LPL Finals Preview - Who to look out for and key lane matchups
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On Thursday, September 2, the LPL will crown its 2021 champion at the LPL Summer Finals. The winner will go onto be the number one seed representing China at the League of Legends World Championships. But the final isn’t the only important match left for the China region. The third and fourth seeds representing China at Worlds have yet to be determined. At the LPL Regional Finals, four teams will battle it out to determine which two will punch their tickets to Worlds. Four days of action kicks off this Thursday, ending with the last qualification match on Sunday, Sept. 5. Here is a breakdown of each series and the key matchups to follow.

LPL Summer Finals: FPX vs EDG

As fate would have it, the top two seeds from the LPL 2021 Summer Split have reached the grand finals. Both Edward Gaming and FunPlus Phoenix have locked in their Worlds spots, but this match still has a lot going for it. Not only will this match decide the champion of the LPL, but it will also decide the number one seed going into Worlds.

The last time these two teams faced each other in a best of five was back in a semi-final of the 2021 Spring Finals, which ended in a thrilling Game five finish. FPX came out on top in that series 3-2, and both teams are bringing their same rosters for this series.

Key lane matchup: mid and top

When it comes to matchups, all eyes are on the mid and top lanes. The mid-lane showcases the two first-team all-LPL members. Lee “Scout” Ye-chan from the Spring Split and Kim “Doinb” Tae-sang from the Summer Split. On paper, Doinb has the advantage but with Scout picking up two player-of-the-game honors in EDG’s Semi-Finals match against Team WE, both players look to be playing at their peak.

Top lane is another matchup of interest. EDG’s Li “Flandre” Xuan-Jun will be heading to Worlds for the first time in his seven-year career. But the reigning world champion top laner, Jang “Nuguri” Ha-gwon, stands in his way from going to Worlds as the number one seed. With that said, Flandre has himself had an excellent playoffs, especially in their last series against WE. In all three games against WE, Flandre picked Jayce and dismantled the WE team with high-level shock blasts and damage plays. Nuguri has had a good playoffs as well. In a meta that has been good for carry-style top lane champions, the matchup of the wily veteran vs the world champion will be key.

LPL Regional Finals upper-bracket: RNG vs WE

The reigning MSI champions Royal Never Give Up have had an up-and-down Summer Split. RNG started very slow in the Summer with a 1-5 record, but turned on the jets in the second half as they went an impressive 9-1 the rest of the way. Heading into playoffs, RNG looked to be in peak form once again. But in the biggest upset of the LPL season, Li-Ning Gaming not only took down RNG, they did so in convincing fashion. After a single series, RNG was eliminated from playoffs and now has to fight for their Worlds lives in the Regional Finals. Standing in their way for Worlds is WE.

WE have had a phenomenal playoffs run. Unlike RNG who only had one playoff series, WE had six. Starting way back in round one, WE took down Oh My God and Bilibili Gaming, both as 3-0 victories. They were then battle-tested against the fourth seed, Rare Atom, but managed to take the win 3-2. Their biggest win came against EDG in the upper bracket, when they made a shocking upset to move onto winners-finals. Their run fell flat after a 3-0 defeat at the hands of FPX, and then another 3-0 sweep in the runback against EDG.

Key lane matchup: bot

The match of WE vs. RNG is one where one well rested team will be taking on a team that is well experienced in the current meta. As for lane matchups, all eyes are on the bottom lane. WE’s bot laner Zhao “Elk” Jia-Hao has had an MVP-worthy performance throughout the entire playoffs, and has even gone toe-to-toe with the consensus best bot-laner in the region, Park “Viper” Do-hyeon. He’ll go up against RNG’s Spring finals MVP, Chen “Gala” Wei. Gala hasn’t had the best split but is known for his playoff performances.

A win here for either team locks them in as the LPL third seed. However, a loss here isn’t the end of the road either. The loser of this series will play the winner of the lower-bracket match between Rare Atom and Li-Ning Gaming, to determine the fourth and final team at Worlds.

LPL Regional Finals lower-bracket: RA vs LNG

The two biggest surprises of the LPL Summer Split will be playing an elimination match, with the winner moving one series away from qualifying for Worlds. Both teams got to this point off of their stellar performances in the Summer Season. Although both teams did manage to make it to the playoffs in the Spring Split, they both took a huge step forward in the Summer.

Rare Atom has been a top-four team in the LPL all Summer. Known for going to game three a lot no matter the competition, RA has racked up some impressive wins and some equally impressive losses. RA is a team that really plays to the level of their opponent. RA’s playoffs were cut short as they were eliminated in their first series, which thanks to byes, were in round three. Their loss was to WE, but the series was very close. WE barely edged out the win 3-2.

Li-Ning Gaming on the other hand had a lengthy playoff run. LNG actually started the Summer Split 7-0 and was at the top of the region. However, a very poor second half sunk their once first-place spot all the way down to the eighth seed. Regardless, LNG played like a top-tier team in the playoffs. After taking out last year’s world finalists, Suning, LNG went on to beat the streaking Top Esports, and then made the biggest upset of the year against RNG. Like WE, LNG’s run came up short as they lost to FPX, and then to EDG, to end the split in fourth place. Now they look to capture the fourth seed at Worlds.

Key lane matchup: mid

The key lane matchups in this series will be in the mid-lane. RA’s Chu “FoFo” Chun-Lan has been a catalyst for success for the RA squad all summer. He was rewarded for his efforts with a third-team all-LPL spot. But LNG’s Xie “Icon” Tian-Yu is no slouch. Even though the best player on LNG is their jungler Lee “Tarzan” Seung-yong, Icon has matched Tarzan’s impact as he only sits a single spot away from Tarzan when it comes to player-of-the-game honors in the playoffs. In LNG’s series against TES, Icon outplayed second-team all-LPL mid-laner Zhuo “Knight” Ding, in three games of the four-game series.

ASU alum with a B.A in Sports Journalism, Warren is one of the premier TFT Journalists in the scene and is a decent TFT player as well who has peaked Challenger and has had multiple accounts in Master+ over all sets. Warren also specializes in other esports content including League of Legends, Valorant, Smash Bros, and more.