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Just days after Riot Games revealed Reykjavik, Iceland, as the host city for the League of Legends 2021 Mid-Season Invitational, a report from The Guardian, warning of an imminent volcano eruption outside of the city, began to circulate. Weeks later, on March 19, the publication confirmed that an eruption occurred in Mount Fagradalsfjall; a mountain within a volcanic system that’s been dormant for 900 years.

Picture this: two teams walking onto an epic stage, flanked by blinding fireballs and menacing fissures. Real Hollywood stuff. A teamfight for an Infernal Drake, surrounded by large infernal rock structures.

What if, rather than grabbing a few drone shots of the volcano for video promos, Riot actually held the grand finals of MSI at Mount Fagradalsfjall?


MSI grand finals at Mount Fagradalsfjall
Mount Fagradalsfjall erupted just 20 miles south of Reykjavik, Iceland. | Screenshot provided by Riot Games

According to one of the United States’ top volcanologists, Einat Lev of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, this seemingly crazy idea — while, of course, neither practical nor safe to execute — is technically possible to pull off. Here’s how Riot could make it happen.

MSI grand finals on Fagradalsfjall? Maybe!

As a physical volcanologist, Lev specializes in fluid mechanics, which more or less means that she studies how the properties of magma and lava impact the eruption process. She’s done fieldwork at a multitude of volcanoes in her career, including in Iceland, Hawai’i and the Galapagos Islands.

“With this specific eruption, it’s unlikely there’ll be a big explosion, just because of the way the system is releasing its liquids,” she said. “If it does go on for a long time and keeps releasing lava at the pace that it is now, then it could just block some roads and cover more access points. But it’s not releasing super quickly.”

We’re all familiar with the traditional depiction of a volcanic eruption: a massive cone spews lava and other debris from its throat, actively destroying the surrounding environment. Things are a lot different around Reykjavik at the moment. For starters, the volcanic activity near Fagradalsfjall mostly involves constant lava flow oozing from craters with the occasional large plume here and there. The surrounding area is flat enough for properly-geared individuals to get close to the action (or barbeque on it).

If anyone was ever going to host a multi-million dollar professional video game tournament at an active volcano site, this would probably be one of the best candidates. Pulling this off, scorching rock aside, mostly comes down to implementing proper safety precautions.

North Face is the new Nike at MSI grand finals

First thing’s first: if the world’s best League of Legends stars are going to play one of the most important matches of their careers in front of one of nature’s most hazardous and potentially devastating geological formations, they’ll need the right gear.

“So you’d have the sturdy hiking boots, gloves,  helmet, some kind of a respirator,” she said. “If you’re getting close, it’s good to have some kind of a face shield or sunglasses meant to protect your eyes from radiation because the heat is radiating. ”

This could be bad news for sneakerheads of the League esports world. But a pair of good, sturdy boots is one of the most important things to bring along for this type of environment. In terms of clothing, a full-bodied Kevlar suit is recommended for long stays in the area. Since a typical best-of-five in League takes anywhere from 2 1/2 to 3 hours, a protective suit made with Kevlar or a heat-resistant material would be crucial for MSI grand finals. Of course, plenty of readily available drinking water would be an absolute must as well.

MSI grand finals at Mount Fagradalsfjall
A volcano-side esports tournament is more possible than you’d think. | Provided by Riot Games

Rather than the standard “jersey-jogger-Yeezy” ensemble that’s become a staple for pros of all regions over the years, team kits for MSI grand finals would look something like this:

  • Sturdy gloves.
  • Protective helmet.
  • Sturdy hiking boots.
  • Protective face shield/sunglasses.
  • Heat resistant bodysuit.
  • Water bottle.

These same rules would apply to onsite production staff, broadcast talent and other essential personnel as well.

Producing MSI grand finals on Mount Fagradalsfjall

Speaking of production, working out the logistics for building a stage in such an area, while protecting millions of dollars worth of equipment, would be the hardest part of this equation. Since we’re talking about a live streamed match, we’ll need to watch out for electronics like cameras and computers. They need protection from overheating or falling into anything orange and bubbling.

MSI grand finals at Mount Fagradalsfjall
A shot of Mount Fagradalsfjall post-eruption, just miles away from where MSI grand finals will occur. | Screenshot provided by Riot Games

Thankfully, mounds of plain dirt from the surrounding area work as great shields from scorching liquids and high temps. According to Lev, it’s standard practice to use dirt piles to divert lava from an area. For the MSI grand finals, power would run through generators (many battery-operated) set up a few hundred meters away from any lava. High-powered fans would be stationed around the stage and near machines in abundance. It would also be a safety priority to set up a meter to warn of dangerously high sulfur dioxide levels.

So, just how close could the stage get?

“If you’re talking like those little cones where lava is flowing out, you don’t go on those,” she said. ” If you’re talking, like, the area where people are standing so that they look down and see the lava flows, then sure.”

In the tweet below, League of Legends Champions Korea interpreter Jeesun Park can be seen admiring the (very cool) eruption from a safe distance (which Lev deems to be at least around 10 meters away from flow). A stage probably shouldn’t be much closer to anything that could erupt at any moment than that.

If you didn’t know, now you know

Could Riot technically have pulled off a groundbreaking feat of engineering genius and held MSI grand finals around an erupting volcano? Yes. Would it have been sick? Also yes. But there’s no way they’d do something so reckless as to actively put talent and staff at risk of harm. Lev warned that at the end of the day, some things just aren’t worth trying.

“The thing is, it’s very unstable stuff in these areas,” she said. “There’s piles of shreds, like shredded bark, and it’s unstable and can collapse at any moment. So it’s really not that great of an idea to be standing especially downhill from it. But, people seem to be going there.”

The concept of embracing this rare natural occurrence as the backdrop for an expertly produced esports broadcast would be larger than life. While volcanos haven’t been included, the stages that Riot has constructed for this current MSI and the past 2020 League of Legends World Championship are impressive in their own right.

The MSI 2021 stage lights up the Laugardalshöll in Reykjavik.
The current MSI stage is pretty neat, but slapping it down near a volcano would’ve been cooler. | Provided by Riot Games.

While we’ll probably never get the chance to see MSI grand finals held aloft a bubbling volcano, the image of 20-something-year-old gamers kitted out in full Kevlar suits, facing one another over a lava, isn’t as impossible as you’d think.

You can catch the MSI 2021 grand finals on Sunday at 9 a.m. ET.