The 2021 League of Legends Mid-Season Invitational begins Thursday at 9 a.m. ET, with Cloud9 and DWG KIA headlining Day 1 of the main event. For the first time since the 2020 world championship, onlookers will see how the best regions in the world stack up against one another.
A lot has changed since the start of the 2021 season, especially for the players. Rookies have become champions and earned a chance to shine. Old names have reinvented themselves and proved that there’s still a seat for them among the best of the best.
To kick off the Upcomer series that lists top players in each role at the tournament, here are the five best top laners at MSI this year.
1. Li “Xiaohu” Yuan-Hao (RNG)
Once a mainstay of previous top mid laner lists, the newly role-swapped Xiaohu is looking like one of the best top laners at MSI in 2021. While he’s the first to admit that his laning and playstyle aren’t exactly the flashiest, the value that he’s provided RNG is undeniable. Thanks to his reliable presence top side and excellent teamfighting, RNG qualified for the tournament. Xiaohu also has the numbers to back it up: According to Oracle’s Elixir, Xiaohu had the second-highest kill participation out of all top laners in the League of Legends Pro League at 68%. Despite being new to the role, Xiaohu creates room for the carries of his team — especially AD carry Chen “GALA” Wei — so that they may flourish by focusing less on laning and looking for opportunities to get involved on the map.
2. Kim “Khan” Dong-ha (DWG KIA)
Over the years, Khan has become a household name for dedicated fans of high-level League of Legends. A proficient carry player, Khan finds himself playing on, arguably, the best team in the world. Despite having a quieter split than normal, and not putting up the craziest numbers all across the board, he still had the second highest KDA of all top laners in League of Legends Champions for Korea’s regular season at 4.0, according to Oracle’s Elixir. It’s Khan’s ability to pop off, when given the chance, that makes him such a strong player. He may even be the best mechanical top laner at MSI 2021.
3. İrfan Berk “Armut” Tükek (MAD Lions)
Armut put on a show with SuperMassive at the 2020 League of Legends World Championship and, since then, has become a sensational top laner in the League of Legends European Championship. As we’ve seen from him on Gnar, his most played champion by far in the 2021 season, Armut, is a playmaker through and through. His ability to find engage angles, even from behind, for his team assisted MAD Lions in qualifying for MSI. It shows in the numbers as well. His stats for the LEC 2021 spring split were mostly middling. However, he was clearing vision more than any other LEC top during the regular season. This was at .21 wards cleared per minute, according to Oracle’s Elixir.
While he’s shown himself to be proficient on different picks, especially his Wukong pocket pick, the small champion pool he showed in the spring split is something that teams may try to exploit in MSI 2021.
4. Ibrahim “Fudge” Allami (Cloud9)
Since his debut on the stacked Cloud9 League of Legends Championship Series title-winning roster, critics and fans have been raving. It’s a difficult position for a young solo laner to be placed on a team with stars like Luka “Perkz” Perković and Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen. Fudge’s performance this season was above and beyond expectations given his situation. C9 likes to push their tempo as hard as they can and run with it. Fudge’s weakside play was a key factor in facilitating that playstyle and earning the team a championship.
Fudge steadily improved throughout the split and was a force to be reckoned with when the Mid-Season Showdown rolled around. During playoffs, Fudge had the highest KDA of any top laner at 4.0. MSI will be the biggest stage he’s played on since his time at the 2019 world championship with MAMMOTH. And, while it may not be as easy for him to play weakside against the world’s best, he still finds himself at the top of the table for his role.
5. Su “Hanabi” Chia-Hsiang (PSG Talon)
Another familiar face on the international stage, Hanabi, has had a killer split in the Pacific Championship Series. During the regular season alone, he had the most CS per minute out of all top laners at 8.5. He also had the second-highest experience difference at 10 minutes at 169 according to Oracle’s Elixir. Additionally, he had the highest KDA for a top laner in the regular season and playoffs, at 7.0 and 11.0.
Given his veteran experience and the beastly season he’s coming off of, Hanabi is a beacon of hope for PSG at MSI 2021. This is while they adjust to substitutions due to the condition of their starting ADC Wong “Unified” Chun Kit. The only thing holding him back may be the relatively low strength of competition he’s been practicing against all year long.