If we’d written this article after the Group Stage of MSI 2021, RNG would have been firm favourites to win the League of Legends tournament. DWG Kia had faltered, nearly dropping a game to DFM and actually dropping a game to C9, while RNG had annihilated their own group in an almost obscene fashion. PSG Talon on the other hand had impressed but had largely yet to make a truly defining mark. That has now changed.
RNG remains one of the tournament favourites, but losses to MAD, C9 and critically PSG have proven this juggernaut can be stopped, while PSG has taken down everyone not named DWG Kia in the Rumble Stage and have merged, much like the Flash Wolves of the past, as a credible dark horse to take the whole tournament.
In short, with a hell of a lot of regional pride on the line between the LPL and the PCS, this is set to be a banger of a series.
MSI 2021 semifinals prediction: RNG (7 - 3)
(Picture: LoL Esports)
Despite some shaky later performances, RNG has looked strong at MSI. They’ve been by far the best 1-3-1 and sidelaning team, while GALA, Ming, Wei and Xiaohu are all in contention for best performing players in their roles.
Intriguingly though, RNG’s teamfighting moving into the later stages of games has proven problematic, having to rely on clutch backdoors and recall cancels on more than one occasion to secure victory in the Rumble Stage. Just check out their first game against C9 for context.
But smoke and mirrors alongside smart macro decisions in the clutch papering over notable weaknesses should raise alarm bells for fans and raise eyebrows for opponents - especially considering current opponent PSG’s proficiency in teamfights.
That said, RNG still has a lot of potent weapons in their arsenal. First on that list is Xiaohu. Roll-swapped mid laner and the most dangerous top at the tournament. His Lee Sin is clean, so is his Gnar, and you can even throw in a Lucian game or two to boot. While his playstyle is resource-heavy if RNG can get Xiaohu the lead he invariably becomes a major win condition in the sidelane for the team.
The highest CSM, GPM, GD/CSD/XPD @15 combined with the lowest Kill participation of any starting top laner at the tournament should tell you everything you need to know about Xiaohu’s playstyle - sidelane or bust.
But what makes Xiaohu so successful is the enduring support of his, well, support and jungler, Ming and Wei. Ming’s roaming plays to top on the likes of his Nautilus and Leona have proven devastating both in the LPL and here at MSI, and Wei’s jungle dominance earns Xiaohu a lot of freedom to play aggressively into his opponents knowing he has the manpower to assist him.
Wei in particular needs to be praised as one of the few junglers at MSI who look truly at home on Rumble, with frankly most other junglers’ Heat management and Equaliser usage being sub-par on the former top lane staple. Wei on the other hand has used the champion to incendiary effect, helping him rack up the highest DPM and DMG% numbers of any jungler at MSI.
What makes the matchup against PSG so tantalising thought is that Wei and Ming’s numbers on the other side of Summoner’s Rift are also in contention for best in the role - and River might be an even better Rumble player than Wei.
The difference is that RNG tends to prioritise top, while PSG look to focus mid and bot. In GALA’s case, that isn’t so much of an issue. The team will blow teleports to support him, and individually GALA has put on some of the best performances we’ve seen at MSI and is right up there with Carzzy as the most dangerous-looking ADCs in the tournament right now.
What is more of an issue though is Cryin. He’s become more exposed the longer the tournament goes on, getting pressured in lane and out, while the likes of his Twisted Fate games have left a lot to be desired. Considering how strong Maple looks right now, and the roaming and skirmishing power of PSG’s jungle and support, Cryin will need to step up his game for semis lest he becomes a lose condition for RNG.
Player to Watch - Xiaohu
This could easily have gone to Wei or Ming, but instead, we’ll turn our eyes to ostensibly the biggest RNG favoured matchup. Hanabi is largely left out to dry by PSG, and Xiaohu is certainly not. Yes, Wei and Ming will certainly have set him up, but if RNG is succeeding in this series expect Xiaohu to be on his usual imperious form.
MSI 2021 semifinals prediction: PSG Talon (6 - 4)
(Picture: LoL Esports)
The Flash Wolves reincarnated, helmed by their old mid laner no less in Maple. And much like the Flash Wolves of old, PSG has proved themselves king slayers and a dark horse for this tournament.
In some ways, they’d slipped under many analysts’ radars. The PCS, while not a minor region as the successor to the LMS, isn’t a major region either, which can make power rankings in comparison to other regions challenging. Add in PSG’s utter annihilation of the PCS and it gets even harder - are PSG smurfing in a weak region, or are they just that good? Both?
Either way, PSG Talon are the real deal. They look comfortably like the third-best team at MSI (contested with MAD), and they’ve done so with a stand-in ADC. Not a substitute, a stand-in. Doggo isn’t even part of the team.
Their strengths lie in teamfighting and the power of their jungle/support duo to snowball hard carries in Maple and Doggo to early leads. They love their map mobility and power to roam and dive, running the likes of Nocturne, Galio and Qiyana at various points to snowball games early and then leverage that into objectives. Lots of kills, short games, and a bot side focus, with an average Gold Difference @15 only just behind DWG Kia and RNG.
Which leads us on to more specific strengths. Namely, River and Kaiwing. As already stated, RNG’s jungle/support duo is intimidatingly strong, but PSG stack up alarmingly well. So alarmingly well that there’s very little difference between them. There’s an argument even that River’s Rumble is more lethal than even Wei’s which has been a terror this tournament, and Kaiwing’s Leona and undefeated Thresh have been awesome to behold.
What that does mean, is that rather than any expectations of major skill discrepancies, we are better suited looking to playstyle discrepancies to analyse this matchup. Ming and Wei are nearly guaranteed to focus top with an occasional bot-side play, where PSG tend to look to play through dives bot or star mid laner Maple.
And this is where PSG have their biggest opening. Cryin has been struggling for RNG, where Maple has been thriving on PSG’s end. He has the second-highest solo kill count behind Fudge at 9 and has been popping off on the likes of Akali, Qiyana, Sylas and Zoe. Playmaking and assassination potential galore. Given half a chance, Maple could become a huge win condition for PSG. He certainly was when they handed RNG their first loss of the tournament.
Doggo too has been a top-tier performer. He’s got the highest CSM of any player and is top 3 for GPM, DPM and KP%. He may be a stand-in, but Doggo’s been an absolute beast considering the difficult position he and PSG were put in. Yes, PSG has put a lot of attention his way, but he has more than paid back with hard carry performances. Still, the lack of ingrained synergy versus the likes of GALA and Ming could prove deadly in a Bo5 situation, so caution is still required.
PSG’s main issue though will be Hanabi. He’s often been left on weakside top duty, and that can be an absolute death sentence versus RNG and how much they invest in Xiaohu. If Hanabi can survive the likely onslaught, then PSG will be in a much brighter space. If he can’t… things get difficult. Watch for Lee Sin and Gangplank picks to give him some more teeth in those 1vX scenarios.
Player to Watch - Maple
As with RNG, so with PSG. Maple likely has the biggest mismatch in favour of PSG in this series, so if they’re going to pick up the win, Maple will need to take it to a faltering Cryin. Watch for playmakers and assassins.
MSI semifinals verdict: 3-2 RNG
PSG’s strengths match up against RNG’s weaknesses in mind, and the opposite is true for RNG on the top side, all while both jungle/support duos are arguably the best performers in their roles at the tournament. That makes this match incredibly close.
The things that tip this in RNG’s favour are GALA and RNG’s ability to play the map on three lanes consistently in late-game scenarios. Unfortunately for Doggo, being a stand-in this far into a tournament is likely to expose some cracks, and RNG’s ability to split push and still be strong (if inconsistent) team fighters should see them make finals.
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