This year’s Mid-Season Invitational will feature the #1 team from each region in a format never before seen in the tournament. For the first time since its inception, teams from China, South Korea, and Europe will not be automatically seeded into the Rumble Stages of the tournament. Instead, the 11 competing teams will all be placed into three assorted groups (organized by tiers) that will determine who gets through to the next round. The top two teams from each group will then compete in the Rumble Stage (May 14 – May 18) where the top six teams will play another best-of-one double round-robin where the top four winningest teams will advance to the knockout rounds.
MSI 2021: Eleven Champions, one trophy
After a hiatus in 2020 due to a COVID-stricken regular season, the Mid-Season Invitational is back in full swing. With the implementation of the tournament comes a new wave of innovation from all the organizers of the event. Funneling all the championship-winning teams into multiple best-of-one scenarios shows their willingness to mix up the pot and allow smaller region teams to compete against the big dogs.
This sentiment comes from smaller regions like LCL, Brazil, and Turkey having positive performances in their few outings on the international stage. However, this doesn’t mean that success is guaranteed. In a more competitive professional climate than ever before, top regions like China and Europe have seen a massive change of the guard as their best teams of 2020 are not representing them in this tournament. But that doesn’t mean the new teams aren’t capable of carrying the torch for their regions.
RNG shocked everyone during Spring Playoffs as the all-Chinese lineup dominated their way through TOP, EDG, and FPX en route to their first domestic title since 2018. That same year they won Spring, they also went on to dominate the second-ever MSI tournament where they trounced Kingzone-DragonX. This turning point in international play became the impetus for Chinese domination within the scene, but can RNG defy the League of Legends odds and dethrone DAMWON KIA from their top spot?
DAMWON is the team to beat
DAMWON had a much easier route to MSI given their virtual monopoly on the Korean region. The reigning World Champions didn’t drop a single game in their run during playoffs this year, which is a far cry from the constant 3-2 series RNG endured in their region. Domestically speaking, there is no better-performing team in the world besides DAMWON. But that doesn’t mean they are properly equipped to easily wipe out the likes of RNG in 3-0 fashion as well.
As we proceed down the lower tiers, representatives from NA and EU both have a lot to prove as Perkz leads his first NA team into an international tournament. C9 will have a lot on their plate as the likes of Xiaohu, Armut and Khan will all be looking to abuse the rookie top laners weaknesses for the North American team.
MAD Lions have a lot to prove as well as they hope to make Europe relevant beyond the stranglehold that G2 Esports holds on the region. MAD Lions path to playoffs is similar to RNG’s in the sense that they had to overcome several results as the underdog to punch their ticket into MSI 2021. Time will tell if this new wave of international champions have what it takes to keep their high level of play in a tournament designed for champions.