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MSI 2021 semifinals: DWG Kia vs MAD Lions preview and predictions

The reigning World Champions DWG Kia take on European hopefuls MAD Lions in MSI 2021’s first semifinals. Here’s our verdict heading into this playoff match.
Ongoing scheduling drama aside (and oh, is there scheduling drama), the LCK vs. LEC at the international level over the last few years has been nothing short of incendiary. While Gambit neé Moscow 5 and CLG.EU may have now departed the League of Legends scene, since the advent of the G2 super team the narrative of European teams as Korean Killers (or at least challengers) has been rekindled.

MAD Lions may not be G2, but they will still be looking to reclaim the MSI crown for Europe, and simultaneously avenge their LEC brethren who DK ran roughshod over on their way to becoming World Champions last year. And frankly?

MAD deserves more than being compared to G2 at every turn. If nothing else, this tournament has earned MAD Lions the right to be respected on their own terms. Teams really need to learn not to give Armut Wukong.

On the other side of the rift? It’s DWG Kia. The reigning World Champions. First seed coming out of the Rumble Stage. The team with the best performing player in the world right now, i.e. Showmaker.

MSI 2021 semifinals prediction: DWG Kia (8 - 2)

Now, for all the hype and scene-setting we just did for DK, they have been far from infallible this tournament. DWG Kia’s early games have been… mercurial - a word we’ll be using a lot in this article.

They dropped a game to Cloud9 in the Group Stage and were inches away from a historic loss to Japan’s DetonatioN FocusMe (much to this author’s enduring disappointment - biases acknowledged). They dropped both games in the Rumble Stage to main tournament rivals RNG, and were in a difficult position versus PSG in their first matchup.

MSI 2021 semifinal DWG Kia vs Mad lions predictions preview(Picture: LoL Esports)

All of this is to say there are avenues in which to attack DK and punish their playstyle to proven success. Namely: force topside. Khan and Canyon’s synergy has been anything but consistent this tournament. Khan and Canyon individually have been anything but consistent this tournament.

Part of that is playstyle, and why we’ll shy away from suggesting in particular Canyon has been bad this tournament. DK’s jungler has the highest GPM, CSPM and XPD @15 of any jungler at MSI, and the third-highest DPM.

He also has the third-lowest Kill Participation of any MSI jungler, including Group Stage junglers. i.e. Canyon prefers to play for himself and objectives early on, not focus on assisting his lanes. Similarly, Khan is no statistical slouch either, even if he has been spending large swathes of time on weak-side Sion, with solid numbers across the board.

MSI 2021 semifinal DWG Kia vs Mad lions predictions previewShowmaker and Khan (Picture: LoL Esports)

The issue lies more in Khan’s propensity to be punished in playing weakside, and DK’s leeriness to defend him. Even when they have played through Khan early, it hasn’t necessarily worked out for DK, as in their second matchup against RNG. Add in some suspect Rumble performances from Canyon, and teams have noted seams ready to be unpicked to unravel DWG Kia’s game plan and top/jungle synergy.

And yet.

There is still the ace in the hole for DK. Showmaker. He’s widely considered the best performing mid laner in the world, and he has turned up to play at MSI. The highest GPM, CSM and XPD @15, with the second-highest DPM, are some truly elite stats. His Zoe is the best in the world - even if the likes of TES Knight or iG Rookie might contest that - and that’s without considering his Viktor, Syndra, Lucian… 

Yes, Showmaker is absurdly good. Then you have to consider that DWG Kia as a team is absurdly good in any given team fight. Early game inconsistencies and top side fallibility may offer weaknesses to exploit, but every team at the tournament needs to fear their strengths.

As stated, that coalesces most potently in their teamfighting. DK are capable of turning seemingly any game on its head the moment objective fights rear their heads. DK are a well-honed and truly lethal teamfighting behemoth. Whatever deficits they find themselves in - if any - DK are capable of punching on any inch given and turning it into a whole highway, never mind a mile. Ask C9, DFM, PSG… anyone but RNG it seems right now, and even then those games have been close.

Considering the meta and sheer power of neutral buffs in LoL’s current state, being able to set up and execute so consistently well around said objectives is a critical part of why DWG Kia came in favourites to MSI and emerged on top at the end of the Rumble Stage.

A final eye must be cast to DWG Kia’s bot lane. Ghost’s teamfighting on Kai’sa, in particular, has been stellar, even if other ADC’s have taken the spotlight ahead of him, where BeryL has oscillated between making incredible engages and dying in ill-advised plays early on and out of lane.

Here’s that word again: mercurial. A point of consideration must also be how Ghost may perform if Kai’sa is taken away from him. He’s got 11 games on the champion at MSI, while he’s only played a handful of other champions one game each. Food for thought.

Player to Watch - Showmaker

No surprise. Humanoid will need to bring his A-game to take on this titan of the game.

 

MSI 2021 semifinals prediction: MAD Lions (5 - 5)

The LEC contenders may have been surprise victors of the Spring Split in Europe, but they’ve been arguably even more of a surprise on the MSI stage. Hopes for MAD Lions varied from hoping this would be a good learning experience to a strong top 4 finish. Fortunately for EU fans, it has been decisively the latter, an exorcism of their previous poor performance at last year’s Worlds play-ins.

MSI 2021 semifinal DWG Kia vs Mad lions predictions preview(Picture: LoL Esports)

At their best MAD Lions have eviscerated teams in the early game, wracking up insurmountable leads on the backs of strong laning from Carzzy, Kaiser and Humanoid, while rookie Elyoya makes waves and Armut (and his pocket Wukong) turn up huge in teamfights…

… and then by the same token MAD can throw it away just as easily. While they seem to have settled as the tournament has gone on, MAD really don’t shy away from a fight, and that can often bite them, diving too deep and giving away solid advantages which they really had no need to. They have the highest combined DPM of any team at the tournament for a reason.

Behold the term “mercurial” again. Even so, there have been some consistent superstars for MAD. Foremost among them is Carzzy. The young ADC player has been dominating at MSI, running an impressive 9.7 CSM while also dishing out the highest DPM and DMG% of any bot laner at the tournament, all while going 5-5 in the Rumble Stage. It’s hard work to hit those numbers when you’re only winning half your games, and it’s a credit to Carzzy’s consistency this MSI.

Likewise, Humanoid has also been having an exceptional tournament, second only to Showmaker in nearly every metric, and even taking the crown for DPM numbers. His Lucian and Viktor in particular have been truly lethal, even if he has sometimes been a little too eager to look for the play along with the rest of his team.

It is perhaps small comfort though considering it's Showmaker he’ll be matching up against at this semifinal - the one mid laner with consistently better numbers than him, and arguably the most mechanically gifted player in the game right now.

Armut as well has impressed this tournament, primarily through his teamfighting. He’s often been unremarkable in lane - certainly not dominant - but he’s made a swathe of highlight reels when skirmishes and teamfights break out, especially on his Wukong. His synergy with Elyoya also adds an x-factor to the table and could make Khan’s life challenging, even if Armut’s pure laning prowess hasn’t wowed thus far.

Speaking of, Elyoya is an interesting one. His Rumble and Morgana have been… mixed, though improving through the tournament, and there have definitely been moments where the rookie jungler has been caught with his hands in the proverbial cookie jar.

That said, when he has hit the mark he’s hit the mark hard. If his rate of improvement continues, especially on high priority picks Morgana and Rumble, then MAD may find a draft edge over Canyon who’s Morgana has been stellar, but whose Rumble play has left a lot to be desired.

Player to Watch - Carzzy

When MAD win Carzzy is delivering. When MAD lose, Carzzy is still delivering. Ghost may be no slouch, but Carzzy has his name in the hat to be in contention for best ADC at MSI with the likes of RNG’s GALA.

MSI 2021 semifinal DWG Kia vs Mad lions predictions preview(Picture: DWG Kia)

MSI 2021 semifinal verdict: 3-1 DWG Kia

It’s a tough call, especially considering potential mismatches around top/jungle synergies that favour MAD, but DK’s impeccable teamfighting and the challenges of actually snowballing against the LCK representatives even when you do have a lead makes this DWG Kia favoured.

Add in MAD’s propensity to throw games with ill-advised fights, and you have a recipe for disaster. Even so, expect the LEC hopefuls to make it a challenge.

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