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.
These are my top 20 League of Legends line-ups of all-time.
Part 1: 20-11
20. Team SoloMid (TSM) - Active period: March 2012 to March 2013
Top - Dyrus
Jungle - TheOddOne
Mid - Reginald
ADC - Chaox
Support - Xpecial
2012 IPL 4 (1st)
2012 Reign of Gaming International Invitational (1st)
2012 MLG Spring Championship (1st)
2012 GIGABYTE Esports LAN (1st)
2012 MLG Summer Arena (2nd)
2012 IPL Face Off: San Francisco (1st)
2012 Season 2 NA Regional (1st)
2012 Season 2 World Championship (5th-8th)
2012 MLG Fall Championship (5th-6th)
2012 IPL5 (9th-12th)
The LCS era has made such matters more difficult to gauge, in the context of the open circuit preceding it, but a very reasonable case can still be made that this TSM line-up is the best North American line-up in history. On home soil, they were dominant against domestic competition, winning six out of their first seven offline tournaments. It didn't matter which NA teams came up against them, they beat them all when it mattered and put together a trophy collection that will never be forgotten in the context of Western success.
This is a team which have been hard done by in the manner in which they are remembered and characterised. They lost to M5 before they got this line-up and then remained in North America, while M5 remained in Europe. Thus, with both teams dominating their regions, it was always speculated that M5 would have crushed TSM and thus TSM weren't battling the best. While they did not play against M5 with this line-up, TSM did beat the likes of CLG.EU and win tournaments which featured a number of top European sides.
The biggest black mark on this line-ups' resume is their inability to win against top Asian sides, famously going 0:11 against elite level Korean teams. Even so, competition between top Western sides and the Koreans was rare and practically nobody was beating them in series during 2012, with the exception of CLG.EU's OGN semi-final over the new NaJin Sword line-up. With that said, TSM were very poor in many of their games against the Koreans, particularly Mid laner Reginald's aggressive style was exposed and abused.
TSM's greatness clearly lies in their success as a Western team and in a time when the context of the era was that Western results still mattered and made you one of the best in the world. That they consistently won domestically is not to be swept aside merely on the basis that they did not achieve much international success when the Asian teams became more involved, towards the latter half of their time together.
International success is important, especially for Western teams, but that does not mean it is the only factor to be considered. Domestic competition carries its own weight and in that respect TSM account for themselves quite admirably and impressively. A team like NaJin White Shield of 2014 may well have played better League of Legends, but this TSM line-up is a greater team, in the context of their time and history.
19. FNATIC (FNC) - Active period: November 2012 to December 2012
Top - sOAZ
Jungle - Cyanide
Mid - xPeke
ADC - Rekkles
Support - nRated
2012 Dreamhack Winter (1st)
2012 IPL5 (2nd)
2012 THOR Open (1st)
2012 IEM VII Cologne (2nd)
Despite only competing for two months, this five man line-up both stands as the best in FNATIC's history and one of the most impressive in Western history. Defeating CLG.EU in their debut event with this five man unit, they then shocked the world at IPL5 with victories over TPA and standing as one of the few who could compete with the imperious World Elite, then to be crowned the world's best team. When Reapered's SK Telecom team won IEM Cologne, thanks in part to the genius Top laner's carry performance, FNATIC still won games off them and competed.
Short-lived as their time together may have been, thanks to the LCS age requirement hindering Rekkles' eligibility, they shone so brightly. Their stars, sOAZ and xPeke, were arguably at their most dangerous and could be considered amongst the world's best at their positions and legitimate impact players against all levels of competition. nRated's tactical influence and shot-calling helped anchor the side and integrate rookie talent Rekkles, as FNATIC were one of the few Western teams to implement Asian innovations like split-pushing and wave manipulation.
18. CJ Entus Blaze II (CJB) - Active period: October 2013 to June 2014
Top - Flame
Jungle - Daydream
Mid - Ambition
ADC - Emperor
Support - Lustboy
2013 WCG KR Qualifier (1st)
2013 World Cyber Games (1st)
2013 OGN Champions Winter (5th-8th)
2013 NLB Winter (1st)
2014 OGN Champions Spring (4th)
The "Neo Blaze" line-up took care of the most glaring weaknesses of the previous line-up, replacing outdated Jungler Helios with the more aggressive Daydream and ADC Cpt Jack, who was a huge liability for the first 30 minutes, with the solid and improving Emperor. Flame would benefit from Daydream's arrival and, as this team's run went on, continue to adapt to the new meta of tanks and bruisers. While he did not fully embrace the teleport meta, he was still one of the best at his position and a star in the league, with the results speaking for themselves, in that regard.
Winning the WCG qualifier may be overlooked, but it was a tournament featuring all of the best Korean teams and held offline. The WCG Grand Finals had a weak field, but it did have OMG, the best Chinese team of the year, with a supercharged stand-in botlane of NaMei and Sicca, considered the best in China. Blaze won that tournament undefeated.
In the Winter, Blaze got a terrible bracket draw, facing KT B, the second best team in the world, in the quarter-finals. With so many weak teams on the other side of the bracket, while the two best played on Blaze's side, it's not unreasonable to call Blaze the third best team in Korea at the time. They won NLB Winter to make that case more strongly.
In OGN Spring, Blaze beat KaKAO's KT Arrows, who had upset the mighty SKT in the group stage, and took eventual finalists NaJin Shield to five games in the semi-final. In the third place decider, they gave later-to-be dominant World Champions Samsung White, then called Ozone, one of their most competitive series of the year, going to five games again before losing.
Accomplishments are not just about where you finished, but also about who you played and how well you performed. Blaze showed a high level of play even while they could not capture much silverware to go along with it. That they were able to do so without much talent, in comparison to some of the teams out-placing them, shows that their war horse late-game style still remained effective, even if it was not enough to truly win big.
17. KT Rolster B (KTB) - Active period: May 2013 to February 2014
Top - inSec
Jungle - KaKAO
Mid - Ryu
ADC - Score
Support - Mafa
2013 OGN Champions Summer (2nd)
2013 Season 3 KR Regional (2nd)
2013 OGN Champions Winter (3rd)
Another line-up which didn't win any big titles, yet showed excellence nonetheless is the infamous KT Rolster B, who found themselves a single game from both an OGN title and the Season 3 World Championship. They would never reach either. KT B were one of the most inventive and coordinated tactical teams of all-time, famed for their ability to take surprise objectives and find the right fights. They had just enough talent across all positions to be able to execute their unique plays and a Mid laner (Ryu) who will never truly be recognised for how good he was, thanks to the existence of Faker and a famous mirror match play in blind pick of the Summer final.
KT B legitimately could have won that OGN Summer title, but they didn't. They would very likely have finished top four at the Season 3 World Championship, but circumstances, largely dictated by the circuit point system's biases, meant they didn't. Finally, they would almost certainly have played in a second straight final in the Winter had they not been drawn into the same side of the bracket as SKT, the team which was the best in the world and went undefeated that season.
History may have conspired against KT B in many key situations, but they still deserve to be recognised as a special line-up.
16. MVP Ozone (MVP O) - Active period: February 2013 to September 2013
Top - Homme
Jungle - DanDy
Mid - dade
ADC - imp
Support - Mata
2013 OGN Champions Spring (1st)
2013 AMD-INVEN GamExperience (1st)
2013 OGN Champions Summer (3rd)
It's too easy to fall into the trap of looking at this line-up's players and their OGN championship and drawing the conclusion that they were monsters. Viewed in the context of their whole careers, four of these players are top 20 players of all-time and considered the best or among the best players in history at their positions. Yet much of their greatness has come and been cemented in the period of their careers which came after this initial peak of success. Make no mistake: MVP Ozone are one of the greatest fluke teams in League history.
Their OGN Spring victory cannot be understood without looking at the context of the season. In the group stage they were one of the weakest play-off bound teams, to the extent KT B and Frost took turns going for the Best Actor awards to throw and get the chance to play them in the first round. KT B won the honour, only to be shocked and eliminated in four games, leading many to speculate they were tilted. Faker's SKT had a young rookie super-star, but the rest of the team still had not formed into a cohesive enough unit and dade and his boys managed to get the upset win.
In the final, Ozone not only faced a Blaze on a 13 game winning streak, but who had beaten them in the group stage already. Ozone managed to find a good strategy for combating Blaze's late-game approach, but some of what are now rewritten as precise tactics were simply fantastic impromptu plays and was inspired decision-making in the heat of games played under the spotlights of a team's first ever final. As fantastic as that June performance was, it did not seal MVP Ozone as the world's best team, as the rest of history would show.
In the following season, Ozone finished third, but with extenuating circumstances. In the group stage they drew one of the easiest in history and handled it without difficulty. Continuing into the play-offs they then drew one of the easiest quarter-finals match-ups in history, getting a University team. After losing to the eventual champions SKT in the semi-final, they managed to get a remarkably easy third place decider match, being paired with Frost. That was not the mighty Frost of three straight OGN finals from 2012 to early 2013, but rather the newer Frost with Space as their ADC and who benefited from some lucky bracket draws.
In this instance, sister team Blaze, who were the stronger of the two, had been unlucky enough to get KT B in the quarter-final, while Frost only had to deal with NaJin White Shield, a team who had been unable to manage much of note in the group stage. That sequence of matches meant the Frost that KT B beat and thus played Ozone for third, was weaker than the Blaze team they might otherwise have played. In short, Ozone essentially finished third place in OGN without beating any of the best teams.
Had SKT not beaten KT B in that fifth game in the final, MVP Ozone would have had to play through the gauntlet to qualify for Worlds and very likely would not have made it to Los Angeles. Their inspired OGN Spring should stand as one of the great underdog runs, but the history before and after those three series does not support MVP Ozone's claim to be more than a legendary fluke.
15. CJ Entus Blaze I (CJB) - Active period: October 2012 to September 2013
Top - Flame
Jungle - Helios
Mid - Ambition
ADC - Cpt Jack
Support - Lustboy
2012 IPL5 (7th-8th)
2012 OGN Champions Winter (4th)
2013 IEM VII Katowice (2nd)
2013 IEM VII World Championship (1st)
2013 OGN Champions Spring (2nd)
2013 OGN Champions Summer (5th-8th)
2013 NLB Summer (5th-8th)
2013 Season 3 KR Regional (4th)
On a list filled with so many spectacular and successful teams, there are few who could have done much more to leap further up the ranking, but this stands as one of the rare exceptions. Here is a line-up which had everything an all-time great team could want, but the big championship which would have mattered the most. After overcoming the initially shaky integration of Flame, replacing the legendary Reapered, Blaze continued to remain a top four Korean team and would rapidly rise in the coming months.
By January they were already battling Frost to make the OGN Winter final and then looked set to win IEM VII Katowice but for that magical run of Gambit Gaming. At the IEM VII World Championship, they did accomplish both goals: defeating sister team Frost in a Bo5 and taking down a significant title. That was a tournament stacked with Western talent and featuring Frost, OGN finalists of the previous season, as well as the Reapered led SKT line-up which had stormed IEM Cologne.
Back in Korea, Blaze overcame a decent start to the season to mount what became one of the most impressive streaks in history, even to this day, with 13 straight wins, leading from the group stage up and through the play-offs until the final. Having swept their way into that final, Blaze were one of the largest favourites in history to take the title, with most speculation on the manner in which they would win and not its certainty.
Revisionist history will tell you that MVP Ozone, the opponent they met in that final, had solved the Blaze equation entirely and would always have won the final. In reality, it was a mixture of an intelligent approach from dade and the gang along with inspired individual play that prevented Blaze from leaving with the trophy which would have been the crowning moment of their dominance in the scene. When I interviewed imp, weeks after the final, he characterised his team as not being certain they would even win the final, but having come up with an approach that seemed as if it had a chance. Nobody could have anticipated dade's monster Mid lane performance, going up against the most reliable Mid laner in Korean LoL history, to that point in time, in Ambition.
In the following season, Blaze won their group only to earn the prize of a Bo5 against a KT B team which is now fondly thought of as a truly great line-up and would go on to reach the final and come within a game of being crowned OGN champions. What is often forgotten, is that Blaze themselves took KT B to five games, before losing in blind pick.
While it might seem strange, initially, to see this Blaze line-up listed ahead of the Ozone team which defeated them, the totality of the two teams' careers offers answers as to why this is the greater of the two line-ups. While Ozone got the big title, Blaze had the other factors. They were very close to reaching two OGN finals and not far from a third. They won an international title, defeating one of the world's best teams in a Bo5 to do so. They innovated a style which was effective enough to make them the best team in the world and allow them to win 13 straight games, in the world's most competitive and difficult competition, OGN Champions, no less.
Blaze's "sixth man style", as it was dubbed by MonteCristo, exploited an advanced understanding of wave manipulation, dragon economics and the power of late-game carries. When employed, no teams before Ozone had any answer and the world scrambled to figure out how to halt the Blaze machine from gearing up into a late game juggernaut which rolled over anyone in its path.
MVP Ozone had a better day and perhaps match-up on that fateful day in June, but Blaze were the better team, in a historical context. Blaze did not get the championship which would have granted them access to the higher ranks on this list, but they did accomplish much worth remembering and acknowledging.
14. SK Telecom II (SKT) - Active period: November 2014 to present
Top - MaRin
Jungle - Bengi
Mid - Faker
ADC - Bang
Support - Wolf
2015 OGN Champions Spring (1st)
2015 Mid Season Invitational (2nd)
2015 OGN Champions Summer (TBD - Top 2 thus far)
They may still be competing, with potentially a major championship still in the balance, but this latter day SK Telecom line-up can already lay claim to being one of the greatest in history. Winning the Korean region is not quite the monster accomplishment it was in past years, but it still means beating one of the hardest regions, in the context of the whole world. Coming close to winning the Mid Season Invitational seems a disappointment now, but still can count as a very solid international performance to give more flavour to their resumes.
Finally, in reaching these play-off finals for this season, SKT went through a period where they won an incredible 21 Bo3/Bo5 series in a row domestically, from last season through to this. Even with some of the weaker teams in the mix, that meant beating many dangerous Korean teams one after another. Whether they win on Saturday or not, this team already has a legitimate basis as one of history's greats.
13. Counter Logic Gaming Europe/Evil Geniuses (CLG.EU/EG) - Active period: December 2011 to December 2013
Top - Wickd
Jungle - Snoopeh
Mid - Froggen
ADC - Yellowpete
Support - Krepo
2012 Gamers Assembly (3rd)
2012 Dreamhack Summer (1st)
2012 ECC Poland (2nd)
2012 Season 2 EU Regional (3rd)
2012 OGN Champions Summer (2nd)
2012 Season 2 World Championship (3rd-4th)
2012 MLG Fall Championship (3rd)
2012 Lone Star Clash 2 (1st)
2012 Dreamhack Winter (2nd)
2012 IEM Cologne (5th-6th)
2013 IEM VII World Championship (7th-8th)
2013 EU LCS Spring (3rd)
2013 EU LCS Summer (4th)
CLG.EU are a team which rarely won tournaments but routinely went deep in them to the degree that their resume of top finishes, particularly over the first 10 months of their time together, can be matched against some of the teams higher up on this list. What they lacked in killer ability to dominate tournaments, they made up for in a strength for making any match-up competitive. It is also worth pointing out that they were the first ever real counter to the dominant style of Moscow Five.
Appearing in an era of aggressive snowballing teams, CLG.EU were the first to pioneer and master a late-game approach which was frustrating for the opponent and yet effective for Froggen and his friends. During Season 2, Froggen was the star carry of the team and the best in the world at his position. Wickd stood out as a strong carry Top laner and the team as a whole gelled magnificently, allowing them to reach those late-game team-fights and then win.
Over 2012, this team was able to compete in three different regions (Europe, North America and Korea) and secure top three finishes in each. They were a single game from winning an OGN title and would reach the semi-final of the World Championship. Beyond Season 2, they were a team gradually declining, but their strengths did not desert them entirely, allowing them to show enough to still compete regionally and come close to finals.
12. NaJin Sword (NJ SWD) - Active period: June 2012 to May 2013
Top - MaKNooN
Jungle - watch
Mid - SSONG
ADC - PraY
Support - Cain
2012 OGN Champions Summer (3rd)
2012 Season 2 KR Regional (1st)
2012 Season 2 World Championship (5th-8th)
2012 MLG Fall Championship (2nd)
2012 OGN Champions Winter (1st)
2013 OGN Champions Winter (5th-8th)
NaJin Sword are best known for the play of star MaKNooN, fittingly considering the premise of the team being created around his aggressive dive-heavy style. Oscillating to and from an elite level for a span of around nine months, NaJin Sword had a top gear which when they hit produced startlingly exciting and explosive League of Legends. This allowed them to edge Blaze for a spot at the World Championship and enabled them to topple Frost to take the next season of OGN. Single-handedly removing the MiG/Azubu hegemony was no small feat at that time.
They failed to make an impact at Worlds, thanks to being the first victims of TPA and an underperformance from MaKNooN, and they did get shown up at MLG by the stellar play of Blaze stand-in Shy, but Sword deserve to be acknowledged as a team with the pieces to be very good and who, when they did get their game together, had some very memorable wins.
11. MiG/Azubu Blaze (AZB) - Active period: January 2012 to September 2012
Top - Reapered
Jungle - Helios
Mid - Ambition
ADC - Cpt Jack
Support - Lustboy
2012 OGN Champions Spring (1st)
2012 MLG Summer Arena (1st)
2012 OGN Champions Summer (4th)
2012 Season 2 KR Regional (2nd)
Blaze were not just famous for being the sister team of Frost early on, but they were very much the second team. When they upset that hierarchy by downing Frost in the final of the first full OGN season, Spring 2012, and in a clean sweep, at that, it sent a message that this team was set to be world class in its own right. That final saw the emergence of Top laner and shot-caller Reapered, then called FantasyStar, as one of the best in the world at his position.
With Blaze's trip overseas to crush the MLG Summer Arena, a case could have been made for them as the world's best team, but Moscow Five had better credentials and the consensus on their side. In the next season, Frost got it together and were able to beat their sister team en route to their own title. The end came when Blaze were beaten in the fifth game of the Korean Worlds qualifier, falling to MaKNooN's NaJin Sword. Out went Reapered and a new era of Blaze began, with Flame eventually replacing him.
This Blaze team was in many respects a well balanced formation of talents. Reapered was the monster of their OGN winning final, but Ambition stood out as one of the best Mids in the world during what is often thought of as the golden age of the great Mid laners. Elsewhere, Cpt Jack was a very good team-fighting ADC, without the difficulties he would later face during the laning phase, instead free to show off his signature instant cleaneses.
The top 10 places will be revealed tomorrow.
Photo credit: IPL, OnGameNet, lolesports, Dailyesports
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