The Informed Fan’s Viewing Guide to the Mid Season Invitational

As a discerning League of Legends fan, no doubt by now you know all about MSI. You’ve skimmed the fluff pieces, read all about how the teams navigate the early game and made sure to check up on relevant old VODs. You’ve even read my scrupulously researched and relentlessly self-promoted team-by-team preview series. In fact, you’re probably tired of MSI already. You’re debating whether or not you should just sleep through it to make sure you’re well-rested enough to watch Go4LoL. But allow me to present an alternative. I’ve spent 40 days and 40 nights in the desert watching VODs, and here are the seven storylines I’ve seen developing, lurking under the surface:

 Patch 5.7. We’ve been on patch 5.8 on the live servers for a week now, so people are starting to get the lay of the land, but according to the MSI rules, this tournament will be on the previous patch. That means no Ryze changes, no Urgot getting a ridiculous 20% CDR from the new Black Cleaver, and crucially, Twitch’s ult still won’t target Nexus turrets. I confess I am a little disappointed. I wanted to see how the pros would (ab)use the newest changes to their advantage, especially if Black Cleaver is better than I think it is on someone like Gnar or Vi. That being said, I like that we have had a bit of stability to see how the Cinderhulk dust has settled in the pro scene. We will get to see each region’s representative who has clearly adjusted to the post-5.5 landscape the best, without giving them a chance to cheese out their opponents with strategies based on brand new changes.

 The death of the level 1 fight. I don’t mean the tactical sorties we still see from time to time, getting deep wards to spot the lane swap or threatening the jungler into an alternative route. I mean the all-out aggressive invasions from weird angles, somehow stealing six buffs and a level 2 dragon. It is clear that with a couple exceptions, the best teams in the world right now play safely and reactively level 1, warding defensively and letting the opponent expose themselves first. Without SKT Tom and his zanily aggressive jungling in the picture, the only real chance we probably have of goofy level 1 or level 2 plays is Fnatic, and theirs always feel more like a gimmick than viable jungle pressure. I hope I’m wrong about this, but I think until there is a major jungle shake-up, the best teams are going to remain afraid to do much early fighting.

 Commentator Bingo. Is there anything more annoying than Phreak laughing at his own puns? Yes! The following words and phrases need to be retired for all time:

 “On the backside” – Every play-by-play guy ever.

This communicates literally no information.

 Power spike/trough” “Win condition” “rotation” “Meta/meta game” – Montecristo, everyone who listens to Montecristo (which is everyone).

Yes, these phrases are generally clear and well-understood. But, for you literary nerds, read the section in this Orwell essay about “dying metaphors.” The problem is that these phrases add no new evocative imagery or information. They are the tools of lazy analysis — esoteric phrases that cannot be questioned and require no critical thought.

“Overall” – Phreak
“Find” (as in “find a tower” instead of “destroy a tower”) – Phreak

Phreak bothers me more than any other commentator on the scene, partly because he actually has some really good insights hiding inside his grating style of speech. When he’s not making surprisingly good puns and then ruining them by laughing like an idiot, he displays a disappointing lack of variety in his diction. Phreak, if you’re reading this, “find” is not the only verb in the English language.

“A long string of gibberish that is total nonsense yet somehow demonstrably incorrect” – Rivington Bisland III

Remember when I said Phreak bothers me more than any other commentator? I lied.

 Dragons. I am curious to see how teams prioritize this objective. Even after all this time, I feel like most teams still treat dragons like they did in season 4 — as much about starting a fight as about actually getting ahead by taking the objective. The problem with this approach is that most dragons are not really worth fighting for. Dragons 2 through 4 are nice, but they are not usually worth risking a bad loss in a teamfight. Teams at this tournament, notably ahq, are starting to see dragons differently. Ahq will rush every single dragon at the expense of all other objectives, trying to get a ridiculously early fifth, while other teams trade mid game dragons for almost anything. Will a dominant style emerge this tournament?

 Blue Side Midlaners. This is another place every team has a different approach, and it might be the most fascinating strategic element of the whole tournament to me. The only consistently all-around good midlaners that are safe enough to first pick for every team at the tournament are Lulu and Leblanc, neither of which will get out of many ban phases. This means that teams will have to make compromises, and every team has shown a different approach to that compromise. PawN likes to pick greedily and threaten to outplay his opponent with someone like Twisted Fate. Westdoor has picked hypercarries like Karthus and played safely, conceding farm for late game relevance. SKT does a version of this same thing, picking a hypershredding lategame carry like Azir or Cassiopeia, then challenging their opponent to camp the lane or match their scaling. TSM and Fnatic have preferred safe midrange laners like Ahri or even Kassadin, trading some lategame relevance against tanks for a dangerous laning phase.

Fashion Power Rankings. Who’s the best dressed? Let me run it down for you:

 6. TSM

 jacketstock_1024x1024

I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

 5. AHQ

Ahq_prydz

Garish and haphazardly splashed with ugly sponsor patches. Is there a better metaphor for the LMS?

4. EDG

ClearLove_0

A t-shirt and a sweatshirt? Does that mean I’m on EDG too?

 3. Fnatic

 11149315_10153317704967590_4788909001688659506_n

They seem a bit optimistic about the shape of gamers’ bodies.

 2. Beşiktaş

 11200616_480795642074006_7771940530670983199_n

I’m a sucker for the classic looks.

 1. SKT

 SKT_T1_Roster_2015_Spring

I’m not even going to pretend that I’m unbiased here. Classy outfit from a classic team.

 How many times will we hear a commentator say a player’s real name this tournament? I assume Sjokz will occasionally call a player by his given name during an interview, but I cannot remember the last time I ever heard someone else in the booth call a single player by his real name. Sure we all know a few, the legendary Marcus Hills and Bora Kims, but can anyone name me Santorin’s real name? Or Febiven’s? Or, for that matter, Faker’s? Whenever I think about how badly eSports wants to be accepted into the mainstream, I wonder how much we shoot ourselves in the foot every time we unironically talk about “Lustboy” or “Clearlove” or “Dumbledoge.” Just some food for thought.

 

Anyway, for all the work I’ve done preparing for the MSI, I’m actually going to be out of town for most of the tournament. It’s like rain on my wedding day. Tell me how it goes and I’ll be back to blog more in the coming weeks. Love, Nate.

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