2022 was a memorable year for League of Legends fans. There were exciting storylines throughout different regions, the reintroduction of live audiences swung into full force, and the year was capped off by the most exciting World Championship the game has seen. Seeing the passion and dedication of top players is always a treat, and this year was no different.
It was a particular joy seeing all the excitement in the top lane. Though top laners often have to fend for themselves, the meta throughout a lot of 2022 made this challenge even more prominent. With the popularity of mid-late game team compositions, a lot of rosters focused their attention on raising their bot laners. There were also meta shifts focusing more on the top laners — those that wanted to succeed constantly had to stay on their toes. However, this didn't bring down the best the world had to offer. Many faced this hurdle and came out stronger than before. Here are Inven Global’s top five top laners throughout 2022.
5. Chen "Bin" Ze-Bin — Royal Never Give Up/Bilibili Gaming
It's shocking how fast Bin was forgotten from the competitive discourse. While competing with RNG, he was overlooked compared to some of the other carry top laners that had teams more keen to set them up for success. During the second part of the year, he was doomed to be stuck once again on the mediocrity of Bilibili Gaming.
With what Bin was given this year, though, he made the most of, though. He consistently played the champions that his team needed him to play, displayed strong laning phase abilities, and was a formidable force in teamfights, all while not requiring many resources (even though he is very good as a carry top laner). With Royal Never Give Up — though he was sometimes seen as the team's weakest link — he held his own on a top team very well and contributed greatly to RNG's victory over T1 at MSI 2022. Past that, he helped BLG manage to qualify for playoffs, and even win Demacia Cup 2022. A great year for an overlooked player — we can only hope he's given more opportunities to excel in 2023.
4. Li "Flandre" Xuan-Jun — EDward Gaming
Flandre has been an essential contributor to EDward Gaming's success, with his leadership and strategic play complementing the mechanical skills of Park "Viper" Do-hyeon. Despite not always having a strong early game, Flandre has consistently found ways to make an impact. He is highly versatile, having played a swath of different champions throughout the year, and is skilled at coming up with unexpected picks that catch opponents off guard. Of course, his teamfighting ability is also some of the best in the world for his role.
Flandre and co. did not experience the same amount of success as they have in the past, but the former was one of the players that continued excelling. Although he has a tendency to take a more supportive role for his team compared to other top laners, and has been outmatched by several of his contemporaries throughout LPL and international competition, there is no doubt Flandre has been an extremely formidable weapon for his team, and was a key component in EDG maintaining their elite status throughout parts of the year.
3. Choi “Doran” Hyeon-joon — Gen.G
Doran was not an incredible carry threat, but he didn't need to be (especially when playing with the likes of Jeong "Chovy" Ji-hoon and Park "Ruler" Jae-hyuk). What his team has needed from him, he has provided: consistently playing well and performing in crucial moments. He was perhaps the most adept weakside player in the world, and was always a relevant force throughout Gen.G's success. Though some may see this as a weakness on his part — he was never the carry force that other top laners were for their teams — Doran was mostly a victim of how his team was set up. With what he was given, he performed wonderfully.
2. Bai "369" Jia-Hao — JD Gaming
The hype for 369 was big. For some parts of the year, many fans and analysts considered him to be the most well-rounded top laner in the world — no one could match his level of versatility and excellence. He was good in strongside and weakside, and could find ways to contribute to his team even when put in very disadvantaged situations. He had a great understanding of how to navigate teamfights.
Overall, he had an incredible year — one that was a big step up from what he showed last year. After a strong top-four finish in LPL Spring, he was one of the main reasons his team won LPL Summer. Coming into Worlds as the top player on the reigning region's top team — he had everything going for him to catapult himself up to the world's definitive best top laner. However, it didn't work out. The team had a strong semifinal run, but it was definitely not the crowning ceremony 369 was hoping for. Even at earlier stages of the tournament, his play did not stand out as much as many had expected it to. An excellent year, but one a bit disappointing compared to what many fans had hoped for.
1. Choi “Zeus” Woo-je — T1
Zeus is deceptive. He does not play like a young player. In fact, since he was introduced to T1's main roster in 2022, he has been almost nothing else other than one of the most complete and impactful top laners in the world. He was instrumental in all of the success T1 experienced throughout the years: four major finals, and an undefeated regular season performance. How did he do so? Literally doing anything T1 asked of him, which was a lot. Survive the weakside? He could absorb enemy ganks left and right and possess one of the lowest jungle proximity ratios, and still come out ahead. Have good side lane macro? All his macro decisions are something that would make the greatest tacticians proud. Teamfighting? Just watch this:
The year definitely had a lot of heartbreak for Zeus. But if he maintains this level, he will go down as one of the greatest top laners of all time.
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