As this year’s Mid-Season Invitationals play-in knockouts come to a spectacular end, let’s take a look at one team on our radar that the wildcard winners might find themselves challenging in the much anticipated group stage.
With the notable absence of SK Telecom, many teams have gathered to lay claim to the MSI crown. Besides the usual Korean hype train, Royal Never Give Up (RNG) is the team to watch as their incredibly gifted ADC Jian “Uzi” Zi-Hao arrives on a high after his first LPL championship victory. Following an incredible 3-1 sweep over their rivals EDward Gaming in the finals of their spring split, this star-studded roster may very well be the next MSI champions.
Since captivating the world with his heroic performance in season 3 edition of Worlds, Uzi’s mechanically perfect plays have taken him to places from domestic finals to Worlds finals on multiple occasions. Along the way, he has continued to take pentakills wherever he sees them and never misses a double shot. Famed for being one of the best Vayne and Lucian players in the world, there are few supports that can reach his high expectations as a lane partner. Being the player that claimed the most kills at both the 2014 and 2017 world championships, Uzi could bring a bloodbath with him this year as he joins MSI for the first time. But despite his legendary career, Uzi has had a seemingly empty trophy room in the past. At multiple Worlds tournaments Uzi has always finished just shy of absolute victory, a serious contender yet never able to seal the deal. However, with his recent wins in the 2017 All Stars event and the 2018 LPL spring split, could Uzi’s new-found momentum be enough to break his notorious ‘runner up’ curse?
Besides Uzi, RNG’s world-class midlaner Li “Xiaohu” Yuan-Hao will be another massive drawcard given his previous track record with aggressive Azir and Leblanc plays. Xiaohu’s proactive yet controlled playstyle has been incredibly vital to RNG’s splits, and his noteworthy performance at Worlds 2017 scored him a KDA of 7.6; nearly leading RNG to an upset against SKT in the semi-finals. Time and time again Xiaohu has proven with dominating fashion to be one of the world’s best midlaners, going toe-to-toe with players such as SKT’s “Faker” and “Crown” from Generation Gaming. In the current Korean-dominated scene, Xiaohu’s consistent performance has made him a legitimate threat. His presence will challenge the Korean dynasty.
Although Uzi and Xiaohu are the headliners of RNG, their recent success was still a team effort. Forming the backbone of this all Chinese roster is Liu “Mlxg” Shi-Yu - his undeniable chemistry with the rest of RNG was demonstrated during the spring split semi-finals when he surprised Invictus Gaming with early ganks in lieu of clearing camps. Sharing the role of jungler with Mlxg is Hung “Karsa” Hau-Hsuan, who despite his limited appearances for RNG, has shown some promising synergy. RNG’s top-lane will be handled by Yan “Letme” Jun-Ze, whose more consistent playstyle will need to be tweaked depending on which jungler starts. Finally, the man that will bear the duty of supporting RNG’s powerhouse AD carry is Shi “Ming” Sen-Ming. Ming was mentored by Uzi himself during the rookie’s first few splits, and his experiences will hopefully come to fruition in this years MSI.
There is no doubt Royal Never Give Up will be determined to be crowned victors of an international tournament after their previous failures at the 2016 and 2017 Worlds championships. However, there are still many obstacles to their success as teams like Kingzone Dragonx and Team Liquid are on the prowl. This year’s line-up is unprecedented, as each region’s best AD carries will be competing for the MSI crown. Legendary figures Yiliang Peter “Doublelift” Peng from North America’s Team Liquid and Martin “Rekkles” Larsson from the European Unions’ Fnatic will also be duking it out in the botlane.
However, the biggest challenge RNG will have to face is from none other than the LCK. The 2018 MSI marks the first time in the events’ history that South Korea is not represented by SK Telecom T1. Fortunately, their reputation for dominance is in the excellent hands of Kingzone DragonX. The core of Kingzone is in its bot-lane duo of AD carry Kim “PraY” Jong-in and Kang “GorillA” Beom-hyeon. Able to play a huge range of different styles depending on the meta, the versatility and stability of this fearsome duo will truly be a force to behold. RNG’s victory is clearly far from a done deal; can their time-honoured tradition of aggressive playstyles finally take them to the top?
By Colby "kobe lu" Lu [2018 Marketing (Publications) Subcommittee]