In many ways, each of the regions competing at the 2016 Mid-Season Invitational have come to be defined by their individual histories. For those that know these histories, not much needs to be said. For those that don't, well, a lot needs to be said. It's this conundrum that, in part, led us to create "Who Will Own the Rift?"
The animated promo is designed to capture and personify the unique identity of each region through evocative imagery, with the hope that those who see it will develop a visceral understanding of the teams headed to Shanghai. If you caught all the nods or not, here's a deeper dive into the thinking behind this year's MSI promo.
Korea: The King Who Could Fly The higher you fly, the further you fall
Korea is home to the reigning World Champion, SKTelecom T1, and given their dominance on the Worlds stage over the years, it doesn't take an active imagination to understand why we went with the idea of a king here. (There's also that Unkillable Demon King fellow, Faker.) But the thing about kings is they really only have two options: reign supreme or bitterly fall.
At last year's MSI, it was the latter, when SKT fell to China's Edward Gaming in a gruelling five-game stretch and Faker's otherwise undefeated LeBlanc was dismantled by PawN's Morgana. Korea already gained redemption at Worlds 2015, where two of the region's top competitors -- SKT and KOO Tigers -- met in the Finals, and SKT simply tore apart any and all comers. We shall see if MSI proves to be the region's achilles heel once more.
China: The Dragon Feared yet venerated by a multitude
Stop us if you've heard this one, but dragons are kind of a big deal in Chinese mythology and lore. But there's a bit more to it than that here. Like the prototypical dragon, the Chinese scene is massive, both in terms of its player base and esports fan base. Hell, even its league, LPL, is massive, with more teams playing more matches than any other.
Being massive cuts both ways, though, and there's no shortage of expectations and pressure that falls on the region's players. Though China secured victory at last year's MSI, the region fell hard on the Worlds stage -- where the stakes were, likewise, massive -- and one has to wonder if this dragon can effectively wield its considerable might.
International Wildcard: The Archer Taking on Titans
Where much is expected from powerhouses like China and Korea, little is expected from the teams hailing from the International Wildcard leagues (save, of course, from their wildly passionate and enthusiastic fans). But perhaps it's time to revisit those expectations. Like the archer, the IWC region has cultivated a giant-slayer persona, finding a way to fire that improbable shot that sails true and lands squarely between the eyes of those who look straight through them.
We saw it at Worlds 2014, when KaBuM dismantled Europe's No. 1 seed Alliance, and we saw it again at Worlds in 2015, when paiN Gaming picked up two wins. For now, the shots remain improbable, but that just makes the eruption of cheers from these regions all the more resonant.
There are only three regions that have won a World Championship: Europe, Korea, and teams hailing from what is now known as LMS. Of the three, it is perhaps LMS that is the most surprising -- certainly now, but even then in Season 2, when the Taipei Assassins barreled through Europe's M5 and Korea's Azubu Frost to take the Summoner's Cup.
Since then, though, teams from the LMS region have appeared good -- not great, not serious contenders -- and have failed to make a legitimate title run. But there's always that memory of Season 2. LMS is like the leopard, a present threat, but in the shadows, out of sight but not out of mind. When will it pounce next?
North America: The Warrior A warrior of many origins
Perhaps a more fitting description of North America would be The World Warrior, given the region's cavalier stance of incorporating players from around the globe into its rosters. While most other regions look simply to Korea to augment their ranks, NA has over its history brought in players from all over Asia, as well as Europe and even South America. Its homegrown talent isn't half bad, either.
It's a prototypical American strategy: incorporate what seems to be the best, then forge it into a dominant force. Thus far, the strategy has yielded limited success on the international stage. But every time NA loses, it learns, adapts, and reenters the fray.
When three of the five members of Europe's most storied organization, Fnatic -- a team, it should be said, that posted a perfect 2015 Summer Split and advanced to the Semifinals at Worlds -- uproot and move to compete in NA, it could be argued that EU has been left to the wolves. Unless, of course, EU is the wolf.
EU's conquests are great, and the region has never had a problem producing some of the most iconic and accomplished players to have competed on the professional stage -- and in particular those lone-wolf mid laners. The pack continues to nurture its own, bringing up new, fierce competitors to replace those who have sought the hunt elsewhere. And perhaps at MSI, the pack can stick together long enough to take down the mightiest of prey.