Diamondprox. Alex Ich. Doublelift. Xpecial. To hear a recent article on lolesports, these are the legends on which League of Legends was born, some of the best players we have ever seen or ever will see. But what elevates somebody from “great player” to “living legend”?
It may be as simple as good timing. Let me paint you a picture. You’re 19 years old, and fresh off to college. In the first week, you meet Sally. You catch her eyes across the room and your breath catches for a moment as you realize you’re staring. You smile, awkwardly, and she looks down and blushes, brushing her hair back behind her ear. You can’t remember if you’ve ever seen anyone look more beautiful than her in that moment.
Fast forward 2 weeks. You’re on your second date, already finishing each other’s sentences as you discuss the influences of Romanticism on 20th century architecture until 2 AM. She yawns and leans into your arms, resting her head against your chest. The radio shifts; on comes Al Green’s Let’s Stay Together:
She looks up at you, and a moment later – you don’t even remember how – your lips are pressed together and her arms are wrapped around you. You are quite literally the happiest you’ve ever been.
This music will forever be special. Not only is it some of the first music you’re hearing on your own, away from your family, but it’s associated with a whirlwind of formative experiences and memories. It is your oldest, best friend. It was there for your first love and your first heartbreak, through your hardest classes and your graduation. When your grandmother died, it comforted you. How could anything else ever hope to compete?
Is it our “legends” that were great? Or simply our memories of them?
For most of us who have been watching League of Legends from the start, Season 2 was when we fell in love. And why not? In Season 2, the game was still in flux. There was a meta of sorts, but there was a romantic idea that every champion was viable. Top lane in particular had a hugely diverse champion pool, whereas from mid Season 3 on, it has largely had 3 dominant champions. On top of that, there had never been League of Legends rockstars. They were the first. But there was a sense that we were a part of something big. Something new. Something special.
In other words, so many of us who love League of Legends fell in love in Season 2. So is it any surprise that of the 25 players listed, the large majority started in Season 2? Simply put, we love them.
Let’s start with the most egregiously overrated player: DiamondProX as the G.O.A.T. for junglers. Now, don’t get me wrong. Diamond is one of my favorite players of all time. His style of jungle changed the way we saw the jungle. But he wasn’t innovative. He just had a different style entirely. We can see this in the way he has failed to really adapt once the meta moved on from him. Yes, Gambit had a dominant run in Season 2. But what was their real competition? Moreover, he did this with a strong supporting cast (two of whom also made this list). Can we really say that DiamondProX stands the slightest chance against even Meteos, let alone the top-tier modern junglers?
Meteos, on the other hand, was feared and respected even by Korean junglers in Season 3 thanks to extremely dominant stats in the NA LCS. Arguably, Meteos and DiamondProX have similar stories: dominating the NA/EU regions, but falling short against Chinese and Korean teams.
We can see that in the present, where Diamond can’t hope to match up against Meteos, and Meteos isn’t even one of the top 3 junglers in the world. In my mind, Meteos and Diamond are both $1 junglers. They are the minimum level of skill you can have while still being a legend.
But these aren’t just isolated players. So many of the top players from Season 2 have had to step aside for better players. For every xPeke or Froggen who has stood the test of time, there is an Ocelote or Reginald who has been forced to step down in the face of rising talent.
Gentleman Gustaf, how can you make such a bold claim?
The top picked players are:
5 picks: Dandy
4 picks: Faker
3 Picks: PDD/NaMei/Piglet/MadLife/Mata
Every player with more than 2 picks peaked in Season 3 or 4. If these Season 2 players are so good, how come nobody wants them on their team? Only 3 players on this list even played in Season 1 (and none of them peaked then), almost as though the list was made by people who acknowledge that the early game was simply less competitive. Of the players who peaked in Season 2, only Toyz, Alex Ich, Stanley, and Maknoon were picked at all, and all but Maknoon saw considerable success in Season 3.
So even if you don’t buy my argument that the Season 2 legends are only on the list due to misplaced nostalgia for the beginnings of an organized competitive LoL scene, you still have to explain why no analyst seems to want them on their dream teams.
Of course, I’m not saying that older players can’t be good. Froggen, for example, highly deserves his spot. Yes, he was a dominant player in Season 2 on CLG.EU. Since then, however, he has established himself as one of the premiere players of Season 4, not to mention the mind behind the now-dominant EU team Alliance. Compare that to Alex Ich, who has faded into obscurity on an EU Challenger team that failed to even make it into the relegation tournament. One of these players deserves to be called a legend, the other was simply a good player in an undeveloped scene.
With that in mind, here’s my team:
Faker – Can you really pick anybody else for mid? Faker wasn’t just dominant, he was game-breaking. If there’s one non-NA/EU player everybody knows, it’s Faker. Faker is known for making the game sit down and shut up, and keeping fans coming back for highlight reel after highlight reel.
Piglet – I can sneak Piglet for $1? How could I not?
Meteos – Dandy and Lovelin are both better junglers than he is, but perhaps not enough to invest the extra money. Insec is just too expensive, and Diamond is the worst buy of any of the 25 options.
Mata – Sure, one more point would get me MadLife, but I’d have to drop from Flame down to Stanley, and didn’t I just say I think Season 2 players get overrated?
Flame – You can’t spell top lane without 3 of the letters in Flame.
I’m tempted to upgrade Meteos to Dandy, drop Mata for Poohmandu, and bump Flame up to Shy. Then I’d have the bot lane synergy in place already, not to mention no language barrier between my players, but the last thing I need is the accusation of Korean bias, so Meteos, you can stay.
You’ll notice one thing about my list that differs from the lists of many other analysts (although Spellsy, Thorin and I are seemingly on the same page). All of these players are considered good players now (Meteos is probably the weakest current player). Why? Because the caliber of League of Legends play has increased over time. As a result, only the most super of superstars from seasons past can hope to go toe-to-toe with modern pros. So when we talk about the greatest players of all time, we have to ask ourselves: is it our “legends” that were great? Or simply our memories of them?