As League of Legends fans head into the exciting Knockout Stage of the 2021 Mid-Season Invitational, let's take inventory of one of the most surprising teams of the stage: PSG Talon
. From ruining RNG's win streak to River's fantastic Rumble, they are an underdog team well worth the watch.
Who Is PSG Talon?
PSG Talon is an esports fusion between the Paris Saint Germain football team and the Chinese Talon Esports group. They are the most recent champions of the PCS Spring Playoffs, which is how they got invited to the 2021 Mid-Season Invitational (MSI).
During the Groups Stage, PSG Talon faced off against paiN Gaming
, fastPay Wildcats
, and MAD Lions
. They consistently beat the competition, except for MAD Lions, giving them a 4-2 score. They favored characters like Kai’Sa, Tristana, Leona, Thresh, Rumble, and Udyr. Y’know, the very typical style for the current MSI patch notes. They also were one of the top teams for dragons, averaging 2.6 per game.
Fans and experts didn’t really go into the Rumble, or even MSI, thinking too highly of PSG Talon. Not only did they seem second fiddle compared to MAD Lions, but with the last-minute substitution of Doggo
in the bot lane for this tournament, fans assumed they would fall apart once the Rumble hit.
However, over the past few days, PSG Talon has been playing like a much stronger team. Heading into Knockouts, they have an impressive 6-4 record that gave them not 4th, but a shocking 3rd place. Not only did they knock out Cloud9
, but they also aren’t just second behind MAD Lions anymore. PSG Talon has come into their own, and they’ve become the underdog team to watch going into Knockouts.
As we excitedly race towards MSI’s conclusion, let’s talk about PSG Talon’s strengths that got them this far (and the weaknesses that are still holding them back).
One of PSG’s greatest strengths is their scrappy, teamfight-heavy style. They love to force early fights, throwing themselves at their enemies and trying to assassinate them before they can get ahead. And if any of the fights don’t work, they keep trying. Their entire game plan is to shake up the farming fest people might expect, riling up the early game.
For example, they got a record-early invade in their second game against MAD Lions
. At 1:30, KaiWing
, and River
party-crashed the MAD Lions leash and got first blood in under 2 minutes. The play ended in a trade, but it clearly helped PSG throw MAD Lions off. After that, PSG then got the first dragon and first tower.
This is similar to how PSG played out their grand upset game against RNG
. They pushed for early fights, even at the cost of their own players. It started a simple 2-1 for PSG Talon at 5 minutes, but with all the aggressive fight-forcing, it turned to 7-2 at 10 minutes, 12-4 at 15 minutes, 13-5 at 20 minutes, 21-7 at 25 minutes, and ended at 26-9 at 27:53.
They are a team that focuses on picks far more than disengage, and their heavily roaming jungler, River, is a huge help with that (as well as all the roaming Maple and KaiWing do, as well).
Another key part of PSG’s game strategy is controlling the mid-lane and the river objectives around it. River’s focus and synergy with Maple
make them a strong pair that pull off a lot of mid-lane intimidation and plays.
In one game against Cloud9, River passed through mid around 3 times, and KaiWing also roamed up twice before serious teamfighting started to happen. Having control of that river and mid-line is the core of their strategy, and with 6 scuttles, 3 dragons, 1 Rift Herald, and 1 Baron in this one game, of course, it ended up in PSG’s favor.
Furthermore, in many of their games Maple plays a high-damage mid-laner and River plays the kind of explosive follow-up that he needs. Throughout MSI, River played 7 games using a Dark Seal and Maple played 6. These two were coordinating to deal a lot of damage and terrorize mid-lane, and it shows. And looking solely at the games where they pulled it off, Maple did an impressive average of 601 DPM.
Also, if River can’t cover the CC, Maple will. For example, in River’s Rumble games, Maple played champions like Zoe and Renekton who have powerful moves to lock down a champion.
PSG Talon clearly coordinates the way they control the map. They rely on Doggo’s aggression to put pressure on bot, Hanabi
’s durability to sustain top lane and encourage River and Maple to terrorize the jungle and mid-lane in-between. Their goal is to maintain as much objective control as possible, aiming for double scuttles and dragon picks wherever they can. Speaking of...
PSG is an absolute powerhouse of pushing early objectives. Just look at the stats. In their ten games, they took 27 dragons. Also, they got six first dragons, six first towers, and six first bloods throughout the Rumble. If you don’t think that’s impressive, the world champs, DWG KIA
, only got five first dragons, six first towers, and four first bloods in the same 10-game period.
Their objective-rush style is how they were able to get such a lead on DWG KIA the first time they faced off. Even if they fell apart in the mid-to-late game, these kinds of early leads make a difference.
In other games, they are exactly what creates the snowballing that crushes other teams, like in PSG’s first game against RNG
. Note that during that same game, they got seven kills in under seven minutes as well as the first dragon. Compared to RNG’s measly two kills, that set PSG up for success early on.
Before every game, PSG has clearly taken notes on their previous Rumble performances and adapted to better fight their opponents. For example, their assassin style works well against a lot of teams, but it never quite worked against their Groups rivals, MAD Lions. Because of this, the second time they faced off, PSG Talon focused on beefing up their team to give them a better footing, while going for an even earlier kill pick than ever before (see that iconic 1:30 jungle invade).
Also, they’ve adapted to other teams using targeted bans against their team comp. After getting a few wins, their enemies started target-banning River’s Morgana. PSG noticed that and adapted, switching River to Rumble, another Dark Seal jungler that he could use to dominate and terrorize the enemy.
The entire team has a host of oppressive options in their pockets, from Rumble fire to Morgana pools, Zoe snoozes to Akali knives. Even though junglers and mid-laners are common bans this MSI, PSG Talon finds ways to adapt.
Despite being a sub-in, Doggo has really made a great impact on PSG’s gameplay in the Rumble. They can rely on him to hold his own in the bot lane against the top players on the LoL scene. As proof, Doggo pulled off an impressive average of 593.2 dpm across all of the Rumble stage. By comparison, RNG’s ADC, GALA
, who’s considered by a lot of people to be the best ADC in MSI, had an average of 576.1 dpm.
Also, Doggo is a fearless, aggressive ADC, the kind that fits perfectly into PSG’s pro-fight, assassination style. When he’s on Tristana or Xayah, he uses the rocket jump or the featherstorm to keep pushing a teamfight, not disengage. He’s even known for using Galeforce as an all-in tool, when most everyone else uses it as a way to help ADCs escape.
Doggo is the perfect ADC for PSG’s style, and he’s only getting better as they go along. In groups, his KDA was 7.9 and during the Rumble, it was 8.7. As long as he’s holding their artillery down in bot, Maple and River can go on their roaming adventures for picks and objectives.
The Lack of a Back-Up Plan
If their assassination style doesn’t work during the early/mid game, PSG doesn’t really have a back-up plan by late game. Even if they’re on equal footing with the enemy team, even if they’re team comp is technically capable of winning fights at this stage, it doesn’t matter. They seem to fall apart unless they can keep their early skirmishing lead and run with it.
Basically, if they aren’t a spooky Rengar by Baron, they’re just a team full of scattered Yuumis.
For example, after their first loss to PSG, RNG hunkered down and got serious about countering PSG’s game plan. They started off by banning River’s Morgana, but went into the game disengaging every early fight and focusing on stopping PSG from landing first objectives.
Because they never got the lead they wanted, PSG would have had to adapt to the situation, but they couldn’t. In time, RNG focused on pushing side lanes and catching PSG players out to get their own lead and beat them down via lane pressure.
Traditional Objective Juggling
PSG is good at focusing on one objective (tower, dragon, kill, etc.) and hitting it hard. They are not as good at splitting up, avoiding fights, and collecting farm. They’re not as good at farming as others in general. It’s why they force fights so aggressively. Even when they demolish another team (like when they faced off against Pentanet.GG
for the first time), their farm leads are only slightly more or, in some cases like River and Maple, are worse. The team spends so much time roaming that they don’t get those same farming numbers and, if their roams aren’t as effective as planned, it goes poorly.
Similarly, if they are getting their objectives but a team forces them into a tough situation, they could fall apart and lose everything. In their first game with DWG KIA, by all right PSG was winning the game for the first 20 minutes. They had the first tower, two rift heralds, and things were going good for them.
But then around the 18-20 minute mark, DWG KIA started playing the lane-pushing game. Then Doggo got himself killed with poor positioning, Gnar got himself stun-locked and taken out in bot-lane and lost a tower, and then the infamous 23-minute dragon fight happened.
PSG went in for an ambitious Gnar ult, but DWG KIA didn’t take the bait, gave the Gnar his space, and so he only caught one person in his toss-up and then was subsequently evaporated, along with everyone else on the team except Doggo. Then DWG KIA ran it straight to Baron and ended the game less than 7 minutes later. PSG could not figure out a way to adapt to DWG KIA avoiding their normal tactics and it showed.
Sometimes, Doggo’s own powerful fearlessness is what puts him in bad positions and costs PSG Talon some important fights and objectives. For example, a moment of bad positioning helped destroy their lead against DWG KIA in their first head-to-head. At the time, Doggo and Ghost
were fairly equal at 1/0/1 and 2/0/1 respectively, but Ghost turned that third kill money into building a fully-finished Collector.
Also, even though they won their first game against RNG, Doggo rocket-jumped too deep to try to get a kill and instead gave the first blood to the Kai’Sa (GALA). That meant that KaiWing had to clean up the two kills in bot lane instead of PSG’s ADC. That could’ve been game-ruining if RNG’s bot lane had made it out alive, or worse, if GALA had been able to snowball off that pick.
Couldn’t Care Less About Top Lane
Ignoring Hanabi in top lane in favor of fueling mid, bot, and the objectives is a weak point for PSG. All of their winning games they focused on killing mid and bot lane (including often tankier supports) much more than top laners. Look at their crushing blows against Pentanet or RNG.
If the rest of PSG doesn’t keep the enemy jungler busy, any team could heavily punish them for this behavior. For example, in their first game against Cloud9
, the enemy team did just that. By seven minutes, Fudge and Blaber had killed Hanabi twice and gotten first plate gold up top. If it wasn’t for PSG’s moves in the other lanes, they would’ve had a much bigger problem with their top-lane weaknesses.
After all, something important to note is that all of the games PSG won were ones where Hanabi held a 4.0 KDA or higher, denying the other team as much ground as possible up in top lane.
Luckily, the meta right now sort of favors everyone ignoring top lane, but if any team decided to punish PSG for it, it could have serious consequences.
Predictions Going Into Knockouts
DWG KIA talked about choosing MAD Lions as their semi-final opponents if they won. Their hope is that PSG Talon might just knock out RNG like they did in their first fight.
During the Rumble, PSG has made it clear that they only work their best when snowballing a high-damage, assassin-style comp. So, if they have to fight RNG again, they’ll have to be better prepared for RNG to try to avoid their early-game tactics. RNG is at their weakest when the other team is oppressing their mid-laner, Cryin, so instead of intimidating and using their mid-lane passes as a tool to get objectives, PSG might have to focus instead on making as many picks as possible on Cryin. It seems, from previous games, that if you throw off Cryin, you throw off the rest of RNG, too. In all their worst games, he has the most deaths. If PSG can’t get kills on him, though, or execute their mid-control and early teamfights?
Well, the game is as good as over.
Let’s hope PSG Talon can pull themselves together to make the game a lot more fun than that and maybe give fans quite the surprise during knockouts. They’ve surprised everyone so far, so why not keep going?