The League of Legends Master Series (LMS), is the professional league for teams based in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau. Over the years, the LMS has produced teams of significant renown such as ahq e-Sports Club, Flash Wolves in recent times as well as perhaps the most famous of them all, Taipei Assassins, who were Worlds champions in Season 2 and is now known as J Team. The LMS had provided us with many wonderful memories in international tournaments. Yet, its dismal performances in recent international tournaments beg the question; is the era of the LMS being classified as one of the big regions over?
The LMS has always been a league which punched above its own weight as a region compared to the other big regions of Korea, China, Europe and North America. Despite the smaller server size which limits the available talent pool, the LMS had always produced teams which wowed the world on the international stage. From the glorious triumph of Taipei Assassins who overcame its underdog status to shock the heavy favourites, Moscow Five in the semi-finals and later the Korean representatives, Azubu Frost, in the finals to the Flash Wolves tag as the “Korean Killers” from 2015 to 2017, LMS teams have been respected for their ability to go toe to toe with the biggest teams around the world.
However, this region has also suffered greatly from the lack of investment that many of the other major regions have seen since its inception. Compared to China, Korea, Europe and North America, the LMS is hosted by Garena which meant that it has lagged behind the other major regions in terms of Riot investment into the scene. This is significant as this has resulted in many eligible players in the region leaving to join the much more lucrative Chinese LPL, such as Karsa in Royal Never Give Up, Amazing J who is a Hong Kong player that used to play for EDward Gaming and IMay to name a few. Thus, the drain on talent alongside its inherent limitation as a small region has led to a slide in the competitiveness of the region as a whole, culminating in the failure of any LMS teams qualifying for the knockout stages of Worlds 2018, the first since Season 4.
Even more worryingly, the direness of the LMS does not stop there, the decreasing talent pool has led to a distortion of the competitiveness of the league. Ever since 2016, the Flash Wolves has emerged as the premier team in the league, dominating the regular splits and regularly featuring in the finals. In 2018 Spring Split, the distortion has become worse as traditional powerhouses such as ahq e-Sports, J Team and Hong Kong Attitude struggled to remain competitive due to the loss of key personnel in their roster. Whilst teams such as MAD Team and G-Rex have surged to fill in the gap, their lack of experience is telling given their performances in the playoffs where MAD Team lost to G-Rex 0-3 and G-Rex to Flash Wolves by the same score line in the finals.
As the Flash Wolves prepare to fight for their chance to participate in the knockout stages of MSI, the fact that they would have to compete against the winners of play-in groups should ring alarm bells for the league as a whole. Unless key changes are made to the structure of the competition and the fostering of local talents, other regions will continue to catch up through better utilisation of their resources. If the LMS wants to remain relevant against the backdrop of the giants of Chinese LPL or Korean LCK in Asia, it must reinvent itself to find its lost identity as a region that continues to defy expectation by playing with trademark tenacity and resolve.
Written by Alex Wong [2018 Marketing (Publications) Director]