G2 Esports and T1 rekindle fiery rivalry in MSI 2022 semi-finals

G2 vs T1 MSI 2022Lee Aiksoon for Riot Games

G2 Esports and T1 are two of the most storied organizations in League of Legends history. And their face-off on May 28 in the MSI 2022 semi-finals will be yet another instalment in one of League’s most iconic rivalries. 

In the MSI 2022 semi-finals, G2 and T1 will take to the stage to settle the score on a rivalry that has existed since 2016. Their matchup on May 28 will be a battle of two of the greatest mid laners in League history – but before we look forward to that fateful matchup, let’s take a look back to where it all began, at the 2016 Mid-Season Invitational. 

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Okay, maybe this is where the rivalry started for G2. I doubt that particular T1 (SK Telecom T1 at the time) roster even remembers their encounter with the European representative because it was a stomp that went according to expectation for a West vs East matchup in 2016. 

G2 failed to take a game off SKT and exited the tournament at the end of the group stage with only two wins to their name, spawning the infamous ‘G2-8’ and ‘G2 vacation’ memes that haunted the organization for months.

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This was G2’s first-ever international appearance, and it was about as disastrous as you’d expect. That year’s World Championship also went awry for G2, who were eliminated from the group stage. This time around, they did not have the chance to play against SKT, who were in a different group, and they went home from the tournament to lick their wounds and recuperate in the offseason.

The climb back 

Riot games/FlickrRiot games/Flickr
SKT Telecom T1 were the undisputed kings of League of Legends in its early years.

But those humiliating international showings lit a proverbial fire under G2. In 2017, after a roster revamp that saw the team rebuild around mid laner Luka ‘Perkz’ Perković, they returned to MSI. And this time, they meant business. 

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G2 finished the group stage in third place, a much more respectable showing than their previous appearance. And then, to the shock of the world, they beat LPL representatives Team WE 3-1 in the semi-finals.

They would be Europe’s first international finalist since Season 1 Worlds. Their opponents? SK Telecom T1. 

It would be the perfect fairytale if G2 came back one year after being thoroughly humiliated by SKT only to beat them in their first-ever international final. Unfortunately, real life is rarely quite so magical. 

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They took a game off the Korean giants before falling 3-1 in the series. SKT took home the glory of their fifth international title in four years, continuing their dynasty. 

A strange turn of events

Riot GamesG2’s MSI 2019 run is the stuff of legend – and they had to take down SKT to make it a reality.

2018 saw a disruption in the G2-T1 rivalry. They didn’t play against each other once that year — G2 failed to qualify for MSI, and SKT (in a shocking downturn in performance) failed to make it to Worlds. 

And then, 2019 rolled around. SKT, after a disappointing 2018, managed to qualify for MSI in a clean 3-0 sweep versus young guns Griffin, who had debuted in the LCK that year.

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G2, after acquiring ex-Fnatic mid laner Rasmus ‘Caps’ Winther and moving franchise superstar Perkz to the bot lane, had steamrolled the LEC Spring split, and were looking like the strongest roster in the organization’s history. 

But both teams paled to 2018 world champions Invictus Gaming. The LPL giants finished the group stage in first place, dropping only a single game, with SKT coming in second at 7-3 and G2 in third at a worrying 5-5.

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Despite the standings, G2 had beaten SKT in both of their matches. They had fallen short against Invictus Gaming and Phong Vũ Buffalo, and had even had a game snuck away from them by LCS representatives Team Liquid. But against SKT, they had stood strong.

As first-place finishers in the group stage, Invictus Gaming were given their pick of opponents for the semi-finals. They naturally chose Team Liquid (a decision that would later prove to be their downfall), which left G2 and SKT to do battle in the second semi-final. 

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Both semi-finals went down in history as some of the most nail-biting international best-of-fives in League history. In one of the game’s greatest upsets, TL took down iG 3-1 and qualified for the MSI final.

All that was left was to decide their rival. What followed was a tense five-game thriller that saw G2 run out 3-2 winners.

You know what happens next. G2 took down Team Liquid in what was, at the time, the fastest international final ever, and became the first-ever European MSI champions. 

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Where we are now

Twitter @lolesports
T1 were on top of the world in Spring 2022 – but the cracks have begun to show for the LCK squad.

G2 didn’t stop there. Since that MSI final they’ve become one of the most renowned and feared teams in League of Legends. 

T1, however, have not quite been able to replicate the dominance of their SKT days. But in 2022, after assembling a roster of talented rookies and legacy mid laner Lee ‘Faker’ Sang-hyeok, they did not drop a single game throughout the entirety of the LCK spring split. They qualified for MSI as the de facto favorites to take it all.

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Both teams made it out of their groups unscathed, but the first cracks began to appear in the rumble stage. G2 lost four successive games to teams who on paper they should have been able to beat, and T1 looked much shakier than their 18-0 spring split had suggested. 

They limp into their semifinals matchup bloodied and bruised, taken down a peg or two from their triumphant start to MSI 2022. On paper, it’s hard to say who the favorite truly is. G2’s win record is much, much worse, but if history is any judge, you should never, ever, count G2 out. 

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How do they match up?

G2 Esports caPs vs T1 FakerChristian Betancourt/Jianhua Chen/Riot Games
caPs vs Faker is, unquestionable, one of the most exciting matchups at MSI this year.

The matchup to watch for this series will, of course, be Faker versus Caps. Two of the greatest mid laners to ever do it — it’s just a shame that the current meta is much more about team fighting than it is about individual laners. 

And when it comes to team fighting, the players to watch are always the AD Carries. Victor ‘Flakked’ Lirola and Lee ‘Gumayusi’ Min-Hyeong are two of the youngest players at MSI this year, and it’s safe to say that their performances have reflected their youth. 

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Flakked has had some incredible highs, including a spectacular pentakill versus Evil Geniuses, but he’s also had much lower lows than his T1 counterpart. Gumayusi has been more consistent, but he is still not playing at the level that was expected of him coming into the tournament. 

T1 and G2 have met twice at MSI so far, winning one game each. T1’s games are, on average, much faster than G2’s – with G2’s games taking 30 minutes on average, and T1’s only 27 minutes. 

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This matchup is, accounting for recent history, favored towards T1. They’ve looked significantly more consistent at this tournament than G2, and they were the favorites heading into it for a reason. Although they’ve definitely not looked as sharp as their 18-0 spring may have suggested, they’re not the LCK’s no. 1 seed for nothing. 

What do the players think?

Faker holding up hush sign in T1 uniform at MSI 2022Lee Aiksoon for Riot Games
T1 and G2’s players are just as bought into the rivalry as their fans

In an interview with Dexerto, T1 support Ryu ‘Keria’ Min-seok explained how the majority of his team’s poor performances at MSI were down to a bad meta read rather than poor individual performances. 

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“I don’t think we needed a wake up call because none of us have a big ego” he told Dexerto. “It was just the meta ⁠— we weren’t getting used to it quick enough and that’s what we struggled with in the beginning.”

G2 have had some truly incredible performances at this tournament. But their recent 0-4 loss streak unfortunately cannot be ignored, and it’s a real worry for them heading into this matchup with T1. Mental fortitude in a best-of-five is everything, and a seemingly unexplainable downturn in performance doesn’t exactly breed confidence. 

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But T1 themselves have said how much they respect G2 as a team, and how much they consider them a worthy opponent. Faker himself said in an interview with Dexerto that he wants nothing more than to beat caPs, and acknowledged the game record between the pair. 

“I did lose a lot [to caPs] so it just means I have to get him back next time I meet him.”

If there’s one thing you can never do, it’s write G2 off. They went from barely qualifying for the LEC playoffs to making an undefeated run through the loser’s bracket to qualify for MSI they’re no strangers to a high-pressure environment, and they’ll need to bring everything they’ve got if they want a chance at winning their second MSI crown.

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Currently, the head-to-head record between these two teams favors T1, but barely (11-10). This semi-final could be the chance for G2 to finally close that gap. Or it could bring T1 out even further ahead in the rivalry and put them one step closer to becoming the first-ever team to hold three MSI titles.