MSI is back and it’s Cloud9 vs the world - who’s ready?
The League of Legends Mid-Season Invitational (MSI) is finally returning after a two year gap with a whole host of elite teams for Cloud9 to compete with.
Riot Games were unable to host the international event last year meaning the last time we saw MSI competition was the 2019 edition which featured Europe’s G2 Esports and North America’s Team Liquid in a surprising line-up for the final.
Yet, neither of those teams will be present this time around with MSI debutants MAD Lions representing Europe and Cloud9 taking the mantle for North America. Both will face intense competition with former MSI Champions Royal Never Give Up (RNG) representing China and reigning World Champions DWG KIA (formerly DAMWON Gaming) representing South Korea.
With a brand new format and fantastic group of world-class teams, MSI 2021 is shaping up to be a thrilling tournament.
Let’s get ready to rumble
This year, MSI will not feature a Play-In tournament. Instead, every team including those from wildcard regions such as Turkey and Brazil will be involved from the very beginning.
The tournament will begin with every team divided into three groups of four however, because of travel restrictions Vietnamese representative GAM Esports is unable to attend so Group A only features three teams.
Those three are the LoL Pro League’s (LPL) RNG, Unicorns of Love from the LoL Continental League (LCL), and Oceania’s Pentanet.GG. The three Group A teams will play each other four times in a quadruple round robin best-of-one format while the rest of the groups will be double round robin.
Group B will be where the inexperienced MAD face off against Southeast Asia’s PSG Talon, Turkey’s Istanbul Wildcats and Brazil’s paiN Gaming. Meanwhile, Cloud9 face a stern test with Korea’s DWG KIA, Latin America’s Infinity Esports and Japan’s DetonatioN FocusMe.
The top two teams from each group will then advance to a brand new stage known as the Rumble. This will be a six-team group where all the teams will face each other in another double round robin of best-of-ones.
That will then decide the top four teams who will advance to the classic knockout format with the semi-finals and final being played in best-of-five series to decide this year’s MSI champion.
The MSI trophy hopefuls
After fighting their way back up to the top, Cloud9 will be keen to replicate or even one-up Team Liquid’s heroics from a couple of years ago.
While expectations have been tempered following North American teams’ poor showings at recent international events, there is certainly some cautious optimism surrounding this exciting Cloud9 line-up.
A lot of that is due to the signing of the most decorated western player of all-time, mid-laner Luka ‘Perkz’ Perković. The Croatian has had an extraordinary career with a record eight European titles as well as an MSI title and a World Championship final appearance.
Perkz has made a habit of performing to the best of his ability when the pressure is on. It’s why he seemingly stepped up a level once the LoL Championship Series (LCS) Playoffs began and what led to one of the best performances of his career during a historic shock win over RNG who he will finally get to meet again.
But as a whole the team looks a real threat as their aggressive style saw the squad breeze through the LCS Spring Playoffs. The biggest question mark will be young toplaner Ibrahim ‘Fudge’ Allami. The Australian has come on leaps and bounds already during his short LCS stint and though it’s hard to judge whether he’s ready for the international stage, this will still undoubtedly be a crucial experience for the 18-year-old Australian.
As for the top teams Cloud9 could potentially face, Perkz and botlaner Jesper ‘Zven’ Svenningsen have been denied the chance at reuniting with their former team G2 as the youthful MAD Lions pulled off a sensational victory.
The inexperienced team impressively picked apart G2 who then surprisingly failed to defeat Rogue in the semi-finals. In a five-game thriller, MAD completed a reverse sweep against Rogue thanks to their extraordinary team-fighting which should make them an exciting match for Cloud9.
The fact MAD were continuously able to comeback showed their mental fortitude which is necessary in a big tournament such as this. However, the lack of experience could well come back to haunt them just as it did in the Worlds Play-Ins last year.
As for the rest of the tournament, RNG and DWG will be the main two title favourites. RNG did superbly in the LPL playoffs after a dominant season with talented 20-year-old botlaner Chen ‘GALA’ Wei their star man. The spiritual successor to legendary botlaner Jian ‘Uzi’ Zi-Hao picked up a spectacular pentakill during the LPL finals and will surely be a player everybody has their eyes on.
Meanwhile, reigning World Champions DWG have kept the majority of their squad with former T1 toplaner Kim ‘Khan’ Dong-ha the only change. The team dominated the LoL Champions Korea (LCK) playoffs without dropping a single game and will be the one team that everybody wants to take down.