Legacies, rivalries, and first encounters: matchups to watch in MSI 2022 Rumble stage

Colin Young-Wolff/Riot Games

The MSI group stage has finally finished, and the six remaining teams at the tournament are getting ready to rumble as the Rumble stage kicks off on May 20. There will be insane outplays and clutch moments aplenty – so here are four of the most exciting matchups to watch out for heading into the Rumble. 

It feels hard to believe that we’re already a third of the way through the 2022 Mid-Season Invitational. After a week-long break, the competition is ramping back up again in Busan, Korea, as the six remaining teams prepare to take to the stage once again for the beginning of the Rumble.

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Now that we’re out of the group stage, we’ll finally get to see some of the matchups fans have been waiting for since the beginning of the tournament. Due to the seeding system for MSI, the LEC, LCK, and LPL representatives were unable to play against each other in the group stage – meaning that many of the all-star rivalries at the tournament have been simmering below the surface as teams worked to qualify from their group.

But now, it’s all systems go. We’ll see all four major regions face off against each other on the opening day of the Rumble, with minor region representatives Saigon Buffalo and PSG Talon looking to play spoiler and create a little chaos of their own.

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Here are four hype matchups that we’ve been waiting for since the start of the tournament, and how the players are shaping up off the back of the group stage.

Lee ‘Faker’ Sang-hyeok vs Rasmus ‘caPs’ Winther- 

G2 Esports caPs vs T1 Faker

You knew this was coming. Two generations of mid lane talent, the brightest stars of their respective regions, will face off at MSI in only a few days’ time. And the best part? It’s the first match of the Rumble stage. 

Even though they’re two of the most iconic names in the world of League of Legends, it’s actually been almost three years since they last faced off on the rift. 

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That faceoff was at the 2019 World Championships- and, surprisingly, it was G2 Esports that came out on top. They took down T1 3-1 in the semifinals. And sure, they then immediately got stomped by FunPlus Phoenix in the 2019 Worlds finals but, hey, go Europe! 

The comparison between the stats for caPs and Faker at MSI 2022 so far is illuminating. But it’s important to note that caPs has played two more games than Faker, so stats like overall kill and death count won’t provide an entirely accurate comparison.

I won’t bore you too much with facts and figures, but one interesting fact to note is this: Faker is the better laning mid laner of the two by all three measurable laning metrics (gold, experience, and cs advantage at 15 minutes), but caPs is hot on his heels. 

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Faker’s still the KDA king, but caPs isn’t all that far behind. They favor similar champions, both putting in the reps on Ahri, LeBlanc, Sylas, Zoe, and Twisted Fate. We’ve seen a little more variety out of caPs, who’s brought out Anivia, Galio, and Gwen as surprise off-meta picks, generally in response to the enemy draft. 

Saigon Buffalo’s bot lane versus G2 Esports’ bot lane 

Saigon Buffalo bot lane vs G2 Esports bot lane

This promises to be one hell of a matchup. Saigon Buffalo’s bot lane duo of Nguyễn ‘Shogun’ Văn Huy and Đinh ‘Taki’ Anh Tài have been one of the most exciting up-and-comers at MSI this year. They’ve been unmatched in early game aggression, and Shogun in particular has shown some superb teamfighting. 

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G2’s Victor ‘Flakked’ Lirola and Raphaël ‘Targamas’ Crabbé, however, seem to have flown a little under the radar. Perhaps due to the nature of G2’s group, where it’s fair to say they weren’t exactly tested to the limits of their gameplay capabilities. 

But Flakked had the best KDA of any player in the group stage at 16.8, and Targamas has the highest first blood percentage of the tournament at 75 percent. 

This matchup will be all about the early game, and may very well be decided by the allocation of jungle presence for Marcin ‘Jankos’ Jankowski and Trần ‘BeanJ’ Văn Chính. 

The AD Carry champion pool at MSI has been sparse, but Flakked and Shogun actually don’t share that many similarities in champion choices. Flakked has favored Kai’Sa and Zeri, whereas Shogun hasn’t even touched Zeri at MSI so far. 

Chen ‘GALA’ Wei versus Kyle ‘Danny’ Sakamaki

It’s another bot lane matchup – but this time, it’s the AD Carries that you should be focusing on. GALA, once a young regional prodigy, has quickly worked his way to the top of the food chain in the LPL, a region known worldwide for its incredible AD Carry talent.

He didn’t have the strongest of starts in the LPL, but he’s quickly become one of the region’s best carries- and that’s saying something when you’re competing alongside names like Jian ‘Uzi’ Zi-Hao and Yu ‘JackeyLove’ Wen-Bo.

Danny’s career, however, has taken the opposite trajectory – he’s had one of the most exciting debuts we’ve seen from a major region player in recent years. He’s been touted as the savior of North America, a rare domestic talent nurtured by Evil Geniuses from the academy scene all the way up to the LCS.

But he’s had a rough start to his MSI run. Evil Geniuses went 4-4 in their group, beating OCE representatives ORDER four times but failing to take a game off G2 Esports. Danny himself looked a little shaky, something with Evil Geniuses coach Peter Dun attributed to the ping issues in the BEXCO arena.

But now, those ping issues have been fixed (barring some other revelation of technical issues), and the playing field is back to level. Danny is known domestically for his incredible team fighting and unmatched mechanics, and he’ll need to bring both of those qualities in spades if he’s hoping to take down GALA in their matchup on May 20. 

Choi ‘Zeus’ Wooje vs Jeong ‘Impact’ Eon-young

T1 Zeus vs EG Impact

It’s a battle of the old versus the new guard of Korean top laners in the matchup of T1 and Evil Geniuses on May 22. Although Impact’s been a mainstay of the North American scene for the past seven years, long enough that he’s become a naturalized import, it would be remiss to forget his origin story as part of the original world championship-winning SKT T1. 

Zeus, on the other hand, is part of an up-and-coming new generation of Korean talent that’s taking the LCK by storm. With T1 investing heavily in rookie talent around the core of veteran Lee ‘Faker’ Sanghyeok, Zeus is a symbol of the radical shift in the LCK that’s seen the region continue to promote talented superstars as its old guard slowly moves out of the limelight. 

But youth is no guarantee of innovation, in the same way that age is no guarantee of efficiency. It’s not enough to say a player is a rookie, or a veteran, and expect that to tell the entire story of their matchup. 

Purely based on statistics, Impact and Zeus have performed at a similar level so far at MSI 2022. Both are strong laners, with Zeus tending to leave lane with a higher gold advantage but Impact averaging a greater experience lead over his opponent. There is only a 47 damage difference between their average damage per minute (Zeus at 539, Impact at 492) and they even share similar champion pools.

Securing a first-round Gwen pick, or banning it away completely, will be a huge factor in this matchup. As the most popular top laner at the tournament, it’s not surprising she appears in the match histories of both top laners. They’ve each played her three times, with Zeus boasting a higher win rate (100 percent) and higher KDA (9.0) in comparison to Impact.