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MSI 2024 – The Best League of Legends Tournament in Years

Zakaria Almughrabi

MSI 2024 has been delivering on all fronts. League of Legends is notorious for having the least international competition of any major esport at two yearly. On top of that, the Mid-Season Invitational is known for being a short and lackluster event compared to the ever-prestigious Worlds.

MSI 2024

Image Credit Riot Games | Colin Young-Wolff

The whole point of international competition in esports is seeing how the best teams from different regions stack up against each other both mechanically and tactically. When different play styles and unique ideas honed in their home territories collide, the magic of a worldwide tournament comes alive.

MSI has had an awful format for years. With a focus on coin-flippy best-of-one matches and a lack of actual region-versus-region matchups, the event has often felt like the unloved younger brother in LoL Esports.

Last year, Riot Games made the most significant format change to MSI ever. Gone was the elongated Group Stage and seemingly pointless Rumble Stage. Now, we had a Play-In and a double-elimination playoff bracket. At MSI 2022, we were given 69 best-of-ones and a measly three best-of-fives. In the new format, BO1 was utterly gone, and we had 15 whole BO5’s as well.

The Framework in Place

The format issue has been remedied. While MSI 2023 was undoubtedly the most entertaining installment in years, the format can only do so much. Plenty of other issues can make a tournament boring, such as a bad meta or a lack of competitive teams.

Specifically, with MSI 2023, the meta was slow and stagnant. Most teams just picked Jinx or Aphelios and played to scale past 30 minutes. The pair of late-game Marksmen made up nearly 60% of all ADC picks, shaping the entire meta. The default game plan was to pick stable lanes and play appropriately, a game plan that nearly every team swore by.

As a result, the more fundamentally sound LCK and LPL teams dominated. Korea and China dropped only THREE games when they weren’t playing against each other. Not matches, games. There was simply not enough wiggle room in the meta for teams to innovate. The two regions with bigger talent pools, more infrastructure, and better practice could not be contested.

This broader meta issue resulted in 16 of the 25 matches played being clean sweeps. We had 81 unique champion picks, five intra-region matchups, and the most bloodthirsty team had 16.7 kills per minute.

Let’s compare MSI 2023 to 2024. With three matches left, the latter has had 11 clean sweeps, 86 unique picks, and 18.1 kills from its most violent team (it’s G2 both times, go figure). Most notably, there have been ZERO intra-region matchups at MSI 2024, and only one is possible: an LCK vs LCK Grand Finals.

What’s different between last year’s and this year’s Mid-Season Invitational, and how has it made MSI 2024 one of, if not the best LoL tournament for spectators in years?

A Small Ripple Turns into a Tsunami

Last year at Worlds 2023, T1 innovated a double Marksman botlane. The goal was to maintain constant pressure to make for easy denial and dives onto the enemy ADC and free Dragon stacking to accelerate the game. This innovation was a big reason why T1 managed to win their fourth Worlds title in the organization’s history.

Here in Season 14, teams have taken the theory of lane dominance and ran with it. Early and mid-game Marksman picks like Kalista, Varus, and Lucian have dominated the meta. Teams have paired the aggro ADCs with anything from other ADCs, aggressive engage picks like Nautilus or Leona, and even early-game enchanters that help carries snowball faster like Nami and Renata Glasc.

If a team’s botlane matchup were unplayably bad, they would get stomped flat and never be able to play the game. Throughout the Spring 2024 Split, the idea of lane swapping was thrown around. The goal of swapping lanes was to avoid these oppressive matchups and let your ADC and Support skip the lane phase. It worked because no matter how weak a bot lane is early, they can still bully the poor solo melee top laner.

Suddenly, T1’s personalized double Marksman support evolved into a full-on meta-shift. Teams could now play around with their lane assignments to gain advantages. The battle between early dominance and a slower but steady crawl now had an abundance of nuance and mind games.

With a New Problem comes New Solutions

Lane swapping has been a strategy in League of Legends in years past. Most new players have never seen one since the last swap meta was so long ago. The league has modernized since then, and with the strategy’s reemergence came a race to solve it from both ends.

Teams that indexed hard into it drafted strong diving junglers, like Xin Zhao and Vi, to punish enemy bot lanes even harder. They also took stable tank toplaners, like Zac and K’Sante, that could withstand the 2v1 and stay relevant in teamfights.

Teams that wanted to play a more balanced map found picks like Twisted Fate and Vayne top that could punish these passive toplaners. They drafted their playmaking from melee supports and strong follow-up midlaners. Goalkeeper junglers like Sejuani or Maokai could afford to give up camps and simply cover their weaker lanes.

While pulling off a successful lane swap could win a team the game, denying the lane swap plays was also a great way to play for victory. And, of course, with a need for draft versatility comes pocket picks.

We’ve seen a resurgence of signature champions at MSI 2024. G2 Esports has brought Poppy to relevance as a triple flex, but Mihael “Mikyx” Mehle has been especially dangerous with it. Kim “Canyon” Geon-bu has reminded the world of Nidalee’s existence, using the Cougar to carry multiple games for Gen.G.

MSI 2024 Mikyx

Image Credit Riot Games | Colin Young-Wolff

There are plenty more signature picks that have shown their faces to great success at MSI 2024: Jeong “Chovy” Ji-hoon’s Yone, Steven “Hans Sama” Liv’s, and Yu “JackeyLove” Wen-Bo’s Draven. Even North America’s very own Eain “APA” Stearns has turned heads with Aureleon Sol.

When the Players and the Game Work in Harmony…

For what feels like the first time in a long time, League of Legends is in a truly open state. Almost every match at MSI 2024 has had an air of unpredictability behind it. Meaningful questions about the game state can frequently be asked before the game starts. Will X team try and lane swap? Will the Y team predict that and counter-swap? Can Z champion play from this spot?

The draft is interesting, laning (or lack thereof) is engaging, and, of course, the team fighting is exciting. For all three of these to be true, we had to have a drastic meta-shift inspired by last year’s come-from-behind World Champions in tandem with precise incentives for teams to play faster in Season 14. And the best part, it’s not even done yet.

At the time of writing, four teams remain in the running at MSI 2024. Three of the four major regions are represented. We have:

Gen.G: The frontrunners and established Grand Finalist. Even though they’re the most favored team, their history of choking at international events hangs over their heads.

Bilibili Gaming: China’s number one seed. They were 2nd place at MSI last year and top four at Worlds. Now, they’re looking for their first international trophy.

G2 Esports: The West’s last hope. G2 is in the middle of the best international run from a Western team in years. They’ve completely flipped the script on expectations and could very well win it all.

T1: The defending World Champion. All roads lead to Faker. Gen.G bested T1 in the LCK Finals, and BLG beat them in the Upper Bracket Semis. G2 is the next threat. T1 must go through them all to take the MSI 2024 crown.