A lesson from this week's League of Legends global power rankings? Don't underestimate Hanwha Life Esports. Six days after the LCK squad in danger of being relegated swept Damwon Gaming, they upset streaking SK Telecom T1 2-1. The loss ends SKT's nine-match winning streak, dropping them from third to eighth in our rankings. Gen.G took a tumble from sixth to 17th due to inconsistent play -- former Heroes of the Storm carry Lee "Rich" Jae-won took over mid lane for Song "Fly" Yong-jun to little effect -- highlighting the region's ever-churning quagmire of top teams.
In China, two flagship organizations also introduced new blood. Royal Never Give Up top laner Xiao "LoveZrr" Zhi and Invictus Gaming's 17-year-old jungler Lu "Leyan" Jue made their LPL debuts against each other, with RNG taking the series 2-1. Yet no Chinese team was able to snag the top spot from Europe's G2 Esports, who dabbed their way to a 2-0 week with wins over Rogue and Misfits Gaming.
Only LCS and LMS playoff teams were considered for this week's ranking, which accounts for the large jumps taken by lower-tier teams. Well, for most of the jumps -- Hanwha Life earned theirs.
-- Miles Yim
1. G2 Esports
Record:14-2 | League: LEC | +/-: --
G2 Esports showed how dominant they were in Europe during the 2019 summer regular season -- a dominance akin to that of Heo "Huni" Seung-hoon's 2015 Fnatic. Four years later, a superteam unlike any other has played Soraka top and won -- another in a long list of absurd yet believable feats for G2.
G2's toughest opponents in Europe are themselves, such as when they picked Garen against Team Vitality. Should they beat themselves, it wouldn't affect the standings much, as the teams they face in Week 9 are locked inside (or outside) the playoffs. Whether they play for fun against Schalke 04 and Excel Esports or whether they send a message to other LEC title hopefuls is up to them.
-- Adel Chouadria
2. FunPlus Phoenix
Record: 12-1 | League: LPL | +/-: --
FunPlus Phoenix are the most consistent team in the LPL. At the end of the day, that might not matter, as FPX and their leader Kim "Doinb" Tae-Sang aren't exactly known to be clutch at the end of the season, but FPX are the best at doing what they want each and every game. Against Suning this week, that's all FPX did -- exactly what they wanted. The team's early-game control led by Doinb and his trusty jungler Gao "Tian" Tian-Lang continues to be FPX's defining factor. FPX have received criticism in the past for failing to transfer all their early-game momentum into swift midgame wins, but that is looking like less of an issue as the final regular-season games take place.
-- Xander Torres
3. Royal Never Give Up
Record: 11-2 | League: LPL | +/-: +2
RNG took a hit in the power rankings last week after dropping to Top Esports, but this week they showed the resilience that fans were desperate to see. In a close three-game series with Invictus Gaming, RNG were able to prevail with superior teamfighting when it mattered most. Still, it took a lot of work to get there, and RNG were sloppy along the way. If not for the impressive performances from mid laner Li "Xiaohu" Yuan-Hao, it's extremely likely that RNG would have fallen further in the rankings this week. Xiaohu feels like the X factor for RNG when all is said and done, because the roster doesn't lack talent, but poor coordination can get in the way without star performances to compensate.
4. Top Esports
Record: 11-2 | League: LPL | +/-: --
Since bursting on the scene with the acquisition of mid laner Zhuo "Knight" Ding, Top has boasted one of the most talented lineups in the LPL. Having talented players like Knight, Bai "369" Jia-Hao and even Lee "LoKeN" Dong-Wook has worked wonders for the team, but sometimes it feels as if that's what is holding the team back from truly ascending. Often, LPL teams are painted as preferring teamfighting, but Top prefers late-game teamfights that allow the players to flex their mechanics. Top is the reverse Invictus Gaming, showing a general lack of aggression early game while capitalizing on slow teams with superior positioning. That was made especially clear against EDward Gaming this week, and though Top won, it was far from the performance they had against RNG last week.
Record: 12-4 | League: LEC | +/-: +2
Fnatic have unveiled another trick from their bag of surprise picks, a Garen-Yuumi bot lane that would make G2 Esports proud, on the way to contending for a top-three summer finish. They are a victory against Splyce -- a Week 9 opponent -- away from securing a top-two spot due to their advantageous head-to-head record. Nevertheless, they can't overlook a Rogue squad in the hunt for a playoff spot who might offer intense competition in their final game of the regular season.
Fnatic need to refine their play if they hope to stand any chance against G2 and upstage them on the way to Europe's top world championship seed. They have the means to do so with a litany of flex picks, a solid mid-jungle synergy, a confident Gabriël "Bwipo" Rau in the top lane and Martin "Rekkles" Larsson -- with newfound flexibility, playing mages and Garen to accommodate team compositions.
Record: 11-5 | League: LCK | +/-: +11
In a season when Griffin lost their luster of being the cool, new kids on the block in South Korean League of Legends and coming off another disappointing domestic finals loss, they somehow find themselves two wins away from worlds.
If they can beat two teams already eliminated from playoff contention, Hanwha Life Esports and the winless Jin Air Green Wings who are a combined 5-28 this season, then Griffin will advance directly to the domestic finals and punch a ticket to Europe for the world championships.
By this time next week, we should be congratulating Griffin on making their first appearance at worlds. But, as was the case last season and their rookie season before that, nothing is ever certain for this talented group of youngsters. A loss to HLE, or worse, Jin Air, could send this team reeling.
-- Tyler Erzberger
Record: 12-4 | League: LEC | +/-: +1
Splyce have successfully asserted themselves as a top-three team in Europe, and they can go further with victories against Fnatic and Misfits. A direct qualification to the European championship in Athens would be momentous, as it would allow them to prepare diligently for G2 and scout whichever team emerges for a potential third-place matchup.
Considering Splyce's preparation-heavy mindset and methodical approach to the game, a 2-0 Week 9 showing would be a huge achievement. It is within their ability, as summer MVP candidate Andrei "Xerxe" Dragomir's creative jungle picks (Qiyana among them) have crushed opponents left and right, and Marek "Humanoid" Brazda has corrected key mistakes in his Sylas play during Week 8.
8. SK Telecom T1
Record: 10-6 | League: LCK | +/-: -5
SK Telecom T1 almost fooled us. They almost tricked us into thinking that they had emerged from the doldrums of parity, shaking off the brackish puddles of mediocrity that have plagued LCK teams this summer. SKT always -- with the glaring exceptions of 2014 and 2018 -- rise to the occasion, and this summer was shaping up to be no different.
Yet, this past week, SKT's one series was a 1-2 loss to Hanwha Life Esports, a 5-11 team that is currently trying to claw their way out of the pit of relegations. It was a series riddled with mistakes from both sides, particularly in Game 3, when the most concerning thing for SKT was their inability to make the most of what should have been a strong split-push setup around Kim "Khan" Dong-ha's Quinn. Ultimately, a shaky Baron and pushing lanes from Hanwha led to SKT's downfall.
Is everyone in South Korea good? Is everyone in South Korea bad? I'd say the answer isn't found in answering "yes" or "no" to these questions, and I'll defer to the cluster of teams vying for world championship spots and say that South Korea will send three perfectly acceptable teams to worlds. These teams have a variety of strengths and weaknesses, including SKT who, since Rift Rivals and settling on Lee "Effort" Sang-ho in their lineup, have looked like the best of the bunch.
-- Emily Rand
9. Sandbox Gaming
Record: 11-5 | League: LCK | +/-: +2
I won't be sad if Sandbox Gaming represent South Korea at the 2019 League of Legends World Championship, but I will be a bit disappointed. They're the opposite of a team like Afreeca Freecs, who Sandbox bested 2-1 this past week. Afreeca have a group of young risk-takers who are routinely punished and aren't afraid to make mistakes that would give several South Korean teams a conniption.
This is not meant to offend Sandbox in any way as they are a strong team, but they're also fairly predictable and don't look prepared to make their way through a best-of-five playoff series. It has been nice watching the development of MVP candidate Kim "OnFleek" Jang-gyeom, and Sandbox is a team that also helps facilitate Jang "Ghost" Yong-jun, who has finally been able to show the LCK what he capable of after being cited as an up-and-coming talent on CJ Entus in 2015. While I do think that Sandbox will make playoffs, and are an adequate team, there are other teams in South Korea with a bit more potential and creativity.
10. Team Liquid
Record: 14-4 | League: LCS | +/-: --
Did not play.