The 2021 Mid-Season Invitational is less than a day away, and with eleven teams participating in the whirlwind of international competition, it can be difficult to head into the event familiarized with the entire field. Fortunately, Inven Global's MSI 2021 cheat sheet has provided you the information on how these teams play, how they got to the international stage, and the players key in their successes. Let's dive in.
➕ Playstyle/strengths: Cloud9's greatest strength throughout the 2021 League of Legends Championship Series was the players' individual flexibility. Over time, that flexibility allowed the team to win the game in multiple ways more consistently than any other team in North America. C9's flexibility allows to draft and play around anywhere on the map, and its strong early game is backed by impressive cohesion in skirmishes and teamfights.
➖ Weaknesses: C9's weak point in rookie top laner Ibrahim "Fudge" Allami was exposed in his debut in the LCS Lock In, but Fudge's rate of growth throughout the rest of the season thus far has been impressive. However, international play is an entirely different beast, and if Fudge needs time to adjust to yet another new level, that amount of time might not be enough for the team to make a deep run at MSI.
🔑 Key Player: Luka "Perkz" Perković is the player to watch for Cloud9. Perkz has many deep international runs, including being a crucial part of the only western MSI championship with G2 Esports in 2019. Perkz was signed to elevate Cloud9 to new heights, and winning the LCS was only the beginning of whether the mid laner will be able to meet his sky-high expectations.
➕ Playstyle/strengths: DWG dominated the LCK without dropping a single game throughout the playoffs. Their team is full of homegrown talent that's arguably the best at each position worldwide. In the LCK, DWG was always the team who would wait for the enemy to make a mistake and they would favor scaling compositions as none of the five players are really prone to making early and mid-game mistakes.
➖ Weaknesses: Being the best team in the world doesn't leave much room for weakness, but there are still ways to beat DWG. Those scaling compositions can be punished with an early game drafting from the enemy team, but those have to be executed perfectly, and DWG don't screw up often. Secondly, the bot lane of DWG seems to be the weakest point of the team, as the playstyle of Jang "Ghost" Yong-jun is usually a supportive one and they rarely win through bot lane.
🔑 Key Player: Heo "ShowMaker" Su has proven the last year that he is the man behind DWG's success. His roaming playstyle is second to none, and the ability to create advantages for his other laners usually puts Damwon on the winning side of the rift.
➕ Playstyle/strengths: DetonatioN FM has more international appearances than any other Japanese organization, and its success so far throughout the 2021 League of Legends Japan League has been due to veteran presences like top laner Shunsuke "Evi" Murase and mainstay AD carry Yuta "Yutapon" Sugiura with new blood in mid laner Lee "Aria" Ga-eul. This iteration of the DFM roster is quite similar to previous rosters, but with undeniably more firepower than previous international competitions.
➖ Weaknesses: The question isn't whether DFM is better now than it was in the past, it's whether it will be enough. The struggles of the LJL at international competitions has not been one of stylistic mismatches, but simply a result of being outmatched by other teams. The Japanese scene has without a doubt improved, especially since its the LJL's franchising, but those improvements have yet to net a successful group stage and have only been incrementally shown.
🔑 Key Player: Aria plays the conventional champions much better than former starter Kyohei "Ceros" Yoshida, and he boasted impressive flexibility of his own by playing 11 champions throughout the LJL Spring Playoffs. If there's one player who can subvert the expectations that the LJL has established at international events and elevate the region, it's Aria.
➕ Playstyle/strengths: MSI 2021 is Infinity Esports' first international appearance since Worlds 2018, and since then, the organization has come close to playing internationally again only to lose more than one finals series to Rainbow7. The team has a methodical playstyle that starts with jungler Diego "SolidSnake" Vallejo Trujillo and ultimately ends with veteran AD carry Matías "WhiteLotus" Musso as the team's primary carry and damage source.
➖ Weaknesses: The players on Infinity Esports have a wealth of domestic success and international appearances to boot, and should the team put WhiteLotus in a proper position to carry, the team certainly has the capability to upset some of the stronger teams in its group. However, international teams will challenge Infinity Esports throughout its tepid early game much more than Latin American teams have been able to, so whether Infinity Esports can even get to its power point later on is in question.
🔑 Key Player: WhiteLotus has competed in both Latin America and Brazil domestically and has appeared in international competitions multiple times, but not since MSI 2018 as a member of Rainbow7. WhiteLotus has shown that he can maintain domestic dominance in the eighth season of his career, but for Infinity Esports to even have a chance internationally, he'll have to make sure he can maintain that on the stage awaiting the team in Iceland.
Istanbul Wild Cats
➕ Playstyle/Strengths: Despite their international inexperience, there is plenty of reason to have high hopes for the team. The roster outperformed the domestic competition in nearly every position and had three players make the TCL’s All Pro Team. Anıl “HolyPhoenix” Işık provides a veteran presence, as well as strong team fighting ability and carry potential. With Turkish players seeing success in major regions, the talent of this team may have a chance to cause an upset.
➖ Weaknesses: A cause for concern would be the team’s unimpressive playoff performance. Without any strong results in high pressure situations, the fresh young roster doesn’t offer much confidence they can do well on the biggest stage.
🔑 Key Player: The standout is clearly Hakan "Ferret" Mert Çakmak, an exceptional young jungler that quickly rose to the TCL peak and is one of the best minor region jungler out there. Ferret can most likely cause some havoc in the jungle due to his relatively light group. Even if Wild Cats don’t find success this time around, Ferrett’s training makes him a player to look out for in the future.
➕ Playstyle/Strengths: MAD's aggressive tendencies and exceptional team fighting skills conquered the best of Europe. Though that playstyle didn’t fare well last year at Worlds, there’s reason to be optimistic this time around. The team’s macro and late-game decision-making look more polished than ever.
➖ Weaknesses: MAD's roster has continued to improve with more experience, but some players still fail to perform outside their comfort zones. Matyáš "Carzzy" Orság and Norman "Kaiser" Kaiser performed well, playing engage-heavy but didn’t show as much competence with other playstyles. If MAD can adjust to other manners of play is one of the most important questions regarding their success.
🔑 Key player: Humanoid has been the heart and soul of the team. He and Elyoya work as a great one-two punch, and his decision-making in team fights was invaluable. Overall he came into his own this season as one of the best mid laners in Europe.
➕ Playstyle/Strengths: paiN comes in as one of the most peculiar teams. They also come in on a fiery-red hot streak after an impressive playoffs showing. While the other teams paiN will be facing are mostly made up of young upcoming players, paiN boasts a roster seasoned to the point of being buried underneath a mountain of herbs. Their deep champion pools, versatile playstyle, and high level of experience create optimism for their MSI chances.
➖ Weaknesses: Although Brazillian legend and veteran Felipe "brTT" Gonçalves returning to the international stage is exciting, his over-aggressive style will not be as forgiving when playing versus international bottom lanes. Also, it’s probable top-tier teams will abuse Leonardo "Robo" Souza will be easily abuse in the top lane, and the explosive talent from other rosters might be too much for paiN to handle.
🔑 Key Player: Thiago "tinowns" Sartori has had a career resurgence to become the best player in the region. His synergy and cooperation with league MVP Marcos "Cariok" Santos de Oliveira Junior create a worthy duo for the likes of those in major regions.
➕ Playstyle/strengths: After the dissolution of the Oceanic Pro League following the conclusion of the 2020 season, the 2021 League of Legends Circuit Oceania Split 1 eventually began in its place, and at the top of the mountain down under is Pentanet.GG. The team boasts a wealth of competitive experience, nearly unmatched throughout the league, and matches it with a flair for creativity in the draft phase to throw off unsuspecting opponents.
➖ Weaknesses: As with DFM, PGG's perceived unlikely odds of success at MSI 2021 have nothing to do with the team's style, but if it can match up to the stronger teams in the group. Whether the less standardized infrastructure of the LCO has had an affect on the Oceanic region's quality of already lackluster international results may be revealed as a factor based on the results of the event.
🔑 Key Player: Jackson "Pabu" Pavone is best known to LOL esports fans for solo killing Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok in an All-Star 1v1 competition. Pabu switched to jungle in 2020 and after having extensive time playing the role has become the beating heart of Pentanet's identity due to his experience and creative champion picks.
➕ Playstyle/strengths: Talon dominated the PCS season with 26-1 record. The roster has a swath of talented players with international experience. Their domestic run displayed impressive versatility, with the team showing they were fully capable of adapting to multiple playstyles. It was the team that surprised us at Worlds, on steroids. When they qualified for MSI, it seemed possible they’d top their group.
➖ Weaknesses: Due to illness, the team’s marksman Wong “Unified” Chun Kit will be replaced by Chiu “Doggo” Tzu-Chuan. Unified was arguably the centerpiece of the team’s playstyle — the main damage dealer and most reliable force. Additionally, teams will have an easier time abusing Hanabi’s limited champion pool without the threat of a top tier bottom lane.
🔑 Key player: River continues to stand out as a potent jungle threat. He stood above the rest domestically and is one of the best at MSI. Though he’ll have more formidable opponents, his understanding of the game and synergy with Maple will be instrumental to Talon’s success.
Royal Never Give Up
➕ Playstyle/strengths: During the season, RNG was sticking to one playstyle most of the time, which was "give all the resources to Xiaohu so he can carry". The player brought his mid lane champion pool to the top lane, which proved to be working for RNG and in a certain meta, this flexibility can be crucial.
➖ Weaknesses: If RNG comes to the tournament with the old strategy of giving the resources to Xiaohu, this can be easily countered as the better teams will simply not allow it and hard focus on the top lane. Another weakness could of RNG is their early game drafting, which against better scaling international teams such as DK would usually fail.
🔑 Key Player: Normally, Li "Xiaohu" Yuan-Hao would be the favorite for this role as all the resources go to him, but Shi "Ming" Sen-Ming has been the player carrying RNG from the shadows. His insane roaming skills, map pressure, and experience contribute to the fact that RNG is one of the most stable teams in the LPL.
Unicorns of Love
Unicorns of Love has made a hen AD carry Ilya "Gadget" Makavchuk. Gadget, known more for his mages than his marksmen, has been replaced with a more conventional option which has helped further balance the bottom of UOL's top-focused playstyle in which jungler Kirill "AHaHaCiK" Skvortsov around top laner Vladislav "BOSS" Fomin's playmaking while mid laner Lev "Nomanz" Yakshin scales into a consistent damage source as a grounding constant in UOL's chaotic style.
➖ Weaknesses: UOL has been known to surprise slow-to-start teams who perceive themselves as superior due to the creative pathing of AHaHaCiK and the unconventional champion picks associated with the organization since before its days in the EU LCS, but because this is the team's strongest point in the game, it can often lead to an overcommitment on an aggressive early game play. In addition, international teams will be able to match UOL's pace better than the domestic teams in the LCL.
🔑 Key Player: Stanislav "Lodik" Kornelyuk didn't take over for Gadget immediately. French AD carry Antonio "Frappii" Botezatu was the starter first, but Lodik took over the spot in the post-season and proved to be an upgrade in the starting role on the way to another domestic championship for Unicorns of Love. Lodik is a more conventional player than Gadget ever was, and that could bring UOL to a previously unseen level. However, it could also bring everything crashing down if he is unable to translate his play to the international stage quickly, especially when considering his lack of time in the starting role.
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