With the Mid-Season Invitational right around the corner, it’s only fitting that we put together a list of the most important, influential, or otherwise exciting games to watch this group stage. Teams from all over the world have been sorted into three relatively even (sorry, Group A) groups, and we have a featured game from each of them that you’re not going to want to miss.
Friday, May 7: 10 a.m ET / 7 a.m. PT
With the absence of the reliably chaotic VCS representatives, this group is already shaping up to be more clear-cut than any other. However, UoL
are also shaping up to have some degree of volatility to their play, and while they aren’t quite as flexible as they have been in previous years, the LCL champions know their win conditions and play towards them well.
Lev "Nomanz" Yakshin
is the best mid laner in his region, and likely at least the sixth-best in this tournament overall. His unparalleled carry potential is rivaled only by his dependability, and the star mid laner has flourished so far this year. If Nomanz can dictate the pace of the game like he did back in the LCL, this game could actually be a tremendous upset in favor of UoL.
Unfortunately for UoL, their opponents here are no strangers to unorthodox bloodbaths, forged in the fires of an absolutely explosive LPL split. RNG
enter this tournament as close to pole position as possible without actually being the favorite, trailing behind DK on most tier lists for the moment. This game is a chance to showcase that they do, indeed, mean business — and could prove equally valuable as a chance for the squad to cut their teeth while shaking off any jet lag woes.
Li "Xiaohu" Yuan-Hao
is currently the best top laner in the world, and he climbed a tower of incredibly formidable rivals to claim that title. His understanding of his own limitations in 1v1 situations is refreshing to see, but it’s an uncanny ability to find the perfect avenue into a fight time and time again that makes RNG the best 5v5 roster on the rift right now.
RNG’s weakest link at present is actually in the position that UoL look the most promising in — Yuan "Cryin" Cheng-Wei
is good, but he still found himself outclassed by domestic competition. While Nomanz certainly is no Song "Rookie" Eui-jin, he could still surprise here and take his opponent for a wild ride.
Thursday, May 6: 2 p.m. ET / 11 a.m. PT
The road through the 2020 World Championship Play-Ins Event was a dramatically different story for each of these teams. A once-in-a-lifetime performance from PSG
saw the PCS underdogs soar through the standings, qualifying for the Main Event through sheer dominance from Day 1. Despite coming from a far more competitive region, MAD
were unable to match PSG’s results, having to attempt a climb through the bracket stage of the Play-Ins and falling flat in a very surprising upset.
Both teams upgraded their rosters during the off-season, but again — the story couldn’t be more different between them. Spring was an absolute breeze for PSG, losing less than a handful of games overall, while MAD fought tooth and nail to take the first LEC title for a team not named G2 Esports or Fnatic since 2014’s Alliance.
The surprisingly close matchup to watch here would have been in the bottom lane, but with PSG’s substitute situation the bottom lane is no longer in their favor. Instead, we’ll focus on the mid lane — as Marek "Humanoid" Brázda
makes his third international appearance in a row looking better than ever, while Huang "Maple" Yi-Tang
desperately seeks some mid lane competition after his domestic dominance.
Humanoid versus Maple should be explosive enough in lane, but these are two of the strongest teamfighting mid laners in this entire tournament. There is a chance we see either of these players bring out something crazy when the situation permits, but it’s more than likely that we’ll see Humanoid’s Orianna versus Maple’s Azir. These scaling, teamfight-dominant carries have some of the most devastating and tide-turning ultimate abilities in the game, so hopefully, we’re guaranteed a show - even if it takes 20 minutes to come online.
Thursday, May 6: 9 a.m. ET / 6 a.m. PT
There isn’t much to say about this matchup except that DK
are currently the best team in the world and C9
are currently the best team in a major region that didn’t get a tier-1 seed for this event.
That being said, there are still a few entertaining factors in play here. Mostly, it’s Luka "Perkz" Perković
’s uncanny ability to never be counted out of a fight, even with his back against the wall. The former G2 franchise player brings a certain degree of level-headedness and reliability that C9 were otherwise missing but is still willing to go along with — and sometimes be the source of — the antics that define North America’s number one team.
Matching up against Perkz yet again is Heo "ShowMaker" Su
, though the last time these two met Perkz was playing bot lane. ShowMaker is, at present, the best mid laner in the world without question — but Perkz has toppled similar competition before. This is Perkz’s chance at revenge after ShowMaker led DK (then DWG) to knock G2 out of the 2020 World Championship, breaking up a roster that almost brought Europe its first Worlds title since 2011.
As hype as the mid lane matchup is, it’s actually the junglers — C9’s Robert "Blaber" Huang
and DK’s Kim "Canyon" Geon-bu
— that will dictate the outcome here. Both renowned for their aggressive pathing and talent for reading their enemies like a book, this could prove to be one of the most exciting head-to-heads in this tournament.
These featured games all highlight the first seeds taking on the second, but it’s also important to consider the upset potential presented by the rest of the teams here. While Group A is as close to clear-cut as possible, both B and C have some volatility with each squad bringing their own strengths and star players.
Be sure to tune in starting May 6 to see which stars shine brightest this MSI!