The Mid-Seasonal Invitational is bringing the League of Legends champions from every region together for yet another thrilling tournament that will create storylines for the remainder of the year. Jack Stewart takes a look at some top contenders of this year's edition.
After a short break, competitive League of Legends is back with this year’s Mid-Season Invitational (MSI), which takes place in South Korea from May 10, 2022, to May 29, 2022.
The international tournament is bringing the League of Legends champions from every region together for yet another thrilling tournament that will create storylines for the remainder of the year.
South Korea, China, and Europe have representatives that have all won the MSI before while North America is sending fresh blood in the form of Evil Geniuses, who just won their first domestic title and will hope that their new generation of talent can finally give the region something to cheer about internationally.
And, of course, there will be a wealth of talent joining the tournament from the ‘wildcard’ regions who will undoubtedly leave their mark on the big stage. But we’ll allow them to introduce themselves with the inevitable shock victories they’ll accrue and instead focus on the core four of South Korea, China, Europe, and North America. Yes, it’s a bit unfair to leave out PSG Talon but the PCS champions have always done well after being overlooked at international tournaments, it’s almost a tradition at this point.
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LEC Spring Champions - G2 Esports
For once, G2 Esports claimed a European title and people were surprised. After their unprecedented international success in 2019, the storied organisation had a solid 2020 and then gathered what was the LEC equivalent of the Avengers. They added legendary Bot-laner Martin “Rekkles” Larsson to the squad that had claimed an MSI title and reached a Worlds final but what followed next was an astronomical failure. The superteam were eliminated early in both the Spring and Summer playoffs last year and failed to qualify for Worlds for the first time ever.
Fast forward to 2022 and G2 went back to the drawing board, giving Top-laner Sergen "BrokenBlade" Celik another shot at playing for a top organisation while opting for a young bot-lane duo from Europe’s regional leagues, in the form of rookie Victor "Flakked" Lirola Tortosa and former Karmine Corp Support player Raphael "Targamas" Crabbe.
Heading into this season, G2 were one of the biggest question marks in the league. With Team Vitality heavily strengthening their squad and Fnatic putting together a crazy roster, a lot of G2 fans expressed their anger at their offseason moves as they seemed to be falling behind. While Vitality were a major disappointment, Rogue joined Fnatic at the top of the league while G2 barely followed behind.
As the season went on, it became clear that this G2 squad had talent but their glaring issues meant nobody really expected them to mount a meaningful push for the Spring title. Especially after they were quite comfortably defeated by Fnatic in the opening round and were sentenced to the loser’s bracket.
Yet, what happened next was extraordinary. Suddenly, everything clicked into place and G2 went on a rampage, defeating Europe’s top teams without dropping a single game. They defeated Vitality, Misfits Gaming, Fnatic, and finally Rogue in the final 3-0 to claim the title in an exceptional run.
After admitting he had lost confidence last year, Rasmus “caPs” Winther was suddenly making play after play and reminding everybody what he was capable of while “Targamas” proved his success with Karmine Corp wasn't a fluke as no LEC team could find a way to stop his roaming playmaking. In fact, the rest of his teammates have regularly name-dropped him as a huge contributor to the squad’s success.
While they face very stiff competition at MSI this year, if Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski can help unlock “caPs” and “Targamas” on the map while “BrokenBlade” and “Flakked” continue to act as the unshakeable cornerstones of every comp, G2 could surprise everyone on the big stage once more.
LCK Spring Champions - T1
While G2 had a rocky start to their season, T1 were the best team in their region from the start as they clinically picked the LCK apart to remarkably complete a perfect 18-0 record - a feat that no other LCK team has ever accomplished in one of the most competitive leagues in the world.
And it continued to be smooth sailing in the playoffs for the most storied organisation in League of Legends history as T1 crushed Kwangdong Freecs 3-0 before taking down Gen.G Esports 3-1 in the final to secure a record 10th LCK title for the organisation and their star player Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok.
After such an extreme level of domination, T1 have made themselves favourites to lift the MSI trophy. As the only organisation to have won the tournament more than once, a third title would be even more historic.
But what exactly makes this T1 team so strong? Simply, they are extremely well-drilled as a team and know how to perfectly play out every situation - a staple of every great squad the LCK has produced over the years. Of course, they are stacked with individual talent, with 18-year-old Choi "Zeus" Woo-je thriving with sole ownership of the Top-laner role while Bot-laner Lee "Gumayusi" Min-hyeong was the only player to record more than 200 kills in the LCK Spring regular season with an incredible tally of 219.
T1 are experts at setting up traps and pressuring opponents, forcing them to make mistakes. How teams handle and adapt to those challenges will be very telling of each representative’s performance level.
LCS Spring Champions - Evil Geniuses
As we alluded to earlier, Evil Geniuses shocked everyone and lifted the LCS title after a breath-taking run.
With a mix of youth and experience, Evil Geniuses already turned heads earlier in the year when they reached the Lock-In final after a set of impressive games. Suddenly, there were high expectations on the team but they stumbled their way through Spring and only narrowly earned a place in the top four thanks to a tiebreaker victory over FlyQuest.
Had they not done that and earned a place in the winner’s bracket, Evil Geniuses may never have even made it to the finals as they lost in the opening round to Team Liquid – though it was a five-game thriller and far closer than most expected considering how heavily Liquid were fancied for the title. But then Evil Geniuses incredibly went on a G2-esque run with a 3-1 win over FlyQuest before incredibly battering Cloud9, Team Liquid, and reigning champions 100 Thieves 3-0 to lift the trophy.
Of course, all eyes will be on the team’s young superstars Joseph Joon "jojopyun" Pyun and Kyle "Danny" Sakamaki and how they perform on the international stage. After years of North American teams struggling internationally, it’s likely that Evil Geniuses will have a hard time too. But any victory against a top team will be a big result and an encouraging sign for North America’s next generation, which will hopefully inspire other LCS teams to put more faith in domestic talent.
Win or lose, this experience can only be a good thing for Evil Geniuses’ budding stars. But there’s no point in being defeatist before a single game has even been played because this squad is absolutely capable of causing some upsets.
LPL Spring Champions - Royal Never Give Up
Another tournament favourite, there’s no doubt that Royal Never Give Up (RNG) are going to be a scary prospect for any team.
After disappointingly dropping out of Worlds at the quarter-finals stage, Li "Xiaohu" Yuan-Hao moved back to being a Mid-laner and made way for Top-laner Chen "Bin" Ze-Bin who G2 fans will remember well but not so fondly for his infamous Gangplank play against them during his days with Suning.
Both Solo-laners have been in fantastic form while Bot-laners Chen "GALA" Wei and Shi "Ming" Sen-Ming will always pose a substantial threat.
Unlike Evil Geniuses or G2, RNG have been pretty consistent all year so far, finishing second in the regular season before successfully navigating their way through the winner’s bracket by reverse-sweeping JD Gaming before twice beating Top Esports who had made somewhat of a miracle run into the finals after defeating four other teams.
With incredible mechanics and superb team fighting, RNG are rightfully favourites alongside T1. In fact, they might even be angry that they aren’t the odds-on favourites themselves.
*Odds are subject to change.