This year’s MSI Top Lane talent pool is a rather exciting one! It is full of rookies, trying to prove themselves on the international stage, veterans trying to get their redemption, and some new faces looking to bring glory to their respective regions.
Inven Global's top five top laners at this year's MSI are:
- Kim "Khan" Dong-ha — DWG KIA
Li "Xiaohu" Yuan-Hao — Royan Never Give Up
- İrfan Berk "Armut" Tükek — MAD Lions
- Ibrahim "Fudge" Allami — Cloud9
- Su "Hanabi" Chia-Hsiang — PSG Talon
After an MSI 2018 final, MSI 2019 semifinal, and a disappointing 2020 (mostly spent on the FPX bench), Khan is back to an international outing, sporting the top lane of the world's best team.
There were a lot of expectations as Khan joined the world champions, poised to extend their domestic domination and add more international trophies. The player didn’t fail to deliver as he was an important part of DK’s success throughout this split. Khan played mostly weak side, his most played champions being Sion (18) Gnar (8), and Ornn (7).
Looking at the top lane talent pool of MSI, Khan is the one with the most international experience! This is an advantage that will come in hand when he faces the other inexperienced top laners and it will for sure help him in asserting dominance. An argument can be made about Xiaohu but here we are talking about top lane Xiahou, not mid lane.
Yet again, DWG Kia are the favorites and Khan will do everything possible to win his first international title.
Xiaohu is back after two years of absence but this time as a top laner!
Xiaohu roleswaped at the beginning of the split as RNG was having a hard time finding a top laner, but it turned out great: RNG won their first split since the “Uzi era” ended with 2018 Summer. Xiaohu’s role swap triggered an experimental phase for RNG, as they tried to bring his mid lane champion pool to the top lane. He found success on a lot of then, most outstandingly his 9-0 Lucian. He also got a lot of practice playing weakside with Gnar as his most played champion with 14 games on record.
Xiaohu brought flexibility to the top lane for RNG and this proved to be the right recipe. He was the main carry throughout the split and RNG was often investing all of their resources in the top lane, relying on his mechanics and game knowledge to carry the games.
Xiaohu is the only MSI winner from the top laners, and he will be going for a repeat in Iceland.
After knocking MAD Lions out of the Worlds 2020 Play-In stage, Armut joined them for the 2021 LEC season. His laning was a major weakness at first, often falling behind in CS and XP, but his teamfighting abilities covered for it, as he crawled back into games that he was supposed to lose. This became a defining trend for Armut: he’d sacrifice his lane, only to shine in teamfights and secure wins for MAD.
During the LEC finals, Armut showed an insane mentality. After losing the first two games, he pointed to the camera that the reverse sweep was coming! In games 4 and 5, he brought out his signature Wukong, completing the reverse sweep and sending MAD to MSI.
This is Armut’s third international appearance after rather lackluster Worlds 2019 and 2020 showings, failing to reach the group stage in both. In Iceland, he will seek redemption for a disappointing Worlds 2020 performance, and for that to happen, MAD Lions will have to secure, at the very least, the expected semifinals finish.
As expected from a rookie, Fudge had a shaky start to the season, even more so during the LCS Lock-in tournament where his stats were unsatisfactory. His biggest problem was the early game laning, averaging -342 GD@10 and uninspiring -288 XPD@10. Through resilience and hard work, however, he kept improving and eventually eradicated most of his laning problems, mostly getting his -288 XPD@10 to +121 XPD@10 during the Spring Split.
Fudge is a team player — he doesn’t care about winning his lane, only about contributing to the team so the game can be won. He is willing to sacrifice himself and play whatever is needed, and throughout the Spring Split, he whipped out some spicy picks, including Karma, Malphite, Lulu, and Jax. His champion pool diversity had 16 unique champions — quite a bit in the current meta.
Fudge is coming to the International stage for the second time in his career, following a 2019 Worlds Play-In stage elimination with MAMMOTH. This time Fudge will be looking to improve both as an individual and a player and the expectations will be higher as he arrives alongside a much better team, too.
Hanabi comes off of PSG Talon’s most successful split ever in the PCS, finishing 26-1. This is a unique achievement, and no one did it before, which supposedly makes PSG Talon the super team from the PCS. Playing weakside for Talon, Hanabi also had his best year, finishing with 8.0 KDA across 27 games.
While he is a weakside expert, Hanabi has a “small” problem. His champion pool is rather limited. He played 13 out of 27 games on Gnar, and believe me, this champion will be banned against PSG Talon during MSI. MSI will offer much harder opposition for Hanabi than PCS, and with his Gnar likely sitting out all Hanabi’s matches, Talon’s top laner will be challenged to find success.
All images by: Riot Games