2016 MSI player rankings by position

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1.) Duke – SKT

What Lee “Duke” Ho-Seong has done for SKT this season cannot be praised enough.

The World Champions came into the season with some roster changes, but the biggest one of them all was losing their top laner Jang “MaRin” Gyeong-Hwan to China. Marin left SKT after being named the Most Valuable Player (MVP) during their title run, and this left Duke with some massive shoes to fill and a hell of a lot of pressure.

It would have been a lot easier on Duke if SKT came out dominating the competition in Korea like usual, but they actually struggled at the start of the split and were faced with a lot of adversity.During this time, it wouldn’t have been crazy for Duke to crumble to the pressure since he was the one replacing their MVP top laner, but he never did that. If anything, he did the opposite.

Duke played out of his mind all split long and was in the top tier of Korea’s top laners that consisted of only himself and Song “Smeb” Kyung-ho of the ROX Tigers. Smeb is arguably one of the five best players in the world right now, but Duke isn’t far off from his level.

In the playoffs, Duke and Smeb ended up facing each other in the finals for a top lane showdown for the ages. Obviously, SKT ended up winning the series, and it was Duke who often looked better than Smeb. In four games, Duke finished with a 4.7 KDA while Smeb disappointed with a 2.5 KDA.

If the matchup with Smeb wasn’t difficult, there is absolutely no chance that any of these other top laners will be able to truly challenge Duke at MSI. He is going to be a dominant force in every single game just like he was at IEM Katowice where he averaged a 6.5 KDA and crushed everyone in a one-on-one lane.

2.) Looper – RNG

If there is anyone who has a chance to compete with Duke, it’s going to be China’s Jang “Looper” Hyeong-seok. Looper is a former World Champion who has been at the top of the competitive for many years.

Looper joined Royal Never Give Up with fellow star Cho “Mata” Se-hyeong this split to give the team its first LPL title.

During this past split, Looper dominated the competition and was by far the best top laner in all of China. In the regular season, Looper finished with a 4.9 KDA and even took it up another level in the playoffs with a KDA of 5.9.

He is will need to be at the top of this game in order for Royal to properly defend their region’s MSI title.

3.) Darshan – CLG

A lot of people want to root for Darshan “Darshan” Upadhyaha, but it’s just so damn hard when he doesn’t show up on the international stage.

It’s cool if you want to beat up on the bottom top laners in North America, but that doesn’t mean anything at all when you can’t come close to those performances against the top international competition.

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When Darshan went up against Duke at Katowice, he was literally useless and outclassed in every way possible – and that’s how he looked for most of the tournament. In four games at Katowice, Darshan finished with an abysmal 1.5 KDA, and that was the fourth-lowest for the event. The only three players below him were from ESC Ever – the Korean Challenger team.

It’s just unfortunate that Darshan can’t compete on the international stage, because he really is good when playing in North America. He was playing a lot of carry champions that wanted to split push for most of the season, but he proved that he is a versatile player that can do what his team needs by playing only tanks in the playoffs – and he played them very well.

Him playing well determine whether or not CLG does well.

4.) MMD – FW

If a miracle run from the LMS team is going to happen, Yu “MMD” Li-Hung is going to have play well. That’s it. He doesn’t have to carry or try to compete with the like of Duke, but he simply has to play well.

MMD has moments where he looks really good, but he is fairly inconsistent. The team doesn’t play around him and he isn’t expected to get many resources, so it’s really up to him on how effective he will be.

Luckily, we are in a tank meta for the top lane that suits him extremely well. Even though carry top laners were viable for a lot of the split, MMD only played them twice (Graves, Gangplank). In the LMS playoffs, MMD only played Maokai and Ekko, and we can expect to see a lot of that at MSI.

5.) Kikis – G2

Mateusz “Kikis” Szkudlarek is basically G2’s MMD. They aren’t going to funnel him many resources, and he will most likely be put on a tank to help initiate team fights.

During the regular season, Kikis has the third-worst gold difference at 10 minutes at -97, and he also had the lowest percentage of his team’s total gold at less than 20 percent.

He did play Fiora a couple of times in that time, but besides that, everything else he played during the split was a tank or supportive champion. The good news is that he does have a large pool of those champions to choose from as he played 10 unique tank/support champions over the course of the regular season and playoffs.

Kikis never has too much pressure to perform. He will be just fine as long as he doesn’t feed and is useful in team fights.

6.) Thaldrin – SUP

SUP have two players at one position, and that’s in the top lane. They have Asim “fabFabulous” Cihat Karakaya and Berke “Thaldrin” Demir, but they went with the latter when it mattered the most in the recent International Wild Card Invitational (IWCI).

To his credit, Thaldrin wrecked the competition at the tournament and was one of the top players there. In 13 games, Thaldrin finished with the best KDA at 6.5.

Thaldrin might be able to hold his weight when he’s not facing Duke or Looper.

Next: Junglers