With more than four full years of competitive League of Legends having passed, compiling a list of the top 20 players ensures many famous, well-loved and fondly remembered players are going to be left off such a list.
Deciding the names and order of such a list requires one to determine for themselves the weighting of different criteria to come to a coherent and consistent decision-making process. To determine this list and its order I considered a player's level of play, relative to the time; the importance of his role and impact within his team, including how much of a focal point he was; the success of his career, relative to who he had on his team and in the context of the best tournaments; domestic and international play, in their own context.
With the Korean leagues being the most competitive and high level for a number of years, it's inevitable that I've often had to favour those players with overwhelming domestic success, even sometimes over Western players who have solid resumes internationally. The domestic success of players in other regions has been considered, but the Korean leagues have been the only domestic region which could truly be considered as good or better than international competition. Others may weight the critera differently, but in part one of this two part series, I will lay out the places 20-11 in my Top 20 LoL Players of All-Time.
Thorin's Top 20 LoL Players of All-Time
Part 1: 20-11Part 2: 10-1
20. Enrique "xPeke" Cedeño Martínez (Mid)
Notable accomplishments:2011 Season 1 Championship (1st)2011 IEM VI Cologne (3rd)2011 IEM VI New York (1st)2012 Dreamhack Summer (4th)2012 Season 2 EU Regional (4th)2012 Dreamhack Winter (1st)2012 IPL5 (2nd)2012 IEM VII Cologne (2nd)2013 IEM VII Katowice (3rd-4th)2013 EU LCS Spring (1st)2013 EU LCS Summer (1st)2013 Season 3 World Championship (3rd-4th)2013 IEM VIII Cologne (2nd)2014 IEM VIII World Championship (2nd)2014 EU LCS Spring (1st)2014 EU LCS Summer (2nd)
One of the most explosive individual players to ever grace the Western League of Legends scene, xPeke's snowball style of play from the Mid lane led FNATIC to a golden age of success domestically and numerous top finishes internationally. Going up against elite players at his position from around the world, xPeke didn't always get the best but always accounted for himself well, often surprisingly so. The Spaniard was surrounded by the most talent of any European player, during his most successful period, but was always the primary carry and focal point of his sides. One of the streakiest great players in his runs of form, when xPeke heated up he could burn almost anyone to a crisp. Mercurial and unpredictable, as xPeke went, so FNATIC went.
19. Bok "Reapered" Han Gyu (Top)
Notable accomplishments:2012 OGN Champions Spring (1st)2012 MLG Summer Arena (1st)2012 OGN Champions Summer (4th)2012 Season 2 KR Regional (2nd)2012 IEM VII Cologne (1st)2013 IEM VII WC (3rd-4th)2013 OGN Champions Spring (5th-8th)2013 OGN Champions Summer (5th-8th)
Reapered is the original Korean Top lane carry god. The eye test tells us he was one of the most dominant carries of any position, during his performance peak. His career accomplishments cannot match up to some of the Korean names higher up the list, but he was a champion domestically and at an event featuring top European talent, the latter being a true display of hard carry dominance. In 2012, Reapered won a notable tournament title in three different regions.
The latter half of his career began lifting a line-up of veritable no names to the status of being able to compete in OGN quarter-finals, but ended with him role-swapping a number of times and finding little success. One of the greatest shot-callers of all-time, Reapered could take seemingly any pieces and find a way to make it work, at the very least for a game or two.
Had he been brought into an elite Korean team as the shot-caller and a threat, as opposed to the only true threat, perhaps the second half of Reapered's career could have seen him vaulting higher up this list. As it is, he blazed brightly for around a year and the heat from that period can still be felt, but then he gradually faded into the cold Korean night, as Season 3 came to a close.
18. Yu "Cool" Jia Jun (Mid)
Notable accomplishments:2013 LPL Spring (1st)2013 StarsWar8 (1st)2013 WVW National Elite Cup (1st)2013 IEM VIII Shanghai (3rd-4th)2013 Season 3 CN Regional (2nd)2013 Season 3 World Championship (5th-8th)2013 WCG China Qualifier (1st)2013 NEST (1st)2013 LPL Summer (2nd)2013 WCG (2nd)2013 GALAXY eSports Carnival (1st)2014 Demacia Cup S1 (3rd)2014 LPL Summer (2nd)2014 Season 4 CN Regional (3rd)2014 Season 4 World Championship (3rd-4th)2014 NVIDIA Game Festival (4th)2014 NEST (3rd-4th)
While Korea stands as the benchmark for competitive level in a domestic context, with many season of OGN Champions being as good as or better than the best international competition, China has come to the closest to joining that category. Cool's OMG not only won domestically, but they usurped World Elite, who had been utterly dominant from the latter quarter of 2012 through to the end of the first of 2013, not just knocking the people's team from the throne, but taking up residence there. OMG's run of form over the middle two quarters of 2013 is perhaps one of the criminally underappreciated periods in competitive League of Legends and Cool was the primary carry role player of that team.
Cool can in many senses be compared to xPeke, in his blisteringly hot peak form and yet his tendency to sometimes disappear as a superstar level player. Make no mistake, though: Cool has carried OMG on many occasions, both in terms of regular season play and when his team were on the brink of elimination. His epic Season 4 Regional performance, having spent the early part of the year out of competition, was the stuff legends are made of, hard carrying his team into the World Championship. Having gone toe-to-toe with Faker at the Season 3 Worlds, the following year Cool was able to lead his OMG side to a top four finish and one game away from reaching the finals.
Adding together his incredible level of play domestically, where he has been one of the three best players in the league for the better part of two years, Cool's international accomplishments, twice reaching the Worlds quarter-finals or better, added in with his dominant period in 2013 brings us a very much under-rated resume from the Chinese scene.
17. Kim "Deft" Hyeok Gyu (ADC)
Notable accomplishments:2013 WCG Korea Qualifier (2nd)2013 OGN Champions Winter (5th-8th)2014 OGN Champions Spring (1st)2014 OGN Masters (1st)2014 OGN Champions Summer (2nd)2014 Season 4 World Championship (3rd-4th)2014 G-League (1st)
Deft was always considered a player with legitimate potential in the Korean scene, a name bandied around when discussions came up of who should be brought into a team like Frost to finally give MadLife the top tier ADC partner his career sorely lacked. In 2014, though, Deft finally arrived as an elite level player and made good on the promise of his impressive talents. Deft's ability to maneouvre late-game team-fights, consistently outputting massive amounts of damage while avoiding crowd control and working with his team to stay alive, saw him establish himself as one of the best second star carries of all-time from the Korean region.
Dade was the man in the box, creating magic inside of the team-fight and with his death often a near inevitability, but Deft was the sniper outside of the fight, mowing down opponents who furiously sought to focus down the Mid so as to be able to turn on the ADC. That combination worked more than beautifully, it worked effectively and consistently. Deft was able to reach two straight OGN finals, narrowly losing the second in the closest finals loss in the history of the competition. At the World Championship, Deft was not the monster he had been domestically, but did enough to ensure he finished with no placings outside of the top four for the year.
16. Chae "Piglet" Gwang Jin (ADC)
Notable accomplishments:2013 OGN Champions Spring (3rd)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 OGN Masters (2nd)
Playing alongside Faker, who was in his prime no less, and as part of a team who were very much the defined example of the meta of their era, it may seem easy to write off some of Piglet's success as being in the right place at the right time. In reality, he very much carried his own weight during most of SK's successful runs. During the rare games where Faker would look mortal or merely good, Piglet could carry the game and ensure SKT continued to march on and through any calibre of opponent. It's easy to say that the second star on a team with the most significant hard carry of all-time shouldn't be over-rated, but Piglet was still a legitimately top top tier player in his own right, certainly top 10 in the world and perhaps even top five.
A member of the most dominant Korean team of all-time, Piglet's accomplishments are beyond those of players from outside of his team, he played a central role in the acquisition of those titles and will be remembered as the Scottie Pippen to Faker's Michael Jordan.
15. Gu "imp" Seung-bin (ADC)
Notable accomplishments:2013 OGN Champions Spring (1st)2013 AMD-INVEN GamExperience (1st)2013 OGN Champions Summer (3rd)2013 OGN Champions Winter (2nd)2014 OGN Champions Spring (3rd)2014 OGN Masters (1st)2014 OGN Champions Summer (3rd)2014 Season 4 World Championship (1st)
imp is the most difficult player to place on this list, by virtue of the wealth of talent he played with. It's hard to argue against him as the best Korean AD Carry of all-time, and his play in synergising with Mata as part of a consistently elite botlane, was a large part of Ozone and White's success, yet he also played with three players who are placed higher up on this list. In such cases, one would often be forced to draw the conclusion that imp was a role-player or lesser focal point of his teams, which would often be accurate, but I think he stands as a rare example of an exception to such thinking. While Dade, Mata and DanDy all played more significant roles, in some respects, in others he was a luxury, as an elite player in his own right, at times, and also still a key focal point in terms of how the AD Carry position is used in team-fighting.
imp's resume is utterly incredible, with a domestic run of consistency nobody will likely ever match, but it's hard to argue he was the best player on his team during that run of consistently high level placings. As previously mentioned, imp was an elite player, having carried White to the point they could become Ozone and finally win, when other key pieces were added, and it helps paint the picture of how confusing it was that Ozone/White did not secure more titles, that they had an elite player as, at times, the fourth most important player in their line-up. During the PawN era, of 2014, I think it would not be unfair to give imp credit as the third most significant member of the team, making his entire run with the organisation one which varied in all the key criteria, yet ultimately sees him come out as a truly great player and top 15 in the end.
14. Park "Shy" Sang Myun (Top)
Notable accomplishments:2012 OGN Champions Summer (1st)2012 Season 2 World Championship (2nd)2012 MLG Fall Championship (1st)2012 OGN Champions Winter (2nd)2013 IEM VII Katowice (3rd-4th)2013 IEM VII World Championship (2nd)2013 OGN Champions Spring (4th)2013 OGN Champions Summer (4th)2013 IEM VIII Singapore (2nd)2014 OGN Champions Spring (5th-8th)
Shy was the first rookie Korean player to enter the scene and develop into a god tier player in unbelievably rapid fashion. Replacing one of the better Top laners, Woong, Shy was able to win an OGN title in his rookie season, with his turning around of the Top lane battle against Wickd very much being a core story-line in Frost's capturing of that lone domestic championship. MadLife's marvelous Support player was always the primary attraction for Frost, but the only other truly all-time great player in the line-up was Shy.
A master of wave control in the lane, Shy could match-up against anyone at his position and be expected to do well or hold his own. Coming into team-fights, where the other traditional carry roles were not occupied by monsters, Shy was perhaps the best team-fighting Top laner of all-time. Shy's Jax and Shen are still legendary to this day, conjuring up vivid images of game turning kills and fights.
At the end of 2012 and into early 2013, Shy was one of the top five players in the entire world and in contention for the title of best Korean player. It's a tragedy that his form remained exemplary during much of the first part of 2013, but Frost slipping down the rankings and out of title contention saw him unable to get the chance to win another championship. As well as much domestic excellence, Shy was able to exhibit his talents on the world stage a number of times, even winning an MLG title as a substitute for sister team Blaze.
13. Lee "KaKAO" Byung Kwon (Jungle)
Notable accomplishments:2012 OGN Champions Winter (3rd)2013 OGN Champions Summer (2nd)2013 OGN Champions Winter (3rd)2014 OGN Champions Spring (5th-8th)2014 OGN Champions Summer (1st)
KaKAO is a god of the Jungle position and an example of impressive domestic success being enough to establish a great career, even if one does not have the international pedigree or accomplishments which would otherwise round out a career and put someone near the top of this list. Within Korea, KaKAO was consistently a top four player at his position for almost two years. Winning an OGN title, against one of the all-time great individual teams (Blue), he was the primary star and leader of that team, with his individual play and game impact being the factor which could lead KT Arrows to victory over teams with more talent, experience and star power.
He did not get to venture overseas and develop his international resume, but four times reaching the semi-finals of OGN, twice reaching the final and once hoisting the trophy makes for perhaps the most under-rated domestic career in Korean LoL history. When one things of carry Junglers, KaKAO could reasonably be mentioned above all others. DanDy carries from the Jungle by setting his team and lanes up to win in terms of being ahead in kills and vision, KaKAO literally dominates the opposing team and Jungler, putting himself ahead and then carrying the game with a massive disparity from his position.
12. Lee "Flame" Ho Jong (Top)
Notable accomplishments:2012 OGN Champions Winter (4th)2013 IEM VII Katowice (2nd)2013 IEM VII WC (1st)2013 OGN Champions Spring (2nd)2013 OGN Champions Summer (5th-8th)2013 WCG Korea Qualifier (1st)2013 WCG (1st)2013 OGN Champions Winter (5th-8th)2014 OGN Champions Spring (4th)
The best Top laner of all-time has never won the highest domestic honour, failing to capture the OGN title during his finals run in the Spring of 2013. He has also never played at the World Championships, a fact which prevents him climbing any higher on this list, despite excellence in practically all other areas of resume, play and longevity. Flame was the best player in the world during Blaze's 13-0 winning streak and eventual finals appearance in the early part of 2013, his carry Top lane style of playing being the primary driving force behind that run, but beyond that he continued to remain relevant at the position even in the face of opposing players with better teams and plunged into metas which did not suit his style of hard carry farm,-intensive play.
Failing to ever reach a World Championship, it's misunderstood that Flame does have international pedigree. Making two IEM finals, he won the IEM VII World Championship, placing ahead of the likes of Frost, Gambit, FNATIC and Evil Geniuses. He also won the World Cyber Games, a weak international field, but more importantly bested the field at the Korean qualifier, which was a stacked domestic event in its own right. Domesticallty, Flame's individual play was not just impressive and consistent in the longevity of his position as a top level player at his position, but also the key behind the five straight play-off appearances he made in OGN Champions seasons, reaching the semi-finals or better on three occasions.
Where Top lane gods like Reapered and MaKNooN had short peaks and then disappeared from elite level form or relevancy, Flame was able to battle through two years of top level play, giving himself easily the most consistent run of top level form for a player at his position.
11. Yu "Misaya" Jingxi (Mid)
Notable accomplishments:2011 Tencent Game Arena Grand Prix (2nd)2011 IEM VI Guangzhou (1st)2011 Tencent Games Carnival (1st)2012 World GameMaster Tournament (1st)2012 NVIDIA Game Festival (1st)2012 StarsWar 7 (2nd)2012 Tencent Game Arena Grand Prix (1st)2012 OGN Champions Summer (5th-8th)2012 Season 2 World Championship (5th-8th)2012 WEM (1st)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)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)
The master of Twisted Fate is not known merely for his innovative and insightful use of that champion, Misaya also pioneered the use of a roaming Mid lane style to great effect, in an era of monster farmers who preferred to stay in the lane and rack up their creep score. Playing with WeiXiao, who can reasonably be considered the best player in the world at the end of 2012, Misaya was one of the great second stars, able to carry on the right champions and utilising a style which emphasised his teams style across the map. Domestically, he was part of one of the most dominant teams in the history of LoL, going undefeated offline for something like 4-5 months. Internationally, Misaya played in all regions in the world and was able to win IPL5, often considered the best LoL tournament ever played.
The top 10 places will be revealed tomorrow.
Photo credit: ESL and Riot Games, inven
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