MSI 2024: League of Legends’ Proving Grounds

The League of Legends 2024 Mid-Season Invitational

Is there any more exciting time in the competitive League of Legends cycle than an international tournament? The years have been filled with iconic moments between teams that would never have played each other, or even reached their level of popularity. Take Albus NoX Luna for example. The Russian team’s two-year existence is but a blip on the radar of the history of competitive League of Legends, but to those who were around during the 2016 World Championships, they represent the dream of every minor region team. Pit against Europe’s G2 Esports, North America’s Counter Logic Gaming and Korea’s ROX Tigers, they pulled off a miracle win over the Tigers to secure themselves a seed in the knockout round and a permanent residence in the annals of history.

Now in 2024, the framework for breaking through as a wildcard has never been stronger. While China and Korea have become the de facto leaders internationally, every European and American team goes into international tournaments with the lingering thought that they could be sent home by a team making their first appearance. This alone will make the 2024 Mid-Season Invitational (MSI), starting on May 1, a must-watch for followers of the sport.

In this tournament format, each of the four major region teams will be sending two teams each. Gen. G and T1 played a fierce series, though it was never in doubt that these two would be representing Korea. In China’s finals, Bilibili Gaming capped off a dominant 15-1 season with a 3-1 victory over Top Esports in the finals, though they both are attending the event anyways. North America’s playoffs saw Team Liquid make a miracle loser’s bracket run to unseat FlyQuest as the top seed in the grand finals. Europe’s LEC is the only of the big four to have a different selection process; G2 Esports claimed the first seed by winning their Spring playoffs, and Fnatic is joining them by virtue of having the (second-)best performance across their winter and spring splits.

However, it’s not those teams that we’re looking at. PSG Talon is the most internationally experienced of the four minor region teams, especially given the lengthy careers of some of their players. Out of Taiwan’s VCS, PSG has placed lower than first in their regional playoffs just twice in their four years of existence. Furthermore, they made waves when they placed third in MSI 2021, overtaking both Europe’s MAD Lions and North America’s Cloud9. They are anchored by mid-laner Huang “Maple” Yi-Tang and bot-laner Lu “Betty” Yu-Hung, who were teammates back on the Flash Wolves roster that was competing internationally as far back as 2015.

Vietnam’s GAM Esports also aren’t strangers to the scene. Even though they haven’t reached the same level of success as PSG, they have made each of the past three major international tournaments. However, their roster is distinctly different this year, as they are without their long-time mid, bot and support players. Top-laner Tran “Kiaya” Duy Sang has been with the squad since 2018, while jungler Do “Levi” Duy Khanh was even poached from Vietnam to play with North America’s 100 Thieves and China’s JD Gaming from 2018 through 2019 before returning.

Estral Esports are serving as the representatives from Latin America and are definitively the least experienced of the minor region teams at MSI 2024. Despite competing at the regional level for over four years now, this will be their first international tournament. However, eyes will be on Argentinan phenom jungler Brandon Joel “Josedeodo” Villegas. Once considered the jungler of the future for FlyQuest, he was in NA from 2020 through 2022. This will also be the third international tournament for their support Gabriel “Ackerman” Aparicio, who was a member of the INFINITY squad that ran the table in Latin America through 2021.

Of course, it simply wouldn’t be an international tournament without a Brazilian representative. LOUD took the proverbial reins from Pain Gaming as the kings of Brazil over the last year, having appeared in each of the last three international tournaments. Their roster has also remained explicitly the same throughout this period, with the sole exception of adding Ygor “RedBert” Freitas at support. A large part of their team success can be attributed to their bot laner Moon “Route” Geom-su, who spent four years as a professional in Korea before joining LOUD in 2022.

It’s easy to mimic the talking points about the major region teams, having seen them play countless games over multiple years. But with less attention on the minor regions, they are able to evolve into the ultimate wildcard, capable of finding their own rhythm and taking games, if not series, from the best teams out there. Watch MSI 2024 starting on May 1 to see if they can shock the world.