Chinese League of Legends (LoL) juggernauts Royal Never Give Up claimed their third-straight Mid-Season Invitational (MSI) title, after they defeated top South Korean squad T1 3-2 in the grand finals of the MSI 2022 on Sunday (29 May).
RNG have been the reigning MSI champions since 2018, coming into the grand finals of MSI 2022 looking to defend their title for a third time.
Meanwhile, T1, the most decorated organisation in all of LoL esports, were also looking to also take their third MSI title and claim their first international trophy since 2017.
RNG had a dominant run throughout MSI 2022, despite the fact that they had to play all of their MSI matches remotely because of travel restrictions in China due to COVID-19.
The Chinese powerhouse kicked off their campaign with a perfect 4-0 run in the group stage even after having to replay matches due to a latency issue the offline teams faced in Busan.
RNG then went on to defeat EG in the Rumble Stage's opening game. However, they suffered a shock defeat to G2 in their following encounter.
The Chinese team recovered in the following three days, winning seven games before losing a game against T1 on the final day of the Rumble Stage.
With their 8-2 Rumble Stage record, RNG secured the first seed heading into the Knockout Stage.
In the semifinals, RNG eliminated Evil Geniuses (EG) in a 3-0 sweep, with the North American team making them work for their spot in the Grand Finals.
Meanwhile, T1 also kicked off the Group Stage with a 4-0 streak of their own, extending their run from the start of the season to 26.
That streak was broken on the first day of the Rumble Stage, though, by G2 Esports.
The South Korean team quickly recovered, winning three straight games against PSG Talon and Saigon Buffalos before falling to RNG, marking their second loss in the tournament.
T1 went on to win against EG and PSG Talon before losing to EG on Day 4 in another upset loss. Despite this, Faker and his team defeated G2 on the same day.
The South Koreans then swept the Rumble Stage's last day, defeating the Saigon Buffalos and taking revenge on RNG in their final encounter. With a 7-3 record, T1 qualified for the Knockout Stage as the second seed.
In Saturday's semifinals, T1 swept rivals G2 Esports 3-0 in style to earn the right to challenge RNG in the Grand Finals.
How the grand finals played out
In the first game of the grand finals, RNG succeeded in an early play at the bottom lane and took first blood on Lee "Gumayusi" Min-hyeong.
However, T1 continued to dominate in the laning phase, gaining a small gold lead in the process.
But in a counterplay at the top lane, Chen "Bin" Ze-Bin were able to even out the gold difference, taking two kills for RNG. The Chinese team continued to take control of the map, finding kills in skirmishes in the side lane.
With T1 struggling to regain map control with the weak Jayce-Nocturne combination, RNG were able to secure map objectives and even steal T1’s final attempt to steal the Baron.
After Acing T1 in the river, RNG took the first game of the finals in 33 minutes with a very strong showing as evidenced by a 19-6 kill lead.
In game two, T1 prioritized a scaling draft with heavy damage. With a more aggressive laning phase, T1 started taking kills against RNG, with Zeus outplaying Bin on Gangplank while Faker on Lissandra was able to roam around and assist his team.
With T1 gaining control of the map, they took down RNG’s turrets while they tried to pick fights in the mid lane. After the Chinese team managed to take down two members of T1, RNG went for the Baron.
However, Faker jumped into the Baron pit with the perfect engage while Gumayusi mopped up what remained of their opponents, denying the Chinese team any chances for a comeback.
After another teamfight for the Elder Drake, T1 tied up the series after 26 minutes of action and with a 15-5 kill lead.
Both teams looked bloodthirsty early into game three, with RNG taking three kills in 6 minutes. Yan "Wei" Yang-Wei found ways to counter T1 in teamfights while Chen "GALA" Wei continued to farm peacefully in the bot lane.
With Wei bullying all of T1 across the map, RNG continued to snowball and dominate the laning phase. The Chinese team did not allow their South Korean opponents to make any counterplays.
RNG then Aced T1 in a fight at the Dragon pit. The Chinese squad continued to rack up kills throughout the game, though T1 were able to find small pickoffs to slow down their opponents' siege.
After 28 minutes, RNG won game three with a 20-8 kill lead, taking their team to match point.
With their backs against the wall in game four, T1 bounced back and repeatedly outplayed RNG.
The South Korean squad continued to scale and run away with the game, giving no opportunity for RNG to fight back.
Following 30 minutes of action, T1 took game four with a 10-3 kill lead to force the grand finals to a game five.
Both teams went all in for the decider as a third MSI title for each hung in the balance. RNG found ways to collapse onto T1 in the early game, taking three clean kills while T1 only managed to trade for one in the mid lane.
The Chinese powerhouse refused to slow down, clocking in more kills against their South Korean opponents to build up a gold lead.
RNG continued to push forward and repeatedly shut down Faker in the mid lane. T1 were able to find a pick in the top lane, shutting down Wei’s Lee Sin pick after RNG’s failed attempt to take down Zeus.
The South Koreans tried to find more pickoffs in an attempt to close the gold gap with RNG.
But Bin’s Gwen pick was a thorn on their side, as he allowed RNG to shut down T1 in key teamfights for both the Dragon Soul and the Baron.
With unrelenting force, RNG continued to advance and took the finals decider after 25 minutes and with a 15-3 kill lead.
With their victory, RNG claimed third consecutive MSI title and the MSI 2022 grand prize of US$75,000. This also marks the first time that RNG managed to defeat T1 in an international tournament.
Meanwhile, T1 bow out of MSI 2022 in second place and with US$50,000 in consolation. Despite losing in the grand finals, T1 have shown dominance throughout the entire tournament.
We may yet see Faker and his squad come back stronger at the 2022 League of Legends World Championship.
Anna is a freelance writer and photographer. She is a gamer who loves RPGs and platformers and is a League of Legends geek. She's also a food enthusiast who loves a good cup of black coffee.