate carry level strength in his own right. 

Innovations like the slow push and early adoption of lane swaps meant World Elite had a number of areas from which their strengths shone out and they retained the top spot.  With their status as the best in the world, their international success and their ridiculous domestic display of dominance, World Elite are the best Chinese team in history and indubitably one of LoL's best from any region. 

3. Samsung Blue (SSB) - Active period: February 2014 to October 2014

Line-up:

Top - Acorn

Jungle - Spirit

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Mid - dade

ADC - Deft

Support - Heart  

Accomplishments:

2014 OGN Champions Spring (1st)

2014 OGN Masters (1st)

2014 OGN Champions Summer (2nd)

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2014 Season 4 World Championship (3rd-4th) 

The best team of 2014 was not Samsung White, the monsters who stomped all over the World Championship, but sister team Blue.  dade's new home saw the "King of Spring" revitalising his career to reach two straight OGN finals, winning one and narrowly losing the other.  At Worlds, his team would reach the semi-final before losing to the White line-up they had beaten in two Bo5s previously that year.  There is an alternate time-line in which Blue finishes 2014 with two OGN titles, back-to-back, and is in contention for a higher spot on this list. 

It is perhaps telling of how much shrewd tactical understanding and great team synergy was integral to their success that one can reasonably suggest that only dade and Heart were at their individual peaks in this team, with Acorn, Spirit and Deft all having further developed their skills during their time in China.  Blue won by being able to survive through anything that the first 20 minutes threw at them, arriving at opportunities to group and choose the right objective or fight.  In team-fights, they were a marvel of execution, as dade wrought havoc across the centre, while Deft sat outside, dodging damage and outputting massive amounts himself. 

2. Samsung Ozone/White (SSO/SSW) - Active period: February 2014 to October 2014 

Line-up:

Top - Looper

Jungle - DanDy

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Mid - PawN

ADC - imp

Support - Mata  

Accomplishments:

2014 OGN Champions Spring 2014 (3rd)

2014 OGN Masters (1st)

2014 OGN Champions Summer (3rd)

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2014 Season 4 World Championship (1st) 

Over the first seven months or so of this line-up's existence, there was only one team in the world that could best them in a Bo5 series: sister team Blue.  Two straight OGN seasons saw them reaching the semi-final and losing there to Blue, when other bracket draws would almost certainly have yielded a minimum of two finals finishes.  During this time, Ozone/White took care of SKT for Blue, beating the best team in history in three straight offline Bo5 series and with relative ease. 

When they reached Worlds, overcame Blue and won the title, the trophy was less important than the fashion in which they did it.  OMG and NaJin Sword had given SKT moments of pause at the previous Worlds, but nobody could stand before Samsung White at the Season 4 World Championship.  The games they lost were almost a testament unto the power level of the team, as they would play even world class teams with so blatant disregard for any lurking danger that they would end up losing two games out of the 17 they played. 

Even so, such risky play was seemingly a price worth paying, as the same approach was not always foiled, yielding some of the most ludicrous high level LoL stomps ever witnessed.  Such was the double-edged sword of White and at Worlds it ultimately was used almost exclusively for lopping off the heads of every opponent that came before them.  Their peak came only in one tournament, but it was one of the most high profile of all-time and their violent destruction of all opponents there was chilling. 

SKT dominated by playing the most effective style, while White dominated playing however they wanted in the moment.  The rest of the competitive teams cheered when China opened its cheque books after Worlds. 

1. SK Telecom T1 I (SKT) - Active period: February 2013 to September 2014

Line-up:

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Top - Impact

Jungle - bengi

Mid - Faker

ADC - Piglet

Support - PoohManDu 

Accomplishments:

2013 OGN Champions Spring (3rd)

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2013 AMD-INVEN GamExperience (3rd-4th)

2013 OGN Champions Summer (1st)

2013 Season 3 KR Regional (1st)

2013 Season 3 World Championship (1st)

2013 OGN Champions Winter (1st)

2014 All-Stars (1st)

2014 NLB Spring (3rd)

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2014 OGN Masters (2nd)

2014 NLB Summer (1st)

2014 Season 4 KR Regional (2nd) 

SKT's first 12 months or so looked like the evolution of the perfect League of Legends team.  In the Spring split they were a vehicle for the most explosive rookie in history (Faker) to show he was fast on the track to becoming a god-like player.  Even that split finished with a top three finish in the most competitive league in the world.  In the Summer, they graduated to becoming a true team and bested a great team in the final and then the Regional to win the domestic title and a spot at the World Championship. 

If the opening loss at Worlds was a setback, it was soon brushed aside as SKT delivered what is still the single game masterpiece of their time together and arguably the finest team-play sequence in history, as in their revenge match against OMG they chained together kills and towers taken to seemingly burrow so far into enemy territory that the game seemed to have been accelerated towards an inevitable victory 15 minutes ahead of schedule.  Aside from a couple of nervy moments in the five game semi-final, they were dominant in their victory and acquisition of the World Championship. 

That was not even their final form, as SKT returned home and put together a perfect 15:0 season, from group stage to play-offs, winning the OGN Winter title with three straight Bo5 series sweeps.  That one of those sweeps came against KTB, widely considered the second best team in the world and the line-up they had narrowly beaten in the final of the previous OGN, showed the level to which Faker and company had continued to develop and push the standard for greatness. 

Their pick comp style showed a mastery which was both stunningly efficient and thrilling in its execution.  The ideal mixture between intelligence an analyst could appreciate and play-making any fan could get excited about, SKT are the finest team League of Legends has produced.  White were impossible to play in one tournament, Blue were brilliant and consistent, M5 were innovative and possessed the biggest balls in the world, World Elite created new meta-game concepts and numerous other teams had unique strengths and great runs.  None of them were SK Telecom, though. 

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The best team in history, in every sense of team, with even the individual peaks of the players all aligning in a beautifully perfect storm of power, precision and finesse - an apt description of the team which won OGN, improved and won Worlds, then improved and won OGN undefeated.  White had some better players at certain positions, but never the flawlessly dialled in mixture of tactical understanding, relative to the meta of the time, and overall blend of playing styles.  Where White were the brute force solution to a delicate problem, SKT were the near perfectly efficient execution of the right answer. 

Photo credit: IPL, OnGameNet, lolesports, Dailyesports

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