By Hong Lau
For the last 14 years, there has been a dominant player in the gaming space. I am talking about the controversial topic of League of Legends. This game has been a mainstay in the gaming community and esports for over a decade.
It’s important to understand that only a few games have withstood the test of time, including Counter-Strike, Call of Duty and League of Legends. I was introduced to the game in 2016 and instantly became hooked due to its complexity of play and ability to play the game in many ways.
It is a game of chess to a point; there are five different roles to play, along with 150+ characters you can choose from. The greatest thing about it is it’s your interpretation of how you want to play the game (you aren’t boxed in).
To the actual point of this article, for the last eight years, I would say I’ve been locked into the esports scene of LoL. I’m an avid watcher of the LCS (the competitive scene of North America), and I stay up to date with the LCK and LPL (Korea and China’s scene).
Every year during May and October-November, it is a treat for loyal LoL fans worldwide. Unlike many other esports, the League of Legends scene only has two international events per year: the Mid-Season Invitational and Worlds.
So far, the MSI has not disappointed. What’s been encouraging is that many regions (even wild card regions) have had their moments. We’ve come a long way from Seasons 3-5, where these regions didn’t even put up any contests unless they were “cheesing.” This year they swapped their format quite a bit from the status quo.
The first significant change was adding two teams from the central regions. This led to T1 from the LCK with Faker, Gumayusi, Keira, Zeus, and Oner to show off their international prowess, Golden Guardians from the LCS with two of the 2016 LCS miracle run from CLG Stixxay, Huhi, International standout in 2018 World Licorice along with Gore and River to round out that team.
China and EU also brought their second seeds in Bilibi Gaming shoutout to Yagao and Bin, continuing to impress, and the storied franchise in EU G2 with Caps, aka Baby Faker, BrokenBlade, Yike, and former standout bot lane that reunited this year Hansama and Mikyx.
So far, the Korean and Chinese teams have looked DOMINANT> We can start with Korea first.
Chovy is one of the best lasers in the WORLD (insert the he loves minions too much meme). Watching him continue to evolve and grow as a player has been remarkable. It feels like yesterday when he had the 100+ KDA with Griffin.
Then you look at the rest of GenG’s roster like Peyz; is he composed for an 18-year-old fresh out of Korea’s challenger league?
What’s been even more impressive about Peyz is the fact that he has replaced Ruler, and that is no joke. Most people would say Ruler is the best ADC in the world. We’ll get to him when we get to China and the LPL. Doran remains a rock in the top lane and makes plays when needed.
It’s surreal to watch Peanut 7 years after the ROX Tigers stormed the LoL scene. He has continued to be one of the best cerebral jungles in the world.
For T1, looking at this team and thinking of an international powerhouse is easy. They have the GOAT, a storied legacy, and the most championships ever by any League organization.
Faker continues to be a mainstay ten years later. The most used reference is the Zoomer raising the boomers and Master Splinter raising the 4 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. This will be their third year together after two worlds and one MSI, losing to the champions each time. Is this the year Keira, Gumayusi, Zeus and Oner finally climb the mountain top of international glory? When we talk about China, they are a region that likes to “fight and skirmish” and “level 3 5 v 5 in the bot lane”. China has evolved quite a bit, and I’ll keep it short on them.
After watching the first part of the bracket stage, JDG and T1 are the clear favourite to hoist the trophy. With Knight in the mid lane arguably one of the best midlands in the world, 369 in the top lane, this alone should put fear into teams.
We haven’t even mentioned their two Korean imports (I don’t think this gets talked about enough as it does in the LCS). Kanavi continues to be an incredibly steady force for them in the jungle and Ruler, who made the move to China after spending seven years with GenG in Korea. This was the best off-season move and might be the most significant “Korean Import” ever to grace the LoL scene.
Their team fighting is incredible, and they never feel like they are out of a fight. As they said on stream last week, the whole team peels and plays to protect the president for the Korean AD Carry. Both European teams have been eliminated from contention.
I will say that the region didn’t look that strong to me this year and didn’t perform well at MSI. My only issue is that people will say they underperformed, but they performed precisely where they should have been based on their play leading up to this tournament.
The caps didn’t have the best showing; BrokenBlade, with a memorable Darius, Hansama, and Mikyx, looked pretty average all tournament. Yike, in my opinion, had a breakout tournament and was the bright spot for G2 this tournament. I will not lie; I had zero desire to watch the Mad Lions play, but nothing stood out to me when I did watch them. It seemed like Chasy underperformed (I could be wrong).
Last but not least (they are least, though in reality), North America is the laughing stock of all major regions throughout the League of Legends scene. Overall I don’t think anything can surprise/disappoint the whole NA region as it has been international failure after international failure year after year.
Other than bright spots in the 2016 CLG miracle run, 2018 with Cloud9’s semifinal run and team Liquids miracle 2019 MSI run, where they took down reigning world champions Invictus Gaming (with Rookie and Jackeylove), we’ve been at the bottom of the barrel every year. This year won’t look different if you look at results from the outside. But I think what has changed is the mentality and the mindset shift that NA can win on any given day.
I am not saying that is true, but I genuinely think C9 and Golden Guardians figured they could beat these teams on any given day. They have had some bright spots with their performance and the ability to steal games off of the LPLs BLG or gain an early game advantage to lose it all in the blink of an eye (with the Baron throws).
Berserker has shown up after a disappointing international debut at Worlds 2022. Blaber remains a bright spot (when he’s not painting for scuttle crabs).
Do they beat GenG? Probably not, but will they give us reason to believe, unlike many teams of the past? Hell ya.
The Golden Guardians had a solid international debut and can only go up from here. Their team was seasoned with international experience from Licorice (the 2018 C9 miracle run), Huhi and Stixxay (the 2016 CLG miracle run), and Gori and River, who are not rookies on the big stage. They continued to look like a team that would skittish and be opportunistic to make plays.
That might be the most important thing for North America as we try to close the gap between us and the Asian powerhouses. Will we continue to grow our knowledge and skills as a region and play proactively?
NA is no longer just losing by slow death. EU continues to be the third-best region (your super team of 2019-2020 was an anomaly). Korea and China continue to be in a whole other tier and doing it in dominating fashion. Some things never change in League of Legends, but here’s to hoping we can see some change at this year’s 2023 MSI!