What a difference a year makes.

Last October, Suning was the darling of the gaming world when they upset Top Esports to reach the League of Legends Worlds final. 

Fast forward a year, and last year’s beaten finalists will be lucky to grace the world stage again.

What a difference a year makes.

Last October, Suning was the darling of the gaming world when they upset Top Esports to reach the League of Legends Worlds final. 

Fast forward a year, and last year’s beaten finalists will be lucky to grace the world stage again.

 

The China-based team may have finished ninth in the LPL regular season and qualified for the LPL Summer Playoffs, but they face a long and hard road ahead.

The daunting way forward. Source: LPLEnglish Twitter

Ever since the departure of key shot-caller and Support player Hu “SwordArt” Shuo-Chieh to LCS’ FPX TSM, Suning have struggled to find their footing. Starting off with a seventh place finish in Spring only to bow out of Spring Playoffs after a loss to Top Esports (TES).

This time around, Suning is further down the standings, even losing to already eliminated teams like Invictus Gaming (#13) and Rogue Warriors (#14). Their performance is shaky at best, with only a few glimpses of brilliance when things go according to plan.

With teams like FPX and RNG looking blazing-hot recently, the road ahead is daunting.

LPL standings if there were only 10 teams this split. Credit: 平生进退如飙风 from NGA

But it is not all doom and gloom for Suning. If we disregard the teams like Invictus Gaming and others who failed to make the playoffs, Suning would be the fourth-best team making the playoffs, after taking into head-to-head, etc. That is even higher than that of EDG (#2).

Finish as high as possible for a chance. Credit: Leaguepedia

If Suning wants a date at the Worlds, they will have to win the Summer Playoffs. Failing which, they will then have to earn enough points to finish high up enough in the standings to qualify for The Regional Finals where they will have their final chance of making it to the ultimate stage. 

The hidden sauce: SofM

But there’s a jewel in the team who might just be able to turn things around. 

When SwordArt was in the team, he formed a formidable combo with Vietnamese Jungler Lê “SofM” Quang Duy. 

And although SwordArt is out of the picture, SofM has proven himself to be capable on his own. After eight years of playing professionally, he was finally recognised as a world-class Jungler and even managed to grace the Finals last year. Now that he’s had a taste of it, SofM hungers for more.

If all else fails (unlikely since teammates Bin and Angel are also MVP-caliber), SofM can always pull out his trusty Lee Sin to kick their faces in. But if opponents think he’s a Lee Sin one-trick, they are in for a surprise. SofM has played a total of 11 different junglers this season, including one surprising Kha’Zix when no one else played it.

SofM will have to dig deeper into his bag of tricks though, as he will have to pull them out consistently in multiple Best-of-Five series. But if there is anyone who can do it, it’s SofM.

Vietnamese fans are watching with bated breath for their brethren to succeed, especially since their native league the VCS is still nowhere near starting.

The LPL Summer Playoffs commence 12th August at 5pm (GMT+8)

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