MSI 2021 Knockouts Preview
MSI 2021 Knockouts Preview

As 2021’s Mid-Season Invitational heads into its final weekend in Reykjavík, Iceland, the remaining sides are set to clash in the Knockout stage to decide the world’s strongest team halfway through the year.

Lee "Couple Sodi Pops" Jones
Freelance Esports Writer
19th May, 21·☕️ 5 min read

As 2021’s Mid-Season Invitational heads into its final weekend in Reykjavík, Iceland, the remaining sides are set to clash in the Knockout stage to decide the world’s strongest team halfway through the year.

Competition Information

MSI 2021 arena

Starting with 11 teams in the Group stage, the first sides to drop out of the tournament were Unicorns of Love, paiN Gaming, ⁠İstanbul Wildcats, DetonatioN FocusMe and Infinity Esports. These lineups went home early having failed to move on to the Rumble stage, however all can keep their heads held high after managing to pick up at least one win apiece despite representing the game’s smaller regions.

The Rumble stage held another group format with all six remaining sides, the top 4 of whom progressed to the knockouts. Topping the table was Worlds holder DWG KIA, a favourite for the tournament who has won the last 4 tournaments they’ve been a part of; LCK Summer, Worlds, KeSPA Cup & LCK Spring. Just behind them, with only a single win less, was China’s RNG, another tipped to make a deep push after coming from the world’s largest region.

In third place was Southeast Asia’s PSG Talon, building on strong performances from PCS sides in recent international tournaments to knock NA’s LCS winner Cloud9 out of the top four and even finish ahead of EU’s MAD Lions. The latter finished a win behind to round out the qualifying sides, all moving on to the semi-final knockouts.

MSI c9

Failing to reach the bracket was an inconsistent Cloud9, who despite fielding Worlds 2019 finalist and current MSI holder Perkz in the mid lane, was unable to look their best on regular occasions and only managed 3 wins from 10.

At the foot of the table was Oceania’s Pentanet.GG. The winners of the newly formed LCO defied the odds to even reach the Rumble stage and their single win against Cloud9 meant that they don’t leave empty-handed.

The Current Season

DWG KIA vs MAD Lions


Despite coming into MSI as overall favourites, DWG KIA have looked less than perfect at times and have opened the door to potential upsets. Despite going 0-2 against main rivals RNG in the Rumble stage, the Korean champions still won every other match to top the group and will be a huge task for MAD Lions to try and take down.

mad win

MAD blew away all expectations this split to win their first LEC title and have so far performed more or less as expected. Seeing NA rivals Cloud9 crash out would surely have put a smile on the face of the European squad members, however going home at this stage will wipe those clean off.

Their best chance at taking games from DWG will be through the top lane. Turkey’s Armut has been a key performer since his arrival this season and his lane opponent Khan could be seen as a weak link having faltered at international events a number of times in the past.

Royal Never Give Up vs PSG Talon

rng win msi

While Chinese teams had mostly dominated international events since RNG’s MSI win in 2018, last year’s World Championship victory by DWG KIA knocked the LPL off of the top spot and now all eyes from the region will be on RNG to take back the crown. Despite MSI not coming with quite as much notoriety as Worlds, it at least marks the strongest side at this stage of the year and will no doubt bring bragging rights with it.

RNG was a somewhat unexpected winner of the LPL this time around, beating out huge teams in both their regular season and playoff victories and their form has not slowed down since. Coming up against PSG Talon makes them clear favourites to qualify for the grand final, however their PCS opponents won’t go down without a fight.

psg win

PSG yet again entered an international event without their full strength lineup after bot laner Unified was swapped for loanee Doggo due to health issues, though this was less of an impact than the one they faced at Worlds last year where they ended up fielding 8 different players/loanees due to VISA problems.

This is so far their region’s deepest international run after PCS teams have gone from strength to strength in recent seasons. Finally, this time around PSG Talon have shown themselves ahead of European and North American competition and now have the chance to take another major-region scalp.