Keeping track of each Major League of Legends event can be tricky and with different formats for each event, confusing to understand. We break-down four of the Major events that take place throughout the year.
The League of Legends (LoL) esport calendar is a different one though it takes a different format to what you may have seen in other games.
Riot Games opt to run regional leagues across the globe with the main four being Europe (LEC), North America (LCS), South Korea (LCK), China (LPL) and the joint league between Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao (LMS). The domestic season is divided into two “Splits” - Spring Split and Summer Split. These two half seasons run as domestic leagues in which the final standings then decide teams’ position in the Playoffs.
And by winning each Split, teams can qualify for one of the few international events throughout the year with the main goal being the LoL World Championships. With the Spring Split coming to a close, we’ve decided to look forward and explain every international tournament for you.
What is the Mid-Season Invitational (MSI)?
The first international event of the year and the biggest behind the World Championships, the Mid-Season Invitational (MSI) is a prestigious tournament where the world’s best teams come together to prove which region is strongest.
The Spring Split winners from every domestic league are invited to compete for a prize pool of $1million, regional pride and, most importantly, seeding for the World Championships. The better a team performs, the better seeding their region will receive for the World Championships.
Why this is extremely important is it means the region of the winning team will be guaranteed a place in the Worlds group stages for all three of its seeds. Otherwise, the bottom seeds of that region will have to compete in the “Play-In” to earn their spot in the tournament.
Outside of the major five regions mentioned in the beginning of this article, the rest of the regions are known as “wildcards”. The wildcard teams compete in a mini-group stage with the top two teams then being drawn into playoff matches to decide who fills the final group stage places.
MSI has a Play-In stage of its own which whittles down the 13 invited teams to just six. Because of previous performances, China, Europe and Korea are all guaranteed a place at MSI this year. Meanwhile, North America and the LMS team will have to compete in the second round of the Play-In meaning they will have to play against a wildcard region such as Vietnam, Brazil or Japan.
What is Rift Rivals?
Rift Rivals is a less serious tournament as it doesn’t have any larger implications, it’s simply for regional pride. This year, the wildcard versions have been scrapped with just the two major tournaments remaining: Europe vs. North America and Korea vs. China vs. the LMS regions.
Every team play's once in the first three or four games. In Asia, both regions choose their teams at the same time and in EU vs. NA the winning team of the group stages is able to choose the match-ups of the first three games of the best of five.
Taking place in July during the Summer Split, while the domestic leagues take a break, the top seeds from each region join forces to defeat their rivals and give their own fans something to cheer about.
For the western version, Europe (LEC) and America (LCS) send their top three seeds from Spring Split to compete. At the time of writing, no LCS teams are locked in but the LEC already has two guaranteed participants in G2 and Origen. Meanwhile, in the LCK vs. LPL vs. LMS, each region sends four teams.
The tournament uses a group stage format as every team plays each of their rivals once in a best of one. The best performing region in these groups then gets an advantage for the final which is a “relay” best of five match between the best two regions. In Asia, the best performing team goes straight through to the final while the other two compete in the same Rift Rivals’ unique relay-style best of five format to decide the other finalist.
The relay best of fives see each region’s coaches come together to decide what team will play in each game. Every team must play at least once in the first three or four games. In Asia, both regions choose their teams at the same time so that neither has an advantage. Meanwhile, in EU vs. NA the winning team of the group stages is able to choose the match-ups of the first three games of the best of five. If a fourth or fifth match happens, then both teams will decide at the same time.
It’s a fun tournament with the interesting attraction of teams being able to counter-pick who they think stylistically works best against their opponents. That and the regional rivalries lead to some excellent trash talk online.
Why is the League of Legends World Championship important?
The big one. The LoL World Championships, more commonly known just as Worlds, is the pinnacle for any professional player. The ability to call yourself the best in the world is a unique honour that only a handful of teams have managed to accomplish. Of the eight world championships, South Korea’s SK Telecom T1 has won three.
The tournament sees a group stage where every team plays the other three teams in their group twice with the top two teams advancing. The tournament then turns into a knockout format of quarter-finals, semi-finals and a final.
Korea’s dominance ended last year as China’s Invictus Gaming took home the trophy and all three of Europe’s teams also had surprisingly strong showings.
Worlds invites the top three seeds from each major region and the wildcard regions will get one or two Play-In spots depending on their performances at MSI. If one does extremely well at MSI, we could even see a wildcard team guaranteed a place in the group stages like Vietnam last year.
The top three seeds for major regions are decided through teams performances throughout the year, not just in the Summer-Split. If you win the Summer Split, you are guaranteed a place at Worlds but the other seeds are decided by championship points. The higher you place in both the Spring and Summer Splits, the more points you earn.
In Summer, once the winner of the Playoffs is decided a gauntlet is held between the remaining top teams to decide who gets the third and final spot. Each teams’ place in the gauntlet is again decided by how well the teams performed in the Playoffs.
As for Worlds itself, the tournament sees an intense group stage where every team plays the other three teams in their group twice with the top two teams advancing. The tournament then transforms into a knockout format of quarter-finals, semi-finals and a final which all feature best of five matches.
Worlds is the only LoL tournament which uses fan-funding for the prize pool which resulted in Invictus Gaming taking home over $2million last year. The winning players also each get to pick a character in-game to receive a special purchasable outfit (aka skin) which will be designed around their team’s brand.
And finally closing out the year is All-Stars which laid-back event purely for fun. Fans vote for their favourite players of each region to form super teams who compete against each other in both serious and funny matches.
The highlight of the tournament is the 1 vs. 1 tournament which puts players on the smaller Howling Abyss map (one single lane) in which they must either kill their opponent, destroy the opponent’s tower kill 100 minions
Last year, the event included famous LoL streamers and content creators to join the pro players to again add to the relaxed and refreshing atmosphere of the tournament. Teams face off in regional matches in both normal modes and League of Legends’ fun bonus modes such as URF mode which allows all players to use their abilities as much as possible rather than with mana limitations and cooldowns.
There is also the hilarious tandem event which sees players pair up to create teams of 10 with one player controlling the mouse and the other the keyboard.
But the real highlight of the tournament is the 1v1 tournament which puts players on the smaller Howling Abyss map (one single lane) in which they must either kill their opponent, destroy the opponent’s tower kill 100 minions to win. The matches are ridiculously tense and are a fantastic showcase of the skill these individual pro players have.