The Mid-Season Invitational is finally back. After a year off due to uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 and the pandemic, MSI 2020 never happened. This was a big blow to many teams who had fought tooth and nail to win their respective regions. Now in Reykjavik, Iceland, MSI 2021 will take place with the top 11 teams battling it out. The VCS representative will not be attending.
As a reminder, the top two teams will make it to the next round and they will face each other in a double round-robin. Here is a look at the four teams that make up Group B.
Istanbul Wildcats (TR)
The Istanbul Wildcats had 1907 Fenerbahce to thank for taking care of the first and third seed in SuperMassive and NASR Turkey respectively, during the playoffs. It meant that the sixth seed got to face the Wildcats in the finals. The Wildcats had a solid 14-4 record during the regular season and were one of the only teams to take a game off of top-seeded SuperMassive during the regular season. Then once they reached the finals after sweating to a 3-2 victory over the fourth seed, they were able to take care of business 3-1 and make their way to Iceland.
Since rebranding, this will be the first international competition the Istanbul Wildcats have participated in. They play most of the meta picks up to this point with StarScreen showing the most versatility which could be quite useful for the Wildcats. Overall they play well as a team as they love to teamfight. Their carry though is very clearly HolyPhoenix who finished with 103 kills this past season, nearly 40 more than Serin in the mid lane. He and Farfetch were good at getting leads and transitioning them around the map. He will have to take advantage of his strong play in order for the Wildcats to make a run.
It looks as though the Istanbul Wildcats will likely be the third-best team in this group. That said, they are definitely a team to watch for as the TCL generally has been on the rise and there is a chance they could finally make their way deep into an international event.
MAD Lions (LEC)
For the first time in what feels like forever, G2 or Fnatic will not be the LEC representative at an international event. That said, this is not the first time the Lions have gone to an international event. They were at Worlds in 2020 in the Play-In stage but shockingly did not make it out going 1-3. This lead to the roster changes that saw Armut and Elyoya join the core of Humanoid, Carzzy and Kaiser.
The MAD Lions were pretty average during the regular season before finally being able to bring everything together during the playoffs. With a 10-8 record the Lions were a team that was very frustrating to figure out. They would look great against teams like G2 and Fnatic but went 0-2 to SK Gaming and Misfits. During the playoffs though, they certainly earned their way to Iceland. They beat Rogue twice and made G2 look like the lower-seeded team.
This team is truly talented at every position. When they are at their best though, Humanoid and Carzzy are getting the job done. That said, sleeping on Armut, Elyoya or Kaiser would be a massive mistake for anyone. Kaiser might be the best support in the LEC while Armut and Elyoya were taking time to establish themselves. Armut in particular came up clutch so many times for MAD Lions especially in the banger finals against Rogue. Trying to focus on one particular player could spell doom for any team that stands in MAD’s path.
Anything less than a first-place finish in this group would be extremely disappointing for MAD Lions. They finally dethroned G2 who truly looked unstoppable and like possibly the best team the LEC has ever had. Instead, the Lions are here and it is time for these young players to show the world who they really are.
paiN Gaming (BR)
If there was a team that really had to fight to get here, it was paiN Gaming. They finished fifth during the regular season with a solid 11-7 record and ended up playing two five-game series that came down to the wire before playing Vorax in the finals. Vorax were a team that had paiN’s number all season, beating them 2-0 during the regular season. It would end up with paiN Gaming getting their revenge in a 3-1 series win to send them to Iceland.
When looking at their roster there will be a few pain points for paiN Gaming. For starters, Robo is definitely exploitable as he really only came on during the playoffs but struggled mightily during the regular season. The bot lane, who were a strength during the regular season were a problem during playoffs. The main sources of consistency for this team are tinowns and CarioK in the mid lane and jungle respectively. They will have to bring that with them to Iceland in order to find success.
There is a solid chance that paiN Gaming end up in last in this very tough group. That said if they are able to put together a run as they did during the playoffs then they could surprise and push one of the top teams out of MSI.
PSG Talon (PCS)
It should come as no surprise to see PSG Talon back in international competition. They went to Worlds 2020 and easily made it to the group stages where they would take games off of JD Gaming and Rogue, two very talented teams. This allowed them to finish third in their group which was not good enough to make it but what was most impressive was who they made this run with. They were missing the majority of their roster throughout most Worlds due to COVID-19 travel restrictions and yet they still performed extremely well.
For the 2021 season, they dropped one game to Beyond Gaming, who would finish second, during the regular season. Then in the playoffs, they made short work of everyone going 9-0 and winning the PCS. This time they will travel with most of their team but will have Doggo substitute from Beyond Gaming for Unified who could not travel for health reasons.
Hanabi, River and Kaiwing will be remembered from last year’s team but the addition of Maple is one that could seriously help this team contend. He was on the legendary Flash Wolves teams from the LMS and then spent two years in the LPL with Suning and LNG Esports. The whole team has been playing well but he will be the one they will lean on to carry them through to the next round.
Look for PSG Talon to be fighting for the top spot in this group. Anything less than making it to the Rumble stage would be a major disappointment for this talented squad.
“From Our Haus to Yours”