Welcome to Inven Global’s Group Stage Award Show for 2021’s Mid-Season Invitational. The action has continued to heat up in Iceland as the tournament moves on to the Rumble Stage. Games were thrown, big plays were had, and many unexpected things happened. Here are seven awards giving a good summary of all the crazy things in MSI’s group stage.
The “Heartwarming Story of the Summer” Award: Pentanet.GG
Imagine watching a cheesy high school sports movie. It focuses on a basketball team from a small school that’s never had good results in big competition. They have a good team this year filled with seasoned players, but their practice gymnasium burns down, and they no longer have good means to practice and get better. They then go on to compete in a big tournament and beat one of the biggest teams there. Seems corny and unrealistic, right? That’s what Pentanet.GG’s performance was like.
Don’t get me wrong, Pentanet.GG were a decent team this season. They had a good amount of experience, and showed exceptional skill in their region. But in the grand scheme of MSI, that shouldn’t have mattered. OCE teams have never had strong results in international competition and have advanced from the first stages zero times. Compared to the LCL — their only competition in the three-team Group A — Pentanet was far below. Unicorns of Love had a few missteps, but they were still an impressive force with dangerous mid-lane and bottom lane talent. Oh, and of course, the advantage of having a region to play in.
Yet in Iceland, PGG had some of the most creative and excellent drafting of any team in the tournament, and combined it with exceptional teamwork to beat UOL twice. In spite of the dissolution of the OPL, PGG stand as the first team from Oceania to ever advance past the group stage in a major international competition.
The “Did Better Than Expected” Surprise Player Award: Chiu "Doggo" Tzu-Chuan
Similar to the odd happenings in the financial market, PSG Talon’s dog-themed investment had provided shockingly strong returns. It was disappointing not being able to see the full well-conditioned roster PSG Talon won in the PCS. In the absence of their starting AD carry Wong “Unified” Chun Kit, expectations for the Taiwanese team weren’t nearly as high. To replace the main damage-dealer and lynchpin of the team would already cause disruptions. To sub in a player whose only international experience was people telling him his name was cool — it was a recipe for disaster.
So far, nothing could be further from the truth. Doggo has fit into the roster like a glove and has been of the most impressive marksmen competing at MSI. Though he doesn’t deal as much damage as a player like Unified, he plays smart and is always there when his team is in need of him. In his position, his impressive 7.4 KDA is only bested by expected standouts such as Jang "Ghost" Yong-jun, Matyáš "Carzzy" Orság, and Chen "GALA" Wei. If he can keep it up, his play at MSI could be one of the most impressive substitute performances in history.
The "Who even blind picks Zed blind, what the f***?!" Award: Jesse "Chazz" Mahoney
In some ways Chazz deserves more than this award because Chazz has had my favorite performance of this tournament. Yes, there are far more talented and impressive players than him at MSI — some even on his own team — but no other player has tried their hand at playing a blind-picked Zed (which you hadn’t practiced in 50 games) in a do-or-die game with the team’s backs against the wall, and actually winning. Even if they lose every game for the rest of the competition, Chazz and co. have proven themselves a team worth caring about.
The “My Back is Killing Me” 1v9 Award: Anıl "HolyPhoenix" Işık
HolyPhoenix is one of the greatest players in Turkish League of Legends, his long career history bedazzled with appearances at international events. His veteran experience and skilled play gave Fastpay Wildcats the perfect complement to their talented but young roster and led them to their very first regional title. The Wildcats had some bright spots during their run at MSI — most notably their upset win versus MAD — but their last place finish in a relatively weak group was pretty disappointing.
Whether because of nerves or other factors, HolyPhoenix was the only player to really show up for the team, playing well in lane and teamfight. He had an unreal 76.9% kill participation, with a 45.1% kill share. He still managed to put up respectable statistics as his teammates died around him, many times him being the sole survivor of botched teamfights. It’s nice to see he still has it together as a player, and we can only imagine how he’ll look once his team is more seasoned.
The “Nobody Has Ever Done That In The History Of LoL!” Award: DWG KIA microwaving DetonatioN FocusMe with Yasuo and Diana
Everything seemed to be going well for DFM. They had a decent advantage against the best team in the world, and their enemy’s best player was using a champion he’s notoriously unexceptional on (ShowMaker on Yasuo). They proved they could go toe-to-toe with DWG KIA in teamfights, and won a significant one near dragon. It looked hopeful
That’s what makes DWG KIA so demoralizing. The fact that Canyon and ShowMaker can decide that enough is enough and immediately turn a game on its head. With Canyon’s perfect instinct to engage and ShowMaker’s perfect sense to follow up, they pull off a Yasuo and Diana combo that deletes three members of DFM off the screen. ShowMaker gets a quick solo kill after just to show off. It’s clean, it’s flashy, and it illustrates how dangerous DWG KIA are.
The “Miracle on Ice” Upset Award: DetonatioN FocusMe beats Cloud9
This was like watching a League of Legends version of Moneyball. Cloud9 was the team hyped as potentially the best North American team to ever compete at MSI. The team spent seven figures on one of the best players in the world in Perkz, and paired him with what some considered to be the best early-game jungler in the world: Blaber. It was NA’s best (and most expensive) ticket to a major international win.
Then they lost to DetonatioN FocusMe. They lost to a bottom-tier regional representative, whose support was formerly retired and was originally one of the team’s coaches. DFM didn't play out of their minds either, as they gave several openings for C9 to take the win. But wherever you looked— whether it was their poor team fighting or Blaber’s overbearing affection to Scuttle Crabs — C9 did not look the same. Even after years of numbing, C9 breathed fresh life into NA disappointment.
The NA Redemption Award: Cloud9 beating DWG KIA
Had they failed to make the Rumble Stage, C9’s run at this MSI could’ve been one of NA’s biggest disappointments in years. Depending on how the rest of the tournament goes, it may be one of the most eventful stories in the region’s history. The team’s loss to DFM immediately made NA a laughingstock once again. For once, with their win against Korea’s strongest, those jeers were silenced.
To go from losing to one of the worst teams in the tournament to taking a game off the world’s best ис what makes this C9 special. They may have just been warming up against DFM and are really worth the hype, or they may just be that wild and unpredictable. Whatever the case may be, C9’s wild ride is not over, and NA hype lives another day.
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