Last split, the League of Legends Masters Series produced a new champion in the Flash Wolves after a year of ahq e-Sports Club dominance. And once again, the LMS representative was able to make it out of groups at an international competition, with Flash Wolves earning third/fourth at the Midseason Invitational.
Summer looks to have a slightly higher standard than spring with a more developed Machi, an improved Hong Kong eSports, and the bottom teams having more time to gel. Nevertheless, the top four looks to be just as competitive as last year and the league looks devoid of a free-win team.
Flash Wolves finally broke through and won its first LMS split last spring, defeating ahq e-Sports Club and earning a ticket to MSI, where it placed third/fourth. While the team initially struggled with roster and synergy-based issues, moving on from longtime shot-caller Cho "Steak" Lu-Hsi showed that it could develop past its Season 5 iteration. Flash Wolves showed incremental growth during the spring split, developing an aggressive, tower-diving style that had it closing games out faster than any other team. However, its necessitated resource focus on the notoriously inflexible AD carry, Hsiung "NL" Wen-An, was a red flag and left Flash Wolves punished on the international stage.
Coming into the summer split, Flash Wolves will be running the same lineup that it ran at MSI with all its subs having gone to Team Mist. Yu "MMD" Li Hung's recent rise in power and the continued dominance from the midjungle duo of Huang "Maple" Yi-Tang and Hung "Karsa" Hau-Hsuan has Flash Wolves in a good spot. While the roster likely was stifled with the likes of NL, as he continues to limit Hu "SwordArt" Shuo-Jie's champion pool and Flash Wolves' general play style, it seems that only ahq will have the talent and prowess to effectively punish its shortcomings and challenge the team for the LMS crown.
Ahq e-Sports Club
While Flash Wolves celebrated its first domestic title since the org's establishment, ahq tasted defeat for the first time in more than a year, as it lost its stranglehold over the Taiwanese region. It still maintained that same dominance during the course of the regular season, only dropping three games, but showed difficulty in the early game against even the weakest teams. The bot lane in particular was a huge part of this problem, consistently losing the 2v2 and setting ahq behind. The team managed to keep it together during the split with strong teamfighting and general macro play, but fell apart at the seams when Flash Wolves challenged it with a strong laning phase and macro play.
Ahq is sticking to its guns this summer. The lineup will remain the same from spring, right down to substitute AD Liang "RD" Teng-Li. Ahq still has great individual players across the board compared to most of the league and it's unlikely it will fall down past playoff seeds this summer. However, Xue "Mountain" Zhao-Hong had a total meltdown in playoffs and will be the most important player to the team's success. Chou "AN" Chun-An's mediocre split at AD echoes his initial spring split last year, when he returned to the position. But his mechanical skill will still be a solid threat for ahq. It's hard to say if ahq will be knocked down another peg from second, but the team is hardly untouchable.
Breakout teams are a bit of a rarity in the LMS region, given the player concentration in the top teams and the lack of resources presentable to lower tier orgs, but Machi just found its magic. Initially, spring saw Machi falling over itself as it failed to make any use of its consistent early-game gold leads. Wang "BoBo" You-Lin and Tseng "Dreamer" Chien-Hung did the dirty work in the early game, but rookie jungler Lin "Taizan" Ching-Chia needed time to settle in and was quite the non-factor early on. In time though, the talent manifested itself, as Machi not only brought the pain early, but could close the game as well. Taizan and BoBo's rise as a jungle/top tandem led Machi to its first playoff appearance and victory, when the team upset the then Taipei Assassins, earning third place for the split.
Much like Flash Wolves and ahq, Machi will avoid any roster swaps prior to the summer split as it's seemingly in a decent position to contest for a chance at the League of Legends World Championship. BoBo's establishment as the second best top laner behind Chen "Ziv" Yi and Taizan's rise as a top four jungler bode well for the team. Hsieh "Apex" Chia Wei and Dreamer have always been stellar at mid and support, but Machi still has Dee to worry about going into the next split. While he is safe and certainly contributes a healthy amount to team atmosphere and strategy, he leaves Machi with Apex as the only true carry. Nevertheless, Machi has a good shot at taking out ahq this split if Chen "Dee" Jun-Dee steps it up and the team continues its upward trend towards clean macro.
Last split, formerly known as the Taipei Assassins, J Team was one of the best early game teams and proved to have an excellent understanding of the lane-swap and river control, thanks to Chen "REFRA1N" Kuanting's breakout split. As such, TPA proved to be quite the threat in Spring, hotly contesting ahq and even 2-0ing the Flash Wolves, but it was not without its hiccups. At times, TPA was excellent and looked to be ahq's greatest competition for the crown, but also looked lost as it failed to play the mid game effectively. Longtime players, Chen "Morning" Kuanting and Li "Jay" Chieh held the team back, as neither contributed positively when it came to mid to late game shotcalling or engages. While the team made playoffs, its early exit in a 3-2 loss against Machi was an underachievement and clearly exposed what held TPA back.
J Team comes into the summer with a different name and a shiny Jay Chou sponsorship, but still boasts the same lineup that failed to deliver in spring. Position-wise, there are hardly any issues as most players are up to par, with the exception of longtime support, Jay, who has seen better days. However, team chemistry is a huge issue for J Team, with any player lacking any proper authority or proactiveness when it comes to winning the game. J Team certainly still profiles as a playoff caliber team, but is looking at a hard split without some consistent MVP performances from its ace mid laner Chu "FoFo" Chunlan and farm-focused REFRA1N.
Hong Kong eSports
Much like TPA faltered with the early retirement superstar jungler, Winds, in LMS Summer 2015, HKE faltered with the loss of Kurtis "Toyz" Lau due to external factors involving contract disputes with the organization. On top of that, AD carry, Jeong "Raison" Soobin, was also unable to participate in the spring split due to his past elo-boosting practices. As a result, HKE fielded a subpar roster with a myriad of communication issues due to its import slot being used on Korean mid laner, Jun "Rokenia" Youngdae, in the absence of Raison. Communication was lost, with Kim "Olleh" Joosung no longer having a Korean partner in the bot lane and it didn't help that Raison's replacement, Cheung "GodKwai" Wo Kwai, was frankly quite poor in comparison.
Summer has the return of Raison for HKE and thus the reunion of Olleh and Raison as a Korean unit down bottom. This will be paramount to HKE's ability to snowball bottom lane through its own 2v2 ability rather than solely relying on solo lane Teleports and lopsided jungle pressure. In addition, the best Leblanc in Taiwan and rookie mid laner, MarS, looks to be the primary mid laner for Hong Kong eSports next split and will be the wildcard for the team. If he performs well, the support network of Shiue "Dinter" Hungwei and Olleh, along with the carry forces of Yang "Maplesnow" Yuwei and Raison, should be enough to propel HKE to playoffs as it looks to go neck and neck with J Team next split.
The once playoff contender Midnight Sun was no more last split after the loss of its entire roster to Garena-levied bans. Barely squeezing in at sixth over XGamers, MSE had a few bright spots during the split, but ultimately was a disappointing team compared to the MSE of Summer 2015. Clearly, MSE unearthed a few rough players from the depths of the Taiwanese and Hong Kong player pool, finding players worth developing in Huang "Ninuo" Jinlong, Liu "Wulala" Shengwei, and Ling "Kaiwing" Kaiwing, but none have bloomed quite yet. MSE played a very rudimentary mid-focused game around Chen "M1ssion" Hsiaoh Shien, and was a mono-dimensional team, struggling in most situations that did not involve funneling resources mid.
MSE's roster remains unchanged for summer, but at the very least isn't capped when it comes to individual talent. However, it appears that Kaiwing may not be the primary support despite being part of MSE's resurgence in the middle of the split and being a key part of its eventual placing at sixth. In the event he doesn't start, things look a little tougher for MSE, but the continued developments of both Ninuo and Wulala are still promising. It may just not be enough with its main carries, M1ssion and Cheng "CorGi" Pinlun, being seemingly gated when it comes to their own individual impact on the game.
XGamers was a newly promoted team last Spring and defeated the favored Gash Bears under the guidance of veteran jungler, Fan "Yo" Chihwei. During the regular season, Tso "SuwaKo" Weiyang proved to be an excellent mid laner and with the rock solid top laner, Tung "Nexus" Tung, and the experienced Yo. However, the individual ceiling of the team eventually became apparent, as it struggled to string together meaningful victories past its 2-0 over Flash Wolves early in the spring split.
Much like the rest of the LMS, there are no roster changes for XGamers and considering the roster is strong enough to at least remain in the LMS, it is probably best to wait until the fall offseason to really tinker with the lineup. XG isn't looking to be a great team this split and may even fall down to the eighth place spot with the presence of Team Mist, despite having a standout player like SuwaKo. It's looking to be a tough Summer as XG is likely to face relegation again.
Team Mist is the only team coming into the LMS with no prior history as it just recently qualified for the LMS, taking out the painfully awful COUGAR E-Sports who managed to only win a single game all split. The team originally qualified as Flash Wolves' farm team, Flash Husky, and maintained the majority of the roster for LMS Summer after being sold to Gama Tuning. However, the main player that carried Flash Husky through challenger, Lu "Betty" Yu Hung, was maintained by Flash Wolves and won't be joining the squad (he is only 16).
Team Mist has a decent squad for the summer split, and most importantly, was able to pick off Flash Wolves sub top laner, Shen "Rins" Poju, to supplement the maintenance of AD carry Huang "Breeze" Chien Yuan and acquisition of mid laner Ko "K" Kaisheng. All three of the players have seen good performances in the LMS and project to be mid-tier at the very least. However, the team's new jungler, Len "Benny" Hsiuchi, is a relative unknown and has big shoes to fill in when it comes to Betty. As a new team, it may be hard for Team Mist to compete, but it certainly has the talent to contest with Midnight Sun and XGamers.