The meta at MSI felt detached from the entirety of the Spring Split. So many new picks emerged, champions that teams had to adapt to and fit into team comps very quickly. Support was the one exception to this massive shift, and the role remained mostly the same as it’s been all year. Hard-engage champions like Nautilus and Leona are the meta, and these playmaking support picks often dictate when teams start fights as well as how long the backline stays alive. In other words, support players are the unsung heroes for any team they’re on. We don’t usually see them carrying in a traditional sense, but the importance of a strong support player on any roster can’t be understated.
What does it mean to have a high impact as a support player, and who did it best at MSI? These are the Top 5 supports from this year’s Mid-Season Invitational.
BeryL’s comparably low placement on this list may surprise anyone who didn’t watch DWG KIA’s games leading into the finals. While BeryL had some pop-off moments in the Grand Finals, his performance throughout the Group and Rumble stages was spotty at best. If there was anything that shook people’s confidence in Damwon, it was their bot lane.
BeryL’s biggest strength and weakness lie in the same place: he’s always looking for a fight. Where BeryL may sometimes appear to be out of position, he’s aware that dying in order to bait the enemy team into an unfavorable fight is a powerful tool. That said, he had a real problem with getting picked.
This clip from DWG KIA’s loss to Cloud9 in the Group Stage is a perfect example of BeryL’s brand of misplay. He overextended, but instead of taking the death in stride, he dumps his entire kit to live in a situation where he had no chance. BeryL using his Ultimate and Flash here lost DWG KIA their next teamfight, and Cloud9’s leg up in this teamfight is a large part of why DWG KIA lost despite being a better team overall.
Most of BeryL’s best plays are when he keeps his backline alive. ShowMaker and Khan are so good at getting into fights that BeryL’s role often gets overshadowed, and he’s usually best off letting them engage. It’s hard to find a point where it felt like BeryL made a game-winning play for his team. He isn’t a bad player by any means, and his ability to keep his carries alive is strong when he’s alive for big teamfights. However, BeryL tends to get overshadowed by his teammates. He’s a good player, but not an essential one for DWG KIA’s success.
While C9 didn’t make it to finals, it definitely wasn’t Vulcan’s fault. In fact, he and Fudge both had astoundingly good performances at MSI despite being the least talked about players on Cloud9 going into MSI. Sure, C9 lost some games they really shouldn’t have. But, they also took down the top teams at MSI. In C9’s biggest wins, Vulcan was instrumental when it came to finding favorable teamfights.
In Cloud9’s win against RNG during the Rumble Stage, Vulcan was able to stall RNG’s backline long enough for Fudge to find an excellent TP into the enemy backline. Vulcan’s read to walk into Cryin and Wei rather than taking the continuous damage and slow from Rumble’s ultimate was the right one, and using stopwatch in tandem with the Leona ultimate gave Cloud9 enough time to dismantle RNG rather than having to fight an even 5v5.
Whenever Cloud9 had a big teamfight, Vulcan was often at the forefront. It’d be difficult to justify putting Vulcan higher on this list due to how early C9 got knocked out, but the fact that he played so well against DWG KIA and RNG makes it hard not to justify giving Vulcan the credit he deserves.
MAD Lions: the unlikely EU juggernaut who went against heavily favored opponents in EU and won their trip to MSI against the odds. However, taking the #1 spot over storied teams like G2 and Rogue comes with a certain level of expectation. Despite proving they’re the best team in Europe, there was doubt going into MSI that MAD were a worthy representative for the region.
Kaiser’s metered play has the right balance of aggression and patience, and his ability to identify the right time to engage has consistently played a massive role in MAD’s victories.
In this clip, Kaiser’s ability to stall out DWG KIA won this early skirmish for MAD Lions. Kaiser dodged BeryL’s hook, got Canyon low without taking any damage, and then found a great knock up onto Khan. Sure, Kaiser died, but his ability to stay healthy until it was time to trade out his life for that of DWG KIA’s top laner was a great trade. Kaiser played this fight perfectly, and on a champion that’s pretty far removed from the rigid support meta of playing heavy tanks. Rakan requires a level of mechanical skill and decision-making that champions like Leona, Nautilus, and Rell don’t have to deal with.
MAD Lions may not have made it to finals, but it was damn close. Kaiser’s decision-making was a highlight for MAD Lions, and his ability to know what he should be doing at any given time is exactly what MAD needed to succeed.
PSG Talon was the biggest surprise to come out of MSI. Even with a subbed-in ADC, PSG were able to make it to semi-finals and put up a good fight against RNG, the team that would ultimately take MSI. While every member of PSG had their fair share of standout plays (particularly Maple and River), Kaiwing always felt like the one leading the charge. Hell, he wasn't afraid to trade his life for that of a carry if the opportunity to get a kill was apparent. Kaiwing has the aggression a lot of the support players in this tournament had, but the difference is that it never felt like Kaiwing died unnecessarily. His deaths were a choice most of the time rather than a mistake.
This play starts with a Hexflash over the wall, forcing Cryin to flash away from his team for an easy pick. Then, Kaiwing is in a position to get focused down but uses stopwatch to buy time for his team to group. Wei gets a well-placed Rumble ult off to deny PSG a way into RNG’s backline, but Kaiwing patiently waits for someone to dive on River. He hooks at an angle that keeps him out of the Rumble Ultimate, while still being able to CC down oncoming threats as long as he can stay alive. Kaiwing made this play happen, and his execution was near-flawless.
This game was the first loss RNG took at MSI, and it shook up predictions for the entirety of the Rumble stage. This minor region team is a large part of why Cloud9 never made it to semifinals, and they earned their slot amongst the best teams at the event. To read up on PSG’s dominant performance over MAD Lions during the group stage, you can find our article on it here
Much like MSI, this list has been a bit all over the place as far as expectations go. Yet, here we are at a result most probably expected going in. It’s really hard to make an argument against Ming being the best support player at MSI. To understand why Ming is so strong, we first have to look at RNG's ADC player (and the overall MSI MVP), GALA.
GALA doesn’t play like a normal ADC. He’s closer to a backline assassin.
Where most ADC players play around their support and rely heavily upon peel from their team to function, GALA just wins. He doesn’t care much about positioning near his support. Rather, GALA’s the kind of player that puts himself in a position to do as much damage as possible and carry the game. He operates independently most of the time, leaving Ming with the freedom to do whatever he wants. And Ming, above any other support players in the tournament, knew how to make the most of roaming.
Here’s Ming’s first roam in Game 5 against DWG KIA. Shutting down ShowMaker was a high priority for RNG, and Ming pressured mid to make it happen.
And then Ming does it again. In the same game. He flashes in, finds the Zenith Blade (E) in, and lands the ultimate. While ShowMaker found a return kill here, the level of commitment RNG had to shutting down DWG KIA’s mid laner is a large part of why Grand Finals’ Game 5 was such a one-sided affair.
That early advantage culminated into this massive teamfight, with RNG completely wiping out DWG KIA. Keeping up with RNG’s breakneck pace is a tall order, but Ming had no hesitation flashing into the fight here. Rather than starting the fight, Ming’s role here was to lock down targets with his E and keep DWG KIA from having any chance of finding a return kill. Not only do RNG tend to win fights, but they also tend to come out with their damage dealers in good health. A win’s a win on paper, but Ming’s playstyle and ability to both start a fight and support an engagement his teammates instigated is a large part of how RNG find a substantial lead and snowball games against even the best of teams.
Despite the support meta being fairly rigid, it’s interesting how these players have their own way of playing the role. Kaiwing and Vulcan are more focused on starting fights and stalling out the enemy as long as possible, while Ming really likes finding roams to snowball the early game. Kaiser and BeryL both have a mix of these elements, with BeryL being more focused on taking any fight he can while Kaiser tends to prefer finding the perfect moment. They’ve all got their own strengths and weaknesses, but each player does their best to fill the role their team needs. All of these players embody the idea of a true support, a player that finds opportunities and enables their team to play how they want to.
Support may not be the flashiest role in League of Legends, but it’s definitely an important one.