Do you know how much it pains me to write this? While most regions starve for a chance to stand atop the world, Royal Never Give Up have just won their second Mid-Season Invitational. MSI marks the first chance every region has to put the world on notice, and twice now, RNG have made the Chinese LPL region proud.

Meanwhile, we continue to languish over here stateside. But I’ve written enough about North America being a disappointment in League of Legends. Let’s talk about Royal Never Give Up winning two MSI titles.

Not Once, But Twice

Only one other team has managed to win the Mid-Season Invitational twice, and that team is SK Telecom T1. Think about that. The only other team to manage the feat was perhaps the most dominant team to ever play the game, during a time when other regions weren’t as competitive.

If anything, Royal Never Give Up’s two wins, in 2018 and now in 2021, are more impressive. That’s purely from the perspective of regional talents being stronger now than they ever before. Remember, in 2016, SK Telecom T1 defeated Counterlogic Gaming in the finals. (And funnily enough, a young Royal Never Give Up team).

Don’t Call It A Rebuild

They say that good teams don’t rebuild, they just reload. RNG certainly seems to have that playbook down. This is a team that lost Uzi last year. They lost perhaps the greatest player in Chinese history to retirement, and their answer is GALA. That’s right, MSI MVP GALA.

It must be nice to be able to trip over talent like that. But Royal Never Give Up is loaded with talent at pretty much every position. Xiahou in the top lane, Wei in the jungle, it’s a potential all star everywhere on the roster. For those who don’t know by the way, Xiahou has been with the team since its inception back in 2015. He’s become a seasoned veteran and an incredible anchor on the Chinese squad.

Are They Better Than Damwon KIA?

So now I’m forced to decide based on a handful of games whether or not Royal Never Give Up is actually better than Damwon KIA, or put another way, are they the best team in the world? I don’t see how you argue otherwise. I know a lot of writers out there continue their love affair with the LCK darlings of the tournament, but I don’t see it.

DWG KIA looked vulnerable in this tournament. They won plenty of games, as evidenced by the fact that they were in the grand finals, but they were not the unstoppable South Korea juggernaut I’m used to watching come international time. Raw ability and discipline allowed them to win a number of games that they probably should have lost throughout the tournament.

Sloppy play in early games, and getting ahead of themselves in the mid-game nearly cost them a number of times. And like a runner who can make up for a bad start against lesser talent, so too can Damwon overcome those issues against the likes of Cloud9. However, that is not the recipe for success on the world stage. No, success at MSI, and by extension Worlds, is based on one thing: Consistency.

Save for a couple shocking losses, Royal Never Give Up were consistent through the tournament. You almost always knew what you were going to get. The same can not be said of Damwon KIA, who looked like Jekyll and Hyde at times. On that alone, RNG is the better team.

So Where Do We Go From Here?

The Mid-Season Invitational is over and now all eyes turn towards the road to the World Championships. Teams will now head back to their respective regions for the start of the Summer Split. Royal Never Give Up will be the presumptive favorites as we start the march to Worlds, while Damwon KIA looks to work on their consistency throughout the summer.

In the LEC, MAD Lions have to feel good about their performance. Their region has been talking about FNatic and G2 Esports ad nauseum for the last three years, and they definitely made a splash. Now, they’ll have to return to the LEC with a bullseye on their back. To make it to Worlds later this year, they’ll need to make sure they don’t let up on the gas. They’ve shown they have the ability, but G2 and FNatic have no intention on losing another split.

In North America… good god, I don’t even know. Cloud9 will return home to the likes of Team Solomid, Team Liquid, Evil Geniuses, Dignitas, and about three other teams that all have eyes on escaping the summer split and going to Worlds. The region should be competitive, which will make for an entertaining summer, but I fear it just means our talent will be lacking again come the Fall.

Rapid-Fire Thoughts For The Other Teams

  • Detonation FocusME – They’ll return to Japan where I assume they’ve already been awarded the LJL’s one slot at Worlds. Look forward to seeing them eliminated in the Play-In Stage.
  • Pentanet.GG – Fortunately, they took a win off Cloud9. Otherwise, an 0-10 Pentanet.GG would be swimming back to Oceania.
  • PSG.Talon – They’ll return to the totally-not-the-LMS region, where I’ll inevitably forget they’re pretty good and pick them to take last in their group at Worlds. I’ll look stupid two weeks later.
  • Infinity eSports – Who cares? They capitalize the S in esports. Enough said.
  • Unicorns of Love – I’ll pick them to take last in the LEC region this summer before later fixing the article when I remember they’re from the CIS region.
  • Istanbul Wildcats – This team has been around since 2013?! THIS TEAM IS OLDER THAN CLOUD9?!
  • PAIN Gaming – They’ll return to Brazil, where I presume they’ll play All-For-One Mordekaiser until Worlds. Old joke is old.
  • GAM Esports – They did not place at MSI, as they weren’t able to travel due to COVID restrictions. The entire world lamented as watching the VCS region is wild. Look forward to them picking Singed ADC at Worlds.

Image Courtesy of Riot Games