However, for PSG and fans of the PCS in general, this tournament was a resounding success. The team performed better than anyone (well, most people) could have expected, and even if this series didn’t go down to the wire in five games, it was still much closer than anticipated.
If their inconsistent Rumble Stage and essentially free Group Stage cast any doubt on RNG’s claim for the 2021 MSI throne, this series eradicated all of it. There were some glimmers of hope for PSG this series, but at the end of the day, RNG stands alone waiting for an opponent to join them in the Grand Finals.
PSG put up one hell of a fight, and yet RNG matched them blow-for-blow on that. Let’s take a look at some of the best moments in this series.
North America’s Next Big Marksman?!
For Chiu “Doggo” Tzu-Chuan, this tournament was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to prove himself. One of the youngest players in competitive League of Legends globally, his first full domestic split saw the prodigy qualify for the PCS finals before being crushed by the PSG bot lane.
His finals opponents, however, would call upon him for help in a moment of desperation — their starting marksman, Wong “Unified” Chun Kit, would be unable to play at MSI. As such, Doggo donned the red-blue-and-white of PSG and stepped up when the region needed him.
Posting decent performances during his first handful of games, once PSG started ramping up Doggo was a driving force behind their victories. KDAs such as 10/1/10 and 7/0/3 defined the Group Stage for PSG’s stand-in, but it wasn’t until the Rumble Stage that things truly started to line-up for bot lane’s next big thing.
Laning with Ling “Kaiwing” Kai Wing is both a blessing and a curse. Yes, the veteran support is absolutely insane at engages, finding ways into fights and collapses that no other player this tournament could even aspire to, but if his relentless aggression is not matched by his lane partner it quickly becomes exhausting. Fortunately, Doggo allowed Kaiwing to take the lead here, and the support led his superstar-in-the-making duo to great success.
The lane phase isn’t even what makes Kaiwing, or Doggo for that matter, so good. Instead, it’s their confident teamfighting and the fact that Doggo fit so seamlessly into this PSG line-up. Diving in with Tristana, following up with Kaisa, it all came naturally for the bloodthirsty bot lane of PSG. Resets for days came through in most fights, leading to double-digit kill columns even versus the most elite of opponents.
Doggo almost saved PSG in their final game of this series, making a hero play and an attempt at a pentakill while RNG started up the Baron. Nerves of steel came through for the rookie, Rocket Jumping back into a fight by himself and attempting to secure a triple kill by fully stacking Explosive Charge with a well-timed Buster Shot. Narrowly missing out on all five (and what would have been a double ace), Doggo still showcased that he has both the skills and presence of mind to match wits with the best.
Doggo’s value definitely skyrocketed this mid-season, so time will tell just what happens to the prodigy and the trajectory of his career. If the fates of PSG’s substitutes from Worlds are any indication, expect a lot of LPL tryouts.
Anyone Feel a Chill?
Most team compositions avoid Braum, as support tends to be picked fairly early into a rotation in order to conceal other cards closer to one’s chest. Braum is fantastic into melee champions thanks to his peel, his crowd control, and sheer base damage, but underwhelming (read: cannon minion) versus most ranged. Imagine how a team composition with Aatrox, Nautilus, and Udyr would feel when having to face off against one of the most melee-punishing picks in the game.
That’s exactly how PSG felt in Game 3 of this series, after having already experienced an icy pummelling at the hands of Shi “Ming” Sen-Ming’s Braum in Game 1. The champion’s zone control combined with immense peel meant that heavy engage champions like Gnar and Leona in Game 1 had no chance of getting into the backline. Additionally, even if Doggo’s Kai’Sa pulled off a miracle engage it would quickly be answered by a one-two punch and a stun.
Considering that Ming has been the best performing support this tournament, perhaps PSG saw his being on Braum as a threat being neutralized. Even so, the bot lane menace could not be stopped when it came to teamfights, shutting out PSG’s attempts and showcasing an off-meta champion’s strength.
Melee supports tend to die a lot, as they often find themselves in the enemy team with comparatively fewer items than a traditional tank. Between games 1 and 3, Ming died a single time — posting a combined KDA of 0/1/26.
That wasn’t to say it was all sunny in the Freljord on that day, as Ming’s Game 2 Braum pick was swiftly answered by two melee divers (Nocturne and Sylas) yet still couldn’t prevent a scaling Kai’Sa and Viktor from being immediately shut out of the game. Not even Braum could disengage from a game-ending Baron fight with the way PSG accelerated their lead in this game.
Even so, seeing a champion as uncommon as Braum find his way into three games of the second-most important series of League’s second-most important international tournament is incredibly refreshing.
For Huang “Maple” Yi-Tang, this game was all about making a statement. The veteran midlaner was once the crown jewel of the LMS (a league folded into the PCS) region but failed to replicate his results in the LPL. Two successive years of underperformance saw the PSG midlaner returning to his roots, and his career has entered a renaissance as the fourth midlaner to don the PSG colors in the span of a single year.
Spectacular play in lane and teamfights alike means that Maple looks like the second-best midlaner this tournament - and when your competition is Heo “ShowMaker” Su, that’s still a tremendous accolade.
Matching off against him would be one Yuan “Cryin” Cheng-Wei, perhaps the most inconsistent midlaner on any of the playoffs LPL teams. Carrying games one moment to being a complete liability the next, Cryin found himself relegated to safe, scaling mages this entire series. Press R and win champions like Orianna and Viktor may not be flashy, but they certainly get the job done.
Maple put up a fairly solid performance versus Cryin, doing far more for PSG’s limited success than the RNG midlaner did for his team’s, and alongside his bot lane we have another player that could be considered by international teams.
On the topic of redemption, the two best performing players of both of these teams have been quietly consistent, rivaling their supports for the amount of influence that they have on the game. For RNG, it’s mid-turned-top-laner Li “Xiaohu” Yuan-Hao, returning to the international stage with a chip on his shoulder and determined to show the world that things are different now.
So far, Xiaohu looks like the best top laner in the tournament with no one close to equal. Stellar statistics may have been inflated by his team’s relatively dominant Group Stage performance, but Xiaohu is dependable through and through. This is the player to watch on RNG (alongside Ming) to put on a carry performance come the Grand Finals.
On the other hand, we have PSG’s most understated member; the only import remaining on their roster, veteran Korean talent Kim “River” Dong-woo has been a statement-maker through and through. While Maple may be slightly lesser than DamWon KIA’s ShowMaker, River’s performance has rivalled Kim “Canyon” Geon-bu’s this tournament.
The perpetually underrated jungler has had the best performances on Morgana this tournament, though his Rumble leaves much to be desired. It’s the tendency to default towards his ever-reliable Udyr that has been River’s only notable weakness this tournament, but even then his calculated Smites and strong synergy with Kaiwing carry through on any champion.
Et tu, Shelly?
Unfortunately for PSG, when it came down to the wire and they were pushed to match point, a misplay around the first Rift Herald saw their snowball attempt melt in their hands. A quick and easy Herald secure by River was then converted into a solid dive top lane; but an overstay combined with the commitment of the Herald saw all of PSG’s lead gambled away in a flash. (11:10ish)
Ming’s Nautilus would keep the PSG bot lane under the top lane tier 1, and PSG would scramble away, the Herald leaving the tower standing and RNG taking the kill lead for the second time this game. PSG would fight back, but RNG had the scaling advantage and as such the game was not accelerating at the pace PSG needed it to.
RNG has an aggressive, punishing early-game style that has its weaknesses covered with scaling champion picks. PSG were one of the few teams able to match their breakneck pace, and RNG could take their finals opponents by surprise. In the end, PSG put up a good fight but were unable to make it happen.
Even if they don’t get a lead early, RNG has superior teamfighting thanks to the stellar supporting line-up around their carries. Will they be able to take this event home? Find out our thoughts and more here on TrackLoL.