One of the best parts of the Mid-Season Invitational is getting to see teams and players that the larger League of Legends community is not as familiar with. While most fans have a good understanding of their home region’s league and maybe the major regions (LCS, LEC, LCK, LPL), in most instances these massive tournaments are the first exposure these players get to the League of Legends fandom. While there are some players from bigger-name teams in minor regions who have made Worlds or MSI in the past (DFM’s Shunsuke "Evi" Murase, PSG Talon’s Wong "Unified" Chun Kit), many more are hitting the international stage for the first time.
This is particularly true for MSI 2022. Not only are there teams and players from smaller regions, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the players from more notable regions like PCS and VCS haven’t had the chance to play internationally in their careers. If fans haven’t heard of these five players, it’s understandable. But once MSI is fully underway, these five will be the talk of the tournament.
Hasmed — Top lane, Saigon Buffalo
Saigon Buffalo is an interesting team. The VCS has not sent a team to an international tournament (Worlds or MSI) since Worlds 2019 due to COVID-19. Previously known as Dashing Buffalo (and before that Phong Vu Buffalo) the team did make MSI 2019 but has not been to an international tournament since. In that time, the team has completely reset its roster to include young players like Lâm Huỳnh Gia "Hasmed" Huy. Which is why, despite him being the Buffalo top laner since the 2020 Spring Split, this will be his first exposure to the greater League of Legends community.
Hasmed is one of the most aggressive, skilled top laners in the VCS. Although his most-picked champions are Gwen and Jayce, those aren’t his best. That would be his pocket pick of Vayne top, which he has played six times this season and is also the champion he has the highest win rate on. Among all top laners attending MSI, Hasmed has the highest damage per minute at 563, though this is also due to his penchant for playing those ranged top laners.
Harp — Support, DeinatioN FocusMe
The juggernauts of Japan’s LJL, DFM made the decision to tweak their roster in the offseason to acquire Lee "Harp" Ji-yoong. Previously, Harp had been a substitute for KT Rolster (also playing for their Challenger team), making his stint on DFM his first full-time starting role in a major or wildcard league.
Harp doesn’t have a pocket pick or one particular style of champion he prefers to play in the support role. He’s as comfortable picking Nautilus or Tahm Kench as playing a Rakan or Karma. But he averages almost 11 assists per game which is bonkers even for a support. Of course, this being his first big international test will show whether that production is just due to him and DFM just rolling over their weaker competition.
Shogun — Bot lane, Saigon Buffalo
It’s hard to not double-dip with Saigon Buffalo players considering that none of them have ever played in a major region or at an international event (whereas most of DFM, all of RED Canids, and all of the Instanbul Wildcats were at Worlds 2021) and their team is so strong. Unlike Hasmed, who has been a part of the org for a few years and is just now getting a chance to show himself, Nguyễn "Shogun" Văn Huy is only 18 and joined Saigon Buffalo in May 2021. And, after being a substitute last summer, this is Shogun’s first full split as a starting ADC.
And what a split it has been. While there have been the expected rookie mistakes, Shogun has not backed down from competition and has proven himself to be one of the most aggressive ADCs in the VCS. His mind-boggling 639 DPM leads all ADCs at MSI (for reference, T1’s Gumayusi has a still incredible 571 DPM) and he’s proven to be a master of Jinx and Aphelios. The only concern is that, after those two, there are some concerns about a shallow champion pool. Still, it will be fascinating to see Shogun squaring off against two other uber-aggressive ADCs in the Rumble.
Lonely — Top lane, Team AZE
After toiling in the Korean amateur and Challenger leagues for a few years (he even had a stint as a sub to Summit on SANDBOX), Han "Lonely" Gyu-joon managed to find a spot in Latin America as the top laner for Team Aze. While he is not the flashiest player, Lonely is certainly one who will make other players take notice.
For one, the guy is just the consummate tank player. He loves his Gnar and Sion, two of his best champions this year, but he can bust out the Renekton or Jayce top. He’s one of those players whose biggest problem seems to be getting too far away from his comfort champs at times. He’s played 13 unique champions in 27 games this spring, with most of his success coming on the Jayce, Gnar, and Sion.
Juhan — Jungle, PSG Talon
Maybe my favorite player on this list, Lee "Juhan" Ju-han had the unenviable task of replacing Kim "River" Dong-woo once he left for Dignitas in the LCS. With PSG Talon returning from Worlds 2021 with a veteran team, trusting the starting jungler role to a player whose peak had been at the Korean Challenger league seemed like a gamble. Luckily for PSG Talon, that gamble paid off.
Juhan is one of the most dominant early-game junglers at MSI, averaging a +528 gold differential at 15-minutes. He’s done this facing a lot of veteran PCS junglers like Huang "HuSha" Zi-Wei and Huang "Gemini" Chu-Xuan and managed to post a 6.6 KDA in the process. PSG Talon is, once again going to be a lot of people’s dark horse picks for a deep run at MSI. The play of their young jungler Juhan will be a big key to that puzzle.
Diamond TFT Player & esports watcher.