Despite all the controversy surrounding this year’s Mid-Season Invitational, the event itself has been one of the craziest international series we’ve had in quite a long time. For sure, having just two of those per year makes this statement much vaguer than it should be, but let’s be real: this kind of bloodbath is a sight for sore eyes. Especially since it’s all played with a massive crowd!
Up until the end, it seemed that each and every major region had a fair shot at winning a trophy. A best-of-five grand final going all the way to Silver Scrapes is something every fan wouldn’t want to miss out. Even though the Eastern titans knocked out all the Western competitors from reaching the finals, it looked messily close during the Rumble Stage.
This kind of an environment is perfect for unexpected picks – and it’s the final goodbye to the currently controversial “get blown up in one second” version of League. MSI 2022 is the final event of the year before the long-awaited 12.10 hits the Rift, reshaping the damage and tankiness meta as we know it.
So, why not take a look at what the champs the pros are playing! As this Mid-Season Invitational even managed to bring us the Silver Scrapes in the Grand Final, we now have plenty of numbers to look at! In this article, let’s outline three champions from each role that defined the meta – for a final snapshot of 12.09.
In pro play as well as a simple solo queue environment, toplane champions need to be able to withstand concentrated pressure all on their own. The lane is long which makes retreating a daunting task; the tower is too flimsy to survive even a two-man dive nowadays; an important objective is right around the corner, which makes skirmishes around the perimeter a common sight.
One of the most recent additions to the toplane cast makes a dominant appearance at a whopping 85% presence in the drafts (in either pick or ban). As one of the few AP bruisers, Gwen’s dominance is explained by multiple factors. The brave doll is an incredible package of a hyper-scaling powerhouse, a lane bully in a few select matchups that are popular at this MSI (namely the other two in this list, Gangplank and Ornn), and an incredibly potent teamfighter in a coordinated professional environment thanks to her Hallowed Mist.
The pick is heavily favored by the two of the main favorites from LPL and LCK – RNG and T1. Both RNG Bin and T1 Zeus have Gwen as their №1 priority pick with 75% winrate. The champion’s flexible nature – and insane power level – makes this preference absolutely unsurprising.
The funny barrel man himself received a suspicious pre-MSI buff despite already being a dominant force on the rift. With a global ultimate and teamfight-winning barrel sequences, Gankplank’s ability to zone control is unparalleled when it comes to toplane picks. As we all know, pro play is all about creating space – which makes the Saltwater Scourge an obvious choice for the highest stage with 24 bans and 15 picks.
It’s worth noting that this MSI brought us some very interesting builds for GP. T1 Zeus’ build path with Hullbreaker and Chemsword still keeps me up at night. It worked out in his matches against EG and PSG, but… really? We all know the destructive power a Critplank brings with sudden and nigh uncounterable out-of-vision barrel combos, and you exchange it for Hullbreaker (that won’t even work most of the time) in a highly coordinated environment? Surely, this must be sandbagging #Hopium
The classic frontlaner with a twist, Ornn has made a resurgence on MSI as the third most-picked toplane champion despite its supposed tank-buster counter, Gwen, being number one. If that doesn’t tell you much about Ornn’s power level, it really should: with his unique mechanic of item upgrades (pretty much teamwide 5K gold for free when he reaches level 17) as well as amazing teamfight potential with high survivability, CC, and damage.
While Ornn’s stuns and knock-ups are incredibly potent on their own, people sometimes overlook his ability to set up incredible CC chains for his team with his Brittle mechanic. And if you really, really hate that single guy on the enemy team, it even stacks with Anathema’s Chains effect – bringing your target’s tenacity down into deep red, effectively extending all CC that lands on them by 50%. It’s no wonder G2’s BrokenBlade used this combination to bring down LCK’s stars, T1, in the fateful match that ended their incredible 22-match streak.
It seems that things are staying pretty stale for the most part for the single most important role on the rift. All the picks we see at MSI are the good old stuffs we’re used to seeing in regular regional splits – except for one.
Wukong has historically been a very unpopular champion in both Solo Queue and Pro Play. The simplistic kit and uninspired design – don’t tell Riot I said that – were directly responsible for this. However, there’s one thing that trumps flashiness in League – and that’s power…
Which Wukong got plenty of with his 2022 readjustment mini-rework. The ability to scale walls with your W (while leaving your clueless enemies behind) also added a layer of outplay potential, making Wukong ready to jump in as a surprisingly dominant pick over at MSI 2022. Nearly 100% pick-and-ban rate (with the vast majority of it being bans) leaves Wukong as the uncontested coolest monkey in the jungle.
One of the most controversial releases to date remains king of the jungle at nearly 70% presence on MSI and a number one jungle pick. Seems fair; after all, he has been designed to be that flashy outplay champion that Riot loves, so his power level isn’t really a big surprise here.
As any reset champion (that Riot can’t get enough of, as of recent), Viego specializes in closing out matches. You give him a kill, and he takes a triple, just like we’ve seen T1 Oner do in an exciting match against G2.
A certain midlane champion (cough-Ahri-cough) makes getting these resets so much easier for Viego, so this duo remains a force to be reckoned with way into Season 2022.
No real pro event goes without Lee Sin jungle (and sometimes even top, isn’t that right, Rascal?). It’s hard to believe that the designer behind Lee Sin’s kit, Steven ‘Coronach’ DeRose, was also responsible for creating such champs as… Udyr and Malphite.
Even though the Blind Monk has been released more than 10 years ago, the fluidity and skill expression of his kit make him a prized pick in the eyes of many a professional jungler. The champion has seemingly limitless potential when it comes to making plays – and while some say they’re bored of seeing the same pick over and over for 10 years straight, I can’t get enough of it.
As such, Lee jumps into top-2 at a respectable 50% presence in picks and bans. Both RNG Wei and T1 Oner competed for the title of the best Lee in the world – and by extension, the best jungler in the world.
Despite Ahri’s presence indicating her seemingly clear dominance, it seems that new picks have emerged to counter this seemingly omnipresent fox.
If we go just by the pure numbers, Lissandra isn’t that impressive. 10% presence while attracting no bans? But thinking that Lissandra is weak would be very wrong, as her impact lies elsewhere – and makes her probably the absolute best midlane pick in a coordinated professional environment.
The sole reason Lissandra has a seemingly poor presence is simple – her power level is, in fact, so high, that the competitors kept her as an ace up their sleeve up until the matches that truly mattered.
Lissandra is a powerhouse that combines gank setup and pick potential of Ahri, incredible CC of Galio, insane AoE damage of Viktor, and survivability of a Fizz in a single ice-cold package.
Ever since her mini-rework at the beginning of the 2022 Season, Ahri has been an incredible addition to most drafts. Clocking it at a perfect 100% presence across every single map played in MSI 2022, Ahri is truly the most popular fox school girl.
The champion’s strengths are as numerous as her tails: incredibly safety combined with pick potential granted by her Spirit Rush and Charm make it easy for, for instance, the previously mentioned Viego to get his hands on that exciting reset. While Ahri can be used as a team enabler when played on a limited economy, she’s not just limited to a single role: funnel enough gold into her (like G2 do), and Ahri becomes a true AP assassin in all senses of that word.
The forever favorite of every professional midlaner, Twisted Fate barely made it in the top-3. In fact, he shouldn’t even be here – but this champion highlights the mid-tournament meta shift like no better example, so let’s talk about him for a bit.
Twisted Fate’s popularity was the cause of his undoing – while clocking in at an impressive 24 bans and 19 picks all across the board with 50% presence, TF performed much worse than usual with a measly 40% winrate. As the competition raged on, G2 were the first to realize what truly matters in the current meta: teamfighting, teamfighting, and once more teamfighting.
As such, the macro-oriented, big-brained Twisted Fate got dropped like a hot potato, resulting in – a rare sight – a completely TFless Grand Final between T1 and RNG.
This role has seen probably the biggest shift out of them all. Long gone are the days of Jinx/Aphelios spam – after all, beating your opponents with wallets went out of fashion, and playing that Jinx when you have monstrous teamfighting champs like Lissandra and Wukong coming after you is a bad idea.
And who is better at staying alive under a 5-man focus than Xayah? Even after losing the safety granted to her by the lethality build, Xayah remains the single most self-sufficient Marksman with enough tools to stay alive even in the diciest of situations.
Even while having to rely on her relatively short-range autos, Featherstorm combined with Galeforce makes Xayah a perfect anti-dive Marksman. Add her ability to control chokepoints with her potential to oneshot opponents who refuse to respect her Bladecaller feathers, and you get a perfect mix to make an impact in the chaotic brawl meta that was 12.9.
From Xayah to Ezreal, you can see the pattern – safe ADCs are the go-to if you want to have an impact. While Ezreal lacks the CC and AoE burst – save for his hard-to-hit Trueshot Barrage – he makes up for it with his incredible range and maneurability. Although his kit might look simple to use, only the best of the best can bring out Ezreal to his perfect potential – which is why its a befitting signature champion for the RNG’s GALA.
Another great advantage Ezreal offers to his team is his ability to keep up with the opponent even when weaksided. What’s more – Ezreal seems to be the only Marksman in the game that can actually benefit from being left alone – as once again demonstrated by GALA.
Another one of RNG’s GALA signature picks – in fact, his main one – Kai’Sa has left an impact on this MSI’s meta with 50% presence. Once again, the champion has a wide selection of self-peel tools – the upgraded Supercharge’s invisibility combined with Killer Instinct’s dash and a shield make her a very slippery target to pin down in teamfights.
What makes Kai’Sa unique, however, is her unparalleled chase potential – even better than Vayne’s! As long as as she got her mark on you by most likely hitting her W, she can join the fight from multiple screens away at a moment’s notice. You can hide, but you can not run.
The support role remained the same as in the early 2022 Season – with one pretty notable exception. Engage supports still rule the show, and the likes of Nautilus and Leona make an impact on multiple lanes while performing fantastically on low Gold and Experience economy.
The legend says there must always be a hook-based support in the pro scene. Thresh is currently struggling, Blitzcrank is reserved for yolo 5-man invades on enemy red buff, but Nautilus… Nautilus has what it takes to be a dominant force in both the chaotic Solo Queue and highly calculated pro scene.
The Titan of the Depths reels himself a 71% presence out of 77 games, boasting impressive CC to lock down even the most slippery of targets together with impressive durability for such a low-economy role. There’s a reason that T1 Keria, who is recognized by some as the best support player in the world, heavily favors this pick.
Braum’s role in the draft is almost a direct opposite of an engage support, his roams and pick potential are not as good as Nautilus’ and Leona’s. However, what he excels is at being an absolutely impenetrable wall – literally.
With 12.9 still being a very high-damage, teamfight-oriented patch, the utility offered by Braum’s Unbreakable is second to none – unless you want to pick up a support Yasuo (but that’s just reserved for my losers queue ranked games). Even though Braum’s pickrate isn’t too high – a measly 10% – his stats actually suffer from success just like in Lissandra’s case. Can’t spoil your best picks too early; that’s why he truly shone only right at the end of MSI Playoffs. Case on point: game three of RNG vs T1, where Ming’s Braum left Keria’s legendary Nautilus in the dirt.
The absolute king of teamfighting supports, Rakan was played in the final game of MSI 2022 – and aced it through and through. Before that, he sported a great presence rate of 40%, with the majority of it being bans.
Rakan is the most versatile among engage supports: his incredible amount of unavoidable instant CC can be used as offensively, as – arguably even better – defensively. If push comes to shove and it’s time to run away, Rakan is superior to any other support in this regard, as well.