If you watched a good majority of the first annual Mid-Season Invitational (MSI), you probably already know three of the five most picked champions. But when you examine what each brings to the table, it’s no surprise that these champs were exceptionally popular during the tournament.
All MSI Team
Top - Gnar
We warned you that Gnar would be back. Prioritized heavily by SKT, AHQ, and BJK, this cute and cuddly Yordle frequently changed the outcomes of the match with his teleports and ultimates, frequently catching entire enemy teams. With the ability to put down both damage per second and then subsequently tank up a bunch of damage, you already know teams love the maleability he brings to the table.
Jungle - Rek’Sai
For some reason, until we advanced past the group stages and into the playoffs, teams were happy letting Rek’Sai through bans untouched. Despite the fact that she undoubtedly poses the biggest threat in and outside of the Jungle, teams were okay with giving her up in favor of other power picks. While that’s sometimes the case, we saw this happen more often than not and that’s honestly a bit surprising given exactly how valuable she is to teams like SK Telecom T1 and Ahq e-Sports Club.
Mid - Cassiopeia
I think you have to look at Fnatic’s match against SKT where Febiven flashed into a choke point and used Petrifying Gaze, freezing two enemy carries and helping his team claim the win. Though we did see her Top on more than one occasion, she was primarily found in the Mid lane. With such a high damage output, a bunch of burst potential, and the ability to carry games, Cass stands (slithers?) rather solidly in the mid lane.
ADC - Sivir While Sivir won’t be doing any hard carrying on her own, she honestly fits pretty well in this composition. Her ultimate, On The Hunt, gives the rest of her team a chance to catch up and stack their combined crowd control. I've lost count of how many times we saw Sivir and another laner use Righteous Glory to jus steamroll the opposition. And when you get caught by that onslaught, you’re going to immediately regret being out of position.
Support - Thresh
Edward Gaming was the biggest advocate for Thresh during MSI, selecting him a total of eight times during the tournament. The Warden brings a lot of options to his team. Combined with Sivir, either can easily engage or disengage, pushing teamfights into their favor.
Most Feared Composition
On the other hand there’s a rather large list of champions that rarely saw play due to how frequently they were banned. (Okay, no supports were banned in more than three occasions) But for the rest of this list, each was banned around ten times with the exceptions of Hecarim and LeBlanc who were taken away in 17 and 19 instances, respectively.
Top - Hecarim
No one likes when there’s suddenly a horse teleporting into your lane and sitting on your face. This is especially true in international play when the skill differential between leagues is larger than what you normally see in regionals. Combine this with Onslaught of Shadows which can split up teamfights and completely ruin your plans and you can see why a lot of teams didn’t want to deal with Hecarim.
Jungle - Gragas
I’m honestly surprised that Gragas beat out Rek’Sai on the most banned Junglers list. Sure his Explosive Cask has a significant displacement and he’s a bit tankier than the Void monster, but that doesn’t change the dominance that we saw out of Rek’Sai saw during MSI.
Mid - LeBlanc
A lot of this is due to Faker, lets be honest. Easyhoon saw less play than he did and almost every team, except Fnatic on occasion, immediately banned LeBlanc away from him. Even with the lockdowns that teams frequently have these days she’s just too difficult to keep a lid on and therefore it’s easier to just eliminate her from the picture.
ADC - Urgot
What might be a surprise to LCS fans is that Urgot was in the ADC role for all but one match. (Bjergsen) His inherent tankiness and ability to poke left the other common laners in MSI, Kalista and Sivir, reeling from his damage output. Therefore, teams frequently found it appropriate to just ban him away.
Support - Alistar
Alistar really isn’t all that scary at the moment, it’s just that both SKT and EDG really didn’t like playing it against each other.
We very well predicted the return of Gnar to the top lane with the start of the Mid-Season Invitational (MSI). Picked in seven out of the eight matches thus far, the Yordle has seen significant prioritization matched only by Thresh and Rek’Sai. However, one thing relatively few people saw coming, even the pros themselves, was Cassiopeia in the Top lane.
Almost exclusively seen in the Mid lane in past seasons, the Serpant has seen a rise in popularity ever since her passive was reworked as both a mid laner and top laner. Now with the ability to hard carry, many players view her as a good way to complement another such carry in the bottom lane or a team stacked heavily with crowd control. She does have certain advantages over her commonly picked Top lane opponents. She frequently outranges and out damage-per-seconds them and can certainly carry much harder than most of them come late game. However, she also comes with drawbacks. Without Ghost as a Summoner Spell, she can’t reliably disengage or chase down enemies without using her flash. Cass also has limited potential with her teleports. Unlike traditional laners, she can’t simply TP in behind the enemy team and engage on all of them. Since her ult relies so much on enemies facing her, they’re more likely to just ignore her and start running toward the rest of her team. Therefore, she oftentimes has to teleport into the thick of the teamfight, opening her up to quick elimination unless she has a Zonya’s Hourglass to buy her some time after using her ultimate.
Location also plays an integral role as it becomes much harder to be in the right place at the right time. The island that is known as top lane means that Cassiopeia doesn't command as much presence during the early to mid game. Rather than having to worry about her roam, with a few placed wards around her lane, it becomes easy to eliminate her threat elsewhere. Fnatic’s Top-laner Huni was the first to pull her out against Dyrus and Team SoloMid. Playing against a Gnar, he rushed Tear of the Goddess, then built a Giant’s Belt to gain some tankiness, before completing his Archangel’s Staff. After completing his boots, he then purchased a Rylai’s and Abyssal Scepter, helping him stay healthy in extended teamfights. Besiktas e-Sports Club’s Thaldrin decided to build a Deathcap instead of an Abyssal hoping to get more damage out before he died. Ultimately the pick didn’t work nearly as well for the team as they fell to AHQ. If you run into any Cassiopeia players claiming they saw her go Top in the LCS and therefore they can too, you know who to blame. With enough coordination and a big enough advantage, Cass helps snowball the game out of control. But get behind, like any other mid-laner, and she’s useless until she can get caught up. So next time you take to the Rift with your friends, don't be afraid to take the Snake against some of the beefier bruisers that frequent Top. Just be careful and don't rush into ranked before you've learned the new intracasies that come with it.