There is no doubting the wealth of talent at the 2020 League of Legends World Championship,
even without the likes of big names like T1 Esports’ Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok and Kim “Doinb” Tae-sang not in attendance.
Power ranking the talent pool at Worlds can often be difficult because of the distinct differences in how each role in League of Legends functions within context of the other four roles on a team. Let’s zero in on the northernmost region of Summoner’s Rift and rank the five best top laners at Worlds 2020.
5. Choi "Doran" Hyeon-joon — DRX
Doran has been to Worlds before with Griffin just last year, but despite starting the majority of summer for the South Korean side never once saw an international start. Griffin favored Choi “Sword” Sung-won for the entirety of Worlds 2019, so Doran will play his first games on LoL esports’ biggest stage in Group D against FlyQuest, Top Esports, and a team from the play-in.
Doran’s Worlds experience may only be technical, but is still more experience than either of the other top laners in Group D. Doran settling in early and playing stronger than his opponents would be a boon to DRX to kick off the event.
4. Martin "Wunder" Hansen — G2 Esports
Don’t let his casual demeanor and the World of Warcraft memes fool you — Wunder has been a premiere Western top laner since joining G2 Esports at the start of 2018 and has qualified for Worlds every season since.
Wunder’s greatest strength to G2 is his flexibility. The Danish dynamo is proficient on conventional champions of all varieties while occasionally bringing a unique flavor to the top lane. While playing less conventional top laners can occasionally come back to bite Wunder, and by extension, G2’s willingness to experiment is exactly what gives them a unique edge in the form of crucial innovations like Wunder’s Pyke top last season.
G2 Esports is the clear favorite in Group A, so look for Wunder and the team to experiment compositionally and get comfortable heading into what should be a clear qualification for the Knockout Stage.
3. Jang "Nuguri" Ha-gwon — DAMWON Gaming
Nuguri’s Worlds debut in 2019 was a mixed bag of good and...less-than-good; peppered gratuitously with Kleptomancy rune pages. In 2020, gone is the Kleptomancy rune, and gone are many of Nuguri’s shortcomings that were exposed last season.
Nuguri’s monstrous carry potential used to come at the risk of him being exploitable due to his consistently forward way of playing top lane, but his improvements throughout the season, alongside DAMWON Gaming’s improvement as a team to become South Korea’s best squad, has shored up a lot of issues shown at Worlds 2019. Nuguri is a big reason why DAMWON Gaming is a Worlds favorite, but in Group B, he will have to prove himself against likes of…
2. Zhang "Zoom" Xing-Ran — JD Gaming
JD Gaming is known primarily for its jungle/support battery of Seo "Kanavi" Jin-hyeok and Zuo "LvMao" Ming-Hao, but Zoom has been the team’s best-kept secret. Zoom is JDG’s bastion of stability and regardless of champion type can serve as the conduit for Kanavi’s early game aggression. Of course, Zoom is perfectly comfortable being left on an island to play weak side — his signature Gangplank is arguably the best in the world, and should draw many a ban at Worlds 2020.
Since JD Gaming’s 3-2 championship victory over Top Esports in the 2020 LPL Spring Playoffs, mid laner Zeng "Yagao" Qi and AD carry Lee "Loken" Dong-wook have both improved individually, but Zoom is the team’s best option of its three lanes on the international stage.
1. Bai "369" Jia-Hao — Top Esports
One could swap Zoom and 369 between the two top spots and no pitchforks would be raised. Both top laners were neck and neck in Top Esports’ 3-2 championship win in the 2020 LPL Summer Playoffs, and both share an extremely deep champion pool, the one difference being 369’s signature champion is Jax instead of Gangplank. At his first World Championship, 369 enters Group D as the strongest top laner at the event, and alongside mid laner Zhuo “knight” Ding, makes the most fearsome pair of solo laners in the competition.
369 also has a relatively easy set of opponents in Group D. DRX’s Doran has never played a game on the Worlds stage despite attending with Griffin last year, and FlyQuest’s Colin “Solo” Earnest has nearly a decade of domestic experience but has never been to an international event before this one. The most likely team to join group D through the play-in is LEC #4 seed MAD Lions, and while Andrei "Orome" Popa has put together an impressive rookie campaign, he’d certainly be at a disadvantage in the top lane against 369.
It’s easy to look at Top Esports’ roster, look at names like knight, Hung "Karsa" Hao-Hsuan, and Yu "JackeyLove" Wen-Bo and assume that 369 is simply being carried on a good team. However, more often than not, 369 is the secondary carry behind knight in favor of JackeyLove, who is given more resources later on by a self-starving Karsa to form the triple carry threat that is the Top Esports trident.
Whatever permutation of the Top Esports game plan is executed upon, 369 plays his role immaculately and boasts a near-unparalleled individual level of play heading into the 2020 World Championship.
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