Throughout the history of professional League of Legends, the year’s season has always featured a gathering of the scene’s greatest players in a competitive setting that still promotes a feeling of camaraderie. And while the All-Star event has placed an emphasis on community engagement and showmanship over the course of the past few years, that hasn’t always been the case. In fact, back in the early days of professional LoL, All-Star weekend was one of the most competitive experiences the scene had to offer.
In 2013, the best players in the professional League of Legends scene headed to Shanghai to compete in the first ever LoL All-Star event. With serious old-school talent present in names like Choi “Insec” In-seok, Yu “Misaya” Jing-Xi, and Marcus “Dyrus” Hill, it was clear that the original All-Star event was a meeting of the best in the world in a bout for regional pride.
Korea’s composite roster of all-time greats won that event and sent every other region home packing, not dropping a single game en route to a tournament victory. But on a greater scale, the implications and consequences stemming from All-Star 2013 were massive, as the tournament not only set the foundation for today’s event 6 years later, but shaped the international competitive scene as a whole.
The very next year, All-Stars began to put more of a spotlight on the players rather than the regions that they played for. With the further introduction of show matches and the expanded role of personalities at the event, All Star Paris 2014 was the beginning of a new age for the event. Side events showcasing featured game modes like URF, Hexakill, and 1v1s gave life and depth to the All-Star event in its second year. With how successful 2013’s tournament was, it only made sense for Riot to expand upon what had been built.
But, in 2014, a major difference at hand was that the teams competing in the main event weren’t made up of players from different teams representing one region – they were the champions of their regions. If anything, All-Stars 2014 was like Worlds-lite. Teams like Cloud9, SK Telecom, and Fnatic were present, giving fans a preview of the World Championship set to come a few months down the road. Really, All-Stars 2014 was a serious international tournament in disguise.
This mid-season meeting was the first of its kind. It gave a glimpse into the future – a preview of the year’s most prolific tournament. And with Worlds serving as the only major Riot-sponsored international event, the presence of a second tournament during the middle of the competitive season was exactly what fans were looking for.
However, a tournament where regional champions duked it out in a highly competitive setting just didn’t fit the mold of what a traditional “All Star game” was. The main event featured no fan voting, no composite rosters, no additional bells and whistles. It was time for the landscape to shift.
In 2015, everything changed and the All-Star event’s impact was felt throughout the entire competitive scene. That year, Riot announced that there would be a new major tournament coming to the international circuit and the All-Star event as we knew it was moving to December – after the season had come to a close. The tournament that had originally held down the month of May was respawning as the “Mid-Season Invitational”, a brand new tourney that would feature the regional champions of the Spring Split in an incredibly similar vein to All-Star 2014. It allowed fans to see the best of the best from each league in preparation for the World Championship later that season. That year, MSI became Worlds’ little brother – and still is to this day.
It’s important to recognize what exactly those first two All-Star events did for the competitive scene many years down the line. If 2013 set the stage for what the All-Star event is today, then 2014 expanded upon it while also giving birth to one of the game’s most prominent and prestigious tournaments.
It’s hard to conceive a world where there’s only one occasion when the best teams in the world compete on an international stage. Both MSI and All-Stars are mainstays in professional LoL, and they’re both courtesy of the early days of the All-Star events back in Shanghai and Paris. If it weren’t for those two original tournaments, there’s a good chance we’d still be strapped for international competitive play.
Now, there’s a surplus of international tournaments, and between the amount of fiery competitive play, laid-back show matches, and presence of regional pride that’s present throughout the year, it’s obvious that those two events that took place over half a decade ago have had a major impact on the way the professional scene is designed today.
Photo Credit: Lolesports, League of Legends, Riot Games