Votes were cast by the onGamers editorial staff and Alex Penn.Editor's Note
2013 was the year for League of Legends to fully assume the mantle of the world's biggest esports title.
From the launch of Riot's own League Championship Series (LCS) in two regions (Europe and North America) to the ever increasing appetite for the game in South Korea, where they can now sell out 10,000 tickets for an OGN final, the game's growth in the esports sector has been an inevitable march towards bigger and bigger numbers. With the year at an end, these are the names that stood out from the pack as deserving of special recognition. These few helped shaped the year in LoL and excelled to a degree others could not.
I. Player of the Year
II. Team of the Year
III. Breakout Player of the Year
IV. Series of the Year
V. Game of the Year
VI. Caster, or Caster Duo, of the Year
VII. Champion of the Year
Player of the Year - Lee 'Faker' Sang-hyeok
|Team:||SK Telecom T1|
|Date of Birth:||May 7th, 1996|
|Total Earnings in 2013:||$218,279.00|
|Sponsors:||SK Telecom, Pocari Sweat, Nike|
This category was not particularly close, Faker was as imperious as he is in the server. From OGN Spring onwards, the main man of SKTelecom T1 has been showered with praise.
Once his team won the following OGN season, with a particularly vicious highlight play of his featuring in the deciding game, it quickly became established that Faker was the best player in the world, not the god of LoL itself. When SKT then secured the Season 3 World Championship the status of their best player was beyond question. Faker is the best player in the world and over the span of the last year nobody else comes close.
Before Faker took up the title of the world's best player, it was, for a time, held by Blaze breakout Flame. In 2012 he had been a target of much derision, pressured in his rookie season to live up to the flame of the top lane shot-calling phenom Reapered, who departed the team after they failed to defend their OGN title or qualify for the S2 World Championship. The play of Flame in 2013 has been so high level that now nobody can be found to utter the sentiment: "I wish Blaze still had Reapered at top lane".
The tragedy of Flame's year is that his period of peak play seemed certain to coincide with an OGN championship, in the Spring season. His team had been on a 13-0 winning streak going into the final, with Flame the primary force driving that streak, but found themselves shocked by underdogs MVP Ozone and beaten in a 3-0 sweep. That Flame himself had a poor series, at the worst possible time, only hurt his chances of being considered the world's best.
Nevertheless, for the rest of the year Flame has maintained his high level play, even in the face of waning play from team-mates. When Blaze lose it is rarely due to Flame's level dipping and when they win, credit can rightfully still be sent to the top part of the map. In a year with many players putting together a good three month span, Flame stands alongside Faker as players whose level was consistent for half a year or better. It's also worth pointing out, that he did win a title: the IEM VII World Championship.
Team of the Year - SK Telecom
Much as Faker's win in the Player category is obvious, so is his team's win in this one. SKT won the hardest league in the world, taking the Summer title of OGN, and then won the biggest international competition of the year. They boast an 80% winning rate since the team's formation earlier in the year. Not only has this team won, but most of their games have been by such a margin as to make them seem clearly a level above all but a small handful of other teams.
Honorable Mention: OMG
To understand why OMG, 5th-8th place finishers at the S3 World Championship, still stand out as the second best team of the year requires an understanding of the context of the Chinese LoL scene. China was dominated by World Elite, who had an insane winning streak coming into to the year and were so strong in domestic competitions that even OGN commentator MonteCristo, in the middle of the year, predicted a Chinese team would lift the Summoner's trophy at the World Championship.
Where World Elite's dominance ended was with the rise of OMG, leading the pack of the teams who had modeled their style on beating the top dogs of their region. OMG won the LPL Spring season, the highest Chinese domestic league, and placed first in the regular season of the Summer season, eventually finishing runners-up. They also won StarsWar8 and the National Electronic Sports Tournament. At three other tournaments, including WCG, they finished top four.
Even OMG's loss at the World Championship came only at the hands of Royal Club, domestic rivals and one of the few Chinese teams capable of beating them. OMG's consistency in China has been something to behold this year, in a region seemingly destined to always be dominated by World Elite.
Breakthrough Player of the Year - Lee 'Faker' Sang-hyeok
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Faker's victory in this category was more than obvious and expected. Not only is he one of the greatest players in LoL history, but he has accomplished it all within the timeframe of this year, his rookie season coming in OGN Spring. The prescendent of rookies performing above and beyond expectations is not entirely new, as Shy showed us in 2013 and LoveLin this year, but Faker really took it a step further with his dominant play.
Honorable Mention: LoveLin
The man driving OMG's incredible breakout season was LoveLin and he did it from two positions, a point worth stating for the fact of how impossible it seems. Over the first part of 2013 LoveLin had established himself as such a god tier Support player that some were calling him the only true rival to undisputed master of the postion MadLife. That he could then switch to the Jungler position and go on to keep his team at a world class level, displaying incredible play at the World Championship, shows how special a player LoveLin is.
Series of the Year - SKT versus KT B Team, OGN Summer Final
Both teams were considered the best in South Korea, both had never been crowned OGN champions before. Where most finals in Korean LoL history had been one-sided stomps, CLG.EU vs. Frost withstanding, this time around everyone got the final they were waiting for. Both teams came with huge plays and performances, pushing the series all the way to a fifth game. In that fifth game we saw the now infamous ryu ownage Faker served up with their Zed and Zed assassin action.
The best player of the year made perhaps the best play of the year in the final game of the best series of the year in the best league in the world. Finals matches don't get much better than that.
Honorable Mention: Royal vs. fnatic - S3 World Championship semi-final
fnatic had impressed in the group stage, but most agreed that the two strongest group stage teams had been OMG and SKT in the other group. Despite winning their regional qualifier, Royal didn't come into the tournament with much fanfare surrounding them. That soon changed as they dispatched domestic rivals OMG, who had impressed in the group stage, in the quarter-final. All was not hopeless for fnatic though, they looked to have potential match-up advantages in the top and mid lanes. With Royal's ADC Uzi being the MVP of the previous series, it was expected that puszu of fnatic would be under strain.
Instead the expectations for the series seemed to get turned upside down. fnatic's star mid laner xPeke found himself aggressively counter-picked and outplayed by Royal's Wh1t3zZ. In the top lane sOAZ, famed for his wide champion pool, ended up playing Zac three of the four games. There were thrills to be witnessed, close plays going to both sides, but in the end Royal completed their victory and moved on to a top two finish.
Game of the Year - OGN Winter Semi-Final, Game Four between Azubu Blaze vs. Azubu Frost
The semi-finals of OGN Winter 2012/2013 saw an unusual format of being a best of three using best of fives, as in the first team to win two Bo5 would be the team to move on to the finalists. With Frost as the reigning champions facing their sister team, Blaze, in one semi-final it seemed an impossible task for Blaze to even have a chance to real the promised land of another OGN final. Both teams had played in all the OGN Champions finals to that point in history, but only one would be able to continue that streak here.
In the end it was Frost who made good on that pre-match potential, winning both Bo5 in the last match, and reaching the final, but not without incident, to reference the 2002 movie Equilibrium. The stand-out match of that semi-final proved to be the fourth game of the first Bo5. Frost led 2:1 and before 40 minutes had taken all three of Blaze's inhibitors. In LoL terms this was an impossible position from which to come back, especially against a godlike late-game team-fighting side like Frost. Blaze needed a miracle and a miracle they would get.
The upside for Blaze, as dire as their situation was, was that the incredibly high econcomy component of the game, with the teams hitting over 150k combined gold by 50 minutes, meant that their AD Carry Captain Jack had been able to farm heavily with all the minions streaming into his team's base. At 40 minutes he was sitting at around 450 CS and would get that over 500 before the end of the game. With a full six item Caitlyn build, even trading in his boots for Zephyrs, to get additional attack speed, the Blaze man carried his team from there on out.
Frost pushed in with baron to try and end the game but found the team-fight reversed, even as some Blaze players had to sit at the fountain healing. Blaze won the next fights in their base and finally found themselves in a position to take baron and start on the offensive. Frost attempted a base race, but Blaze sent Ambition back and were able to prevent that. Blaze took out Frost's base for the most incredible and unlikely comeback in the history of competitive League of Legends.
Runner-up: SKT vs. KT B Game 5 - OGN Summer final
It had been the dream finals for many, as the two best Korean teams went blow for blow through the first four games. One game remained and it would crown a new OGN champion. Not only did the game live up to the tension of the moment, it even had its own signature play that will live on in LoL history. In blind pick both mid laners, ryu of KT B and Faker of SKT, decided on Zed, the deadling assassin who had been rampaging throughout competitive LoL over the last few months. A monstrous play from Faker allowed him to straight up 1v1 kill ryu, who had more health, in the play that not only solidified the godlike nature of Faker, but also spawned 'the ryu face' of utter despair.
Caster of the Year - Christopher 'MonteCristo' Mykles
As the primary analytical voice behind the best LoL team league in the world, MonteCristo was the man breaking down the highest level plays and tactics of 2013. Known for his emphasis on a composition-based approach, he provided spectators around the world with the narrative and knowledge to feel as if they were granted a glimpse behind the curtain of Korea's best LoL teams.
From NaJin's MaKNooN-centered style through to the 'sixth man' style which spurred Blaze's 13-0 winning streak and through to SKT's rise to dominance, MonteCristo was there to excite viewers with details of the intricate brilliance of the players, helping the audience navigate the murky waters of high level LoL action. Western-focused fans got a chance to taste the fruits of his mind for the game thanks to his role on the analysis desk at the S3 World Championship, but regular viewers of OGN were already well acquianted with MonteCristo's unique voice in League.
Honorable Mention: Jatt
Among the cadre of Western casters the name which stood out after MonteCristo was Riot's Jatt. As one of the main voices of LCS NA, Jatt was able to both synergise well with a number of co-casters and balance bringing a strategical approach to the game. An ex-professional player, Jatt regularly shows how well-rounded his game knowledge is, going from picks through to item choices and composition synergies.
Champion of the Year - Thresh
Of all the champions to make an impact on 2013 none can match up with Thresh. If CJ Frost's MadLife was famed for his Blitzcrank play, another Support champion featuring a hook mechanic, then his play on Thresh secured his spot as a legend of the position. Thresh allows Supports to not only protect and help their AD Carry, but also aggressively make plays and have an impact in the kills column. As the nerfs came players and fans realized how truly powerful Thresh had been and he continues to be a part of the champion pool of pros to this day.
Honorable Mention: Zed
2013 saw Zed used in devastating fashion in more than one position. In the jungle inSec made opponents fear his farm heavy carry Jungling style, with kills racked up for the shadow assassin. In the mid lane it was Zed spearheading the 'Assassin mid' meta that turned that lane upside, with new stars rising up and older established veterans pushed to one side. The Faker kill onto ryu stands out as perhaps the individual play of the year, with Zed being both the one delivering the kill blow and taking it.
Image Credit: ESFIWorld, Azubu.tv, lolesports,