Tournament favorites and exciting underdogs fill the ranks of MSI's Group C.
The stage is set for the first international LoL event of 2021, the Mid-Season Invitational. After being canceled last year, the tournament is back on and bringing the best teams in the world together. As per the format of MSI, there will be three Groups fighting in the Group Stage, one of the most stacked ones being Group C. With the reigning World Champions leading the pack, along with rising NA stars and threatening Wild Card teams, it's hard to say otherwise.
Also read: Everything You Need To Know About MSI 2021
Pool One: DAMWON Gaming KIA (LCK)
- Top: Kim “Khan” Dong-ha
- Jungle: Kim “Canyon” Geon-bu
- Mid: Heo “Showmaker” Su
- ADC: Jang “Ghost” Yong-jun
- Support: Cho “BeryL” Geon-hee
After an easy LCK Spring Split, DAMWON Gaming KIA is the team to watch in this year's MSI, no doubt. During the regular season, they only dropped two series, ending in first place with an impressive 16-2 record. In the playoffs, DWG KIA showcased their dominance by beating both Hanwha Life Esports and Gen.G in 3-0 fashion before claiming the LCK trophy. Besides having an insane split, they're the reigning World Champions too, of course.
However, there is one different part of the roster this season for the squad. The team traded Jang “Nuguri” Ha-gwon to FunPlus Phoenix for Khan. While Nuguri was a brilliant player, he was very volatile at times. Khan is a more consistent player and has been a rock for the team, playing mostly tanks like Sion. While he doesn't have the same pop-off carry performances like Nuguri was known for, he's a reliable role player. That's not to say he can't pull more aggressive picks off. You can never afford to underestimate a world-caliber player like this, even if his recent history does show a lot of weak-side play.
Looking at the rest of the team, it's still the same uber-dominant side that handily won the 2020 World Championship. Canyon and Showmaker are the main carries, with most of the attention going towards them. They're the key two players of the team and MSI viewers should be excited to watch their explosive play when the action starts. Meanwhile, the bot lane duo of Ghost and BeryL play consistently well too, and are crucial towards the later stages of the game.
All eyes are on DWG KIA to have an impressive MSI run. There are a few threats to them, although it's uncertain if anyone can truly match these giants if they're in peak form.
Pool Two: Cloud9 (LCS)
- Top: Ibrahim “Fudge” Allami
- Jungle: Robert “Blaber” Huang
- Mid: Luka “Perkz” Perković
- ADC: Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen
- Support: Philippe “Vulcan” Laflamme
2020 was a wild year for Cloud9. They won the Spring Split but were denied MSI because of COVID, then struggled in Summer and ultimately missed out on Worlds. Even though they showcased dominance for much of the season, they never had a chance to test their mettle against teams outside of NA. Well, now they have that very chance, as they beat Team Liquid in a tense five-game LCS Grand Finals to claim NA's spot in the event.
Without a doubt, the biggest pre-season signing was Perkz to C9, coming over from G2 Esports. He's been a fantastic pickup for the team, with a wealth of experience in top competition, including multiple European titles and international Finals. Besides him, C9 promoted Fudge to the starting top lane position this year after they gave Eric “Licorice” Ritchie to FlyQuest. Despite having a rough start to the season, he's grown into a top-tier top laner, going toe-to-toe with players like Barney “Alphari” Morris and winning.
Their core from last year is just as strong too. The bot lane duo of Zven and Vulcan is still known to always punish enemies in lane and carry in team fights. But Blaber in particular is on top of his game. He recently won the Honda MVP Award after a spectacular split, where he constantly gained his team advantages with aggressive ganks, invades and skirmish engages.
Overall, C9 loves their aggression, playing through Blaber in the early game. In addition, they're willing to experiment with crazy strategies, like the Game Five lane swap against TL. They're carrying the weight of NA's hopes on their shoulders and definitely have the potential to make a deep run.
Pool Three: Infinity Esports (LLA)
- Top: Mateo Alejandro “Buggax” Aroztegui Zamora
- Jungle: Diego “SolidSnake” Vallejo Trujillo
- Mid: Cristian Sebastián “cody” Quispe Yampara
- ADC: Matías “WhiteLotus” Musso
- Support: Gabriel “Ackerman” Aparicio
Representing Latin America and the LLA is Infinity Esports, a team with a lot to prove. The organization has only made it to one major international event, the 2018 World Championship, and is hungry for its shot at MSI 2021. This season was a tense battle between them and Furious Gaming, as both teams were neck-to-neck for the championship. Furious Gaming had the better start, taking 1st place in the regular season, but Infinity stepped it up in Playoffs. They won their first series convincingly, then went all five games against Furious, beating them in a close Finals to claim the region's MSI spot.
When looking at INF, all eyes immediately go to the bottom lane. WhiteLotus and Ackerman are a powerful duo, both in and out of lane. They have the highest kill participation percentages out of the entire team. As well as the highest KDAs. Though funnily enough, it is the support Ackerman that has the higher of the two, not ADC WhiteLotus. These two are adept at playing any sort of style. Sometimes, they prefer the scaling of Jinx-Thresh or Senna-Tahm Kench. Then, other times, they pull out a Kalista-Pyke lane and stack kills on kills.
Now, even though the bot lane takes the spotlight, Cody deserves recognition. Despite getting less gold typically, he does a lot of damage with the lower gold he has. With his pool of control mages, he does his job well all the time and is a great asset. With these main pieces at their side, INF will hope they can cause some upsets. The cards are stacked against them with RNG and C9 in the same group, but they have an explosive element that can be threatening to even them.
Pool Four: Detonation FocusMe (LJL)
- Top: Shunsuke “Evi” Murase
- Jungle: Mun “Steal” Geon-yeong
- Mid: Lee “Aria” Ga-eul and Kyohei “Ceros” Yoshida
- ADC: Yuta “Yutapon” Sugiura
- Support: Kazuta “Kazu” Suzuki
Coming in from Japan, Detonation FocusMe is back on the international stage to continue representing the LJL. Between 2018 and 2019, the team rose to prominence but suffered some unlucky circumstances in 2020, similarly to C9. They convincingly won the Spring Split but lost out on an international showing due to COVID. Then, they faltered in the Summer Finals, experiencing an upset loss to V3 Esports. However, they're back at the top of their game now. But is that enough to bring recognition to the region?
It is, if mid laner Aria has anything to say about it. He joined the team this season and has been a huge boon for them. Throughout the entire Spring Split, he boasts the highest KDA of all players with an impressive 12.0 KDA, with a total of a 55/12/89 scoreline across his games. In addition, he won the unofficial English LJL broadcast's MVP award for the split. Truth be told, he smurfed on the league and the rest of DFM is fully behind him. He's fantastic on aggressive mid laners and has some explosive picks like Kassadin and Qiyana. It's important to note, too, that DFM still retains its previous mid laner Ceros, who is known for unique picks like Ziggs, Heimerdinger and Neeko. This dual-threat in the mid lane can make it hard for some teams to prepare for DFM.
Besides the mid lane position, the rest of the roster remains the same. Evi is a rock in the top lane, while Yutapon is an insane farming ADC who dishes out the damage late game. They're all very familiar with each other, and the international stage, which is definitely important for a team, especially an underdog one like DFM is. Despite having low expectations, DFM does have a lot of power in their carry positions and may play a respectable spoiler in some matches.