In 2021, the Mid Lane will see one of the biggest roster changes LCS history. Only 4 players are starting for the same team as last split (Jensen, Jiizuke, Pobelter and Insanity), and only one of them played all 18 games in Summer for his current team (Jensen).
Unlike Jungle, I actually think statistics are well rounded for analyzing Mid Lane talent. There is a decent amount of influence from your team’s Jungler, but for the most part Mid Lane is a 1v1 show of dominance and the stats can usually tell a significant part of that story. Obviously stats don’t tell the entire story, so I will be using videos, champ pool, playstyle and other comparisons to make my case for the following list.
That being said, this Power Ranking will be the most stats heavy yet, focusing mostly on Summer 2020, but looking at all tournaments these players participated in over the last year. It is also by far the longest… so enjoy!
S Tier — GOAT
1. Perkz — Cloud9
Perkz is the best player to ever play in NA. It’s that simple. Remember when he decimated RNG, going 11/0 on Leblanc in Worlds 2018 Quarterfinals? Remember that time he beat the greatest Esports org of all time in the Worlds 2019 Semi-finals? Remember when he did 10 thousand damage in a single teamfight? Remember when he solo* killed Faker? There’s so many incredible plays and memories from this guy, lets just take a few moments to appreciate them:
Perkz isn’t coming to NA to ‘retire’. He is coming to win LCS and take NA to it’s deepest run ever at worlds. I truly believe that his goal is to win worlds, and that is why he joined Cloud9. Let’s look at what may have been Perkz decision making…
He clearly wanted to play Mid Lane in 2021 (which I can’t blame him for), and Grabbz/Carlos made the choice to go with Caps, so G2 was not an option for him. They were not willing to trade Perkz to Fnatic, so Fnatic was not an option.
How about another European team? Outside of G2 and Fnatic, there isn’t really a team that has looked to be a worlds contender in the past, and there aren’t any promising candidates this year yet either. Rogue and MAD Lions are both set on their Mid Laners, and neither team performed that well at Worlds 2020. Even more importantly, in the LEC there would a legitimate question of if Perkz could even qualify for worlds. The LEC is likely to only have 3 slots next year, and trying to snag that one remaining slot (high chance G2/Fnatic take spots again) is a large gamble...
But in NA…
Look I don’t believe the LEC is head and shoulders above LCS as whole, but it’s obvious that the best teams in Europe are better than the best teams in NA. That works in Perkz favor though, since qualifying from LCS will be much more certain than in LEC. I bet that played a significant role in his decision making.
They’re no G2, but this Cloud9 team that he is joining is no joke. This team ran through the LCS for a split and a half while having Nisqy in the mid lane. No disrespect to Nisqy, but he is no Perkz. As Thorin puts it (and I paraphrase), if you’re on stage at match point against DWG and you look down the line at Nisqy, you probably aren’t feeling too hot. But if you look down the line and you see Perkz standing by your side. Well, that’s a different story. That man is inspiring. This is a conversation for another time, but I confidently place Perkz in my top 10 players of all time, and easily top 3 in the West. I cannot wait to see what he will achieve in this chapter of his story.
A Tier — “NA” Mids
2. Jensen — Team Liquid
Personally, I think Jensen is a baller. This guy is just good. This guy gets solo kill, after solo kill, after solo kill on some of the best Mids in the world. Jensen is the only LCS Mid that played all 18 regular season games in Summer with the same org he will play for in 2021, and TL kept him for good reason.
Statistically, only one mid laner compares with Jensen in LCS summer, and that was PoE (who actually edged Jensen out slightly statistically). Looking at LCS Summer, Jensen finished:
- 1st in Solo Kills (8)
- 1st in CSD@15 (10)
- 1st in XPD@15 (382)
- 2nd in CS/Minute (9.3)
- 2nd in Vision Score/Minute (1.11)
- 4th in Damage % (27.6)
- 4th in KDA (5.7)
I think a lot of people are going to say “how could you put Jensen ahead of PoE, PoE’s stats are even better!” I want you to consider this: PoE had Santorin for his Mid/Jungle duo, while Jensen had Broxah. If you claim “jg diff” in your solo queue games, I am claiming it here. Santorin was without a doubt a way better Jungler than Broxah in 2020, and that difference has a large impact on the statistics that come out of the Mid Lane. Jensen had double the solo kills that PoE had because he had no choice but to do it by himself in the mid lane. Oh, also Jensen is a 2x LCS Champion, won a Finals MVP and won 4 All-Pro 1st team awards. PoE has yet to add any of those to his resume.
At the end of the day, I think it’s pretty close. I’m willing to hear the case for PoE over Jensen, even if I may not agree with it. Either way, I think Jensen is one of the greatest and most clutch players, especially internationally, that North America has ever had:
3. PowerOfEvil — TSM
I made the case for Jensen over PoE in the previous section, but as I mentioned earlier, PowerOfEvil was a statistical monster in LCS Summer 2020. PoE did more damage, farmed more minions, established more vision, and died less than pretty much any other mid laner in Summer:
- 1st in CS/Minute (9.6)
- 1st in Vision Score/Minute (1.13)
- 2nd in CSD@15 (6)
- 2nd in XPD@15 (312)
- 2nd in Damage % (29.6)
- 3rd in KDA (6)
Playing almost exclusively control mages, PoE had an impressive record on Oriana (5–3), Syndra (2–1) and Azir (2–0) in LCS Summer. I think his most impressive pick has been the Azir, which he played to a 5–2 record in the Summer Playoffs. It isn’t the mostly flashy game play, but two things are always certain with PowerOfEvil — he will position well and he will do tons of damage:
Even though most of his games are on control mages, he is more than capable of picking assassins like Leblanc and performing:
Overall, I think there is a clear divide between the 3 best Mid Laners in LCS, and the rest. Perkz, Jensen and PoE are all clearly better than the rest of the field, and I think a big topic of discussion this year will be which of the latter two can solidify their claim on 2nd. Both players are equipped with strong teams so far, and I think the head to heads between TSM and TL are going to be a great chance to make a statement for both of these players.
B Tier — NA’s best
4. Damonte — 100T
If you want to get hyped on Damonte, look no further than his feature during the Summer split:
Damonte has a great story, and I really think he is the best Mid Lane talent that North America has (though Pobelter is extremely close). Most known for his ability to play roam heavy mid laners such as Galio, TF, Rumble, and Qiyana, Damonte has a unique approach to the game when compared to the LCS’s premier Mid Laners like Jensen, Pobelter, PoE and Bjergsen, all of whom are/were much more focused on lane control and building a lead through CS. Damonte brushes that playstyle aside, and wins games by playing to his side lanes, sacrificing his own stats in order to push the team towards a win. With that being said, I truly believe that his stat lines don’t reflect his talent as well as Mid Laners with a more traditional style of play, and reflect his own roam heavy style:
- 3rd in Vision Score/Minute (1.04)
- 2nd in Wards Cleared per minute (.22)
- 6th in CS/Minute (8.7)
- 6th in KDA (3.6)
- 6th in Kill Participation % (68.6)
- 10th in Damage % (22.4)
The 10th in Damage % is concerning, but with some of the most aggressive laners in the game on his team (Hauntzer — 4th highest Damage % for Top, FBI — 2nd highest for Bot, and Huhi — 4th highest for Support), it’s not that surprising. His playstyle also calls for less trading in lane, and that certainly has an impact on the overall %.
Damonte played in the most recent NA in-house series, absolutely dominating Dardoch and Soligo, and touting a 19/3/31 record (16.7 KDA)*** across 3 games. Some of his best plays from this series include:
- A cross map play for 3 kills
- One shotting Keith
- A classic Damonte TP flank
- Some sweet plays on Galio
- A solo kill on Soligo
- I hope he gets to match up against a more talented opponent during his next in-house, because it all looked way too easy for him this time around.
I’m sure there will be some disagreement on this choice, but Damonte is the best equipped player to handle the Big 3 of LCS mid laners right now. Damonte is creative with the ways that he teamfights and builds leads for his team around the map, that will be crucial for 100T to compete with the top teams:
The anti-Damonte argument is that he is a meta dependent player, and in a world where control mages dominate, Damonte is sure to struggle. Though this is a valid argument, there is some hope in this regard, with Damonte pulling out surprise mage picks such as Ziggs in Summer Playoffs that gave them 2 wins vs TSM.
5. Pobelter — CLG
If there’s anything that Pobelters few games in Academy proved, it was that he certainly doesn’t belong there. He touted an 18 KDA, 10.6 CS/Minute, and 18 CSD@15. Sure, those stats are only over the course of two games, but that’s gotta to be one of the best two game stat lines in all of Academy Summer. Pobelter struggled a bit more when playing in LCS, but he still had a pretty healthy stat line. These stats are especially impressive when you consider that he was on the 9th place team:
- 3rd on CSD @ 15 (2)
- 4th in CS/Minute (9.2)
- 5th in Gold/Minute (398)
- 6th in Damage % (25.7)
- 7th in Kill Participation % (66.7)
- 9th in GD@15 (-333)
It’s rare that a player outperforms their team by as much as Pobelter did in Summer, and I think he deserves a lot of credit for it. It’s certainly more impressive than doing well in Academy, which is much less competitive, as some of the other players on this ranking have done. At the end of the day, if CLG won a game in Summer 2020, it was because of Pobelter:
Even though they don’t look like a top team, CLG has clearly improved their lineup going into 2021. I would be shocked to see another bottom two finish, as I don’t think they have a single player that is bottom two in their position (maybe Smoothie? Stay tuned for the Support ranking on Thursday!). For CLG to finish in the top half of the league though, Pobelter will need to step up this year. What I would love to see from him is more proactive map plays, like this level 2 dive bot that he organized in Spring.
In the NA in-houses, Pobelter has been consistently performing better than the rookies in the league, which has helped to solidify a lot of the rankings here. Here he kills Ablazeolive, nearly alone:
Here are a few of my favorite Pobelter plays from the in-houses:
C Tier — “Potential”
6. Jiizuke — Evil Geniuses**
Just like all EG players, Jiizuke was difficult to come to a decision on. Realistically, this guy is anywhere from the 2nd to the 10th best Mid Laner in the league depending on how he is feeling on a given day. I know he’s good, but this guy absolutely ran it down some games last year.
His stats are also all over the place. Performing way ahead of his teams rank in stats related to gold production and aggression, but also performing terribly in other categories.
- 3rd in CS/Minute (9.2)
- 2nd in Gold/Minute (434) — on a 6th place team!
- 2nd in GD@15 (292)
- 4th in First Blood % (50), 1st among returning players
- 2nd in First Blood Victim rate (20%)
- 9th in Kill Participation % (65.2)
- 8th in Damage % (24.5)
I mean, what do you even make of that? These stats really showcase Jiizuke’s playstle: aggressive laning and late game split pushing. Jiizuke either kills or gets killed in the Mid Lane at a higher rate than any other player in the league, yet that aggression isn’t hurting his CS and gold generation numbers at all. This is likely explained by his tendency to split push, which also explains the low Damage % and Kill Participation, both of which are naturally lowered if you are not often grouped with your team.
These stats were also incredibly consistent with Spring of 2020, meaning that although you have no idea what to expect out of Jiizuke, you also know exactly what to expect. I think this play shows it perfectly — Jiizuke didn’t have to walk up to get the last two mage minions, and usually it wouldn’t matter, but this time Stixxay calls his bluff and he gives a huge shutdown to CLG’s AD carry:
He does the same exact thing later in the game here, he didn’t need to clear another wave and then int in CLGs base. Oh, and he does it again here, and here. What you may notice though, is that in all 4 of those clips, Jiizuke has a bounty when he dies: somewhat because he has been picking up kills in the sidelane, but mostly because of the CS lead he accumulates from his farming while overextended.
Personally, I really wish that Jiizuke would have played in Academy in Summer for the games that he was substituted out of the main roster; it would have made it a lot easier to assess how he really lines up with the talent in NA. I still think that he is a great player, and that his peak is much higher up in this ranking, but for now, Jiizuke needs to prove that he can channel his aggression correctly and effectively use his leads in the side lanes rather than donating that gold back to the opposing team.
7. Palafox — FlyQuest
Barring a debate around Froggen, Palafox was clearly the best Mid Lane player that played more than 10 games in Academy in Summer. Palafox made his mark through control mages with high map pressure, such as Orianna, Zoe, Galio and TF (and picked up Lucian in playoffs). He led the league in most of the metrics that I find important for a Mid laner. Although his stats are inflated because he was on the best team, he finished Academy Summer:
- 1st in Solo Kills (10)
- 2nd in KDA (5)
- 1st in GD@15 (574)
- 1st in Damage/Minute (337)
- 1st in CSD@15 (5)
- 2nd in Damage % (28.8)
- 4th in CS/Minute (8.8)
- 4th in Kill Participation % (70.5)
I’d love to see more from Palafox in the NA in-houses to get an idea of how he holds up against some of the more established talent in the LCS, but his performance in Academy was enough for me to place him confidently at the top of the rookies joining the league in 2021.
8. Ablazeolive — Golden Guardians
Ablazeolive comes into the LCS with a similar champion pool as Palafox (TF, Galio, Syndra), and he performed really well on them:
- TF 100% (4–0)
- Galio 75% (3–1)
- Syndra 100% (2–0)
The issue with Ablazeolive is that his champion pool doesn’t seem to be very deep. He only won 1 single game in Summer that was not on one of the champions above, which was on Sett vs CLG Academy. Towards the end of the split, Galio and TF were either banned or picked away from him in nearly every game, forcing him on other picks such as Orianna (0–4), Zoe (0–1), or Corki (0–1). If Ablazeolive isn’t able to expand his champion pool, he is going to be a prime target to be banned out. It’s not like there are a ton of other threats on Golden Guardians this year that other teams will need to worry about banning out. That being said, his laning has struggled a bit, but he has had his moments in the NA in-houses:
He boasted a strong stat line on GGA, with is team placing 4th in Summer:
- 2nd in GD@15 (222)
- 2nd in Kill Participation % (75.9)
- 2nd in First Blood % (50)
- 3rd in Damage/Minute (514)
- 4th in CSD@15 (1)
- 8th in Vision Score/Minute (1.02)
- 9th in CS/Minute (8.2)
If Ablazeolive is able to expand his champ pool, or is able to get his hands on his top picks, I think he is going to make a splash in the LCS this year.
9. Insanity — Immortals
Insanity finished first in damage % share, but when you look at the champs he played (Azir, Zoe, Corki, Kog'maw, Karthus) it actually isn’t that surprising. He didn’t play a single tank or support mid in Summer 2020, and that is a clear reason that his damage % is inflated. Insanity didn’t have a good stat line by any means, but as a member of the 10th place team in Summer 2020, that is somewhat expected. During Summer 2020, he finished:
- 1st in Damage % (32.3)
- 8th in CS/Minute (8.6)
- 10th in CSD@15 (-4)
- 10th in XPD@15 (-200)
- 2nd in Kill Participation % (74.6)
D Tier — Low Expectations
10. Soligo — Dignitas
In my eyes, Soligo is the only player starting in the Mid Lane in 2021 that does not deserve to be there. That’s harsh, but let’s take a quick look at the numbers that Soligo put out in NA Academy Summer:
- 10th in CS/Minute (8.1)
- 9th in Gold/Minute (393)
- 6th in Kill Participation % (69.4)
- 8th in Damage % (25.7)
- 7th in Vision Score/Minute (1.05)
- 6th in CSD@15 (0)
- 8th in First Blood % (16.7)
- 8th in Solo Kills (2)
Frankly, there is no excuse for a stat line this poor while playing on 100T Academy, the team that placed 3rd in the regular season! This stat line isn't like Jiizuke’s, where some stats are very poor while some are quite good. Soligo didn’t perform in the top half of the Academy league and ANY of the mainline statistics outside of KDA (4th) and Damage/Minute (5th), while playing on the 3rd best team.
Barring any unforeseen circumstances that caused it, I think this was a poor move by the GG coaching staff:
- It’s not like they broke the bank on any of their other players (Aphromoo, Dardoch, and FakeGod. Bot still unannounced).
- There isn’t a lack of talent in the pool. In Academy they could have sought after Triple or Giyuu, both of whom performed better than Soligo in the same league.
- They could have looked at ex-LCS mid laners who aren’t starting on any team this year, such as Goldenglue or Froggen. I understand wanting to bring in amatuer talent, but both these players are way better than Soligo now.
- They could have looked overseas! They haven’t used either of their import slots. Nemesis, Lider, Febiven, are all available. (Personally, I’d bet they tried to get Nemesis, knowing that he got offers in the LCS).
- Soligo wasn’t on Dignitas Academy, so this wasn’t simply a move of promoting your Academy mid laner to give them a chance, and it’s not like Soligo is an unknown talent, he’s been playing in Academy for 2 years!
Maybe Soligo will surprise me this year, but he clearly is coming into 2021 with a lot to prove.
With so many changes in one of League’s most important roles, I’m really excited to see how these players perform against each other in the upcoming split. Just like Top and Jungle, I think the overall talent in the Mid Lane has gotten better in 2021, and that the LCS a whole as gotten much stronger than in 2020.
Quick reminder that Saturday the 12th at 7:30 EST, I will be debating these Power Rankings, along with overall team rankings with De Medicii live on my Twitch channel: https://www.twitch.tv/lowsmith. If you think I missed the mark, or that I nailed it, come join us that night! I will be reading questions from the chat in between topics and answering any additional questions.
If you made it this far, thanks for reading! I had a lot of fun struggling through this one and I hope you enjoyed my rambling.
*Technically Jankos helped, but it wasn’t needed.
**Has yet to be officially announced
***Damonte had the following stats during the NA in-houses
- 7/0/3 on TF (technically finished 7/1/3, but he flashed into the spawn pool at the end of the game, so I’m not counting the death)
- 5/2/19 on Galio
- 7/1/9 on Zoe