Riot Games has made a very controversial decision. For the upcoming MSI 2021 Semi-Finals, the dates for both games have been swapped. Traditionally, the 1 and 4 seed play on Friday. This is so that the Number 1 seed gets an extra reward for winning. They have a day off before Finals to scout and prep. This day is not something insignificant. It is an integral part of the competitive integrity of the game.
Well all of this is changes now that Damwon Kia, the #1 Seed, need to play on Saturday. So that day of prep? Out the window. And worst part of this is that RNG, the #2 Seed, reaps the benefit. They get to play on Friday now and get the extra day.
But why is this happening? Well, it’s due to everyone’s good old friend Covid.
"This week, we made the decision to switch the order of these two matches due to a scheduling conflict related to the COVID-19 travel protocols for RNG, the Number 2 seeded team, returning to China." pic.twitter.com/th3c1rx5Zw
— Ashley Kang #MSI2021 (@AshleyKang) May 20, 2021
Essentially, due to RNG needing to get this covid test, the games needed to be moved. This is so that RNG can make it back in time for LPL start. If they delay the flight until way after the MSI Finals, they won’t be back in time. Seems reasonable right? Wrong.
The main issue here is not that Riot had to make changes due to Covid. It is how they did they. MSI is not a small event. There is not a world where a Risk Manager for the event did not see this coming. Covid travel restrictions should have been front and center and expected. Due to such, a clause in the rules should have been made that stated this:
If X event happens, the games get moved to a Thursday Friday schedule.
This simple change makes it so that RNG can still get their test, but it also preserves the bonus day earned with the #1 Seeding. But instead of doing this Riot Games decided to screw over DK. Riot Games decided that this would hurt viewership and said competitive integrity does not matter.
Now admittedly, these are the right moves business wise. Riot Games is a business, but does that mean that fans should just blindly take what they do? No. Of course not. Riot Games essentially changed the rules of their own event because RNG deserves special treatment. DK, no fault of their own, receives the short end of the stick.
What Does This Change?
While this may be a small drop of water in a lake in the grand scheme of things, it is the principle that this implies that is the issue. Riot Games threw competitive integrity out of the window. Kkoma, the head coach for DK said this:
“Semis will be against MAD Lions. We have too little preparation time because finals will be the day after semis. We’re forced into a situation where we have to prepare for MAD and finals simultaneously. Going to finals without any rest is a first. Obviously, we have to win to go to finals, but we also have to prepare for both.”
Source: Reddit Post
Now DK need to prep for 3 teams instead of just 1. It doesn’t even need to be stated how this changes the event. Imagine if DK lose to MAD Lions. Was this due to the changes? No one knows. What if DK lose to RNG in the Finals? Will there be backlash? This whole situation creates a can of worms that calls into question the entire tournament.
This is also vastly different than the Gambit situation. The VCS not being able to attend was announced weeks in advance and was done prior to the event starting. The Semi-Finals changes? A couple days before Finals.
Now maybe more flexibility should be expected due to Covid. And you can’t blame the players of RNG, they had no factor in this. But at the same time, you also can’t expect DK and LCK fans to take this and be happy about it. Frankly, you can’t expect League of Legends eSports fans to be happy about this in general. This is straight up and objectively unfair to DK and Riot knows this, but it doesn’t matter to them. DK had zero say in the matter. That is all that needs to be said.