Why (and how) you should be watching the LPL

Mush 2023-05-29 04:40:50
  The non-Chinese viewership hasn't been growing at the rate of Leagues like the LCK or the LEC. Peak viewership hasn't even gotten close to the numbers recorded in 2020, and hours watched went down between Summer 2022 and Spring 2023. So that's what brings us here today, to tell you why (and how) you should be watching the LPL in Summer 2023. And I've brought some LPL English casters to help me convince you.  

The dreaded MSI Finals talk

  Everyone read the headlines, the Reddit threads and Twitter posts when MSI came to an end. The games and the much improved format took a backseat to the "low-viewership finals". The tournament still had great stats, with the highest peak viewership ever recorded at MSI and with an improvement in hours watched and average viewers from previews.   LPL   With this context at hand, people proceeded to blame it on the all-LPL Final. This is only partially true and is either intentionally misleading or caused by pure ignorance. JDG and BLG (especially the latter) aren't the biggest teams in China. BLG had never attended an International Event previously and JDG haven't had time yet to reach the fame of teams like EDG and RNG. Meanwhile, regions like the LCK in all of the 5 most watched series, brought literally their most famous teams in T1 and GEN. Narrowing it down to "all-LPL matchups ruin viewership" is simply wrong and, although it does lower the numbers from, say, and LPL vs LCK duel, the right LPL teams can bring in really good viewership. And, crucially, we have to remember that Chinese viewership isn't counted (for obvious reasons) and that that's were most of the viewership would be coming from (as is the case with LCK teams, which are watched by Korean viewers above all else). To conclude this point, it's also important to remember that, unfortunately, the finals were not only a regional matchup, they were a rematch of a 3-0 sweep that had happened at this exact tournament. These are all factors that go way beyond a simple "LPL finals= bad viewership." But let's get into the matter at hand.  

LPL Summer 2023

  Now that we've gotten that out of the way, we can get into the good stuff. LPL is back before anyone else, as usual. With the insane amount of series they have to fit into a single Split, you can't blame them for giving JDG and BLG very little time to rest or to acclimate into the massive Mid-season patch. The Summer Split kicked off today with two BO3 series between mostly bottom of the table teams in UP vs AL and TT vs FPX. These are the first of 136 series that will be played throughout this Split. I know that's a big number, but don't let it scare you, the LPL functions a little differently than other Major Regions.  

How the LPL works

  Due to having 17 teams, almost double the number of teams present in the LEC, LCK and LCS, the LPL had to get rid of the Double-Round Robin format. Instead, the Split comes down to a Single-Round Robin followed by a massive 2-part Playoffs. All teams play each other once in a BO3 series, with the top 10 teams of the Split Qualifying to the aforementioned Playoffs. The easiest way to explain how the qualification works is visually, so here's an example from LPL Spring 2023 Playoffs: LPL The blue numbers are the teams placements during regular season (I know, I know). From Round 1 to 3, we have a Single Elimination bracket. From Round 4 onwards, Double-Elimination begins, so the top two seeds from the regular split automatically get two lives in Playoffs (JDG and EDG in this case). Since it's the Summer Split, a Regional Finals will happen after the Playoffs end. The winner of the Playoffs and the team with the most Championship Points automatically qualify to Worlds. The top two teams from the Regional Finals follow suit.  

You don't have to watch everything

  So, if you have a full-time job, other hobbies, follow a different League, and have a life in general, watching 136 series in the regular season alone isn't going to happen. I know. The LPL wasn't built to be watched like that, though. The magic of this region is that, even if you only watch the most hype matches, you will have an entertainment for all your weeks. Let's take a look at this first week of Summer, for example. Here are my picks for best matches to watch:
  • LNG vs TES - This is Tian/Rookie/Jackeylove vs Tarzan/Scout/Gala. Need any other incentive?
  • OMG vs BLG- Likely the most exciting teams in the region right now and the two who made the most impressive runs in Spring 2023 playoffs.
  • WBG vs JDG- TheShy/Karsa/Xiaohu vs 369/Kanavi/Knight. Not bad, uh?
I could keep going for at least 4 lines with only banger matchups. These 3 happen in between Wednesday and Thursday. This is the kind of action you are missing by not watching the most stacked region on the planet. Pick and choose what you want to watch. Follow the teams and players that you want or watch only the most stacked series. Whatever your approach is, the LPL will deliver.  

Where and when to watch

  My American friends, I do have bad news. On a weekday, series start at 3AM PDT and 5AM EST. On Fridays and Weekends, 1AM PDT and 3AM EST. So you're likely not going to be watching them live, but, luckily, you have great VOD alternatives. The LoLEsports website seems to have forgotten the existence of the LPL since the beginning of Spring 2023, but the EpicSkillshot Youtube Channel uploads every single game minutes after it ends. If you live in a timezone which allows you to watch the games live (or are an American night-owl), you can do so on Youtube and Twitch.  

The Experts weigh in

  If what I've shown so far hasn't convinced you that watching the LPL is actually incredible, who better than the people casting the games themselves (and Linda)  to tell you why you should be watching the strongest region in the world? I asked them to tell me about the two teams that they're the most excited for heading into Summer 2023. Here are their answers:  

Alex "Nymaera" Hapgood, LPL Colour Caster/Analyst

  OMG- OMG are your favourite coach’s favourite team. It felt like every meta pick had been sussed out by OMG pretty much as soon as they started to show up: Kennen counters like Viktor top, Sejuani/Maokai + Yone combinations, OMG literally showed the world how to play topside in a bot-centric meta.In fact OMG were the team that cropped up the most in conversation when I talked with LEC pros and coaches, even above other notable global teams! They feel like a vestige of an older era of LPL too, their raw aggression is tempered by absolutely nothing- I have a sneaking suspicion that this team has been blessed by the gods of chaos with the way they approach every given game... Which makes for one of the strangest combinations of identities in any league of legends right now: hugely innovative well thought drafts combined with just utter disregard for safety in-game. It’s magic. OMG LNG- LNG should be absolutely kicking themselves after an early exit from LPL spring playoffs, considering that they very well could have locked top 2 and a double-elimination second life, but they dropped some critical single games which saw them in 3rd behind JDG and EDG instead. In fact I thought they very well could win Spring, and that was off of the back of what was for points in spring the best mid-jungle combo in the world: Scout and Tarzan. The dirty plays they were pulling off with Lee Sin + Annie, Jayce + Elise and other earlygame duos would be enough in itself to be a backbone for a strong squad, but they could play literally anything and excel - an 8,000 damage Maokai teamfight from Tarzan springs to mind as a hilarious highlight. They were, however, the be-all and end-all of LNG’s playstyle in spring. Tarzan in particular looked very out of sorts in playoffs when push came to shove which saw that strength fail. With Gala coming into the fold, that’s a ridiculous consistent carry option to rely on for the team which may give them more options to diversify their strengths going into Summer, as Gala found some serious form even on a struggling RNG in spring.  

Oisín Molloy, LPL Play-by-Play Caster

  JDG- Honestly for JDG, anything but a grand slam is failure for this roster. They are built to win. You have arguably a best in role in every role bar support (sorry Missing, but Keria exists). I think this roster needs to win it all and anything less than that is a failure. Doesn’t matter how they do it, just matters that that do. So, in short, they’re my extreme favourites to win summer split. RA- RA have always been one of those, “great if they make playoffs but I’m not holding my breath” kinda teams. They have shifted from the standard roster meta of bringing in a big player and trying to build around (iBoy being the prime example in my head) and are now actively trying out LDL players who show promise. RA Last split they showed that even with the less experienced players they can make a commotion and scare a couple of bigger teams (lost 1-2 to EDG, BLG and OMG who were all top 4 in spring). This split they’ve added mole into mid and Baolan for support so I’m hopeful with a bit of experience now injected into them, they’ll actually make a bit of a run into top 10 for summer.  

Joe "Munchables" Fenny, LPL Play-by-play Caster

  BLG- If you've been living under a rock, you may not have seen the insane lower-bracket run BLG had at MSI, knocking out both LCK representatives from the tournament. The whole team leveled up and especially Elk and Bin are in incredible form, there's no way this team isn't a contender for the title. WBG- Not only do these guys have mojo out the wazoo, they're also one of the most experienced teams in the world with multiple World champions and MSI champions. Spring was a disappointing split for the team, but I firmly believe this team will rise to the challenge in summer.  

Linda Pro League, the LPL Twitter expert/superfan

  LNG- GALA is a standout ADC, has the veteran experience and is also a very steady player who doesn’t int as much as the usual LPL ADCs (lol), so LNG signing him is gonna make all their lanes potential carry threats.I’m excited to see how Tarzan will play around botlane with him on the team, if Scout and/or Zika will have more of a utility role now that the carry needs can be filled by someone else! BLG- They had such an insane MSI journey, and are quite the mentality monsters despite their young age, so I’m really curious how they’ll carry their momentum forward and if they’ll maintain their form.I’m keeping a close eye on Yagao and the Elk/ON botlane. Yagao will have to show more of a threat against big plays midlaners (e.g. Knight), and the Elk/ON botlane has the potential to be something great if they just learn how to play with more restraint, a bit more defensively, in my opinion.  

What are you waiting for?

  What more do you need? It is the strongest region in the World, it has the biggest concentration of strong teams, there is an endless torrent of great matches at your disposal and  an excellent English Broadcast to boot! LPL Broadcast Don't sleep on the LPL and don't expect to even have a superficial understanding of this region from what you see and hear at International Events. This is why (and how) you should be watching the LPL. Get to it!
Images courtesy of LPL, Leaguepedia and Esports Charts. Check out our recent article about MSI. If you liked this piece, check out the author at @Mushwrites.

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