MSI 2022 should have ended on a high, but RNG’s virtual victory feels shallow

MSI 2022 trophy on stage at BusanColin Young-Wolff for Riot Games

While RNG are MSI 2022 champions, the feeling in Busan was sour ⁠— and not just because of the Korean crowd leaving disappointed. A hype five-game series was watered down into a boring affair as confetti rained down on an empty stage with a crowd fleeing from a team not even at the event.

The MSI 2022 final should have been electric.

The Busan crowd, more than 4,000 strong without an empty seat in the arena, wore their hearts on their sleeve as T1 fought to break an eight-year curse and finally win an international event on home soil.

However, the hype quickly turned into despair as the series went on. The Game 1 loss was taken on the chin by T1, and the bounce back in Game 2 helped egg on the crowd.

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It was only downhill from there in terms of atmosphere. While Korea and China are known for their cold rivalry in international League of Legends, it felt even more sour as a team who was 500 miles away started to take control of the series without the roaring crowd in the background.

The series was pushed to Game 5, but after T1’s questionable-at-best draft the cheers quickly turned half-hearted. Then RNG got a lead, and it never really got better from there. T1 fans started leaving at the 17 minute mark after the third dragon was taken, before a trickle turned into a flood by the soul fight five minutes later.

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Nothing but silence

When the nexus went down, there was nothing but silence in the crowd. Confetti flew out for a team that was absent, and the trophy was wheeled off stage for a replica to be lifted in Shanghai.

RNG player images on stage at MSI 2022Colin Young-Wolff for Riot Games
RNG took home MSI 2022 but weren’t able to accept the trophy in Busan.

As fans quickly turned their backs on their favorites to rush to Centum City station and get on the train back to their hotels, I couldn’t help but feel deflated in the crowd. Is this really how MSI 2022 was meant to end, especially after a five-game epic?

T1 vs RNG was the series we all wanted as a final, especially as the two teams looked most in-form following the Rumble Stage. But not being able to see in-person what it actually meant to Li ‘Xiaohu’ Yuan-Hao or Shi ‘Ming’ Sen-Ming to win their third MSI trophy, or for RNG to defend their honor in front of a hostile Korean crowd ⁠— it’s depressing.

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The result is still a big one for RNG, who had often held the short end of the stick in this rivalry that spans back to 2013.

“I’m very excited we beat T1 at MSI 2022 because we have lost to them on the international stage so many times in the past,” Ming said. “To get the win this time around means a lot.”

However, there was a sense of pity within the RNG camp without having the crowd in front of them ⁠— even it was likely to be hostile: “ I don’t think us playing remotely gave us any advantage,” coach Zhu ‘KenZhu’ Kai said. “I’m quite disappointed that we couldn’t go to Busan and get into the arena to play MSI.

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And this is not to say that RNG should feel ashamed for not being able to attend in⁠-person, either. In fact, the tournament needed them else we settle for plugging an asterisk next to this event for the rest of eternity ⁠— even more in retrospect given they’ve taken home the title.

T1 were down after the defeat, but more in disappointment at their own performance. “It was more about us underperforming today,” Lee ‘Faker’ Sang-hyeok said.

“We weren’t feeling at our best and RNG figured out we were going to play Wukong-Ahri a lot so they were able to deal with it,” Choi ‘Zeus’ Woo-je added.

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Faker packing up on stage at MSI 2022Colin Young-Wolff for Riot Games
There was confetti on stage at MSI 2022, but the winners were nowhere in sight.

There were a lot of positives to MSI 2022. Seeing fans back cheering on the teams was special. We finally got a glimpse of the VCS after two years away from the spotlight. And before salty fans start the ‘Mickey Mouse’ talk, the tournament should still be seen as legitimate.

However, as the confetti rained down there were no cheers for the winners, only commiserations for the losers. And honestly, that sums up MSI 2022. RNG deserves their title and it shouldn’t be discounted, but it doesn’t feel like an affair worth celebrating for League’s big international return.

RNG will be doing that as best they can, and rightfully so: “We have already ordered some delicious food so well eat that together and then get a good rest,” Xiaohu laughed in the post-game press conference.

But everyone is now patiently waiting for Worlds 2022, where hopefully the festivities in the Chase Center will be of the scale international League of Legends warrants.