The Mid-Season Invitational is a good chance to find out what the balance between regions looks like as we head toward the World Championship. The fight between the best teams from the different regions will be joined by crews that emerged from the play-ins. There are nearly two weeks of top-level League of Legends games ahead of us. The following teams were invited to the main part of the tournament:
Fnatic (EU LCS – Europe)
Kingzone DragonX (LCK – Korea)
Royal Never Give Up (LPL – China)
Team Liquid (NA LCS – North America)
This lineup will be joined by two other teams from the preliminary stage:
EVOS Esports (VCS – Vietnam)
Flash Wolves (LMS – Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan)
Now we enter the group stage – from May 11th to May 15th, at least 30 matches will be played as each team faces the other (round robin). From this, four teams will make it through to battle it out in the knockout phase. After two days of best-of-5 games on May 18th and 19th, only two teams will head into the grand finale on May 20th, which will also be played in the best-of-5 format.
The award is not only glory and a prize pool of more than $1,000,000 (38.5% of which will go to the champions), but just like in last year, the results will influence the roster of the regions in the 2018 World Championship.
What can we expect from the first day on May 11th? No doubt there will be an electrifying opening match (starting around 11:00 CEST) when the European Fnatic faces the Chinese Royal Never Give Up – and when two marksmen legends, Rekkles and Uzi, clash in the bottom lane. China is right behind Korea in terms of playing level, but teams from this region are known for much bloodier matches. Europe, on the other hand, plays cautiously – will FNC be able to stop RNG? In the current meta, a lot of responsibility rests on the shoulders of the marksmen, so the duel between Pray and Uzi in the last match of the first day – Kingzone DragonX (Korea) vs. Royal Never Give Up (starting around 16:00 CEST) – could also deliver a lot of emotions.
Team Liquid, the new North America champions, will have a chance to show if they want to be like CLG in 2016 – in 2nd place, right behind Korea – or if they want more. The game against the unstoppable champions of this region, Kingzone DragonX, will be a great test to begin the group stage with (starts around 13:00 CEST). Maybe this will be the day that all the jokes about North American teams at international tournaments will be silenced for a moment.
Personally, I would pay attention to the game between the Americans and the Vietnamese EVOS Esports (starts around 15:00 CEST) and to their game with Flash Wolves (starts around 12:00 CEST). To find out why those debutants could become the black horses of the tournament, read on below.
This is how the complete list of the Friday matchups looks – the broadcast starts at around 11:00 CEST and will be shared on LoL Esports:
● Fnatic (FNC) vs. Royal Never Give Up (RNG)
● EVOS Esports (EVOS) vs. Flash Wolves (FW)
● Kingzone DragonX (KZ) vs. Team Liquid (TL)
● Flash Wolves (FW) vs. Fnatic (FNC)
● Team Liquid (TL) vs. EVOS Esports (EVOS)
● Royal Never Give Up (RNG) vs. Kingzone DragonX (KZ)
Debutants hungry for success and the fall of former stars
After the group phase of the play-in, two winning teams had a chance to get to the main part of the MSI. Both Gambit Esports and SuperMassive eSports delightfully handled their group rivals, with each of them only losing one game of six. The hopes for their performance among the greatest were huge, but the knockout phase of play-ins played on May 8th and 9th verified them.
The team from Turkey – SuperMassive eSports – had to defeat the representatives of Vietnam, EVOS Esports, the new team in the professional League of Legends scene.
After last year’s MSI success of GIGABYTE Marines, the Vietnam Championship Series separated from the GPL and for the first time had its own representative at an international tournament. The matches of the Vietnamese teams are known for their stunning kills per minute statistics. And even though EVOS is one of the last teams in this ranking, the game with SuperMassive was ferocious. The Turkish team tried to surprise their opponents by choosing Kindred, which gave mixed results and ultimately left them tied at 1–1. Then EVOS pulled out its secret weapon – jungler YiJin chose Graves and paved the way with shots of his shotgun to a quick victory under 30 minutes. The fourth match ended even faster and Graves accounted for almost half of his team’s kills – 10 of 22. Defeating the favorites of the group stage was a huge success for the Vietnamese debutants. It would be a good idea to keep an eye on EVOS Esports in this tournament and see if their aggressive playstyle will be their advantage or downfall.
The day after, Gambit Esports, representing the Commonwealth of Independent States, awaited its fight with the representatives of Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan – Flash Wolves.
A lot of fans from Europe cheered Gambit, who once played in the EU LCS. Unfortunately, the team that had ruthlessly paved its way through the group phase failed – they completely gave up the field to Flash Wolves. We were watching almost a different team than in recent games – lost, without an idea for the roster and the game, uselessly aggressive in inadequate moments and easy to catch without a cause. Diamondprox didn’t show the same initiative and Kira couldn’t manage on mid. By playing Kassadin, he made himself an easy target for early ganks from Flash Wolves, and their new star, Moojin, showed that he feels good in the new team and can fight well alongside them. In the first game, Gambit still had chances, but only until a bold Baron steal from Moojin. The second and third game were increasingly one-sided, and the whole match ended with a 3–0 score for Flash Wolves, which buried Gambit’s hopes of returning to its former international glory. The Wolves have surprised us in recent tournaments – at last year’s MSI only SKT managed to stop them, and finally they finished the competition on joint 3rd/4th place. I doubt if it was enough for them.
Gambit Esports and SuperMassive eSports occupy joint 7th/8th place and end their adventure with the MSI. In addition, Gambit’s loss means that the Vietnam Championship Series league will get a place in the group phase of the 2018 World Championship.