Welcome to Inven Global’s Group Stage Award Show for 2022’s Mid-Season Invitational. The battles in Busan keep on coming as the tournament moves on to the Rumble Stage. There were big upsets, crazy plays, and ping high enough you’d think they were playing from Antarctica. Here are seven awards giving a good summary of all the wild things that went on at MSI’s group stage.
The "Bad Habits Die Hard" Award: Evil Geniuses
Concluding their group stage performance, EG have taken another step towards returning North America to its former glory. Like the old days, they built a lineup centered around local young talent. Like the old days, the culture around the team had plenty of spice, unafraid to talk trash about even the most fearsome of opponents. And like the old days, they have kept the tradition of breaking the collective heart of the NA fandom.
It’s not the EG have been that bad; plenty of LCS teams in recent international competitions have done much worse. Considering their level of confidence and their high Korean solo queue rankings, many had hoped this lineup could be one of the those NA would be proud of. However, they are yet to win a single match against a strong opponent, losing all four of their games against G2 Esports.
EG are playing okay, but in most senses, G2 simply outclass them in experience and talent, which will be even more apparent when they face T1 and Royal Never Give Up. While their day 5 slugfest against G2 showed some promise, their eventual loss was all the more heartbreaking and highlighted their core issues of inexperience. Perhaps they’ll turn it around in the Rumble Stage, but at the moment, EG are carrying the LCS torch of disappointment.
The Best Rookie Award: Flakked
Many fans and analysts scratched their heads when G2 signed Victor "Flakked" Lirola — an unproven rookie with moderate success in the ERLs. “There are so many veterans and rookies better than him!” cried me and several others in the high-level discourses found on Reddit and Twitter. With each week that passes by, though, a light shines brighter on one truth: Flakked is the real deal.
After walking the royal road in the LEC, the Spanish bot laner has had a phenomenal MSI thus far. He not only leads in KDA for his position, but for all players — a tournament-high 16.8 — and he did this while having to face another major-region bot lane four separate times. He hasn’t been the ultimate carry threat for G2 (someone like Chen "GALA" Wei had almost twice as many kills), but Flakked has been able to be the ever-present damage in fights that have made G2’s victories that much cleaner. The discipline and polish this rookie has after a single split is incredible.
The “Ignore How Much T1 Destroyed Them, They’re Really F**cking’ Good” Award: Saigon Buffalo
One of the biggest criticisms of MSI’s format is that outside of the major region teams, only the PCS can really put up some competition. After being absent from international competition for nearly two years, however, it’s been a lovely change welcoming Vietnam's VCS back to the fold.
While Brazil's RED Canids had some impressive upset performances, it's the Saigon Buffalo that have been the most pleasant surprise of the tournament. They played far above expectations, and in an exciting fashion to that. The youthful energy of the team translates perfectly in-game — aggressive, confident, and with a ton of flash. Considering how inexperienced the team is, it should be even more exciting watching the lineup play in the Rumble Stage.
It’s even scarier to think of how good the first-seed GAM Esports might be.
The “WHAT WAS THAT?!?” Flashiest Player Award: caPs
Though it’s too soon to say whether Rasmus "caPs" Winther is as skilled as he once was, it’s hard to deny that he’s brought back the flashy splendor that helped make him the superstar he is today. If a list of the top 10 plays at MSI so far were made, caPs would account for at least five of them. Already, of his stylings were highlights of the event: his brilliant tower dive and escape with Yasuo (against EG), as well as his 1v3 kill on Jung "Impact" Eon-yeong (sadly, also against EG). As an NA fan, it’s been like watching the Suns versus the Mavericks: while sad and a tad embarrassing, you have to acknowledge greatness.
One could certainly argue GALA as a better pick for flashiest player — scoring a pentakill, having it taken away, and then grabbing it again. On top of that, caPs has had one fewer team in his group! However, while GALA’s heroics have occurred versus RED Canids, all of caPs’ magic has been cast on another major region team. It’s still to be seen what happens in the Rumble Stage, but so far, no player has matched the flash of caPs.
The Highest Win-Rate Award: Royal Never Give Up
Following the group stage, there's been a lot of discussion on who the best team at the tournament is. Saigon Buffalo have been playing some of the most exciting games of the year, and only look stronger with each game. T1 are coming off an incredible domestic run and has all the pieces necessary to be one of the greatest League teams of all time. G2 are amassing a very impressive win streak, perhaps returning to the international threat the team used to be.
However, we cannot discount the amazing feats that RNG have accomplished. The org has already won MSI twice in their history so it’s clear the team is seeking out new challenges. The most amazing is the line-up's miraculous 150% win-rate: an achievement many thought was impossible. After initially starting their group 3-0, it was rumored that the team was so eager to demolish, that they would replay some of their games just to show off more how awesome they were (these rumors were started by me, and unfortunately didn’t reach that far). While more official reasons came out that ruin some of the mystique, the replay ruling demonstrated just how far ahead RNG is compared to most of the teams at the event.
The “Damn You, Keria, How Am I Supposed To Play Solo Queue Now?” Award: Keria
As there has been debate over whether or not Riot should change the format for MSI, one of the biggest points in favor of updating it has been the cakewalk slaughters teams like RNG and T1 have inflicted. The top teams have not only dominated. They don’t even look like they’re trying. T1’s Keria went on record that his team was, “playing groups like we would play in scrims and experimenting with new picks.” T1 and RNG in groups have been akin to The Mountain from Game of Thrones slaughtering peasants as a warm-up.
Keria has walked the walk in the regard. Playing five champions in six games, he capped off his group stage run with a Support game on Rumble (against Saigon Buffalo, the best competition in their group). Keria is also the reason why we need to interrupt your regularly scheduled broadcast with a public service announcement: To any solo queue players, Rumble is not a good support pick. Rumble is not a support pick in general. Please don’t try it, there is nothing to it. But Keria picked him anyway and won the game in almost 20 minutes.
It goes to show just how dominant T1 are, as well as how detrimental the current MSI format is to providing high-quality and circumstantial games.
The “Froggen On Blitzcrank” Memorial Award: Evi
Long before EG were known as the saviors of NA, the organization first got involved in League of Legends by picking up the legendary lineup of Counter Logic Gaming Europe — an EU LCS team headed by Henrik "Froggen" Hansen. During a game that would decide their seeding for the EU LCS playoffs that year, Froggen and Mitch "Krepo" Voorspoels accidentally swapped their champions at the wrong time — the support got Anivia and the mid laner got Blitzcrank. No doubt having to play that lineup would be frustrating for any player. Like true professionals, the show went on, they played the game as is, and EG won the match.
It’s very rare (as it should be) that something like that happens — even more so when a team admits it. One of those rare cases occurred when DetonatioN FocusMe’s support player Lee “Harp” Ji-yoong stated he accidentally picked Ornn for Evi in an official match. Shunsuke "Evi" Murase is built different, though. Instead of getting visibly upset or tilted, Evi told Harp it was okay and played the game with the incorrect champion, just like a real captain should. While DFM’s MSI run is over, they may have the right culture to make an even bigger splash at Worlds than last year.
Travel back in time:
All photos © 2022 Riot Games, Inc. Used With Permission.
I write. I rap. I run. That’s pretty much it.