Welcome to Inven Global’s Rumble and Playoffs Award Show for 2022’s Mid-Season Invitational. The battles in Busan were some of the most exciting in years. There were enormous upsets, big disappointments, and some of the most mind-boggling drafts ever. Here are six awards giving a good summary of all the wild things that went on at MSI’s final days.
The “Not Great, Not Terrible” Award — Evil Geniuses
There were certainly some ups-and-downs with EG, and their top-four finish wasn’t enough to bring pride back to North America (if there ever was any). Even though EG’s MSI performance wasn’t that much better than some of the NA teams in the past, their run brought a lot more optimism. Yes, it was a bit humiliating watching Joseph "Jojopyun" Joon Pyun get dunked on by Rasmus "caPs" Winther in G2’s many wins over EG, but he overall had a decent showing for his first international tournament alongside Kyle "Danny" Sakamaki.
Although it’s very easy to write of EG’s performance past the group stage — attaining a 50% record in the Rumble Stage and getting swept by RNG in the semifinals — their games tell a far different story. They managed to take a game off of T1 and showed fairly strong performances in each of their losses to RNG in the semifinals. Although they weren’t able to achieve anything extraordinary, they at least didn’t flame out, and that’s a win by NA standards. Considering the youth of some of the lineup, and how unexpected it was for EG to have come this far already, it was an encouraging performance for NA competition and talent development.
The “Stop Breaking My Heart” Award — G2 Esports
You know it’s bad for EU when they achieve the same results as NA. The bad part about G2’s performance wasn’t the fact they were only able to make the top 4, but the manner of it. First, they came into the event on a tear, building off of their fantastic win streak in the LEC playoffs to go through their MSI group undefeated. The young blood played like seasoned veterans, Sergen "Broken Blade" Çelik returned to international competition without a hitch, and caPs and Marcin "Jankos" Jankowski played to a level matching the excellence of their 2019 selves. Fans speculated G2 might have a shot at making the finals.
Going into the Rumble Stage, it got even better. caPs was not only returning to his original form but was making an argument for the best performing player of the tournament. The team was keeping up their win streak even against T1 and RNG. Fans went from predicting a G2 finals run to a G2 finals win. And then, both fans and teams got grounded. Losses to PSG Talon and Saigon Buffalo started a loss streak that injured the team heading into semifinals, where T1 gave them a distressing 3-0 beatdown.
While it was still a solid run by G2, their strong start made their eventual exit feel disappointing, and they ended up with a worse run than MAD Lions at MSI 2021.
The “More Undefeated Than T1’s Domestic Record” Award — Blue Side
Okay, it wasn’t that one-sided, but this tournament continued the conversation of blue side control being advantageous. T1’s coach Polt attributed the team’s loss in the finals to RNG’s control of blue sides, stating that much of their preparation came playing red side, and that “The team that could choose sides all chose the blue side and won”. While it didn’t seem to create an overwhelming advantage — a 53% win-rate over the course of the tournament — it breathed life into a classic MSI meme.
The “It’s Not Where You Start, It’s Where You Finish” Award — Wei
Of all the players on RNG, Yan "Wei" Yang-Wei is arguably the... let's call it "least impressive". Chen "GALA" Wei and Shi "Ming" Sen-Ming have remained one of the best bot lane duos in the world, Chen "Bin" Ze-Bin has been a ridiculously consistent top laner, and Li "Xiaohu" Yuan-Hao has continued to build on his legacy as one of the greatest players of all time. It hasn’t been as smooth of a ride for the team’s jungler.
That’s not to say that Wei has been performing poorly — he’s been one of the best junglers in the world, and has a long list of achievements in spite of his young age. However, he has taken a backseat to let people like Xiaohu and GALA shine more, and his bloodthirsty tendencies got him into trouble more than a couple of times during LPL Spring. It seemed to be the same story at MSI 2022: Wei was the weak link of the team. His overly-aggressive early games cost RNG games, and players such as Moon "Oner" Hyeon-joon and Jankos looked better as junglers.
When it mattered, though, Wei made the difference. He outperformed Oner in all five games of the series in an MVP-winning performance, and an event-highest KDA to boot. If Wei continues performing like this at international events, he will start to put himself in the conversation as one of the greatest junglers of all time.
The “My God, I Forgot How Great They Were” Award — The VCS
Of course, one of the biggest surprises of MSI was how impressive Saigon Buffalo were. After the VCS was unable to compete at an international competition for two years due to restrictions, SGB came into MSI 2022 as one of its biggest mysteries. Not only did SGB demonstrate they were a capable team — taking games off of G2 Esports and Evil Geniuses during the Rumble Stage — they showed they were an exciting team. The youthful energy and aggression of the young Vietnamese lineup led to some of the most entertaining games of the tournament.
One of the biggest conversations regarding SGB, though, doesn’t even have to do with them. Every game where SGB showed off made fans wonder what would have happened if GAM Esports — by far the best team the VCS — could make it to MSI. GAM posted an incredible 14-0 series record during the regular season (compared with the 9-5 record of SGB) and lost one game in their playoffs victory. They are a far more polished and complete team than SGB have ever been and one that possibly could have made the top four of MSI considering how well the second-best VCS team did. It will be an exciting prospect to see them at Worlds, and it will be interesting to see how VCS performs at Worlds as a whole.
The “Just Ban Gwen, Please!” Award — Polt
Although very close, T1 were unable to cross the finish line at MSI. What was once considered potentially the greatest team of all time couldn’t make it past a team not even the consensus best in China. Though certainly some of the blame can be put on RNG’s side advantage and the tournament’s ping debacle, there are no excuses for T1’s drafting. Almost everyone — from the top analytical minds of the scene to the most downvoted Redditor — scratched their heads at T1’s drafting decisions.
While having blue side in Game 5 was certainly helpful for RNG, it doesn’t come close to the help T1 provided in giving the LPL team all their power-picks, and answering with underwhelming counters. While the team is certainly still ridiculously talented, their decision-making in high-stakes situations such as these needs to improve to stand with the greatest teams ever.
All Photos: © 2022 Riot Games, Inc. Used With Permission.
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