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LPL Summer 2016 preview: The teams, the players and the format

After a strong performance at MSI, can China live up to the potential of its talent-heavy league?

Riot Games

The most high-profile domestic League of Legends league opening this week is in Korea, but there's another top-tier competition starting play. The LoL Pro League in China begins Thursday with 10 best-of-three series in the first week.

Unlike other domestic leagues around the world, China's LPL is split into two groups of six teams each. The groups are decided based on how teams did in the previous split (so in this case, the Spring). Here's how it's broken up this split, via Esportspedia.

  • One team from Tier 1 (Edward Gaming Group A, Royal Never Give Up Group B)
  • Two teams from Tier 2 (Newbee & Snake eSports Group A, Team WE & Vici Gaming Group B)
  • Two teams from Tier 3 (Invictus Gaming & Game Talents Group A, LGD Gaming & OMG Group B)
  • One team from Tier 4 (Saint Club Group A, I May Group B)

Each team will play 16 best-of-three series in the regular season: two against each team in their own group, and one against each team in the other group. The top four teams from each group will qualify for the playoffs, with the top team in each group receiving a bye to the semifinals and the second-place team from each group receiving a bye to the quarterfinals.

Each week, there will be two series Thursday, two Friday, three Saturday, and either two or three on Sunday. Here's how the best-of-three schedule will look each week:

Day Time (EDT) Time (CST)
Thursday 5 a.m. 5 p.m.
Thursday 8 a.m. 8 p.m.
Friday 5 a.m. 5 p.m.
Friday 8 a.m. 8 p.m.
Saturday 1 a.m. 1 p.m.
Saturday 4 a.m. 4 p.m.
Saturday 7 a.m. 7 p.m.
Sunday 1 a.m. 1 p.m.
Sunday 4 a.m. 4 p.m.
Sunday 7 a.m. 7 p.m.

That all starts Thursday with Edward Gaming vs. Newbee, expected to be two of the best teams in Group A. Defending champions Royal Never Give Up will also face tough competition Friday, squaring off against Team WE. Head on over here for the full competitive schedule for the week, plus the five games across all leagues you should watch.

The teams, and players to watch

Royal Never Give Up

RNG Roster
Top Jang "Looper" Hyeong-seok
Jungle Liu "mlxg" Shi-yu
Mid Li "xiaohu" Yuan-Hao
ADC Jian "Uzi" Zi-Hao
Support Cho "Mata" Se-hyoung

Player to watch: Mata

RNG enters the split as pretty strong favorites to repeat as LPL champs. The team beat Edward Gaming in the finals last split and then went on a tear at the Mid-Season Invitational, finishing in first place in the group stage with an 8-2 record. Now the team has signed former star AD Carry Uzi to join world-class Mata in the bottom lane. Is it possible for RNG to be even better?

Edward Gaming

EDG Roster
Top Tong "Koro1" Yang
Jungle Ming "Clearlove" Kai
Mid Lee "Scout" Ye-chan
ADC Kim "Deft" Hyuk-kyu
Support Tian "Meiko" Ye

Player to watch: Scout

For a long time, Edward Gaming has been the class of Chinese League of Legends. EDG won its first three LPL splits and the inaugural MSI, defeating Korean juggernauts SK Telecom T1 in the finals. Since then, success has been hard to find. EDG finished in fourth place in the 2015 Summer Split and was swept by European side Fnatic in the World quarterfinals, and lost to RNG in the LPL finals last split.

Now, there's a new face in the mid lane: Scout, Faker's former backup with SKT. The rest of EDG's core remains, led by world-class jungler Clearlove.

Newbee

NEW Roster
Top Bao "V" Bo
Jungle Baek "Swift" Da-hoon
Mid Bae "dade" Eo-jin
ADC Yu "HappyY" Rui
Support Zhang "MorZB" Hong-Wei

Player to watch: HappyY

Previously known as Qiao Gu Reapers, Newbee was the new chosen name after an embarrassing finish to the Spring Split. QG was forced to forfeit its semifinal series due to being unable to field a mid laner in time. Thankfully, that problem appears to be gone. There was previously a three-man pileup at the position, with doinb, dade and Peco. Doinb has been sent to Newbee's Challenger team, and Peco has moved to AD Carry (and changed his name to HappyY), leaving dade as the new starting mid laner.

Team WE

WE Roster
Top Ke "957" Chang-Yu
Jungle Xiang "Condi" Ren-Jie
Mid Su "xiye" Han-Wei
ADC Jin "Mystic" Seong-jun
Support Yoon "Zero" Kyung-sup

Player to watch: Condi

In its first three LPL splits, Team WE finished in third, third and fourth. Then there was a significant drop for the team, missing the playoffs in Summer 2014 and finishing in the bottom half of the table in both 2015 splits. This past Spring saw a resurgence for the side, finishing in second place in the regular season with a 10-6 group record and third place in the playoffs.

Vici Gaming

VG Roster
Top Zhu "Loong" Xiao-Long
Jungle Choi "DanDy" In-kyu
Mid Lee "Easyhoon" Ji-hoon
ADC Pi "Xuan"" Xiao-Xuan
Support Duan "caveMan" De-Liang

Player to watch: Easyhoon

Usually a middle of the table team in the LPL, Vici Gaming made a power move in December by signing former SKT substitute mid laner Easyhoon, one of the strongest Azir players in the world and someone who was key in the team's win at 2015 Worlds. That resulted in the team's best-ever finish in the LPL regular season, with an 8-8 record good for third place in their group, but Vici lost to Team WE in the quarterfinal round.

Snake eSports

SNK Roster
Top Li "Flandre" Xuan-jun
Jungle Zeng "ZZR" Zhan-ran
Mid Park "TANK" Dan-won
ADC Yang "kRYST4L" Fan
ADC Tan "Martin" Qi
Support Xia "JieZou" Heng
Support Peng "Jia" Jia-Wei

Player to watch: Flandre

Another team with its best-ever regular season mark in 2016 Spring, Snake went 10-6, good for third place in its group (and an eventual quarterfinal exit in the playoffs). Snake has now made changes in the bottom lane and will be breaking in a new support. The team also signed rising Vietnamese prospect Lê "SofM" Quang Duy, the first Vietnamese player to reach Challenger on the Korean server and the first non-Korean, non-LMS import in the LPL.

LGD Gaming

LGD Roster
Top Jang "MaRin" Gyeong-hwain
Jungle Xie "Eimy" Dan
Mid Li "Punished" Yuan-Hui
ADC Gu "imp" Seung-bin
Support Li "Yu" Xin-Nan

Player to watch: MaRin

Once the class of Chinese League of Legends, LGD has tumbled ever since signing world-class former SKT top laner MaRin. LGD had to make some roster replacements this offseason, but MaRin's Mandarin has apparently improved. Could that be enough for a better season? Probably not, but anything can happen when you have a talent like that on your roster.

Invictus Gaming

IG Roster
Top Liu "Zzitai" Zhi-Hao
Jungle Ge "Kid" Yan
Mid Song "RooKie" Eui-jin
ADC An "Rain" Hyeong-uk
Support Wong "Tabe" Pak Kan

Player to watch: RooKie

Invictus may have the best mid laner in the LPL, but it might also have the league's worst bottom lane (or at least one of the worst). Tabe has been brought in to replace Kitties at support, hoping to reverse Rain's struggles at AD Carry. Invictus has fallen a long way since winning the LPL Spring regular season in 2013 and finishing third in both 2015 splits, with a disappointing group stage exit at Worlds and getting swept in the first round of the 2016 Spring playoffs by Snake.

Oh My God

OMG Roster
Top Yang "Dark" Ju-Bao
Top Hu "xiyang" Bin
Jungle Wang "FishBall" Yu
Jungle Yan "juejue" Hong
Jungle Chen "World6" Yu-Tian
Mid Xie "icon" Tian-Yu
Mid Yu "Cool" Jia-Jun
ADC Zhang "bei" Yu-Ze
ADC Han "SmLz" Jin
Support Liu "5" Shi-Yu
Support Luo "Luo" Ci-Rui

Player to watch: icon

Good luck parsing through this gigantic lineup. OMG has a lot of options to play with this split, coming off its best regular season record (8-8) since the 2014 Summer season. The season before that (2014 Spring), OMG had the best regular season record at 11-3, only to finish third in the playoffs. Third place seems an unlikely dream this split, but OMG did surprisingly well last split and has made additions in the bottom lane and the jungle.

Game Talents

GT Roster
Top Kim "GimGoon" Han-saem
Jungle Huang "crisis" Zhen
Jungle Wang "WuShuang" Hai-Li
Mid Bong "Republic" Geun-tae
ADC Xu "PentaQ" Ming-shu
Support Jin "Savoki" Hao

Player to watch: Republic

Game Talents bought the roster and LPL slot of Energy Pacemaker.All, a team that went 4-12 in its only LPL split. With players from EPA and Masters3, it seems likely Game Talents will finish at the bottom of Group A, but crisis and Republic both showed good things last split.

Saint Gaming

SG Roster
Top Choi "Acorn" Cheon-ju
Jungle Kim "chimin" Gyeong-min
Jungle Ye "march" Jia-Bin
Jungle Sun "Captain" Yu-Ze
Mid Yang "Snoopy" Yo-myong
Mid Hou "Otto" Guo-Yu
ADC Qu "Styz" Zi-Liang
ADC Li "XQ" Ying-Jie
Support Yu "x1u" Jie

Player to watch: Acorn

Formerly known as Hyper Youth Gaming, the team renamed to Saint Gaming after a disastrous 1-15 Spring Split. The team was able to defeat Young Miracles to secure it spots in the LPL for this split, and picked up a bunch of new players, including former Samsung Blue and LGD top laner Acorn. Styz and XQ are also former LGD players, and Saint's new roster may have the talent to make a run at the playoffs.

I May

IM Roster
Top Shek "AmazingJ" Wai Ho
Jungle Fan "Avoidless" Jun Wei
Jungle Wang "BayBay" You-Chun
Jungle Zhao "Mitty" Zhi-Ming
Mid Kang "Athena" Ha-woon
Mid Kang "BaeMe" Yang-hyun
ADC Xie "Jinjiao" Jin-Shan
Support Yun "Road" Han-gil

Player to watch: Road

Another new team, I May ended up with an LPL spot after EDward Esports, EDG's sister team, qualified for the league in the promotion tournament. I May bought the spot and the roster, ending up with a team that includes former LPL starters AmazingJ and BaeMe and plenty of other LPL experience around the roster. I May will likely be competing with LGD to not finish at the bottom of Group B.