For the first time since the 2018 League of Legends World Championship, international League of Legends is returning to South Korea with the 2022 Mid-Season Invitational which starts on May 10. As the “champions tournament,” the Mid-Season Invitational features 11 regional championship teams from across the world competing over the course of 19 days for League of Legends’ second-most prestigious title. Will T1 continue their win streak and collect their fourth MSI title or will Evil Geniuses shock the competition again? These are the top five storylines leading into this year’s Mid-Season Invitational.
Competition set to be played on 35 ping amid travel restrictions
Live events are here to stay in League of Legends, but COVID regulations continue to shift the landscape on a tournament-by-tournament basis. In this case, recent lockdowns in China made it impossible for Royal Never Give Up to compete in South Korea this year without potentially being locked out of their home country after the event. Given the League of Legends Pro League’s (LPL) decorated history at both the Mid-Season Invitational and League of Legends World Championship, Riot Games made the decision to allow Royal Never Give Up to compete remotely with the entire event taking place in a 35 ping environment.
This decision has been met with a fair amount of controversy, but ultimately, an international tournament loses its prestige when a championship region like the LPL fails to attend the event. The malleable nature of esports and online competition makes this type of compromise possible and the solution should be embraced despite its flaws. It’s not a perfect environment for the highest level of competition, but a change in ping will not make or break any team.
Royal Never Give Up return to defend their title
Photo credit: Riot Games
Royal Never Give Up will compete from China while the rest of the competition takes place in Busan, South Korea, but they will just as valiantly defend their hard-earned title. RNG managed to win the Mid-Season Invitational last year on the back of stellar performances from top laner (now mid laner) Li “Xiaohu” Yuan-Hao and superstar AD carry Chen “GALA” Wei. When it came to teamfighting around objectives, no one could match the sheer mechanical prowess and coordination from Royal Never Give Up.
This year, fans can expect a similar look from the team. Xiaohu’s return to the mid lane marks a stark upgrade from former mid laner Yuan “Cryin” Cheng-Wei, but the team’s strategy largely remains the same. Even with the addition of star carry top laner Chen “Bin” Ze-Bin, Royal Never Give Up are the same bot lane-focused team that loves to fight around neutral objectives. Much like last year, Royal Never Give Up aren’t favored compared to the League of Legends Champions Korea (LCK) representative, but you can never count out a team that loves to fight and does it well.
Evil Geniuses look to smoke the competition with young gun roster
Photo credit: Marv Watson/Riot Games via ESPAT
When it comes to major region representatives at this year’s Mid-Season Invitational, North America’s Evil Geniuses are complete underdogs. Evil Geniuses upset Cloud9, Team Liquid and 100 Thieves en route to punching a ticket to MSI, and they did it all on the back of young superstar talent. The roster’s lack of experience might call for Evil Geniuses to be rated poorly by both analysts and their opponents, but this squad clearly thrives when counted out.
At the center of Evil Geniuses’ firepower are the young guns -- rookie mid laner Joseph “jojopyun” Joon Pyun and sophomore AD carry Kyle “Danny” Sakamaki. While both players’ performances ebbed and flowed during the regular season, jojopyun and Danny showed up in a big way during the playoffs, never shying away from a potential outplay or dramatic comeback. Of course, both players also had major support from longtime veteran top laner Jeon “Impact” Eun-yeong and support Philippe “Vulcan” Laflamme, and Evil Geniuses wouldn’t have made it this far without their leadership. It will be up to them to steady the ship as these youngsters test the international waters for the first time.
T1 favorites to win fourth MSI title after immaculate spring split
Photo credit: Riot Games Korea
Mid laner Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok is the greatest League of Legends player of all time, and this T1 roster might just be the first one to match that prestige since his last world championship title in 2016. T1 not only completed a perfect 18-0 LCK season, but they wiped the floor with both Kwangdong Freecs and Gen.G during the spring playoffs en route to their 10th LCK title. More than fancy numbers, though, T1 just seemed unbeatable. Whenever teams secured early leads against T1 in the LCK, Faker & Co. always kept their cool and found a way back into the game.
If T1 lost a major dragon fight, they would punish their opponents for trying to grab Baron Nashor afterward. If T1 lost a fight on the bottom side of the map, they just as quickly made a dive top lane to get top laner Choi “Zeus” Woo-je ahead. Whenever T1 suffered a loss, they had the appropriate counterpunch and took their losses with grace, being especially careful to never lose too much. T1’s indomitability will be put to the test at this year’s Mid-Season Invitational, and if this season is any indicator, they are heavy favorites to win it all.
Vietnam returns to the international stage with Saigon Buffalo
COVID restrictions hampered League of Legends across the world, but no region suffered more competitively than the Vietnamese Championship Series (VCS), whose champions were unable to attend international events due to Vietnamese travel restrictions in 2020 and 2021. The last Vietnamese teams to compete internationally were GAM Esports and Lowkey Esports at the 2019 world championship. Now, after nearly three years, Saigon Buffalo have the opportunity to represent their region proudly in Busan.
As the youngest team at the event, Saigon Buffalo tout the traditional aggressive playstyle of past Vietnamese teams with the same mechanical muscle to back it up. Saigon Buffalo didn’t actually win their region -- GAM Esports won the spring title and will be representing Vietnam at the SEA Games instead -- but the VCS is far from a top-heavy region, and they’re sure to be competitive, even with minor region favorites Detonation FocusMe occupying their group.
Lead photo credit: Riot Games