ShowMaker. That’s the only given answer in response to the question, “Who do you think was the best mid laner at MSI 2021?”

Even MSI 2021 champion Royal Never Give Up mid laner Yuan “Cryin” Cheng-Wei said so in an interview. Without hesitation, RNG Cryin declared that Heo “ShowMaker” Su was the best mid laner in the tournament — and for good reason.

A consistent force on DWG KIA, ShowMaker was praised for his performance even when the team dropped games in the MSI final. He pulls the trigger at the right place at the right time, with perfect mechanical execution, echoing his solo queue achievements on the EU West server during their short four-week stay in Iceland where he finished at rank 4 Challenger with 1,240 LP.

In contrast, RNG Cryin was given the least amount of attention not only at MSI 2021, but all throughout RNG’s LPL regular seasons. Sitting in the shadow of jungler Yan “Wei” Yang-Wei’s ten MVPs in 2021 Spring, and veteran top laner Li “Xiaohu” Yuan-Hao’s eight, Cryin only received four.

RNG Cryin at MSI 2021 playing on stage
Credit: LoL Esports/Riot Games

Yet, when Royal Never Give Up defeated the 2020 World Champions DWG KIA 3-2 in the grand final, Cryin showed that he was nothing short of being one of the best mid laners — not only at MSI 2021, but the world.

RNG Cryin wasn’t given the chance to shine until MSI 2021

RNG Cryin hasn’t been on the radar because for half a year, he was a substitute mid laner on Royal Never Give Up to Xiaohu. In total, Cryin only played four games in the regular season, where Royal Never Give Up finished 9th out of 17 teams.

For the first time in four years, Royal Never Give Up failed to make playoffs in Summer 2020.

It was also the first time in four years that the organization competed without their legendary AD carry Jian “Uzi” Zi-Hao, who retired due to serious health concerns.

2021 LPL Spring champions Royal Never Give Up on stage with coach Poppy and Tabe
Credit: Royal Never Give Up

Recognizing that changes needed to be made to the struggling squad, Royal Never Give Up made bold moves before the start of Spring 2021: Xiaohu role swaps to top lane, Wei takes over the jungle, Cryin will start in mid lane, while Chen “GALA” Wei will be their sole AD carry.

This roster went on to finish first in the regular season and fought all the way through the lower bracket to sweep FunPlus Phoenix 3-0 for the LPL Spring championship.

Even then, due to a combination of the stagnant mid lane meta, and to meet their need for a highly team-oriented playstyle, RNG Cryin still fell under the radar. His most played champions in LPL Spring 2021 are Orianna, followed by Viktor, and Azir, three wave clear, late game scaling mages who are there to absorb pressure whilst pushing for lane priority.

Luckily, patch 11.9 came along with MSI 2021, so for the first time, RNG Cryin excelled on Nocturne and Sylas mid starting in the group stage. On Nocturne for four games with a high 6.9 KDA, and Sylas for three, he went undefeated on these two playmaking champions at MSI.

RNG Cyin styles on DWG KIA in the MSI final

But it wasn’t until Royal Never Give Up reached the grand final that Cryin was truly unleashed.

In game one on blue side, Royal Never Give Up locked in Lucian as first pick since DWG KIA didn’t ban Xiaohu’s signature AD carry. Even though he’s considered a flex pick, Royal Never Give Up only put Lucian in mid once in their very first match against TT, and none at all at bot.

For all of LPL Spring 2021, he has been a Xiaohu specialty: 12 games, 100% win rate.

Royal Never Give Up vs DWG KIA MSI 2021 grand final game one picks and bans
Screenshot by Amanda Tan/ONE Esports

“I don’t think it’s going to be Xiaohu on Lucian,” I said to my friends in our Discord watch party. “Since it’s the final, RNG have no more strats to hide, and I have this feeling they are going to surprise with RNG Cryin on an AD carry (finally).”

Two picks later, Royal Never Give Up locked in Nautilus support, and Gragas who could only be assigned to top lane, confirming that it was time for Cryin to shine on Lucian mid.

Royal Never Give Up vs DWG KIA MSI 2021 grand final game one draft
Screenshot by Amanda Tan/ONE Esports

For someone who is perceived to consistently rank below ShowMaker and Luka “Perkz” Perković, RNG Cryin’s laning phase has been near immaculate.

Against ShowMaker in their first encounter in the Rumble Stage, RNG Cryin on Orianna had to endure a losing matchup against ShowMaker’s Lucian. Though he trailed by an expected 20 CS, he finished the game with a perfect 7/0/8 KDA.

In the final, the tables turned. This time, Cryin was on Lucian while ShowMaker opted for Akali. Up by an average of 30 CS, he kept Akali’s HP low, and did not die to ganks at all in the laning phase despite constantly positioning up the lane to assert pressure.

In an extended mid game team fight that went from mid lane to top side jungle, Royal Never Give Up played out the 3v4 and won thanks to Cryin’s clean mechanics. Low in HP, Cryin used Relentless Pursuit to dodge out Sion’s AoE knock up.

Back against the wall, this put him in a risky tight spot in the jungle. Still, he read ShowMaker’s Akali like a book, predicting the last Shuriken Flip, which resulted in Royal Never Give Up winning the overall trade and later, game one of the best-of-five series.

Where has ‘eStar Cryin’ been? Royal Never Give Up reunites the mid-jungle duo

MSI 2021 is Cryin’s debut on the international League of Legends esports stage, and his very first international championship alongside Wei.

A mid laner and jungler are only as good as their synergy with each other. Both RNG Cryin and Wei learned this the hard way.

Both of them started off their pro player careers in the League of Legends Developmental League (LDL) on Young Miracles in 2018, owned by former pro player Liu “PDD” Mou. Together, they went on to finish first in the LDL 2018 Summer (East) regular season.

Picked up by Royal Never Give Up in 2019, Cryin joined them as a trainee before starting on their academy roster for Summer. Wei on the other hand stayed on Young Miracles as a substitute jungler to Li “XLB” Xiao-Long, who is currently Royal Never Give Up’s sub.

In Spring 2020, Cryin and Wei were reunited on PDD’s LPL team, eStar. They debuted with top laner Yang “Xiaobai” Zhong-He, and bot laner Zhang “Wink” Rui, who is currently Invictus Gaming’s AD carry, and former Flash Wolves support Liu “ShiauC” Chia-Hao.

That season, they made waves. Big ones.

Upsetting the 2019 World Champions FunPlus Phoenix, and sweeping Invictus Gaming, eStar quickly found their way to top three in the LPL regular season.

On eStar, Cryin dealt an average of 29.2% total damage for his team, a sizeable amount compared to Spring 2021 where he averaged 26.2% on RNG. While both of these teams heavily emphasize teamwork and coordination, Cryin was given more opportunities to carry on eStar on champions like LeBlanc, Kassadin, Corki, and Rumble.

Finishing in fifth place, the rookie team qualified for the playoffs but were crushed by Team WE 1-3 in the very first round.

Two years since eStar, Wei and Cryin are finally back together and has proven that this duo is what Royal Never Give Up needed to synergize with Xiaohu at top, and Shi “Ming” Sen-Ming and GALA at bot to win championships — Royal Never Give Up’s second MSI title, and more to come.

READ MORE: RNG coach Poppy: ‘Top LPL players may think that they don’t have any issues’