Before League of Legends Worlds 2020 started, ONE Esports spoke to Suning’s Vietnamese jungler, Lê “SofM” Quang Duy.

We asked, “What will Suning bring to Worlds?”

He replied, “Suning has a penchant for using carry champions in jungle and top.”

This was how he thought his team would gain an edge over their opponents in the competition despite being LPL’s third seed.

SofM was more than right.

Suning heads into the Worlds 2020 to face off against LCK representative DAMWON Gaming after defeating LPL second seed JD Gaming in the quarterfinals and LPL first seed Top Esports in the semis. Top Esports were the favorites to win Worlds, but Suning — which has never won a series against them prior to their semifinal matchup — took them down 3-1.

Following these notable wins, Suning has become the undisputed dark horse of the competition.

“People don’t have too much expectations towards us,” said Suning head coach Shih “Chashao” Yi-Hao in the post-game press conference. “That’s why we’re able to perform as ourselves and show our best.”

The Worlds meta involves a tank at top (or if you’re an LPL team, Renekton is fine as well), a carry jungler, a wave clear mid laner, a scaling bot laner, and a playmaking support.

In their very first game at Worlds against G2 Esports, Suning drafted a meta team composition: Renekton, Lee Sin, Syndra, Ashe, and Nautilus. By all means, it was an effective draft. They were ahead throughout the game in gold and dragons, but G2 out-microed them in late game fights and pulled through for a hard-fought, 42-minute win.

The next day, Suning started to evolve.

Putting their eggs into the Bin basket

Against Team Liquid, Suning saw a Twitch-Rakan bot lane locked in. With this knowledge, they picked Draven third on red side — a Tang “huanfeng” Huan-Feng special, for it was his former one-trick main.

Team Liquid didn’t target ban bot, but instead chose to help top by taking out Wukong and a possible flex Sett. As such, Suning had free reign to unleash Leona and Draven together for an extremely aggressive laning phase.

Screenshot by Amanda Tan/ONE Esports

Looking at TL’s draft, Suning took a second chance this game — this time on top laner Chen “Bin” Ze-Bin. He picked Jax, a champion not commonly seen in the meta.

As bot lane went wild, Bin had his fair share of action. He didn’t steamroll his lane, but rather went toe-to-toe with Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong, farmed up, and found the right angles in team fights. Bin finished the game 2/1/2 against Impact’s 0/3/0 Volibear.

That game marked the start of Suning steering their draft even more toward Bin’s carry potential. In Groups, he was defined by two career highlight plays Irelia against Machi Esports and Gangplank against G2 Esports.

As G2 were halfway through dragon, Bin based after pushing top wave, then teleported to bottom lane. As the rest of Suning moved across the map from the left, Bin came in from the right, which funneled G2 into a choke. He dropped his ultimate Cannon Barrage, then perfectly lined up two Powder Kegs that crit for 1,260 and 830 damage, respectively.

His clutch late-late game climax not only secured the win for Suning, but also clinched first seed in Group A.

Empowering SwordArt to make plays

In their second game against Machi in Groups, Suning changed their draft by doing away with a front line. Instead, they opted for Hu “SwordArt” Shuo-Chieh’s Bard.

Even though Bin wasn’t having the best time at top after getting counter-picked by Shen, SwordArt’s Bard was a major reason why Suning remained in the game and swung team fights in their favor.

Screenshot by Amanda Tan/ONE Esports

Bard had turned into a priority pick for Suning. This musical support eventually became SwordArt’s most picked champion here at Worlds, with a 6.7 KDA. It was such an important pick for SwordArt that against JD Gaming in the quarterfinals, Zuo “LvMao” Ming-Hao did not get to play a single game on his signature champion.

Even more impressive is SwordArt’s 100% win rate on Leona, his second most played champion at Worlds. In fact out of all the supports he’s played, he only had one game on a passive Tahm Kench, which resulted in a loss.

Every other game was about SwordArt on playmaking champions. He has played a game on Rakan and Thresh as well, both of which resulted in victory. This means that Suning has been consistently prioritizing their bot lane in drafts, whether on red or blue side.

Who needs tanks when you have a roaming support who is constantly burning enemy flashes, leading the charge at bot, and finding picks across the map?

Unlocking SofM in the jungle

First, it was his tank Lee Sin.

In Suning’s debut game at Worlds against G2 Esports, SofM ran Conqueror Lee Sin, and bought Knight’s Vow, Warmorg’s, and Spirit Visage.

LCK shoutcaster, coach, and analyst Nick “LS” De Cesare praised his build, which was effective against G2’s high-damage team composition.

Even though Suning already had support Nautilus, mid lane Syndra, Ashe, and Renekton for hard crowd control, it was SofM who jumped in resiliently on Lee Sin to make clutch plays.

After utilizing meta-powered Graves and Nidalee, SofM pulled out something different again in their second game against G2 Esports in Groups.

On blue side, Suning banned Ornn and Shen, which set them up to choose Camille in the first phase. G2 had also left Syndra open, which Suning locked in as a first pick.

Screenshot by Amanda Tan/ONE Esports

Since Nidalee was banned and Graves taken by G2, Suning allowed their jungle pick to fall through the draft. Lillia and Kindred were still open, mind you, but Jarvan was selected instead. He was needed as the main initiator for the team, as reliable engage is something Suning is very conscious of when they draft.

This explains why Bin can go ahead and play fighters at top, while SofM powers through the jungle and plays chess with his enemy jungler — as long as SwordArt can engage or catch, or Xiang “Angel” Tao is on Galio for secondary follow up.

They’ve even gone all the way to give Bin the counter-pick by flexing Shen to the jungle in game three against Top Esports. Though it was extremely off-meta, SofM out-jungled Hung “Karsa” Hao-Hsuan’s Lee Sin, reading his opponent like a book.

Even then, you’ll notice that Suning adjusts their drafts sensitively, balancing early, mid, and late game power spikes. The most recent off-meta jungle pick was in game four against Top Esports. Angel was on assassin Akali and even though SwordArt locked in his victorious Leona, SofM last picked Jarvan again.

“My teammates chose champions that are good in the late game, so on Jarvan, I can do a lot of things in the early game and help my teammates carry the game later on,” SofM explained after the game.

He certainly did a lot of things from early to mid game — the SofM big brain way. Using lane priority from two lanes and a rotation from Angel’s Akali, SofM spent two minutes pressuring Top Esports’ bot lane.

Notice that he did not throw a single E-Q combo into his opponents. He positioned according to the flow of mid and bot wave. In that time frame, Angel managed to down mid lane, which kept the opposing mid laner occupied. SofM cleared out all of Top’s vision. As bot pushed in, he moved up the jungle to threaten their immobile Ashe-Tahm Kench bot lane.

At the second tier turret, he stopped recalls, and halting TES from functioning. Lastly, he counter-jungled and secured Scuttle Crab before recalling.

Suning’s flexibility as a squad is truly their strength, especially when opponents have shown to be a lot less versatile. Not many expected them to make it this far into the tournament, but the way they’ve groomed their players, grown over the tournament, and drafted adaptably while still being able to execute as a cohesive unit on off-meta picks has proven to be a winning formula this Worlds 2020.

Will that be enough for Suning to lift the Summoner’s Cup?

READ MORE: This play shows why SofM has the biggest brain at Worlds 2020