The 2021 Mid-Season Invitational is right around the corner and will bring the first international clashes of 2021, with DWG KIA looking like the biggest favorite.
After winning the world championship last year, DWG KIA has kept the impressive form and dominated the 2021 LCK Spring Split. With back-to-back LCK trophies and a world championship in the bag, it’s expected that DWG KIA will perform well at the upcoming MSI. Despite great competition from the biggest leagues in the world, DWG KIA will be the pre-tournament favorites in many eyes, and for good reason.
Being the favorite isn’t something DWG KIA has been used to until very recently but it doesn’t seem to affect the players.
Throughout the recent LCK spring split, DWG KIA was only put under serious pressure a couple of times. The first moment was by none other than Fredit BRION, in a match where DWG KIA clearly got up on the wrong side of the bed. It wasn’t enough to shake the champions, as they didn’t lose another series before after securing first place in the regular split.
In the playoffs, it also looked like a breeze for DWG KIA, who swept the semifinal and final. Gen.G was able to challenge DWG KIA a bit in the final, but never to a point where there was any question about the result.
— LoL Esports (@lolesports) April 10, 2021
This dominant performance speaks for itself and will have any team shake going into MSI. Even with a new top laner in Kim “Khan” Dong-ha, DWG KIA looks like a well-oiled machine ready to take on the international stage once again. Some fans and experts have already stated that this version of DWK KIA isn’t as strong as at the 2020 World Championship, but maybe that isn’t needed to win.
With one representative from each region at MSI, the competition will be more concentrated and allow DWK KIA to prepare for very specific opponents. With world-class players in every position, it’s hard to find cracks in the DWG KIA armor but not impossible. The team can be punished through the early game, but it will require clean games from the opponent as DWG KIA is known to turn games on its head.
With all these strengths and an expectation of the LCK taking the MSI trophy in mind, who can even challenge the defending world champions?
The biggest challenger to take down DWG KIA is looking to be LPL’s representative Royal Never Give Up. After a long and competitive split, RNG managed to win it all against all expectations. Going into the season, very few people expected RNG to play among the best but they proved everyone wrong.
RNG is seen as one of the old kings of the LPL and is now back in the throne. With former mid laner and veteran player Li “Xiaohu” Yuan-Hao switching to the top lane, RNG has gotten a completely new identity and playstyle compared to previous years. RNG was once very reliant on star bot laner Jian “Uzi” Zi-Hao but after his retirement, RNG has created its own playstyle with wonky picks in the top lane and overall stable team fighting.
In the 2021 LPL Spring Split playoffs, RNG was knocked into the lower bracket by FunPlus Phoenix in the first round despite being the first seed. The loss to FPX seemed like the end for RNG, but they bounced back with a win against Top Esports and EDward Gaming in the lower bracket. FPX was waiting in the final for a rematch, and RNG showed up with a beautiful 3-1 victory.
The LPL trophy means a lot for the RNG organization, but international success will likely mean more. RNG still has a lot to prove with this squad and doesn’t have as strong of a track record compared to DWK KIA. With that said, the Chinese powerhouse is looking like the strongest team to challenge.
It wouldn’t be an exciting MSI without western teams stepping up to the plate. For the European LEC, there is a title to defend after G2 Esports won in 2019, and for the North American LCS, international success is starting to become a must.
The LEC is sending MAD Lions to MSI, after the team won the 2021 LEC Spring Split, a great underdog story. MAD Lions entered the playoffs as the third seed and ended up going undefeated through the upper bracket against all odds. MAD Lions has showcased eager play the whole split but only very few people would have expected them to go past Rogue two times and G2 Esports as well.
The final against Rogue was extremely close and ended up with a reverse sweep from MAD Lions. This final didn’t only show the level of MAD Lions’ gameplay, but also their ability to perform under pressure.
Cloud9 also needed a five-game thriller to win the LCS Mid-Season Showdown, ultimately taking down Team Liquid. In many ways, Cloud9 had the same journey to the trophy as MAD Lions did except for being the favorite. Cloud9 ended the regular split in first seed and was also the team to perform best in the best-of-five format. With Luka “Perkz” Perković leading the charge, the team seems more ready for an international event than ever.
If either MAD Lions or Cloud9 can compete with DWG KIA and even RNG is hard to tell. Both teams haven’t shown the same amount of dominance in their respective leagues, so it would be a surprise to see a western champion this year.
The 2021 Mid-Season Invitational will run from May 6 to 22. It will be held in Reykjavík, Iceland, the first international event of the year. It will also be the first MSI event since 2019, as the 2020 tournament was canceled.
The tournament will host each regional champion from the spring split with a total of 11 teams. Originally, there should have been 12 teams but the VCS representative GAM Esports won’t be able to make it due to travel restrictions.