T1 might not quite be on top after the MSI 2022 Rumble Stage, but there are positive signs for the Korean side after a sluggish start. Ryu ‘Keria’ Min-seok is “relieved” the squad got back on track, but admits there’s still problems to fix ahead of the knockout stage.
T1’s early performance at the MSI 2022 Rumble Stage was cause for concern. After being undefeated all year, the Korean champions and hometown heroes faltered against G2 Esports in their first appearance at BEXCO, and the downhill slide continued.
Losses against RNG and Evil Geniuses stacked up the pain as questions were raised about all aspects of T1’s play: their drafting, their macro decisions, their mechanical mishaps.
Not all these questions have been answered, but at least T1 are holding their head high after finishing the Rumble Stage strong with a win against their closest rivals, RNG. It was as clean a performance as any from T1 all week, and one that Keria hopes is a sign of things to come.
“Coming into MSI I thought G2 Esports, T1, and RNG were the stronger teams,” he told Dexerto. “If we were to have lost to RNG again today, it would have really affected our mentality heading into the Knockout Stage, so it’s a relief that we won today.”
“We thought we could beat everyone, however we had a very poor start and that diminished our confidence. Now we’re back on track and we’re feeling better.”
The reason for T1’s slump is different depending on who you ask. On Twitter, you can take your pick of the lot — they can’t set up Baron properly, they pick Kalista too much, they draft themselves into a hole.
All that is white noise to Keria. The team has been working towards their own set of fixes brought on by a meta change that threw a curveball into the mix ahead of MSI, and that’s what he believes is the root of T1’s problems.
“We tried a lot of different team compositions and we failed to play to their strengths. We also had a lot of small mistakes across the Rumble Stage that meant we kept losing,” he explained. “I don’t think we needed a wake up call because none of us have a big ego. It was just the meta — we weren’t getting used to it quick enough and that’s what we struggled with in the beginning.”
“All of the lanes had a bit of a meta shift between Spring and MSI, but the bottom lane has changed the most significantly. Ezreal and Kalista are now meta versus Jinx and Aphelios, and we weren’t able to play around it well.”
“The meta change really impacted both of us [Gumayusi and Keria] and how we played.”
Validating the “best support in the world” title
At every international event Keria goes to, there’s always the question thrown around: “Is he the best support in the world?”
Back when he was on DRX, that question was being leveled against him at just 17 years of age. A lot has changed since then, and while he’s finally got that first trophy in the case at LCK Summer 2022, he believes there’s still a long way to go in terms of validating that honor.
“I’ve said this before, but we’ve never proven ourselves on an international stage and they’ve [RNG] done that, so we’re still behind them in terms of skill and experience,” he said, pointing to one example.
“If I can take home MSI, I can say that I’m the best support in the world — but obviously only until Worlds.”
With that being said, Keria isn’t just proud of how he’s playing recently — he stated he was “really happy with my own play” — he’s proud of how far he’s come since his high-profile debut in 2020.
The 19-year-old’s age aside, he’s an experienced head alongside Lee ‘Faker’ Sang-hyeok leading the next generation of Korean talent to a potential fourth Worlds title for T1. His reminiscing on that turbulent entry to the League of Legends fray shows a maturity beyond his years.
“Looking back to my first Worlds, I was always thinking about how I should do better and how I should be playing,” he explained. “I got anxious a lot back then, but now I’m not so nervous. All I’m focused on now is teamplay and that’s the big difference — winning as a team.”
Originally from Busan, MSI 2022 has been somewhat of a homecoming for Keria. Outside of Faker, the fans at BEXCO scream loudest for the T1 support whenever he lands a Nautilus hook or a Leona Zenith Blade.
Even if it doesn’t quite feel like home any more with the wild lifestyle that comes with being a League of Legends pro, it still has a deeper meaning to him.
“Back at the beginning of this year I moved near to Seoul. It’s meaningful to be back in Busan but it’s not quite like home right now,” he admitted. “I did meet a lot of fans cheering for us and that gives us a big confidence boost.”
Now he’s going to give back to the fans who have cheered him on so loudly in the best way he can: lifting the MSI trophy come Sunday.
“When we were having a slow start, a lot of fans were disappointed in us and were worried. Thank you for trusting and supporting us though, I promise we’ll prepare well for the Knockout Stage to win it all.”