Worlds 2018 Finals: The Top Lane Factor

The Worlds 2018 finals between Fnatic and Invictus Gaming is looming as we are only a few days away from crowning the first non-Korean World Champion in years.

Big systemic changes and how teams approach the game have led to this result. However, it is worth remembering that this was not the case at the start of the tournament. Since Worlds 2018 started, we’ve seen the priority shift from the bottom lane to the solo lanes. Specifically, to the top lane.

Thus, it is only fitting that both teams heading into the Worlds 2018 finals have excellent top laners and substitutes.

The Tale of the Tape

Worlds 2018 Finals

Bwipo will look to continue his current string of impressive performances as Fnatic head into the Worlds 2018 Finals. (LoL Esports)

During the Play-ins stage, the name of the game was playing around the bottom lane.

While individual outplays in other lanes happened and often started the snowball, there was a very high priority on Kai’sa and bot matchups were given specific care. However, as the tournament advanced, the focus shifted towards the other roles and picks like Kai’sa and Draven that can solo carry the game have given way to utility champions like Sivir and Tristana.

Even RNG, the pre-tournament favorites that had won everything this year, failed in their effort to set up the team’s super star ADC Jian “Uzi” Zi-Hao. The flexibility of having 2 junglers with different playstyles gave way to the advantage of having toplaners that are resource-hogs or toplaners that are more team-oriented.

Bwipo and Soaz

Let’s take Fnatic’s toplaners, for example. Gabriel “Bwipo” Rau debuted during the Spring Playoffs because of the injury of Paul “Soaz” Boyer and got his first LCS title only a a week after his debut. Since then, he has been the botlaner for the team during the mage meta.Bwipo’s presence has made it possible for Fnatic to be a threat in all 3 lanes. In this tournament alone, Bwipo has played against Invictus Gaming twice, both with positive results.

All in all, Bwipo has lost only a single game in the tournament. He is also Top 5 in CS difference at the 15-minute mark, damage per minute, and KDA. That’s pretty impressive when you consider the clout of toplane talent at the LoL Worlds 2018.

Soaz is the other side of the coin of the toplane for Fnatic. He is arguably the most experienced pro throughout all of League of Legends (an impressive 3rd in total Worlds games too) and he is known for his cerebral approach to the game. While he has limited playtime during Worlds, he was a key component of winning the Summer split (especially since he substituted for Bwipo after their first and only loss against Schalke in the finals).

In this Worlds, he has been on tank duty as per usual; his Sion was frightful and even against IG when they lost in the group stage, he had a big impact on the game. Despite playing tanks, he has a bigger damage share than Bwipo and helped dismantle 100Thieves.

If Fnatic needs a stable toplaner that can impact the map, Soaz is their best bet to fill this role.

TheShy and Duke

Kang “TheShy” Seung-Iok has put up awe-inspiring performances throughout the whole tournament, despite having only debuted this year. While he had exceptional results in Spring, he did not see much play during the summer, where Lee “Duke” Ho-Seong took over as the starter. Both times, IG finished with a 18-1 series record in the regular season and seemed ready to dethrone RNG.

The individual greatness of TheShy was part of that challenge. He is a known Jayce and Fiora player and we have not seen such a level of domination against international toplaners by a player other than Kin “Khan” Dong-ha. An astounding first in KDA and Damage per minute heading into the Worlds 2018 finals is only indicative of his performances.

The substitute for IG though does not lag behind though. Duke is a storied World Champion that brings a more controlled style to the table.

While he has shown many times that he can play the carries, he has been picking primarily tanks and lately the standard picks like Irelia and Aatrox. He had an impressive 23-9 record in the summer regular season (a definite upgrade from the 50% winrate of spring) but he only played 3 games during the playoffs. Still, he has the highest average CS difference at 15 during his 5 games at Worlds and his champion pool seems quite large too, having picked 5 unique picks.

More importantly, he was playing in Invictus Gaming’s only win over Fnatic, a fact which might force Invictus Gaming to put him in for the Worlds 2018 finals.

Who’s Going to Start at the Worlds 2018 Finals?

Worlds 2018 Finals

Who each team chooses to play at the top lane could ultimately decide who walks away from the Worlds 2018 finals with the Summoner’s Cup in hand. (LoL Esports)

The most interesting question at this point is who will start for each team.

For Invictus Gaming, they usually go with TheShy. However, if necessary, they’re not above subbing Duke back in just cause. This was what happened in their series against KT too, where Duke subbed in for Game 4, after a nerve-racking game 3. On the other hand, Fnatic seem to have the strategy of switching toplaners if they lose, regardless of other important factors

We see that both teams have to make a choice between players that can be classified as young and aggressive or more experienced and more controlled. But here, we have essentially a game of chicken. Both squads would like to have their veteran players test the waters and see whether they can outmaneuver the enemy team.

As described however, the choice for Fnatic seems harder. On the one hand, Bwipo has had great success and quite possibly is the best choice against IG. On the other hand, an early loss at the hands of TheShy might knock him out of the series and it might be very hard for Soaz to contain the enemy toplaners. In this case, it makes sense to put Soaz first to check for any tendencies of the enemy laners and thus make Bwipo’s job easier.

Soaz against TheShy would provide more stability and utility towards the team. This would leave IG with two choices; either keep TheShy and focus on split pushing, or sub in Duke to try and again an advantage against Soaz. 

Final Thoughts

Currently, the teams at the Worlds 2018 finals both prefer carry lanes and a relatively strong Urgot in the top lane. While TheShy can play off-meta carry picks too, Duke has also played lots of these champions. Essentially, Invictus Gaming will have to make a decision, and it’ll likely not be based on laning dominance, but due to general game plans.

When Duke is in, Song “Rookie” Eui-jin and Yu “Jackeylove” Wen-bo are given a helping hand, while TheShy usually tunnels into abusing his matchup and the splitpush. On the other hand, while Soaz can play the carries too, he is mainly a tank player and it is true that whenever he is in, Fnatic play towards botside. However, this matchup depends mainly upon the solo laners and the junglers, so it would make a lot less sense to sub in Soaz against this team; it would incentivize IG to try and shut down Rasmus “Caps” Winther and Martin “Rekkles” Larsson. 

Despite their differences, one thing that we cannot deny is how exceptional these 4 players are in their own ways. However, we’ll only see 2 of them etch their name in the annals of the history.

Luckily, we won’t have to wait long to see how the coaches and players of the teams deal with these battles at the top lane in the Worlds 2018 finals.

Which team do you think will end up coming out victorious at the Worlds 2018 finals? Will the top laners be as big of a factor as they’ve been all tournament long? Be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments down below.

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