RNG enjoy a top spot before LPL break.
As the LPL moves into its New Years break, the league has had enough games to filter teams into solid standings in the table. Of those near the top, RNG may be the most interesting.
The Royal Never Give Up crew have joined the likes of WE and EDG in a renaissance of sorts, shooting back up the standings like it’s 2015. But of those three, RNG have some of the more intriguing macro and meta decisions that make the team a rarity in the LPL, and may help the team keep its stock at the top of the league standings.
Many people predicted that 2021 would be a difficult year for the former world title contender. In a post-Jian "Uzi" Zi-Hao world, RNG would need to find a new power point on the map and adapt to the new LPL order of solo lane play. In 2020, that did not happen.
Season 10 saw the team finish 8-8 in both splits, a record that brought them a playoff berth in the spring and a long break in the summer. Understandably, most people wrote the team off this season, especially after the organisation's lack of big offseason moves. The only players that joined the team in the offseason were starting jungler Yan "Wei" Yang-Wei and substitute top laner Yang "Xiaobai" Zhong-He.
The other knock against the team was the announcement that long-time RNG mid laner Li "Xiaohu" Yuan-Hao would be switching to the top lane for a time. This revelation was the final nail in the coffin for most RNG fans and LPL analysts. Xiaohu has been a staple of the league for many years, but people could not conceive of a world in which he would match up against some of the best top laners in the league with his champion pool.
How RNG made the push to the top
The concerns about Xiaohu were almost immediately validated and also inverted as the newly-minted top laner does not look good in many of his matches, but the team still wins despite his arguably weak performances. Xiaohu does not have a deep champion pool, pulling out many of his mid lane picks in the new role, like top lane Orianna in week two against Suning.
Despite some of his deficiencies as a laner, Xiaohu does make up for it with the jungle presence that he demands from the team’s new jungler and his ability to sidelane and shotcall. His ability to lead this relatively young squad into the RNG playstyle is a refreshing take on macro play in the league as it helps counter some of the general LPL bloodlust. The style also helps cover his own deficiencies as a laner.
RNG like to play compositions that situate the side lines a certain way so that they are always pushing with one player in each, while the rest of the team play in the mid lane. The strategy is usually known as a 1-3-1 composition because of the number of players in each lane, or as a pick composition for the ease at which the players can set up scenarios for the enemy team to be caught in rotations.
RNG has had this kind of strategy down pat since the organisation's glory days with Uzi, the difference is how far the LPL has gone away from that type of play. Currently, most teams are still very skirmish-heavy, fighting whenever given a positional or tempo advantage. The current dive-heavy meta has taken a hold of many teams and also allows for a very early-game centred approach to the game. Teams generally like to draft winning lanes for their solo laners and let them run wild until the game ends.
RNG almost subverts that early game strategy by having superior vision around objectives, thus having an advantage when it comes to those early fights, or by losing the early lane phase and accruing farm in a sidelane to catch up. Sidelane farm is usually how RNG overcomes Xiaohu’s sometimes disastrous early games against many of the best top laners in the LPL.
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RNG vs IG exemplifies that playstyle
In the last matchup before the break, RNG went up against its eternal rivals Invictus Gaming. Every matchup of these two teams has brought a banger of a match and almost always goes to three games. This match was no different as IG took the first game and lost the next two.
In this game, Xiaohu went up against top lane star Kang "TheShy" Seung-lok. The world champion laner dominated the RNG captain in each game, commanding the lane as Xiaohu tried to survive on Gnar and Sylas. But as each game went on Xiaohu would be given a sidelane to farm and catch up to his counterpart, usually after having his tower destroyed, and had his team set up vision around objectives to fight accordingly.
The team’s support Shi "Ming" Sen-Ming has a big hand in setting up that vision, and also stating engagements. Because engage supports are strong in the current meta, Ming is usually the one to start off fights and with proper vision, he can usually pick out the enemies carries with ease.
This series also showed some of the drawbacks of RNG’s playstyle, mostly the team's lack of cohesive skirmishing without vision. In the skirmish-heavy style that IG like to play, the team will often take fights without proper set up because of a positional advantage or the lack of action in the game. This very easily throws RNG off as Xiaohu was often at an item disadvantage and the teams younger players like Wie and bot laner Chen "GALA" Wei get lost in the shuffle.
But as the game moves on into the mid and late game, setting up fights around vision and wave advantages becomes easier for RNG because of its 1-3-1 composition.
Will RNG stay at the top
This RNG squad has had the odds stacked against them since the start of the season. The team lacks a natural starting top laner and plays a style that is in opposition with the current meta and many of the other team’s playstyles. But, RNG continues to win off the back of its 1-3-1 style and superior objective setups.
Will RNG maintain its winning ways post-break? It seems unlikely, as a meta shift is incoming with new patches, and other teams are progressing at an impressive rate to challenge for RNG’s top spot. But then again, it was unlikely that the team would even be at the top of the standings in the first place. If RNG can keep finding wins despite its obvious weaknesses, the team may find itself in a top position come playoffs.
Images via Riot Games | lolesports