MSI 2021 Preview
MSI 2021 Preview

The first of two main international tournament each season, the Mid-Season Invitational (MSI) is set to get underway for the first time in two years after being cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lee "Couple Sodi Pops" Jones
Freelance Esports Writer
6th May, 21·☕️ 6 min read

The first of two main international tournament each season, the Mid-Season Invitational (MSI) is set to get underway for the first time in two years after being cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While current holders G2 Esports failed to make the cut, the top sides from each region will instead fight it out to prove who is the strongest at the halfway mark of the year.

Competition Information

Held this year in Iceland’s Laugardalshöll, MSI kicks off on Thursday 6th May with the Group stage. This was expected to be contested by twelve teams, however travel restrictions have meant that Vietnam’s champions GAM Esports cannot attend. As a result, the remaining 11 sides are split into three groups (two groups of 4 and one group of 3).

msi iceland

The two larger groups will be played out in a double round-robin and the three-team group will play a triple round-robin. All group stage games will be best-of-ones and the top two teams from each group will move on to the Rumble stage.

The Rumble stage sees another group, this time made by all six remaining teams, who play another best-of-one, double round-robin from which the top four progress to the Knockout semi-final.

Both the semi-final and grand final series are to be decided in best-of-fives, with the victor in the latter earning the MSI title and hoisting the trophy for their region when the tournament concludes on Saturday 22nd May.

The Current Season

msi groups

Group A

Royal Never Give UpLPLChina
Unicorns Of LoveLCLCIS

Heading up group A is 2018 MSI champions RNG, who qualify for the tournament having won the Chinese LPL. Despite having been a sleeping giant in the last couple of seasons, the veteran organisation saw a sudden resurgence this split and will surely now be one of the favourites for the title.

Unicorns of Love enter their third consecutive international tournament after winning all four CIS splits since their move from Europe, and up against them for the second knockout-qualifying spot is Oceania’s Pentanet who won the newly formed LCO (made after Riot disbanded the OPL).

Group B

MAD LionsLECEurope
PSG TalonPCSSoutheast Asia
İstanbul WildcatsTCLTurkey
paiN GamingCBLOLBrazil

Europe’s MAD Lions upset all the odds to win their first LEC title this split and doing so will make them clear favourites to get out of group B. One of those alongside them is the PCS’ PSG Talon, a side who defied expectations last Worlds to take games from JDG, LGD and Rogue. They will unfortunately be without their usual bot laner Unified due to an ongoing health issue and will instead play with Beyond Gaming loanee Doggo.

pain gaming

Also fighting for qualification is Turkey’s İstanbul Wildcats, making their first international appearance, as well as Brazil’s paiN Gaming. Despite paiN not having reached an international tournament since Worlds in 2015, bot laner brTT will be appearing in his fourth having been his region’s most high profile player during his 9-year career.

Group C

Cloud9LCSNorth America
Infinity EsportsLLALatin America
DetonatioN FocusMeLJLJapan

Group C is arguably the least likely to see an upset in Knockouts qualification with both Korea’s DWG and NA’s Cloud9 expected to comfortably take the top two sports. The former is the current World Champion and enters MSI as the clear favourite as a result (having also won back-to-back LCK splits). Cloud9 have won their second LCS Spring split in a row, however their new-look lineup with Perkz in the mid lane should make them more internationally fierce than ever.

The remaining sides, LLA’s Infinity Esports and LJL’s DetonatioN FocusMe, will both still fancy their chances having seen previous iterations come close to international upsets in the past. Infinity Esports last appeared at this level during Worlds 2018 (with current jungler SolidSnake still on the team) and managed to take games from both EDG and G2 Esports. DFM have made Worlds twice in the past, and both times have managed to secure wins (including one against Europe’s Splyce) despite coming from one of the game’s smallest regions.

Sodi Pops’ Pick - DWG KIA to win MSI

dwg kia win

When tipping a favourite ahead of the tournament there can surely be nobody else by DWG KIA. The Korean champions, and current Worlds holders, have shown no signs of slowing down even after losing star top laner Nuguri in the off season since his replacement, Khan, has taken over brilliantly.

An added benefit may also be the fact that some favourites from other regions failed to qualify. Of the other pool 1 regions, Europe’s G2 faltered after losing mid laner Perkz this season while other Chinese giants such as FunPlus Phoenix and Top Esports also didn’t make it.

One side not to gloss over, however, will be LPL winners Royal Never Give Up. Despite not having been expected to compete for their home title this year, their lineup has dominated China so far in Spring topping both their regular season and playoffs.