The Hypothetical MSI 2020 Power Rankings

Since its 2015 inception, the Mid-Season Invitational (MSI) has risen as a standout event in the League of Legends (LoL) esports calendar. MSI is an exclusive tournament for the Spring split victors of each region to determine who will be the champion of champions over multiple weeks and multiple cities. What more could LoL fans want?

Well, a reversal of the 2020 event’s cancellation likely sits high on the fans’ wishlists. Due to recent events, Riot Games’ Global Head of Esports John Needham announced on April 23 that the Mid-Season Invitational would not take place in 2020.

Hypothetical MSI 2020 Power Rankings

© MSI / LoL Esports

MSI 2020 Top Four

It was an understandable but nevertheless unfortunate decision that hangs gloomily over fans excited to see the first major international LoL competition of the year. What was just speculation leading up to the event must now substitute for the event itself. LoL betting had to instead turn to EU Masters as the big mid-season event that was the pick-ems fantasy was taken from us.

In that spirit of escapist imagination, here are the power rankings of the predicted final four for MSI 2020 in a hypothetical, happier universe with safe international sports competition.

4. T1

Functionally, fourth and third are equal as MSI has neither a double elimination bracket nor a third-place decider match. That said, alien as it may seem to see the historic SK Telecom T1 (now rebranded to T1) ranked anywhere outside the top three, T1 must be differentiated as the weakest of the major region teams that would have attended MSI 2020.

While the League of Legends Champions Korea (LCK) is not the worst of the major regions, T1 is the least convincing of said regions’ representatives. The glacial pace of the LCK is an outlier in comparison to the global trend of accelerated early games, and T1 may struggle to play their minimal-loss style against teams constantly poking for weakness.

There are also questions regarding top laner Chang-dong “Canna” Kim’s ability to perform on a major international stage as a rookie against proven stars like G2’s Martin “Wunder” Hansen or Cloud9’s Eric “Licorice” Ritchie. Additionally, jungler Woo-chan “Cuzz” Moon is instrumental in unlocking T1’s early game but has a rather limited Champion Pool.

With these factors in consideration, T1 must be placed, reluctantly, at fourth. The caveat, however, is that they are not that far behind the teams ranked above them.

3. JD Gaming

To the doubtless rage of countless fans, the League of Legends Pro League (LPL) representative JD Gaming ranks third. For all the superstar play demonstrated by jungler Jin-hyeok “Kanavi” Seo and career resurgence of top laner  Xing-Ran “Zoom” Zhang, JD Gaming still stands on shaky legs. While the LPL boasts many teams capable of performing at an international level, that level of play was not found in the Spring regional finals as JD Gaming and Top Esports repeatedly bungled their chance to close out games at crucial points.

The traditional carry positions of JD Gaming are also unconvincing. Mid laner Qi “Yagao” Zeng and Dong-wook “LokeN” Lee are by no means the best and brightest of the LPL in their roles, and Ming-Hao “LvMao” Zu has some inconsistencies to his play that may prove detrimental on the world stage.

Unprecedented as it may seem, this year’s MSI sees both the LCK and LPL representatives exit Spring in weaker form than their Western counterparts.

2. Cloud9

One such Western counterpart is Cloud9, the League of Legends Championship Series (LCS) representative. Cloud9 won the most of the major regions’ champions, with an almost-perfect run in both the regular season and playoffs. This carries the asterisk that the LCS was inarguably the weakest region overall of the four, but it is still a result worth commending if for consistency at the least.

Despite ranking second, Cloud9 has the most variance in comparison to the other teams and could easily drop to fourth in the viewers’ minds after the competition. Lack of domestic challenge raises question marks as to the players’ strengths relative to their opponents. While Cloud9’s teamwork is impeccable, coordination is one of the first things to collapse when opponents are out-matching on a base mechanical level.

Cloud9 also has a known quantity in mid laner Yasin “Nisqy” Dinçer, who is competent and reliable but unlikely to ever match or overcome the likes of Sang-hyeok “Faker” Lee or Luka “PERKZ” Perković.

Still, Cloud9 distinguishes itself from the rest as the recipient of the non-existent-but-important “Least Likely to Throw Away a Winnable Game” award among the top four.

1. G2 Esports

No sense in being coy. The defending champions of MSI 2019, G2 Esports return alongside T1 as the only two major region teams to make the return trip in 2020. Despite sporting the same roster, G2 Esports has a fundamentally different team identity to the one that claimed the trophy last year.

The role swap between PERKZ and Rasmus “Caps” Winther alongside meta changes has taken away the triple-threat trident aspect of yesteryear’s G2. In contrast to PERKZ, Caps is less reliable as a bot laner, and PERKZ likewise has yet to hit the same heights that Caps saw during his mid lane tenure. Consequently, this requires more supportive play and picks from Wunder and more early-game dominance from Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski to stabilize the squad.

Despite all that, it is still unmistakably G2 in the off-the-cuff genius with which the players control the game. The minutiae have changed, but the overall mastery with which these players dictate the game’s pace to constantly gain advantages or turn losses into trades remains constant.

Unlike other teams forced to play a chaotic style, G2 Esports plays on the razor’s edge between ingenuity and insanity with intention. It is a delicate dance, but the team’s ability to pull it off with (mostly) no flaws is what earns G2 the top spot.

Sadly we will not see the Spring Split Champions compete at MSI 2020 this year. The skill and strength gap between regions will not be tested. This means that Worlds 2020 will be the ultimate test of 2020 for the entire competitive League of Legends ecosystem.

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This article was contributed by Michael Jeong. 
Twitter: Michael4Jeong