After a surprising turn of events, only two LPL teams remain at the quarterfinal stage. FunPlus Phoenix underperformed, and LNG Esports just barely got knocked out by MAD Lions after a four-way tiebreaker. EDG and RNG, the two remaining Chinese teams, have been pitted against each other in the quarterfinals. On top of that, because RNG got knocked out so early into the LPL Playoffs, we haven’t seen a recent best-of-5 between these two teams.
With EDG taking first at the LPL Playoffs and RNG raising the MSI trophy in Iceland earlier this year, this is a much-anticipated matchup between two super teams.
Striking a balance
China is a very aggressive region. It’s common to see skirmishes in the early game, with top and mid laners TP'ing all over the map to try and get an early advantage. Junglers are very active, with strong early-level champs like Olaf, Xin Zhao, and Lee Sin dominating the meta.
EDG and RNG both have their moments of aggression, but they put their effort into different parts of the map. Since the junglers and supports for both teams make it a habit to rotate and have as much pressure on the map as possible, the most important matchups are the three main lanes.
Top lane: RNG’s main focus
RNG is a very top-heavy team due to Li “Xiaohu” Yuan-Hao’s hard-carry playstyle. His role swap from mid made him the top laner with arguably the most diverse champion pool. He’ll play anything from mages to ADCs, to melee bruisers, although his best recent performances have been on ranged champions.
Xiaohu’s response to this gank is very telling. Instead of running away when he saw Lee coming in, he decided to all-in Kennen and set up for Yuan “Cryin” Cheng-Wei to ult in. RNG were able to split turret aggro well enough that they all lived through the dive, and it ultimately put Xiaohu too far ahead for Su "Hanabi" Chia-Hsiang to handle.
This led to Xiaohu having enough lane priority to rotate straight into Herald and a stun onto Kim “River” Dong-woo, and the fate of PSG’s jungler was sealed. This made Herald impossible to contest, and it put RNG on track to snowball this game. Xiaohu is the pillar of RNG and his performance is the deciding factor for most of RNG’s games.
Li “Flandre” Xuan Jun is the polar opposite of Xiaohu.
He’s a durable, often weak-sided top laner that does a great job at keeping himself in the game no matter how much effort the enemy puts into shutting him down. His lack of solo kill potential may be a weakness, but his main strength comes from his tendency to prioritize his own farm and life over taking down his opponent. No matter what champ Flandre’s on, he’s playing for his team.
Flandre’s a master of spacing, and he’s one of the most dive-proof players in the world as a result. The introduction of Graves into the meta has given him a champ that allows him to glide around teamfights, as well as the ability to endure tough ganks in style.
The battle between these two teams will be very dependent on how the top lane goes. It’s all about Flandre losing gracefully and showing up in the late game. If Flandre can’t handle the heat, it’s likely EDG will have a hard time keeping Xiaohu down.
Mid lane: The Scout diff
The mid matchup between is very similar to the topside, except the roles are reversed. EDG’s Lee “Scout” Ye-chan is the dominant mid laner who gets all the attention, while Cryin tends to play passive and look to help his team however he can.
Cryin’s willingness to tank tower first on the dive from the earlier Xiaohu clip exemplifies his role on the team. He’s the setup guy and he knows it. Cryin’s willingness to help his team is a strength, but he’s weak everywhere else. He often gets out-CS'ed by his opponent, and he doesn’t normally win lane.
Meanwhile, Scout is a dominant mid laner. He’s the sort of player who lets Twisted Fate through so he can pick Sylas and out-pressure TF every time he tries to rotate. However, Scout’s greatest strength is his ability to use every tool at his disposal to its fullest.
The fact that Scout killed the J4 here made this an OK trade for EDG, but the biggest thing to notice is that he used his LeBlanc clone to bodyblock a possible follow-up Q from Zoe. Jiejie was slept and susceptible, but Scout putting his clone in the way deterred Felix “Abbedagge” Braun from trying to find the kill. EDG rarely oversteps, but when they do, Scout isn’t afraid to step up and create enough space for his allies to escape.
These mid laners also have a very similar champion pool, so expect to see a lot of overlap with picks/bans. Twisted Fate, Sylas, Leblanc, and Ryze will all be highly contested in this set for both teams.
ADC: Callous vs. calculated
Both teams have strong ADCs, but in different ways. Chen “GALA” Wei is the all-in teamfight carry ADC that’s filled the gap Jian “Uzi” Zi-Hao left on RNG, while Park “Viper” Do-hyeon plays with precision and care. Where GALA runs headlong into a fight, Viper makes sure his spacing and positioning are pristine before he starts shooting.
Viper narrowly avoided getting comboed by using flash before the Alistar’s headbutt even made contact. The amount of reaction time required to pull something like this off is insane. Meanwhile, GALA’s focused on decimating the enemy. He tends to be first in and last out and if there's a big teamfight happening, GALA will be there.
There are very few ADCs that can look at what’s essentially a 2v5 and decide it’s a good fight. However, with enough cooldowns expended by the enemy, he had no reservations about taking on Fnatic and making sure they didn’t get Baron for free. GALA got a triple here and a quadra in a following fight, giving him enough of a lead to (almost) carry RNG’s game against Fnatic.
Control vs. chaos
Ultimately, this is EDG’s set to lose. That doesn’t necessarily mean they have the edge in the matchup; rather, it’s all about how they play. EDG are a very careful team, who prioritize securing gold leads over taking fights, making them stand out as an outlier in a very aggressive region — almost an antithesis to what RNG want to do.
The only problem is that RNG are really good at what they do. No matter how predictable their focus on top side is, Xiaohu almost always finds a way to get ahead. RNG’s coordinated teamplay and strong early rotations are sure to give EDG trouble, and this set will likely come down to which team has stronger map awareness and rotations.
This is a battle not only to prove who deserves a spot in the semifinals, but which of the two remaining LPL teams is truly the best China has to offer.
All images by: Riot Games
Carver is an esports journalist and analyst who specializes in Eastern League of Legends.