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The biggest surprises in MSI history

by Kevin Bellah

League of Legends is one of the biggest esports in the world and the Mid-Season Invitational is among the most prestigious competitions it has to offer, with many seeing it as second only to Worlds in the power rankings. This international event has a history of throwing up upset results and surprise winners, and the biggest ones live long in the memory.

What is the Mid-Season Invitational?

Regular viewers of League of Legends esports broadcasts are no doubt familiar with the Mid-Season Invitational, or MSI, the big event hosted in the middle of the season featuring the Spring Split champions and a couple of other teams securing their spots via wildcards. RNG and T1 have two titles to their name in MSI’s six-year history, making them the most successful League of Legends teams in the competition.

It is arguably the second most important tournament in LoL esports behind Worlds and winning it will greatly increase the clout of any time – and by the same token, falling short when you’re seen as the favorites may also damage your aura of invincibility back home for the next round of domestic competitions. No wonder its 2021 edition was among the most-watched esports events of the year.

2015: Edward Gaming blaze a trail for China

Though Edward Gaming (EDG) were seen as one of the favorites going into the event, deep runs by Chinese teams weren’t always common at the top of League of Legends competitive play. EDG eventually edged out the T1 juggernaut in an exciting grand final, setting the stage for the likes of RNG to push the envelope further later down the line.

Despite an early defeat to T1 in the groups, they comfortably beat everyone else along the way before crushing their semi-final opponents, ahq e-Sports Club, with a 3-0 victory. The final was a rematch of their first match of the tournament, going up against T1, the only team that scored a victory against them. League of Legends betting site Rivalry reported high interest in the MSI finals this year and there’s no doubt fans of the teams fueled the stats in a similar manner back in 2015.

The final lived up the hype, a barnburner of a best-of-five going all the way to the distance as unorthodox positions and unique picks clashed across the field over and over again until EDG managed to turn the tide with a dominant game five win, claiming China’s first major international trophy in the League of Legends scene.

2016: Close but no cigar for CLG as G2 face an early bath

North American League of Legends fans are still waiting for their first MSI title (and it’s been ages since a meaningful showing from an LCS member at Worlds as well, but that’s another story), and CLG could have been forgiven for thinking 2016 may be their year after an exemplary group stage performance and the early elimination of European giants G2.

The hype reached incredible proportions after their 3-2 semifinal win over Flash Wolves. Having drawn 1-1 with T1 in the round robin stage, anything seemed possible. Though the South Korean giants struggled in the early part of the tournament, only coming in at fourth place (drawing with CLG in the process), they crushed Royal Never Give Up, who won the group undefeated and claimed the previous winners’ spot from the LPL, in the semis. Indeed the giants of the peninsula woke up in time, crushing North American dreams with a swift 3-0 victory. No LCS team made it so far since at MSI.

2021: DAMWON KIA fall short of expectations

The Worlds 2020 winners continued to flex their muscles in Korea with their dominant showings in the Spring Split but they fell short at MSI at the expense of RNG. It’s not just the results but the poorness of the performances that stand out: oddball picks and weird support plays suggest the giants of the region are not exactly in the best shape as we’re inching towards the business end of the season.

What’s the next chapter in MSI history?

The Mid-Season Invitational is an exciting part of the League of Legends competitive calendar, and every year offers up exciting new storylines. Though we don’t yet know much about the 2022 edition, the fact that the world is slowly returning to normal suggests we’re in for the sort of spectacle we haven’t seen in three years at least, making it a must-watch even at this early stage. Mark your calendars!

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