As the year 2021 draws to a close, we at Inven Global are looking back at the players, teams, moments, and games that made the year of professional League of Legends play so special. In a year full of turmoil, having a steady performer, a rock to hold onto is a comfort to most League of Legends fans.
We're excited to present the second year of the Inven Global Awards (IGA). Voted by the editorial crew of Inven Global, along with some other experienced journalists and analysts, the IGAs celebrate the many strong facets of League of Legends in 2021 — the best teams, players, talent, and stories.
Nowhere is that sentiment more evident than in our list of the best top laners. These top laners are among the best in the world, but which one is the best has not yet been decided. Here are the cases for each of these five exceptional players. Fans can also vote for the player who they think deserves it the most, and the player with the most votes will receive the IGA Community Award.
Kim "Canna" Chang-dong
A year after missing Worlds for the first time, T1 surged back to a semi-final finish at Worlds 2021 and Canna was a huge reason why. While his domestic performance was strong, it was his international performance that elevated his play for the year. At Worlds, Canna had a 3.85 KDA in 14 games, dominating on signature picks Kennen and Graves. His 1.86 deaths per game were the fewest for all top laners at Worlds 2021.
Li "Flandre" Xuan-Jun
The top laner for the current World Champions EDward Gaming, it seems natural that Flandre would make his way into the top five. He’s long been considered one of the best top laners in the world, but didn’t have the hardware to back it up. This year he not only added a World Championship to his trophy shelf but an LPL Championship from Summer 2021 as well. He was also named the best top laner in the LPL three weeks during the 2021 season, making him one of the most decorated players in his role domestically.
Kim "Khan" Dong-ha
Khan was the feel-good story coming into Worlds, as he was looking to close out his career (at least temporarily) on a win before his mandatory military service began. He came into Worlds on the presumed best team, DWG KIA, which won both the Spring and Summer LCK splits. His impressive performances earned him 2nd All-Pro honors during the summer and 1st All-Pro during the spring.
His performance was so impressive during the split, in fact, he managed to finish top-five in points for the Player of the Split award. Although the year ended with Khan and DWG KIA falling just short of their goals, losing in the finals to EDG, Khan still went out as one of the greatest professional top laners in League of Legends.
Kim "Rascal" Kwang-hee
Another decorated LCK top laner, Rascal helped lead Gen.G to a surprise top-four finish at Worlds, along with two second-place finishes in the LCK regular season, and a runner-up slot in the spring playoffs. Individually, Rascal was named 2nd All-Pro Team in spring, during which he was top-ten in points for Player of the Split.
Rascal also performed well statistically, leading LCK top laners in gold per minute during the spring, and leading in KDA during the summer split. Even though this didn’t translate to international success, individually or for the team, Rascal still has some impressive performances this year.
Li "Xiaohu" Yuan-Hao
Maybe the biggest surprise story among all top laners, Xiaohu was pushed out of his native position in the mid lane during the 2020 offseason to make room for new mid laner Yuan "Cryin" Cheng-Wei. The hope by RNG was that Xiaohu would learn and become a serviceable player in a less important role, but instead, Xiaohu found a home and had a career renaissance.
Xiaohu was voted to 1st All-Pro Team in the spring and summer splits, earned six Player of the Week awards for LPL top lane over the full year, and led LPL gold per minute during the spring and summer splits. These accomplishments, especially for a player learning a brand new role for the split, are incredibly impressive.
Honorable mention: Jang "Nuguri" Ha-gwon
Leaving the defending World Champions DWG KIA for a new team with Fun Plus Phoenix, expectations were high for Nuguri in his first split and he did not disappoint. Nuguri won Player of the Week honors once and best top laner of the week twice during his first season in the LPL.
More from the Inven Global Awards
Best top laner
Best jungler (Dec. 7)
Best mid laner (Dec. 8)
Best ADC (Dec. 9)
Best support (Dec. 10)
Best rookie (Dec. 11)
Best minor region player (Dec. 12)
Player of the year (Dec. 13)
Best coaching staff (Dec. 14)
Best play-by-play caster (Dec. 15)
Best color caster (Dec. 16)
Best story of the year (Dec. 17)
Biggest controversy of the year (Dec. 18)
Best in-game moment (Dec. 19)
Best content piece or series (Dec. 20)
Off-season winner (Dec. 21)
Awards announcement: Player categories (Dec. 29)
Awards announcement: Caster and community categories (Dec. 30)
Inven Global Awards panelists:
Nick Geracie /// @NickGeracie
Daniel "Quest" Kwon /// @LoLQuestKR
David "Viion" Jang /// @David_Viion
John "OddBall" Popko /// @OddballCreator
Kim "Haao" Byung-ho /// @Inven_Haao
Jang "Irro" Min-young
Carver Fisher /// @Carver_Fisher
Josh Tyler /// @joshtyler
Andre Gonzalez Rodriguez /// @Vulv_
Tom Matthiesen /// @TomMatthiesen
Adel Chouadria /// @AdelChouadria
Yohan Markov /// @Esports_Person
Diamond TFT Player & esports watcher.