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With Worlds 2021 on the horizon, the third seed representatives from the League of Legends Pro League, Royal Never Give Up, are one of 22 teams from across the globe that are gearing up for their biggest and most important event of the year. The 2021 League of Legends World Championship will feature each region’s best players, all fighting for the same goal: to stand atop the mountain and hoist the Season 11 Summoner’s Cup.
The reigning Mid-Season Invitational champions are heading back to Reykjavík, Iceland in hopes of completing the second-ever international tournament sweep. But after a shaky summer split, RNG will have to make sure they show up as the MSI Champions instead of the third-seed LPL representatives.
RNG (LPL) Worlds 2021 starting roster breakdown
- Top: Li “Xiaohu” Yuan-Hao | Signed in May 2015. Formerly a member of Gamtee
- Jungle: Yan “Wei” Yang-Wei | Signed in December 2020. Formerly a member of eStar
- Mid: Yuan “Cryin” Cheng-Wei | Re-signed in December 2020. Formerly a member of eStar
- Bot: Chen “GALA” Wei | Signed in June 2020. Formerly a member of Dominus Esports
- Support: Shi “Ming” Sen-Ming | Signed in December 2016. Formerly a member of Young Miracles
How they got here
One of the old guards in the LPL, Royal Never Give Up came off a very disappointing 2020 year that saw them miss the playoffs in the summer split. Looking for improvement, RNG made several roster changes. The most surprising was long-time mid-lane star Xiaohu role swapping into the top lane. His replacement was the young and inexperienced Cryin, which left fans scratching their heads. Those weren’t the only two changes, though, as RNG also promoted GALA to the starting bot lane role and brought over Wei from eStar.
In the spring season, RNG trounced the competition. The revamped squad simply rolled through the LPL. Xiaohu’s role swap paid off big time as he took home LPL All-Pro team honors in the top lane as RNG marched to a best-in-region record of 14-2. But, arguably the bigger story was the emergence of their jungler, Wei, who also joined Xiaohu on the LPL All-Pro team. In fact, Wei was tied for first in “Man of the Match” awards with 10. The player he tied with, Park “Viper” Do-hyeon, won the spring split MVP.
In the spring playoffs RNG had a three-round bye but, despite being well-rested, were served a massive wake-up call at the hands of FunPlus Phoenix who swept them and sent them to the losers bracket. RNG thankfully woke up from their nightmare as they managed to shake off Top Esports and Edward Gaming to get their rematch against FPX in the finals. On the second time around, RNG got their revenge, defeating FPX 3-1 to punch their ticket to Iceland for MSI.
The major storyline heading into MSI was whether or not RNG could defeat the reigning world champions, DWG KIA. After an 8-0 group stage and a slightly bumpy rumble stage that saw RNG beat DK twice, RNG finally got to face off against the Korean powerhouse in a best-of-five series with the MSI crown on the line. But just like RNG’s spring playoffs run, they were able to fend of DK in the last game as they were crowned the best team in the world and took the MSI trophy back to the LPL.
The trip back to China proved to be a tiring one as RNG required yet another wake-up call. They got it immediately as they started the summer season with an 0-2 record and continued that slump t0 Week 4 where they sat with an abysmal 1-5 record. The MSI champs were not only in danger of not making it back to Iceland, but they were also starting to be in danger of not even being able to make the playoffs. But the champs finally woke up in Week 5 and went on a tear.
In their next nine series, RNG went 9-0 and only dropped two games throughout their streak, but it came to an end in the final match of the summer season, finalizing their summer record at 10-6.
Entering the playoffs with only a two-round bye, RNG’s extra rest came back to haunt them as they dropped their first series against LNG Esports 3-1. Unfortunately for them, Round 3 was one round shy of the losers bracket and with the loss, RNG was eliminated from the playoffs. Their hopes of winning back-to-back splits were over. RNG would have to earn their spot at worlds through the regional finals.
Thanks to RNG’s spring split performance, all they had to do in the regional finals was win one best of five series against Team WE. They handled the test as they trounced them in a 3-0 sweep, escaping back to Iceland for Worlds.
Players to watch
Xiaohu is making his fifth trip to worlds on RNG, but this will be his first as a top laner.. In his first test against international competition at MSI, Xiaohu led all top laners in virtually every statistic. He came back to the LPL with his triumph, and despite the team looking in worse shape, he still performed well. Among all top laners with more than 10 games played, Xiaohu placed in the top four in every relevant statistical category including leading all top laners in gold per minute and CS per minute according to OraclesElixer. His feats in the top lane have been impressive especially since some of the game’s best top laners reside in the LPL. He will be given even more tests in the coming weeks especially against RNG’s Group C opponents. Xiaohu will get a chance to face off with Fnatic’s rookie phenom Adam “Adam” Maanane and a rematch against PSG Talon’s Su “Hanabi” Chia-Hsiang.
How RNG can succeed at Worlds 2021
Although Xiaohu and Ming bring veteran leadership to RNG with their multiple Worlds trips worth of experience, the rest of the roster has only played in international competition once. For RNG to win Worlds, they are going to have to adopt the “respect all, fear none” mindset as even in the group stage. Uncharacteristic losses will not cut it on the Worlds stage. With that said, this team has already proved to be one of the favorites to lift the Summoner’s cup in Iceland with their performance earlier in the year at MSI.
The real test for RNG might not even be the teams from the other top regions. RNG’s run is most threatened by the teams that finished above them in the summer split of the LPL. RNG is the favorite to win their Worlds 2021 group and get into the Knockout Stage but a date with FPX or EDG could be on the horizon. If RNG can flash their spring form where they beat both of them, they could be the second team to win both MSI and Worlds in the same season.
This article is part of an ongoing preview series of all 22 teams competing at Worlds 2021. For our complete release schedule and more information on the other 21 teams attending Worlds, check out Upcomer’s Worlds 2021 Outlook Series hub.
ASU alum with a B.A in Sports Journalism, Warren is one of the premier TFT Journalists in the scene and is a decent TFT player as well who has peaked Challenger and has had multiple accounts in Master+ over all sets. Warren also specializes in other esports content including League of Legends, Valorant, Smash Bros, and more.