MSI is canceled, but it could have been quite a thrilling competition.
This time last year, each region was getting ready to send its representative to the highly competitive League of Legends Mid-Season Invitational. The top teams from each region were sent to duke it out for the title of “best team in the world" halfway through the season.
Unfortunately due to extenuating circumstances, Riot has postponed, and eventually canceled this year's MSI amid the coronavirus pandemic. This leaves each region wondering what might have happened if they got to send their Spring Split winner to fight for their chance to win this highly esteemed tournament.
Three of the four major regions have crowned their 2020 Spring Split champion thus far. Each of these teams respectively bested their opponents with a 3-0 match score. This leads us to believe fairly definitively that each region would have been sending their best.
For fans, this is a real downer as we will not get to see the ferocious battles between these domestic powerhouses. For the teams though, it is an absolute tragedy. They will not get the opportunity to prove themselves among the best the world has to offer. Here’s a look into what teams we could have seen competing if MSI wasn't canceled.
North America (LCS)
It had been six years since Cloud9 hoisted the NA LCS trophy. And this split, the drought is over. Cloud9 absolutely dominated their competition in the 2020 Spring Split. They boasted an impressive 26-2 record throughout the regular season and playoffs combined. They dropped only one game in their playoff run and went on to a clean 3-0 sweep of their opponents FlyQuest in the Finals.
If you have any doubts about the pure talent C9, look no further than the 2020 Spring Split All-Pro team. For the first time ever in North America, the All-Pro team consisted of all five players from one team. Their coach Bok "Reapered" Han-gyu, who is renowned for his creative drafts, was donned Coach of the Split. C9’s Star AD-carry Jesper “Zven” Svenningson became the first player ever to win a title in both North America and Europe. Cloud9 as an organization is no stranger to domestic and international success though. C9 is the only team in LCS or NA LCS history to make a Final in at least one split every year since their conception. Additionally, C9 has attended every World Championship since Season Three!
In 2018 C9 made it further than any other NA team ever at the World Championship with a Semifinals run ending in a loss to Fnatic. With the combined historical success and all the compiled accolades from this iteration of Cloud9, surely the stars are aligned for a deep international run. North America’s representatives are more than ready to flex their new-found muscles internationally. Unfortunately for them, they will have to duplicate their performance in the Summer Split. We will have to wait until the World Championship later this year to see how C9 will match up against the best from other regions.
If you've been following the European scene of League of Legends, it should be no surprise that last year's MSI’s winner G2 Esports was crowned the LEC Spring Split champions. This star-studded roster claimed their third consecutive title with a decisive 3-0 over their rivals Fnatic.
The road to success wasn't quite as easy as it had been in previous years though. Both Europe and North America integrated a new playoff format coming into this competitive year featuring a double elimination system. This worked out very well in G2’s favor. A new rookie lineup in MAD Lions accomplished a massive upset, defeating G2 3-2 in the first round of playoffs. This lit a fire under G2’s belly, who then went on to win three consecutive series to claim their crown.
G2’s dominant split was not surprising in the least bit. However, some uncertainty may come from the role swap they performed at the beginning of the split, swapping Luka “Perkz” Perković and Rasmus “Caps” Winther to the mid and ADC roles respectively. This is not the first time G2 has role swapped though. They moved Perkz from mid to ADC to make room for Caps at the start of the 2019 season. G2 Esports has already proved what they can do on the international stage with quite an impressive recent resume.
In 2018 they made it to the World's semi-finals losing out in the final four teams to eventual champions Invictus Gaming. Last year, they were crowned MSI champs over North America’s Team Liquid, but then went on to lose 0-3 to the LPL's FunPlus Phoenix in the World Finals. G2 is leaps and bounds ahead of their domestic competition- much like Cloud9. With MSI canceled, the European champs, unfortunately, won't get a shot at defending their MSI title.
On the topic of historically winning organizations, why not chat about the most accomplished org in League of Legends history? SK Telecom T1, recently rebranded as T1 Esports, won their ninth LCK title this spring with a 3-0 defeat over opponents Gen.G Esports. The win meant a lot for this new iteration of T1 as they faced off against their former jungler Kim “Clid” Tae-min. Clid helped T1 make a deep Worlds run last year in 2019 where they made it to the semifinals and lost out to G2 Esports.
If you know League of Legends, then you know T1’s star mid-laner Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok. The most decorated LoL player of all time, Faker with T1 has won nine domestic titles, three World Championships, and two MSI Championships. Winning and T1 Esports have become synonymous with each other. Although T1 and Gen.G were neck and neck in the standings this split, it seemed that T1 was the favorite when it came down to the Grand Finals. T1’s rising star AD-carry Park "Teddy" Jin-seong claims his third LCK title and 1000th career kill this split, becoming only the tenth player in LCK history to achieve the latter. Teddy is quickly becoming another familiar face paired with T1’s success, alongside his support Lee “Effort” Sang-ho.
T1 also made major changes to the coaching staff prior to this split. Their former coach, Kim "kk0na Jeong-gyun, had been with the organization for seven years before they parted ways after last year's Worlds run. T1 picked up coach Kim "Kim" Jeong-soo at the beginning of the 2020 season. Coach Kim famously coached 2018 World Champions Invictus Gaming, as well as Korean powerhouse DAMWON Gaming last year. Could the addition of Coach Kim help T1 reclaim international success this year? For now, we won't know.
Despite T1 and the LCK’s historical success internationally, in recent history, the LCK has been outshined internationally by China’s LPL. 2018 and 2019 both saw LPL teams crowned World Champions. China has been seen as of late as the final boss for teams aspiring to take the crown. It seems at the minimum, if you want to win a World Championship, you need to be able to take down the best the LPL has to offer. So who will be the LPL’s “would be” MSI representative this year? Might it be the recent champions in FunPlus Phoenix and their “super carry” mid DoinB? Perhaps 2018 champions Invictus Gaming with their fierce solo laners Rookie and TheShy? Maybe it could be one of the teams with more historical success like team Royal Never Give Up or Edward Gaming. The answer? None of the above.
This Saturday, the LPL will crown a new champion. JD Gaming and Top Esports will battle it out to claim the title of being the best team in the potentially best region in the world. Top Esports ended the regular season in fourth place winning 11 best of three’s and losing five. They added 19-year-old superstar and former World Champion AD-carry Yu "JackeyLove" Wen-Bo to their roster halfway to the split. Jackeylove teams up with mid laner and fan-favorite Zhuo "knight" Ding making a very threatening lineup.
JD Gaming finished the LPL regular season in second place with an impressive 12-4 series score and 26-10 match score. They feature regular split MVP jungler Seo "Kanavi" Jin-hyeok who only died three times in their decisive 3-0 in the semifinals over reigning world champions FunPlus Phoenix. Whatever team takes home the trophy this Saturday will be able to proudly raise their first LPL trophy.
What Could Have Been
These four regions, as well as various emerging regions, were set to send representatives this May to fight for their chance at the MSI Trophy. Proving themselves, their team, and their region as a force to be reckoned with. We are robbed of this spectacle due to a global health pandemic. However, we may find ourselves wondering if in an alternate timeline where this competition did ensue; Who would come out on top?
Personally, my favorites to win it all would be 2019 Worlds Finalist G2 Esports. With the absence of FunPlus Phoenix who swept G2 in last year's World Finals, I think G2 has the star-power and international experience to best the competition. G2 Esports have top players in their respective roles at all five of their positions. The only glaring weakness they bear is the criticism that sometimes domestically they don't try their hardest.
G2 on top
The most difficult part about playing against G2 is drafting against them. They play a style that involves early picking champions that can be played in multiple lanes. This makes it difficult to counter pick or ban them out in later stages of the draft. You never know where a champion is going until all five picks are in.
G2 is also a team that plays to its limits extremely well. They know how to make plays that push them to the very brink of death but still survive and yield positive outcomes. They are a team that is the epitome of “high risk, high reward”. Another factor in G2’s success is the team atmosphere. If you watch their social media you will often see players joking around with each other. They are young, hungry players who all are very motivated to be the best. And very importantly, at least to the public eye, they are all friends.
Summer Split and Beyond
In the latest update by Riot Games, they announced that due to recent international success Europe’s LEC and China’s LPL would be receiving a fourth seed in this year's World Championship. This means that China and Europe are allowed to send four teams to represent their region to the tournament. Although we won't get the opportunity to see this year's Mid-Season Invitational, this news is very exciting for the next big international tournament on the schedule. It'll be interesting to track the teams mentioned to see how they fare in their respective Summer Splits, in hopes that they will qualify for the 2020 World Championship. The LPL has not yet announced when their Summer Split will start. But tune in to the LEC starting June 12, the LCS on June 13, The LCK on June 16.