Some of the greatest support players in League of Legends showed off their skills at the Mid-Season Invitational. A mid-tournament meta shift toward mage support champions made the role even more important as teams and players had to adapt rapidly. But even then, not all of the world's best supports were able to attend the event.
After the major role supports played in deciding the MSI 2016 champion, now seems like the perfect time to honor the best supports of the spring season across the five major regions. I ranked them first based on individual skill, or their ability to execute the right plays at the right time, and second based on demonstrable impact on the team (for example: How crucial is vision to how a team plays? How much does the support control vision? Does the support play the initiator role? etc.). Then I looked at the support’s ability to maintain a consistently high level throughout the season, as well as their versatility in many roles, and finally intangibles, but only as tie-breakers.
The result is a list of excellent support players from spring 2016 that have made a mark and deserve a mention — even the ones who didn’t make it to Shanghai.
10. SK Telecom T1’s Lee “Wolf” Jaewan
The Mid-Season Invitational champion nearly didn’t make my list. After selecting a Top 9, I found myself split between Wolf and Immortals’ Adrian “Adrian” Ma. Though Wolf has demonstrated a consistent level of modest individual skill, he generally isn't very important to SK Telecom T1's successes. The team does rely heavily upon vision control, but Kang “Blank” Sungu is responsible for a large share of the team’s vision relative to other junglers. Wolf can play an initiator role, but he doesn’t excel at it.
It’s reasonable to hypothesize that, had the MSI meta not shifted last minute to favor mage support picks, Wolf wouldn’t have his name mentioned here. However, the meta shift favored his natural style. His quick adaptation, and his importance in securing the title as Nami in the MSI final, demonstrate his ability to play whatever the team needs from him.
Adrian was a lot less versatile this split. Though he can likely play an initiator role competently, he didn't have a chance to show it in broadcast matches. He was fundamental to his AD carry’s success, but at times seemed like a liability when the team lacked initiators.
9. Team WE’s Yoon “Zero” Kyungsup
Zero had a fantastic split — on Braum. Braum was once again Zero’s best champion for most of the season, and he didn't do well initially with other picks. Xiang “Condi” Renjie and Jin “Mystic” Seongjun propelled Team WE to many of their victories, and Zero played the role of peel and vision control, often pulling out clutch plays, but without a massive impact on game outcomes.
That is, until the end of the split. Zero’s Bard and Janna play in the final LPL season games helped Team WE earn legitimate Top 3 status. Suddenly, the team had a more active playmaker, and he could reverse almost any initiation by Royal Never Give Up in the semifinal, which proved a much more competitive series than the final against EDward Gaming.
If Zero can keep it up, Team WE will remain a terrifying force in LPL Summer.
8. Team Vitality’s Raymond “kaSing” Tsang
kaSing was a runner-up pick for me for Most Valuable Player of the European League of Legends Championship Series regular season. Much of Team Vitality’s more off-beat compositions relied upon his ability to vary his style and execute complicated chains of crowd control with champions like Thresh and Bard. He also pioneered the pink warding meta that permeated EU LCS and took over much more of his team’s vision control duties than supports on other teams.
Dips in performance at the start of the split and missteps in the crucial quarterfinal (both by kaSing and the rest of the team) count against him. While the EU LCS is home to many world-class supports, none were able to maintain a consistent level across the season, which hurt them in this ranking.
7. Origen’s Alfonso “mithy” Aguirre Rodriguez
mithy was likely the most consistent member of Origen in the EU LCS Spring Split, but that’s like salvaging the driest box from storage after a basement flood. Origen had obvious problems with communication and teamwork that bled into individual performances, but mithy remained a rock for most of the split.
Since mithy also spent most of the split as Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen’s faithful co-pilot, he lost some points for versatility. He had less frequent roams with Maurice "Amazing" Stückenschneider overall, but his impact was obvious. Even when Zven mispositioned, mithy was able to peel effectively and was often aware enough of enemies to keep them out of threat zones while contesting objectives, which was telling of Origen’s high neutral objective control rate.
mithy’s individual skill level is incredibly high. His ability to make impressive plays was obvious throughout the split, and a major contributing factor in Origen’s unexpected climb to the EU LCS final.
6. EDward Gaming's Tian “meiko” Ye
Last year, meiko was seen as the weak link on EDward Gaming, and called out for receiving undue praise, but the situation reversed this year. While other EDG members in top, jungle, and mid lane underperformed, meiko remained clutch. His Alistar and Thresh play was exceptional, and he added a devastating Bard to his repertoire that nearly single-handedly won Game 1 of the final against Royal Never Give Up.
As with Origen, meiko and Kim “deft” Hyukkyu remained the guiding force behind EDward Gaming while Heo “pawN” Wonseok dealt with health problems. As the rest of the team struggled to adapt, meiko laid vision in the jungle alongside Ming “clearlove” Kai and enabled deft in and out of lane. Countless saves and engages kept deft dealing damage, and meiko’s strength continues to be creating vision opportunities when EDG are behind.
Though meiko directs EDG’s vision control, his intangible impact isn’t as high as the players in the Top 5, and others have a slight edge in individual skill ceiling. (And yes, it’s only Number 6, but we’re already splitting hairs on intangibles.)
5. Flash Wolves’ Hu “SwordArt” Shuojie
The second player to appear on the list from the crop of Mid-Season Invitational supports, SwordArt's overall flexibility and high game impact throughout the split make him an easy Top 5. I’ve considered him the best player in the League of Legends Masters Series for more than a year. Janna is one of his best champions of all time, and his ability to play the map, guide Hsiung “NL” Wenan through near impossible situations, and serve as the team’s main teamfight playmaker set him above most of the rest of the world.
The biggest points against him came from his fumbles on picks like Braum and Bard at MSI. His Alistar ranked high above his other picks, and Flash Wolves’ lack of versatility and ability to play for a strong AD carry made it so his mage support picks were not as successful.
4. CJ Entus’ Hong “MadLife” Mingi
Several times in MadLife’s long and influential career it's been said that he no longer belongs to the elite class of LoL players. Time and again, he’s proven his critics very wrong. As the most instrumental and stable player for CJ Entus this spring, MadLife navigated a hectic period without Gwak “Bdd” Boseong and brought the team out the other side.
CJ placed eighth in the LCK season, but the team was often a mess without direction or focus. Miraculously, they sat in fourth in Week 9 and 10 before ultimately being overtaken. But the argument isn’t that CJ are good, it’s that MadLife is. His play around Ha “Kramer” Jonghun made him perform well above his expected level, and even though Kramer is known as a demanding AD carry in a non-ADC-centric meta, MadLife made it work through vision and engagement.
Though CJ very clearly have problems, MadLife still isn’t one of them. Here’s to an improvement next split, but most CJ fans have stopped expecting one.
3. Counter-Logic Gaming’s Zaqueri “aphromoo” Black
Yes, that is a North American in the Top 3. Through immaculate play at the Mid-Season Invitational, aphromoo demonstrated that his ability to maintain a consistent level as both an initiator and a peel-oriented support is world-class. Even if, by his own admission, supports in North America don’t know how to “hit the go button,” he charged through both the North American LCS and MSI with a nigh-unprecedented level of individual skill and map control.
As the best player on his team individually, this was the playoff where aphromoo managed to overcome whatever stage fright he seemed to have in previous years. He found opportunities even in losses and made a case for being named one of the greatest North American players in League of Legends history.
Though CLG isn’t supposed to be a team with stars, aphromoo very clearly is one.
2. Royal Never Give Up’s Cho “Mata” Sehyeong
If intangibles had higher value, Mata would easily take first on this list, given the amount of credit and reverence with which his team regards him — often referring to him as “DaLao” or “Godfather” in Mandarin Chinese. Mata went from an abysmal year of failure and frustration on Vici Gaming to the commander of an LPL death ball, constantly gaining momentum and ready to crash through opponents' defenses.
Mata’s individual skill and vision control are exceptional. He prefers placing many wards and freeing up his time in lane. Easily putting up the best Alistar and Bard games at MSI, Mata blew much of the competition out of the water. Except for his legendary tilt — which is actually quite significant — Mata could have been the greatest player of all time.
What else do you say to an old favorite except "Welcome back"?
1. Kang “GorillA” Beomhyeon
Though Mata is the greatest support of all time, he isn’t the greatest support of spring 2016. Mata didn’t get a chance to face his greatest challenger, because he wasn’t even at MSI.
ROX Tigers demolished most of the LCK Spring Split. GorillA was responsible for a hefty portion, with both exceptional individual play-making and more than his fair share of vision control, given jungler Yoon “Peanut” Wangho’s distaste for warding.
It’s hard to find a flaw in GorillA’s play this split. He played everything up to and beyond expectations, including his lone, deathless Janna game against SBENU Sonicboom. A lot of what Peanut accomplished would not have been possible if not for GorillA compensating for holes in his play that really only began to cost the team toward the end of the split.
GorillA was sorely missed at MSI. I sincerely hope he makes the World Championship along with Mata, for a support clash of fantastic proportions.
Immortals’ Adrian, H2K Gaming’s Oskar “VandeR” Bogdan, Snake eSports’ Kwak "Ella" Nahoon, and Machi Esports’ Ceng “Dreamer” Jianhong
Kelsey Moser is a staff writer for theScore esports. You can follow her on Twitter.