What we learned from the MSI 2022 group stage: trash talk, new talent, return of the VCS

Meg Kay

The group stage of MSI 2022 has officially ended. There were no major surprises to be seen at the tournament this year, but that doesn’t mean the group stage was lacking in excitement, hype, or even controversy. Here are our biggest takeaways from the tournament so far.

MSI 2022 has been a hallmark tournament for League of Legends esports for a number of reasons.

Firstly, it marked the return of a VCS representative to the international stage for the first time in almost three years. Ongoing travel restrictions had rendered the VCS unable to compete throughout 2020 and 2021, and their absence left a noticeable blot on League’s competitive landscape.

It’s also been a monumental test of Riot’s ability to adapt on the fly. LPL representative RNG’s remote presence at the tournament has provided the MSI broadcasting team with ample challenges to overcome. Sometimes they’ve failed, and sometimes they’ve succeeded in keeping the event running smoothly – but it’s been an interesting taste of what may be to come for esports as travel restrictions and lockdowns fluctuate throughout the world.

We’ve seen meta shifts, one-sided stomps, and throws at Baron Nashor (here’s looking at you, G2 Esports and ORDER). But now the group stage has come to an end. fastPay Wildcats, Team AZE, Detonation FocusMe, RED Canids, and ORDER have all returned to their home regions after failing to make it out of their respective groups.

The remaining teams will do battle in the Rumble stage, beginning on May 20. But before we look forward to the next stage of the competition, it would be remiss if we didn’t take a look back at what we’ve learned from the tournament so far.

Here are our League writers’ key takeaways from the beginning of MSI 2022 – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

International League of Legends needs the VCS

Saigon Buffalo team photo at MSI 2022
The VCS have brought the heat at MSI 2022, and it’s been a long time coming for League of Legends fans.

Honestly, unless you were in the Korean timezone, I couldn’t blame you for sleeping through most of the MSI 2022 Group Stage. The games weren’t that good ⁠— just T1, RNG, and G2 Esports toying with their food on repeat. 

However, like most rules, there was an exception. If you missed a single Saigon Buffalo game, I urge you to go back and watch it. They brought flair to the opening games, pushing T1 to the limit from the first moment of MSI. Nguyễn ‘Shogun’ Văn Huy was a special standout; the AD carry was discounted by most heading into the event, but arguably showed up the most. He was demolishing Lee ‘Gumayusi’ Min-hyeong in lane for crying out loud.

They are electric and aggressive; everything we know the VCS for, and so much more. It was refreshing after their two-year absence. And to think this isn’t even their first seed ⁠— Trần ‘BeanJ’ Văn Chính might have been onto something when he said GAM Esports are scary.

So, heading into the Rumble Stage I’d be sure to set time aside to watch Saigon Buffalo play and see where the VCS really stacks up. You’re guaranteed an entertaining game. As a neutral now (RIP ORDER), they’re the team I’m secretly rooting for too.

Don’t hate on RNG for their situation

The amount of unjustified vitriol thrown RNG’s way has been a low moment at MSI.

Let’s be blunt here: RNG haven’t just faced prejudice from the League of Legends community due to their situation, but downright racism. The team has been locked down in Shanghai for more than six weeks, not able to leave their homes to go get groceries. What they’re currently being subjected to, in their personal lives, is torturous.

The reaction of the community has been appalling. Yes, there were ping issues at the venue ⁠— and good on Riot for solving that. Yes, there’s been near-excessive accommodations made. However, I think LPL caster Jake ‘Hysterics’ Osypenko had a point in saying “if it was T1 in this position, I bet you there would be nowhere near this much hate.”

You cannot log onto Twitter right now without seeing a barrage of hate under any post referencing RNG. Fans calling them cheaters, or just cutting to the chase and throwing around racist titles. I really feel for the LPL social media manager. It’s sinophobia at its finest, and while RNG has definitely played up the victim role a bit, it’s still not acceptable.

It has also swung the other way. Chinese fans have lashed out similarly with all the “22 ping” memes, as well as more personal attacks. I’m not going to ignore that.

At the end of the day, everyone has to remember there’s people on the other side of these screens. The community needs to grow up and stop dehumanizing these players for a situation they cannot control. And honestly, if they weren’t competing, MSI would be even more “mickey mouse” than people have claimed already.

Trash talk is good – but backing it up is better 

Jojopyun’s trash talk has been a breath of fresh air – now he just needs to start backing it up.

I’ll be honest – I don’t really buy into the NA versus EU rivalry in League of Legends. I find it pretty boring. Time and time again, EU has come out on top, and it’s gotten to the point where any claims of an EU vs NA rivalry feel much more like caster narratives than something the players themselves actually care about. 

So when EG mid laner Joseph ‘Jojopyun’ Joonpyun promised to sh*t on EU during his interview at the LCS Spring finals? I was overjoyed! Finally, a player who’s actually willing to commit to forming a rivalry, and isn’t scared of a little social media backlash. 

Unfortunately, if an NA player ever dares to talk trash, they’re going to get hate for it on social media. That’s just the way of things. But seeing such a young player committing to forming a personality, a brand, a rivalry – it’s incredibly refreshing. 

Now, all EG need to do is actually back up Jojopyun’s promises. Evil Geniuses are currently 0-2 versus G2 Esports, something which the community has been quick to remind Jojopyun in the responses to his tweets, in Reddit threads, and probably in his DMs as well. 

Side note: if you’re the kind of person who sends vitriol to players on social media after they lose games – seek help. 

But regardless of whether they win or lose, Jojo’s trash talk before the event has actually made me care a lot more about G2 vs EG’s games, which previously I had very little interest in. Esports is an entertainment product – competitive integrity and sportsmanship are both hugely important, but so is getting people to tune into the games, and care about their outcomes. 

And if that requires a little trash talk? Then so be it. 

Bringing in new talent for MSI has given a new breath of life to Riot’s broadcast 

Although some famous faces have been notably absent from this year’s broadcast, the newer faces on the MSI team have excelled themselves.

The games so far this MSI have been, quite frankly, a little snooze-worthy. The outcomes of each group were essentially predetermined from the moment they were drawn, and the group stage has felt like one long waiting game for an inevitable outcome. Plenty of criticism has been thrown Riot’s way for the tournament format, and not without reason.  

But the casters, hosts, and analysts have been a true highlight of MSI so far, and have made some incredibly dull game days a genuine delight to watch. 

Riot’s talent announcement for MSI came as somewhat of a surprise to the global League community. It featured numerous new faces, with additions from the EU Masters and LCS talent teams for whom this would be a maiden voyage into international events. 

There were also notable absences. Eeefje ‘Sjokz’ Depoortere chose to work the PGL CS:GO Major in Antwerp over attending MSI. Clayton ‘CaptainFlowers’ Raynes chose to sit the event out due to the grueling time zone changes and travel requirements to make it to Berlin, where the English broadcast is hosted

It’s sad not to see Sjokz and Flowers at the first international event of 2022 – but their absences have opened the door for new talent to take their place. 

Talent like Su ‘Yinsu’ Collins, a former journalist turned VCT broadcast host who has excelled herself as the official broadcast interviewer for MSI 2022. And like Dan ‘Aux’ Harrison, a mainstay of EU Masters who made his LEC debut earlier this year, and who was a fantastic addition to the analyst desk throughout the group stage. 

A new generation of broadcast talent is slowly beginning to step up to the plate in competitive league. MSI 2022 is one of the first tastes of what is to come for the future of League broadcasting – and the future looks bright.

– Meg Kay

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About The Author

Meg is a former Dexerto writer. Hailing from the UK, Meg covered all things esports for Dexerto, with a focus on competitive League of Legends. She has a degree in English Literature, and has formerly worked with Dot Esports, Esports.gg, and LoL Esports.