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For the first time since 2017, League of Legends juggernauts T1 are heading to the grand finals of the Mid-Season Invitational (MSI).
The South Koreans will get their chance at a third MSI title after they soundly swept rivals G2 Esports 3-0 in the semifinals of the MSI 2022 Knockout Stage on Saturday (28 May).
T1 started this year's MSI strong with a 4-0 streak to kick off the Group Stage, extending their win streak from the beginning of the Season to 26.
However, G2 broke that streak on the first day of the Rumble Stage.
The South Korean squad bounced back afterwards, easily taking three-straight games against PSG Talon and Saigon Buffalos before incurring a second loss, this time against RNG.
T1 went on to secure more wins against Evil Geniuses (EG) and PSG Talon before taking another upset loss against EG on Day 4.
Even so, Faker and his team had a little taste of revenge against G2 by taking a win against them on the same day.
The South Koreans then dominated the final day of the Rumble Stage, winning against Saigon Buffalos and exacting revenge against RNG in their final match. T1 headed to the Knockout Stage as the second seed with a 7-3 record.
G2 also came into the Rumble Stage with a clean 4-0 record. The European squad continued this streak with two consecutive upsets over T1 and RNG as well as comfortable wins against EG and Saigon Buffalo.
However, the European hopefuls were met with an upset loss against the PSG Talon in Day 3, breaking their 25-game win streak since this year’s League of Legends European Champions Spring Playoffs.
G2 then lost four more games in a row against RNG, PSG Talon, T1, and Saigon Buffalo. G2 were able to bounce back and claim one last win in the Rumble Stage against EG, thus finishing with a 5-5 record and tied for third place against that same team, to secure a spot in the Knockout Stage.
T1 faced international rivals G2 in the Knockout Stage semifinals, where Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok is looking to exact revenge against Rasmus "caPs" Borregaard Winther — who ended T1’s reign at the 2019 MSI.
The first game had a bloody start, with both teams making early trades in the top and bot lanes. The first ten minutes were tense with both teams testing each other in skirmishes, where T1 managed to gain a lead over their European opponents.
G2 then tried to get their bot lane ahead, executing a gank against T1's bot lane duo of Lee "Gumayusi" Min-hyeong and Ryu "Keria" Min-seok.
But Faker took this opportunity to open up G2’s mid lane, taking down the first and second mid lane turrets.
As G2 did their best to shut down the bot lane, Faker and Choi "Zeus" Woo-je found openings for counterplays that only kept T1 ahead.
T1 continued to gain control as they snowballed and took all objectives on the map.
Faker, who has been mostly facilitating plays for his team the entire season, stole the show and carried T1 with his Tristana pick.
As G2 made more poor decisions with T1 collapsing in on them, the South Koreans kept punishing their European opponents at every turn.
After a 24-minute encounter, T1 took the first game of the series with a 13-7 kill lead.
Faker and caPs were given their signature picks in game two, with Faker on Leblanc and caPs on Ahri.
In the first few minutes of the game, T1 executed an immediate gank in the mid lane but G2 were able to trade a kill on Keria.
Faker once again had a strong showing in the laning phase with LeBlanc all while Keria executed clutch plays on Nautilus, allowing both the latter and Gumayusi to stay ahead in the bottom lane.
CaPs and Marcin "Jankos" Jankowski started to fight back in the mid game, trading kills with their Ahri-Viego combination.
They also made it difficult for T1 to advance through the map, picking Faker off a couple of times to slow down the only magic damager in T1.
But the South Koreans found a way to trap their European rivals, with Keria engaging and deleting caPs in the bush while the rest of T1 bursted down G2 to score an Ace in the river.
As T1 came knocking on G2’s door, the Europeans tried to snipe Faker.
However, Keria found another way to grapple and hook their European opponents while Gumayusi followed through with the damage, sending G2 to their deaths once again.
After a 32-minute beatdown, T1 claimed the second game up 17-11 in kills to take a commanding 2-0 series lead.
In the do-or-die game three, G2 drafted for a composition focused on dives. T1, however, threw a wrench into G2’s strategy by countering their opponents' Ornn and Zoe picks with Gnar and Akali.
The South Koreans did not allow G2 to gain any momentum, with Moon "Oner" Hyeon-joon’s Lee Sin dominating the entire map while Keria’s Renata saved his teammates multiple times during fights.
With Faker’s Akali and Oner’s Lee Sin terrorizing G2 at every turn, the Europeans were unable to find ways to get back into the game.
After Keria’s Hostile Takeover from Renata gave T1 the upper hand in a teamfight at G2’s bot lane inhibitor turret, the South Koreans secured the 3-0 series sweep after just 20 minutes and with a dominant 22-5 kill lead.
T1 showed their best form in the tournament thus far to secure their spot in the MSI 2022 grand finals, where they will face Chinese powerhouse and defending MSI champions Royal Never Give Up (RNG), who swept EG in their own semifinals match.
There's much at stake in the grand finals of this year's MSI, as both finalists are gunning for a third MSI title.
Meanwhile, G2 Esports bow out of the competition in 3rd-4th place with US$25,000 in consolation.
Just like EG, G2’s relatively young members showed a lot of promise and with a formidable, experienced mid-jungle duo in caPs and Jankos, we may finally see them take down giants later this year.
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.