Royal Never Give Up’s win at Mid-Season Invitational 2021 owes a lot to LPL’s original trailblazers, Edward Gaming and their trailblazing 2015 run.
MSI 2015 Group Stage: the beginning of the journey
EDG’s journey in MSI 2015 kicked off with a loss against the world champions SK Telecom T1. The game between the two pre-tournament favorites was a one-sided affair, with SKT controlling the entire map from the get-go.
Despite the early loss, the LPL side managed to finish second in the group stage, scoring easy wins against everyone else in their remaining matches without dropping a single game.They defeated ahq e-Sports Club, Fnatic, Team SoloMid and Beşiktaş e-Sports Club, which solidified their position in the semi-finals of the tournament.
Manhandling ahq e-Sports Club
EDG went up against Legends Master Series (LMS) winners ahq e-Sports Club in a best of five series for a spot in the semis. They were the favorites to win the matchup, and they duly delivered a performance worthy of that status.
The first game began on a strong note for EDG as Ming “Clearlove” Kai secured the first blood while invading the enemy red buff. The team then skirmished with ahq members in the top lane, where they managed to get three more kills, further increasing their lead. The game quickly snowballed, and despite some meager efforts by ahq’s players, EDG comfortably closed game one of the series.
Despite getting the first kill, ahq still fell behind in the early stages of the second game. A failed attempt at diving bot lane and a weak team fight near the blue buff helped EDG extend their gold lead. Both teams went toe-to-toe in the mid-game, but better decision-making and superb team fighting allowed EDG to seize the second game as well.
EDG kept up their high tempo in the series and stomped ahq in the third and therefore final game. Tong “Koro1” Yang, in particular, was phenomenal here as he crushed the opposing top laner on his Irelia and went deathless the entire game.
Setting up an epic showdown against SK Telecom T1
Though EDG were otherwise ruthless during the group stage, they still lost to the League of Legends Champions Korea representative SKT T1 in the first game of the tournament. SKT went undefeated in group but dropped two games against Fnatic in the semi-finals. However, they were still the heavy favorites moving into the finals as their performance had been phenomenal all year long.
In a surprise move, SKT T1 decided to roll with Lee “Easyhoon” Ji-hoon in the mid lane instead of Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok, one of the best players to ever play the game. The offbeat tactic did come into fruition as Easyhoon had a stellar performance on Cassiopeia. He helped Bae “Bengi” Seong-woong secure the first blood and was an unstoppable force in the mid lane. Koro1 was the one shining grace for EDG and was able to fend off a gank attempt from SKT by getting a kill in a 2v1 situation. However, despite the valiant effort from Koro1, SKT T1 was able to secure Baron Nashor twice, which set them up for a victory.
EDG bagged three kills at the very beginning of the second game off the back of a crazy skirmish that put them significantly ahead. Both teams went back and forth in the mid-game, exchanging kills and objectives. EDG tried to acquire Baron buff, but SKT T1’s jungler Bengi had other plans as he stole the objective with a precise Smite. However, the superior team fighting from EDG and a better scaling team composition propelled them to the victory in the end.
Clearlove delivered an exemplary performance in the third game and showed everyone why he was one of the prime MVP candidates of the tournament. He wreaked havoc in the top lane by repeatedly ganking the lane and getting multiple kills in the process. All three lanes ended up getting ahead for EDG, and the game was essentially over by mid-game. SKT T1 stood no chance and had to eventually forfeit the game, which is extremely rare in the professional League of Legends circuit.
Although EDG got the first blood near the Dragon pit at the start of the fourth game, SKT wasn’t going to go down easily. Faker made a return to the starting lineup and immediately made an impact by building a creep score lead on the opposing laner. The relentless pressure from Bengi on bot lane and mid lane forced EDG to take unfavorable fights, which they often lost. As the game progressed, SKT secured most of the objectives while maintaining a strong gold lead. Ultimately, with the help of Baron Buff, they marched to victory, forcing a game five.
Clearlove pulled out his pocket pick Evelyn for the draft of the game that would decide it all. surprising fans and the analysts alike. The game initiated with a four-man tower dive from EDG in the bot lane, which got them two kills. Clearlove was running rampant on the Summoners Rift and was the catalyst for EDG’s success in the early game. Even though Faker was on his trademark LeBlanc, a champion on which he had never lost a competitive game before, the situation was turning dire for him and the rest of his team.
SKT T1 never managed to get a footing in the game, and EDG finished them off within 38 minutes. This was the first time a South Korean team lost in the grand finals of a tournament. With this triumph, China claimed its first major international trophy, commencing the rise of LPL teams in the League of Legends esports scene.