With just a few days left until the first big international League of Legends competition of the year, each region’s fans get their first taste of seeing their representatives face off against some of the best talent in the world. As always, Korea and China look as fearsome as ever. While certain players and teams have been able to bring some surprise plays and wins against these juggernauts, one of the highest peaks to scale has always been in the top lane.
Top Asian teams have almost always boasted the strongest top laners in the world — to the point that it’s difficult to make sense of it. Will this time be different? The top lane talent possessed by teams like T1 and Royal Never Give Up looks fantastic, but can the experience of teams like Evil Geniuses or G2 Esports be enough to overcome that?
Here are Inven Global's ranking of the best top laners for the 2022 Mid-Season Invitational:
5. Hanabi — PSG Talon
Su "Hanabi" Chia-Hsiang gets yet another opportunity to represent his region in international competition — it’s hard to tell if anything has changed, though. Yes, he won the 2022 PCS Spring and is considered the best at his position in his region. But even though they had a great split and climbed to the top rather easily, what has really changed from PSG Talon compared to their prior international performances?
Last year, the lineup in spring had a 26-1 — their most successful ever — but it wasn’t enough to beat out a team like RNG. While still good, both PSG Talon’s record as a team and Hanabi’s individual stats are slightly worse. He hasn’t done much to expand his champion pool more and seems to fall back on Gnar whenever he has the chance. While he is one of the best top laners at MSI 2022, he hasn’t done anything to prove he should be ranked higher.
4. Impact — Evil Geniuses
Jung "Impact" Eon-yeong is once again... just Impact. He didn’t have a massive renaissance that cemented him as the most exciting top laner in the LCS, and he didn’t sink to irrelevance either. While everyone was losing their minds over the carrying heroics of Park "Summit" Woo-tae, Impact yet another time was the reliable veteran rock that his team needed. While younger players like Kyle "Danny" Sakamaki and Joseph Joon "jojopyun" Pyun received most of the excitement directed toward EG in their surprise win in the LCS Spring Finals, it’s hard to discount the contribution Impact brought to the team. He had a great performance in the playoffs as the teamfighting beast that has won him so many championships in his time in NA.
Given his playstyle and ridiculous amount of experience (more than any player on this list), it’s unlikely Impact will be anything short of a consistent force for EG at this tournament. At the same time, it’s unlikely he’ll do anything more than provide a solid contribution — his days of carrying long behind him.
3. BrokenBlade — G2 Esports
Finally, Sergen "BrokenBlade" Çelik has been given a team that looks to be making full use of his talents. No longer does he have to carry teammates far too heavy, or be on rosters doomed to make no noticeable impact. He’s finally won an LEC title with players that have proven international success. They take advantage of a lot of his strengths: allowing him to swim to the depths of his champion pool, offering him support when he needs it during laning, and providing him reinforcements when he wants to make a play. It’s a dream situation for a player as talented as him.
The main problem with BrokenBlade facing against the stronger international teams isn’t that those players are better than him (which they are). He will most likely have to play with a new dynamic at MSI. Rasmus "caPs" Winther will no doubt be absorbing a lot of jungle pressure, and G2’s unproven bottom lane also will most likely need assistance to keep them afloat. BrokenBlade is not going to have the same luxuries he had in the LEC, and will need to do his best in playing for these situations to succeed.
2. Bin — Royal Never Give Up
While players such as Bai "369" Jia-Hao and Huang "Wayward" Ren-Xing received a lot of hype through the LPL’s competition in spring, Chen "Bin" Ze-Bin was in many ways overlooked. He wasn’t ever really the hypercarry threat that his team might’ve needed when they were struggling this year, and his coordination with Yan "Wei" Yang-Wei was sloppy enough to cost RNG multiple games. However, was the opposite of dead weight.
Every game was another day at the office for Bin. Without fail, he’d play the champions RNG needed him to play, show off a great laning phase, and become a powerful force in teamfights — all without taking many resources. He wasn’t a standard weakside top laner, but was able to make the most of what his team gave him and contribute well even with starved carry champions. He probably won’t destroy everyone in the top lane, but it will be very hard to topple him over.
Of course, that’s ignoring if he picked Jax. His Jax games were more a day at the office where he knocked everyone out with a lamp post including his upper regional manager and convinced the CEO to give him a majority share in the company, only then to run out into the street and start conquering more parts of the world.
1. Zeus — T1
If a player’s team goes on a record-breaking win streak in the second (perhaps first) most competitive region in the game, you can assume they at least carry their weight. Choi "Zeus" Woo-je does more than that. In his first split as a full-time starter, the soloqueue wunderkind has already established himself as one of the best top laners in the world. His laning is strong, he has some of the most impressive mechanics in the world, and his teamfighting is excellent. Throughout the regular season of the LCK, Zeus managed to stand at the top of the rankings for his position in kills and KDA.
There are some reservations to keep in mind with Zeus. He is less experienced than every other top laner on this list — both in competing at international events and in general. Also, it can’t be ignored that he plays on a team he doesn’t have to worry much about carrying — with each of his teammates considered stars of their respective roles. His Kill Participation and Kill Share ratios are nowhere near first for top laners in the LCK.
However, what sets Zeus apart from other top laners is that he plays his role in his team perfectly. Other tops have fantastic games, but many times need to rely on their teammates if they have a bad start. Even if you get your jungler to focus Zeus early and gain an early advantage — you still lose. He’ll always be pressuring, he’ll always be finding ways to grab gold, and he’ll keep pushing till your turrets are destroyed — opening up a way for his team to win. The multitude of threats Zeus brings to T1 is something no team has found an answer to.
The best players at MSI 2022
Top 5 top laners
Top 5 junglers (May 6)
Top 5 mid laners (May 7)
Top 5 bot laners (May 8)
Top 5 supports (May 9)
I write. I rap. I run. That’s pretty much it.