The group stage in Busan has wrapped up, and while 6 teams have advanced to the Rumble Stage, 4 teams have been eliminated from the tournament.
T1, RNG and G2 remain undefeated
Few will be surpsied at how dominant these teams were during the Group Stage. They hail from the regions that have had the most international success over the last few years, were in pool 1 for the group draw, and had very convincing runs during their respective playoffs.
RNG overcame a tricky situation when they had to replay 3 of their matches as their opponents were not playing on the 35 ping that was promised. This could have thrown off a lesser team's focus, but RNG bounced back quickly and won all 3 of their replays. It's impressive RNG were able to finish 9-0 in their group when they only played 6 matches.
Ultimately, the outcome of the Group Stage was predictable and unsurprising. EG, PSG and Saigon Buffalo all advanced to the Rumble Stage in second place of their groups, while all of the teams from the Wildcard region were eliminated. Brazil's Red Canids were the only team to claim victory against an opponent in Pool 2 or above, when they defeated PSG on day 1.
Should the MSI format be changed?
The stark difference between the Pool 1/2 teams (CN, EU, KR, NA, VN and PCS) and the Wildcard regions was made clear with these results, leading to criticism of the tournament's format from the community. Many argued the play in stage from 2017-2019 tournaments should return, wherein the Wildcard regions fought for 2 spots in the Rumble stage and the chance to play the major regions.
This arguably made the first games of the tournament much more compelling; there were higher stakes with only 2 teams advancing, and the games were much closer as teams were on more of an equal skill level. Unfortunately, the same can't be said about this year's group stage as the results felt like a foregone conclusion. Most of the games that featured a major region were complete stomps, while the most competitive games were between 2 teams from Wildcard regions.
On the other hand, the Wildcard teams were rewarded for winning their respective regions with the opportunity to play against major regions. This experience will undoubtedly be critical in their development and growth, and not all Wildcard teams had that chance with the old format.
Nevertheless, the community's concerns are valid, and will hopefully inspire conversations from Riot moving forward. MSI is one of two international tournaments League fans get a year, and steps should be taken to ensure that every one of these games count for players and fans alike.
A flexible meta emerges
Although the outcome of the Group Stage may not have been surprising, there have been a plethora of spicy picks throughout. T1's Keria unleashed Rumble support in their game against Saigon Buffalo, and though both teams had already qualified at this point, the pick was very successful. Keria finished 2/1/9, and utilised the Equalizer as long-range psuedo engage tool to slow enemies from afar.
Other surprised picks include Vi jungle, Vel'Koz mid, and Bard support. So far, 92 unique champions have been picked, and it looks like this year's MSI may be one of the most diverse metas in the tournament's history. It's already surprassed the amount of unique champions from last year, which only had 82 picked.
The Rumble Stage kicks off next week, where we'll finally get the chance to see the top teams at this year's tournament face-off for a spot in the Knockout Stage.