These are the champions that dominated the MSI 2022 Group Stage

Meg Kay
Cafe Cuties Gwen

With the first week of MSI 2022 now wrapped up, here’s a look at the champions that defined the Group Stage.

While most were expecting some sort of meta shift from the end of Spring into MSI 2022, the changes on Summoner’s Rift have been remarkable. LoL patches 12.7 and 12.8, the MSI updates, brought some significant shake-ups that saw drastic changes at the highest levels of pro play.

A notable absence from champion select at MSI so far has been the Loose Cannon, and everyone’s favorite Arcane antagonist (depending on how you see things), Jinx. The de-facto best marksman in Spring fell to the wayside after nerfs to her base stats, and buffs to other carries like Tristana put the final nail in the coffin.

With MSI to continue on patch 12.8 for the rest of the event, no huge mega shifts are expected mid-tournament. Although draft priorities can change as the tournament moves into a best-of format, the champions that have seen heavy priority so far will likely remain high on the pick/ban list right up to the finals. 

So, here are our top picks to watch from the MSI 2022 Group Stage, including a few honorable mentions of wacky picks that we’ll likely never see again but that have sprinkled some spice into the MSI meta. 

Wukong, the Monkey King

Wukong’s priority has shot up at MSI compared to the spring split.

Wukong’s priority has shot up at MSI, going from 3% presence to more than 90% within the space of only a few weeks. This is largely owed to the buffs he received on LoL patch 12.7, which saw him receive an increase to his Nimbus Strike (E) damage, reduced cooldowns for his Crushing Blow (Q), and a slight rework to Warrior Trickster (W).  

With one brief foray into the bot lane for T1’s Ryu ‘Keria’ Min-seok, he’s been the highest-priority jungler at MSI so far. He’s a reliable team fighter with strong chokepoint crowd control, which makes him the perfect jungler for setting up teamfights around major objectives like Baron Nashor and the elemental drakes. 

T1 jungler Moon ‘Oner’ Hyeon-joon has been the best Wukong player at MSI, with a 3-0 record and a KDA of 7.8. Another player who’s been taking full advantage of the Monkey King is G2 Esports’ Marcin ‘Jankos’ Jankowski, who described it as one of the strongest early team fighting junglers in the current meta.

“I don’t know how overpowered he actually is, because his early clear is very slow,” Jankos explained, “but he’s good for early fights at Herald and he’s also good at early skirmishes in the jungle because of the armor he stacks from his passive. 

“His buffs made him really strong — he definitely wouldn’t have been played if he hadn’t just been buffed.”

Gwen, the Hallowed Seamstress

Cafe Cuties Gwen
Did we mention that Gwen is immune?

Love her or hate her, Gwen is officially back in the pro meta. And not only is she back, but she’s also the most-picked champion at MSI 2022so far with seventeen appearances across two roles (top and, more surprisingly, mid). 

Gwen was a mainstay of competitive play throughout 2021, but fell somewhat off the radar after her Skip n’ Slash (E) bonus attack range and Thousand Cuts (passive) damage to monsters were heavily nerfed in patch 12.5. In the hands of the world’s best, though, she’s just as oppressive as she’s always been. 

Gwen is a lane bully with immunities for days, whose max-health damage passive makes her a formidable opponent for tanks like Ornn and Sion. 

Unsurprisingly, the best Gwen at MSI so far has been T1 top laner Choi ‘Zeus’ Wooje. Not difficult to be the best at a champion when you’ve won every game at the tournament so far. G2 Esports’ Rasmus ‘caPs’ Winther gets a special nod here too for that mid Gwen game against ORDER.

Lucian, the Purifier 

High Noon Lucian
Jinx’s fall from favor has seen Lucian swing his way back into meta at MSI.

Lucian may seem a little incongruous on this list. He’s only been picked three times at MSI so far, one of the lowest pick rate marksmen at the tournament. Sure, he’s won all three of those games, but three games hardly seems a large enough sample size for him to define the MSI meta.

That is, until you look at his ban rate. He’s the most banned champion at MSI, and he’s appeared in every single pick and ban phase throughout the group stage, with three picks and 33 bans.

Lucian has seen a steady uptick in presence since patch 12.5, a patch that saw him receive small hotfix buffs to his AD growth and passive. He’s been a universally popular pro play pick since his release in 2013, known for his oppressive early laning phase especially when coupled with supports like Braum and Nami.

Before now, he couldn’t compete with late-game monsters like Jinx and Aphelios. However, with the meta shifting towards the early game, Lucian is now in his element. Side note: it’s also why Tristana is much more popular too.

And if there’s anyone who you should be praying will pick Lucian, it’s Saigon Buffalo’s AD carry Nguyễn ‘Shogun’ Văn Huy. The Vietnamese player’s stellar performance aside, he’s also one of the most aggressive laning ADCs at the tournament. You know which champion is perfect for an aggressive laner? Lucian.

Ahri, the Nine-Tailed Fox –

Coven Ahri
Ahri is one of only two champions to maintain 100 percent pick/ban presence during the group stage.

It’s not exactly surprising that we’re seeing Ahri at MSI 2022. She’s been one of the most dominant mid laners in the world throughout Spring, and with no nerfs in sight for the Nine-tailed fox, her reign of dominance continues.

Ahri is the kind of champion that every mid laner should know how to play. She’s got a reliable kit, with decent waveclear and burst damage, and the kind of escape tools that most immobile mages would kill for. When she’s good, she’s an instant pro play favorite – but her underpowered state for the past few years have meant she’s been notably absent from the pro circuit until the start of Season 12.

Along with Lucian, she’s the only champion to currently sit at 100 percent pick/ban presence at MSI. And, much like Lucian, the majority of her presence has been through bans – she’s been banned 27 times so far, and of the nine games she’s been played, she’s won five.

The only mid laner to pick Ahri more than once at MSI so far has been fastPay Wildcats’ Tolga ‘Serin’ Ölmez. She’s been most commonly picked as a counter to LeBlanc (another mid laner who’s been rising the ranks of the MSI meta), and yet Ahri actually only has a 25 percent win rate into Leblanc at MSI.

Proof that, sometimes, counterpicks aren’t everything. But do take these drafts with a pinch of salt – the high skill disparity in the group stage has meant that better teams have sometimes been able to get away with unfavorable matchups that wouldn’t fly in any other circumstance.

Honorable mention: One-off top lane picks

The top lane champion pool has been the most diverse of all roles at MSI so far. Mid and jungle have tended to stick to the same rotations of champions, and the AD carry pool has always been woefully small compared to other roles.

There have been 26 unique picks in the top lane throughout the group stage. Of those picks, 12 have only been picked once. And of those 12 champions who have only been picked once, only four have actually managed to win games (Fiora, Irelia, Mordekaiser, Yone).

So what does this actually mean for the meta? Well, generally speaking, it means that outside of Gwen and Gangplank (who has seen high ban presence but only six games), there are no standout champions in the top lane right now.

The lane is much more focused on counter picks than it is on safe, meta champions. The lane is much more about power relevant to your opponent than it is about power overall. Yes, begin the memes about top lane being on an island, but it does make for some refreshing match-ups.