The two teams added another banger chapter to the greatest rivalry in the modern LPL.
JD Gaming bested Top Esports today in yet another domestic final that went the distance between the two teams and claimed their second LPL title.
The two teams battled atop China’s premier League of Legends competition all split long and brought back similar cores from their first year-long bout in 2020 that saw them split that year’s titles, both in five-game fashion. But JDG prevailed over Top Esports in a best-of-five for the second time in a week, the first being a dramatic reverse sweep of the regular season summer champions.
Top laner 369 was a member of Top Esports when they bested JDG in the summer of 2020, and TES mid laner knight had far more often than not gotten the better of his counterpart Yagao over the course of their careers. Jungler Kanavi stuck to his off-meta guns throughout the series despite some occasional misses, and a relatively young bottom lane in Hope and Missing were critical in the late-game teamfights that decided every single game of this all-time series.
For Top Esports, that’s now two five-game finals losses in 2022 and a mistake-laden series from superstar AD carry JackeyLove despite some equally high highs. It’s been a trademark of his playstyle each of the last 10 consecutive splits he’s been in the LPL and not missed playoffs.
Top Esports raised some eyebrows when it announced the roster for the LPL finals and chose to start Qingtian in the top lane instead of Wayward, not even having the latter on stage during the opening ceremony.
JDG, by virtue of coming into the grand finals via the upper bracket, had the ability to choose blue side, which proved to be a somewhat significant advantage since the team on that side won every game in the series.
In game one, the draft phase saw Top Esports deviate slightly from the global playoffs meta of handshaking Zeri and Sivir as the two highest-priority AD carries. Instead, JackeyLove and mark locked in a still-popular early game-focused bottom lane combo in Lucian and Nami. The LPL’s Summer Split MVP in jungler Tian facilitiated that bottom lane to some early advantages, but JDG opted into one of their most lethal traits as a team and generated an equal, if not larger, advantage in the top lane at the same time to the tune of two towers taken down via the first Herald of the game.
The game progressed as such with knight’s Taliyah and the aforementioned Tian on Vi making plays and controlling neutral objectives across the map, but never without JDG answering in some way somewhere else on the Rift. JDG’s composition indexed heavily into dive with Kennen, Wukong, and Lissandra populating the top side of the map. And with Kanavi’s Wukong quietly racking up kills and power, not even Lucian’s incredible mobility could save the ever-aggressive JackeyLove from falling to crucial picks that allowed his opponents to take game one.
Wukong wouldn’t make it past the ban phase the rest of the series.
Qingtian looked underwhelming and ineffective with his ultimate on Gnar in game one and was subbed out for usual top laner and 2022 Spring Rookie of the Split Wayward, who delivered a conversely monstrous performance on the Missing Link. Gnar’s extremely apparent function in professional League is his ultimate and success on the champion is often predicated on the execution of that single, game-changing ability. That was certainly the case for the Top Esports top laners in the first two games of the series.
Top Esports bullied mid laner Yagao’s Taliyah into near oblivion in the early game and put a similar straitjacket on 369’s Sion as they leaped out to a 10,000-gold lead by the 27-minute mark. Zeri for JDG’s AD carry Hope offered just that as the team erased the gold deficit and held off Hextech Soul for Top in the span of less than 10 minutes. After a trade in objectives secured Soul for Top and Baron for JDG, the former found a pick in the top lane, resisted the push, and surrendered Elder to the latter. JackeyLove, however, led a four-vs-five fight on Sivir into his Elder-empowered opponents and willed his team to a game two victory.
Sylas and Yuumi were banned in every game leading this series, but Renekton found himself off the bench in game three and made his series debut in the hands of Top Esports’ Wayward. Although he found himself ahead in the early game, so did Yagao on Ahri, who opted to build her with as much damage as possible, purchasing Liandry’s Anguish and Horizon Focus to carry the game. He finished the game having participated in 19 of his team’s 21 kills.
After Top Esports found little success with their early-game Renekton top side, JDG strangely opted for a similar strategy, grabbing the crocodile for 369 and Pantheon for Kanavi. With Top facing elimination, the game understandably saw a much more conservative play, with only six kills across both teams at the 24-minute mark before JDG got some purchase back and put Hope’s Sivir in a strong position to carry. But JackeyLove’s Zeri took over the game and TES won game four on the foundation set by a phenomenal performance by Tian on Trundle.
Game five’s ban phase set the stage for a stark departure from the intra-series meta. With Poppy, Vi, and Wukong off the board, Kanavi snagged himself Bel’Veth, and both mid laners opted into scaling with Viktor for knight and Azir, who made it through the ban phase at the expense of Ahri, for Yagao. Bel’Veth is a terror in the late game and Kanavi’s life was made a little easier with first blood onto Wayward’s Sejuani.
Like in game four, conservative play again led to just six kills in the game over 24 minutes. But it was Top Esports who were in the catbird seat this time thanks to Tian and Mark winning out in the incredibly tight margins evident between the two best teams in China. JDG duped Top into thinking they had failed a Baron start, and as they were chased off the big purple worm, instead of scurrying back to base, they immediately went to dragon and took both the objective and a crucial five-for-two ace that brought, yet again, all the scaling threats to bear as one final fight on equal footing decided the series.
And yet again, it was a game-ending pick onto JackeyLove that gave JDG the win.
Like in 2020, both Top Esports and JDG will qualify directly for this year’s World Championship group stage as the LPL’s first and second seeds, respectively. Their next matches will be on Oct. 7 in New York City. For those who want more action from China’s top League of Legends division, tune into the Regional Finals as four teams battle it out for the region’s third and fourth Worlds spots, starting with reigning MSI winners Royal Never Give Up taking on last year’s world champions EDward Gaming at 3am CT on Friday, Sept. 2.