The 2022 Mid-Season Invitational is nearing its conclusion. After 66 games wrapped up — not counting Royal Never Give Up's three replayed games — it is now up to RNG, T1, G2 Esports, and Evil Geniuses to determine who walks away victorious.
Across those 66 games, the 55 players competing in the tournament have had many a chance to prove their worth. Only a few have consistently done so while a few others struggled to find their footing on the international stage. Let’s take a look at the players who outdid themselves so far, and which ones have fallen flat.
The shining stars: Oner, GALA
Kicking off with the positive part of the article, we’ll discuss the winners. If we look at the impact a player has on their team, it’s hard to argue that any one has been performing better than T1’s jungler Moon "Oner" Hyeon-joon. T1 walk away with quite a few battle scars after the Rumble Stage, which has been a rude awakening. It isn’t just that they lost three games — in best-of-1s, going undefeated against top competitors is highly unlikely — but it’s the level of play displayed by the LCK champions. Their early game is still solid, but the holes in their mid to late game seem to have grown.
Oner has been the savior of T1 in many of the team’s shaky games. While the young jungler is only the #1 in raw stats for the early game, Oner deserves praise for his overall impact. After helping his team get an early lead, Oner still steps up in the crucial moments of the game. When T1 are on the backfoot, he provides them with an opportunity to turn the game around. When T1 are ahead, it is often Oner who hammers down the final nail. Even in games that T1 ended up losing, Oner tried his hardest to turn the tides.
If we’re talking about raw power, no player has charged into MSI harder than RNG bot laner Chen "GALA" Wei. He hit the ground running with a pentakill against RED Canids in the Group Stage, which then was retconned as RNG had to replay their games. “Alright,” GALA must have thought, “I’ll do it again then,” as he scooped up another one in his third game against RED Canids. GALA has the highest number of average kills per game of any player at MSI, coming in at 5.8 kills per game on average. He earns the most gold per minute, is the highest damage-dealing bot laner of the event — third-highest player overall — and has the fewest average deaths. GALA is a sledgehammer.
Of course, GALA isn’t doing it on his own. He is able to get ahead of his peers because his teammates set him up to succeed. Especially his lane buddy, Shi "Ming" Sen-Ming, does a stellar job playing the map, allowing GALA to farm and grow into a menace. But when push comes to shove, it’s GALA who swoops in with immaculate killer instinct and pins his opponents to the wall.
Polish jungling finesse: Jankos, Inspired
To round up the list of best performers, we have to return to the jungle. Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski has been unwavering for G2 Esports. Jankos isn’t a flashy player who will constantly make the craziest outplays you’ve ever seen. No, Jankos shines through his clever play, which at times can be hard to notice for viewers. In the Group Stage and in the first four matches of G2 in the Rumble Stage, it was easy to notice what Jankos was doing. He saw that his opponents were dropping the ball in the early game, paid a visit to their lane, and either snatched up the kill himself or let his teammate get the kill. Especially with mid laner Rasmus “caPs” Winther, who was in excellent shape in the first 12 games at MSI, Jankos formed an incredibly lethal duo.
It was harder to see Jankos’ efforts later on, though. G2 collapsed in their first game against PSG Talon, ending a 24-game win streak in 2022 after which the team tanked five losses in a row. Jankos, however, kept performing. He still visited his laners and tried to punish the mistakes their opponents had made. He still sacrificed his own farm in order to make sure his teammates got every opportunity to get ahead. But when you pour the oil and your teammates have lost their spark, it’s hard to get a fire going. G2 heads into the semifinal against T1 bruised and wounded, hoping that their players can step up to Jankos’ level again.
More Polish jungling finesse has been on display at MSI through Evil Geniuses’ Kacper "Inspired" Słoma. While EG went 4-4 in the Group Stage and did end up losing every game they played against G2, it was often through Inspired’s efforts that the North American squad stayed in the game and made it as competitive as it was. Inspired has proven to be a switchblade for his team. When Joseph Joon "jojopyun" Pyun and Kyle "Danny" Sakamaki needed time to warm up in the Group Stage, Inspired stepped up to be one of the primary carries for his team. However, he shifted gears in the Rumble Stage, leaning more into being a facilitator as his mid laner and bot laner got into shape. Inspired has led EG by example, most decisively so in the team’s upset victory over T1.
Weak links in the semis: Gumayusi, Bin
On T1, the weak link is painfully clear. Lee "Gumayusi" Min-hyeong has not been having a good tournament at all compared to his teammates. Whereas the bot laner’s performance could be played off as “goofing around” in the Group Stage, when T1 were never under any serious threat of elimination, the Rumble Stage brought a different tone. Gumayusi wasn’t just invisible, he was actively holding T1 back in many of the Rumble Stage games. He often miscalculated his position in the laning phase, costing him and his support Ryu "Keria" Min-seok their summoner spells, or their in-game lives. In his final games, Gumayusi looked in shape again, but the recent spike stands in stark contrast with the rest of his games.
Though Gumayusi’s struggles have been a surprise, RNG’s weak link was evident before the tournament started. Top laner Chen "Bin" Ze-Bin is, on average, an OK top laner, but can best be described as a hit-or-miss player at the moment. One game he’ll pop off on his trademark Gangplank, the next he’ll have next to no impact on Gwen, despite the champion being widely considered as one of the best in the game at the moment. Bin’s inconsistencies make him a liability, as his team can never know which version shows up.
Supportal struggles: Vulcan, Targamas
Evil Geniuses have developed throughout the tournament. In the Group Stage, international first-timers Joseph Joon "jojopyun" Pyun and Kyle "Danny" Sakamaki needed time to get into shape. With them having found that, though, it is Philippe "Vulcan" Laflamme who’s missing the mark most for the team. It has become a running joke that the Canadian support player will wander into the fog of war at seemingly unnecessary moments, only to find himself at the enemy’s gunpoint. These lapses of judgment have put EG at a disadvantage right before an objective spawn quite a few times. Vulcan has found fantastic engages too, but he and his team will need to iron out their communication a lot if they want to stand a chance against RNG in the semifinal.
Pinpointing a weak link in G2 is a bit harder. When the team was on their win streak, especially at MSI, everyone played their part well. But when that win streak ended and the team tripped over, it was only Jankos who kept up his level of play. Even caPs, who appeared to have ascended to his 2019 shape again, struggled to land the most basic abilities. All things considered, though, Raphaël "Targamas" Crabbé struggled the most on G2’s squad. The support player fumbled a few times in G2’s wins and seemed completely disarmed in their losses. Targamas has displayed excellent playmaking potential in the past but became too loose of a cannon with wild plays. If he wants to become a pillar for his team again, he’ll need to focus on the fundamentals.
Storyteller by heart. If something is competitive, I am interested in it.