Around the world, Spring splits have come to a close and champions have been crowned. But for these champions, the fun is only just beginning. Starting next week we have the Mid-Season Invitational. Before we get into which teams will actually be there, let’s walk through the format, because it’s a little confusing.
The tournament starts with a play-in stage. Here, the 8 teams from the “wild card regions” will be placed into two groups of four. The teams will then play a Bo1, double round-robin within their groups. The first place team in each group after these matches advances to meet the LCS and LMS representatives. A miniature tournament begins, where the winners of each match (LCS vs. play-in team and LMS vs. play-in team) advance to the Group Stage. The losers of these matches play each other for a third spot in the group stage.
Once these three teams are decided, they are joined by the champions from the LCK, LPL, and LEC. These six teams will, in all likelihood, play a Bo1 double round-robin. The top four teams will advance to the semi-finals and will play out a normal, 4-team, single-elimination bracket.
It’s confusing, I know, but once you watch it play out, it should make more sense. If you’re a more visual person, here’s Rivington breaking it down:
Now that the hard stuff is out of the way, it’s time to meet the teams. We’ll start with the play-in groups.
The first play-in group, already being termed the group of death, holds the strongest play-in teams from the draw. Teams like 1907 Fenerbahce Esports (TCL), Phong Vu Buffalo (VCS), and Isurus Gaming (LLA) have been incredibly dominant in their home regions. The OPL’s Bombers have been equally strong, cleaning house in Oceania. Phong Vu will definitely be hoping to satisfy expectations with the weight of “hometown heroes” squarely on them. With so much power in one group, whoever comes out on top will be battle-tested and ready to take on Team Liquid.
With all of the super strong teams locked in a group together, that leaves room for some other hopefuls to make it out of groups. Teams like Detonation FocusMe (LJL) and INTZ E-Sports (CBLOL) have a better chance to escape the group stage. They’ll be facing Vega Squadron (CIS) and MEGA (LST) two teams who have shown in their regions but may not be ready for the international stage yet. It should be noted, however, that MEGA did not lose a single game on their way to MSI. the question still begs to be asked: can they bring that dominance to the international stage. If they can, they will face Flash Wolves from the LMS.
The Big Five
Despite the fact that Team Liquid and Flash Wolves are hidden somewhere in the middle of the event, they’re still part of the “big five” regions. The three other top teams joining them are G2 Esports from the LEC, the LCK’s SKT, and the LPL’s Invictus Gaming.
The Bottom Two
Team Liquid has looked strong in North America, as can be similarly said for the rest of these teams. Doublelift and CoreJJ turned the bottom lane into their own personal playground and dominated the competition. Of course, the real test is whether they can take that dominance to the international setting. Where so many other teams have comparable experience on the world stage, can they make themselves stand out and above the rest?
Flash Wolves had a rough off-season. They lost three of their star players and coach during winter of 2018, forcing them to rebuild. They did so, however, and showcased just as much domestic control as ever. That kind of performance speaks volumes of the talent-depth in the region but does not bode well for improvement. If Flash Wolves are still winning despite the circumstance and lackluster competition, how much better are they than last year?
The Top Three
For the LCK, SKT’s “Dream Team” is just getting warmed up. They ended the regular season in second, largely overshadowed by breakout performances from Griffin and SANDBOX. The rest of the table drew much attention, too, as people wanted to see if KT would be relegated. SKT simply did what everyone expected of them: win a lot. Their resolve and experience proved too much for Griffin in the final, as they caught the faltering sophomores in a clean 3-0.
In the newly rebranded LEC, 2019 is looking like G2’s year. After poaching their main rival’s best player, it’s hard to argue that anyone in the LEC can match them. They finished the regular season 13-5 and then proceeded to beat Origen twice, both times 3-0. Of all the teams attending, they look the most capable of challenging IG and SKT.
Speaking of IG, the world champions are back to continue their international stranglehold. They had a few minor hiccups during the regular season but still managed to finish second. In the playoffs, they ran riot, headed by prolific performances from TheShy. The top laner continues to showcase his unparalleled skill, pulling off the most insane plays. The tournament will be played on patch 9.8 though, which shipped several buffs to tanks and tank itemization. Does this mean we get to see more of Duke, or has TheShy become a jack-of-all-trades?
The competition pool is stacking up to be the best in a long time. Off-season roster swaps and continued strength from others has given us a dream scenario. No longer do we need to pick between Caps and Perks. No longer are we left wondering whether Khan would have fared better than Smeb or Rascal against TheShy. We get them all; it's Christmas come early.
As the first day of play-ins draws closer, we’re going to take a closer look at the teams. Additionally, we’re going to highlight some of the more eccentric strategies that you may see. For more updates and esports content follow us on Twitter and subscribe to our YouTube channel. See you on the Rift.
Image Via: Riot Games