Welcome to the 10th season of competitive League of Legends! If you’re new to the scene, you might not know that every league opens its split with a rematch of the finalists of the previous split. Well, this year’s LPL season opener featured the last two World Champions: IG and FPX. They played each other in the summer finals last year, as well as during Worlds 2019, in the semifinals. FunPlus Phoenix had their number all throughout the summer split and even in Worlds. This time, however, Invictus Gaming’s refreshed lineup showed the world that the LPL isn’t just the Doinb show.
Invictus Gaming retained their superstar solo laners, Korean duo Kang “TheShy” Seung-lok and Song “Rookie” Eui-jin. They also kept their two junglers, Gao “Ning” Zhen-Ning and Lu “Leyan” Jue. However, they lost Yu “JackeyLove” Wen-Bo in the offseason, prompting them to replace him with former Vici Gaming ADC Ding “Puff” Wang. They also benched Wang “Baolan” Liu-Yi with Puff’s bot lane partner, Su “Southwind” Zhi-Lin. All in all, people are having doubts if IG can reach their former peak without Jackeylove, who was undoubtedly a huge part of their World Championship success. Jackeylove’s low maintenance style allowed Ning to camp Rookie and TheShy, while Baolan facilitated the team engages.
On the other hand, FunPlus Phoenix retained its championship-winning roster. They even added to their firepower by acquiring former SKT T1 top laner Kim “Khan” Dong-ha. He will split time with Kim “Gimgoon” Han-saem. This gives FunPlus Phoenix a whole new dimension to its already versatile playstyle. GimGoon is a world-class top laner, but FPX often leaves him to fend for himself in favor of star Kim “Doinb” Tae-sang and ADC Lin “LWX” Wei-Xiang’s lanes. That’s not gonna be their only style any longer. Khan is an aggressive split pusher and will often demand counter picks in order to dominate his lane.
With all that said, one might expect FunPlus Phoenix to come out on top comfortably. Not only did they retain their lineup, but they also augmented a weak spot in their game with Khan. On the other hand, IG will have to adjust their team around their new bot lane. However, that was not the case with how the series turned out. In Game 1, FPX utilized a well-balanced teamfight comp to secure objectives and force IG to turtle inside their base. It also didn’t help that Ning played a horrible game on Qiyana. He missed multiple ults, however, a few mistakes by Doinb and co. allowed Puff’s Senna to scale and turn the tide into Invictus Gaming’s favor.
In Game 2, FunPlus Phoenix started strong again in the early game. They leveraged Khan’s Fiora counter pick up top to shut TheShy down. Despite this, I think TheShy played as well as he could have, given the circumstances. It took a while before IG even got a kill but when they did, you could’ve smelled the fear from FunPlus Phoenix. Thankfully, Doinb’s Mordekaiser was fed enough to take the momentum back and seal the deal, forcing Game 3.
For Game 3, Invictus Gaming subbed in Leyan, after two subpar Qiyana games from Ning. Leyan isn’t superstar jungler material but he gives IG much-needed stability when Ning’s hit or miss playstyle causes too much disruption to the game. Right away, IG felt a positive change. They played uphill both Games 1 and 2, partly due to Ning. This time around, Leyan played it safe and allowed his laners to stamp their dominance on their respective opponents. The result: 2-1 victory for the former World Champions.