2021 MSI Predictions & Question Marks
2021 MSI is right around the corner which means it’s time we go over a couple of predictions — some of which will be bold, others less so. Whenever we’re on the verge of an international tournament, it’s like the air changes; everyone becomes antsy and anxious, eagerly awaiting the inevitable slew of clashes that’ll take our breath away. It’s a truly incredible moment, and it’s also nerve-wracking in nature.
Who’ll come out on top? Did the meta shift and, if so, by how much? Will there be any tremendous, mind-blowing upsets, or is the final result a foregone conclusion? There are so many questions in the air, and it can truly get a bit overwhelming at times. Fortunately, we never have to wait too long to find out.
What Can We Expect From 2021 MSI
The 2021 MSI is no different in that regard; when it comes to predictions, though, things get a bit more chaotic than usual. On the one hand, it’s impossible to bet against DWG KIA — there’s just no other way to put it. On the other, they’ll face a slew of hungry challengers, most of which have that extra bit of something DWG never had to face back in Korea. Teams like Cloud9 and MAD Lions are so crazy they might actually stand a chance of pulling off an upset. They’re both unhinged and talented in equal measure, which is quite a dangerous combination. Then there’s Royal Never Give Up, the perennial giants of the LPL who’ve had about as many highs as they did lows throughout their storied history.
No one’s quite sure what to think. DWG KIA is almost guaranteed to become MSI champions, but that’s arguably not the most important thing right now — the fashion in which it’ll all go down matters equally as much. If the ending is as predictable as most of us think, then let’s not even talk about it. Instead, let’s focus on the challengers as their success (or lack thereof) will undoubtedly affect the status quo going forward.
What we want to see is whether or not this particular set of challengers have what it takes to compete on even footing — or at least come close. If that does end up being the case, then the upcoming World Championship (scheduled to take place in Shenzhen, China) will be one to remember. If, on the other hand, DWG blows the champions of the LPL, LEC, and LCS out of the water, then it’ll be mighty hard to get excited for Worlds.
In any case, we can’t wait to see how things will unfold over the next couple of weeks! So, with that out of the way, let’s begin with our 2021 MSI predictions!
DWG KIA Will Win, But It Won’t Be a Blowout
What a strange and yet perfectly appropriate headline. DWG KIA will win, but they probably won’t annihilate everyone in their path. Just the sheer thought of them struggling boggles the mind — such a reality feels so remote it might as well be fiction. But it is a fairly acceptable hypothesis. It’s no secret that DWG is the only team over in the LCK worth mentioning. Gen.G are great and so are Hanwha and T1, but they pale in comparison to the reigning World Champions. The gap between them and DWG is far too large to be measured. They’re not even remotely close.
That’s not exactly the best state of affairs if you’re DWG. What you want, as a champion, is a system in place that’ll feed you a slew of motivated challengers all of whom will push you to your limits. You don’t want to just annihilate your opponents with ease — that’s only fun in the beginning. Muhammad Ali was as great as he was because of his opponents; they were the ones who pushed him to the brink of defeat and gave him a stage to showcase his genius and astounding mastery of the ‘sweet science.’ The same holds true for any competition, as well as competitive League. A team of great champions needs to be challenged by a host of hungry contenders, all of whom are good enough to compete but not great enough to dethrone those who are on top. That’s what brings the greatest narratives and storylines into existence, and that’s something DWG KIA don’t have over in the LCK.
Iron sharpens iron, after all, and even if DWG KIA have regressed since their momentous triumph at Worlds, we wouldn’t be able to tell seeing how they’re head and shoulders above the next best team in the LCK. That’s why this year’s Mid-Season Invitational is so darn interesting — it’ll give us an opportunity to see whether they’re any weaker after losing Jang “Nuguri” Ha-gwon, or if we’re stupid forever even thinking they could diminish in power. Either way, there’s a reason to tune in!
Cloud9, Royal Never Give Up, and MAD Lions are all highly idiosyncratic champions and they’re bound to challenge DWG KIA in exciting new ways. They’re not favored to upset much (if at all), but they’ll definitely make things interesting, of that you can be certain.
Royal Never Give Up — The RNG Of Old
Is the LPL still the strongest region in the world? Based on empirical evidence we’d have to answer with a resounding “yes” but there might be a change on the horizon (“might” being the operative word here). Moreover, there’s a very real possibility that we’ll witness the return of the old RNG: the mechanically dominant and strategically shallow titans of competitive LoL. Perhaps that’s a needlessly harsh way of phrasing things, but it’s not exactly incorrect — although we could definitely discuss whether RNG ever truly delivered other than that one time at 2018 MSI.
Their run thus far has been fairly dominant, but it was far from perfect, and when the going got rough, RNG did revert back to comfort. It stands to reason, then, that DWG KIA could easily exploit and punish the LPL champions, and perhaps the same holds true for Cloud9 and MAD Lions — it’s definitely within the realm of possibility.
The (perhaps flawed) reasoning is simple: no one’s quite sure how to feel about the LPL. China is packed with exceptional teams — there’s no doubt about it — but the way the Spring Split playoffs unfolded left a lot of doubt in the air. RNG, talented though they are, haven’t been all that consistent, and most of their biggest flaws were often on full display.
Our read might be incorrect, but they just don’t feel quite as dominant or unassailable as FunPlus Phoenix or Top Esports, despite the fact that they’ve beaten both. Because of this, RNG seems like a team with an incredibly high skill ceiling, but also one that’s surprisingly volatile and, perhaps, exploitable. Now, this volatility might not be all that great but against the best teams in the world, it can definitely become a point of pressure.
Then again, maybe we’re just subconsciously comparing them to the biggest and most commanding LPL giants of the (relatively recent) past. The jury’s still out on RNG, and we can’t wait to see whether they’ll build upon the rich and storied history of the LPL, or implode trying.
Cloud9 Will Surprise…
Here’s another bold prediction: Cloud9 will leave a mark at this year’s Mid-Season Invitational, much like they did back at Worlds in 2018. Now, predicting a North American team to do well at an international tournament is pretty much the definition of a fool’s errand. It’s just not something one should ever do if one fears being ridiculed by his peers and analysts alike. Still, this is Cloud9 we’re talking about — they’re the least “NA” of all NA teams.
The boys in white and blue have their own way of doing things, and they care very little for NA’s shameful history. In fact, Cloud9 is the only North American organization that has ever managed to subvert our expectations and actually deliver on the biggest of stages. And, frankly, it’s hard not to get excited for their chances at the 2021 MSI and their staggeringly talented line-up. Heck, Luka “Perkz” Perković and Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen are all they need to guarantee a respectable showing — Robert “Blaber” Huang and Philippe “Vulcan” Laflamme are just icing on the cake. By and large, this is one of the most talented line-ups in LCS history, and while they’re not without fault, the way they’ve been playing recently justifies our optimism.
In fact, if they double down on their strengths and execute to the best of their ability, they stand a very real chance of finishing in second place. There are many “ifs” in this scenario and numerous things need to go their way, but it’s definitely possible. This is especially true if Perkz decides to carry the whole team on his back much as he did back in 2018 — against none other than Royal Never Give Up. This incarnation of Cloud9 has all the right tools to compete at the highest of levels, and if there was ever a North American team worth getting excited about, it has to be Cloud9 — they’re the only ones who’ve earned our benefit of the doubt.
… and MAD Lions Won’t
There are two kinds of competitive LoL fans right now: those who think MAD will harness their inherent creativity and craziness en route to upsetting the status quo, and those who think they still haven’t grown nearly as much from last October for it to actually matter against the best teams in the world. As always, the truth lies somewhere in the middle, although there is a bit of room for a surprise.
We’ve never seen this particular MAD Lions line-up on the international stage before, so coming up with any definitive prediction would be quite absurd. On the one hand, they’re young and brash and confident — a spectacular compound that is arguably their biggest superpower coming into 2021 MSI. On the other, one could easily provide a laundry list of flaws and issues that could potentially hinder their chances of leaving a mark.
Their top laner has Worlds experience, but getting knocked out of the Play-In stage twice doesn’t really count. Their jungler is incredibly talented but he’s yet to prove his worth on the biggest of stages — his lack of experience will surely be exploited by his more seasoned opponents. Their marksman has shown glimpses of greatness but these flashes haven’t all that frequent lately, and his tendency to misposition is definitely a cause for concern. The same goes for their support, an individual who quickly rose to prominence thanks to his mind-blowing engages and ability to impact mid and late-game team fights.
The only one who’s somewhat of a proven quantity is Marek “Humanoid” Brázda. His staggering play at last year’s Worlds and the most recent LEC playoffs has been nothing short of mind-blowing. Still, he’s surrounded by question marks and players who haven’t always delivered when their backs were against the wall. Moreover, one could argue that the fashion in which they became LEC champions left a lot to be desired. Was their reverse sweep impressive? Without a doubt, but it’s not like Rogue didn’t shoot themselves in the foot. There’s an asterisk next to their triumph, and even though they’ve earned our respect there’s still a myriad of ways in which things could go awry.
All in all, don’t expect too much from MAD Lions. They definitely have the potential to upset, but we need to adjust our expectations. They’ll face an uphill battle from day one, and they very well might be out of their depth on this one. Then again, if they come out the gates swinging and prepare well, they might even do a bit of damage!
Either way, we can’t wait to see them in action! The 2021 Mid-Season Invitational begins in less than twenty-four hours, so make sure to tune in!