Five Biggest Questions Coming into the 2021 Mid-Season Invitational
The 2021 LoL Mid-Season Invitational is right around the corner and, naturally, it’s impossible not to question whether things will pan out as expected, or if a team will actually be able to subvert our expectations and upset the status quo. There are five questions in the air right now, all of which are exciting and vexing in equal measure.
First of all, one thing needs to be said: no one’s expecting DWG KIA to lose. How this will impact the tournament and the overarching narrative still remains to be seen. Either way, it gives us something to talk about. If they were to lose, it wouldn’t be the first time the World Champions failed to deliver on the MSI stage — Invictus Gaming and their upset loss to Team Liquid proves that miracles can, indeed, happen from time to time.
Then again, the LCK champions seem so darn powerful, it doesn’t even make sense. They’ve already demolished all opposition back at the World Championship and they’ve done so in such a dominant fashion that it’s simply impossible to envision them losing. Still, we’ll all tune in on May 6, eager to see a slew of hungry challengers try.
DWG KIA | Can They Bleed?
Rarely do teams as dominant as DWG KIA come along. They’re not the only seemingly unassailable giants in the history of competitive League, but they’re the last ones from that lineage, and they play like no team has ever played before.
They’re nearly perfect, is what they are. And even when they do make mistakes, there’s probably no one out there who can really punish and exploit them.
But sooner or later all dynasties come to an end, no matter how ever-lasting and invulnerable they might seem. The same will happen to DWG KIA, although how and when still remains to be seen. Maybe someone else will come along and dethrone them, or maybe they’ll rest on their laurels and drop the ball at some point in the future.
But that’s still a ways off. What we’re wondering now is whether or not there’s anyone who can truly challenge DWG KIA and stop them from adding “MSI Champions” to their resumes. Most folks are hoping that RNG and C9 will step up and pull off the seemingly impossible, but the odds are definitely stacked against them. Heck, we’re putting it mildly here.
Still, even if no one succeeds and DWG KIA end up hoisting yet another prestigious trophy in a couple of weeks’ time, at least they’ll be forced to show their cards. And who knows, maybe someone will notice a weakness or two they’ll be able to exploit further down the line?
Royal Never Give Up | The Jury’s Still Out
No one’s quite sure how to feel about Royal Never Give Up. They’re undeniably the best team in the LPL right now, but the fashion in which they ascended the ranks and subsequently fought through the playoffs is somewhat puzzling.
The LPL, as a whole, is difficult to assess at this point in time. There are numerous exceptional challengers over in China, and they all failed to solve the puzzle that is RNG. That, simply put, isn’t what anyone expected coming into 2021.
Still, RNG are far from perfect, as evidenced by their relatively sloppy playoffs run. One could go even further and say that the LPL — as a whole — regressed. Wait, lower your pitchforks and let’s talk about this! The sheer fact that an LPL team is no longer atop the world of competitive League proves this theory, albeit not in any tremendous, wholly definitive way. It might be a flawed extrapolation, but it’s not without merit. In any case, even if it were true, we still don’t know the magnitude of their regression. It’s certainly an interesting hypothesis, one that may or may not end up being correct.
If you’re a seasoned fan of competitive League, you surely remember the RNG days of yore, back when Jian “Uzi” Zi-Hao was still their marquee player. Back then, LPL teams were nothing more than incredibly feisty challengers graced with supreme mechanical talent and very little strategic depth. That’s why they never really accomplished anything worthy of mentioning up until 2018 — EDG’s triumph at 2015 MSI was more of a flash in the pan than anything else.
No one can precisely evaluate the LPL as a region right now, which is why we’re dying to see RNG in action — their upcoming performances will define our expectations going forward. We want to see how they’ll fare against the likes of DWG, Cloud9, and MAD Lions, three entirely different challengers with differing playstyles and takes on the game. Now, make no mistake: RNG are still considered as the second most dangerous team at this year’s Mid-Season Invitational, but it is a title that was given to them by default (based on the historical successes of their compatriots) — they have yet to earn and justify everyone’s benefit of the doubt.
Cloud9 | A Dangerous Dark Horse
The boys in white and blue are arguably the most interesting team at this year’s Mid-Season Invitational for two distinct reasons: (1) Cloud9 has always delivered on the international stage; (2) they’re staggeringly talented and are graced with a metric ton of confidence. Heck, it was Luka “Perkz” Perković who kicked RNG out of Worlds back in 2018, and he did so with a vastly inferior bottom lane duo by his side.
This Cloud9 line-up is spectacular in more ways than one, and the fact that’ll well see them compete against the best teams in the world will be one of MSI’s chief delights. They’re the kind of team that cares very little for what the oddsmakers have to say and will compete like their lives depend on it — regardless if they’re facing DWG KIA, RNG, or some other seemingly unassailable titan.
They’ve subverted and exceeded everyone’s expectations on so many occasions in the past so it’s easy to understand where their confidence is coming from. They also have a stacked coaching staff and are primed and ready to leave a mark. How high they’ll eventually soar still remains to be seen, but they should not be underestimated whatsoever.
MAD Lions | The De Facto Underdogs
This youthful bunch is arguably in an even better position than their North American peers — no one’s expecting them to rub shoulders with the three perennial LoL titans listed above which means they’ll be able to compete without any pressure. And, well, we all saw just how dominant and surprisingly competitive they can be whenever they throw caution out the window and compete like there’s no tomorrow.
Perhaps even more important is the fact that they’re having fun. That’s the sole reason why they were able to reverse sweep Rogue a couple of weeks ago. Well, that, and a boatload of mental fortitude and grit. They’re inexperienced when compared to most of their peers but you’d never be able to tell based on their play and the confidence with which they traverse the Summoner’s Rift. They’re insanely flexible, mechanically gifted, and perhaps even a bit unhinged — the perfect mix that might just allow them to pull off a seismic upset.
Unicorns of Love | So Crazy It Might Just Work
The best competitive LoL underdogs are the ones who throw caution out the window and fight like their lives depend on it. They never succeed in their plans, of course, but that doesn’t stop them from trying. And more often than not, it is this feistiness and grit that allows them to upset (at least ever so slightly) and take someone down with them.
In the absence of any great triumph, these little ones matter immensely.
The Unicorns of Love need no introduction. This family-run organization has been subverting everyone’s expectations from the moment they started competing in the LEC, and their mind-blowing run over in the LCL has been nothing short of spectacular. The Unicorns are always undervalued and underappreciated but they don’t mind — they’re used to it and, in fact, they often play their best League whenever they’re discounted right from the very get-go. They’re the kind of team that makes everything more exciting, and that should hold true for the upcoming 2021 LoL Mid-Season Invitational as well.
Either way, the action begins on May 6, so make sure to clear out your schedule as you do not want to miss any of the action!